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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
ENGLAND'S GREATEST REFORMER
William Ewart Gladstone was born at Liverpool on the 29th of December, 1809. He was of Scotch parent-age. His father, John Gladstone, had come from Scot-land to Liverpool on business when a young man, had attracted the favorable notice of one of the leading corn merchants of that city, had entered the commercial house of his patron as a clerk, and lived to become one of the merchant princes of Liverpool, a member of Parliament and a baronet. John Gladstone was a man of marked abilities and of strong Scottish characteristics a man of indomitable energy, of absolute selfreliance, stern, imperious, one of those men, in short, who command the respect of all with whom they come in contact. He married Anne, daughter of Andrew Robertson, a Scotch highlander. John and Anne Gladstone had six children, of whom William Ewart was the fourth son.
Young William Gladstone began his education at the vicarage of Seabright, near Liverpool. From there he was sent, at the age of eleven, to Eton, where he soon became known as a diligent student, who cared little for the ordinary schoolboy sports and games. He was untiring at Latin and occupied his holiday time in studying mathematics. He was noted, too, for his unostentatious piety; he would neither join in nor countenance any mockery or levity about things which he had been taught to regard as sacred. Yet there was nothing of the "prig" about him, and his force of character even then was such that he compelled the most light minded to respect him and his ways.
Gladstone remained at Eton until the end of 1827. He then studied for a few months with private tutors, and in October, 1828, went to Christ Church College, Oxford. During his career at Oxford as an undergraduate he was a hard student and led a very temperate life. He did not object to a supper or a wine party, but he was distinctly abstemious in the use of wine. He took a leading part in the Union Debating Society, of which he first became Secretary and afterward President. Gladstone quickly made his mark as one of the ablest debaters in this society. At that time he was in politics a Tory; yet his Toryism was not altogether illiberal. In the debates of the Society he defended Catholic emancipation, then a current political topic, though he opposed the removal of Jewish disabilities. He argued against the immediate abolition of slavery, yet urged that every preparation should be made for its gradual extinction, by educating and training the slaves to fit them for citizenship. While devoting much time to the Oxford Union, he was studying hard for classical honors. At this time, too, by way of exercise, he devoted a certain amount of his time to boating, and to what we now call athletic training. In December, 1831, Gladstone graduated with the highest honors, taking a "double first class."
Gladstone left Oxford early in 1832, and made a trip to Italy, whence he was recalled, after a short stay, to enter on a political and Parliamentary career. England was at this time in a state of unusual excitement politically. Members of Parliament were to be chosen under the new Reform Bill of 1832. That bill had given for the first time to the great middle classes and the great middle class cities and towns of England the right of suffrage and the right to a representation in Parliament It had abolished many of the old "rotten boroughs," as they were called, and the "pocket-boroughs" boroughs which consisted wholly or mainly of the domains of great lords, who had been accustomed to send men of their own selection to represent them in Parliament.
Among those who were hit hard by this Reform Bill, was the Duke of Newcastle. The Duke cast about him for some man capable of representing the Tory interest of his borough. On the recommendation of his son, Lord Lincoln, who had been a school and college friend of Gladstone, the Duke invited him to return from Italy and to stand for the borough of Newark. The contest in the borough was fought stubbornly and with great bitterness, and the two Tory candidates were elected. Mr. Glad-stone's name being at the head of the poll. The Parliament met on January 20, 1833, and Mr. Gladstone took his seat in that chamber over which he was destined to maintain for so long an almost absolute ascendency. He was then twenty-two years of age.
The House of Commons in which Mr. Gladstone made his first appearance contained more than three hundred new members. The Whigs, led by Lord Althorp, had a large majority; but there was a compact minority of Tories, ranged under the leadership of Sir Robert Peel, and a body of Irish members, who followed O'Connell and might be reckoned as hostile to the ministry.
The subjects which were uppermost in the public mind were the social condition of Ireland and the position of the Established Church in that island, the discontent and misery of the poor in England, and slavery in the British colonies. It was in the course of a debate on a series of Resolutions in favor of the extinction of slavery in the colonies that Mr. Gladstone made his maiden speech. The occasion was given him by what seemed almost a personal challenge. Lord Howick had attacked the management of Sir John Gladstone's plantation in Demerara. Mr. Gladstone warmly vindicated his father from any charge of countenancing hard dealing with the slaves on his plantation, and declared that they were the happiest, healthiest and most contented of their race. The general subject of slavery, he did not touch on this occasion; but two or three weeks later he made a second speech on the slavery question, in which he expressed the views he had maintained at Oxford, that the emancipation of the slaves before they had been gradually prepared for freedom would be unwise.
