John Morley.

The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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affairs in the time and in the political company of two such men
as the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel. He was also
happy in the general prevalence of a spirit of great sobriety in the
country, which was singularly free under the government of Sir
Robert Peel, from the opposite but sometimes associated extremes
of wantonness and fear. I am glad to think that his administration
of his department earned a decided public approval So just a
man will, I think, rarely attain in that department to the same
measure of popularity, while a less just man might easily obtain
one far greater.

To fall short of perfect candour would deprive all I have said
of the little value it can possess, as that little value is all summed
up in its sincerity. On one subject to which my mind has been
directed for the last twelve or fourteen years, I had the misfortune
to differ from your father. I mean the state of Italy and its
relation to Austria in particular. I will not pretend to say that
his view of the case of Italy appeared to me to harmonize with his
general mode of estimating human action and political affairs. It
seemed to me as if, called in early youth to deal with a particular
combination of questions which were truly gigantic, his mind had
received from their weight and force at an impressible period, a
fixed form in relation to them, while it ever remained open and
elastic in a peculiar degree upon all others. But my mode of

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solution for what appeared to me an anomaly is immaterial I
thankfully record that the Italian question was almost the only
one within my recollection, quite the only one of practical import-
ance, on which during the twenty-six years I have named, I was
unable to accept his judgment, I bear witness with yet greater
pleasure that, when I returned from Naples in 1851 deeply im-
pressed with the horrible system that I had witnessed, his opinions
on Italian politics did not prevent his readily undertaking to read
the statement I had drawn, nor his using, when he had read it,
more strong words on the subject, which came from lips like his
with such peculiar force. As readily did he undertake to invoke
the aid of the court of Vienna ; to which, if I remember right, he
transmitted the statement in manuscript.

Though I feel that I cannot by any effort do justice to what I
have termed his finely-shaded character, I also feel that I might
be drawn onwards to great length on the subject. I must resist
the impulse, but I cannot stop without saying a word on the
quality which I regard as beyond all others his own, I mean the
absence from his nature of all tendency to suspicion. Those who
have read his state papers, and have admired their penetrating
force and comprehensive scope, will not misunderstand me when I
say that he was, in this respect, a little child ; not from defect of
vision, but from thorough nobleness of nature.

I do not think it was by effort and self-command that he rid
himself of suspicion. In the simple and strong aim of the man to
be good himself, it belonged to the very strength arid simplicity
of that aim, that he should also think others good. I recollect,
and I dare say you better recollect, one of his sayings : * I have a
habit of believing people.' To some these words may not seem to
import a peculiarity. But as descriptive of him they indicate
what of all the points of his character seemed to me most peculiar.
I have known one man as free from suspicions as was Lord
Aberdeen, but he was not a politician. I am far from thinking
statesmen, or politicians, less honourable than other men, quite the
reverse; but the habit of their life renders them suspicious. The
vicissitudes of politics, the changes of position, the changes of
alliance, the sharp transitions from co-operation to antagonism,
the inevitable contact with revolting displays of self-seeking and
self-love ; more than all these perhaps, the constant habit of fore-
casting the future and shaping all its contingencies before-hand,
which is eminently the merit and intellectual virtue of the
politician, all these tend to make him, and commonly do make
him, suspicious even of his best friend. This suspicion may be
found to exist in conjunction with regard, with esteem, nay with
affection. For it must be recollected that it is not usually a
suspicion of moral delinquency, but at least as it dwells in the
better and higher natures, of intellectual error only, in some of
its numerous forms, or at most of speaking with a reserve that
may be more or less or even wholly unconscious. None of these
explanations are needed for Lord Aberdeen. He always took

