She was incensed that Gladstone believed the monarch served with the permission of Parliament. Gladstone even lectured Queen Victoria on her duties — one of which, in his opinion, was that she should appear more often in public. He did not understand that the Queen became extremely stubborn when coerced, and as a result, they were often at odds. In early , the year-old Gladstone retired from active politics, almost blind and hard of hearing. Gladstone had his last audience with Queen Victoria on February 28, , he chaired his th Cabinet meeting on March 1, , and then gave his last speech in the House of Commons.
He resigned as Prime Minister of March 2, Gladstone remained in the House of Commons until He was not offered a peerage, having earlier declined an earldom. Gladstone holds the distinction as being the oldest person to form a government — aged 82 at his appointment in — and the oldest person to be Prime Minister — 84 years old at his resignation in He had been cared for by his daughter Helen who had resigned her position as vice-principal at Newnham College , a women-only constituent college of the University of Cambridge, to care for her elderly father and mother.
Queen Victoria gave permission for a state funeral and a burial at Westminster Abbey. As a work of political philosophy, ''Notes From the Underground'' is not, of course, worth considering. However, Roy Jenkins's rather neon-lit version of Gladstonian enlightenment makes me want to read it again. It is very funny. Gladstone was born in and died in , and he moved through all the phases of the century.
It is something of a surprise that in his youth he was a religious reactionary, but then so were other men who later became prominent radical liberals -- Victor Hugo, for instance, who swooned away about throne and altar in the 's, a time when an archbishop of Paris could inform the faithful that ''Jesus Christ was not only the Son of God; He was also of aristocratic family on His mother's side.
In the first half of the 19th century, this was not in fact as batty as it now sounds. As the cities grew at extraordinary speed, and enterprising families -- including the Gladstones -- made their money out of exploiting proletarians and even the slave trade, England, Scotland and Ireland all experienced their own versions of the social crisis of the modern age, with Ireland being an early version of the third world.
The church had the infrastructure to deal with some of these problems -- the schools, the hospitals, the welfare organization. Especially, it had the infrastructure to deal with the heart of the whole problem, the demoralization of the proletariat. The state simply did not have such machinery, except, rather marginally, in Scotland. As the century proceeded, the British state had to take on these problems, and Gladstone's political position shifted accordingly.
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He became more and more radical as he went along. The romantic reactionary of the 's ended up, in the 's, promoting the causes of the Irish peasantry and of redistributionist taxation. In , a seminal date in British history, his Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced inheritance taxes, which made a very serious dent in the wealth of the upper classes. There is another curious aspect to Gladstone, one about which this biography is quite revealing: he was the great-grandfather of radical chic, or what the French call gauche caviar.
He himself appeared to be very grand indeed. His father, the inevitable Scotsman whom you find beneath all great Englishmen with very, very few exceptions, had made his money in Liverpool, a center of the slave trade, and then packed the boy off to be turned into an English gentleman. Eton was and is a wonderful school, promoting boys' talents and giving them unshakable self-confidence. Gladstone shone. That incredible Scottish drive, which Americans know so well, had him working extremely hard in an immensely well-disciplined way, which he would describe in diaries that he kept all of his life.
There is apparently no end to his reading -- heavy works on finance, lengthy reviews of German books of biblical scholarship, Jane Austen and George Eliot, Homer and Dante in the original languages. Equally, his social life was extraordinarily full -- it must have helped that in those days a dinner party lasted only an hour and a half. If abroad, he would as a matter of routine take in picture galleries and concerts, having rather a good eye for pictures in particular. A character of this kind is very North British, and can degenerate into what the Australians call the bush intellectual -- the sort of man who, gleaming of eye, can tell you how many nuts and bolts there are in Sydney Harbor Bridge.
They must show they are prepared to burst open the doors of the House of Commons should they be kept persistently closed against them. He hoped they were not coming to an end of a peaceful agitation The people should rise in their might and majesty. If like the raging sea they should sweep on in their righteous indignation, every barrier set up against them - the aristocracy itself - might be swept into oblivion for ever.
