William Ewart Gladstone | Wikipedia audio article

William Ewart Gladstone | Wikipedia audio article


William Ewart Gladstone, (; 29 December 1809
– 19 May 1898) was a British statesman of the Liberal Party. In a career lasting over
sixty years, he served for twelve years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, spread
over four terms beginning in 1868 and ending in 1894. He also served as Chancellor of the
Exchequer four times. Gladstone was born in Liverpool to Scottish
parents. He first entered the House of Commons in 1832, beginning his political career as
a High Tory, a grouping which became the Conservative Party under Robert Peel in 1834. Gladstone
served as a minister in both of Peel’s governments, and in 1846 joined the breakaway Peelite faction,
which eventually merged into the new Liberal Party in 1859. He was Chancellor under Lord
Aberdeen (1852–1855), Lord Palmerston (1859–1865), and Lord Russell (1865–1866). Gladstone’s
own political doctrine—which emphasised equality of opportunity, free trade, and laissez-faire
economic policies—came to be known as Gladstonian liberalism. His popularity amongst the working-class
earned him the sobriquet “The People’s William”. In 1868, Gladstone became Prime Minister for
the first time. Many reforms were passed during his first ministry, including the disestablishment
of the Church of Ireland and the introduction of secret voting. After electoral defeat in
1874, Gladstone resigned as Leader of the Liberal Party; but from 1876 he began a comeback
based on opposition to Turkey’s reaction to the Bulgarian April Uprising. His Midlothian
Campaign of 1879–80 was an early example of many modern political campaigning techniques.
After the 1880 general election, Gladstone formed his second ministry (1880–1885),
which saw the passage of the Third Reform Act as well as crises in Egypt (culminating
in the Fall of Khartoum) and Ireland, where the government passed repressive measures
but also improved the legal rights of Irish tenant farmers.
Back in office in early 1886, Gladstone proposed home rule for Ireland but was defeated in
the House of Commons. The resulting split in the Liberal Party helped keep them out
of office—with one short break—for twenty years. Gladstone formed his last government
in 1892, at the age of 82. The Second Home Rule Bill passed through the House of Commons
but was defeated in the House of Lords in 1893. Gladstone left office in March 1894,
aged 84, as both the oldest person to serve as Prime Minister and the only Prime Minister
to have served four terms. He left parliament in 1895 and died three years later. Gladstone
was known affectionately by his supporters as “The People’s William” or the “G.O.M.”
(“Grand Old Man”, or, according to his political rival Benjamin Disraeli, “God’s Only Mistake”).
Historians often call him one of the greatest leaders. A.J.P. Taylor has stated, ” William
Ewart Gladstone was the greatest political figure of the nineteenth century. I do not
mean by that that he was necessarily the greatest statesman, certainly not the most successful.
What I mean is that he dominated the scene.”==Early life==
Born in 1809 in Liverpool, at 62 Rodney Street, William Ewart Gladstone was the fourth son
of the merchant John Gladstones, and his second wife, Anne MacKenzie Robertson. In 1835, the
family name was changed from Gladstones to Gladstone by royal licence. His father was
made a baronet, of Fasque and Balfour, in 1846.Although born and brought up in Liverpool,
William Gladstone was of purely Scottish ancestry. His grandfather Thomas Gladstones (1732–1762)
was a prominent merchant from Leith, and his maternal grandfather, Andrew Robertson, was
Provost of Dingwall and a Sheriff-Substitute of Ross-shire. His biographer John Morley
described him as “a highlander in the custody of a lowlander”, and an adversary as “an ardent
Italian in the custody of a Scotsman”. One of his earliest childhood memories was being
made to stand on a table and say “Ladies and gentlemen” to the assembled audience, probably
at a gathering to promote the election of George Canning as MP for Liverpool in 1812.
In 1814, young “Willy” visited Scotland for the first time, as he and his brother John
travelled with their father to Edinburgh, Biggar and Dingwall to visit their relatives.
Willy and his brother were both made freemen of the burgh of Dingwall. In 1815, Gladstone
also travelled to London and Cambridge for the first time with his parents. Whilst in
London, he attended a service of thanksgiving with his family at St Paul’s Cathedral following
the Battle of Waterloo, where he saw the Prince Regent.William Gladstone was educated from
1816–1821 at a preparatory school at the vicarage of St. Thomas’ Church at Seaforth,
close to his family’s residence, Seaforth House. In 1821, William followed in the footsteps
of his elder brothers and attended Eton College before matriculating in 1828 at Christ Church,
Oxford, where he read Classics and Mathematics, although he had no great interest in the latter
subject. In December 1831, he achieved the double first-class degree he had long desired.
Gladstone served as President of the Oxford Union, where he developed a reputation as
an orator, which followed him into the House of Commons. At university, Gladstone was a
Tory and denounced Whig proposals for parliamentary reform. Following the success of his double first,
William travelled with his brother John on a Grand Tour of Europe, visiting Belgium,
France, Germany and Italy. Upon his return to England, William was elected to Parliament
in 1832 as a Tory Member of Parliament (MP) for Newark, partly through the influence of
the local patron, the Duke of Newcastle. Although Gladstone entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1833, with
intentions of becoming a barrister, by 1839 he had requested that his name should be removed
from the list because he no longer intended to be called to the Bar.In the House of Commons,
Gladstone was initially a disciple of High Toryism and, as a scion of one of the largest
slave-holding families in the world, he opposed both the abolition of slavery and factory
legislation. Gladstone’s father was a slave owner; in 1834, when slavery was abolished,
he helped his father obtain £106,769 (equivalent to £83,000,000 relative to average salary,
£9,000,000 in purchasing power terms, in 2013): in official reimbursement by the government
for the 2,508 slaves he owned across nine plantations in the Caribbean.In December 1834,
he was appointed as a Junior Lord of the Treasury in Sir Robert Peel’s first ministry. The following
month he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, a position
he held until the government’s resignation just five months later, in April 1835.===Marriage and family===Gladstone’s early attempts to find a wife
proved unsuccessful, with his being rejected by Caroline Eliza Farquhar (daughter of Sir
Thomas Harvie Farquhar, 2nd Baronet) in 1835, and by Lady Frances Harriet Douglas (daughter
of George Douglas, 17th Earl of Morton) in 1837. Gladstone published his first book,
The State in its Relations with the Church, in 1838, in which he argued that the goal
of the state should be to promote and defend the interests of the Church of England.
The following year, having met her in 1834 at the London home of Old Etonian friend and
then fellow-Conservative MP James Milnes Gaskell, he married Catherine Glynne, to whom he remained
married until his death 59 years later. They had eight children together: William Henry Gladstone MP (3 June 1840 – 4
July 1891); married Hon. Gertrude Stuart (daughter of Charles Stuart, 12th Lord Blantyre) on
30 September 1875. They had three children. Agnes Gladstone (18 October 1842 – 9 May
1931); she married Very Rev. Edward Wickham on 27 December 1873. They had three children.
The Rev. Stephen Edward Gladstone (4 April 1844 – 23 April 1920); he married Annie
Wilson on 29 January 1885. They had five children and were ancestors of the Gladstone baronets
after 1945. Catherine Jessy Gladstone (27 July 1845 – 9
April 1850) Mary Gladstone (23 November 1847 – 1 January
1927); she married Reverend Harry Drew on 2 February 1886. They had two daughters.
Helen Gladstone (28 August 1849 – 19 August 1925), Vice-Principal of Newnham College,
Cambridge Henry Neville Gladstone (2 April 1852 – 28
April 1935); he married Hon. Maud Rendel on 30 January 1890.
Herbert John Gladstone MP (7 January 1854 – 6 March 1930); he married Dorothy Paget
on 2 November 1901.Gladstone’s eldest son William (known as “Willy” to distinguish him
from his father), and youngest, Herbert, both became Members of Parliament. William Henry
predeceased his father by seven years. Gladstone’s private secretary was his nephew Spencer Lyttelton.In
1840, Gladstone began to rescue and rehabilitate London prostitutes, walking the streets of
London himself and encouraging the women he encountered to change their ways. Much to
the criticism of his peers, he continued this practice decades later, even after he was
elected Prime Minister.===Opposition to the Opium Wars===
The opium trade faced intense opposition from Gladstone. Gladstone called it “most infamous
and atrocious” referring to the opium trade between China and British India in particular.
Gladstone was fiercely against both of the Opium Wars Britain waged in China, in the
First Opium War initiated in 1840 and the Second Opium War initiated in 1857, denouncing
British violence against Chinese, and was ardently opposed to the British trade of opium
in China. Gladstone lambasted it as “Palmerston’s Opium War” and said that he felt “in dread
of the judgements of God upon England for our national iniquity towards China” in May
1840. A famous speech was made by Gladstone in Parliament against the First Opium War.
Gladstone criticised it as “a war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated in its
progress to cover this country with permanent disgrace”. His hostility to opium stemmed
from the effects of opium upon his sister Helen. Due to the First Opium war brought
on by Palmerston, there was initial reluctance to join the government of Peel on the part
of Gladstone before 1841.==Minister under Peel (1841–1846)==
Gladstone was re-elected in 1841. In September 1842 he lost the forefinger of his left hand
in an accident while reloading a gun; thereafter he wore a glove or finger sheath (stall).