A Coercion Bill was passed at this session of Parliament designed to remedy the deplorable condition of Ireland, where violence and crime were rampant. The bill received Mr. Gladstone's silent vote. In connection with this bill another was introduced providing for the regulation of the Established Church in Ireland reducing the number of its Bishops from twelve to two. The incomes of some of the richer sees were curtailed, and the surplus thus arising was to be applied to purposes of the State. Mr. Gladstone spoke against the bill, which, however, passed after having been stripped of its appropriation clause. He also spoke against a "Universities Admission Bill," the design of which was to enable Non-conformists to enter the universities, by removing the necessity of sub-scribing to the Thirty-nine Articles.
Mr. Gladstone seems, without winning any brilliant success, to have made a very favorable impression upon the House in this first session. He never rose to speak unless he had something to say, never thrust himself forward for the mere sake of making a speech. Thus from the first he assured himself of the ear of the House. Everybody knew that he would not get up for the sake of talking, and that when he had said all that he wanted to say he would sit down.
The Reform Bill, which had put the Whigs into office, had raised in the country expectations which were doomed to disappointment. The Millennium did not come. One of the results was that the Whigs went out of office for a time. The Ministry was dismissed by the King, William IV. Sir Robert Peel accepted office, and made Mr. Gladstone a Junior Lord of the Treasury. Not long afterward he was promoted to be Under Secretary for the Colonies —a position of responsibility, since he had to answer all questions put to the Colonial Office and to make every exposition of its policy. The Peel Ministry in its turn fell, and Gladstone's short term of office ended.
Mr. Gladstone, having now an interval of rest, went much into society, "dined out constantly, and took his part in musical parties, delighting his hearers with the cultivated beauty of his tenor voice." He did not, however, neglect his duties as a private member of the House. Nor did he neglect his books, Homer and Dante being his favorite authors.
Before the close of the year (1837), occurred the death of King William IV and the accession of Victoria. This event necessitated the dissolution of Parliament. Mr. Gladstone again presented himself as a candidate for Newark, and was reelected.
In 1838 was published Mr. Gladstone's first book, "The State in Its Relations with the Church." The book made a great sensation at the time, though it has little interest now. Mr. Gladstone's main contention was that every State must have a conscience, and must, like every person, have a professed religion. Nor was he disturbed by the fact that in Ireland, a Catholic country, the Established Church was Protestant. "A common faith," he says, "binds the Irish Protestants to, ourselves, while they, on the other hand, are closely linked to Ireland, and thus sup-ply the most natural bond of connection between the two countries." The interest in the book was not lessened by the attack made upon it by Macaulay.
In 1839, Mr. Gladstone's eyesight having become impaired by too close application to study, he was advised by his physician to take a complete rest, and he decided to spend the winter in Rome. Among the visitors to Rome that winter was Lady Glynne, widow of Sir Stephen Richard Glynne, of Hawarden Castle, in Wales, and her two daughters. Mr. Gladstone already knew something of these ladies, for he had formed the acquaintance of Lady Glynne's son at Oxford, and had been at Hawarden. The result of a renewal of their acquaintance at Rome was that Mr. Gladstone became engaged to the elder daughter, Miss Catherine Glynne, whom he married at Hawarden on the 25th of July, 1839. Speaking of this marriage Mr. Justin McCarthy says :
"Without in the least degree invading the sacred domain of a great man's private life, it may be said that no marriage could possibly have been more happy than that of Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone. The pair were young together, became mature together, and grew old together. I do not mean to say that they passed their lives in the same dwelling, but what I do mean to say is that they were always thoroughly together in purpose and spirit, in heart and in soul. There never could have been a wife more absolutely devoted to her husband and to his cause than Mrs. Gladstone. There was something unspeakably touching, even to mere and casual observers like myself, in the tender care which she always lavished upon him, a care which advancing years seemed rather to increase than to diminish. One was reminded sometimes of the saying of Burke, that he never had an outside trouble in his life which did not vanish at the sight of his wife, when he crossed the threshold of his home. Gladstone had several children. Two of his sons were at one time members of the House of Commons. William Henry, the eldest son, has long since passed out of life. Herbert Gladstone is, I hope and fully believe, destined to carry on the renown of the name."
