Beacon Lights of History, Volume X
John Lord

Part 4 out of 4

but as the Germans were more than twice the number of the French, and
had completely surrounded them, the struggle was useless,--and the
French, with the emperor himself, were compelled to surrender as
prisoners of war. Thus fell Napoleon's empire.

After the battle of Sedan, one of the decisive battles of history, the
Germans advanced rapidly to Paris, and King William took up his quarters
at Versailles, with his staff and his councillor Bismarck, who had
attended him day by day through the whole campaign, and conducted the
negotiations of the surrender. Paris, defended by strong fortifications,
resolved to sustain a siege rather than yield, hoping that something
might yet turn up by which the besieged garrison should be relieved,--a
forlorn hope, as Paris was surrounded, especially on the fall of Metz,
by nearly half a million of the best soldiers in the world. Yet that
memorable siege lasted five months, and Paris did not yield until
reduced by extreme, famine; and perhaps it might have held out much
longer if it could have been provisioned. But this was not to be. The
Germans took the city as Alaric had taken Rome, without much waste
of blood.

The conquerors were now inexorable, and demanded a war indemnity of five
milliards of francs, and the cession of Metz and the two province of
Alsace-Lorraine (which Louis XIV had formerly wrested away), including
Strasburg. Eloquently but vainly did old Thiers plead for better terms;
but he pleaded with men as hard as iron, who exacted, however, no more
than Napoleon III would have done had the fortune of war enabled him to
reach Berlin as the conqueror. War is hard under any circumstances, but
never was national humiliation more complete than when the Prussian flag
floated over the Arc de Triomphe, and Prussian soldiers defiled
beneath it.

Nothing was now left for the aged Prussian king but to put upon his head
the imperial crown of Germany, for all the German States were finally
united under him. The scene took place at Versailles in the Hall of
Mirrors, in probably the proudest palace ever erected since the days of
Nebuchadnezzar. Surrounded by princes and generals, Chancellor Bismarck
read aloud the Proclamation of the Empire, and the new German emperor
gave thanks to God. It was a fitting sequence to the greatest military
success since Napoleon crushed the German armies at Jena and Austerlitz.
The tables at last were turned, and the heavy, phlegmatic, intelligent
Teutons triumphed over the warlike and passionate Celts. So much for the
genius of the greatest general and the greatest diplomatist that Europe
had known for half-a-century.

Bismarck's rewards for his great services were magnificent, quite equal
to those of Wellington or Marlborough. He received another valuable
estate, this time from his sovereign, which gift made him one of the
greatest landed proprietors of Prussia; he was created a Prince; he was
decorated with the principal orders of Europe; he had augmented power as
chancellor of confederated Germany; he was virtual dictator of his
country, which he absolutely ruled in the name of a wearied old man
passed seventy years of age. But the minister's labors and vexations do
not end with the Franco-German war During the years that immediately
follow, he is still one of the hardest-worked men in Europe. He receives
one thousand letters and telegrams a day. He has to manage an
unpractical legislative assembly, clamorous for new privileges, and
attend to the complicated affairs of a great empire, and direct his
diplomatic agents in every country of Europe. He finds that the sanctum
of a one-man power is not a bed of roses. Sometimes he seeks rest and
recreation on one of his estates, but labors and public duties follow
him wherever he goes. He is too busy and preoccupied even for pleasure,
unless he is hunting boars and stags. He seems to care but little for
art of any kind, except music; but once in his life has he ever visited
the Museum of Berlin; he never goes to the theatre. He appears as little
as possible in the streets, but when recognized he is stared at as a
wonder. He lives hospitably but plainly, and in a palace with few
ornaments or luxuries. He enshrouds himself in mystery, but not in
gloom. Few dare approach him, for his manners are brusque and rough, and
he is feared more even than he is honored. His aspect is stern and
haughty, except when he occasionally unbends. In his family he is
simple, frank, and domestic; but in public he is the cold and imperative
dictator. Even the royal family are uncomfortable in his commanding and
majestic presence; everybody stands in awe of him but his wife and
children. He caresses only his dogs. He eats but once a day, but his
meal is enough for five men; he drinks a quart of beer or wine without
taking the cup from his mouth; he smokes incessantly, generally a long
Turkish pipe. He sleeps irregularly, disturbed by thoughts which fill
his troubled brain. Honored is the man who is invited to his table, even
if he be the ambassador of a king; for at table the host is frank and
courteous, and not overbearing like a literary dictator. He is well read
in history, but not in art or science or poetry. His stories are
admirable when he is in convivial mood; all sit around him in silent
admiration, for no one dares more than suggest the topic,--he does all
the talking himself. Bayard Taylor, when United States minister at
Berlin, was amazed and confounded by his freedom of speech and apparent
candor. He is frank in matters he does not care to conceal, and simple
as a child when not disputed or withstood; but when opposed fierce as a
lion,--a spoiled man of success, yet not intoxicated with power. Haughty
and irritable, perhaps, but never vain like a French statesman in
office,--a Webster rather than a Thiers.

Such was the man who ruled the German empire with an iron hand for
twenty years or more,--the most remarkable man of power known to history
for seventy-five years; immortal like Cavour, and for his services even
more than his abilities. He had raised Prussia to the front rank among
nations, and created German unity. He had quietly effected more than
Richelieu ever aspired to perform; for Richelieu sought only to build up
a great throne, while Bismarck had united a great nation in patriotic
devotion to Fatherland, which, so far as we can see, is as invincible as
it is enlightened,--enlightened in everything except in
democratic ideas.

I will not dwell on the career and character of Prince Bismarck since
the Franco-Prussian war. After that he was not identified with any great
national movements which command universal interest. His labors were
principally confined to German affairs,--quarrels with the Reichstag,
settlement of difficulties with the various States of the Germanic
Confederation, the consolidation of the internal affairs of the empire
while he carried on diplomatic relations with other great Powers,
efforts to gain the good-will of Russia and secure the general peace of
Europe. These, and a multitude of other questions too recent to be
called historical, he dealt with, in all of which his autocratic
sympathies called out the censures of the advocates of greater liberty,
and diminished his popularity. For twenty years his will was the law of
the German Confederation; though bitterly opposed at times by the
Liberals, he was always sustained by his imperial master, who threw the
burdens of State on his herculean shoulders, sometimes too great to bear
with placidity. His foreign policy was then less severely criticised
than his domestic, which was alternate success and failure.

The war which he waged with the spiritual power was perhaps the most
important event of his administration, and in which he had not
altogether his own way, underrating, as is natural to such a man,
spiritual forces as compared with material. In his memorable quarrel
with Rome he appeared to the least advantage,--at first rigid, severe,
and arbitrary with the Catholic clergy, even to persecution, driving
away the Jesuits (1872), shutting up schools and churches, imprisoning
and fining ecclesiastical dignitaries, intolerant in some cases as the
Inquisition itself. One-fourth of the people of the empire are
Catholics, yet he sternly sought to suppress their religious rights and
liberties as they regarded them, thinking he could control them by
material penalties,--such as taking away their support, and shutting
them up in prison,--forgetting that conscientious Christians, whether
Catholics or Protestants, will in matters of religion defy the mightiest
rulers. No doubt the policy of the Catholics of Germany was extremely
irritating to a despotic ruler who would exalt the temporal over the
spiritual power; and equally true was it that the Pope himself was
unyielding in regard to the liberties of his church, demanding
everything and giving back nothing, in accordance with the uniform
traditions of Papal domination. The Catholics, the world over, look upon
the education of their children as a thing to be superintended by their
own religious teachers,--as their inalienable right and imperative duty;
and any State interference with this right and this duty they regard as
religious persecution, to which they will never submit without hostility
and relentless defiance. Bismarck felt that to concede to the demands
which the Catholic clergy ever have made in respect to religious
privileges was to "go to Canossa,"--where Henry IV. Emperor of Germany,
in 1077, humiliated himself before Pope Gregory VII. in order to gain
absolution. The long-sighted and experienced Thiers remarked that here
Bismarck was on the wrong track, and would be compelled to retreat,
with all his power. Bismarck was too wise a man to persist in attempting
impossibilities, and after a bitter fight he became conciliatory. He did
not "go to Canossa," but he yielded to the dictates of patriotism and
enlightened policy, and the quarrel was patched up.

His long struggles with the Catholics told upon his health and spirits,
and he was obliged to seek long periods of rest and recreation on his
estates,--sometimes, under great embarrassments and irritations,
threatening to resign, to which his imperial master, grateful and
dependent, would never under any circumstances consent. But the
prince-president of the ministers and chancellor of the empire was
loaded down with duties--in his cabinet, in his office, and in the
parliament--most onerous to bear, and which no other man in Germany was
equal to. His burdens at times were intolerable: his labors were
prodigious, and the opposition he met with was extremely irritating to a
man accustomed to have his own way in everything.

Another thing gave him great solicitude, taxed to the utmost his fertile
brain; and that was the rising and wide-spreading doctrines of
Socialism,--which was to Germany what Nihilism is to Russia and
Fenianism was to Ireland; based on discontent, unbelief, and desperate
schemes of unpractical reform, leading to the assassination even of
emperors themselves. How to deal with this terrible foe to all
governments, all laws, and all institutions was a most perplexing
question. At first he was inclined to the most rigorous measures, to a
war of utter extermination; but how could he deal with enemies he could
neither see nor find, omnipresent and invisible, and unscrupulous as
satanic furies,--fanatics whom no reasoning could touch and no laws
control, whether human or divine? As experience and thought enlarged his
mental vision, he came to the conclusion that the real source and spring
of that secret and organized hostility which he deplored, but was unable
to reach and to punish, were evils in government and evils in the
structure of society,--aggravating inequality, grinding poverty,
ignorance, and the hard struggle for life. Accordingly, he devoted his
energies to improve the general condition of the people, and make the
struggle for life easier. In his desire to equalize burdens he resorted
to indirect rather than direct taxation,--to high tariffs and protective
duties to develop German industry; throwing to the winds his earlier
beliefs in the theories of the Manchester school of political economy,
and all speculative ideas as to the blessings of free-trade for the
universe in general. He bought for the government the various Prussian
railroads, in order to have uniformity of rates and remove vexatious
discriminations, which only a central power could effect. In short, he
aimed to develop the material resources of the country, both to insure
financial prosperity and to remove those burdens which press heavily
on the poor.

