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'GLADSTONE, THE GREATEST LIVING SCOTCHMAN.', Issue 7985, 14 August 1889
'GLADSTONE, THE GREATEST LIVING SCOTCHMAN.'
Under the above title the Rev. F. W. Isitt, of Invercargill, last night lectured in the Choral Hall before a numerous and decidedly sympathetic audience. Had it been generally known what an oratorical treat was in store we feel sure that the room would have been crowded. The walls were hung with c-nla-gemtntsof somecf ' Punch's' bestcartoons, covering theperiods when either Gladstone or Disraeli was in power, and tables of statistics dealing with Ireland's position were prominently exhibited. Iho Rev. Dr Stuaet, who occupied the chair, said that from the time (now more than two score years ago) when Mr Gladstone followed his chief, Sir Robert Ptel, in repealing the obnoxious and oppressive corn laws, he had ably and steadily advocated every measure for the enlightenment and well-being of our nation.—(Applause.) In the speaker's young days, when tests were used not only to exclude but to eject very able men—men like Sir David Brewster—from the Scottish universities, Gladstone rendered powerful assistance in abolishing the tests; and in England he rendered similar service in opening the great universities to fully one-half the nation. But this great service to the people cost him his scat, nor had Oxford to this day forgiven him. Then in 1870 he gave to England, and in 1872 to Scotland, primary education on a national basis—(applause) two measures that had worked and were now working beneficially for the whole community. The fact was that for forty years, at all events, Gladstone's whole life had been devoted to the removal of shackles from the people. The disestablishment of the Irish Church, for example, was distasteful to his feelings as a churchman, yet he undertook it, and carried it out in the interests of order and justice. The speaker's belief was that thatgreat measure had proved beneficial to Ireland and to religion. No doubt people had various opinions as to the value of Gladstone's measure for Home Rule for Ireland. But what of that ? He was was glad there were differences of opinion, for he knew well that discussion and investition prosecuted in a right spirit would eventuate in a plan which would give to distracted and impoverished Ireland peace and prosperity.—(Applause.) He admired Gladstone's ability and the consecration with which he had devoted his great influence and his great mental powers to the benefit of his nation and of his people.—(Loud applause.) The lecturer premised by claiming that Gladstone was a Scotchman in the sense that he was born of Scotch parentage, his mother being a Scotchwoman. H is origin was traced from the middle ranks, showing that he was entitled to the only aristocracy that is worth a cent—namely, the aristocracy of character. To his birth in 1809, when Napoleon's baleful influence robed Liberalism with terrors, was attributed the Conservative tendency of his youth. His own later words were quoted to show that, in whatsoever he had changed, it had been from the jealousy of the people, only qualified by fear in which he was nurtured, to a trust in the people, only qualified by prudence. As a singular comment on this utterance, it was noticed that, in his first electioneering address, he maintained the abstract lawfulness of slavery as importing the right of the proprietor to the labor of his slave. The lecturer referred to a chart showing periods of varying length into which Gladstone's political life could be divided. Each period closed with his rejection by the people whose trust he had hitherto enjoyed; and the lecturer sub mitted to his audience the question concerning each period, whether his rejection had been to Gladstone's discredit or otherwise. The first of these periods comprised his fourteen years' service to the Borough of Newark, which was a pocket borough of the Duke of Newcastle. As its representative he entered the House in 1832. It was the first meeting of Parliament after the great Reform Bill had been wrung from reluctant legislators. Royalty s.vt sullenly apart from the nation; land owners and proprietors waited a demand to stand and deliver that was assumed to be inevitable, and pulpits raved about the wickedness of the people who had demanded their electoral rights. By a HoiiS3 expected to be revolutionary only two great measures were passed in its first session. By the one was swept from England for ever the accursed profit that was derived from the slaves of the West Indies, and by tho other was broken the evil monopoly of the East Indian Company. But neither of these measures obtained the support of the young Conservative member for Newark. His first speech was in defeuce of his father, himself a slave owner, and from that fact was deduced the fact, not that Gladstone was untrue, but that it was so perilously possible for even good men to be blind to the evils of a traffic by which they themselves profited. Conservative tendencies were likewise shown by Gladstone in that he helped the peers to rivet the chains of civil disabilities on the Jews; that he promised the land owners to support the abominable corn boards; and that he became the recognised defender of church establishment, not only upon the floor of the House, but through the Press. Yet, at that early date, writing distinctly in support of the establishment, ho admitted that the Irish Church, holding but one-ninth of her people, had forthree centuries been associated with a system of partial, oppressive, and culpable government of a noble but neglected people. HealsoopposedtheChineßeWar.and declared England's flag sullied when hoisted to protect an infamous and contraband traffic. Entering tho Cabinet two years after he became a member of the House, Gladstone won golden