In the second ministry of Robert Peel he served as President of the Board of Trade (1843–1845).
Gladstone became concerned with the situation of “coal whippers”. These were the men who
worked on London docks, “whipping” in baskets from ships to barges or wharves all incoming
coal from the sea. They were called up and relieved through public houses and therefore
a man could not get this job unless he possessed the favourable opinion of the publican, who
looked upon most favourably those who drank. The man’s name was written down and the “score”
followed. Publicans issued employment solely on the capacity of the man to pay, and men
often left the pub to work drunk. They spent their savings on drink to secure the favourable
opinion of publicans and therefore further employment. Gladstone passed the Coal Vendors
Act 1843 to set up a central office for employment. When this Act expired in 1856 a Select Committee
was appointed by the Lords in 1857 to look into the question. Gladstone gave evidence
to the Committee: “I approached the subject in the first instance as I think everyone
in Parliament of necessity did, with the strongest possible prejudice against the proposal [to
interfere]; but the facts stated were of so extraordinary and deplorable a character,
that it was impossible to withhold attention from them. Then the question being whether
legislative interference was required I was at length induced to look at a remedy of an
extraordinary character as the only one I thought applicable to the case … it was
a great innovation”. Looking back in 1883, Gladstone wrote that “In principle, perhaps
my Coalwhippers Act of 1843 was the most Socialistic measure of the last half century”.He resigned
in 1845 over the Maynooth Grant issue, a matter of conscience for him. To improve relations
with the Catholic Church, Peel’s government proposed increasing the annual grant paid
to Maynooth Seminary for training Catholic priests in Ireland. Gladstone, who had previously
argued in a book that a Protestant country should not pay money to other churches, nevertheless
supported the increase in the Maynooth grant and voted for it in Commons—but resigned
rather than face charges that he had compromised his principles to remain in office. After
accepting Gladstone’s resignation, Peel confessed to a friend, “I really have great difficulty
sometimes in exactly comprehending what he means.” Gladstone returned to Peel’s government
as Colonial Secretary in December 1845. “As such, he had to stand for re-election, but
the strong protectionism of the Duke of Newcastle, his patron in Newark, meant that he could
not stand there and no other seat was available. Throughout the corn law crisis of 1846, therefore,
Gladstone was in the highly anomalous and possibly unique position of being a secretary
of state without a seat in either house and thus unanswerable to parliament.”==
Opposition MP (1846–1851)==The following year Peel’s government fell
over the MPs’ repeal of the Corn Laws and Gladstone followed his leader into a course
of separation from mainstream Conservatives. After Peel’s death in 1850 Gladstone emerged
as the leader of the Peelites in the House of Commons. He was re-elected for the University
of Oxford (i.e. representing the MA graduates of the University) at the General Election
in 1847—Peel had once held this seat but had lost it because of his espousal of Catholic
Emancipation in 1829. Gladstone became a constant critic of Lord Palmerston.In 1847 Gladstone
helped to establish Glenalmond College, then The Holy and Undivided Trinity College at
Glenalmond. The school was set up as an episcopal foundation to spread the ideas of Anglicanism
in Scotland, and to educate the sons of the gentry.
As a young man Gladstone had treated his father’s estate, Fasque, in Forfarshire, southwest
of Aberdeen, as home, but as a younger son he would not inherit it. Instead, from the
time of his marriage, he lived at his wife’s family’s estate at Hawarden in Flintshire,
Wales. He never actually owned Hawarden, which belonged first to his brother-in-law Sir Stephen
Glynne, and was then inherited by Gladstone’s eldest son in 1874. During the late 1840s,
when he was out of office, he worked extensively to turn Hawarden into a viable business.
In 1848 he founded the Church Penitentiary Association for the Reclamation of Fallen
Women. In May 1849 he began his most active “rescue work” and met prostitutes late at
night on the street, in his house or in their houses, writing their names in a private notebook.
He aided the House of Mercy at Clewer near Windsor (which exercised extreme in-house
discipline) and spent much time arranging employment for ex-prostitutes. In a “Declaration”
signed on 7 December 1896 and only to be opened after his death by his son Stephen, Gladstone
wrote: With reference to rumours which I believe
were at one time afloat, though I know not with what degree of currency: and also with
reference to the times when I shall not be here to answer for myself, I desire to record
my solemn declaration and assurance, as in the sight of God and before His Judgement
Seat, that at no period of my life have I been guilty of the act which is known as that
of infidelity to the marriage bed. In 1927, during a court case over published
claims that he had improper relationships with some of these women, the jury unanimously
found that the evidence “completely vindicated the high moral character of the late Mr. W.E.
Gladstone”.In 1850/51 Gladstone visited Naples for the benefit of his daughter Mary’s eyesight.
Giacomo Lacaita, legal adviser to the British embassy, was at the time imprisoned by the
Neapolitan government, as were other political dissidents. Gladstone became concerned at
the political situation in Naples and the arrest and imprisonment of Neapolitan liberals.
In February 1851 Gladstone visited the prisons where they were held and in April and July
he published two Letters to the Earl of Aberdeen against the Neapolitan government and responded
to his critics in An Examination of the Official Reply of the Neapolitan Government in 1852.
Gladstone’s first letter described what he saw in Naples as “the negation of God erected
into a system of government”. Giustino Fortunato, prime minister of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies,
knew of the letters from Paolo Ruffo, Neapolitan ambassador in London, but he didn’t inform
the king Ferdinand II. After his unfulfilment, Fortunato was dismissed by the sovereign.==Chancellor of the Exchequer (1852–1855)
==In 1852, following the appointment of Lord
Aberdeen as Prime Minister, head of a coalition of Whigs and Peelites, Gladstone became Chancellor
of the Exchequer. The Whig Sir Charles Wood and the Tory Disraeli had both been perceived
to have failed in the office and so this provided Gladstone with a great political opportunity.
His first budget in 1853 almost completed the work begun by Peel eleven years before
in simplifying Britain’s tariff of duties and customs. 123 duties were abolished and
133 duties were reduced. The income tax had legally expired but Gladstone proposed to
extend it for seven years to fund tariff reductions: We propose, then, to re-enact it for two years,
from April, 1853, to April, 1855, at the rate of 7d. in the £; from April, 1855, to enact
it for two more years at 6d. in the £; and then for three years more … from April,
1857, at 5d. Under this proposal, on 5 April 1860, the income-tax will by law expire.
Gladstone wanted to maintain a balance between direct and indirect taxation and to abolish
income tax. He knew that its abolition depended on a considerable retrenchment in government
expenditure. He therefore increased the number of people eligible to pay it by lowering the
threshold from £150 to £100. The more people that paid income tax, Gladstone believed,
the more the public would pressure the government into abolishing it. Gladstone argued that
the £100 line was “the dividing line … between the educated and the labouring part of the
community” and that therefore the income tax payers and the electorate were to be the same
people, who would then vote to cut government expenditure.The budget speech (delivered on
18 April), at nearly five hours length, raised Gladstone “at once to the front rank of financiers
as of orators”. H.C.G. Matthew has written that Gladstone “made finance and figures exciting,
and succeeded in constructing budget speeches epic in form and performance, often with lyrical
interludes to vary the tension in the Commons as the careful exposition of figures and argument
was brought to a climax”. The contemporary diarist Charles Greville wrote of Gladstone’s
speech: … by universal consent it was one of the
grandest displays and most able financial statement that ever was heard in the House
of Commons; a great scheme, boldly, skilfully, and honestly devised, disdaining popular clamour
and pressure from without, and the execution of it absolute perfection. Even those who
do not admire the Budget, or who are injured by it, admit the merit of the performance.
It has raised Gladstone to a great political elevation, and, what is of far greater consequence
than the measure itself, has given the country assurance of a man equal to great political
necessities, and fit to lead parties and direct governments.
Britain entered the Crimean War in February 1854, and Gladstone introduced his second
budget on 6 March. Gladstone had to increase expenditure on the military and a vote of
credit of £1,250,000 was taken to send a force of 25,000 to the East. The deficit for
the year would be £2,840,000 (estimated revenue £56,680,000; estimated expenditure £59,420,000).
Gladstone refused to borrow the money needed to rectify this deficit and instead increased
income tax by half, from sevenpence to tenpence-halfpenny in the pound (from ≈2.92% to ≈4.38%).
He proclaimed that “the expenses of a war are the moral check which it has pleased the
Almighty to impose on the ambition and the lust of conquest that are inherent in so many
nations”. By May £6,870,000 was needed to finance the war and introducing another budget
on 8 May, Gladstone raised income tax from tenpence halfpenny to fourteen pence in the
pound to raise £3,250,000. Spirits, malt, and sugar were taxed to raise the rest of
the money needed.He served until 1855, a few weeks into Lord Palmerston’s first premiership,
and resigned along with the rest of the Peelites after a motion was passed to appoint a committee
of inquiry into the conduct of the war.==Opposition (1855–1859)==The Conservative Leader Lord Derby became
Prime Minister in 1858, but Gladstone—who like the other Peelites was still nominally
a Conservative—declined a position in his government, opting not to sacrifice his free
trade principles. Between November 1858 and February 1859, Gladstone,
on behalf of Lord Derby’s government, was made Extraordinary Lord High Commissioner
of the Ionian Islands embarking via Vienna and Trieste on a twelve-week mission to the
southern Adriatic entrusted with complex challenges that had arisen in connection with the future
of the British protectorate of the United States of the Ionian Islands.In 1858, Gladstone
took up the hobby of tree felling, mostly of oak trees, an exercise he continued with
enthusiasm until he was 81 in 1891. Eventually, he became notorious for this activity, prompting
Lord Randolph Churchill to observe: “For the purposes of recreation he has selected the
felling of trees; and we may usefully remark that his amusements, like his politics, are
essentially destructive. Every afternoon the whole world is invited to assist at the crashing
fall of some beech or elm or oak. The forest laments in order that Mr Gladstone may perspire.”