In 1841 the disordered finances of the country led to the defeat of the Russell Ministry, a dissolution of Parliament, and another election. The Tories came back with a large majority. A new Ministry was formed by Peel, in which Gladstone, who had again been elected for New-ark, became Vice-President of the Board of Trade and Master of the Mint. He set at work to revise the tariff, reducing or abolishing the duty on twelve hundred articles. The knowledge which he displayed in commercial affairs, the lucid and happy presentation of the dry subject of finance before the House, won universal admiration and proclaimed him the coming financial minister, yet amid all the excitements and interests of office, he could turn aside to discourse on social and educational questions with as much earnestness and eloquence as if they, and only they, possessed his mind. In January, 1843, he spoke at the opening of the Collegiate Institution of Liverpool, and delivered a powerful plea for the better education of the middle classes.
In this year (1843) Mr. Gladstone was appointed, on the resignation of Lord Ripon, President of the Board of Trade. This was his first Cabinet position. His path seemed now direct and easy to the highest offices in the gift of the State. But just at this point an unexpected obstacle arose in his way, one which perplexed and annoyed his friends not a little a conscientious scruple. Sir Robert Peel, desirous of conciliating the Irish, pro-posed, among other measures, to increase the Government subsidy to the Maynooth College, in Ireland, an institution designed especially for those who wished to enter the Catholic priesthood. Gladstone was not quite sure that he approved of the measure; nor was he sure that he disapproved of it. Unwilling to be committed to a measure about which his mind was not fully made up, in spite of the urgent entreaty of his friends, he resigned his office. Yet he did not for that reason oppose the measure in Parliament. Had the word "crank" been then invented, it would undoubtedly have been applied to him; and yet his action did not, as the world knows, end his political career, as it probably would have done in the case of a man of less transcendent ability. As a rule, politicians have no use for a man who is troubled with a conscience.
The great struggle against the Corn Laws andin favor of Free Trade, aided by the famine in Ireland, was now taking place. Mr. Gladstone had become a free-trader, and as a member of Sir Robert Peel's Ministry to which he had been recalled in spite of the action just mentioned assisted ably in the passage of the Free-Trade Bill. On the very day on which Peel won his victory in this memorable contest, he was defeated on a Coercion Bill for Ire-land, and resigned his office. Mr. Gladstone, of course, went out of office with him.
To enter the Peel Ministry, Mr. Gladstone had been obliged to resign his seat in Parliament. Being now on the Free-Trade side in politics, while his old friend, the Duke of Newcastle, was a rabid protectionist, he felt a delicacy about running for reelection in Newark, and remained out of Parliament until the autumn session of 1847. There had been a general election, and Gladstone had been returned for the University of Oxford.
The next three years of Mr. Gladstone's political life are not marked by any events of great importance. He was faithful in his attendance to his Parliamentary duties, and spoke on all manner of public questions. Though still clinging to his Tory principles, he was becoming more liberal. He supported Lord John Russell in a resolution passed by the House of Commons, which declared the Jews eligible to all places and functions for which Roman Catholics might be chosen.
On the 24th of June, 1850, Mr. Gladstone made his first really great speech in the House of Commons. It was made in reply to a speech of Lord Palmerston, in the course of a debate on a resolution introduced by Mr. Roebuck declaring that the general foreign policy of the Government was calculated to maintain the honor and dignity of the country. Lord Palmerston, then Foreign Secretary, had been charged with dealing harshly with the little State of Greece, in the matter of a preposterous claim for dam-ages made upon Greece by a British subject, whose house had been destroyed by a mob at Athens. Hence the resolution. Lord Palmerston's speech in his defense was regarded as his greatest effort down to that time. The gist of it was that it behooved England to make herself respected abroad, to protect her subjects at all hazards; and in the course of it he appealed to every prejudice which could possibly affect the mind of the ordinary Briton. The Ministry won the victory with forty-six votes.
Mr. Gladstone, in replying to this speech, laid down the broad principle that the policy of a state should be based upon justice, not self-interest, no matter at what cost. He contended that a state as well as an individual, should be guided by the dictates of Christianity; should practice self-restraint and moderation in dealing with the weak, and should pause before putting a harsh measure into force. This speech made the first full revelation of Mr. Gladstone's character as a statesman; it revealed him as tire apostle of principle in political as well as in private life, and such Mr. Gladstone continued to the end. He endeavored at all times to reconcile politics with religion.
On the very day on which this great debate occurred, Sir Robert Peel, who had taken a part in the debate, met with a fatal accident, being thrown from his horse. The death of Sir Robert Peel deprived Mr. Gladstone of one of his most valued friends, his political leader. The two had worked together, their influence being mutual. From this time forward, Mr. Gladstone was left alone to shape the course of his political career.