opinions by his modesty, earnestness, and eloquence. He gradually adopted Freetrade principles on most points; but when the great Corn Law struggle commenced in 1812 he was found associated with Peel in the maintenance of the protective duties. Richaid Cobden had become impressed with the fact that these evil laws drove tho people into poverty, and thus created crime, while they served by estrangement of the nations to promote war. At his appeal John Bright joined with him in a great crusado, and on his admission to the House instantly singled out Peel and Gladstone as the two members of the Conservatibe Cabinet whose consciences he could hope to reach. Famiue in Ireland and bad harvests in Britain led Peel to declare he would no longer accept the responsibility of maintaining oppressive laws. Fierce attacks made on him by the Peers were only exceeded by the venom of Disraeli. On Lord John Russell's failure to form a Cabinet, Peel and Gladstone returned pledged to ( repeal, and though the measure saved the country in the hour of its peril, those who passed it were never forgiven by the selfish monopolists of their own party, Reference was here made, to attacks upon Gladstone by Louis Jennings, M.P., whose 'Gladstone a Study' was held to contain a summary of all assaults upon the Grand Old Man. Tho lecturer condemned in unscathing terms the mendacity of this author. The repeal of the Com Laws cost Gladstone many political friendships and his seat in the House, his first rejection being distinctly to his honor. The second period commenced with his election for Oxford in 1847, and his own statement was examined that from that period he worked mainly with the Liberals. He now confessed himself wrong in former contentions for exclusive church privileges; he revoked the injustice done to the Jews, he supported the maintenance of open, in place of clandestine, relations with Rome, he urged that to grant English Catholics bishops of their own was juster and wiser than to throw them into tho arms of a foreign Pontiff. With the death of Peel came wider estrangement from the Conservative party. Visiting Naplcß, Gladstone first realised the evil of law made odious by injustice. Thanked by Lord Palmerston for his noble exposure of Neapolitan tyranny, Gladstone was held to have largely aided the movement of which Cavour was the brain, and Garibaldithestrong hand, and by which Italy was made united and free. The outbreak of war with Russia found Gladstone still in the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which capacity he contended for payment of war costs as they were incurred, instead of adopting Disraeli's proposal to thereby increase tho National Debt. For the blunders of the war Gladstone was declared irresponsible by Lord John Russell. When with the death of the Czar came negotiations for peace, Gladstone stood almost alone against the
country, maintaining that further prosecution of the war would be criminal. Em phasis was laid upon this fact to enforce the query wherein consisted the evidence that some people always formed of Gladstone's constant endeavor to be on the popular side. Jennings was again quoted here as having moat unwarrantably attributed to Gladstone certain articles in the ' Quarterly Review ' violently abusive of Lord Palmerston. The lecturer asserted that those articles were far more probably the product of the pen of Lord Robert Cecil, now Marquis of Salisbury. Disraeli was quoted as authority for the statement that the Marquis's language did not lack vigor or vindictiveness, and that he had proved himself capable of anonymous attacks on colleagues. When the American War broke out, Mr Gladstone made the mistake of espousing the Southern cause, sharing therein the fault of the upper classes; but in his case the fault was atoned for l>y a noble apology. In 1863 Gladstone widened the growing breach between himself and his Oxford constituents by a " terribly " radical measure, providing for the burial of Dissenters in the national graveyards. In 1565 Oxford disgraced herself by rejecting a man declared by the times to combine the highest intellectual and moral qualifications. Thus I a connection of eighteen years was closed to ! the discredit, not of Gladstone, but of his con stituents, Elected for South Lancaster in 1865, Gladstone brought downa Reform Bill which provided for the enfranchisement of but 400,000 people, yet which Disraeli had the audacity to proclaim to be an attempt to reconstruct the British Constitution upon the American basis. Foiled by the Adullamites, the Gladstone Cabinet gave way to the Conservatives, and Disraeli's " Education of his party" resulted in a Bill whose passage was familiarly known as the operation of "Dishing the Whigs." Lord Cranbome pronounced it to be Bright's baby in a Conservative cradle, while Lord Derby pathetically lamented this leap in the dark. Gladetone next brought down his Irish resolutions for the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and earned at the time every epithet that is now hurled at him for his present policy. He was proclaimed a Jesuit in disguise, and one Lord Robert Montague proved this to his own satisfaction in a big book, but the assertion was weakened by the fact that the same volume also proved Disraeli to be guilty of a like deceit. But this noble Lord has since been proclaimed by an English Judge in open Court to be an ignoble scoundrel, and made to disgorge illgotten gains. Gladstone, once for all, responded to the charges in a courteous letter to Mr Newdegate, politely suggesting that the inquiries were an insult ; but pronouncing to be false in spirit and in letter the statements that he had arranged with the Pope for the Irish Church disestablishment; that he had been thanked by His Holiness for its accomplishment ; that he was a Romanist at heart, or