Fifth Series, Volume XLVIII,


No. 2112. – December 13, 1884.

| From Beginning,


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Fortnightly Review, II. AT ANY Cost. Part VI.,

Sunday Magazine,

Blackwood's Magazine,

Macmillan's Magazine,



All The Year Round, .

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From The Fortnightly Review. plished far more gradually and laboriously MR. GLADSTONE.

than in the case of Sir Robert Peel. The place which will ultimately be as. During the debates on the Irish Church signed to Mr. Gladstone in the ranks of Act, the severest reproach which Mr. English statesmen can only be fixed by Disraeli could bring against the author of one who is prophet as well as critic. At the measure was that be had formerly the present moment he is seen by oppo- been a champion of the Protestant Estab. nents, and even by friends, through so lishment in Ireland, and that he had disturbing a mediumn of prejudice and spoken in its favor when an undergradpartiality; he is presented to the public, uate at Oxford. Neither Mr. Disraeli nor by those who pass judgment upon him, in any one else could taunt Mr. Gladstone so grotesque and inconsistent a variety of with having, like Peel, been returned to aspects and disguises; he is to such an power to give effect to one policy and extent the victim of contradictory and then espousing and executing another. antagonistic superlatives; above all, the To say this is not to bring any charge exact quality of his influence upon the against the memory of one of the greatest course of events, and the members of his ministers of the century, and, according party, is so difficult to define; the results, to Lord George Bentinck's biographer, in some cases even the tendencies, of his "the greatest member of Parliament who statesmanship are so incalculable, that ever lived.” Peel's hand was forced by only the very rash, foolish, and ignorant famine. The arguments with which imwould presume to anticipate the verdict minent pestilence, bred of starvation, and of posterity on the prime minister. It is the murmurs of approaching revolution a task at once less perilous and more supplied him, were unanswerable. He profitable, to measure and classify the would have been no true patriot or states. attributes by which he has acquired the man if he had held out against them. position he now holds; to summarize a But though the desertion of his principles few of the idiosyncrasies of a man who is was prescribed by a destiny whose de. admitted by his bitterest detractors and crees he could not withstand, the fact of enemies to be a commanding force in the their unexpectedly sudden desertion re. political life of England; to define some mains. IL Mr. Gladstone's position has respects in which he differs from the most been established on the ruins of his old distinguished of his contemporaries, and beliefs; if he destroyed that Irish Church some peculiarities which, as he is nearing of which he was once the enthusiastic the completion of his seventy-fifth year, advocate ; if, in other fields of legislation, have accompanied the successive stages be has led his followers to the attack of of his political development.

strongholds which he once defended, It is now just one month less than fifty. it ha: be after due notice and upon two years that Mr. Gladstone entered clear and unambiguous pretences. In “A Parliament as Tory member for Newark. Chapter of Autobiography" he has demon. Since then he has travelled the whole dis strated the processes by which he arrived tance which separates the early Toryism at the conclusion that the Established of Sir Robert Peel from the Liberalism of Church in Ireland, which he had formerly Cobden and Bright, and far more than held reconcilable with civil and national the distance which separated Sir Robert justice, could not be perpetuated without Peel's protectionism from bis conversion gross injustice. His original case, be to free trade. The contrast between Sir says, was that “the Church of Ireland Robert Peel and Mr. Gladstone, and be. must be maintained for the benefit of the tween Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Bright, is whole people of Ireland, and must be striking. The changes of opinion under maintained as the truth, or it cannot be gone by Sir Robert Peel are surpassed in maintained at all.” The latter condition the changes illustrated in the career of was violated by the Maynooth grant; the the prime minister. But in the case of former was disposed of by existing facts. Mr. Gladstone they have been accom.1“ I never held," writes Mr. Gladstone in

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this Chapter, “that a national Church | tered public life, he had but an imperfect should be permanently maintained except sense of the ineffable blessings of liberty. for the nation. I mean: either for the This deficiency was not unnatural to one whole of it, or at least for the greater part, who had been brought up in the straitest with some kind of real concurrence or school of authority and tradition, and who general acquiescence from the remain in early manhood was, in Macaulay's fa. der." *

This language explains how it miliar words, “the rising hope of the stern was that in the spring of 1868, in the and unbending Tories." As men rise debate on Mr. Maguire's motion, Mr. on stepping-stones of their dead selves Gladstone first declared that “for the set to higher things, so Mr. Gladstone has tlement of the Irish Church, that Church throughout his whole public life been enas a State Church must cease to exist." gaged in bursting, and disentangling him. Mr. Disraeli's comment was that “the self from, the cerements of his dead faiths. right honorable gentleman had come upon Whether he would have been greater or them all of a sudden like a thief in the less than he is but for this progressive night.”. But this suddenness and it movement of his mind may be questioned ; was naturally exaggerated by the Tory it is certain that he is indebted to it for leader was an entirely different thing much of the power which he exercises from the adoption of a policy the exact over those who are associated with him, opposite of which his party and the country however remotely or indirectly, in public had entrusted to a minister; and when life. It is because Mr. Gladstone has Mr. Gladstone came into office six months been so consistently inconsistent, because later, it was with a special commission to the continuity of his views and beliefs has disestablish the Irish Church.