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words in their direct ana simple meaning, and assumed them to
be the index of the mind ; and its full index too, so that he did
not speculate to learn what undiscovered residue might still
remain in its dark places. This entire immunity from suspicion,
which makes our minds in general like a haunted place, and the
sense of the immunity that he conveyed to his friends in all his
dealings with them, combined with the deep serenity of his mind,
which ever seemed to beguile and allay by some kindly process
of nature excitement in others, gave an indescribable charm to
all intercourse with him in critical and difficult circumstances.
Hence perhaps in great part, and not merely from his intellectual
gifts, was derived the remarkable power he seemed to me to
exercise in winning confidences without seeking to win them;
and, on the whole, I believe that this quality, could we hold it as
it was held in him, would save us from ten erroneous judgments
for one into which it might lead. For the grand characteristic
of suspicion after all, as of superstition, is to see things that are

I turn now to another point : Lord Aberdeen was not demon-
strative ; I do not suppose he could have been an actor ; he was
unstudied in speech ; and it is of interest to inquire what it was
that gave such extraordinary force and impressiveness to his
language. He did not deal in antithesis. His sayings were not
sharpened with gall. In short, one might go on disclaiming for
him all the accessories to which most men who are impressive owe
their impressiveness. Yet I never knew any one who was so
impressive in brief utterances conveying the sum of the matter. . . .

History has also caught and will hold firmly and well the
honoured name of your father. There was no tarnish upon his
reputation more than upon his character. He will be remembered
in connection with great passages of European policy not only as
a man of singularly searching, large, and calm intelligence, but yet
more as the just man, the man that used only true weights and
measures, and ever held even the balance of his ordered mind. It
is no reproach to other statesmen of this or other periods, to say
that scarcely any of them have had a celebrity so entirely unaided
by a transitory glare. But if this be so, it impbes that while they
for the most part must relatively lose, he must relatively and greatly
gain. If they have had stage-lights and he has had none, it is the
hour when those lights are extinguished that will for the first time
do that justice as between them which he was too noble, too far
aloft in the tone of his mind, to desire to anticipate. All the
qualities and parts in which he was great were those that are the
very foundation-stones of our being ; as foundation-stones they are
deep, and as being deep they are withdrawn from view ; but time
is their witness and their friend, and in the final distribution of
posthumous fame Lord Aberdeen has nothing to forfeit, he has
only to receive.

I see on perusing what I have written, that in the endeavour to
set forth the virtues and great qualities of your father, I seem

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CABINET OF 1868-1874 823

more or less to disparage other men, including even Sir Robert
Peel whom he so much esteemed and loved. I had no such
intention, and it is the fault of my hand, not of my will. He
would not have claimed, he would not have wished nor borne, that
others should claim for him superiority, or even parity in all points
with all his contemporaries, But there was a certain region of
character which was, so to speak, all his own ; and there other
men do seem more or less dwarfed beside him. In the combina-
tion of profound feeling with a calm of mind equally profound, of
thorough penetration with the largest charity, of the wisdom of
the serpent with the harmlessness of the dove, in the total
suppression and exclusion of self from his reckonings and actions —
in all this we may think him supreme, and yet have a broad array
of good and noble qualities in which he may have shared variously
with others. There are other secrets of his character and inner
life into which I do not pretend to have penetrated. It always
seemed to me that there was a treasure-house within him, which
he kept closed against the eyes of men. He is gone. He has done
well in his generation. May peace and light be with him, and may
honour and blessing long attend his memory upon earth. — Believe
me, my dear Arthur, affectionately yours, W. E. Gladstone.

CABINET OF 1868-1874
Vol. I. page 889

First lord of the treasury, . . W. E. Gladstone.

Lord chancellor,

President of the council,

Lord privy seal, .
Chancellor of the exchequer,
Home secretary, .
Foreign secretary, .
Colonial secretary,
War secretary,
First lord of the admiralty,
Indian secretary,

President of the board of trade, . John Bright,

Chief secretary for Ireland^
Postmaster general^

Lord Hatherley (Page Wood).
/Earl de Grey (created Marquis
\ of Riponl871).

Earl of Kimberley.

Robert Lowe.

Henry Austin Brutfe.

Earl of Clarendon.