Less noticed at the time was his practice of replacing the trees felled by planting
new saplings. Gladstone was a lifelong bibliophile; it has
been suggested that in his lifetime, he read around 20,000 books, and eventually owned
a library of over 32,000.==Chancellor of the Exchequer (1859–1866)
==In 1859, Lord Palmerston formed a new mixed
government with Radicals included, and Gladstone again joined the government (with most of
the other remaining Peelites) as Chancellor of the Exchequer, to become part of the new
Liberal Party. Gladstone inherited a deficit of nearly five
million pounds, with income tax now set at 5d (fivepence). Like Peel, Gladstone dismissed
the idea of borrowing to cover the deficit. Gladstone argued that “In time of peace nothing
but dire necessity should induce us to borrow”. Most of the money needed was acquired through
raising the income tax to 9d. Usually not more than two-thirds of a tax imposed could
be collected in a financial year so Gladstone therefore imposed the extra four pence at
a rate of 8d. during the first half of the year so that he could obtain the additional
revenue in one year. Gladstone’s dividing line set up in 1853 had been abolished in
1858 but Gladstone revived it, with lower incomes to pay 6½d. instead of 9d. For the
first half of the year the lower incomes paid 8d. and the higher incomes paid 13d. in income
tax.On 12 September 1859 the Radical MP Richard Cobden visited Gladstone, who recorded it
in his diary: “… further conv. with Mr. Cobden on Tariffs & relations with France.
We are closely & warmly agreed”. Cobden was sent as Britain’s representative to the negotiations
with France’s Michel Chevalier for a free trade treaty between the two countries. Gladstone
wrote to Cobden: “… the great aim—the moral and political significance of the act,
and its probable and desired fruit in binding the two countries together by interest and
affection. Neither you nor I attach for the moment any superlative value to this Treaty
for the sake of the extension of British trade. … What I look to is the social good, the
benefit to the relations of the two countries, and the effect on the peace of Europe”.Gladstone’s
budget of 1860 was introduced on 10 February along with the Cobden–Chevalier Treaty between
Britain and France that would reduce tariffs between the two countries. This budget “marked
the final adoption of the Free Trade principle, that taxation should be levied for Revenue
purposes alone, and that every protective, differential, or discriminating duty … should
be dislodged”. At the beginning of 1859, there were 419 duties in existence. The 1860 budget
reduced the number of duties to 48, with 15 duties constituting the majority of the revenue.
To finance these reductions in indirect taxation, the income tax, instead of being abolished,
was raised to 10d. for incomes above £150 and at 7d. for incomes above £100.In 1860
Gladstone intended to abolish the duty on paper—a controversial policy, because the
duty traditionally inflated the cost of publishing and hindered the dissemination of radical
working-class ideas. Although Palmerston supported continuation of the duty, using it and income
tax revenue to buy arms, a majority of his Cabinet supported Gladstone. The Bill to abolish
duties on paper narrowly passed Commons but was rejected by the House of Lords. No money
bill had been rejected by Lords for over 200 years, and a furore arose over this vote.
The next year, Gladstone included the abolition of paper duty in a consolidated Finance Bill
(the first ever) to force the Lords to accept it, and accept it they did. The proposal in
the Commons of one bill only per session for the national finances was a precedent uniformly
followed from that date until 1910, and it has been ever since the rule.Gladstone steadily
reduced Income tax over the course of his tenure as Chancellor. In 1861 the tax was
reduced to ninepence (£0–0s–9d), in 1863 to sevenpence, in 1864 to fivepence and in
1865 to fourpence. Gladstone believed that government was extravagant and wasteful with
taxpayers’ money and so sought to let money “fructify in the pockets of the people” by
keeping taxation levels down through “peace and retrenchment”. In 1859 he wrote to his
brother, who was a member of the Financial Reform Association at Liverpool: “Economy
is the first and great article (economy such as I understand it) in my financial creed.
The controversy between direct and indirect taxation holds a minor, though important place”.
He wrote to his wife on 14 January 1860: “I am certain, from experience, of the immense
advantage of strict account-keeping in early life. It is just like learning the grammar
then, which when once learned need not be referred to afterwards”.Due to his actions
as Chancellor, Gladstone earned the reputation as the liberator of British trade and the
working man’s breakfast table, the man responsible for the emancipation of the popular press
from “taxes upon knowledge” and for placing a duty on the succession of the estates of
the rich. Gladstone’s popularity rested on his taxation policies which meant to his supporters
balance, social equity and political justice. The most significant expression of working-class
opinion was at Northumberland in 1862 when Gladstone visited. George Holyoake recalled
in 1865: When Mr Gladstone visited the North, you well
remember when word passed from the newspaper to the workman that it circulated through
mines and mills, factories and workshops, and they came out to greet the only British
minister who ever gave the English people a right because it was just they should have
it … and when he went down the Tyne, all the country heard how twenty miles of banks
were lined with people who came to greet him. Men stood in the blaze of chimneys; the roofs
of factories were crowded; colliers came up from the mines; women held up their children
on the banks that it might be said in after life that they had seen the Chancellor of
the People go by. The river was covered like the land. Every man who could ply an oar pulled
up to give Mr Gladstone a cheer. When Lord Palmerston went to Bradford the streets were
still, and working men imposed silence upon themselves. When Mr Gladstone appeared on
the Tyne he heard cheer no other English minister ever heard … the people were grateful to
him, and rough pitmen who never approached a public man before, pressed round his carriage
by thousands … and thousands of arms were stretched out at once, to shake hands with
Mr Gladstone as one of themselves. When Gladstone first joined Palmerston’s government
in 1859, he had opposed further electoral reform, but he changed his position during
Palmerston’s last premiership, and by 1865 he was firmly in favour of enfranchising the
working classes in towns; the policy caused friction with Palmerston, who strongly opposed
enfranchisement. At the beginning of each session, Gladstone would passionately urge
the Cabinet to adopt new policies, while Palmerston would fixedly stare at a paper before him.
At a lull in Gladstone’s speech, Palmerston would smile, rap the table with his knuckles,
and interject pointedly, “Now, my Lords and gentlemen, let us go to business”.===American Civil War===
As Chancellor, Gladstone made a speech at Newcastle on 7 October 1862 in which he supported
the independence of the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War, claiming
that Jefferson Davis had “made a nation”. He did not consider slavery a problem; when
Gladstone was first elected to Parliament his father owned over two and a half thousand
slaves, and the young man helped his father to obtain full payment for them. Great Britain
was officially neutral at the time. Gladstone later regretted the Newcastle speech.===Electoral reform===
In May 1864 Gladstone said that he saw no reason in principle why all mentally able
men could not be enfranchised, but admitted that this would only come about once the working
classes themselves showed more interest in the subject. Queen Victoria was not pleased
with this statement, and an outraged Palmerston considered it seditious incitement to agitation.Gladstone’s
support for electoral reform and disestablishment of the (Anglican) Church of Ireland alienated
him from constituents in his Oxford University seat, and he lost it in the 1865 general election.
A month later, however, he stood as a candidate in South Lancashire, where he was elected
third MP (South Lancashire at this time elected three MPs). Palmerston campaigned for Gladstone
in Oxford because he believed that his constituents would keep him “partially muzzled”; many Oxford
graduates were Anglican clergymen at that time. A victorious Gladstone told his new
constituency, “At last, my friends, I am come among you; and I am come—to use an expression
which has become very famous and is not likely to be forgotten—I am come ‘unmuzzled’.”
On Palmerston’s death in October, Earl Russell formed his second ministry. Russell & Gladstone
(now the senior Liberal in the House of Commons) attempted to pass a reform bill, which was
defeated in the Commons because the “Adullamite” Whigs, led by Robert Lowe, refused to support
it. The Conservatives then formed a ministry, in which after long Parliamentary debate Disraeli
passed the Second Reform Act of 1867; Gladstone’s proposed bill had been totally outmanoeuvred;
he stormed into the Chamber, but too late to see his arch-enemy pass the bill. Gladstone
was furious; his animus commenced a long rivalry that would only end on Disraeli’s death and
Gladstone’s encomium in the Commons in 1881.===Leader of the Liberal Party, from 1867
===Lord Russell retired in 1867 and Gladstone
became leader of the Liberal Party. In 1868 the Irish Church Resolutions was proposed
as a measure to reunite the Liberal Party in government (on the issue of disestablishment
of the Church of Ireland—this would be done during Gladstone’s First Government in 1869
and meant that Irish Roman Catholics did not need to pay their tithes to the Anglican Church
of Ireland). When it was passed Disraeli took the hint and called a General Election.==First premiership (1868–1874)==In the next general election in 1868, the
South Lancashire constituency had been broken-up by the Second Reform Act into two: South East
Lancashire and South West Lancashire. Gladstone stood for South West Lancashire and for Greenwich,
it being quite common then for candidates to stand in two constituencies simultaneously.