On one point, however, his policy was inexorable; and that was to suffer
no reduction of the army, but rather to increase it to the utmost extent
that the nation could bear,--not with the view of future conquests or
military aggrandizement, as some thought, but as an imperative necessity
to guard the empire from all hostile attacks, whether from France or
Russia, or both combined. A country surrounded with enemies as Germany
is, in the centre of Europe, without the natural defences of the sea
which England enjoys, or great chains of mountains on her borders
difficult to penetrate and easy to defend, as is the case with
Switzerland, must have a superior military force to defend her, in case
of future contingencies which no human wisdom can foresee. Nor is it
such a dreadful burden to support a peace establishment of four hundred
and fifty thousand men as some think,--one soldier for every one hundred
inhabitants, trained and disciplined to be intelligent and industrious
when his short term of three years of active service shall have expired:
much easier to bear, I fancy, than the burden of supporting five paupers
or more to every hundred inhabitants, as in England and Scotland.

In 1888, Bismarck made a famous speech in the Reichstag to show the
necessity of Prussia's being armed. He had no immediate fears of Russia,
he said; he professed to believe that she would keep peace with Germany.
But he spoke of numerous distinct crises within forty years, when
Prussia was on the verge of being drawn into a general European war,
which diplomacy fortunately averted, and such as now must be warded off
by being too strong for attack. He mentioned the Crimean war in 1853,
the Italian war in 1858, the Polish rebellion in 1863, the
Schleswig-Holstein embroilment, which so nearly set all Europe by the
ears, the Austro-Prussian war of 1866, the Luxemburg dispute in 1867,
the Franco-German war of 1870, the Balkan war of 1877, the various
aspects of the Eastern Question, changes of government in France,
etc.,--each of which in its time threatened the great "coalition war,"
which Germany had thus far been kept out of, but which Bismarck wished
to provide against for the future.

"The long and the short of it is," said he, "that we must be as strong
as we possibly can be in these days. We have the capability of being
stronger than any other nation of equal population in the world, and it
would be a crime if we did not use this capability. We must make still
greater exertions than other Powers for the same ends, on account of our
geographical position. We lie in the midst of Europe. We have at least
three sides open to attack. God has placed on one side of us the
French,--a most warlike and restless nation,--and he has allowed the
fighting tendencies of Russia to become great; so we are forced into
measures which perhaps we would not otherwise make. And the very
strength for which we strive shows that we are inclined to peace; for
with such a powerful machine as we wish to make the German army, no one
would undertake to attack us. We Germans fear God, but nothing else in
the world; and it is the fear of God which causes us to love and
cherish peace."

Such was the avowed policy of Bismarck,--and I believe in his
sincerity,--to foster friendly relations with other nations, and to
maintain peace for the interests of humanity as well as for Germany,
which can be secured only by preparing for war, and with such an array
of forces as to secure victory. It was not with foreign Powers that he
had the greatest difficulty, but to manage the turbulent elements of
internal hostilities and jealousies, and oppose the anarchic forces of
doctrinaires, visionary dreamers, clerical aggressors, and socialistic
incendiaries,--foes alike of a stable government and of
ultimate progress.

In the management of the internal affairs of the empire he cannot be
said to have been as successful as was Cavour in Italy. He was not in
harmony with the spirit of the age, nor was he wise. His persistent
opposition to the freedom of the Press was as great an error as his
persecution of the Catholics; and his insatiable love of power, grasping
all the great offices of State, was a serious offence in the eyes of a
jealous master, the present emperor, whom he did not take sufficient
pains to conciliate. The greatness of Bismarck was not as administrator
of an empire, but rather as the creator of an empire, and which he
raised to greatness by diplomatic skill. His distinguishable excellence
was in the management of foreign affairs; and in this power he has never
been surpassed by any foreign minister.

Contrary to all calculations, this great proud man who has ruled Germany
with so firm a hand for thirty years, and whose services have been
unparalleled in the history of statesmen, was not too high to fall. But
he fell because a young, inexperienced, and ambitious sovereign,--apt
pupil of his own in the divine right of monarchs to govern, and yet
seemingly inspired by a keen sensitiveness to his people's wants and the
spirit of the age,--could not endure his commanding ascendency and
haughty dictation, and accepted his resignation offered in a moment of
pique. He fell even as Wolsey fell before Henry VIII.,--too great a man
for a subject, yet always loyal to the principles of legitimacy and the
will of his sovereign. But he retired at the age of seventy-five, with
princely estates, unexampled honors, and the admiration and gratitude
of his countrymen; with the consciousness of having elevated them to the
proudest position in continental Europe. The aged Emperor William I.
died in 1888, full of years and of honors. His son the Emperor Frederick
died a few months later, leaving a deep respect and a genuine sorrow.
The grandson, the present Emperor William II., has been called "a modern
man, notwithstanding certain proclivities which still adhere to him,
like pieces of the shell of an egg from which the bird has issued." He
is yet an unsolved problem, but may be regarded not without hope for a
wise, strong, and useful reign.

The builder of his country's greatness, however, was too deeply
enshrined in the hearts of his countrymen to remain in shadow. After
more than three years of retirement, Bismarck received from the young
emperor on January 26,1894, an invitation to visit the imperial palace
in Berlin. His journey and reception in the capital were the occasion of
tumultuous public rejoicings, and when the emperor met him, the
reconciliation was complete. The time-worn veteran did not again assume
office, but he was the frequent recipient of appreciative mention by the
kaiser in public rescripts and speeches, and on his seventy-ninth
birthday, April 1,1894, he received from the emperor a greeting by
letter and a steel cuirass, "as a symbol of the German gratitude." On
the same day the castle at Friederichsruh was filled with rare and
costly presents from all over Germany, and "Bismarck banquets" were held
in all the principal cities. It was well that before this grand figure
passed away forever "the German gratitude" to him should have found
expression again, especially from the sovereign who owed to the great
chancellor his own peculiar eminence in the earth.

As for Prince Bismarck, with all his faults,--and no man is perfect,--I
love and honor this courageous giant, who has, under such vexatious
opposition, secured the glory of the Prussian monarchy and the unity of
Germany; who has been conscientious in the discharge of his duties as he
has understood them, in the fear of God,--a modern Cromwell in another
cause, whose fame will increase with the advancing ages.[3]

[Footnote 3: Bismarck died July 30, 1898, mourned by his nation, his
obsequies honored by the Emperor.]


Professor Seeley's Life of Stein, Hezekiel's Biography of Bismarck, and
the Life of Prince Bismarck by Charles Lowe, are the books to which I am
most indebted for the compilation of this chapter. But one may
profitably read the various histories of the Franco-Prussian war, the
Life of Prince Hardenberg, the Life of Moltke, the Life of Scharnhorst,
and the Life of William von Humboldt. An excellent abridgment of German
History, during this century, is furnished by Professor Mueller. The
Speech of Prince Bismarck in the German Reichstag, February, 1888, I
have found very instructive and interesting,--a sort of resume of his
own political life.




It may seem presumptuous for me at the present time to write on
Gladstone, whose public life presents so many sides, concerning which
there is anything but unanimity of opinion,--a man still in full life,
and likely to remain so for years to come;[4] a giant, so strong
intellectually and physically as to exercise, without office, a
prodigious influence in national affairs by the sole force of genius and
character combined. But how can I present the statesmen of the
nineteenth century without including him,--the Nestor among political
personages, who for forty years has taken an important part in the
government of England?

[Footnote 4: This was written by Dr. Lord in 1891. Gladstone died in

This remarkable man, like Canning, Peel, and Macaulay, was precocious in
his attainments at school and college,--especially at Oxford, which has
produced more than her share of the great men who have controlled
thought and action in England during the period since 1820. But
precocity is not always the presage of future greatness. There are more
remarkable boys than remarkable men. In England, college honors may have
more influence in advancing the fortunes of a young man than in this
country; but I seldom have known valedictorians who have come up to
popular expectations; and most of them, though always respectable, have
remained in comparative obscurity.

Like the statesmen to whom I have alluded, Gladstone sprang from the
middle ranks, although his father, a princely Liverpool merchant, of
Scotch descent, became a baronet by force of his wealth, character, and
influence. Seeing the extraordinary talents of his third son,--William
Ewart,--Sir John Gladstone spared neither pains nor money on his
education, sending him to Eton in 1821, at the age of twelve, where he
remained till 1827, learning chiefly Latin and Greek. Here he was the
companion and friend of many men who afterward became powerful forces in
English life,--political, literary, and ecclesiastical. At the age of
seventeen we find him writing letters to Arthur Hallam on politics and
literature: and his old schoolfellows testify to his great influence
among them for purity, humanity, and nobility of character, while he was
noted for his aptness in letters and skill in debate. In 1827 the boy
was intrusted to the care of Dr. Turner,--afterward bishop of
Calcutta,--under whom he learned something besides Latin and Greek,
perhaps indirectly, in the way of ethics and theology, and other things
which go to the formation of character. At the age of twenty he entered
Christ Church at Oxford--the most aristocratic of colleges--with more
attainments than most scholars reach at thirty, and was graduated in
1831 "double-first class," distinguished not only for his scholarship
but for his power of debate in the Union Society; throwing in his lot
with Tories and High Churchmen, who, as he afterward confesses, "did not
set a due value on the imperishable and inestimable principles of human
liberty." With strong religious tendencies and convictions, he
contemplated taking orders in the Church; but his father saw things
differently,--and thus, with academic prejudices which most graduates
have to unlearn, he went abroad in 1832 to complete the education of an
English gentleman, spending most of his time in Italy and Sicily, those
eternally interesting countries to the scholar and the artist, whose
wonders can scarcely be exaggerated,--affording a perpetual charm and
study if one can ignore popular degradation, superstition, unthrift, and
indifference to material and moral progress. He who enjoys Italy must
live in the past, or in the realm of art, or in the sanctuaries where
priests hide themselves from the light of what is most valuable in
civilization and most ennobling in human consciousness.

Mr. Gladstone returned to England in the most interesting and exciting
period of her political history since the days of Cromwell,--soon after
the great Reform Bill had been passed, which changed the principle of
representation in Parliament, and opened the way for other necessary
reforms. His personal _eclat_ and his powerful friends gave him an
almost immediate entrance into the House of Commons as member for
Newark. The electors knew but little about him; they only knew that he
was supported by the Duke of Newcastle and preponderating Tory
interests, and were carried away by his youthful eloquence--those
silvery tones which nature gave--and that strange fascination which
comes from magnetic powers. The ancients said that the poet is born and
the orator is made. It appears to me that a man stands but little chance
of oratorical triumphs who is not gifted by nature with a musical voice
and a sympathetic electrical force which no effort can acquire.