The winter of 185o was spent by Mr. Gladstone with his family in Naples. One of the results was a letter addressed to a friend, Lord Aberdeen, in which he revealed and denounced the cruelties practiced by the Neapolitan Government upon political prisoners. He had taken the pains himself to investigate the matter; had obtained admission to the prisons. This letter, which was followed by a. second, created a profound sensation throughout Europe, and called forth many answers. Mr. Gladstone did not present the subject as one with which England or any other Nation was called upon to deal; but simply as a case of political barbarity, of which the civilized world ought to know. In these letters Mr. Gladstone revealed himself more distinctly than ever before as the champion of humanity.
In this year 1850) occurred the famous debate over the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. The Pope, Pius IX, had issued a Bull directing the Catholic Archbishops and Bishops of England to designate themselves from the city or district over which they presided. Down to that time they had called themselves Bishops of Mesopotamia, or of Melipotamus, or what not, "in partibus infidelium." A tremendous popular excitement throughout England followed, resulting in many cases in mob violence. The Government found itself compelled to do something. Lord John Russell, then Prime Minister, introduced into Parliament a bill forbidding the use of these titles forbidding, for example, Archbishop Wiseman to call himself Arch-bishop of Westminster, instead of Bishop of Melipotamus. In the House of Commons nearly all the intellectual members, irrespective of creed Gladstone among them, it is needless to say arrayed themselves against the bill; yet in spite of every effort it was passed by an overwhelming majority. This debate is notable from the fact that Mr. Gladstone, who on this occasion marshaled the opposing forces, now appears for the first time in the rôle of a great Parliamentary leader. It may be added that, though the bill was passed, it was never enforced, and that twenty years later Mr. Gladstone had the pleasure of quietly repealing it.
In 1851 the Russell Ministry was succeeded by a Ministry formed by Lord Stanley, in which Mr. Disraeli became Chancellor of the Exchequer. This was the first appearance in the Cabinet of this nearly life-long opponent of Mr. Gladstone afterward Lord Beaconsfield. Soon after the formation of the new Ministry, Parliament was dissolved. Mr. Gladstone was again elected for Oxford. The results of the general election did not materially affect the balance of parties, and Lord Stanley, now become Lord Derby, returned to office with Mr. Disraeli again as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
In 1852 began the long Parliamentary duel between Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Disraeli, which ended only when Mr. Disraeli left the House of Commons in 1876, and entered the House of Lords. In every important debate they were pitted against each other. If Mr. Disraeli spoke he was followed by Mr. Gladstone; if Mr. Gladstone spoke he was answered by Mr. Disraeli. Respecting this combat of giants, Mr. Justin McCarthy says :
"I heard nearly all the great speeches made by both the men in that duel, which lasted for so many years. My own observation and judgment gave the superiority to Mr. Gladstone all through; but I quite admit that Disraeli stood up well against his great opponent, and that it was not always easy to award the prize of victory. The two men's voices were curiously unlike. Disraeli had a deep, low, powerful voice, heard everywhere throughout the house, but having little variety or music in it. Gladstone's voice was tuned to a higher key, was penetrating, resonant, liquid and full of an exquisite modulation and music, which gave new shades of meaning to every emphasized word. The ways of the men were in almost every respect curiously unlike. Gladstone was always eager for conversation. He loved to talk to anybody about anything. Disraeli, even among his most intimate friends, was given to frequent fits of absolute and apparently gloomy silence.
Not less different were the characters and temperaments of the two men. Gladstone changed his political opinions many times during his long Parliamentary career. But he changed his opinion only in deference to the force of a growing conviction, and to the recognition of facts and conditions which he could no longer conscientiously dispute. Nobody probably ever knew what Mr. Disraeli's real opinions were upon any political question, or whether he had any real opinions at all."
The first encounter in this grand duel was over Mr. Disraeli's financial budget. Mr. Gladstone completely demolished the budget. This was near the close of the year 1852. Lord Derby resigned and a coalition Government was formed, with Lord Aberdeen as Prime Minister and Mr. Gladstone as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now came the Crimean War (March 27, 1854), of interest here only because Mr. Gladstone as Chancellor of the Exchequer had the duty of providing for the ways and means; and because during the war there were Cabinet changes which led to his being for a short time in the Ministry of Lord Palmerston. This acceptance of office under a Whig leader has been noted as a "distinct advance to Liberalism first and to Radicalism afterward."