On 18th April, , the Reform League's executive council met in London and unanimously condemned Disraeli's Bill as "partial and oppressive" and reaffirmed their commitment to "a vote for a man because he is a man". Charles Bradlaugh called for a national demonstration to take place in Hyde Park. It was pointed out that this would be breaking the law but Bradlaugh's motion was passed by five votes to three. The following day placards started to go up all over the country announcing a mass demonstration for universal manhood suffrage on 6th May. Spencer Walpole , the Home Secretary, announced that attending such a meeting would be illegal and that "all persons are hereby warned and admonished that they will attend any such meeting at their peril, and all her Majesty's loyal and faithful subjects are required to abstain from attending, aiding or taking part in any such meeting, or from entering the Park with a view to attend, aid or take part in any such meeting.
The Government arranged for troops of Hussars to be deployed in the park and thousands of special constables were sworn in. However, so many demonstrators turned up it was decided to back down. Some proof that the latter figure was closer to the reality came from the 14 separate platforms from which the most accomplished speakers could not make themselves heard.
It was the first time that any political organization representing the working class had openly and successfully defied the law. Bradlaugh commented that the reformers who had been killed at Peterloo were now at last victorious. The newspapers called for the arrests of the leaders of the Reform League. The government decided that this would be too dangerous and instead, Walpole, the Home Secretary, resigned. Disraeli realised that he had to make his Reform Bill more popular with the working class. On 20th May he accepted an amendment from Grosvenor Hodgkinson , which added nearly half a million voters to the electoral rolls, therefore doubling the effect of the bill.
Gladstone commented: "Never have I undergone a stronger emotion of surprise than when, as I was entering the House, our Whip met me and stated that Disraeli was about to support Hodgkinson's motion. On 20th May , John Stuart Mill , the Radical MP for Westminster , and the leading male supporter in favour of women's suffrage , proposed that women should be granted the same rights as men. During the debate on the issue, Edward Kent Karslake , the Conservative MP for Colchester , said in the debate that the main reason he opposed the measure was that he had not met one woman in Essex who agreed with women's suffrage.
Lydia Becker , Helen Taylor and Frances Power Cobbe , decided to take up this challenge and devised the idea of collecting signatures in Colchester for a petition that Karslake could then present to parliament. They found women resident in the town willing to sign the petition and on 25th July, , Karslake presented the list to parliament. Despite this petition the Mill amendment was defeated by votes to Gladstone voted against the amendment. Gladstone decided not to take part in the debate on the third reading of the bill as he feared it would have a negative reaction: "A remarkable night.
Determined at the last moment not to take part in the debate: for fear of doing mischief on our own side. The House of Lords also agreed to pass the Reform Act. The act gave the vote to every male adult householder living in a borough constituency. This gave the vote to about 1,, men. The Reform Act also dealt with constituencies and boroughs with less than 10, inhabitants lost one of their MPs. The forty-five seats left available were distributed by: i giving fifteen to towns which had never had an MP; ii giving one extra seat to some larger towns - Liverpool , Manchester , Birmingham and Leeds ; iii creating a seat for the University of London; iv giving twenty-five seats to counties whose population had increased since He was deeply unpopular with some of the older members of the party.
George Villiers , 4th Earl of Clarendon, described Gladstone as "an audacious innovator with an insatiable desire of popularity He became a very active leader and according to his biographer, Roy Jenkins , "Gladstone spoke with great frequency and on almost every subject under the sun As his days were full with many other engagements and occupations his diaries give the impression of his blowing in to the House of Commons, sounding off on whatever subject was under discussion.
A few days later Gladstone moved and carried a bill to abolish compulsory church rates, an issue which united radicals, libertarians, nonconformists and those Anglicans unwilling to defend the status-quo. Gladstone followed this by carrying with a majority of sixty-five votes the first of three resolutions to abolish the Anglican establishment in Ireland. By taking this action Gladstone was able to heal the divisions in the Liberal Party, that had been divided over the issue of parliamentary reform. Gladstone later argued that the decision publicly to advocate Irish disestablishment was an example of "a striking gift" endowed on him by Providence, which enabled him to identify a question whose moment for public discussion and action had come.
