John Morley.

The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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the view of enabling the ministers to change offices without re-
election, and that the combination of my two offices was a proper
and common one, we had made no inquiry into the point of law,
nor imagined there was any at the time when, deferring to the
wish of others, I reluctantly consented to become C. of E. On
Saturday last (Aug. 9) when I was at Osborne, the question was
opened to me. 1 must qualify what I have stated by saying that
on Friday afternoon some one had started the question fully into
view; and it had been, on a summary survey, put aside. On
Monday I saw Mr. Lambert, who I found had looked into it ; we
talked of it fully ; and he undertook to get the materials of a case
together. The Act throws the initiative upon me ; but as the
matter seemed open to discussion, 1 felt that I must obtain the
best assistance, viz., that of the law officers. I advisedly abstained
from troubling or consulting Sir E. May, because you might have

1 Sir Spencer Walpole thinks that the Act of 1S67 introduced tech-
Perceval's case {Life of Perceval, ii. nical difficulties that made a new
p. 55) covered Mr. Gladstone. In its element,
constitutional aspect this is true, but

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BOOK a subsequent and separate part to take, and might wish to refer to
— ^ — ' him. Also the blundering in the newspapers showed that the
question abounded in nice matter, and would be all the better
understood from a careful examination of precedents. The law
officers were out of town ; but the solicitor-general [Jessel] was
to come up in the later part of the week. It was not possible in so
limited a time to get a case into perfect order ; still I thought that,
as the adverse argument lay on the surface, I had better have him
consulted. I have had no direct communication with him. But
Mr. Lambert with his usual energy put together the principal
materials, and I jotted down all that occurred to me. Yesterday
Mr. Lambert and my private secretary, Mr. Gurdon, who, as well
as the solicitor to the treasury, had given attention to the subject,
brought the matter fully before the solicitor-general. He has
found himself able to write a full opinion on the questions sub-
mitted to him: — 1. My office as C. of E. is an office of profit

2. My commissionership of the treasury under the new patent in
preparation is an 'other office ' under the meaning of the late Act.

3. I cannot be advised to certify to you any avoidance of the seat.
Had the opinion of Sir G. Jessel been adverse, I should at once
have ceased to urge the argument on the Act, strong as it appears
to me to be ; but in point of form I should have done what I now
propose to do, viz., to have the case made as complete as possible,
and to obtain the joint opinion of the law officers. Perhaps that
of the chancellor should be added. Here ends my narrative,
which is given only for your information, and to show that I have
not been negligent in this matter, the Act requiring me to proceed
< forthwith.'

Speaker Brand replied (Aug. 18) that, while speak-
ing with reserve on the main point at issue, he had no
hesitation in saying that he thtought Mr. Gladstone was
taking the proper course in securing the best legal advice in
the matter. And he did not know what more could be done
under present circumstances.

The question put to Jessel was ' Whether Mr. Gladstone,
having accepted the office of chancellor of the exchequer is
not, under the circumstances stated, protected by the pro-
vision contained in section 52 of the Representation of the

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People Act, 1867, from vacating his seat ? ' Jessel answered CHAP.
* I am of opinion that he is so protected.' ' I may be wrong,' '

this strong lawyer once said, * and sometimes am ; but I iET * w '
have never any doubts.' His reasons on this occasion were as
trenchant as his conclusion. Next came Coleridge, the
attorney-general. He wrote to Mr. Gladstone on Sept. 1,
1873 :—

I have now gone carefully through the papers as to your seat,
and looked at the precedents, and though I admit that the case is
a curious one, and the words of the statute not happily chosen,
yet / have come clearly and without doubt to the same conclusion as Jessel,
and I shall be quite prepared if need be to argue the case in that
sense in parliament. Still it may be very proper, as you yourself
suggest, that you should have a written and formal opinion of the
law officers and Bowen upon it. 1