We shall now pass over a period of fourteen years, which will bring us to the year 1868. In these fourteen years many events had happened which in a more complete account of the career of Mr. Gladstone would need to be treated of; but they are of minor importance by the side of events which came after. One thing should be noted, however Mr. Gladstone's attitude toward the United States at the time of our Civil War. Mr. Gladstone unluckily committed himself to a sort of declaration in favor of the South. Speaking at a public meeting at Newcastle-on-Tyne, in October, 1862, he gave it as his conviction that Jefferson Davis "had made an army, had made a navy, and, more than that, had made a Nation." The Unionists in America had only too good reason at that time to feel that the sympathies of the higher classes in England were, with some notable individual exceptions, against them, and Mr. Gladstone was ranked among those who would gladly see our Union broken up. And yet there are reasons for believing; that this was not true. He himself five years later used these words : "I must confess that I was wrong; that I took too much upon myself in expressing such an opinion. Yet the motive was not bad. My sympathies were then where they had long been, and where they are now with the whole American people."
We are at the year 1868. Mr. Gladstone has advanced very far politically from his position in 1854. Then he was a Tory, yet with liberal views. Later he became a Whig, and served in the Cabinet under Lord Russell and with Lord Palmerston. Now he has become a Radical, bent upon reform. It should be said that Palmerston had recently died; that Earl Russell, at the close of 1867, deter-mined to retire finally from politics, having pointed to Mr. Gladstone as the future Liberal Prime Minister, and that, by a singular coincidence, Lord Derby, owing to his failing health, had also retired, and that Mr. Disraeli had become Prime Minister.
On the 30th of March (1868) Mr. Gladstone introduced into the House of Commons a resolution condemning the existence of the Irish State Church. It was a Church established and endowed by the State; but its teachings were rejected by five-sixths of the Irish people. Already a resolution had been introduced declaring it a "scandalous and monstrous anomaly." But as soon as Mr. Gladstone had pronounced himself strongly in favor of the resolution it was withdrawn, for the purpose of giving him a chance of taking the initiative in the move against the Church. The Gladstone resolution was passed by a large majority, and Mr. Disraeli announced that the Government would dissolve and appeal to the country. The general election came on, and the Liberals returned to power. Mr. Disraeli resigned his office and Mr. Gladstone formed a new Cabinet. He made it known that according to his opinion the three great evils of Ireland were the State Church, the land-tenure system, and the system of national education; and he set to work with a view to this career of reform. The Church was the first to be attacked. The Government carried its proposal. The Irish Church ceased to exist as a State-supported establishment and passed into the condition of a free Episcopal Church.
Mr. Gladstone next introduced a Land Tenure Bill, which, though not without a struggle, he carried. The bill extended to the whole of Ireland what was known as the "Ulster System," which entitled the tenant to some share and property in the improvements which he himself had made in his farm, whereas under the "rack-rent" system, which prevailed generally over Ireland, the more the tenant improved his land the more rent he must pay. The bill did not accomplish all that was expected of it, and it has been again and again amended and expanded. In fact, the subject of land tenure in Ireland has not even yet been finally disposed of. But Mr. Gladstone's bill of 1870 established a principle which has become accepted, and it thus opened a new era for Ireland.
Mr. Gladstone now established for England a great system of national education. Down to this time the education of the lower classes in England had been totally neglected by the State. England was in this respect far behind the most of the German States and the United States. The principle now established in England was that the State ought to provide for and enforce a popular elementary education. In 1871 a measure was carried by Mr. Gladstone to substitute the ballot for open voting in the elections for the House of Commons. At about the same time he abolished the custom of selling commissions in the army.
The third item of reform in Ireland on the programme of Mr. Gladstone concerned the national education, that is, the University system, for there was no other national education in Ireland than that afforded by the colleges. It would not be easy in a short space to explain all the details of the system with which he had to deal. His object was to effect such a combination among the existing colleges as would give to the Protestants and the Catholics equal facilities and privileges. It must suffice to say that the bill which he attempted to put through Parliament was a compromise measure, which pleased nobody, and that he was defeated on the question of its final passage, though only by three votes. The inevitable followed. Mr. Gladstone resigned office. But Mr. Disraeli refused to undertake to form a new Ministry, and Gladstone was prevailed upon again to take the office of Prime Minister, though under the circumstances his usefulness was practically at an end. He enabled, however, Mr. Fawcett to carry a measure for the abolition of religious tests in the University of Dublin.