Earl Granville.

Edward Cardwell.

H. C. E. Childers.

Duke of Argyll.

Chichester Fortescue.
Marquis of Harrington.

President of the poor law board, . George J. Goschen.

On Lord Clarendon's death in June 1870, Lord Granville became
foreign secretary; Lord Kimberley, colonial secretary; Viscount
Halifax (Sir C. Wood), lord privy seal ; and Mr. Forster, vice-
president of the privy council, entered the cabinet.

On Mr. Bright s resignation in December 1870, Mr. Chichester
Fortescue became president of the board of trade ; Lord Harrington
succeeded him as chief secretary for Ireland; Mr. Monsell was
appointed postmaster general without a seat in the cabinet.

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On Mr. Childers's resignation in March 1871, Mr. Goschen
became first lord of the admiralty, and Mr. James Stansfeld
president of the poor law board.

In August 1872 Mr. Childers rejoined the cabinet, succeeding
Lord DufFerin as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. In October
Sir Eoundell Palmer (created Lord Selborne) became lord
chancellor on the retirement of Lord Hatherley.

In August 1873 Lord Ripon and Mr. Childers retired, Mr.
Gladstone became chancellor of the exchequer as well as firet lord ;
Mr. Bright rejoined the cabinet as chancellor of the duchy of
Lancaster; Mr. Lowe became home secretary and Mr. Bruce
(created Lord Aberdare) president of the council.

Vol I. page 910

Mr. Gladstone to the Queen

July 21, 1869. — Mr. Gladstone presents his humble duty to your
Majesty and reports that the cabinet met at 11 this day, and con-
sidered with anxious care its position and duty in regard to the
Irish Church bill. The vote and declaration of the House of Lords
last night were regarded as fatal if persisted in ; and the cabinet
deemed it impossible to meet proceedings of such a character with
any tender of further concessions. The cabinet, however, con-
sidered at much length a variety of courses; as (1) To announce
at once that they could no longer, after the vote and announce-
ment of last night, be responsible for further proceedings in con-
nection with the bill, but that they would leave it to the majority
of the House of Lords to take such steps as it might think proper ;
(2) To go through the whole of the amendments of the bill \le. in
the House of Lords], and then if they were adversely earned to
declare and proceed as above ; (3) To go through not the whole of
the amendments but the endowment amendments, and to conclude
that when these had been adversely decided, they could (as before)
assume no further responsibility, but must leave the matter to the
majority to consider ; (4) To send the bill back to the House of
Commons with the declaration that it would not be accepted there,
and with the intention of simply moving the House to adhere to its
amendments as last adjusted.

Your Majesty has already been apprized by Mr. Gladstone's
telegram in cipher of this afternoon, that (under the influence of a
strong desire to exhibit patience, and to leave open every oppor-
tunity for reconsideration), the third of these courses had Deen
adopted ; although there was no doubt that the House of Commons
was fully prepared to approve and sustain the first. Lord Granville
deemed it just possible that the peers might be prepared to give
way before another return of the bill from the House of Commons ;
and the question therefore was left open whether, if evidence to
this effect should appear, the government should then fall in with

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that course of proceeding. Although the government have felt it
to be impossible to make Diddings in the face of the opposition, the
Archbishop of Canterbury has been apprized, in strict confidence,
of the nature and extent of the concession, which for the sake of
peace they would be prepared to recommend. Sir R Palmer is
also substantially aware of it, and has expressed his opinion that
on such terms the opposition ought to be ready to conclude the


