John Morley.

The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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point a wise initiative of your predecessor, have endeavoured to
bring the appointment of Sir H. Storks into a position which
makes it probably the best substitute for the former plan that
can be had at present. The demand that a soldier shall be
appointed at the present time would hold good a fortiori for all

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mr. Gladstone's financial legacy, 1869 829

periods of greater emergency. I know not where that principle
has been admitted in our military administration. If we have
committed gross errors, it has been owing to an excess much more
than to a defect of professional influence and counsel. In my
opinion the qualities of a good administrator and statesman go
to make a good war minister, especially at this juncture, far more
than those of a good soldier. Show me the soldier who has those
equally with you, and then let him take your place as S.S.
But not till then. You were chosen for your office, not because
you would do tolerably for easy times, and then could walk out,
but because you were the best man the party could supply for the
post. The reproaches aimed at you now are merely aimed at the
government through you, and you are chosen to be the point of
attack because the nation is sore on military matters in times of
crisis, and the press which ought to check excitement, by most
of its instruments ministers to its increase. You find yourself
unable to suggest a successor; and I have seen no plan that
would not weaken the government instead of strengthening it.
You see what eulogies have been passed on Bright, now he is
gone. You would rise in the market with many after resigning,
to depreciate those who remain behind ; but as I have said, you
would not be allowed to have had a legitimate cause of going, and
as far as my observation goes, retirements are quite as critically
judged as acceptances of office, perhaps more so. What is really
to be desired, is that we should get Storks into parliament if


Vol. I. page 1006

Mr. Gladstone to Mr. Lowe

Hatoarden, Jan. 9, 1869. — I have referred to my list of remnants ;
and I will begin with those that I tried in parliament and failed
in: — 1. Collection of taxes by Queen's officers instead of local
officers. 2. Taxation of chanties. 3. Bill for restraining, with
a view to ultimately abolishing, the circulation of the notes of
private banks. 4. Plan for bringing the chancery and other
judicial accounts under the control of parliament. Here I had
a commission (on chancery accounts) but did not dare to go

The following are subjects which I was not able to take in
hand : — m

1. Abolition of the remaining duty upon corn; an exceeding
strong case. 2. I should be much disposed to abolish the tea
licences as greatly restrictive of the consumption of a dutiable
and useful commodity. I modified them ; but am not sure that
this was enough. The B.I.R. could throw light on this subject.
3. The probate duty calls, I fear, loudly for change ; but I wanted
either time or courage to take it in hand. 4. The remaining

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conveyance duties, apart from railways, I always considered as
marked for extinction. On this subject Mr. Ayrton has rather
decided antecedents. 5. The fire insurance duty is sure to be
further assailed. Though not as bad (relatively to other taxes)
as is supposed, it is bad enough to be very hard to defend in an
adverse House ; and this is one of the questions on which it is not
likely that the opposition will help to see fair play. The promises
that liberal reduction will lead to recovery of anything like the
old or previous revenue have always been confidentlypressed by
irresponsible men, and are in my opinion illusory. The tax is a
tax on property : and, as we have too few of these rather than
too many, what would seem desirable is to commute it ; leaving
no more than a penny stamp on the policy. This might perhaps
be done, if it were made part of a large budget. 6. The income-
tax at 6d., I suppose, presents a forward claim. 7. The commuta-
tion of malt duty for beer duty must always, I presume, be spoken
of with respect ; but the working objections to it have thus far
been found too hard to deal with.

There is always room in detail for amendments of stamp duties,
but the great case as among them is the probate. They are of a
class which, without any legal knowledge, I found very hard to
work through the House of Commons. I do not look upon the
Act of 1844, as the end of legislation in currency ; but this subject
is a big one. Scotch and Irish notes would be hard to deal with
until the English case is disposed of. I forget whether we have
abolished the last of the restrictions on newspapers. If not, they
deserve to be taken in hand, according to me. I have always
wished to equalize the outgoings of the exchequer as much as
possible over the several weeks of the year. Few incomes admit
of this advantage in the same degree as the public income. It
would make our 'account' much more valuable to our bankers;
therefore to us.