Parliament was summoned for February 5, 1874, but, as it proved, only for the purpose of a dissolution. Mr. Gladstone had determined to appeal to the country, in the hope of obtaining a popular approval of his general policy. In the political campaign which followed, Mr. Gladstone exerted himself with all the ardor of a young man and with tireless energy to arouse the country to his support, addressing meetings in halls and in the open air; but the tide had turned, and no effort of his could check it. He was defeated. The Conservatives in the new House of Commons had a clear majority of fifty-six. Mr. Gladstone, following the example of Mr. Disraeli in 1868, resigned the Premiership, and Mr. Disraeli became the head of the new Ministry.
Mr. Gladstone now surprised the Liberal party and grieved many of his personal friends by clearly intimating in a letter to Lord Granville his purpose to resign the leadership of his party, pleading his advanced age though he was now but sixty-five and no one yet had thought of him as old and the need of rest. This purpose was declared still more distinctly in a second letter to Granville in January, 1875, and another reason was added, that he meant for a short time to be engaged on a "special matter" which occupied him much. There was no help for it. The Liberals cast about for a new leader, and their choice fell on Lord Harlington. During the session Mr. Gladstone took no active part in the proceedings of the House, though he spoke occasionally.
The "special matter" turned out to be chiefly an attack on "The Vatican Decrees in their Bearing on Civil Allegiance" in the form of a pamphlet which had an immense circulation and caused a very angry controversy. One of its effects was to chill for a time the long and warm friendship between Mr. Gladstone and Cardinal Manning —a friendship which had begun at Oxford. In his youth Mr. Gladstone had himself had a strong desire to enter the Church, but had been dissuaded from this career by his father. Yet he always maintained his interest in theological matters, and found it a relief to turn to them from politics. This particular pamphlet has now no special interest for us except as it illustrates this penchant of Mr. Gladstone.
But Mr. Gladstone had by no means dropped politics "for good and all." He had, in fact, overestimated his own strength of will in the matter. So long as there was nothing in particular to be done in the political arena, he could devote himself heart and soul to his literary recreation, could smile at the flashy foreign policy of Mr. Disraeli, and go on with his theological polemics. But something happened in 1876 which was of particular interest the Bulgarian massacres. Mr. Disraeli affected to disbelieve the story of these atrocities, or to believe, at any rate, that their enormity had been greatly exaggerated, notwithstanding the confirmation of an able correspondent of the "Daily News," who had investigated on the spot. The work of the Bashi-Bazouks had been simply fiendish. Whole villages were found whose streets, other-wise deserted, were covered with the bodies of slaughtered women and children. All England boiled with indignation. Mr. Gladstone boiled, and, like another Achilles, he came forth from his tent and took his place at the front, the practical though not the nominal leader of the Liberal party.
'Mr. Gladstone issued a manifesto in the shape of a pamphlet on "Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East," in which he declared that the only way to secure any lasting good for the Christian population of Turkey was to turn the Turkish officials out "bag and baggage." This was practically what was now done for Bulgaria, the result having been brought about largely through the exertions of Mr. Gladstone in the British House of Commons. Bulgaria was erected into a practically independent province under the nominal suzerainty of Turkey, and it is now a well ordered and prosperous State.
In this year, 1876, Mr. Disraeli was raised to the peer-age, under the title of Beaconsfield, and entered the House of Lords.
The Conservative party had now had its day. A general election resulted in its overwhelming defeat. The Liberals came back to Parliament with a majority of more than 120. Lord Granville, the Liberal leader in the House of Peers, and Lord Hartington, the nominal leader of that party in the House of Commons, were successively sent for by the Queen and asked to form a Ministry. Both declined, declaring that Mr. Gladstone alone would be acceptable to the Liberal party. Accordingly, Mr. Glad-stone was tendered the office, and became Prime Minister for a second time.
Mr. Gladstone was no sooner settled in office than he began to turn his thoughts to new and great measures of reform. Many events had directed his attention to the condition of Ireland. The state of the Irish tenant farmer appeared to him to call for immediate remedy. The Land Tenure Bill of 187o had done something; but this measure had been only an experiment, and he determined now to improve upon it. He began with the introduction of a bill designed only as a temporary measure pending anticipated legislation which secured to any evicted Irish tenant compensation for any improvements effected in his farm by his own industry and his own skill. The bill was defeated in the House of Lords. The effect in Ireland, where Mr. Gladstone's course was watched with hopeful interest, was disastrous. It seemed to indicate that how-ever friendly he might be toward Ireland, he was powerless to act.