On the 29th of January, 1833, at the age of twenty-four, Gladstone
entered upon his memorable parliamentary career, during the ministry of
Lord Grey; and his maiden speech--fluent, modest, and earnest--was in
the course of the debate on the proposed abolition of slavery in the
British colonies. It was in reply to an attack made upon the management
of his father's estates in the treatment of slaves in Demerara. He
deprecated cruelty and slavery alike, but maintained that emancipation
should be gradual and after due preparation; and, insisting also that
slaves were private property, he demanded that the interests of planters
should be duly regarded if emancipation should take place. This was in
accordance with justice as viewed by enlightened Englishmen generally.
Negro emancipation was soon after decreed. All negroes born after August
1,1834, as well as those then six years of age were to be free; and the
remainder were, after a kind of apprenticeship of six years, to be set
at liberty. The sum of L20,000,000 was provided by law as a compensation
to the slave-owners,--one of the noblest acts which Parliament ever
passed, and one of which the English nation has never ceased to boast.

Among other measures to which the reform Parliament gave its attention
in 1833 was that relating to the temporalities of the Irish Church, by
which the number of bishops was reduced from twenty-two to twelve, with
a corresponding reduction of their salaries. An annual tax was also
imposed on all livings above L300, to be appropriated to the
augmentation of small benefices. Mr. Gladstone was too conservative to
approve of this measure, and he made a speech against it.

In 1834 the reform ministry went out of power, having failed to carry
everything before them as they had anticipated, and not having produced
that general prosperity which they had promised. The people were still
discontented, trade still languished, and pauperism increased rather
than diminished.

Under the new Tory ministry, headed by Sir Robert Peel, Mr. Gladstone
became a junior lord of the Treasury. His great abilities were already
recognized, and the premier wanted his services, as Pitt wanted those of
Canning before he was known to fame. Shortly after Parliament assembled,
in February, 1835, Mr. Gladstone was made under-secretary for the
Colonies,--a very young man for such an office. But the Tory ministry
was short-lived, and the Whigs soon returned to power under Lord
Melbourne. During this administration, until the death of William IV. in
1837, there was no display of power or eloquence in Parliament by the
member for Newark of sufficient importance to be here noted, except
perhaps his opposition to a bill for the re-arrangement of church-rates.
As a Conservative and a High Churchman, Gladstone stood aloof from those
who would lay unhallowed hands on the sacred ark of ecclesiasticism. And
here, at least, he has always been consistent with himself. From first
to last he has been the zealous defender and admirer of the English
Church and one of its devoutest members, taking the deepest interest in
everything which concerns its doctrines, its ritual, and its connection
with the State,--at times apparently forgetting politics to come to its
support, in essays which show a marvellous knowledge of both theology
and ecclesiastical history. We cannot help thinking that he would have
reached the highest dignities as a clergyman, and perhaps have been even
more famous as a bishop than as a statesman.

In the Parliament which assembled after Queen Victoria's accession to
the throne, in 1837, the voice of Gladstone was heard in nearly every
important discussion; but the speech which most prominently brought him
into public notice and gave him high rank as a parliamentary orator was
that in 1838, in reference to West India emancipation. The evils of the
negro apprenticeship system, which was to expire in 1840, had been laid
before the House of Lords by the ex-chancellor, Brougham, with his usual
fierceness and probable exaggeration; and when the subject came up for
discussion in the House of Commons Gladstone opposed immediate
abolition, which Lord Brougham had advocated, showing by a great array
of facts that the relation between masters and negroes was generally
much better than it had been represented. But he was on the unpopular
side of the question, and his speech excited admiration without
producing conviction,--successful only as a vigorous argument and a
brilliant oratorical display. The apprenticeship was cut short, and
immediate abolition of slavery decreed.

At that time, Gladstone's "appearance and manners were much in his
favor. His countenance was mild and pleasant; his eyes were clear and
quick; his eyebrows were dark and prominent; his gestures varied but not
violent; his jet black hair was parted from his crown to his brow;" his
voice was peculiarly musical, and his diction was elegant and easy,
without giving the appearance of previous elaboration. How far his
language and thoughts were premeditated I will not undertake to say.
Daniel Webster once declared that there was no such thing as _ex
tempore_ speaking,--a saying not altogether correct, but in the main
confirmed by many great orators who confess to laborious preparation for
their speech-making, and by the fact that many of our famous
after-dinner speakers have been known to send their speeches to the
Press before they were delivered. The case of Demosthenes would seem to
indicate the necessity of the most careful study and preparation in
order to make a truly great speech, however gifted an orator may be; and
those who, like the late Henry Ward Beecher, have astonished their
hearers by their ready utterances have generally mastered certain lines
of fact and principles of knowledge which they have at command, and
which, with native power and art of expression, they present in fresh
forms and new combinations. They do not so much add new stores of fact
to the kaleidoscope of oratory,--they place the familiar ones in new
positions, and produce new pictures _ad infinitum_. Sometimes a genius,
urged by a great impulse, may dash out in an untried course of thought;
but this is not always a safe venture,--the next effort of the kind may
prove a failure. No man can be sure of himself or his ground without
previous and patient labor, except in reply to an antagonist and when
familiar with his subject. That was the power of Fox and Pitt. What gave
charm to the speeches of Peel and Gladstone in their prime was the new
matter they introduced before debate began; and this was the result of
laborious study. To attack such matter with wit and sarcasm is one
thing; to originate it is quite another. Anybody can criticise the most
beautiful picture or the grandest structure, but to paint the one or
erect the other,--_hic labor, hoc opus est_. One of the grandest
speeches ever made, for freshness and force, was Daniel Webster's reply
to Hayne; but the peroration was written and committed to memory, while
the substance of it had been in his thoughts for half a winter, and his
mind was familiar with the general subject. The great orator is
necessarily an artist as much as Pascal was in his _Pensees_; and his
fame will rest perhaps more on his art than on his matter,--since the
art is inimitable and peculiar, while the matter is subject to the
conditions of future, unknown, progressive knowledge. Probably the most
effective speech of modern times was the short address of Abraham
Lincoln at Gettysburg; but this was simply the expression of the
gathered forces of his whole political life.

In the month of July, 1837, Mr. Gladstone was married to Miss Catherine
Glyn, daughter of Sir Stephen Richard Glyn, of Hawarden Castle, in
Flintshire, Wales,--a marriage which proved eminently happy. Eight
children have been the result of this union, of whom but one has died;
all the others have "turned out well," as the saying is, though no one
has reached distinguished eminence. It would seem that Mr. Gladstone,
occupying for forty years so superb a social and public station, has not
been ambitious for the worldly advancement of his children, nor has he
been stained by nepotism in pushing on their fortunes. The eldest son
was a member of Parliament; the second became a clergyman; and the
eldest daughter married a clergyman in a prominent position as
headmaster of Wellington College.

It would be difficult to say when the welfare of the Church and the
triumph of theological truth have not received a great share of Mr.
Gladstone's thoughts and labors. At an early period of his parliamentary
career he wrote an elaborate treatise on the "State in its relation to
the Church." It is said that Sir Robert. Peel threw the book down on the
floor, exclaiming that it was a pity so able a man should jeopardize his
political future by writing such trash; but it was of sufficient
importance to furnish Macaulay a subject for one of his most careful
essays, in which however, though respectful in tone,--patronizing rather
than eulogistic,--he showed but little sympathy with the author. He
pointed out many defects which the critical and religious world has
sustained. In the admirable article which Mr. Gladstone wrote on Lord
Macaulay himself for one of the principal Reviews not many years ago, he
paid back in courteous language, and even under the conventional form of
panegyric, in which one great man naturally speaks of another, a still
more searching and trenchant criticism on the writings of the eminent
historian. Gladstone shows, and shows clearly and conclusively, the
utter inability of Macaulay to grasp subjects of a spiritual and
subjective character, especially exhibited in his notice of the
philosophy of Bacon. He shows that this historian excels only in
painting external events and the outward acts and peculiarities of the
great characters of history,--and even then only with strong prejudices
and considerable exaggerations, however careful he is in sustaining his
position by recorded facts, in which he never makes an error. To the
subjective mind of Gladstone, with his interest in theological subjects,
Macaulay was neither profound nor accurate in his treatment of
philosophical and psychological questions, for which indeed he had but
little taste. Such men as Pascal, Leibnitz, Calvin, Locke, he lets alone
to discuss the great actors in political history, like Warren Hastings,
Pitt, Harley; but in his painting of such characters he stands
pre-eminent over all modern writers. Gladstone does justice to
Macaulay's vast learning, his transcendent memory, and his matchless
rhetoric,--making the heaviest subjects glow with life and power,
effecting compositions which will live for style alone, for which in
some respects he is unapproachable.

Indeed, I cannot conceive of two great contemporary statesmen more
unlike in their mental structure and more antagonistic in their general
views than Gladstone and Macaulay, and unlike also in their style. The
treatise on State and Church, on which Gladstone exhibits so much
learning, to me is heavy, vague, hazy, and hard to read. The subject,
however, has but little interest to an American, and is doubtless much
more highly appreciated by English students, especially those of the
great universities, whom it more directly concerns. It is the argument
of a young Oxford scholar for the maintenance of a Church establishment;
is full of ecclesiastical lore, assuming that one of the chief ends of
government is the propagation of religious truth,--a ground utterly
untenable according to the universal opinion of people in this country,
whether churchmen or laymen, Catholic or Protestant, Conservative
or liberal.

On the fall of the Whig government in 1841, succeeded by that of Sir
Robert Peel, Mr. Gladstone was appointed vice-president of the Board of
Trade and master of the Mint, and naturally became more prominent as a
parliamentary debater,--not yet a parliamentary leader. But he was one
of the most efficient of the premier's lieutenants, a tried and faithful
follower, a disciple, indeed,--as was Peel himself of Canning, and
Canning of Pitt. He addressed the House in all the important
debates,--on railways, on agricultural interests, on the abolition of
the corn laws, on the Dissenters' Chapel Bills, on sugar duties,--a
conservative of conservatives, yet showing his devotion to the cause of
justice in everything except justice to the Catholics in Ireland. He was
opposed to the grant to Maynooth College, and in consequence resigned
his office when the decision of the government was made known,--a rare
act of that conscientiousness for which from first to last he has been
pre-eminently distinguished in all political as well as religious
matters. His resignation of office left him free to express his views;
and he disclaimed, in the name of law, the constitution, and the
history of the country, the voting of money to restore and strengthen
the Roman Catholic Church of Ireland. In deference to Sir Robert Peel
and the general cause of education his opposition was not bitter or
persistent; and the progressive views which have always marked his
career led him to support the premier in his repeal of the corn laws, he
having been, like his chief, converted to the free-trade doctrines of
Cobden. But the retirement of such prominent men as the Duke of
Buccleuch and Lord Stanley (of Alderley) from his ministry, as
protectionists, led to its breaking up in 1846 and an attempt to form a
new one under Lord John Russell, which failed; and Sir Robert Peel
resumed direction of a government pledged to repeal the corn laws of
1815. As the Duke of Newcastle was a zealous protectionist, under whose
influence Mr. Gladstone had been elected member of Parliament, the
latter now resigned his seat as member for Newark, and consequently
remained without a seat in that memorable session of 1846 which repealed
the corn laws.