These, I think, were the main matters which lay more or less
in perspective before me. I must add that I am strongly in
favour of paying off the national debt, not only by annual
surpluses, but by terminable annuities sold to the national debt
commissioners for securities held by them against deposit monies. The
opponents of this plan were Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Laing. I am
satisfied that neither of them had taken the trouble, and it re-
quires some trouble, to understand it. I admit them to be no
mean authorities. Terminable annuities sold to others than your-
self are quite another matter. I got into the law some power of
this kind over post office savings bank monies to be exercised by
the chancellor of the exchequer from time to time.

This is all I need trouble you with, and I have endeavoured to
keep clear of all idiosyncratic propositions as much as in me lies.
Of course such a letter calls for no answer. As this legacy
opinion to you "takes the form of a donation inter vivos it wul, I
hope, escape duty.

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Vol. II. page S£

Mr. Gladstone wrote an elaborate article in the Morning Chronicle
(Jan. 16, 1854) warmly defending the court against attacks that had
clouded the popularity of the Prince Consort. They came to little
more than that the Prince attended meetings of the privy council ;
that he was present when the Queen gave an audience to a minister ;
that he thwarted ministerial counsels and gave them an un-English
character; that in corresponding with relatives abroad he used
English influence apart from the Queen's advisers. Mr. Gladstone
had no great difficulty in showing how little this was worth, either
as fact supported by evidence, or as principle supported by the
fitness of things ; and he put himself on the right ground. * We
do not raise the question whether, if the minister thinks it right to
communicate with the sovereign alone, he is not entitled to a
private audience. But we unhesitatingly assert that if the Prince
is present when the Queen confers with her advisers, and if his
presence is found to be disadvantageous to the public interests, we
are not left without a remedy ; for the minister is as distinctly
responsible for those interests in this as in any other matter, and
he is bound on his responsibility to parliament, to decline compliance
even with a personal wish of the sovereign when he believes that
his assent would be injurious to the country.'


Vol. II. page 59

Extract from Mr. Gladstone's letter to the Queen, March 15, 1873

There have been within that period [1830-1873] twelve of what
may be properly called parliamentary crises involving the question
of a change of government. In nine of the twelve cases (viz.,
those of 1830, 1835, 1841, 1846, 1852, 1858, 1859, 1866, and 1868),
the party which had been in opposition was ready to take, and did
take, office. In the other three it failed to do this (viz., in 1832,
1851, 1855), and the old ministry or a modification of it returned
to power. But in each of these three cases the attempt of the
opposition to form a government was not relinquished until after
such efforts had been made by its leaders as to carry the conviction
to the world that all its available means of action were exhausted ;
and there is no instance on record during the whole period (or
indeed so far as Mr. Gladstone remembers at an earlier date) in
which a summary refusal given on the instant by the leader was
tendered as sufficient to release the opposition from the obligations
it had incurred. This is the more remarkable because in two of the
three instances the opposition had not, in the same mode or degree
as on Wednesday morning last, contributed by concerted action to
bring about the crisis. On the 7th of May 1832 the opposition
of the day carried in the House of Lords a motion which went only