Selborne volunteered the opposite view (Aug. 21), and did
not see how it could be contended that Mr. Gladstone, being
still a commissioner of the treasury under the then existing
commission, took the office of the chancellor (with increase
of pay) in lieu of, and in immediate succession to, the other
office which he still continued to hold. A day or two later,
Selborne, however, sent to Mr. Gladstone a letter addressed
to himself by Baron Bramwell. In this letter that most
capable judge and strong-headed man, said : ' As a different
opinion is I know entertained, I can't help saying that I
think it clear Mr. Gladstone has not vacated his seat His
case is within neither the spirit nor the letter of the statute/
He then puts his view in the plain English of which he
was a master. The lord advocate (now Lord Young)
went with the chancellor and against the English law
officers. Lowe at first thought that the seat was not
vacated, and then he thought that it was. 'Sir Erskine
May/ says Mr. Gladstone (Feb. 2, 1874), * has given a strong
opinion that my seat is full/ Well might the minister say
that he thought ' the trial of this case would fairly take as
long as Tichborne/ On September 21, the chancellor,

1 Yet Lord Selborne says that Coleridge 'must have been misunder-
stood ' ! — Memorials, i. pp. 328-9.

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while still holding to his own opinion, wrote to Mr. Glad-
- stone : —

You have followed the right course (especially in a question
which directly concerns the House of Commons) in obtaining the
opinion of the law officers . of the crown. . . . But having taken
this proper course, and being disposed yourself to agree to the
conclusions of your official advisers, you are clearly free from all
personal fault, if you decide to act upon those conclusions and
leave the House, when it meets, to deal with them in way either
of assent or dissent, as it may think fit.

Coleridge and Jessel went on to the bench, and Sir Henry
James and Sir William Harcourt were brought up from
below the gangway to be attorney and solicitor. In Novem-
ber the new law officers were requested to try their hands.
Taking the brilliant and subtle Charles Bowen into com-
pany, they considered the case, but did not venture (Dec. 1)
beyond the singularly shy proposition that strong arguments
might be used both in favour of and against the view that
the seat was vacated.

Meanwhile The Times had raised the question immedi-
ately (Aug. 11), though not in adverse language. The
unslumbering instinct of party had quickly got upon a scent,
and two keen-nosed sleuth hounds of the opposition four or
five weeks after Mr. Gladstone had taken the seals of the
exchequer, sent to the Speaker a certificate in the usual
form (Sept. 17) stating the vacancy at Greenwich, and request-
ing him to issue a writ for a new election. The Speaker
reminded them in reply, that tjie law governing the issue of
writs during the recess in cases of acceptance of office,
required notification to him from the member accepting;
and he had received no such notification. 1 Everybody knew
that in case of an election, Mr. Gladstone's seat was not safe,
though when the time came he was in fact elected. The
final state and the outlook could not be better described
than in a letter from Lord Halifax to Mr. Gladstone
(Dec. 9):—

1 21 and 22 Vict, c. 110 (1858).

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Lord Halifax to Mr. Gladstone. 95r4?*


Dec. 9, 1873. — On thinking over the case as to your seat, I really ^ T I 64
think it is simple enough. I will put my ideas shortly for your
benefit, or you may burn them. You did not believe that you had
vacated your seat on accepting the office of chancellor of the
exchequer, and you did not send notice to the Speaker as required
by the Act of 1858. Were you right 1 The solicitor-general
said that you were, in a deliberate opinion. The attorney-general
concurred. The present law officers consider it so very doubtful
that they will not give an opinion. The Speaker either from not
having your notice, or having doubts, has not ordered a new writ.
These are the facts. What should you do ? Up to the meeting
of parliament you clearly must act as if there was no doubt If
you do not, you almost admit being wrong. You must assume
yourself to be right, that you are justified in the course which
you have taken, and act consistently on that view. When parlia-
ment meets, I think the proper course would be for the Speaker to
say that he had received a certificate of vacancy from two
members, but not the notice from the member himself, and having
doubts he referred the matter to the House, according to the Act.
This ensures the priority of the question and calls on you to
explain your not having sent the notice. You state the facts as
above, place yourself in the hands of the House, and withdraw.
I agree with what Bright said that the House of Commons will
deal quite fairly in such a case. A committee will be appointed.
I don't think it can last very long, and you will be absent during
its sitting. No important business can be taken during your
absence, and I do not know that any evil will ensue from shorten-
ing the period of business before the budget. They may vote
estimates, or take minor matters.