The ministry of Sir Robert Peel, though successful in passing the most
important bill since that of Parliamentary reform in 1832, was doomed;
as we have already noted in the Lecture on that great leader, it fell on
the Irish question, and Lord John Russell became the head of the
government. In the meantime, Mr. Gladstone was chosen to represent the
University of Oxford in Parliament,--one of the most distinguished
honors which he ever received, and which he duly prized. As the champion
of the English Church represented by the University, and as one of its
greatest scholars, he richly deserved the coveted prize.

On the accidental death of Sir Robert Peel in 1850 the conservative
party became disintegrated, and Mr. Gladstone held himself aloof both
from Whigs and Tories, learning wisdom from Sir James Graham (one of the
best educated and most accomplished statesman of the day), and devoting
himself to the study of parliamentary tactics, and of all great
political questions. It was then that in the interval of public business
he again visited Italy, in the winter of 1850-51; this time not for mere
amusement and recreation, but for the health of a beloved daughter.
While in Naples he was led to examine its prisons (with philanthropic
aim), and to study the general policy and condition of the Neapolitan
government. The result was his famous letters to Lord Aberdeen on the
awful despotism under which the kingdom of the Two Sicilies groaned,
where over twenty thousand political prisoners were incarcerated, and
one-half of the Deputies were driven into exile in defiance of all law;
where the prisons were dens of filth and horror, and all sorts of unjust
charges were fabricated in order to get rid of inconvenient persons. I
have read nothing from the pen of Mr. Gladstone superior in the way of
style to these letters,--earnest and straightforward, almost fierce in
their invective, reminding one in many respects of Brougham's defence of
Queen Caroline, but with a greater array of facts, so clearly and
forcibly put as not only to produce conviction but to kindle wrath. The
government of Naples had sworn to maintain a free constitution, but had
disgracefully and without compunction violated every one of its
conditions, and perpetrated cruelties and injustices which would have
appalled the judges of imperial Rome, and defended them by a casuistry
which surpassed in its insult to the human understanding that of the
priests of the Spanish Inquisition.

The indignation created by Gladstone's letters extended beyond England
to France and Germany, and probably had no slight influence in the final
overthrow of the King of Naples, whose government was the most unjust,
tyrannical, and cruel in Europe, and perhaps on the face of the globe.
Its chief evil was not in chaining suspected politicians of character
and rank to the vilest felons, and immuring them in underground cells
too filthy and horrible to be approached even by physicians, for months
and years before their mock-trials began, but in the utter perversion of
justice in the courts by judges who dared not go counter to the
dictation or even wishes of the executive government with its deadly and
unconquerable hatred of everything which looked like political liberty.
All these things and others Mr. Gladstone exposed with an eloquence
glowing and burning with righteous and fearless indignation.

The Neapolitan government attempted to make a denial of the terrible
charges; but the defence was feeble and inconclusive, and the statesman
who made the accusation was not convicted even of exaggeration, although
the heartless tyrant may have felt that he was no more guilty than other
monarchs bent on sustaining absolutism at any cost and under any plea in
the midst of atheists, assassins, and anarchists. It is said that Warren
Hastings, under the terrible invectives of Burke, felt himself to be the
greatest criminal in the world, even when he was conscious of having
rendered invaluable services to Great Britain, which the country in the
main acknowledged. In one sense, therefore, a statement may be
rhetorically exaggerated, even when the facts which support it are
incontrovertible, as the remorseless logic of Calvin leads to deductions
which no one fully believes,--the _decretum quidem horribile_, as Calvin
himself confessed. But is it easy to convict Mr. Gladstone of other
exaggeration than that naturally produced by uncommon ability to array
facts so as to produce conviction, which indeed is the talent of the
advocate rather than that of the judge?

The year 1848 was a period of agitation and revolution in every country
in Europe; and most governments, being unpopular, were compelled to
suppress riots and insurrections, and to maintain order under exceeding
difficulties. England was no exception; and public discontents had some
justification in the great deficiency in the national treasury, the
distress of Ireland, and the friction which new laws, however
beneficent, have to pass through.

About this time Mr. Disraeli was making himself prominent as an orator,
and as a foe to the administration. He was clever in nicknames and witty
expressions,--as when he dubbed the Blue Book of the Import Duties
Committee "the greatest work of imagination that the nineteenth century
had produced." Mr. Gladstone was no match for this great parliamentary
fencer in irony, in wit, in sarcasm, and in bold attacks; but even in a
House so fond of jokes as that of the Commons he commanded equal if not
greater attention by his luminous statements of fact and the earnest
solemnity of his manner. Benjamin Disraeli entered Parliament in 1837,
as a sort of democratic Tory, when the death of King William IV.
necessitated a general election. His maiden speech as member for
Maidstone was a failure; not because he could not speak well, but
because a certain set determined to crush him, and made such a noise
that he was obliged to sit down, declaring in a loud voice that the time
would come when they should hear him. He was already famous for his
novels, and for a remarkable command of language; the pet of
aristocratic women, and admired generally for his wit and brilliant
conversation, although he provoked criticism for the vulgar finery of
his dress and the affectation of his manners. Already he was intimate
with Lord Lyndhurst, a lion in the highest aristocratic circles, and
universally conceded to be a man of genius. Why should not such a man,
at the age of thirty-three, aspire to a seat in Parliament? His future
rival, Gladstone, though five years his junior, had already been in
Parliament three years, and was distinguished as an orator before
Disraeli had a chance to enter the House of Commons as a supporter of
Sir Robert Peel; but his extraordinary power was not felt until he
attacked his master on the repeal of the corn laws, nor was he the rival
of Mr. Gladstone until the Tory party was disintegrated and broken into
sections. In 1847, however, he became the acknowledged leader of the
most conservative section,--the party of protection,--while Gladstone
headed the followers of Peel.

On the disruption of the Whig administration in 1851 under Lord John
Russell, who was not strong enough for such unsettled times, Lord Derby
became premier, and Disraeli took office under him as chancellor of the
exchequer,--a post which he held for only a short time, the "coalition
cabinet" under Lord Aberdeen having succeeded that of Lord Derby,
keeping office during the Crimean war, and leaving the Tories out in the
cold until 1858.

Of this famous coalition ministry Mr. Gladstone naturally became
chancellor of the exchequer, having exhibited remarkable financial
ability in demolishing the arguments of Disraeli when he introduced his
budget as chancellor in 1851; but although the rivalry between the two
great men began about this time, neither of them had reached the lofty
position which they were destined to attain. They both held subordinate
posts. The prime minister was the Earl of Aberdeen; but Lord Palmerston
was the commanding genius of the cabinet, controlling as foreign
minister the diplomacy of the country in stormy times. He was
experienced, versatile, liberal, popular, and ready in debate. His
foreign policy was vigorous and aggressive, raising England in the
estimation of foreigners, and making her the most formidable Power in
Europe. His diplomatic and administrative talents were equally
remarkable, so that he held office of some kind in every successive
administration but one for fifty years. He was secretary-at-war as far
back as the contest with Napoleon, and foreign secretary in 1830 during
the administration of Lord Grey. His official life may almost be said to
have been passed in the Foreign Office; he was acquainted with all its
details, and as indefatigable in business as he was witty in society, to
the pleasures of which he was unusually devoted. He checked the ambition
of France in 1840 on the Eastern question, and brought about the cordial
alliance between France and England in the Crimean war.

Mr. Gladstone did not agree with Lord Palmerston in reference to the
Crimean war. Like Lord Aberdeen, his policy was pacific, avoiding war
except in cases of urgent necessity; but in this matter he was not only
in the minority in the cabinet but not on the popular side,--the Press
and the people and the Commons being clamorous for war. As already
shown, it was one of the most unsatisfactory wars in English
history,--conducted to a successful close, indeed, but with an immense
expenditure of blood and money, and with such an amount of blundering in
management as to bring disgrace rather than glory on the government and
the country. But it was not for Mr. Gladstone to take a conspicuous part
in the management of that unfortunate war. His business was with the
finances,--to raise money for the public exigencies; and in this
business he never had a superior. He not only selected with admirable
wisdom the articles to be taxed, but in his budgets he made the
minutest details interesting. He infused eloquence into figures; his
audiences would listen to his financial statements for five continuous
hours without wearying. But his greatest triumph as finance minister was
in making the country accept without grumbling an enormous income tax
because he made plain its necessity.

The mistakes of the coalition ministry in the management of the war led
to its dissolution, and Lord Palmerston became prime minister, Lord
Clarendon foreign minister, while Mr. Gladstone retained his post as
chancellor of the exchequer, yet only for a short time. On the
appointment of a committee to examine into the conduct of the war he
resigned his post, and was succeeded by Sir G.C. Lewis. At this crisis
the Emperor Nicholas of Russia died, and the cabinet, with a large
preponderance of Whigs, having everything their own way, determined to
prosecute the war to the bitter end.

Yet the great services and abilities of Gladstone as finance minister
were everywhere conceded, not only for his skill in figures but for his
wisdom in selecting and imposing duties that were acceptable to the
country and did not press heavily upon the poor, thus following out the
policy which Sir Robert Peel bequeathed. Ever since, this has been the
aim as well as the duty of a chancellor of the exchequer whatever party
has been in the ascendent.

From this time onward Mr. Gladstone was a pronounced free-trader of the
Manchester school. His conscientious studies into the mutual relations
of taxation, production, and commerce had convinced him that national
prosperity lay along the line of freedom of endeavor. He had taken a
great departure from the principles he had originally advocated, which
of course provoked a bitter opposition from his former friends and
allies. He was no longer the standard-bearer of the conservative party,
but swung more and more by degrees from his old policy as light dawned
upon his mind and experience taught him wisdom. Perhaps the most
remarkable characteristics of this man,--opinionated and strong-headed
as he undoubtedly is,--are to be found in the receptive quality of his
mind, by which he is open to new ideas, and in the steady courage with
which he affirms and stands by his convictions when once he has by
reasoning arrived at them. It took thirteen years of parliamentary
strife before the Peelites, whom he led, were finally incorporated with
the Liberal party.