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to alter the order of the opening (and doubtless very important)
clauses of the Reform bill, but which the government of Lord Grey
deemed fatal to the integrity of the measure. Their resignation
was announced, and Lord Lyndhurst was summoned to advise
King William IV. on the 9th of May. On the 12th the Duke of
Wellington was called to take a share in the proceedings, the
details of which are matters of history. It was only on the 15th
that the Duke and Lord Lyndhurst found their resources at an
end, when Lord Grey was again sent for, and on the 17th the Duke
announced in the House of Lords his abandonment of the task he
had strenuously endeavoured to fulfil. On the 20th February
1851 the government of Lord Russell was defeated in the House
of Commons on Mr. Locke King's bill for the enlargement of the
county franchise by a majority composed of its own supporters.
Lord Derby, then Lord Stanley, being sent for by your Majesty on
the 22nd, observed that there were at the time three parties in the
House of Commons and that the ministry had never yet been
defeated by his political friends. He therefore counselled your
Majesty to ascertain whether the government of Lord Russell
could not be strengthened by a partial reconstruction, and failing
that measure he engaged to use his own best efforts to form an
administration. That attempt at reconstruction (to which nothing
similar is now in question) did fail, and Lord Derby was therefore
summoned by your Majesty on the 25th, and at once applied
himself, as is well known, to every measure which seemed to give
him a hope of success in constructing a government. On the 27th
he apprised your Majesty of his failure in these efforts ; and on
March 3rd the cabinet of Lord Russell returned to office. (This
recital is founded on Lord Derby's statement in the House of
Lords, Feb. 28, 1851.) On Jan. 29, 1855 the government of Lord
Aberdeen was defeated in the House of Commons on a motion
made by an independent member of their own party and supported
by twenty-five of the liberal members present. Though this
defeat resembles the one last named in that it cannot be said to be
due to the concerted action of the opposition as a party, Lord
Derby, being summoned by your Majesty on the 1st of Feb. pro-
ceeded to examine and ascertain in every quarter the means likely
to be at his disposal for rendering assistance in the exigency, and
it was not until Feb. 3 that he receded from his endeavours.

CABINET OF 1880-1885
Vol. II. page 238

First lord of the treasury and chancellory ™ « Qiodatone

of the exchequer, . . . ./
Lord chancellor, .
President of the council,
Lord privy seal, .
Home secretary, .
Foreign secretary,

Lord Selborne.
Earl Spencer.
Duke of Argyll
Sir W. V. Harcourt.
Earl Granville.

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CABINET OF 1880-1885 833

Earl of Kimberley.
H. C. E. Childers.
Earl of Northbrook.
Marquis of Harrington.
Joseph Chamberlain.
W. E. Forster.

Colonial secretary,

War secretary,

First lord of the admiralty, .

Indian secretary, .

President of the board of trade,

Chief secretary for Ireland, .

Chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, . John Bright.

President of the local government board, . J. G. Dodson.

On the resignation of the Duke of Argyll, April 1881, Lord
Carlingford (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) became lord privy seal.

In May 1882, Earl Spencer became lord-lieutenant of Ireland.
On Mr. Forster's resignation he was succeeded by Lord Frederick
Cavendish, and then by Mr. G. 0. Trevelyan, neither of whom had
a seat in the cabinet.

On the resignation of Mr. Bright in July 1882, Mr. Dodson
became chancellor of the duchy, and Sir Charles Dilke president
of the local government board.

In December 1882 Mr. Gladstone resigned the chancellorship of
the exchequer to Mr. Childers; Lord Hartington became war
secretary; Lord Kimberley, Indian secretary, and Lord Derby
colonial secretary.

In March 1883, Lord Carlingford succeeded Earl Spencer as
president of the council.

In October 1884 Mr. Trevelyan succeeded Mr. Dodson as chan-
cellor of the duchy (with the cabinet), Mr. Campbell-Bannerman
becoming Irish secretary without a seat in the cabinet.

In Feoruary 1885, Lord Rosebery, first commissioner of works,
succeeded Lord Carlingford as lord privy seal (with the cabinet)
rLord Carlingford had also been president of the council from
March 1883 in succession to Lord Spencer], and Mr. Shaw-Lefevre,
postmaster-general, entered the cabinet.


Vol. II. page $48

Mr. Gladstone to Lord Qranville

Cannes, Jan. 22, 1883. — To-day I have been a good deal dis-
tressed by a passage as reported in Harrington's very strong and
able speech, for which I am at a loss to account, so far does it travel
out into the open, and so awkward are the intimations it seems to
convey. I felt that I could not do otherwise than telegraph to you
in cipher on the subject. But I used words intended to show that,
while I thought an immediate notification needful, I was far from
wishing to hasten the reply, and desired to leave altogether in
your hands the mode of touching a delicate matter. Pray use the
widest discretion.

