Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/313

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Gladstone
Gladstone
301

and, secondly, that by-elections did not show the confidence of the country in the ministers of the crown. Proceeding to deal with the income tax, he pointed out that Lowe had reduced it from sixpence to three-pence, and he calculated that, with a surplus of five millions and a half, he would be able to abolish it altogether. He also offered a grant in aid of local rates, which the House of Commons had, by a majority of a hundred, voted for against him, and some reduction of the direct taxes. These promises would have more than exhausted the surplus; but Gladstone believed that the balance would have been provided by greater economy in the public service.

Disraeli at once replied to this manifesto in an address to the electors of Buckinghamshire, and carried the country with him. At the general election of 1874, the first under the ballot, the conservative majority was estimated at forty-six. But as this calculation combined Irish home rulers with British liberals, it underrated the conservative strength. Gladstone retained his seat for Greenwich, but was elected as junior colleague to (Sir) Thomas William Boord, the head of a local firm of distillers. Following the precedent set by Disraeli in 1868, the prime minister resigned office without meeting parliament, and his rival succeeded him.

At the beginning of the session, on 12 March, Gladstone wrote to Lord Granville, the leader of the liberal party in the House of Lords, intimating that he could not long remain at the head of the opposition, that he wished for comparative repose, and that if the party desired a chief who would attend more assiduously to the business of the House of Commons, he was quite ready to resign at once. He was, however, induced to defer his retirement for a time. During the session of 1874 the bill which interested Gladstone most was the public worship bill [see Tait, Archibald Campbell]. This was not a government measure. It was introduced into the House of Lords by Archbishop Tait, and was severely criticised by Lord Salisbury, then secretary of state for India. It was popular on both sides of the House of Commons, and Disraeli warmly supported it. Gladstone attacked the bill in a long, eloquent, and elaborate speech, which may be described as the case against Erastianism. He pleaded for reasonable liberty within the church. He gave notice of six resolutions, of which the most important was the last, to the effect that the government should consult representatives of the church before introducing ecclesiastical legislation. On this occasion Gladstone's party declined altogether to follow him. The bill was read a second time without a division, and the resolutions were never moved. In the final debates in the commons, Sir William Harcourt, always staunchly Erastian, disavowed the policy of his leader, and supported Disraeli. Gladstone replied to Sir William in a masterpiece of sarcastic irony, and Disraeli retorted upon Lord Salisbury in language seldom used to one member of a cabinet by another. The act did not succeed in its object.

During the parliamentary recess Gladstone published in the 'Contemporary Review' an essay on ritualism, in which he surprised every one by a trenchant attack on the church of Rome, declaring that no man could now enter her communion without placing his loyalty and civil allegiance at the mercy of another. This reference to the dogma of papal infallibility, which Pius IX had proclaimed four years before, elicited numerous replies from English catholics. Gladstone, dropping the subject of ritualism altogether, issued a special pamphlet on the Vatican decrees, in which he reiterated and supported his statements. To this pamphlet many answers from varied points of view were written, of which the most important were by Dr. Newman, Dr. Manning, and Lord Acton. Gladstone, in another pamphlet entitled 'Vaticanism,' expressed satisfaction at recent assurances from catholic laymen that they were as loyal subjects and as good patriots as any of their protestant fellow-citizens, and his pleasure at having called them forth. With that the discussion closed; but many Englishmen who were not catholics held that the matter was one with which protestants had no concern, and that a man who had been prime minister of England should abstain from attacking the church to which so many of her majesty's subjects belonged.

At the beginning of 1875 Gladstone, in another letter to Lord Granville, intimated that the time had now come when he must formally relinquish the leadership of the liberal party. His resignation was regretfully accepted, and Lord Hartington was chosen to succeed him. During the session of this year he was not much seen in the House of Commons.

Before the end of the session of 1876 there appeared in the 'Daily News' a series of letters describing horrible massacres and tortures which had been inflicted upon the inhabitants of Bulgaria by their Turkish rulers. The prime minister, when questioned on the subject, described these narratives as 'coffee-house babble' of no impor-