Henry Labouchere , a fellow Liberal MP, responded by saying that he "did not object to the old man always having a card up his sleeve, but he did object to his insinuating that the Almighty had placed it there. This was nearly three times the number of people who voted in the previous election. The Liberals won seats against the of the Conservatives. Robert Blake believes the Irish issue was an important factor in Gladstone's victory. The Liberals did especially well in the cities because of the "existence of a large Irish immigrant population".
Gladstone decided to make changes in the law which said that all Irishmen had to pay tithes to the Established Church. He announced that in future the Protestant Church of Ireland would have to pay for itself out of what its members gave it. Protestants held protest meetings and Gladstone was described as "a traitor to his Queen, his country and his God". The Conservatives in the House of Lords resisted the Irish Church Bill, forcing a compromise on the financial terms but without rejecting it in principle.
This was followed by an Irish Land Bill in After the passing of the Reform Act , the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Robert Lowe , remarked that the government would now "have to educate our masters. He wanted to end church schools but realised that he would never get the legislation past the House of Lords. The Education Act , drafted by William Forster stated: a the country would be divided into about 2, school districts; b School Boards were to be elected by ratepayers in each district; c the School Boards were to examine the provision of elementary education in their district, provided then by Voluntary Societies, and if there were not enough school places, they could build and maintain schools out of the rates; d the school Boards could make their own by-laws which would allow them to charge fees or, if they wanted, to let children in free.
As a consequence of this legislation, spending by the state on education more than doubled. William Gladstone had a difficult relationship with Queen Victoria , who objected to some of the choices for membership of his cabinet. Worried by the growth in republicanism in Britain, he urged the near-reclusive Victoria to resume official duties.
The queen resented Gladstone's tone, and apparently said that "He speaks to me as if I was a public meeting". In the government decided to impose a tax on matches. When she heard the news the Queen wrote a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Queen trusts that the government will consider this proposal, and try and substitute some other which will not press upon the poor.
Three members of the commission, Frederic Harrison , Thomas Hughes and Thomas Anson , 2nd Earl of Lichfield, refused to sign the Majority Report as they considered it hostile to trade unions. They therefore published a Minority Report where he argued that trade unions should be given privileged legal status. This act secured the legal status of trade unions. As a result of this legislation no trade union could be regarded as criminal because "in restraint of trade"; trade union funds were protected. Although trade unions were pleased with this act, they were less happy with the Criminal Law Amendment Act passed the same day that made picketing illegal.
Gladstone also proposed an Army Regulation Bill, which attempted to abolish the purchase of commissions. Members of the House of Commons used obstructive tactics to prevent the bill being passed. Gladstone wrote to the Queen complaining that "at the morning sitting today the House went into Committee for the tenth time on the Army Bill Working class males now formed the majority in most borough constituencies.
However, employers were still able to use their influence in some constituencies because of the open system of voting. In parliamentary elections people still had to mount a platform and announce their choice of candidate to the officer who then recorded it in the poll book. Employers and local landlords therefore knew how people voted and could punish them if they did not support their preferred candidate. In William Gladstone removed this intimidation when his government brought in the Ballot Act which introduced a secret system of voting. Paul Foot points out: "At once, the hooliganism, drunkenness and blatant bribery which had marred all previous elections vanished.
Gladstone became very unpopular with the working-classes when his government passed the Licensing Act. This restricted the closing times in public houses to midnight in towns and 11 o'clock in country areas. Local authorities now had the power to control opening times or to become completely "dry" banning all alcohol in the area.
This led to near riots in some towns as people complained that the legislation interfered with their personal liberty. Benjamin Disraeli , the leader of the Conservative Party, made constant attacks on Gladstone and his government. In one speech in Manchester that lasted three and quarter hours he said that the government was losing its energy. He was suggesting that Gladstone, now aged 62, was too old for the job.
You behold a row of exhausted volcanoes. Not a flame flickers from a single pallid crest". On 9th August , Gladstone replaced Robert Lowe and became his own chancellor of the exchequer. Gladstone sought to regain the political initiative by a daring and dramatic financial plan: "abolition of Income Tax and Sugar Duties with partial compensation from Spirits and Death Duties". To balance the books he also needed some defence savings. However, the army and navy cabinet ministers refused. Gladstone became very disillusioned with politics and considered resigning. Gladstone wrote in his diary on 18th January, "On this day I thought of dissolution".