To his great surprise he was defeated in South Lancashire but winning in Greenwich was able
to remain in Parliament. He became Prime Minister for the first time and remained in the office
until 1874. Evelyn Ashley famously described the scene in the grounds of Hawarden Castle
on 1 December 1868, though getting the date wrong: One afternoon of November, 1868, in the Park
at Hawarden, I was standing by Mr. Gladstone holding his coat on my arm while he, in his
shirt sleeves, was wielding an axe to cut down a tree. Up came a telegraph messenger.
He took the telegram, opened it and read it, then handed it to me, speaking only two words,
namely, ‘Very significant’, and at once resumed his work. The message merely stated that General
Grey would arrive that evening from Windsor. This, of course, implied that a mandate was
coming from the Queen charging Mr. Gladstone with the formation of his first Government.
I said nothing, but waited while the well-directed blows resounded in regular cadence. After
a few minutes the blows ceased and Mr. Gladstone, resting on the handle of his axe, looked up,
and with deep earnestness in his voice, and great intensity in his face, exclaimed: ‘My
mission is to pacify Ireland.’ He then resumed his task, and never said another word till
the tree was down. In the 1860s and 1870s, Gladstonian Liberalism
was characterised by a number of policies intended to improve individual liberty and
loosen political and economic restraints. First was the minimisation of public expenditure
on the premise that the economy and society were best helped by allowing people to spend
as they saw fit. Secondly, his foreign policy aimed at promoting peace to help reduce expenditures
and taxation and enhance trade. Thirdly, laws that prevented people from acting freely to
improve themselves were reformed. When an unemployed miner (Daniel Jones) wrote to him
to complain of his unemployment and low wages, Gladstone gave what H. C. G. Matthew has called
“the classic mid-Victorian reply” on 20 October 1869: The only means which have been placed in my
power of ‘raising the wages of colliers’ has been by endeavouring to beat down all those
restrictions upon trade which tend to reduce the price to be obtained for the product of
their labour, & to lower as much as may be the taxes on the commodities which they may
require for use or for consumption. Beyond this I look to the forethought not yet so
widely diffused in this country as in Scotland, & in some foreign lands; & I need not remind
you that in order to facilitate its exercise the Government have been empowered by Legislation
to become through the Dept. of the P.O. the receivers & guardians of savings.
Gladstone’s first premiership instituted reforms in the British Army, civil service, and local
government to cut restrictions on individual advancement. The Local Government Board Act
1871 put the supervision of the Poor Law under the Local Government Board (headed by G.J.
Goschen) and Gladstone’s “administration could claim spectacular success in enforcing a dramatic
reduction in supposedly sentimental and unsystematic outdoor poor relief, and in making, in co-operation
with the Charity Organization Society (1869), the most sustained attempt of the century
to impose upon the working classes the Victorian values of providence, self-reliance, foresight,
and self-discipline”. Gladstone was associated with the Charity Organization Society’s first
annual report in 1870. Some leading Conservatives at this time were contemplating an alliance
between the aristocracy and the working class against the capitalist class, an idea called
the New Social Alliance. At a speech at Blackheath on 28 October 1871, he warned his constituents
against these social reformers: … they are not your friends, but they are
your enemies in fact, though not in intention, who teach you to look to the Legislature for
the radical removal of the evils that afflict human life. … It is the individual mind
and conscience, it is the individual character, on which mainly human happiness or misery
depends. (Cheers.) The social problems that confront us are many and formidable. Let the
Government labour to its utmost, let the Legislature labour days and nights in your service; but,
after the very best has been attained and achieved, the question whether the English
father is to be the father of a happy family and the centre of a united home is a question
which must depend mainly upon himself. (Cheers.) And those who … promise to the dwellers
in towns that every one of them shall have a house and garden in free air, with ample
space; those who tell you that there shall be markets for selling at wholesale prices
retail quantities—I won’t say are impostors, because I have no doubt they are sincere;
but I will say they are quacks (cheers); they are deluded and beguiled by a spurious philanthropy,
and when they ought to give you substantial, even if they are humble and modest boons,
they are endeavouring, perhaps without their own consciousness, to delude you with fanaticism,
and offering to you a fruit which, when you attempt to taste it, will prove to be but
ashes in your mouths. (Cheers.) He instituted abolition of the sale of commissions
in the army: he also instituted the Cardwell Reforms in 1869 that made peacetime flogging
illegal. As well as court reorganisation: he secured passage of the Ballot Act for secret
ballots, and the Licensing Act 1872. In 1873, his leadership led to the passage of laws
restructuring the High Courts. In 1870, the Irish Land Act and Forster’s Education Act.
In 1871, he instituted the Universities Tests Act. In foreign affairs his over-riding aim
was to promote peace and understanding, characterised by his settlement of the Alabama Claims in
1872 in favour of the Americans. Gladstone unexpectedly dissolved Parliament
in January 1874 and called a general election. Gladstone’s proposals went some way to meet
working-class demands, such as the realisation of the free breakfast table through repealing
duties on tea and sugar, and reform of local taxation which was increasing for the poorer
ratepayers. According to the working-class financial reformer Thomas Briggs, writing
in the trade unionist newspaper The Bee-Hive, the manifesto relied on “a much higher authority
than Mr. Gladstone…viz., the late Richard Cobden”. The dissolution itself was reported
in The Times on 24 January; on 30 January, the names of the first fourteen MPs for uncontested
seats were published; by 9 February a Conservative victory was apparent. In contrast to 1868
and 1880 when the Liberal campaign lasted several months, only three weeks separated
the news of the dissolution and the election. The working-class newspapers were so taken
by surprise they had little time to express an opinion on Gladstone’s manifesto before
the election was over. Unlike the efforts of the Conservatives, the organisation of
the Liberal Party had declined since 1868 and they had also failed to retain Liberal
voters on the electoral register. George Howell wrote to Gladstone on 12 February: “There
is one lesson to be learned from this Election, that is Organization. … We have lost not
by a change of sentiment so much as by want of organised power”. The Liberals received
a majority of the vote in each of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom and 189,000
more votes nationally than the Conservatives. However, they obtained a minority of seats
in the House of Commons.==Opposition (1874–1880)==In the wake of Benjamin Disraeli’s victory,
Gladstone retired from the leadership of the Liberal party, although he retained his seat
in the House. In November 1874, he published the pamphlet The Vatican Decrees in their
Bearing on Civil Allegiance, directed at the First Vatican Council’s dogmatising Papal
Infallibility in 1870, which had outraged him. Gladstone claimed that this decree had
placed British Catholics in a dilemma over conflicts of loyalty to the Crown. He urged
them to reject papal infallibility as they had opposed the Spanish Armada of 1588. The
pamphlet sold 150,000 copies by the end of 1874. A second pamphlet followed in Feb 1875,
a defence of the earlier pamphlet and a reply to his critics, entitled Vaticanism: an Answer
to Reproofs and Replies. He described the Catholic Church as “an Asian monarchy: nothing
but one giddy height of despotism, and one dead level of religious subservience”. He
further claimed that the Pope wanted to destroy the rule of law and replace it with arbitrary
tyranny, and then to hide these “crimes against liberty beneath a suffocating cloud of incense”. In a speech to the Hawarden Amateur Horticultural
Society on 17 August 1876, Gladstone remarked “I am delighted to see how many young boys
and girls have come forward to obtain honourable marks of recognition on this occasion,—if
any effectual good is to be done to them, it must be done by teaching and encouraging
them and helping them to help themselves. All the people who pretend to take your own
concerns out of your own hands and to do everything for you, I won’t say they are impostors; I
won’t even say they are quacks; but I do say they are mistaken people. The only sound,
healthy description of countenancing and assisting these institutions is that which teaches independence
and self-exertion”. Lord Kilbracken, one of Gladstone’s secretaries added: It will be borne in mind that the Liberal
doctrines of that time, with their violent anti-socialist spirit and their strong insistence
on the gospel of thrift, self-help, settlement of wages by the higgling of the market, and
non-interference by the State…. I think that Mr. Gladstone was the strongest anti-socialist
that I have ever known among persons who gave any serious thought to social and political
questions. It is quite true, as has been often said, that “we are all socialists up to
a certain point”; but Mr. Gladstone fixed that point lower, and was more vehement against
those who went above it, than any other politician or official of my acquaintance. I remember
his speaking indignantly to me of the budget of 1874 as “That socialistic budget of Northcote’s,”
merely because of the special relief which it gave to the poorer class of income-tax
payers. His strong belief in Free Trade was only one of the results of his deep-rooted
conviction that the Government’s interference with the free action of the individual, whether
by taxation or otherwise, should be kept at an irreducible minimum. It is, indeed, not
too much to say that his conception of Liberalism was the negation of Socialism.