I console myself with thinking it is hardly possible that Hart-
VOL. II. 3 G

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ington can have meant to say what nevertheless both Times and
Daily News make him seem to say, namely, that we recede from, or
throw into abeyance, the declarations we have constantly made
about our desire to extend local government, properly so called, to
Ireland on the first opportunity which the state of business in
parliament would permit. We announced our intention to do this
at the very moment when we were preparing to suspend the
Habeas Corpus Act. Since that time we have seen our position in
Ireland immensely strengthened, and the leader of the agitation
has even thought it wise, and has dared, to pursue a somewhat
conciliatory course. Many of his coadjutors are still as vicious, it
may be, as ever, but how can we say (for instance) to the Ulster
men, you shall remain with shortened liberties and without
local government, because Biggar & Co. are hostile to British
connection ?

There has also come prominently into view a new and powerful
set of motives which, in my deliberate judgment, require us, for
the sake of the United Kingdom even more than for the sake
of Ireland, to push forward this question. Under the present
highly centralised system of government, every demand which can
be started on behalf of a poor and ill-organized country, comes
directly on the British government and treasury; if refused it
becomes at once a head of grievance, if granted not only a new
drain but a certain source of political complication and embarrass-
ment. The peasant proprietary, the winter's distress, the state of
the labourers, the loans to farmers, the promotion of public works,
the encouragement of fisheries, the promotion of emigration, each
and every one of these questions has a sting, and the sting can
only be taken out of it by our treating it in correspondence with a
popular and responsible Irish body, competent to act for its own
portion of the country.

Every consideration which prompted our pledges, prompts the
recognition of them, and their extension rather than curtailment.
The Irish government have in preparation a Local Government
bill. Such a bill may even be an economy of time. By no other
means that I can see shall we be able to ward off most critical and
questionable discussions on questions of the class I have mentioned.
The argument that we cannot yet trust Irishmen with popular local
institutions is the mischievous argument by which the conservative
opposition to the Melbourne government resisted, and finally
crippled, the reform of municipal corporations in Ireland. By
acting on principles diametrically opposite, we have broken down
to thirty-five or forty what would have been a party, in this
parliament, of sixty-five home rulers, and have thus arrested (or
at the very least postponed) the perilous crisis, which no man has
as yet looked in the face ; the crisis which will arise when a large
and united majority of Irish members demand some fundamental
change in the legislative relations of the two countries. I can ill
convey to you how clear are my thoughts, or how earnest my con-
victions, on this important subject. . . .

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Vol. II. page S9S

The following is the text of General Gordon's Instructions {Jan. 1 8, 1 884) : —

Her Majesty's government are desirous that you should proceed
at once to Egypt, to report to them on the military situation in
the Soudan, and on the measures it may be advisable to take for
the security of the Egyptian garrisons still holding positions in
that country, and for the safety of the European population in
Khartoum. You are also desired to consider and report upon the
best mode of effecting the evacuation of the interior of the Soudan,
and upon the manner in which the safety and good administration
by the Egyptian government of the ports on the sea coast can
best be secured. In connection with this subject you should pay
especial consideration to the question of the steps that may use-
fully be taken to counteract the stimulus which it is feared may
possibly be given to the slave trade by the present insurrectionary
movement, and by the withdrawal of the Egyptian authority from
the interior. You will be under the instructions of Her Majesty's
agent and consul-general at Cairo, through whom your reports to
Her Majesty's government should be sent under flying seat You
will consider yourself authorised and instructed to perform such
other duties as the Egyptian government may desire to entrust to
you, and as may be communicated to you by Sir E. Baring. You
will be accompanied by Colonel Stewart, who will assist you in the
duties thus confided to you. On your arrival in Egypt you will
at once communicate with Sir E. Baring, who will arrange to meet
you and will settle with you whether you should proceed direct to
Suakin or should go yourself or despatch Colonel Stewart vid
the Nile.