My first thought of it was an escape from a difficulty. I soon saw on reflection that it was the best thing in itself. In the General Election the Conservative Party won with a majority of forty-six seats. Benjamin Disraeli became Prime Minister. It was the first Conservative victory in a General Election for over 30 years. According to his biographer, Roy Jenkins , "What Gladstone greatly minded was not so much the loss of office as the sense of rejection".
Gladstone wrote in his diary: "I am confident that the Conservative Party will never arrive at a stable superiority while Disraeli is at their head". Next to this comes Education: that has denuded us on both sides for reasons dramatically opposite; with the Nonconformists, and with the Irish voters. William Gladstone, had been in high office for over fifteen years and he decided to retire from leading the Liberal Party.
It was with some relief when he shocked his ex-cabinet colleagues that he would "no longer retain the leadership of the liberal party, nor resume it, unless the party had settled its difficulties". Although he was sixty-four years old he was in very good health: "He was fit, spare, and sprightly.
He had accidentally shot off his left forefinger while shooting in September and always wore a fingerstall. A trim 11 stone 11 pounds, he ate and drank moderately, and did not smoke. Remarkable physical resilience made him In September he walked 33 miles in the rain through the Cairngorm mountains from Balmoral to Kingussie. Gladstone retained his seat in the House of Commons but spent most of his spare time writing. Gladstone claimed that this placed Catholics in Britain in a dilemma over conflicts of loyalty to the Crown.
He urged them to reject papal infallibility as they had opposed the Spanish Armada of The pamphlet was very popular and sold , copies in a couple of months. In another pamphlet Vaticanism: an Answer to Reproofs and Replies February, he described the Catholic Church as "an Asian monarchy: nothing but one giddy height of despotism, and one dead level of religious subservience".
He further claimed that the Pope wanted to destroy the rule of law and replace it with arbitrary tyranny, and then to hide these "crimes against liberty beneath a suffocating cloud of incense". During this period he became very friendly with Laura Thistlethwayte. The daughter of Captain R. Bell in Newry, was rumoured to have been a prostitute in Dublin before marrying the wealthy Augustus Frederick Thistlethwayte, a retired army captain and son of Thomas Thistlethwayte , the former M. At their first meeting he knew enough about her to admit later that he had been drawn to her as a "sheep or lamb that had been astray Colin Matthew , one of Gladstone's main biographers, has pointed out: "Unlike the prostitutes whom Gladstone energetically continued throughout his premiership to attempt to redeem, Laura Thistlethwayte was already saved from sin and was converted.
Gladstone was at first intrigued and soon obsessed with her tale This was in effect a platonic extra-marital affair On the third finger of his right hand he often wore a ring given him by Laura Thistlethwayte. There was considerable amount of gossip about Gladstone's behaviour. Queen Victoria told Disraeli that Gladstone was mad in dining with the "notorious" Mrs.
Thistlethwayte, a kept woman in her youth, who induced a foolish person with a large fortune to marry her I can scarcely believe the report that he is going to pass a week with her and her husband at their country house - she not being visited or received in society. As the prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli now had the opportunity to the develop the ideas that he had expressed when he was leader of the Young England group in the s. Disraeli also kept his promise to improve the legal position of trade unions.
The Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act allowed peaceful picketing and the Employers and Workmen Act enabled workers to sue employers in the civil courts if they broke legally agreed contracts. Early in his career Benjamin Disraeli was not a strong enthusiast for building up the British Empire and had described colonies as "millstones around our neck" and had argued that the Canadians should "defend themselves" and that British troops should be withdrawn from Africa.
However, once he became prime-minister he changed his view on the subject. He was especially interested in India, with its population of over million. It was also an outlet for British goods and a source of valuable imports such as raw cotton, tea and wheat. It is possible that he saw the Empire as an "issue on which to damage his opponents by impugning their patriotism". In one speech Disraeli attacked Liberals as being people who were not committed to the British Empire: "Gentlemen, there is another and second great object of the Tory party.
If the first is to maintain the institutions of the country, the second is, in my opinion, to uphold the empire of England. If you look to the history of this country since the advent of Liberalism - forty years ago - you will find that there has been no effort so continuous, so subtle, supported by so much energy, and carried on with so much ability and acumen, as the attempts of Liberalism to effect the disintegration of the empire of England.