A pamphlet he published in September 1876, Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the
East, attacked the Disraeli government for its indifference to the Ottoman Empire’s violent
repression of the Bulgarian April uprising. Gladstone made clear his hostility focused
on the Turkish people, rather than on the Muslim religion. The Turks he said: were, upon the whole, from the black day when
they first entered Europe, the one great anti-human specimen of humanity. Wherever they went,
a broad line of blood marked the track behind them; and as far as their dominion reached,
civilisation disappeared from view. They represented everywhere government by force, as opposed
to government by law. For the guide of this life they had a relentless fatalism: for its
reward hereafter, a sensual paradise. The historian Geoffrey Alderman has described
Gladstone as ‘unleashing the full fury of his oratorical powers against Jews and Jewish
influence’ during the Bulgarian Crisis (1885–88), telling a journalist in 1876 that: “I deeply
deplore the manner in which, what I may call Judaic sympathies, beyond as well as within
the circle of professed Judaism, are now acting on the question of the East’. Gladstone similarly
refused to speak out against the persecution of Romanian Jews in the 1870s and Russian
Jews in the early 1880s. In response, the Jewish Chronicle attacked Gladstone in 1888,
arguing that ‘Are we, because there was once a Liberal Party, to bow down and worship Gladstone—the
great Minister who was too Christian in his charity, too Russian in his proclivities,
to raise voice or finger’ to defend Russian Jews… Alderman attributes these developments,
along with other factors, to the collapse of the previously strong ties between British
Jews and Liberalism.During the 1879 election campaign, called the Midlothian campaign,
he rousingly denounced Disraeli’s foreign policies during the ongoing Second Anglo-Afghan
War in Afghanistan. (See Great Game). He saw the war as “great dishonour” and also criticised
British conduct in the Zulu War. Gladstone also (on 29 November) condemned what he saw
as the Conservative government’s profligate spending: …the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall boldly
uphold economy in detail; and it is the mark … of … a chicken-hearted Chancellor of
the Exchequer, when he shrinks from upholding economy in detail, when, because it is a question
of only £2,000 or £3,000, he says that is no matter. He is ridiculed, no doubt, for
what is called saving candle-ends and cheese-parings. No Chancellor of the Exchequer is worth his
salt who is not ready to save what are meant by candle-ends and cheese-parings in the cause
of his country. No Chancellor of the Exchequer is worth his salt who makes his own popularity
either his first consideration, or any consideration at all, in administrating the public purse.
You would not like to have a housekeeper or steward who made her or his popularity with
the tradesmen the measure of the payments that were to be delivered to them. In my opinion
the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the trusted and confidential steward of the public. He
is under a sacred obligation with regard to all that he consents to spend…. I am bound
to say hardly ever in the six years that Sir Stafford Northcote has been in office have
I heard him speak a resolute word on behalf of economy.==Second premiership (1880–1885)==In 1880, the Liberals won again and the Liberal
leaders, Lord Hartington (leader in the House of Commons) and Lord Granville, retired in
Gladstone’s favour. Gladstone won his constituency election in Midlothian and also in Leeds,
where he had also been adopted as a candidate. As he could lawfully only serve as MP for
one constituency, Leeds was passed to his son Herbert. One of his other sons, Henry,
was also elected as an MP. Queen Victoria asked Lord Hartington to form
a ministry, but he persuaded her to send for Gladstone. Gladstone’s second administration—both
as Prime Minister and again as Chancellor of the Exchequer till 1882—lasted from June
1880 to June 1885. He originally intended to retire at the end of 1882, the fiftieth
anniversary of his entry into politics, but in the event did not do so.===Foreign policy===
Historians have debated the wisdom of Gladstone’s foreign-policy during his second ministry.
Paul Hayes says it “provides one of the most intriguing and perplexing tales of muddle
and incompetence in foreign affairs, unsurpassed in modern political history until the days
of Grey and, later, Neville Chamberlain.” Gladstone opposed himself to the “colonial
lobby” pushing for the scramble for Africa. His term saw the end of the Second Anglo-Afghan
War, First Boer War and the war against the Mahdi in Sudan.
On 11 July 1882, Gladstone ordered the bombardment of Alexandria, starting the short, Anglo-Egyptian
War of 1882. The British won decisively, and although they repeatedly promised to depart
in a few years, the actual result was British control of Egypt for four decades, largely
ignoring Ottoman nominal ownership. France was seriously unhappy, having lost control
of the canal that it built and financed and had dreamed of for decades. Gladstone’s role
in the decision to invade was described as relatively hands-off, and the ultimate responsibility
was borne by certain members of his cabinet such as Lord Hartington, Secretary of State
for India, Thomas Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook, First Lord of the Admiralty, Hugh Childers,
Secretary of State for War, and Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, the Foreign
Secretary.Historian A.J.P. Taylor says that the seizure of Egypt “was a great event; indeed,
the only real event in international relations between the Battle of Sedan and the defeat
of Russia in the Russo-Japanese war.” Taylor emphasizes long-term impact: The British occupation of Egypt altered the
balance of power. It not only gave the British security for their route to India; it made
them masters of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East; it made it unnecessary
for them to stand in the front line against Russia at the Straits….And thus prepared
the way for the Franco-Russian Alliance ten years later.
Gladstone and the Liberals had a reputation for strong opposition to imperialism, so historians
have long debated the explanation for this reversal of policy. The most influential was
a study by John Robinson and Ronald Gallagher, Africa and the Victorians (1961) Which focused
on The Imperialism of Free Trade and was promoted by the Cambridge School of historiography.
They argue there was no long-term Liberal plan in support of imperialism. Instead they
saw the urgent necessity to act to protect the Suez Canal in the face of what appeared
to be a radical collapse of law and order, and a nationalist revolt focused on expelling
the Europeans, regardless of the damage it would do to international trade and the British
Empire. Gladstone’s decision came against strained relations with France, and maneuvering
by “men on the spot” in Egypt. Critics such as Cain and Hopkins have stressed the need
to protect large sums invested by British financiers and Egyptian bonds, while downplaying
the risk to the viability of the Suez Canal. Unlike the Marxists, they stress “gentlemanly”
financial and commercial interests, not the industrial, capitalism that Marxists believe
was always central. More recently, specialists on Egypt have been interested primarily in
the internal dynamics among Egyptians that produce the failed Urabi Revolt.===Ireland===In 1881 he established the Irish Coercion
Act, which permitted the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to detain people for as “long as was
thought necessary”, as there was rural disturbance in Ireland between landlords and tenants and
Cavendish, the Irish Secretary, had been assassinated by Irish rebels in Dublin. He also passed
the Second Land Act (the First, in 1870, had entitled Irish tenants, if evicted, to compensation
for improvements which they had made on their property, but had had little effect) which
gave Irish tenants the “3Fs”—fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale. He was elected
a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1881.===Franchise===Gladstone extended the vote to agricultural
labourers and others in the 1884 Reform Act, which gave the counties the same franchise
as the boroughs—adult male householders and £10 lodgers—and added six million to
the total number of people who could vote in parliamentary elections. Parliamentary
reform continued with the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885.Gladstone was increasingly
uneasy about the direction in which British politics was moving. In a letter to Lord Acton
on 11 February 1885, Gladstone criticised Tory Democracy as “demagogism” that “put down
pacific, law-respecting, economic elements that ennobled the old Conservatism” but “still,
in secret, as obstinately attached as ever to the evil principle of class interests”.
He found contemporary Liberalism better, “but far from being good”. Gladstone claimed that
this Liberalism’s “pet idea is what they call construction,—that is to say, taking into
the hands of the state the business of the individual man”. Both Tory Democracy and this
new Liberalism, Gladstone wrote, had done “much to estrange me, and had for many, many
years”.===Failure===
Historian Sneh Mahajan has concluded, “Gladstone’s second ministry remained barren of any achievement
in the domestic sphere.” His downfall came in Africa, where the failed attempt to rescue
General Gordon’s force in Khartoum in Sudan in January 1885 proved a major blow to Gladstone’s
popularity. Queen Victoria sent him a telegram of rebuke which found its way into the press.
Critics said Gladstone had neglected military affairs and had not acted promptly enough
to save the besieged Gordon. Critics inverted his acronym, “G.O.M.” (for “Grand Old Man”),
to “M.O.G.” (for “Murderer of Gordon”). He resigned as Prime Minister in June 1885 and
declined Queen Victoria’s offer of an earldom.==Third premiership (1886)==Gladstone espoused the policy of Home Rule
in late 1885 (the “Hawarden Kite”), which resulted in the fall of Lord Salisbury’s Government.