that he was even a member of a ritualistic congregation. Yet in 1869 South Lancashire rejected him for his want of so-called Protestant principlec His election for Greenwich in 1870 initiated the golden age of Liberalism. Supported in his policy of disestablishment by a Parliamentary majority of 115, and an electoral majority of over 500,000. his strength was so vexatious to his politic*! opponents that every expedient was adopted to undermine it. One of the most momentous was the definite advancement of a claim for Home Rule, a claim whose only object was to embarrass Gladstone. This move was made by Mr Isaac Butt, of Dublin, Grand Master of the Orange Lodge, and with him were associated Mr Ledger Ensor, Mr Sam M'Comas, and seven other ultra-Tory and Protestant men of Dublin, It should be ever remembered that if the demand for Home Rule be* an avalanche that threatens Protestant liberties, the person primarily responsible for its advancement was this Grand Master of an Orange lodge. Liberal meapures succeeded each other with great rapidity. By the passage of an Irish Land Bill, obstructed by the Tories by 300 amendments, the House of Commons affirmed the principle that the Irish had been right and the British wrong. Purchase in the army was abolished by Royal warrant—a measure that secured Mr Gladstone a severe but harmless vote of censure from the House of Lord?. A system of national education and voting by ballot was established. This heroic legislation was too much for tho country, and Gladstone was again rejected by his constituents through an unholy alliance between Beer and the Bible, or, as he had heard it otherwise expressed, he fell a victim to parsons, publicans, primroses, and peers. We must now glance at the fifty-four years of public service to his country and its effect upon himself. From the year IS7B to ISBB it ffas not extravagant to say that Gladstone possessed the confidence of most good men. Why has this confidence been lost ? Why, after serving his country for fifty years faithfully and conscientiously, had the country rejected him ? Firstly, because it is said of him that his foreign policy has not been spirited enough. What was meant by spirited ? Take the spirited policy which formulates itself in one's mind, compare it, and see if it coincided in any one particular with the policy of Jesus Christ, He wondered how many gentlemen of the cloth had considered the matter from that standpoint before joining in the condemnation of Gladstone's foreign policy. Lord John Russell said that Gladstone's policy had tarnished the national honor and injured the national interests; but he had been obliged to confess that Gladstone had made for himself a name which will never suffer eclipse. The reason why Lord John Russell had expressed himself thus was not far to seek. It was because Gladstone was instrumental in settling the Alabama question without going to war, a solution of the question which was in direct opposi: tion to Lord J. Russell's expressed desire. But in settling this question as ho did Gladstone struck at the roots of that doctrine of Hell which has so long held among nations that " force is to be eternally enthroned as supreme arbitrator of human destinies. If the sword and not sense is to be the court of appeal between nations, why not between individuals ?'' This was the first instance where Gladstone's policy was accused of being not spirited enough. Secondly, his policy was not spirited enough in accepting defeat in South Africa. Liberty dates from many a conflict which men sorrowfully proclaimed to be a defeat. If it be nobler for a strong power to meet the doings of a weaker power by bloodthirsty threats of revenge, than it is to inquire into the weaker power's grievances and adjust them, then there was no spirit in Gladstone's policy in South Africa. What was finer than the selfabnegation displayed by Britain in retiring from Boerland after we had been defeated, and recognising that we were wrong ? It was not spirited to evacuate Candahar, where we had no right to remain when our work was done, but if a just regard for the claims of others be a greater thing than a scientific frontier, then name it one of the very noblest acts in England's history. The Soudan campaign was next referred to, and in that connection the lecturer admitted that that war was a blunder. Gladetone was intensely anxious to have Gordon recalled from Khartoum, but there was the authority of Sir Charles Wilson for tho statement that the appearance of a British force within sight of Khartoum would have been the signal for the death of the saint-soldier. At this point the lecturer uttered a philippic against the jingoistic tendencies of the classical teachings of the University, and vigorously denounced, amidst applause, the obscenities that found their way through these media into the hands of the future fathers and mothers of the country. Nothing, in his opinion, had done more to create a love for a vicious system, born of paganism, than these studies; and he appealed to the chairman, as the Chancellor of our University, to see to it. —(Applause.) Coming to the later years of Gladstone's life, he sketched the statesman's endeavor to "give justice to Ireland." Gladstone believes that this would be accomplished by some measure of Home Rule. His plan is to give Ireland everything that is compatible with the supremacy of the Crown, the unity of the Empire, and the supreme authority of our Imperial Parliament in order to conceive that unity; to grant, in fact, what Mr Parnell askt—namely, "A statutory and subordinate Parliament," that is, a Parliament which depends upon statute for its authority. Gladstone nas even gone the length of expressing his willingness to co-operate with