This sensible view of Lord Halifax and Mr. Bright may be
set against Lord Selborne's dogmatic assertion that a dissolu-
tion was the only escape. As for his further assertion about
his never doubting that this was the determining cause of
the dissolution, I can only say that in the mass of papers
connected with the Greenwich seat and the dissolution, there
is no single word in one of them associating in any way

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BOOK either topic with the other. Mr. Gladstone acted so promptly
VL . in the affair of the seat that both the Speaker of the House
1873. f Commons and Lord Selborne himself said that no fault
could be found with him. His position before the House
was therefore entirely straightforward. Finally Mr. Gladstone
gave an obviously adequate and sufficient case for the dis-
solution both to the Queen and to the cabinet, and stated to
at least three of his colleagues what was * the determining
cause/ and this was not the Greenwich seat, but something
wholly remote from it. 1

The autumn recess began with attendance at Balmoral, of
which a glimpse or two remain : —

To Mrs. Gladstone.

Balmoral, Aug. 22, 1873. — The Queen in a long conversation
asked me to-day about you at Holyhead. She talked of many
matters, and made me sit down, because odd to say I had a
sudden touch of my enemy yesterday afternoon, which made me
think it prudent to beg off from dining with her, and keep on
my back taking a strong dose of sal volatile. . . . The Queen had
occasion to speak about the Crown Princess, lauded her talents,
did not care a pin for her (the Queen's) opinion, used to care
only for that of her father. . . .

Aug. 24. — To-day I had a long talk. Nothing can be better than
her humour. She is going to Fort William on the 8th. I leav*
on Saturday, but if I make my Highland walk it cannot be till
Monday, and all next week will probably be consumed in getting
me home.

Aug. 27. — I enclose a copy of my intimation to the Queen [the
engagement of his eldest daughter], which has drawn forth in a
few minutes the accompanying most charming letter from her. I

1 Mr. Childers {Lift, i. p. 220) himself, instead of placing Mr. Chil-

writing after the election in 1874, ders there (p. 219). I am sure that

says, 'It is clear to me that he would this able and excellent man thought

not have dissolved but for the ques- what he said about ' the question of

tion about the double office.' In the the double office, 1 but his surmise

sentence before he says, ' Some day was not quite impartial. Nor was

perhaps Gladstone will recognise his he at the time a member of the

mistake in August.' This mistake, cabinet,
it appears, was going to the exchequer

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think the original of this should be given to Agnes herself, as she CHAP.

will think it a great treasure ; we keeping a copy. Is it not a » r J-

little odd on our part, more than his, that (at least so far as I am
concerned) we have allowed this great Aye to be said, without a
single word on the subject of the means of support forthcoming ?
It is indeed a proceeding worthy of the times of the Acts of the
Apostles! You perhaps know a little more than I do. Your
family were not very worldly minded people, but you will re-
member that before our engagement, Stephen was spirited up,
most properly, to put a question to me about means. Yesterday
I was not so much struck at hearing nothing on the subject of
any sublunary particular ; but lo ! again your letter of to-day
arrives with all about the charms of the orphanage, but not a
syllable on beef and mutton, bread and butter, which after all
cannot be altogether dispensed with.

Of this visit Lord Granville wrote to him (Sept 20): —
'The Queen told me last night that she had never known
you so remarkably agreeable/ The journey closed with a
rather marked proof of bodily soundness in a man nearly
through his sixty-fourth year, thus recorded in his diary : —

Aug. 25. — [At Balmoral J. Walked thirteen miles, quite fresh.
26. — Walked 8£ miles in 2 h. 10 m. Sept. 1.— Off at 9.15 [from
Invercauld] to Castleton and Derry Lodge, driving. From the
Lodge at 11.15, thirty-three miles to Kingussie on foot. Half an
hour for luncheon, \ hour waiting for the ponies (the road so
rough on the hill) ; touched a carriageable road at 5, the top at 3.
Very grand hill views, floods of rain on Speyside. Good hotel at
Kingussie, but sorely disturbed by rats.

' Think/ he wrote to his daughter Mary from Naworth, ' of
my walking a good three and thirty miles last Monday,
some of it the roughest ground I ever passed/ He was
always wont to enjoy proofs of physical vigour, never for-
getting how indispensable it is in the equipment of the
politician for the athletics of public life. On his return home,
he resumed the equable course of life associated with that
happy place, though political consultations intruded : —

Sept. 6. — Settled down again at Hawarden, where a happy

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BOOK family party gathered to-day. 13. — Finished the long and sad bnt
T profoundly interesting task of my letter to Miss Hope Scott [on