Mr. Gladstone, now without office, became what is called an independent
member of the House, yet active in watching public interests, giving his
vote and influence to measures which he considered would be most
beneficial to the country irrespective of party. Meantime, the continued
mistakes of the war and the financial burdens incident to a conflict of
such magnitude had gradually produced disaffection with the government
of which Lord Palmerston was the head. The ministry, defeated on an
unimportant matter, but one which showed the animus of the country, was
compelled to resign, and the Conservatives--no longer known by the
opprobrious nickname of Tories--came into power (1858) under the
premiership of Lord Derby, Disraeli becoming chancellor of the exchequer
and leader of his own party in the House of Commons. But this
administration also was short-lived, lasting only about a year; and in
June, 1859, a new coalition ministry was again formed under Lord
Palmerston, which continued seven years, Mr. Gladstone returning to his
old post as chancellor of the exchequer.

Mr. Gladstone was at this time fifty years of age. His political career
thus far, however useful and honorable, had not been extraordinary. Mr.
Pitt was prime minister at the age of twenty-eight. Fox, Canning, and
Castlereagh at forty were more famous than Gladstone. His political
promotion had not been as rapid as that of Lord John Russell or Lord
Palmerston or Sir Robert Peel. He was chiefly distinguished for the
eloquence of his speeches, the lucidity of his financial statements, and
the moral purity of his character; but he was not then pre-eminently
great, either for initiative genius or commanding influence. Aside from
politics, he was conceded to be an accomplished scholar and a learned
theologian,--distinguished for ecclesiastical lore rather than as an
original thinker. He had written no great book likely to be a standard
authority. As a writer he was inferior to Macaulay and Newman, nor had
he the judicial powers of Hallam. He could not be said to have occupied
more than one sphere, that of politics,--here unlike Thiers, Guizot, and
even Lyndhurst and Brougham.

In 1858, however, Gladstone appeared in a new light, and commanded
immediate attention by the publication of his "Studies on Homer and the
Homeric Age,"--a remarkable work in three large octavo volumes, which
called into the controversial field of Greek history a host of critics,
like Mr. Freeman, who yet conceded to Mr. Gladstone wonderful classical
learning, and the more wonderful as he was preoccupied with affairs of
State, and without the supposed leisure for erudite studies. This
learned work entitled him to a high position in another sphere than that
of politics. Guizot wrote learned histories of modern political
movements, but he could not have written so able a treatise as
Gladstone's on the Homeric age. Some advanced German critics took
exceptions to the author's statements about early Greek history; yet it
cannot be questioned that he has thrown a bright if not a new light on
the actors of the siege of Troy and the age when they were supposed to
live. The illustrious author is no agnostic. It is not for want of
knowledge that in some things he is not up to the times, but for a
conservative bent of mind which leads him to distrust destructive
criticism. Gladstone has been content to present the ancient world as
revealed in the Homeric poems, whether Homer lived less than a hundred
years from the heroic deeds described with such inimitable charm, or
whether he did not live at all. He wrote the book not merely to amuse
his leisure hours, but to incite students to a closer study of the works
attributed to him who alone is enrolled with the two other men now
regarded as the greatest of immortal poets. Gladstone's admiration for
Homer is as unbounded as that of German scholars for Dante and
Shakspeare. It is hardly to be supposed that this work on the heroic age
was written during the author's retirement from office; it was probably
the result of his life-studies on Grecian literature, which he pursued
with unusual and genuine enthusiasm. Who among American statesmen or
even scholars are competent to such an undertaking?

Two years after this, in 1860, Mr. Gladstone was elected Lord Rector of
the University of Edinburgh in recognition of his scholarly
attainments, and delivered a notable inaugural address on the work of

The chief duty of Mr. Gladstone during his seven years connection with
the new coalition party, headed by Lord Palmerston, was to prepare his
annual budget, or financial statement, with a proposed scheme of
taxation, as chancellor of the exchequer. During these years his fame as
a finance minister was confirmed. As such no minister ever equalled him,
except perhaps Sir Robert Peel. My limits will not permit me to go into
a minute detail of the taxes he increased and those he reduced. The end
he proposed in general was to remove such as were oppressive on the
middle and lower classes, and to develop the industrial resources of the
nation,--to make it richer and more prosperous, while it felt the burden
of supplying needful moneys for the government less onerous. Nor would
it be interesting to Americans to go into those statistics. I wonder
even why they were so interesting to the English people. One would
naturally think that it was of little consequence whether duties on some
one commodity were reduced, or those on another were increased, so long
as the deficit in the national income had to be raised somehow, whether
by direct or indirect taxation; but the interest generally felt in these
matters was intense, both inside and outside Parliament. I can
understand why the paper-makers should object when it was proposed to
remove the last protective duty, and why the publicans should wax
indignant if an additional tax were imposed on hops; but I cannot
understand why every member of the House of Commons should be present
when the opening speech on the budget was to be made by the chancellor,
why the intensest excitement should prevail, why members should sit for
five hours enraptured to hear financial details presented, why every
seat in the galleries should be taken by distinguished visitors, and all
the journals the next day should be filled with panegyrics or
detractions as to the minister's ability or wisdom.

It would seem that no questions concerning war or peace, or the
extension of the suffrage, or the removal of great moral evils, or
promised boons in education, or Church disestablishment, or threatened
dangers to the State,--questions touching the very life of the
nation,--received so much attention or excited so great interest as
those which affected the small burdens which the people had to bear; not
the burden of taxation itself, but how that should be distributed. I
will not say that the English are "a nation of shopkeepers;" but I do
say that comparatively small matters occupy the thoughts of men in every
country outside the routine of ordinary duties, and form the staple of
ordinary conversation,--among pedants, the difference between _ac_ and
_et_; among aristocrats, the investigation of pedigrees; in society,
the comparative merits of horses, the movements of well-known persons,
the speed of ocean steamers, boat-races, the dresses of ladies of
fashion, football contests, the last novel, weddings, receptions, the
trials of housekeepers, the claims of rival singers, the gestures and
declamation of favorite play-actors, the platitudes of popular
preachers, the rise and fall of stocks, murders in bar-rooms, robberies
in stores, accidental fires in distant localities,--these and other
innumerable forms of gossip, collected by newspapers and retailed in
drawing-rooms, which have no important bearing on human life or national
welfare or immortal destiny. It is not that the elaborate presentations
of financial details for which Mr. Gladstone was so justly famous were
without importance. I only wonder why they should have had such
overwhelming interest to English legislators and the English public; and
why his statistics should have given him claims to transcendent oratory
and the profoundest statesmanship,--for it is undeniable that his
financial speeches brought him more fame and importance in the House of
Commons than all the others he made during those seven years of
parliamentary gladiatorship. One of these triumphantly carried through
Parliament a commercial reciprocity treaty with France, arranged by Mr.
Cobden; and another, scarcely less notable, repealed the duty on
paper,--a measure of great importance for the facilitation of making
books and cheapening newspapers, but both of which were desperately
opposed by the monopolists and manufacturers.

Some of Mr. Gladstone's other speeches stand on higher ground and are of
permanent value; they will live for the lofty sentiments and the
comprehensive knowledge which marked them,--appealing to the highest
intellect as well as to the hearts of those common people of whom all
nations are chiefly composed. Among these might be mentioned those which
related to Italian affairs, sympathizing with the struggle which the
Italians were making to secure constitutional liberty and the unity of
their nation,--severe on the despotism of that miserable king of Naples,
Francis II., whom Garibaldi had overthrown with a handful of men. Mr.
Gladstone, ever since his last visit to Naples, had abominated the
outrages which its government had perpetrated on a gallant and aspiring
people, and warmly supported them by his eloquence. In the same friendly
spirit, in 1858, he advocated in Parliament a free constitution for the
Ionian islands, then under British rule; and when sent thither as
British commissioner he addressed the Senate of those islands, at Corfu,
in the Italian language. The islands were by their own desire finally
ceded to Greece, whose prosperity as an independent and united nation
Mr. Gladstone ever had at heart. The land of Homer to him was
hallowed ground.

On one subject Mr. Gladstone made a great mistake, which he afterward
squarely acknowledged,--and this was in reference to the American civil
war. In 1862, while chancellor of the exchequer, he made a speech at
Newcastle in which he expressed his conviction that Jefferson Davis had
"already succeeded in making the Southern States of America [which were
in revolt] an independent nation." This opinion caused a great sensation
in both England and the United States, and alienated many
friends,--especially as Earl Russell, the minister of foreign affairs,
had refused to recognize the Confederate States. It was the indiscretion
of the chancellor of the exchequer which disturbed some of his warmest
supporters in England; but in America the pain arose from the fact that
so great a man had expressed such an opinion,--a man, moreover, for whom
America had then and still has the greatest admiration and reverence. It
was feared that his sympathies, like those of a great majority of the
upper classes in England at the time, were with the South rather than
the North, and chiefly because the English manufacturers had to pay
twenty shillings instead of eight-pence a pound for cotton. It was
natural for a manufacturing country to feel this injury to its
interests; but it was not magnanimous in view of the tremendous issues
which were at stake, and it was inconsistent with the sacrifices which
England had nobly made in the emancipation of her own slaves in the West
Indies. For England to give her moral support to the revolted Southern
States, founding their Confederacy upon the baneful principle of human
slavery, was a matter of grave lamentation with patriots at the North,
to say nothing of the apparent English indifference to the superior
civilization of the free States and the great cause to which they were
devoted in a struggle of life and death. It even seemed to some that the
English aristocracy were hypocritical in their professions, and at heart
were hostile to the progress of liberty; that the nation as a whole
cared more for money than justice,--as seemingly illustrated by the war
with China to enforce the opium trade against the protest of the Chinese
government, pagan as it was.