Benjamin Disraeli got on very well with Queen Victoria. She approved of Disraeli's imperialist views and his desire to make Britain the most powerful nation in the world. In May, Victoria agreed to his suggestion that she should accept the title of Empress of India.
William Gladstone and his Library
The title was said to be un-English and the proposal of the measure also seemed to suggest an unhealthily close political relationship between Disraeli and the Queen. The idea was rejected by Gladstone and other leading figures in the Liberal Party. In May it was reported that Turkish troops had murdered up to 7,, Orthodox Christians in the Balkans. Gladstone was appalled by these events and on 6th September he published Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East He sent a copy to Benjamin Disraeli who described the pamphlet as "vindictive and ill-written The initial print run of 2, sold out in two days.
Several reprints took place and eventually over , copies of the pamphlet were sold.
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On 9th September, Gladstone addressed an audience of 10, at Blackheath on the subject and became the leader of the "popular front of moral outrage". Gladstone stated that "never again shall the hand of violence be raised by you, never again shall the flood-gates of lust be open to you, never again shall the dire refinements of cruelty be devised by you for the sake of making mankind miserable. William Gladstone's approach was in stark contrast to what has been called "Disraeli's sardonic cynicism".
Robert Blake has argued that the conflict between Gladstone and Disraeli "injected a bitterness into British politics which had not been seen since the Corn Law debates". Gladstone once again became a popular politician.
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Historians have been unsure if this was a calculated response or an aspect of his moral convictions. Was he, perhaps semi-consciously, looking for a cause for which Or was he spontaneously seized with a passionate sympathy for the sufferings of the Balkan Christian communities which left him to alternative but to erupt with his full and extraordinary force?
Benjamin Disraeli definitely believed William Gladstone was using the massacre to further his political career. He told a friend: "Posterity will do justice to that unprincipled maniac Gladstone - extraordinary mixture of envy, vindictiveness, hypocrisy and superstition; and with one commanding characteristic - whether preaching, praying, speechifying, or scribbling - never a gentleman!
Gladstone began to attack the foreign policy of the Conservative government. He attacked imperialism and warned of the dangers of a bloated empire with worldwide responsibilities which in the long run would become unsustainable. As a result of these views, Prince George , Duke of Cambridge the commander-in-chief refused to shake Gladstone's hand when he met him.
When his house was attacked by a Jingo mob on a Sunday evening, Gladstone wrote in his diary: "This is not very sabbatical". In the General Election he contested the seat of Midlothian. He made eighteen important speeches. Gladstone defeated his conservative opponent, William Montagu Douglas Scott , on 5th April by 1, votes to 1, It was a great victory for the Liberal Party who won seats with Benjamin Disraeli resigned and Queen Victoria invited Spencer Cavendish , Lord Hartington, the official leader of the party, to become her new prime minister.
He replied that the Liberal majority appeared to the nation as being a "Gladstone-created one" and that Gladstone had already told other senior figures in the party he was unwilling to serve under anybody else. Victoria explained to Hartington that "there was one great difficulty, which was that I could not give Mr. Gladstone my confidence.
Others but herself may submit to his democratic rule but not the Queen.
William Ewart Gladstone
He also refused to be prime minister, explaining that Gladstone had a "great amount of popularity at the present moment amongst the people". He also suggested that Gladstone, now aged 70, would probably retire by Victoria now agreed to appoint Gladstone as her prime minister.
That night he recorded in his diary that the Queen received him "with the perfect courtesy from which she never deviates". Queen Victoria attempted to select Gladstone's cabinet ministers. He rejected this idea and appointed those who he felt would remain loyal to him.
Gladstone who was described as looking "very ill and haggard, and his voice feeble" surprised the Queen by telling her that he intended to be his own Chancellor of the Exchequer. Joseph Chamberlain , the only member of the left-wing group within the Liberal Party, who was given a senior post in the government. The Liberal Party's victory owed a great deal to the increase in the number of working-class male voters. As Paul Foot has pointed out, this was not reflected in the newly formed government: "In the Cabinet of fourteen members, there were six earls Selborne, Granville, Derby, Kimberley, Northbrook and Spencer , a marquis Hartington , a baron Carlingford , two baronets Harcourt and Dilke and only four commoners Gladstone, Childers, Dodson and Joseph Chamberlain.