1873 her father]. Also sent her father's letters (105) to her. ... We
finished catting down a great beech. Our politicians arrived.
Conversations with Bright, wi£h Wolverton, with Granville, and
with all three till long past twelve, when I prayed to leave off for
the sake of the brain. 1 4. — Church morning and evening. ... A
stiff task for a half exhausted brain. But I cannot desist from a
sacred task. Conversation with Lord Granville, Lord Wolverton,
Mr. Bright. 15. — Church, 8 J AM. Spent the forenoon in con-
clave till two, after a preliminary conversation with Bright
Spent the evening also in conclave, we have covered a good deal
of ground. . . . Cut down the half-cut alder. 16. — Final conver-
sation with Granville, with Wolverton, and with Bright, who
went last 18. — Wood-cutting with Herbert, then went up to
Stephen's school feast, an animated and pretty scene. 21. — Bead
Manning's letter to Archbishop of Armagh. There is in it to me
a sad air of Unreality ; it is on stilts all through. 27. — Conversa-
tion with Mr. Palgrave chiefly on Symonds and the Greek myth-
ology. . . . Cut a tree with Herbert. 28. — Conversation with Mr.
Palgrave. He is tremendous, but in all other respects good and
full of mental energy and activity, only the vent is rather large.
29. — Conversation with Mr. Palgrave, pretty stiff. Wood-cutting
with Herbert. Wrote a rough mem. and computation for the
budget of next year. I want eight millions to handle ! Oct. 2. —
Off at 8, London at 3.

The memorial letter on the departed friend of days long
past, if less rich than the companion piece uppn Lord
Aberdeen, is still a graceful example of tender reminiscence
and regret poured out in periods of grave melody. 1 It is an
example, too, how completely in the press of turbid affairs,
he could fling off the load and at once awake afresh the
thoughts and associations that in truth made up his inmost

Next came the autumn cabinets, with all their embarrass-
ments, so numerous that one minister tossed a scrap across
the table to another, ' We ought to have impeached Dizzy

1 Memoir of Hope-Scott, ii. p. 284.

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for not taking office last spring.' Disraeli had at least done CHAP,
them one service. An election took place at Bath in .
October. The conservative leader wrote a violent letter -**• w *
in support of the conservative candidate. ' For nearly five
years/ said Mr. Disraeli, 'the present ministers have
harassed every trade, worried every profession and assailed
or menaced every class, institution, and species of pro-
perty in the country. Occasionally they have varied
this state of civil warfare by perpetrating some job which
outraged public opinion, or by stumbling into mistakes
which have been always discreditable and sometimes
ruinous. All this they call a policy and seem quite proud
of it; but the country has I think made up its mind to
close this career of plundering and blundering/ 1 Mr.
Gladstone described this curious outburst as ' Mr. Disraeli's
incomparable stroke on our behalf/ and in fact its effect on
public opinion was to send the liberal candidate to the head
of the polL But the victory at Bath stood solitary in the
midst of reverses.

As for the general legislative business of the coming session,
Mr. Gladstone thought it impossible to take up the large
subject of the extension of the county franchise, but they
might encourage Mr. Trevelyan to come forward with it on
an early day, and give him all the help they could. Still the
board was bare, the meal too frugal. They were afraid of
proposing a change in the laws affecting the inheritance
of land, or refonrf of London government, or a burials
bill, or a county government bilL The home secretary
was directed to draw up a bill for a group of difficult
questions as to employers and employed. No more sentences
were to be provided for Mr. Disraeli's next electioneering

December was mainly spent at Hawarden. A pleasant
event was his eldest daughter's marriage, of which he wrote
to the Duke of Argyll : —

The kindness of all from the Queen down to the cottagers
and poor folks about us, has been singular and most touching.

1 To Lord Grey de Wilton, Oct. 3, 1873.

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Our weather for the last fortnight has been delightful, and we
earnestly hope it may hold over to-morrow. I have not yet
1873. rea< j R enan ' s jijtftres. My opinion of him is completely dual.
His life of Our Lord I thought a piece of trumpery ; his work
Sur les langues semitiques most able and satisfactory in its manner
and discussion.