Vol. I. page 944

Mr. Gladstone to Mr. Bright

Aug. 21, 18.73. — An appeal to me was made to introduce board
schools into Hawarden on account of my share in the Education
Act, I stated the two views held by different supporters of the
Act, respectively on the question of board schools and voluntary
schools. For myself, I said, not in education only but in all things,
including education, I prefer voluntary to legal machinery, when the
thing can be well done either way. But this question is not to be
decided by a general preference or a general formula. Parliament
has referred it to the choice of the local communities. They should
decide according to the facts of the case before them. What are
the facts in ffawarden ? Four-fifths are already provided for ; were
it only one-fifth or were it two-fifths the case for the board (I said)
would be overwhelming. But besides the four-fifths, arrangements
are already made for a further provision in a voluntary school.
Nothing remains to be done except to build three infant schools.
The voluntary schools will be governed by a committee, including
the churchwardens, and having a majority of laymen. The
machinery of a board is of necessity cumbrous, and the method
costly in comparison. I hold that we ought not to set up this
machinery, in order to create three infant schools, where all the
other wants of some 2000 people are already provided for.

Vol. I. page 946

Mr. Gladstone to Lord Lyttelton

Penmaenmawr, Aug 29, 1861. — Thanks for the brief notice which
you recently took of the Public Schools Commission. I was
heartily glad to hear that you had formed a drastic set of questions.
I take the deepest interest in the object of the commission, and
I have full confidence in its members and organs ; and at all times
I shall be very glad to hear what you are doing. Meantime
I cannot help giving you, to be taken for what it is worth,
the sum of my own thoughts upon the subject . . . The low
utilitarian argument in matter of education, for giving it what is
termed a practical direction, is so plausible that f think we may

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on the whole be thankful that the instincts of the country have
resisted what in argument it has been ill able to confute. We
still hold by the classical training as the basis of a liberal educa-
tion ; parents dispose of their children in early youth accordingly ;
but if they were asked why they did so, it is probable they would
give lamentably weak or unworthy reasons for it, such for example
as that the public schools and universities open the way to desir-
able acquaintance and what is termed 'good society.' Your com-
mission will not I presume be able to pass by this question, but
will have to look it in the face ; and to proceed either upon a
distinct affirmative, or a substantial negative, of the proposition
that the classical training is the proper basis of a liberal education.
I hope you will hold by affirmation and reject negation.

But the reason why I trouble you upon the subject is this, that
I think the friends of this principle have usually rather blinked
the discussion, and have been content with making terms of com-
promise by way of buying off the adversary, which might be in
themselves reasonable unless they were taken as mere instalments
of a transaction intended in tne long run to swallow up the
principle itself. What I feel is that the relation of pure science,
natural science, modern languages, modern history, and the rest of
the old classical training, ought to be founded on a principle and
ought not to be treated simply as importunate creditors, that take
a shilling in the £ to-day, because they hope to get another shilling
to-morrow, and in the meantime have a recognition of their title.
This recognition of title is just what I would refuse. I deny
their right to a parallel or equal position ; their true position is
auxiliary, and as auxiliary it ought to be limited and restrained
without scruple, as a regard to the paramount matter of education
may dictate.

But why after all is the classical training paramount 1 Is it
because we find it established ? because it improves memory or
taste, or gives precision, ,or develops the faculty of speech 1 All
these are out partial and fragmentary statements, so many narrow
glimpses of a great and comprehensive truth. That truth I take
to be that the modern European civilisation from the middle age
downwards is the compound of two great factors, the Christian
religion for the spirit of man, and the Greek, and in a secondary
degree the Roman discipline for his mind and intellect. St. Paul
is the apostle of the Gentiles, and is in his own person a symbol of
this great wedding — the place, for example, of Aristotle and Plato
in Christian education is not arbitrary nor in principle mutable.
The materials of what we call classical training were prepared, and
we have a right to say were advisedly prepared, in order that it
might become not a mere adjunct but (in mathematical phrase)
the complement of Christianity in its application to the culture of
the human being formed both for this world and for the world to

If this principle be true it is broad and high and clear enough,
and supplies a key to all questions connected with the relation

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between the classical training of our youth and all other branches
of their secular education. It must of course be kept within its
proper place, and duly limited as to things and persons. It can
only apply in full to that small proportion of the youth of any
country, who are to become in the fullest sense educated men. It
involves no extravagant or inconvenient assumptions respecting
those who are to be educated for trades and professions in which
the necessities of specific training must limit general culture. It
leaves open every question turning upon individual aptitudes and
inaptitudes and by no means requires that boys without a capacity
for imbibing any of the spirit of classical culture are still to be
mechanically plied with the instruments of it after their unfitness
has become manifest. But it lays down the rule of education for
those who have no internal and no external disqualification ; and
that rule, becoming a fixed and central point in the system, be-
comes also the point around which all others may be grouped.