Irish Nationalists, led by Charles Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party, voted against the
Tories on a land Bill. The Irish Nationalists held the balance of power in Parliament at
this time. Gladstone’s conversion to Home Rule convinced them to support the Liberal
government using the 86 seats in Parliament they controlled. The main purpose of this
administration was to deliver Ireland a reform which would give it a devolved assembly, similar
to those now in place in Scotland and Wales. In 1886 Gladstone’s party allied with Irish
Nationalists to defeat Lord Salisbury’s government. Gladstone regained his position as Prime Minister
and combined the office with that of Lord Privy Seal. During this administration he
first introduced his Home Rule Bill for Ireland. The issue split the Liberal Party (a breakaway
group went on to create the Liberal Unionist party) and the bill was thrown out on the
second reading, ending his government after only a few months and inaugurating another
headed by Lord Salisbury. Gladstone, says his biographer, “totally rejected
the widespread English view that the Irish had no taste for justice, common sense, moderation
or national prosperity and looked only to perpetual strife and dissension”. The problem
for Gladstone was that his rural English supporters would not support home rule for Ireland. A
large faction of Liberals, led by Joseph Chamberlain, formed a Unionist faction that supported the
Conservative party. Whenever the Liberals were out of power, home rule proposals languished.==Opposition (1886–1892)==Gladstone supported the London dockers in
their strike of 1889. After their victory he gave a speech at Hawarden on 23 September
in which he said: “In the common interests of humanity, this remarkable strike and the
results of this strike, which have tended somewhat to strengthen the condition of labour
in the face of capital, is the record of what we ought to regard as satisfactory, as a real
social advance [that] tends to a fair principle of division of the fruits of industry”. This
speech has been described by Eugenio Biagini as having “no parallel in the rest of Europe
except in the rhetoric of the toughest socialist leaders”. Visitors at Hawarden in October
were “shocked…by some rather wild language on
the Dock labourers question”. Gladstone was impressed with workers unconnected with the
dockers’ dispute who “intended to make common cause” in the interests of justice.
On 23 October at Southport, Gladstone delivered a speech where he said that the right to combination,
which in London was “innocent and lawful, in Ireland would be penal and…punished by
imprisonment with hard labour”. Gladstone believed that the right to combination used
by British workers was in jeopardy when it could be denied to Irish workers. In October
1890 Gladstone at Midlothian claimed that competition between capital and labour, “where
it has gone to sharp issues, where there have been strikes on one side and lock-outs on
the other, I believe that in the main and as a general rule, the labouring man has been
in the right”.On 11 December 1891 Gladstone said that: “It is a lamentable fact if, in
the midst of our civilisation, and at the close of the nineteenth century, the workhouse
is all that can be offered to the industrious labourer at the end of a long and honourable
life. I do not enter into the question now in detail. I do not say it is an easy one;
I do not say that it will be solved in a moment; but I do say this, that until society is able
to offer to the industrious labourer at the end of a long and blameless life something
better than the workhouse, society will not have discharged its duties to its poorer members”.
On 24 March 1892 Gladstone said that the Liberals had: …come generally…to the conclusion that
there is something painful in the condition of the rural labourer in this great respect,
that it is hard even for the industrious and sober man, under ordinary conditions, to secure
a provision for his own old age. Very large propositions, involving, some of them, very
novel and very wide principles, have been submitted to the public, for the purpose of
securing such a provision by means independent of the labourer himself….our
duty [is] to develop in the first instance, every means that we may possibly devise whereby,
if possible, the labourer may be able to make this provision for himself, or to approximate
towards making such provision far more efficaciously and much more closely than he can now do.
Gladstone wrote on 16 July 1892 in autobiographica that “In 1834 the Government…did themselves
high honour by the new Poor Law Act, which rescued the English peasantry from the total
loss of their independence”. There were many who disagreed with him.
Gladstone wrote to Herbert Spencer, who contributed the introduction to a collection of anti-socialist
essays (A Plea for Liberty, 1891), that “I ask to make reserves, and of one passage,
which will be easily guessed, I am unable even to perceive the relevancy. But speaking
generally, I have read this masterly argument with warm admiration and with the earnest
hope that it may attract all the attention which it so well deserves”. The passage Gladstone
alluded to was one where Spencer had spoken of “the behaviour of the so-called Liberal
party”.==Fourth premiership (1892–1894)==The general election of 1892 resulted in a
minority Liberal government with Gladstone as Prime Minister. The electoral address had
promised Irish Home Rule and the disestablishment of the Scottish and Welsh Churches. In February
1893 he introduced the Second Home Rule Bill, which was passed in the Commons at second
reading on 21 April by 43 votes and third reading on 1 September by 34 votes. The House
of Lords defeated the bill by voting against by 419 votes to 41 on 8 September.
The Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) Act, passed in 1893, required local authorities
to provide separate education for blind and deaf children.
Conservative MP Colonel Howard Vincent questioned Gladstone in the Commons on what his government
would do about unemployment on 1 September 1893. Gladstone replied: I cannot help regretting
that the honourable and gallant Gentleman has felt it his duty to put the question.
It is put under circumstances that naturally belong to one of those fluctuations in the
condition of trade which, however unfortunate and lamentable they may be, recur from time
to time. Undoubtedly I think that questions of this kind, whatever be the intention of
the questioner, have a tendency to produce in the minds of people, or to suggest to the
people, that these fluctuations can be corrected by the action of the Executive Government.
Anything that contributes to such an impression inflicts an injury upon the labouring population.
In December 1893, an Opposition motion proposed by Lord George Hamilton called for an expansion
of the Royal Navy. Gladstone opposed increasing public expenditure on the naval estimates,
in the tradition of free trade liberalism of his earlier political career as Chancellor.
All his Cabinet colleagues, however, believed in some expansion of the navy. He declared
in the Commons on 19 December that naval rearmament would commit the government to expenditure
over a number of years and would subvert “the principle of annual account, annual proposition,
annual approval by the House of Commons, which…is the only way of maintaining regularity, and
that regularity is the only talisman which will secure Parliamentary control”. In January
1894, Gladstone wrote that he would not “break to pieces the continuous action of my political
life, nor trample on the tradition received from every colleague who has ever been my
teacher” by supporting naval rearmament. Gladstone also opposed Chancellor Sir William Harcourt’s
proposal to implement a graduated death duty. In a fragment of autobiography dated 25 July
1894, Gladstone denounced the tax as …by far the most Radical measure of my lifetime.
I do not object to the principle of graduated taxation: for the just principle of ability
to pay is not determined simply by the amount of income…. But, so far as I understand
the present measure of finance from the partial reports I have received, I find it too violent.
It involves a great departure from the methods of political action established in this country,
where reforms, and especially financial reforms, have always been considerate and even tender….
I do not yet see the ground on which it can be justly held that any one description of
property should be more heavily burdened than others, unless moral and social grounds can
be shown first: but in this case the reasons drawn from those sources seem rather to verge
in the opposite direction, for real property has more of presumptive connection with the
discharge of duty that that which is ranked as personal…the aspect of the measure is
not satisfactory to a man of my traditions (and these traditions lie near the roots of
my being)…. For the sudden introduction of such change there is I think no precedent
in the history of this country. And the severity of the blow is greatly aggravated in moral
effect by the fact that it is dealt only to a handful of individuals.
Gladstone had his last audience with Queen Victoria on 28 February 1894 and chaired his
last Cabinet on 1 March—the last of 556 he had chaired. On that day he gave his last
speech to the House of Commons, saying that the government would withdraw opposition to
the Lords’ amendments to the Local Government Bill “under protest” and that it was “a controversy
which, when once raised, must go forward to an issue”. He resigned from the premiership
on 2 March. The Queen did not ask Gladstone who should succeed him, but sent for Lord
Rosebery (Gladstone would have advised on Lord Spencer). He retained his seat in the
House of Commons until 1895. He was not offered a peerage, having earlier declined an earldom.
Gladstone is both the oldest person to form a government—aged 82 at his appointment—and
the oldest person to occupy the Premiership—being 84 at his resignation. He resigned and handed
over to Foreign Secretary, Lord Rosebery.==Final years (1894–1898)==In 1895, at the age of 85, Gladstone bequeathed
£40,000 (equivalent to approximately £4.24 million today) and much of his 32,000 volume
library to found St Deiniol’s Library in Hawarden, Wales. It had begun with just 5,000 items
at his father’s home Fasque, which were transferred to Hawarden for research in 1851.