The Irish question is quite too large a subject to be treated here at any length. It must suffice to give in a short paragraph the bare headings of events which occurred about this time. Agrarian outrage in Ireland led to coercive legislation, and coercion increased the disturbances. The Home Rule movement took a fresh start under the leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell. In the House of Commons Parnell and his followers attempted to force attention to the grievances of Ireland by systematic obstruction of legislation. This brought Parnell into conflict with Gladstone. A bill was passed, on the recommendation of the Secretary for Ireland, giving the authorities in Dublin Castle power to arrest persons "reasonably suspected of dangerous purposes." Mr. Parnell and nearly all the leaders of the Irish National movement were arrested and imprisoned, but Mr. Gladstone found it advisable after a while to release Parnell and the most of his friends. Then came the murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Thomas Burke in the Phoenix Park outrages which for a time were charged against the Irish Nationalists, though undoubtedly unjustly, and occasioned in England intensely bitter feeling against the Irish.
In attempting things impossible at this time, Mr. Glad-stone, with the best of intentions, offended the Irish, offended the English landholders, offended many of his own partisans, and accomplished nothing. Meanwhile, in consequence of the foreign policy of his predecessors in office, he had trouble in Egypt, where he supported the Khedive against the insurgent chief Arabi Pasha a course which led to the bombardment of Alexandria, which was generally disapproved of in England; and trouble in South Africa, where he made what was considered an ignominious peace with the Boers. Before these accumulated difficulties, his administration fell. He was succeeded as Premier by Lord Salisbury, whose government was not long, however. In November, 1885, Parliament was dissolved. The result of the election which followed gave the Tories only a doubtful majority, dependent on the support of the Irish members. Lord Salisbury very soon resigned, and Mr. Gladstone, who now represented Midlothian, in Scotland, became Prime Minister for the third time.
We come now to the crowning act in Mr. Gladstone's long political career his effort to give Home Rule to Ireland. The announcement that he was about to take this step at first in the form of a rumor, which later had the sanction of his own silence carne to the people of England, and even to his intimate friends, as a thunder-clap from a clear sky. Mr. Gladstone's enemies charged him with all sorts of motives, in the heat of political excitement. Some of his friends believed that he was committing a political blunder. The question for us is: What did Mr. Gladstone himself think? No, one who has carefully studied his political career, can for a moment doubt that his motive for bringing forward this measure was a sincere belief, founded upon a careful study of all the circumstances, that Home Rule, in some form, offered the best solution of the vexing Irish question, the only lasting solution; and having made up his mind upon this point, he had the heroism to act upon his convictions, no matter at what cost or sacrifice. Mr. Gladstone was charged during his lifetime with a frequent change of his political opinions, a thing unintelligible to the average politician. Really Mr. Gladstone's course from first to last was entirely consistent; he changed his views upon particular questions, but never his principles. He started as a Tory, because as such he was educated; Toryism was the politics of his father. He became liberal as his judgment matured, because it was in his nature to be just toward all men. He became a Whig, because he saw, as his experience widened, that there was need of reform to ensure progress, and Toryism meant an unreasoning clinging to the traditions of the past. He became a Liberal, because the average Whig refused to go to the extent which he deemed right in the matter of reform, and he ended in a position away ahead of the majority of even the Liberal party.
Mr. Gladstone's proposition was to give to Ireland a Parliament at Dublin, and to deprive her of her representation in the British Parliament. We need not follow the struggle which ensued, both in and out of Parliament. It is enough to say that the Liberal party became divided, one branch of it forming a "Unionist" party, under the lead of Mr. Chamberlain, who, together with several others, had resigned from Mr. Gladstone's cabinet; and that, although Mr. Gladstone now had the Irish vote with him, a coalition was formed against him, which was strong enough to defeat his bill. He now dissolved the Parliament (in June), appealed to the country, and, despite his most strenuous efforts, was defeated in the election. As a consequence he resigned from office, and a new ministry was formed by Lord Salisbury.
With the opening of the new Parliament, Mr. Gladstone, now seventy-six years old, entered upon an extraordinary course of physical and intellectual effort, with voice and pen, in Parliament and on the platform, on behalf of the cause, defeated but not abandoned, of self-government for Ireland. In 1892 the tide had again turned, and Mr. Gladstone, at the age of eighty-three, became, for the fourth time, Prime Minister of England.. He now introduced a second Irish Home Rule Bill, considerably modified from the first. After a long and arduous struggle the bill was carried through the House of Commons, but was defeated in the House of Lords by a majority of more than ten to one. Mr. Gladstone might well be content with this approval of his policy; for nothing better could have been expected in the House of Lords, which is instinctively opposed to every reform.