Vol. II. page 419

This Memorandum, dated April 9, 1885, was prepared by Mr. Glad-
stone for the cabinet : —

The commencement of the hot season appears, with other cir-
cumstances, to mark the time for considering at large our position
in the Soudan. Also a declaration of policy is now demanded
from us in nearly all quarters. . . . When the betrayal of
Khartoum had been announced, the desire and intention of the
cabinet were to reserve for a later decision the question of an
eventual advance upon that place, should no immediate movement
on it be found possible. The objects they had immediately in
view were to ascertain the fate of Gordon, to make every effort
on his behalf, and to prevent the extension of the area of

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But Lord Wolseley at once impressed upon the cabinet that he
required, in order to determine his immediate military move-
ments, to know whether they were to be based upon the plan of
an eventual advance on Khartoum, or whether the intention of
such an advance was to be abandoned altogether. If the first
plan were adopted, Lord Wolseley declared his power and inten-
tion to take Berber, and even gave a possible date for it, in the
middle of March. The cabinet, adopting the phrase which Lord
Wolseley had used, decided upon the facts as they then stood
before it : — (a) Lord Wolseley was to calculate upon proceeding to
Khartoum after the hot season, to overthrow the power of the
Mahdi there; (b) and, consequently, on this decision, they were
to commence the construction of a railway from Sualrin to
Berber, in aid of the contemplated expedition ; (e) an expedition
was also to be sent against Osman Digna, which would open the
road to Berber ; but Lord Wolseley's demand for this expedition
applied alike to each of the two military alternatives which he
had laid before the cabinet.

There was no absolute decision to proceed to Khartoum at any
time; and the declarations of ministers in parliament hare
treated it as a matter to be further weighed ; but all steps have
thus far been taken to prepare for it, and it has been regarded
as at least probable. In approaching the question whether we
are still to proceed on the same lines, it is necessary to refer to
the motives which under the directions of the cabinet were stated
by Lord Granville and by me, on the 19th of February, as having
contributed to the decision. I copy out a part of the note from
which he and I spoke : —

Objects in the Soudan which we have always deemed fit for considera-
tion as far as circumstances might allow :

1. The case of those to whom Gordon held himself bound in honour.

2. The possibility of establishing an orderly government at Khartoum.

3. Check to the slave trade.

4. The case of the garrisons.

A negative decision would probably have involved the abandonment at
a stroke of all these objects. And also (we had to consider) whatever
daogers, proximate or remote, in Egypt or in the East might follow
from the triumphant position of the Mahdi ; hard to estimate, but they
may be very serious.

Two months, which have passed since the decision of the
government (Feb. 5), have thrown light, more or less, upon the
several points brought into view on the 19th February. 1. We
have now no sufficient reason to assume that any of toe popula-
tion of Khartoum felt themselves bound to Gordon, or to have
suffered on his account ; or even that any large numbers of men
in arms perished in the betrayal of the town, or took his part
after the enemy were admitted into it. 2. We have had no
tidings of anarchy at Khartoum, and we do not know that it is
governed worse, or that the population is suffering more, than
it would be under a Turkish or Egyptian ruler. 3. It is not

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believed that the possession of Khartoum is of any great value
as regards the slave trade. 4. Or, after the failure of Gordon
with respect to the garrisons, that the possession of Khartoum
would, without further and formidable extensions of plan, avail for
the purpose of relieving them. But further, what knowledge
have we that these garrisons are unable to relieve themselves?
There seems some reason to believe that the army of Hicks, when
the action ceased, fraternized with the Mahdi's army, and that
the same thing happened at Khartoum. Is there ground to sup-
pose that they are hateful unless as representatives of Egyptian
power f and ought they not to be released from any obligation to
present themselves in that capacity ?

With regard to the larger question of eventual consequences in
Egypt or the East from the Mahdi's success at Khartoum, it is
open to many views, and cannot be completely disposed of. But
it may be observed— 1. That the Mahdi made a trial of marching
down the Nile and speedily abandoned it, even in the first flush
of his success. 2. That cessation of operations in the Soudan
does not at this moment mean our military inaction in the East.

3. That the question is one of conflict, not with the arms of an
enemy, but with Nature in respect of climate and supply.

4. There remains also a grave question of justice, to which I
shall revert.

Should the idea of proceeding to Khartoum be abandoned, the

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 77 of 91)