known such decisive, if slowly consum. The contrast between Mr. Gladstone mated, solutions, that he has carried with and Mr. Bright is even more strongly him so large a group of politicians, and so marked than that between Mr. Gladstone overwhelming a majority of the English and Sir Robert Peel. As he now draws people. The process of self-education has towards the end of his career Mr. Bright enabled him effectually to educate others. cannot be charged with having abandoned, Those who have themselves learned slowviolated, or withdrawn a single principle ly, at school or college, were declared by that he ever proclaimed. Not a flaw of Dr. Arnold to make the best schoolmasinconsistency or blemish of self-contradicters, because they could most easily place tion is to be seen in his whole career. themselves in the position of unrecepOthers have come round to him ; he has tive schoolboys. The wealth of words lived to behold the convictions, which he which Mr. Gladstone expends upon any firmly embraced and which were con- proposal he introduces to the House of demned as extravagant and absurd, incor. Commons; the variety of the points of porated into the accepted doctrines of the view from which he looks at it; his minute Liberal party and of all parties, and into weighing of every sort of counter consid. the unquestioned traditions of English eration; the nice and, as they may seem, policy. But though Mr. Gladstone's rec. the tedious and sophistical distinctions ord and retrospect are of the most oppo- which he draws between shades of thought site character, his mutations have never and forms of words, - each of these re. had anything in them of vacillation; they fects or suggests some experience of his have partaken from the first of the nature owo mental discipline. There are few of a slow growth, and have indicated the objections to any policy or scheme of leg. successive periods of an intellectual de-islation which he has not appreciated, and velopment. Slowly, but with the certainty which consequently he does not set him. of daybreak, his horizon has expanded. self to remove. For this reason he is in He has himself told us that when he en- bis treatment of public topics the least

dogmatic of statesmen. Mr. Bright, who * Gleanings of Past Years, vol. vii., pp. 112, 113,

has neither receded from nor advanced beyond the tenets with which he first en.


and seg.

tered public life, cannot avoid a certain | bis contemporaries in his power of interautocracy and absolutism in a statement preting, and placing himself at the head of opinion. He has been troubled with of, public feeling, when it is deeply moved. no doubts, and even his fertile imagination The Bulgarian atrocities supplied him with can make little allowance for doubters. one of those opportunities exactly conBut it is to the doubters, the most illus- genial to his character and gifts. His two trious of whom he himself has been, that Midlothian campaigns, whether in their Mr. Gladstone chiefly addresses himself. oratorical labors or in the results that fol. Hence the extraordinary complexity and lowed them, form a monument which sup. comprehensiveness of his argumentation ;plies a fair measure of the greatness of hence what may be called the metaphysi- the man.

He took his stand upon gencal quality in his eloquence, the subtle eral principles, upon those elementary series of appeals to the consciousness of ideas of justice, of humanity, which all his hearers which runs like an undertone can understand, and which he had, in his through his most splendid orations, and reply to Lord Palmerston thirty years which is perhaps the secret of their occa- earlier during the Don Pacifico debate, sional verbosity and even obscurity. clearly foreshadowed. This reply is so

Whatever history may say of Mr. Glad remarkable, so appositely prophetic of the stone it will not say that he was a perfect attitude which in foreign policy Mr. Gladleader of the House of Commons. He stone has since repeatedly assumed, and fails to be this for the very reasons which so comparatively little known, that no make him a great popular leader in the apology need be offered for quoting an country. He understands more of man in extract from it here: the abstract than of man in the concrete; more of the passions which sway bumanity

The noble Lord [Lord Palmerston] vaunted, in the bulk, than of the motives to which amid the cheers of his supporters, that under individuals are amenable, and the treat

his administration an Englishman should be,

throughout the world, what the citizen of Rome ment to be applied to them. He is at his

had been. But, I ask, what then was a Roman best when he is the exponent not so much

citizen ? He was a member of a privileged of the policy of a party as of the ideas caste; he belonged to a conquering race, to a which animate that policy, and which touch nation that held all nations bound down by the the heart of nations. It was not till he hand of imperial power. For him there was to had made his famous “flesh-and-blood” be an exceptional system of law; for him speech that Mr. Gladstone was really rec. principles were to be asserted and rights were ognized as a great popular leader, and to be enjoyed, that were denied to the rest of struck a responsive chord that still vi- the world. Is such, then, the view of the brates in the breasts of the English peo- noble lord as to the relation that is to subsist

between England and other countries ? Does ple. He had hitherto been best known as

he make the claim for us that we are to be upa financier, as the greatest chancellor of lifted on a platform high above the standingthe exchequer England ever had, and as

ground of other nations? It is indeed too somewhat academic, narrow, and exclu-clear that too much of this notion is lurking in sive in his sympathies and tastes. But his mind; that he adopts, in part, that vain this phrase, to which additional effect was conception that we, forsooth, have a mission given by the glow of the language and the to be the censors of abuses and and imperfecatmosphere of ideas associated with it, tions among the other countries of the world; produced an instantaneous and almost that we are to be the universal schoolmasters, electrical result. The place into which and that all who hesitate to recognize our he may be then said to have leaped, he office should have the war of diplomacy, at has continued to hold. Notwithstanding least, forthwith declared against them. And his temporary retirement and the eclipse is merely to carry on a diplomatic war, all

certainly, if the business of a foreign secretary which, with the metropolitan public, his must admit the perfection of the noble lord in popularity suffered in the melodramatic the discharge of his functions. But it is not days of Jingoism, events have conclusively the duty of a foreign minister to be like a shown that Mr. Gladstone surpasses all | knight-errant, ever pricking forth, armed at all

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