Mr. Gladstone had now swung away from the Conservative party. In 1864 he
had vigorously supported a bill for enlarging the parliamentary
franchise by reducing the limit of required rental from L10 to L6,
declaring that the burden of proof rested on those who would exclude
forty-nine-fiftieths of the working-classes from the franchise. He also,
as chancellor of the exchequer, caused great excitement by admitting
the unsatisfactory condition of the Irish Church,--that is, the Church
of England among the Irish people; sustained by their taxes, but
ministering to only one-eighth or one-ninth of the population. These and
other similar evidences of his liberal tendencies alienated his Oxford
constituency, the last people in the realm to adopt liberal measures;
and on the proroguement of Parliament in 1865, and the new election
which followed, he was defeated as member for the University, although
he was a High Churchman and the pride of the University, devoted to its
interests heart and soul. It is a proof of the exceeding bitterness of
political parties that such ingratitude should have been shown to one of
the greatest scholars that Oxford has produced for a century. It was in
this year also that on completing his term as Rector of the University
of Edinburgh he retired with a notable address on the "Place of Ancient
Greece in the Providential Order;" thus anew emphasizing his scholarly
equipment as a son of Oxford.

The Liberal party, however, were generally glad of Gladstone's defeat,
since it would detach him from the University. He now belonged more
emphatically to the country, and was more free and unshackled to pursue
his great career, as Sir Robert Peel had been before him in similar
circumstances. Instead of representing a narrow-minded and bigoted set
of clergymen and scholars, he was chosen at once to represent quite a
different body,--even the liberal voters of South Lancashire, a
manufacturing district.

The death of Lord Palmerston at the age of eighty, October 17, 1865,
made Earl Russell prime minister, while Gladstone resumed under the new
government his post as chancellor of the exchequer, and now became
formally the leader of the Liberals in the House of Commons.

Irish questions in 1866 came prominently to the front, for the condition
of Ireland at that time was as alarming as it was deplorable, with
combined Fenianism and poverty and disaffection in every quarter. So
grave was the state of this unhappy country that the government felt
obliged to bring in a bill suspending the habeas corpus act, which the
chancellor of the exchequer eloquently supported. His conversion to
Liberal views was during this session seen in bringing in a measure for
the abolition of compulsory church-rates, in aid of Dissenters; but
before it could be carried through its various stages a change of
ministry had taken place on another issue, and the Conservatives again
came into power, with Lord Derby for prime minister and Disraeli for
chancellor of the exchequer and leader of his party in the House
of Commons.

This fall of the Liberal ministry was brought about by the Reform Bill,
which Lord Russell had prepared, and which was introduced by the
chancellor of the exchequer amid unparalleled excitement. Finance
measures lost their interest in the fierceness of the political combat.
It was not so important a measure as that of the reform of 1832 in its
political consequences, but it was of importance enough to enlist
absorbing interest throughout the kingdom; it would have added four
hundred thousand new voters. While it satisfied the Liberals, it was
regarded by the Conservatives as a dangerous concession, opening the
doors too widely to the people. Its most brilliant and effective
opponent was Mr. Lowe, whose oratory raised him at once to fame and
influence. Seldom has such eloquence been heard in the House of Commons,
and from all the leading debaters on both sides. Mr. Gladstone outdid
himself, but perhaps was a little too profuse with his Latin quotations.
The debate was continued for eight successive nights. The final division
was the largest ever known: the government found itself in a minority of
eleven, and consequently resigned. Lord Derby, as has been said, was
again prime minister.

The memorable rivalry between Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Disraeli was now
continued in deeper earnest, and never ceased so long as the latter
statesman was a member of the House of Commons, They were recognized to
be the heads of their respective parties,--two giants in debate; two
great parliamentary gladiators, on whom the eyes of the nation rested.
Mr. Gladstone was the more earnest, the more learned, and the more solid
in his blows. Mr. Disraeli was the more adroit, the more witty, and the
more brilliant in his thrusts. Both were equally experienced. The one
appealed to justice and truth; the other to the prejudices of the House
and the pride of a nation of classes. One was armed with a heavy dragoon
sword; the other with a light rapier, which he used with extraordinary
skill. Mr. G.W.E. Russell, in his recent "Life of Gladstone," quotes the
following passage from a letter of Lord Houghton, May, 1867:--

"I met Gladstone at breakfast. He seems quite awed with the diabolical
cleverness of Dizzy, 'who,' he says, 'is gradually driving all ideas of
political honor out of the House, and accustoming it to the most
revolting cynicism,' There is no doubt that a sense of humor has always
been conspicuously absent from Mr. Gladstone's character."

Sometimes one of these rival leaders was on the verge of victory and
sometimes the other, and both equally gained the applause of the
spectators. Two such combatants had not been seen since the days of Pitt
and Fox,--one, the champion of the people; the other, of the
aristocracy. What each said was read the next day by every family in the
land. Both were probably greatest in opposition, since more
unconstrained. Of the two, Disraeli was superior in the control of his
temper and in geniality of disposition, making members roar with
laughter by his off-hand vituperation and ingenuity in inventing
nicknames. Gladstone was superior in sustained reasoning, in lofty
sentiments, and in the music of his voice, accompanied by that solemnity
of manner which usually passes for profundity and the index of deep
convictions. As for rhetorical power, it would be difficult to say which
was the superior,--though the sentences of both were too long. It would
also be difficult to tell which of the two was the more ambitious and
more tenacious of office. Both, it is said, bade for popularity in the
measures they proposed. Both were politicians. There is, indeed, a great
difference between politicians and statesmen; but a man may be politic
without ceasing to be a lover of his country, like Lord Palmerston
himself; and a man may advocate large and comprehensive views of
statesmanship which are neither popular nor appreciated.

The new Conservative ministry was a short one. Coming into power on the
defeat of the Liberal reform bill introduced by Mr. Gladstone, the Tory
government recognized the popular demand on which that bill had been
based; and though Mr. Disraeli coolly introduced a reform bill of their
own which was really more radical than the Liberal bill had been, and
although at the hands of the opposition it was so modified that the Duke
of Buccleuch declared that the only word unaltered was the initial
"whereas," its passage was claimed as a great Conservative victory.
Shortly after this, the Earl of Derby retired on account of ill-health,
and was succeeded by Mr. Disraeli as premier; but the current of
Liberalism set in so strongly in the ensuing elections that he was
forced to resign in 1868, and Mr. Gladstone now for the first time
became prime minister.

This was the golden period of Gladstone's public services. During
Disraeli's short lease of power, Gladstone had carried the abolition of
compulsory church-rates, and had moved, with great eloquence, the
disestablishment of the English Church in Ireland. On the latter
question Parliament was dissolved, and an appeal made to the country;
and the triumphant success of the Liberals brought Mr. Gladstone into
power with the brightest prospects for the cause to which he was now
committed. He was fifty-nine years old before he reached the supreme
object of his ambition,--to rule England; but in accordance with law,
and in the interest of truth and justice. In England the strongest man
can usually, by persevering energy, reach the highest position to which
a subject may aspire. In the United States, political ambition is
defeated by rivalries and animosities. Practically the President reigns,
like absolute kings, "by the grace of God,"--as it would seem when so
many ordinary men, and even obscure, are elevated to the highest place,
and when these comparatively unknown men often develop when elected the
virtues and abilities of a Saul or a David, as in the cases of Lincoln
and Garfield.

So great was the popularity of Mr. Gladstone at this time, so profound
was the respect he inspired for his lofty character, his abilities, his
vast and varied learning, his unimpeachable integrity and conscientious
discharge of his duties, that for five years he was virtually dictator,
wielding more power than any premier since Pitt, if we except Sir Robert
Peel in his glory. He was not a dictator in the sense that Metternich or
Bismarck was,--not a grand vizier, the vicegerent of an absolute
monarch, controlling the foreign policy, the army, the police, and the
national expenditures. He could not send men to prison without a trial,
or interfere with the peaceful pursuits of obnoxious citizens; but he
could carry out any public measure he proposed affecting the general
interests, for Parliament was supreme, and his influence ruled the
Parliament. He was liable to disagreeable attacks from members of the
opposition, and could not silence them; he might fall before their
attacks; but while he had a great majority of members to back him,
ready to do his bidding, he stood on a proud pedestal and undoubtedly
enjoyed the sweets of power. He would not have been human if he had not.

Yet Mr. Gladstone carried his honors with dignity and discretion. He was
accessible to all who had claims upon his time; he was never rude or
insolent; he was gracious and polite to delegations; he was too
kind-hearted to snub anybody. No cares of office could keep him from
attending public worship; no popular amusements diverted him from his
duties; he was feared only as a father is feared. I can conceive that he
was sometimes intolerant of human infirmities; that no one dared to
obtrude familiarities or make unseemly jokes in his presence; that few
felt quite at ease in his company,--oppressed by his bearing, and awed
by his prodigious respectability and grave solemnity. Not that he was
arrogant and haughty, like a Roman cardinal or an Oxford Don; he was
simply dignified and undemonstrative, like a man absorbed with weighty
responsibilities. I doubt if he could unbend at the dinner-table like
Disraeli and Palmerston, or tell stories like Sydney Smith, or drink too
much wine with jolly companions, or forget for a moment the proper and
the conventional. I can see him sporting with children, or taking long
walks, or cutting down trees for exercise, or given to deep draughts of
old October when thirsty; but to see him with a long pipe, or dallying
with ladies, or giving vent to unseemly expletives, or retailing
scandals,--these and other disreputable follies are utterly
inconceivable of Mr. Gladstone. A very serious man may be an object of
veneration; but he is a constant rebuke to the weaknesses of our common
humanity,--a wet blanket upon frivolous festivities.

Let us now briefly glance at the work done by Gladstone during the five
years when in his first premiership he directed the public affairs of
England,--impatient of opposition, and sensitive to unjust aspersions,
yet too powerful to be resisted in the supreme confidence of his party.

The first thing of note he did was to complete the disestablishment of
the Irish Church,--an arduous task to any one lacking Mr. Gladstone's
extraordinary influence. Here he was at war with his former friends, and
with a large section of the Conservative party,--especially with
ecclesiastical dignitaries, who saw in this measure hostility to the
Church as well as a national sin. It was a dissolution of the union
between the Churches of England and Ireland; a divestment of the
temporalities which the Irish clergy had enjoyed; the abolition of all
ecclesiastical corporations and laws and courts in Ireland,--in short,
the sweeping away of the annuities which the beneficed clergy had
hitherto received out of the property of the Established Church, which
annuities were of the nature of freeholds. It was not proposed to
deprive the clergy of their income, so long as they discharged their
clerical duties; but that the title to their tithes should be vested in
commissioners, so that these church freeholds could not be bought and
sold by non-residents, and churches in decadence should be taken from
incumbents. The peerage rights of Irish bishops were also taken away. It
was not proposed to touch private endowments; and glebe-houses which had
become generally dilapidated were handed over to incumbents by their
paying a fair valuation. Not only did the measure sweep away the abuses
of the Establishment which had existed for centuries,--such as
endowments held by those who performed no duties, which they could
dispose of like other property,--but the _regium donum_ given to
Presbyterian ministers and the Maynooth Catholic College grant, which
together amounted to L70,000, were also withdrawn, although compensated
on the same principles as those which granted a settled stipend to the
actual incumbents of the disestablished churches.