a Conservative Government to advance this aim if they will forego the policy of coercion, and try a remedial and conciliatory one. And the answer comes—We cannot trust Ireland. Why ? Because of her policy of resistance, of dynamite, and crime. No nation yet that has struggled for liberty—and no nation has struggled as Ireland has —has been without some few misguided people who have yielded to a thirst for revenge by crime, which every right-think-ing man in Ireland and out of it condemns. It had been even asse: ted in some quarters that Ireland had no wrong?. Nowrongß? Why, there was an account of wrongs, the result of centuries of oppression, that demanded immediate settlement. And it was said that Ireland enjoyed equal rights and privileges with the rest of the Empire. He poiuted to the facts that an Irish M.P. had been sent to prison for a month for making an observation that would be passed over almost unnoticed in another part of the Empire, and that men had been sent to gaol for six months for refusing to sell the stripping of a few inches of soil when the Premier of England compelled a sect to pay hundreds of pounds for the privilege of using a small piece of ground on which to erect a place of worship! Did not the figures of evictions and emigration tell their own tale of intense dissatisfaction with the past policy of England. Personally, he was not altogether sure that Home Rule would effect the cure of all Ireland's ills; but he believed it would in a great measure, and he firmly believed that Mr Gladstone would be spared to see Ireland granted what she desired. (Applause.) At any rate, the experiment was worthy of trial. Anything was better than the present system of coercion; the policy of breaking heads was only widening the gap between the two nations. It had been said, among other things, that if Home Rule were granted the representation would fall into the hands of undesirable persons, who would be dominated by the priesthood, But the facts were entirely against such an idea, For a number of years the representation had been in the hands of onethird—Protestants returned by Catholic constituencies; but be bad not come across an instance of a Protestant constituency returning a Catholic representative. In concluding his address, the rev. gentleman spoke thus: Despised and rejected by many, Gladstone was yet a very king among men. A king uncrowned, yet not wholly uncrowned, for to him as to One infinitely greater had it been given to wear the princely crown of sorrow and of pain. Now by many his name was execrated, but in fifty years it would make itself heard when history should be read, not through the mists of prejudice, but in the light of facts. Then would the Muse of history ponder over the illustrious names of this century. She could take no laurels from the brave seaman of Trafalgar, none from the soldier of Waterloo, none from the exiled hero of Khartoum ; but surely in that day men would have learned the lesson that war is madness, and higher in the scroll of fame than the names of those whose mission it was to destroy would be inscribed the names of those who sought to save and to bless—names such as that of the benevolent Shaftesbury and Bright, of peerless eloquence and of purest soul, of Livingstone and of Father Damien, the leper priest of Honolulu.—(Applause.) Then as she reached one name she would doubly pause. She would read the record of one who early in his public life made it known in simple modest speech that he regarded politics not as a sphere for petty ambition or for the. pursuit of personal ends, but as a trust from his country and his God ; who pursued his ideal through report evil and report good; who faltered not when power was in his hand with all tketemptationsthatitbrought ,* who, when men fell away from him and from his height of purpose, Buffered not himself to swerve from his consecrated path; whose life had for its secret source a strength, the soul-inspiring might of a transfiguring faith, and the great impulse of a Noble Ecorn cf ill; whose ever-widening sympathies burst all barriers of difference in country and in creed. Reading of one so great, bo pure, b« true, the Muse would dip her pen in golden sunlight, and with hand tremulous with the ! eagerness of a great admiration, and in letters that should reflect something of the brightness of his own eternal reward, would write high above the name of the noblest of his peers the almost sacred name of William Ewart Gladstone.—(Loud applause.) Mr J. B. Callan, in proposing a vote of thanks, said:—l am sure, Dr Stuart, the ladies and gentlemen present will agree with me that we should not separate without thanking the rev. lecturer for his interesting, instructive, and sympathetic address. He has in a short time brought before us the main points in Mr Gladstone's career, and in doing so has revived our political knowledge of the last half century. The lecturer is evidently an enthusiastic and devoted admirer of Mr Gladstone; he has shown that by the manner in which he has treated bis subject. There is one point in his address which struck me as well worth bearing in mind. He instanced the fact that upon the first introduction of many of Mr Gladstone's reforms he was censured by a section of the Press and public in the same way that he is now being cried down for his Home Rule policy. But those reforms for which he was censured in the past are now looked upon by all as beneficent acts, May we not conclude that the great reform for which he is now contending will, before many years have passed away, be regarded, not with censure, but as the crowning act of a great and useful life. It is with much pleasure that I propose a hearty vote of thanks to the reverend lecturer.
Mr Bracken seconded the motion, which was carried unanimously.
'GLADSTONE, THE GREATEST LIVING SCOTCHMAN.', Issue 7985, 14 August 1889
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