Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/312

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Gladstone
Gladstone
300

they now passed with an amendment limiting its operation to 1880. Since that date it has been annually included without objection in the expiring laws continuance bill.

In the autumn of this year the government received a great accession of strength by the appointment of Sir Roundell Palmer to be lord chancellor, with the title of Lord Selborne, in the room of Lord Hatherley. Gladstone's principal utterance outside parliament was a powerful and eloquent address to the students of Liverpool College, in which he combated the sceptical theories of the time as embodied in Dr. Strauss's recent volume, 'The Old Faith and the New.'

In 1873 Gladstone proceeded to deal with the third branch of the Irish question, and on 13 Feb., in an exhaustive speech of three hours, produced his Irish university bill. The difficulty was that the Irish catholics, with few exceptions, refused to let their sons matriculate at the protestant university of Dublin. The bill proposed to meet their scruples by forming a new university, of which Trinity College should be the centre, but which would contain also other affiliated colleges. The expenses of this university would be defrayed by annual grants of 12,000l. from Trinity College, and 10,000l. from the consolidated fund. The first council or governing body was to be appointed by parliament, but vacancies in it were to be filled by the crown. There were to be no religious tests, but, on the other hand, there were to be no chairs of theology, philosophy, or modern history, and no compulsory examinations in these subjects. Some extraordinary provisions, which came to be known as 'the gagging clauses,' imposed penalties upon any teacher who offended the religious convictions of his pupils. The reception of the bill, largely owing to the effect of Gladstone's eloquence, was favourable. But before the second reading, which was postponed for three weeks, serious difficulties arose. The catholic bishops of Ireland declared themselves dissatisfied with the measure, while English radicals, especially Fawcett, bitterly denounced the gagging clauses, and the restrictions upon the teaching of philosophy and history. Although Gladstone defended the bill with rare force and ingenuity, the second reading was rejected by three votes (287 to 284), and the government at once resigned (March).

The queen sent for Disraeli, who, however, refused to take office without a majority, and persisted in his refusal although the queen gave him the option of dissolving parliament. Gladstone contended that it was Disraeli's constitutional duty to accept office after defeating the government. Disraeli replied that there was no adequate cause for the resignation of ministers, and a controversial correspondence of much historical importance was carried on by the two statesmen, each of them addressing himself in form to the queen. In the end Disraeli had his way, and Gladstone resumed office with weakened credit. The Irish university question was settled for the time by the passing of Fawcett's bill abolishing religious tests in the university of Dublin. On (Sir) G. O. Trevelyan's annual motion for household suffrage in counties, Forster read a letter from the prime minister, who was prevented by illness from being present, pronouncing for the first time in favour of that reform, which he carried eleven years later.

During the autumn of 1873 several changes were made in the government. Lord Ripon retired on account of his health, and Henry Austin Bruce [q. v. Suppl.] succeeded him as president of the council, with the title of Lord Aberdare. Lowe, who had rendered himself unpopular as chancellor of the exchequer, was transferred to the home office, and Gladstone himself took the chancellorship. His acceptance of this office raised a grave constitutional question, which was never finally decided. Before the Reform Act of 1867 the acceptance of any office of profit under the crown vacated the seat of the acceptor. By that act it was provided that a minister already holding such an office should not vacate his seat if he accepted another in lieu of it. It was clear, therefore, that Lowe did not vacate his seat on becoming home secretary instead of chancellor of the exchequer. But Gladstone took a new office without giving up an old one. He remained first lord of the treasury as well as chancellor of the exchequer, and eminent lawyers were of opinion that he had ceased to be member for Greenwich. He did not, however, take that view himself, and did not seek re-election. The question would have been raised when parliament met, and, according to Lord Selborne's 'Posthumous Memoirs,' it was one of the reasons for the sudden dissolution of January 1874. On the 24th of that month the public were startled to find in the newspapers a long address from Gladstone to his constituents, announcing that parliament would be dissolved on the 26th. His ostensible reasons for this step were, first, that since Disraeli's refusal of office there was not the proper constitutional check of a possible alternative government in that House of Commons;