By this measure, the withdrawal of tithes and land rents and other
properties amounted to sixteen millions; and after paying ministers and
actual incumbents their stipends of between seven or eight millions,
there would remain a surplus of seven or eight millions, with which Mr.
Gladstone proposed to endow lunatic and idiot asylums, schools for the
deaf, dumb, and blind, institutions for the training of nurses, for
infirmaries, and hospitals for the needy people of Ireland.

There can be no rational doubt that this reform was beneficent, and it
met the approval of the Liberal party, being supported with a grand
eloquence by John Bright, who had under this ministry for the first time
taken office,--as President of the Board of Trade; but it gave umbrage
to the Irish clergy as a matter of course, to the Presbyterians of
Ulster, to the Catholics as affecting Maynooth, and to the conservatives
of Oxford and Cambridge on general principles. It was a reform not
unlike that of Thomas Cromwell in the time of Henry VIII., when he
dissolved the monasteries, though not quite so violent as the
secularization of church property in France in the time of the
Revolution. It was a spoliation, in one sense, as well as a needed
reform,--a daring and bold measure, which such statesmen as Lords
Liverpool, Aberdeen, and Palmerston would have been slow to make, and
the weak points of which Disraeli was not slow to assail. To the radical
Dissenters, as led by Mr. Miall, it was a grateful measure, which would
open the door for future discussions on the disestablishment of the
English Church itself,--a logical contingency which the premier did not
seem to appreciate; for if the State had a right to take away the
temporalities of the Irish Church when they were abused, the State would
have an equal right to take away those of the English Church should they
hereafter turn out to be unnecessary, or become a scandal in the eyes of
the nation.

One would think that this disestablishment of the Irish Church would
have been the last reform which a strict churchman like Gladstone would
have made; certainly it was the last for a politic statesman to make,
for it brought forth fruit in the next general election. It is true that
the Irish Establishment had failed in every way, as Mr. Bright showed in
one of his eloquent speeches, and to remove it was patriotic. If Mr.
Gladstone had his eyes open, however, to its natural results as
affecting his own popularity, he deserves the credit of being the most
unselfish and lofty statesman that ever adorned British annals.

Having thus in 1869 removed one important grievance in the affairs of
Ireland, Mr. Gladstone soon proceeded to another, and in February, 1870,
brought forward, in a crowded House, his Irish Land Bill. The evil which
he had in view to cure was the insecurity of tenure, which resulted in
discouraging and paralyzing the industry of tenants, especially in the
matter of evictions for non-payment of rent, and the raising of rents on
land which had been improved by them. As they were liable at any time
to be turned out of their miserable huts, the rents had only doubled in
value in ninety years; whereas in England and Scotland, where there was
more security of tenure, rents had quadrupled. This insecurity and
uncertainty had resulted in a great increase of pauperism in Ireland,
and prevented any rise in wages, although there was increased expense of
living. The remedy proposed to alleviate in some respect the condition
of the Irish tenants was the extension of their leases to thirty-three
years, and the granting national assistance to such as desired to
purchase the lands they had previously cultivated, according to a scale
of prices to be determined by commissioners,--thus making improvements
the property of the tenants who had made them rather than of the
landlord, and encouraging the tenants by longer leases to make such
improvements. Mr. Gladstone's bill also extended to twelve months the
time for notices to quit, bearing a stamp duty of half-a-crown. This
measure on the part of the government was certainly a relief, as far as
it went, to the poor people of Ireland. It became law on August 1, 1870.

The next important measure of Mr. Gladstone was to abolish the custom of
buying and selling commissions in the army, which provoked bitter
opposition from the aristocracy. It was maintained by the government
that the whole system of purchase was unjust, and tended to destroy the
efficiency of the army by preventing the advancement of officers
according to merit. In no other country was such a mistake committed. It
is true that the Prussian and Austrian armies were commanded by officers
from the nobility; but these officers had not the unfair privilege of
jumping over one another's heads by buying promotion. The bill, though
it passed the Commons, was thrown out by the Lords, who wished to keep
up the aristocratic quality of army officers, among whom their younger
sons were enrolled. Mr. Gladstone cut the knot by advising her Majesty
to take the decisive step of cancelling the royal warrant under
which--and not by law--purchase had existed. This calling on the Queen
to do by virtue of her royal prerogative what could not be done by
ordinary legislation, though not unconstitutional, was unusual. True, a
privilege which royalty had granted, royalty could revoke; but in
removing this evil Mr. Gladstone still further alienated the army and
the aristocracy.

Among other measures which the premier carried for the public good, but
against bitter opposition, were the secret ballot, and the removal of
University Tests, by which all lay students of whatever religious creed
were admitted to the universities on equal terms. The establishment of
national and compulsory elementary education, although not emanating
from Mr. Gladstone, was also accomplished during his government.

It now began to be apparent that the policy of the prime minister was
reform wherever reform was needed. There was no telling what he would do
next. Had he been the prime minister of an absolute monarch he would
have been unfettered, and could have carried out any reform which his
royal master approved. But the English are conservative and slow to
change, no matter what party they belong to. It seemed to many that the
premier was iconoclastic, and was bent on demolishing anything and
everything which he disliked. Consequently a reaction set in, and Mr.
Gladstone's popularity, by which he had ruled almost as dictator,
began to wane.

The settlement of the Alabama Claims did not add to his popularity.
Everybody knows what these were, and I shall merely allude to them.
During our Civil War, injuries had been inflicted on the commerce of the
United States by cruisers built, armed, and manned in Great Britain, not
only destroying seventy of our vessels, but by reason of the fear of
shippers, resulting in a transfer of trade from American to British
ships. It having been admitted by commissioners sent by Mr. Gladstone to
Washington, that Great Britain was to blame for these and other injuries
of like character, the amount of damages for which she was justly
liable was submitted to arbitration; and the International Court at
Geneva decided that England was bound to pay to the United States more
than fifteen million dollars in gold. The English government promptly
paid the money, although regarding the award as excessive; but while the
judicious rejoiced to see an arbitrament of reason instead of a resort
to war, the pugnacious British populace was discontented, and again
Gladstone lost popularity.

And here it may be said that the foreign policy of Mr. Gladstone was
pacific from first to last. He opposed the Crimean war; he kept clear of
entangling alliances; he maintained a strict neutrality in Eastern
complications, and in the Franco-German embroilment; he never stimulated
the passion of military glory; he ever maintained that--

"There is a higher than the warrior's excellence."

He was devoted to the development of national resources and the removal
of evils which militated against justice as well as domestic prosperity.
His administration, fortunately, was marked by no foreign war. Under his
guidance the nation had steadily advanced in wealth, and was not
oppressed by taxation; he had promoted education as wall as material
thrift; he had attempted to heal disorders in Ireland by benefiting the
tenant class. But he at last proposed a comprehensive scheme for
enlarging higher education in Ireland, which ended his administration.

The Irish University Bill, which as an attempted compromise between
Catholic and Protestant demands satisfied neither party, met with such
unexpected opposition that a majority of three was obtained against the
government. Mr. Gladstone was, in accordance with custom, compelled to
resign or summon a new Parliament. He accepted the latter alternative;
but he did not seem aware of the great change in public sentiment which
had taken place in regard to his reforms. Not one of them had touched
the heart of the great mass, or was of such transcendent importance to
the English people as the repeal of the corn laws had been. They were
measures of great utility,--indeed, based on justice,--but were of a
kind to alienate powerful classes without affecting universal interests.
They were patriotic rather than politic. Moreover, he was not supported
by lieutenants of first-class ability or reputation. His immediate
coadjutors were most respectable men, great scholars, and men of more
experience than genius or eloquence. Of his cabinet, eight of them it is
said were "double-firsts" at Oxford. There was not one of them
sufficiently trained or eminent to take his place. They were his
subordinates rather than his colleagues; and some of them became
impatient under his dictation, and witnessed his decline in popularity
with secret satisfaction. No government was ever started on an ambitious
course with louder pretensions or brighter promises than Mr. Gladstone's
cabinet in 1868. In less than three years their glory was gone. It was
claimed that the bubble of oratory had burst when in contact with fact,
and the poor English people had awoke to the dreary conviction that it
was but vapor after all; that Mr. Disraeli had pricked that bubble when
he said, "Under his influence [Gladstone's] we have legalized
confiscation, we have consecrated sacrilege, we have condoned treason,
we have destroyed churches, we have shaken property to its foundation,
and we have emptied jails."

Everything went against the government. Russia had torn up the Black Sea
treaty, the fruit of the Crimean war; the settlement of the "Alabama"
claims was humiliating; "the generous policy which was to have won the
Irish heart had exasperated one party without satisfying another. He had
irritated powerful interests on all sides, from the army to the licensed

On the appeal to the nation, contrary to Mr. Gladstone's calculations,
there was a great majority against him. He had lost friends and made
enemies. The people seemingly forgot his services,--his efforts to give
dignity to honest labor, to stimulate self-denial, to reduce unwise
expenditures, to remove crying evils. They forgot that he had reduced
taxation to the extent of twelve millions sterling annually; and all the
while the nation had been growing richer, so that the burdens which had
once been oppressive were now easy to bear. It would almost appear that
even Gladstone's transcendent eloquence had lost in a measure its charm
when Disraeli, in one of his popular addresses, was applauded for saying
that he was "a sophistical rhetorician inebriated with the exuberance of
his own verbosity, and gifted with an egotistical imagination that can
at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of
arguments to malign his opponents and to glorify himself,"--one of the
most exaggerated and ridiculous charges that was ever made against a
public man of eminence, yet witty and plausible.

On the retirement of the great statesman from office in 1875, in sadness
and chagrin, he declined to continue to be the leader of his party in
opposition. His disappointment and disgust must have been immense to
prompt a course which seemed to be anything but magnanimous, since he
well knew that there was no one capable of taking his place; but he
probably had his reasons. For some time he rarely went to the House of
Commons. He left the leaders of his party to combat an opponent whom he
himself had been unable to disarm. Fortunately no questions came up of
sufficient importance to arouse a nation or divert it from its gains or
its pleasures. It was thinking of other things than budgets and the
small extension of the suffrage, or even of the Eastern question. It was
thinking more of steamships and stock speculations and great financial
operations, of theatres, of operas, of new novels, even of ritualistic
observances in the churches, than of the details of government in
peaceful times, or the fireworks of the great magician who had by arts
and management dethroned a greater and wiser man than himself.