Mr. Gladstone made his last speech in the House of Commons on the 1st of March, 1894. It was not in the nature of a farewell address, and few persons in the House knew that he had decided upon resigning his office. The question under discussion, though not an important one, involved a conflict between the Representative Chamber and the Hereditary Chamber. It seems peculiarly fitting that Mr. Gladstone's last utterances in the House, through which he had carried so many reform measures, should have borne upon still another great and inevitable change which should re-move from legislation the obstructive interference of the House of Lords.
Four years still remain of Mr. Gladstone's life. Unfortunately, we are obliged to pass them quickly. His time had come for rest for rest as understood always by Mr. Gladstone, that is, a change of work. He retired to his estate at Hawarden, and here he turned his attention once again to his favorite subject theology. He wrote letters, essays, and even books upon theological subjects, nor in the meantime did much escape him in politics or even in light literature. He allowed the outside world to know, although in becoming guarded fashion, his opinion on this and that measure which was under discussion in Parliament. And that outer world, far from forgetting him, seemed to become more and more interested in him and his ways as the years of his retirement passed. We refer not particularly to the numerous pilgrimages made to Hawarden by his admirers, and which became so frequent that they had to be placed under regulation, but to that larger world which heard of him only through the newspaper press. Whatever item of news came from Gladstone or related to Gladstone was sure of interested readers. People were interested in his habits his early walks to church before breakfast, his afternoon walks about his premises, his delight in chess and in whist, and particularly were they interested in his wood-chopping, for no surer sign could be given of his remarkable physical vigor. Somebody at some time referred to him as "The Grand Old Man." The phrase struck the public as a happy one. It clung to him as a title, a distinction which must have been peculiarly gratifying to him, since it came from no sovereign, but from the people, whom he loved so much. It may not be too late to say that Queen Victoria had offered him a peerage, which he had in the most courteous manner declined very sensibly, we all say.
It is the unhappy experience of the biographer that, no matter how long he may make his story, it always comes to the same sad ending. We shall not dwell unnecessarily on the last days of Mr. Gladstone. For many years Mr. Gladstone had found Cannes, on the Riviera, a favorite spot in which to seek repose during the winter months. Thither he went to spend the winter of 1898. It was known that Mr. Gladstone's health was not good. Soon reports that were alarming began to spread about him. He suffered severely from facial neuralgia. The reports which came were conflicting; yet it was certain that his condition was serious. In March he returned to England. He seemed better for his trip, and that this was the case was reported by his family. Having spent a short time with his son in London, he went to his home at Hawarden. The public fixed its attention upon this place, and read with interest the reports the bulletins which came almost daily; and soon, in spite of the hopeful tenor of them all, it became only too evident that- Mr. Gladstone was dying. Slowly but surely he grew more and more feeble. The pain was in a great measure checked. But that the end was fast approaching, none could doubt. It came on Ascension Day, the 19th of May, 1898. Mr. Gladstone passed away peace-fully at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon. All the members of his family were gathered at his bedside.
Mr. Gladstone's remains were deposited, May 28th, in Westminster Abbey. A space was left at their side for those of her who was his devoted companion for nearly sixty years.
We have already quoted from Mr. Justin McCarthy's "Life of Gladstone." No apology will be needed for closing this short story with another extract from the same work:
"I do not know whether English Parliamentary history records greater doings of any man. In different paths of political work, other men may have been as great as he. Probably Fox was his equal in Parliamentary debate. The elder Pitt was probably as great an orator as Mr. Gladstone. But not Fox, nor Chatham, nor William Pitt had anything like Mr. Gladstone's capacity for constructive legislature, and the resources of information possessed by Fox, or Chatham, or Pitt were poor indeed when compared with that store-house of knowledge which supplied Mr. Gladstone's intellectual capacity. Mr. Gladstone was possessed through his life with an eager desire to do the right thing at all times. No human interest was indifferent to him, and the smallest wrong as well as the greatest aroused his most impassioned sympathies, and made him resolve that wrong should be righted. The name conferred upon him by nobody knows whom will be borne by him to all time, and so long as the history of Queen Victoria's reign remains in the memory of civilization he will still be 'The Grand Old Man.' "