On 8 January 1896, in conversation with L.A. Tollemache, Gladstone explained that: “I am
not so much afraid of Democracy or of Science as of the love of money. This seems to me
to be a growing evil. Also, there is a danger from the growth of that dreadful military
spirit”. On 13 January, Gladstone claimed he had strong Conservative instincts and that
“In all matters of custom and tradition, even the Tories look upon me as the chief Conservative
that is”. On 15 January Gladstone wrote to James Bryce, describing himself as “a dead
man, one fundamentally a Peel–Cobden man”. In 1896, in his last noteworthy speech, he
denounced Armenian massacres by Ottomans in a talk delivered at Liverpool. On 2 January
1897, Gladstone wrote to Francis Hirst on being unable to draft a preface to a book
on liberalism: “I venture on assuring you that I regard the design formed by you and
your friends with sincere interest, and in particular wish well to all the efforts you
may make on behalf of individual freedom and independence as opposed to what is termed
Collectivism”.In the early months of 1897, Gladstone and his wife stayed in Cannes. Gladstone
met Queen Victoria, and she shook hands with him for (to his recollection) the first time
in the fifty years he had known her. One of the Gladstones’ neighbours observed that “He
and his devoted wife never missed the morning service on Sunday … One Sunday, returning
from the altar rail, the old, partially blind man stumbled at the chancel step. One of the
clergy sprang involuntarily to his assistance, but retreated with haste, so withering was
the fire which flashed from those failing eyes.” The Gladstones returned to Hawarden
Castle at the end of March and he received the Colonial Premiers in their visit for the
Queen’s Jubilee. At a dinner in November with Edward Hamilton, his former private secretary,
Hamilton noted that “What is now uppermost in his mind is what he calls the spirit of
jingoism under the name of Imperialism which is now so prevalent”. Gladstone riposted “It
was enough to make Peel and Cobden turn in their graves”.On the advice of his doctor
Samuel Habershon in the aftermath of an attack of facial neuralgia, Gladstone stayed at Cannes
from the end of November 1897 to mid-February 1898. He gave an interview for The Daily Telegraph
Gladstone then travelled to Bournemouth, where a swelling on his palate was diagnosed as
cancer by the leading cancer surgeon Sir Thomas Smith on 18 March. On 22 March, he retired
to Hawarden Castle. Despite being in pain he received visitors and quoted hymns, especially
Cardinal Newman’s “Praise to the Holiest in the Height”. His last public statement was dictated to
his daughter Helen in reply to receiving the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford’s
“sorrow and affection”: “There is no expression of Christian sympathy that I value more than
that of the ancient University of Oxford, the God-fearing and God-sustaining University
of Oxford. I served her perhaps mistakenly, but to the best of my ability. My most earnest
prayers are hers to the uttermost and to the last”. He left the house for the last time
on 9 April. After 18 April he did not come down to the ground floor but still came out
of bed to lie on the sofa. The Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane George Wilkinson
recorded when he ministered to him along with Stephen Gladstone: Shall I ever forget the
last Friday in Passion Week, when I gave him the last Holy Communion that I was allowed
to administer to him? It was early in the morning. He was obliged to be in bed, and
he was ordered to remain there, but the time had come for the confession of sin and the
receiving of absolution. Out of his bed he came. Alone he knelt in the presence of his
God till the absolution has been spoken, and the sacred elements received.
Gladstone died on 19 May 1898 at Hawarden Castle, Hawarden, aged 88. He had been cared
for by his daughter Helen who had resigned her job to care for her father and mother.
The cause of death is officially recorded as “Syncope, Senility”. “Syncope” meant failure
of the heart and “senility” in the nineteenth century was an infirmity of advanced old age,
rather than a loss of mental faculties. The House of Commons adjourned on the afternoon
of Gladstone’s death, with A.J. Balfour giving notice for an Address to the Queen praying
for a public funeral and a public memorial in Westminster Abbey. The day after, both
Houses of Parliament approved of the Address and Herbert Gladstone accepted a public funeral
on behalf of the Gladstone family. His coffin was transported on the London Underground
before his state funeral at Westminster Abbey, at which the Prince of Wales (the future King
Edward VII) and the Duke of York (the future King George V) acted as pallbearers. His wife,
Catherine Gladstone (née Glynne), died two years later on 14 June 1900; and was buried
next to him.==Religion==
Gladstone’s intensely religious mother was an evangelical of Scottish Episcopal origins,
and his father joined the Church of England, having been a Presbyterian when he first settled
in Liverpool. As a boy William was baptised into the Church of England. He rejected a
call to enter the ministry, and on this his conscience always tormented him. In compensation
he aligned his politics with the evangelical faith in which he fervently believed. In 1838
Gladstone nearly ruined his career when he tried to force a religious mission upon the
Conservative Party. His book The State in its Relations with the Church argued that
England had neglected its great duty to the Church of England. He announced that since
that church possessed a monopoly of religious truth, nonconformists and Roman Catholics
ought to be excluded from all government positions. The historian Thomas Babington Macaulay and
other critics ridiculed his arguments and refuted them. Sir Robert Peel, Gladstone’s
chief, was outraged because this would upset the delicate political issue of Catholic Emancipation
and anger the Nonconformists. Since Peel greatly admired his protégé, he redirected his focus
from theology to finance.Gladstone altered his approach to religious problems, which
always held first place in his mind. Before entering Parliament he had already substituted
a high church Anglican attitude, with its dependence on authority and tradition, for
the evangelical outlook of his boyhood, with its reliance upon the direct inspiration of
the Bible. In middle life he decided that the individual conscience would have to replace
authority as the inner citadel of the Church. That view of the individual conscience affected
his political outlook and changed him gradually from a Conservative into a Liberal.Gladstone
visited the Earl of Meath at his Kilruddery Estate, and while in Bray, he visited the
Anglican church there. Gladstone stated that ‘such a fine steeple should not stand silent’,
and donated £50 (1/8th of the total cost) towards obtaining a new peal of bells there.==Legacy==
The historian H.C.G. Matthew states that Gladstone’s chief legacy lay in three areas: his financial
policy; his support for Home Rule (devolution) that modified the view of the unitary state
of the United Kingdom; and his idea of a progressive, reforming party broadly based and capable
of accommodating and conciliating varying interests, along with his speeches at mass
public meetings.Historian Walter L. Arnstein concludes: Notable as the Gladstonian reforms had been,
they had almost all remained within the nineteenth-century Liberal tradition of gradually removing the
religious, economic, and political barriers that prevented men of varied creeds and classes
from exercising their individual talents in order to improve themselves and their society.
As the third quarter of the century drew to a close, the essential bastions of Victorianism
still held firm: respectability; a government of aristocrats and gentlemen now influenced
not only by middle-class merchants and manufacturers but also by industrious working people; a
prosperity that seemed to rest largely on the tenets of laissez-faire economics; and
a Britannia that ruled the waves and many a dominion beyond.
Lord Acton wrote in 1880 that he considered Gladstone one “of the three greatest Liberals”
(along with Edmund Burke and Lord Macaulay).In 1909 the Liberal Chancellor David Lloyd George
introduced his “People’s Budget”, the first budget which aimed to redistribute wealth.
The Liberal statesman Lord Rosebery ridiculed it by asserting Gladstone would reject it,
“Because in his eyes, and in my eyes, too, as his humble disciple, Liberalism and Liberty
were cognate terms; they were twin-sisters.”Lloyd George had written in 1913 that the Liberals
were “carving the last few columns out of the Gladstonian quarry”.Lloyd George said
of Gladstone in 1915: “What a man he was! Head and shoulders above anyone else I have
ever seen in the House of Commons. I did not like him much. He hated Nonconformists and
Welsh Nonconformists in particular, and he had no real sympathy with the working-classes.
But he was far and away the best Parliamentary speaker I have ever heard. He was not so good
in exposition.” Asquithian Liberals continued to advocate traditional Gladstonian policies
of sound finance, peaceful foreign relations and the better treatment of Ireland. They
often compared Lloyd George unfavourably with Gladstone.
Writing in 1944, the classical liberal economist Friedrich Hayek said of the change in political
attitudes that had occurred since the Great War: “Perhaps nothing shows this change more
clearly than that, while there is no lack of sympathetic treatment of Bismarck in contemporary
English literature, the name of Gladstone is rarely mentioned by the younger generation
without a sneer over his Victorian morality and naive utopianism”.In the latter half of
the twentieth-century Gladstone’s economic policies came to be admired by Thatcherite
Conservatives. Margaret Thatcher proclaimed in 1983: “We have a duty to make sure that
every penny piece we raise in taxation is spent wisely and well. For it is our party
which is dedicated to good housekeeping—indeed, I would not mind betting that if Mr Gladstone
were alive today he would apply to join the Conservative Party”. In 1996, she said: “The
kind of Conservatism which he and I…favoured would be best described as ‘liberal’, in the
old-fashioned sense. And I mean the liberalism of Mr Gladstone, not of the latter-day collectivists”.
Nigel Lawson, one of Thatcher’s Chancellors, believed Gladstone to be the “greatest Chancellor
of all time”.===Rivalry with Disraeli===
Historical writers have often played Disraeli and Gladstone against each other as great
rivals. Roland Quinault, however, cautions us not to exaggerate the confrontation: they were not direct antagonists for most
of their political careers. Indeed initially they were both loyal to the Tory party, the
Church and the landed interest. Although their paths diverged over the repeal of the Corn
Laws in 1846 and later over fiscal policy more generally, it was not until the later
1860s that their differences over parliamentary reform, Irish and Church policy assumed great
partisan significance. Even then their personal relations remained fairly cordial until their
dispute over the Eastern Question in the later 1870s.===Descendants===Two of Gladstone’s sons and a grandson, William
Glynne Charles Gladstone, followed him into parliament, making for four generations of
MPs in total. Another of his collateral descendants, George Freeman, is a Conservative Member of
Parliament for Mid Norfolk.Sir Albert Gladstone, 5th baronet and Sir Charles Gladstone, 6th
baronet (from whom the 7th and 8th baronets are descended) were also grandsons.==Monuments and archives==
Thomas Edison’s European agent, Colonel Gouraud, recorded Gladstone’s voice several times on
phonograph. The accent on one of the recordings is North Welsh.The National Library of Wales
holds many pamphlets that were sent to Gladstone during his political career. These pamphlets
show the concerns of people from all strands of society and together form a historical
resource of the social and economical conditions of mid to late nineteenth century Britain.