Although Mr. Gladstone was only occasionally seen, after his retirement,
in the House of Commons, it must not be supposed that his political
influence was dead. When anything of special interest was to be
discussed, he was ready as before with his voice and vote. Such a
measure as the bill to regulate public worship--aimed at suppressing
ritualism--aroused his ecclesiastical interest, and he was voluminous
upon it, both in and out of Parliament. Even when he was absent from his
seat, his influence remained, and in all probability the new leader of
the Liberals, Lord Hartington, took counsel from him. He was simply
taking a rest before he should gird on anew his armor, and resume the
government of the country.

Meantime, his great rival Disraeli led his party with consummate skill.
He was a perfect master of tactics, wary, vigilant, courteous,
good-natured, seizing every opportunity to gain a party triumph. He was
also judicious in his selection of ministers, nor did he attempt to lord
it over them. He showed extraordinary tact in everything, and in nothing
more than in giving a new title to the Queen as Empress of India. But no
measures of engrossing interest were adopted during his administration.
He was content to be a ruler rather than a reformer. He was careful to
nurse his popularity, and make no parliamentary mistakes. At the end of
two years, however, his labors and cares told seriously on his health.
He had been in Parliament since 1837; he was seventy-one years of age,
and he found it expedient to accept the gracious favor of his sovereign,
and to retire to the House of Lords, with the title of Earl of
Beaconsfield, yet retaining the office of prime minister.

During the five years that Mr. Gladstone remained in retirement, he was
by no means idle, or a silent spectator of political events. He was
indefatigable with his pen, and ever ready with speeches for the
platform and with addresses to public bodies. During this period three
new Reviews were successfuly started,--the "Fortnightly," the
"Contemporary," and the "Nineteenth Century,"--to all of which he was a
frequent contributor, on a great variety of subjects. His articles were
marked by characteristic learning and ability, and vastly increased his
literary reputation. I doubt, however, if they will be much noticed by
posterity. Nothing is more ephemeral than periodical essays, unless
marked by extraordinary power both in style and matter, like the essays
of Macaulay and Carlyle. Gladstone's articles would make the fortune of
ordinary writers, but they do not stand out, as we should naturally
expect, as brilliant masterpieces, which everybody reads and glows while
reading them. Indeed, most persons find them rather dry, whether from
the subject or the style I will not undertake to say. But a great man
cannot be uniformly great or even always interesting. How few men at
seventy will give themselves the trouble to write at all, when there is
no necessity, just to relieve their own minds, or to instruct without
adequate reward! Michael Angelo labored till eighty-seven, and Titian
till over ninety; but they were artists who worked from the love of art,
restless without new creations. Perhaps it might also be said of
Gladstone that he wrote because he could not help writing, since he knew
almost everything worth knowing, and was fond of telling what he knew.

At length Mr. Gladstone emerged again from retirement, to assume the
helm of State. When he left office in 1875, he had bequeathed a surplus
to the treasury of nearly six millions; but this, besides the
accumulation of over five millions more, had been spent in profitless
and unnecessary wars. In 1876 a revolt against Turkish rule broke out in
Bulgaria, and was suppressed with truly Turkish bloodthirstiness and
outrage. "The Bulgarian atrocities" became a theme of discussion
throughout Europe; and in England, while Disraeli and his government
made light of them, Gladstone was aroused to all his old-time vigor by
his humanitarian indignation. Says Russell: "He made the most
impassioned speeches, often in the open air; he published pamphlets,
which rushed into incredible circulations; he poured letter after letter
into the newspapers; he darkened the sky with controversial post-cards;
and, as soon as Parliament met, he was ready with all his unequalled
resources of eloquence, argumentation, and inconvenient inquiry, to
drive home his great indictment against the Turkish government and its
friends and champions in the House of Commons."

Four years of this vigorous bombardment, which included in its objects
the whole range of Disraeli's "brilliant foreign policy" of threat and
bluster, produced its effect, A popular song of the day gave a nickname
to this policy:--

"We don't want to fight, but, by Jingo, if we do,
We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money, too."

And _Jingoism_ became in the mouths of the Liberals a keen weapon of
satire. The government gained the applause of aristocrats and populace,
but lost that of the plain people.

The ninth Victorian Parliament was dying out, and a new election was at
hand. Mr. Gladstone, now at the age of seventy, went to Edinburgh, the
centre of Scottish conservatism, and in several masterly and memorable
speeches, showing that his natural vigor of mind and body had not
abated, he exposed the mistakes and shortcomings of the existing
government and presented the boons which a new Liberal ministry were
prepared to give. And when in 1880 the dissolution of Parliament took
place, he again went to Scotland and offered himself for the county of
Edinburgh, or Midlothian, making a series of astonishing speeches, and
was returned as its representative. The general elections throughout the
kingdom showed that the tide had again turned. There was an immense
Liberal gain. The Earl of Beaconsfield placed his resignation in the
hands of the Queen, and Gladstone was sent for,--once more to be prime
minister of England.

And here I bring to a close this imperfect notice of one of the greatest
men of modern times,--hardly for lack of sufficient material, but
because it is hard to find a proper perspective in viewing matters which
are still the subject of heated contest and turmoil. Once again
Gladstone was seated on the summit of power, and with every prospect of
a long-continued reign. Although an old man, his vigor of mind and body
had not abated. He was never stronger, apparently, than when he was past
seventy years of age. At no previous period of his life was his fame so
extended or his moral influence so great. Certainly no man in England
was more revered than he or more richly deserved his honors. He entered
upon his second premiership with the veneration of the intelligent and
liberal-minded patriots of the realm, and great things were expected
from so progressive and lofty a minister. The welfare of the country it
was undoubtedly his desire and ambition to promote.

But his second administration was not successful. Had the aged premier
been content to steer his ship of State in placid waters, nothing would
have been wanting to gratify moderate desires. It was not, however,
inglorious repose he sought, but to confer a boon for which all future
ages would honor his memory.

That boon was seemingly beyond his power. The nation was not prepared to
follow him in his plans for Irish betterment. Indeed, he aroused English
opposition by his proposed changes of land-tenure in Ireland, and Irish
anger by attempted coercion in suppressing crime and disorder. This, and
the unfortunate policy of his government in Egypt, brought him to
parliamentary defeat; and he retired in June, 1885, declining at the
same time the honor of an earldom proffered by the Queen. The ministry
was wrecked on the rock which has proved so dangerous to all British
political navigators for a hundred years. No human genius seems capable
of solving the Irish question. It is apparently no nearer solution than
it was in the days of William Pitt. In attempts to solve the problem,
Mr. Gladstone found himself opposed by the aristocracy, by the Church,
by the army, by men of letters, by men of wealth throughout the country.
Lord Salisbury succeeded him; but only for a few months, and in January,
1886, Mr. Gladstone was for the third time called to the premiership. He
now advanced a step, and proposed the startling policy of Home Rule for
Ireland in matters distinctly Irish; but his following would not hold
together on the issue, and in June he retired again.

From then until 1891 he was not in office, but he was indefatigably
working with voice and pen for the Irish cause. He made in his
retirement many converts to his opinions, and was again elevated to
power on the Irish question as an issue in 1891. Yet the English on the
whole seem to be against him in his Irish policy, which is denounced as
unpractical, and which his opponents even declare to be on his part an
insincere policy, entered upon and pursued solely as a bid for power.
It is generally felt among the upper classes that no concession and no
boons would satisfy the Irish short of virtual independence of British
rule. If political rights could be separated from political power there
might be more hope of settling the difficulty, which looks like a
conflict between justice and wisdom. The sympathy of Americans is mostly
on the side of the "grand old man" in his Herculean task, even while
they admit that self-government in our own large cities is a dismal
failure from the balance of power which is held by foreigners,--by the
Irish in the East, and by the Germans in the West. And those who see the
rapid growth of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States,
especially in those sections of the country where Puritanism once had
complete sway, and the immense political power wielded by Roman Catholic
priests, can understand why the conservative classes of England are
opposed to the recognition of the political rights of a people who might
unite with socialists and radicals in overturning the institutions on
which the glory and prospects of a great nation are believed to be
based. The Catholics in Ireland constitute about seven-eighths of the
population, and English Protestants fear to deliver the thrifty
Protestant minority into the hands of the great majority armed with the
tyrannical possibilities of Home Rule. It is indeed a many-sided and
difficult problem. There are instincts in nations, as among individuals,
which reason fails to overcome, even as there are some subjects in
reference to which experience is a safer guide than genius or logic.

Little by little, however, at each succeeding election the Liberal party
gained strength, not only in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but even in
England also, and their power in Parliament increased; until, in 1893,
after a long and memorable contest, the Commons passed Mr. Gladstone's
Home Rule bill by a pronounced majority. Then it was thrown out by the
Lords, with very brief consideration. This, and other overrulings of the
Lower House by the Peers, aroused deep feeling throughout the nation. In
March, 1894, the venerable Gladstone, whose impaired hearing and sight
warned him that a man of eighty-five--even though a giant--should no
longer bear the burdens of empire, retired from the premiership, his
last speech being a solemn intimation of the issues that must soon arise
if the House of Lords persisted in obstructing the will of the people,
as expressed in the acts of their immediate representatives in the House
of Commons.

But, whatever the outcome of the Irish question, the claim of William
Ewart Gladstone to a high rank among the ruling statesmen of Modern
Europe cannot be gainsaid. Moreover, as his influence has been so
forceful a part of the great onward-moving modern current of democratic
enlargement,--and in Great Britain one of its most discreet and potent
directors,--his fame is secure; it is unalterably a part of the noblest
history of the English people.[5]

[Footnote 5: Mr. Gladstone died May 19, 1898. Perhaps at once the most
intimate and comprehensive account of him is "The Story of Gladstone's
Life," by Justin McCarthy.]


There is no exhaustive or satisfactory work on Gladstone which has yet
been written. The reader must confine himself at present to the popular
sketches, which are called biographies, of Gladstone, of Disraeli, of
Palmerston, of Peel, and other English statesmen. He may consult with
profit the Reviews of the last twenty-five years in reference to English
political affairs. For technical facts one must consult the Annual
Register. The time has not yet come for an impartial review of the great
actors in this generation on the political stage of either Europe
or America.


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