Mr. Gladstone to Sir S. Norihcote

Nov. 12, 1861. — The letter I wrote to Lyttelton about the classical
education suggested topics, which as you justly perceive are
altogether esoteric. They have never to my knowledge been
carefully worked out, and I think they well deserve it ; but clearly
your report is not the place. I will not say you are not prudent
in suggesting that you should not even give an opinion upon the
great question : What is the true place of the old classical learning
in the human culture of the nineteenth century? I am far from ven-
turing to say the contrary. But one thing I do think, namely, that
it is desirable that, as far as may be, the members of the commission
should have some answer to that question in their minds, and
should write their report with reference to it. For centuries,
through the lifetime of our great schools this classical culture has
been made the lapis angularis of all secular culture of the highest
class. Was this right or was it wrong, aye or no? I think it
much to be desired that the commission should if they will, pro-
ceed upon the affirmative or negative of that proposition, and
should also make their choice for the former. This would be a
keynote, to their report; but it need not be distinctly and
separately heard in it. Such is my notion. As to particulars I
have little to say that is worth hearing ; but I think these three
things. First, that we give much too little scope for deviation
from what I think the normal standard to other and useful
branches, when it has become evident that the normal standard is
inapplicable; just as was the case in Oxford before the reform
of the examinations, or let me rather say the new statutes.
Secondly, I am extremely jealous of any invasion of modern
languages which is to displace classical culture, or any portion of
it in minds capable of following that walk. (I take it that among
the usual modern tongues Italian has by far the greatest capacity
for strict study and scholarship; whereas it is the one least in

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favour and the whole method of dealing with them is quite alien
to strict study.) Lastly, I confess I grieve over the ignorance of
natural history which I feel in myself and believe to exist in
others. At some time, in some way, much more of all this ought
to be brought in, but clearly it would serve in a great degree as
recreation, and need not thrust aside whatever hard work boys
are capable of doing.


Vol. I. page 996

Mr. Gladstone to the Queen

July 8, 1871. — Mr. Gladstone believes that according to precedent
the commander-in-chief, when a peer, has not shrunk from giving
his opinion on measures submitted to the House of Lords. In
1847, the government of that day introduced the Short Service
bill, of which on the merits it is believed that the Duke of
Wellington, then commander-in-chief, did not approve. Indeed
he expressed in debate on April 26th, 1847, his doubts whether
the measure would produce the advantages which were anticipated
from it ; nevertheless, while having no political connection with
the government, he spoke and voted in a division for the bill. It
is probable, as the numbers were only 108 to 94, that his speech
and vote alone carried the bill. Your Majesty will not fail to bear
in mind that until 1855, there was always a very high military
authority who was in political connection with the government,
namely, the master of the ordnance. Indeed, unless Mr. Glad-
stone's recollection deceives him, Lord Beresford was required by
the Duke of Wellington in 1829, as master of the ordnance, to
support the Roman Catholic Belief bill. ' And it is still regretted
by many that ministries have not since comprehended any such
officer. All question, however, as to the political support of a
ministry by the military chiefs of the army is now at an end.


Vol. I. page 996

Mr. Gladstone to Mr. Cardwell

Jan. 5, 1871. — It was a great advantage before 1854, that there
was always a considerable soldier either in the cabinet or at least
at the head of an important military department, and politically
associated with the government. This we lost by the crude and
ill-advised reconstructions of '55. But you, following in this

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 76 of 91)