Many of the pamphlets bear the handwriting of Gladstone, which provides direct evidence
of Gladstone’s interest in various topics. A statue of Gladstone by Albert Bruce-Joy
and erected in 1882, stands near the front gate of St. Marys Church in Bow, London. Paid
for by the industrialist Theodore Bryant, it is viewed as a symbol of the later 1888
match girls strike, which took place at the nearby Bryant & May Match Factory. Led by
the socialist Annie Besant, hundreds of women working in the factory, where many sickened
and died from poisoning from the white phosphorus used in the matches, went on strike to demand
improved working conditions and pay, eventually winning their cause. In recent years, the
statue of Gladstone has been repeatedly daubed with red paint, suggesting that it was paid
for with the “blood of the match girls”. A statue of Gladstone in bronze by Sir Thomas
Brock, erected in 1904, stands in St John’s Gardens, Liverpool.
A statue of Gladstone erected in 1905 stands at Aldwych, London, near the Royal Courts
of Justice. A Grade II listed statue of Gladstone stands
in Albert Square, Manchester. A monument to Gladstone, Member of Parliament
for Midlothian 1880–1895 was unveiled in Edinburgh in 1917 (and moved to its present
location in 1955). It stands in Coates Crescent Gardens. The sculptor was James Pittendrigh
MacGillivray. A statue to Gladstone, who was Rector of the
University of Glasgow 1877–1880 was unveiled in Glasgow in 1902. It stands in George Square.
The sculptor was Sir William Hamo Thornycroft. A bust of Gladstone is in the Hall of Heroes
of the National Wallace Monument in Stirling. Gladstone Park in the Municipal Borough of
Willesden, London was named after him in 1899. Dollis Hill House, within what later became
the park, was occupied by Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, who subsequently became Lord
Tweedmouth. In 1881 Lord Tweedmouth’s daughter and her husband, Lord Aberdeen, took up residence.
They often had Gladstone to stay as a guest. In 1897 Lord Aberdeen was appointed Governor-General
of Canada and the Aberdeens moved out. When Willesden acquired the house and land in 1899,
they named the park Gladstone Park after the old Prime Minister.
Near Hawarden in the town of Mancot, there is a small hospital named after Catherine
Gladstone. A statue of Gladstone stands prominently in the front grounds of the eponymous Gladstone’s
Library (formerly known as St. Deiniol’s), near the commencement of Gladstone Way at
Hawarden. Gladstone Rock, a large boulder about 12 ft
high in Cwm Llan on the Watkin Path on the south side of Snowdon where Gladstone made
a speech in 1892, was named for him. A plaque on the rock states that he “addressed the
people of Eryri upon justice to Wales”. A statue of Gladstone stands in front of the
Kapodistrian University building in the centre of Athens.
Gladstone, Oregon, Gladstone, New Jersey, Gladstone, Michigan, and Gladstone, New Mexico,
in the United States are named for him. The city of Gladstone, Queensland, Australia,
was named after him and has a 19th-century marble statue on display in its town museum.
Gladstone, Manitoba, was named after him in 1882.
Streets in the cities of Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Ruse, Stara Zagora, Limassol, Springs,
Newark-on-Trent, Waterford City, Clonmel, Brighton, Bradford, Scarborough, Swindon,
Vancouver (including a school), Windsor, Ottawa and Halifax are named for him. There is also
Gladstone Avenue and adjoining Ewart Road in his hometown of Liverpool in a part of
the city where he was a landowner. There is a Gladstone statue at Glenalmond
College, unveiled in 2010, which is located in Front Quad.
A Gladstone memorial was unveiled on 23 February 2013 in Seaforth, Liverpool by MP Frank Field.
It is located in the grounds of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church facing the former site of
St Thomas’s Church where Gladstone was educated from 1816 to 1821. The Seaglam (Seaforth Gladstone
Memorial) Project, whose chairman is local historian Brenda Murray (BEM), was started
to raise the profile of Seaforth Village by installing a memorial to Gladstone. Funds
for the memorial were raised by voluntary effort and additional funding was provided
by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Sculptor Tom Murphy created the bronze bust.==Gallery====In popular culture==
A Gladstone bag, a light travelling bag, is named after him.Gladstone is also the main
instigator of Magician’s Rule in the British Empire in the Bartimaeus Trilogy.
Gladstone’s burial in 1898 was commemorated in a poem by William McGonagall.There is a
scene in the Turkish film Free Man about Islamic scholar Said Nursi who is deeply troubled
by Gladstone. Nursi reads in a newspaper report of a speech made in the House of Commons by
Gladstone: “So long as the Muslims have the Qur’an, we
shall be unable to dominate them. We must either take it from them, or make them lose
their love of it.” He was filled with zeal. It overturned his
ideas and changed the direction of his interest. Thus, the explicit threats of Gladstone to
the Qur’an and Islamic world caused a revolution in Nursi’s ideas, clarifying them and setting
him in the direction he would now follow. The threats caused him to declare: “I shall
prove and demonstrate to the world that the Qur’an is an undying, inextinguishable Sun!”
This is a fictionalised account and there is no evidence in Hansard to support that
William Gladstone ever made these comments.Gladstone and his wife appear as non-player characters
in the 2015 video game Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. At the time the game is set, Gladstone is
Chancellor of the Exchequer. In one in-game cutscene, he can be seen engaging in a heated
argument with Disraeli.==Portrayal in film and television==
Since 1937, Gladstone has been portrayed some 37 times in film and television.Portrayals
include: E. Story Gofton in the silent film Sixty Years
a Queen (1913) Montagu Love in the film Parnell (1937)
Arthur Young in the films Victoria the Great (1937) and The Lady with a Lamp (1951)
Malcolm Keen in the film Sixty Glorious Years (1938)
Stephen Murray in the film The Prime Minister (1941)
Gordon Richards in the film The Imperfect Lady (1947)
Kynaston Reeves in the TV movie Mr. Gladstone (1947)
Ralph Richardson in the film Khartoum (1966) Graham Chapman in the TV series Monty Python’s
Flying Circus (1969) Lloyd Lamble in Stanley Long’s film On the
Game (1974) Michael Hordern in the TV series Edward the
Seventh (1975) Martin Wady in Paul Bryers’s TV series Queen
Victoria’s Empire (2001) Oliver Ford Davies in Robert Bierman’s short
film Victoria Meets (2012)==Works==
Gladstone, William Ewart (1841). The State in its relations with the Church (4th ed.).
London: John Murray. Retrieved 13 October 2017 – via Internet Archive.
Gladstone, William Ewart (1858). Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age. Oxford: At The
University Press – via Internet Archive., volume 1, volume 2, volume 3.
Gladstone, William Ewart (1868). A Chapter of Autobiography. London: John Murray. Retrieved
14 October 2017 – via Internet Archive. Gladstone, William Ewart (1870). Juventus
Mundi: The Gods and Men of the Heroic Age (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan and Co. Retrieved
13 October 2017 – via Internet Archive. Gladstone, William Ewart (1890). On books
and the Housing of them. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. Retrieved 11 October 2017 – via
Internet Archive. A treatise on the storing of books and the design of bookshelves as
employed in his personal library. Gladstone, William Ewart (1890). The impregnable
rock of Holy Scripture (Revised and Enlarged from Good Words). London: Isbister and Company
– via Internet Archive. William Ewart Gladstone, Baron Arthur Hamilton-Gordon
Stanmore (1961). Gladstone-Gordon correspondence, 1851–1896: selections from the private correspondence
of a British Prime Minister and a colonial Governor, Volume 51. American Philosophical
Society. p. 116. Retrieved 28 June 2010. (Volume 51, Issue 4 of new series, Transactions of
the American Philosophical Society) (Original from the University of California)==Notes====References=====Citations======Further reading===Primary sources W.E. Gladstone, Midlothian Speeches. 1879
(Leicester University Press, 1971). Viscount Gladstone, After Thirty Years (1928).
Lord Kilbracken, Reminiscences of Lord Kilbracken (Macmillan, 1931).
Herbert Paul (ed.), Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone (George Allen, 1904).
Russell, G.W.E. (1911). One Look Back. London: Wells Gardner, Darton and Co., LTD. Retrieved
13 October 2017 – via Internet Archive.. Tollemache, Lionel A. (1898). Talks with Mr.
Gladstone (1 ed.). London: Edward Arnold. Retrieved 13 October 2017 – via Internet
Archive.. Matthew, H.C.G. and M.R.D. Foot, eds. Gladstone
Diaries. With Cabinet Minutes & Prime-Ministerial Correspondence (13 vol; vol 14 is the index;
1968–1994); includes diaries, important selections from cabinet minutes and key political
correspondence. online at Questia are vol 1, 4, 6, 7, and 11–14.; vol 14, pp. 1–284
includes brief identification of the 20,000+ people mentioned by Gladstone.==Further reading====External links==Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament
by William Gladstone Mr. Gladstone (character sketch by W.T. Stead,
in the Review of Reviews, 1892). Works by William Ewart Gladstone at Project
Gutenberg Works by or about William Ewart Gladstone
at Internet Archive Works by William Ewart Gladstone at LibriVox
(public domain audiobooks) More about William Ewart Gladstone on the
Downing Street website. William Ewart Gladstone 1809–98 biography
from the Liberal Democrat History Group. BBC Radio – Programme Two contains a recording
of Gladstone’s voice. “Archival material relating to William Ewart
Gladstone”. UK National Archives. Portraits of William Ewart Gladstone at the
National Portrait Gallery, London Newspaper clippings about William Ewart Gladstone
in the 20th Century Press Archives of the German National Library of Economics (ZBW)

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