The notes in the diary bring us up to the decision that was
to end the great ministry : —

Dec. 1. — Dined at Mr. Fo rater's and went to Drury Lane to see
in Antony and Cleopatra how low our stage has fallen. Miss K. V.
in the ballet, dressed in black and gold, danced marvellously. 2. —
To Windsor, and had a long audience of the Queen. Dined with
H.M. Whist in evening. 3. — Castle. Prayers at 9; St. George's
at 10.30. Off to Twickenham at 1 1.25. Visited Mr. Bohn, and
saw his collection ; enormous and of very great interest. Then
to Pembroke Lodge, luncheon and long conversation with Lord
Russell. . . . Read The Parisians. 6. — Packing, etc., and off to
Hawarden. 13. — Walked with Stephen Glynne. I opened to
him that I must give up my house at or about the expiry of the
present government. 15. — Bead Montalembert's Life; also my
article of 1852 on him. Mr. Herbert (R.A.) came and I sat to
him for a short time. 17. — Finished Life of Montalembert. It
was a pure and noble career personally ; in a public view unsatis-
factory; the pope was a worm in the gourd all through. His
oratory was great. 19. — With Herbert setrabout making a walk
from Glynne Cottage to W. E. G. door. 20. — Sat to Mr. Herbert.
Worked on version of the 'Shield* [Iliad]. Worked on new
path. 23. — Sat If hours to Mr. Herbert. Worked on correcting
version of the Shield and finished writing it out. Read Aristo-
phanes. 26. — 24 to dinner, a large party gathered for the marriage.
27. — The house continued full. At 10.30 the weather broke into
violent hail and rain. It was the only speck upon the brightness
of the marriage. 29. — Sixty-four years completed to-day — what
have they brought me? A weaker heart, stiffened muscles,
thin hairs ; other strength still remains in my frame. 31. —
Still a full house. The year ends as it were in tumult. My
constant tumult of business makes other tumult more sensible. . . .

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I cannot as I now am, get sufficiently out of myself to judge OHAP.

myself, and unravel the knots of being and doing of which my * r -L-

life seems to be full.

t/iw.1,1874. — A little Iliad and Odyssey. 2. — Tree-cutting. Read
Fitzjame8 Stephen on Parliamentary Government, not wizard-like.
(No. 2.) 6. — Read The Parisians, vol. iv., Munro's beautiful version
of Gray's Elegy, and the Dizzy pamphlet on the crisis. 8. — Revised
and sent off the long letter to Lord Granville on the political
situation which I wrote yesterday. Axe work. 9. — Tree-
cutting with Herbert. Sent off with some final touches my version
of the Shield and preface. 10. — Mr. Burnett [his agent] died at
one AM. Requiescat. I grieve over this good and able man
sincerely, apart from the heavy care and responsibility of replacing
him, which must fall on me of necessity. 15. — Worked with
Herbert ; we finished gravelling the path. It rather strains my
chest. 16. — Off to town after an early breakfast. Reached
C. H. T. about 3 p.m. Saw Lord Granville and others.

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. . . Cettr pr^tendue 8agacit4 qui se croit profonde, quand elle
suppose partout des intrigues savantes, et met de petite drames
arranges a la place de la vente. II n'y a pas taut de premeditation
dans lea affaires humaines, et leur oours est plus naturel, que ne le
croit le vulgaire. — Guizot.

The spurious sagacity that thinks itself deep, because it everywhere
takes for granted all sorts of knowing intrigues, and puts little
artful dramas in the place of truth. There is less premeditation in
human affairs, and their course is more natural than people
commonly believe.

BOOK In the summer of 1873 before leaving London for Hawarden,
^' > Mr. Gladstone sent for the chairman of the board of inland
1874. revenue and for the head of the finance department of the
treasury ; he directed them to get certain information into
order for him. His requests at once struck these experienced
officers with a surmise that he was nursing some design of
dealing with the income-tax. Here are two entries from his
diary: —

Aug. 11, 1873. — Saw Mr. Cardwell, to whom at the war office I
told in deep secrecy my ideas of the possible finance of next year,
based upon the abolition of income-tax and sugar duties, with
partial compensation from spirit and death duties. Sept. 29. —
Wrote a rough mem. and computation for budget of next yean
I want eight millions to handle !

So much for the charitable tale that he only bethought
him of the income-tax, when desperately hunting for a card
to play at a general election.

The prospect was dubious and dark. To Mr. Bright he
wrote from Hawarden (Aug. 14) : —

My dear Bright, — (Let us bid farewell to Misters.) ... As
to the parliamentary future of the question of education, we

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 8 of 91)