Gladstone spent more time in the House of Commons than any other prime minister in the history of Parliament except for Stanley Baldwin : "But he Gladstone devoted his long hours there to the chamber, always listening, often intervening, whereas Baldwin was much more in the corridors, dining room and smoking room, alien territories to Gladstone, gossiping and absorbing atmosphere rather than directing business.
Gladstone's first problem was to deal with the problem created by the election of the Liberal MP, Charles Bradlaugh , to represent Northampton. Bradlaugh, an outspoken republican, had helped to establish the National Secular Society , an organisation opposed to Christian dogma and the way that atheists were treated. At this time the law required in the courts and oath from all witnesses. Besant and Bradlaugh were charged with publishing material that was "likely to deprave or corrupt those whose minds are open to immoral influences".
Besant and Bradlaugh were both found guilty of publishing an "obscene libel" and sentenced to six months in prison. At the Court of Appeal the sentence was quashed. Bradlaugh was not a Christian and argued that the Evidence Amendment Act gave him a right he asked for permission to affirm rather than take the oath of allegiance. William Gladstone supported Bradlaugh's right to affirm, but as he had upset a lot of people with his views on Christianity, the monarchy and birth control and when the issue was put before Parliament, MPs voted to support the Speaker's decision to expel him.
Bradlaugh now mounted a national campaign in favour of atheists being allowed to sit in the House of Commons. Bradlaugh gained some support from some Nonconformists but he was strongly opposed by the Conservative Party and the leaders of the Anglican and Catholic clergy. When Bradlaugh attempted to take his seat in Parliament in June , he was arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Benjamin Disraeli , leader of the Conservative Party , warned that Bradlaugh would become a martyr and it was decided to release him. On 26th April, , Charles Bradlaugh was once again refused permission to affirm. William Gladstone promised to bring in legislation to enable Bradlaugh to do this, but this would take time. Bradlaugh was unwilling to wait and when he attempted to take his seat on 2nd August he was once forcibly removed from the House of Commons. Bradlaugh and his supporters organised a national petition and on 7th February, , he presented a list of , signatures calling for him to be allowed to take his seat.
However, when he tried to take the Parliamentary oath, he was once again removed from Parliament. Gladstone's first Irish Land Act had been a failure. He was now coming under pressure from the Land League that had been taking the law into their own hands and in the last three months of , 1, crimes against Irish landlords took place. In February Gladstone asked Parliament to pass a Coercion Act, which meant that people suspected of crimes could be arrested and kept in jail without trial.
It included three of the demands advocated by the Land League: a Fair Rents: To be decided by a court if the landlord and the tenant could not agree on what was fair. Despite opposition from the House of Lords the bill became law in August Historians have been highly critical of this measure. Paul Adelman , the author of Great Britain and the Irish Question has pointed out: "Despite his masterly performance in pushing the complicated Land bill through the Commons in the summer of , recent historians have argued that Gladstone again failed to face up to the economic realities of rural Ireland.
For in the west of Ireland particularly, it was the lack of cultivable land rather than the problem of rents that was the fundamental problem for the smallholders. Charles Stewart Parnell , the leader of the Irish Land League, criticised several aspects of the Act such as the exclusion of tenants in arrears from its provisions. In a speech in October , Gladstone warned Parnell of taking direct action. Queen Victoria and Gladstone were in constant conflict during his premiership.
She often wrote to him complaining about his progressive policies. When he became prime minister in she warned him about the appointment of advance Radicals such as Joseph Chamberlain , Charles Wentworth Dilke , Henry Fawcett , James Stuart and Anthony Mundella , The Queen was also disappointed that Gladstone had not found a place for George Goschen , in his government, a man who she knew was strongly against parliamentary reform. In November, , Queen Victoria she told him that he should be careful about making statements about future political policy: "The Queen is extremely anxious to point out to Mr.
Gladstone the immense importance of the utmost caution on the part of all the Ministers but especially of himself, at the coming dinner in the City.