Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/297

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Gladstone
Gladstone
285

staunch protectionist, and the electors of Newark were known to be of the same opinion as the duke. Throughout the famous and stirring session of 1846 Gladstone was a secretary of state and a cabinet minister without a seat in parliament. He did not re-enter the House of Commons till after the general election of 1847. On 25 June 1846 the bill for the repeal of the corn laws was read a third time in the House of Lords and passed. On the same night the second reading of the Irish coercion bill was rejected in the House of Commons by an alliance of whigs, radicals, and protectionists. Sir Robert Peel resigned, and Lord John Russell became prime minister. Gladstone retired with his chief. Thenceforth Peel's followers, of whom Gladstone was one, called themselves, and were called, Peelites ; but they were not, in the proper sense of the term, a party. They were a group of able and high-minded men united in devotion to Peel, but agreeing only, or chiefly, in hostility to protection.

On 23 July 1847 parliament was dissolved, and Gladstone was brought forward as a candidate for the university of Oxford. His opponent was James Round, an extreme tory and protestant. Gladstone's address was mainly a defence of his vote for Maynooth. Sir Robert Inglis, an opponent of the grant, who had sat for the university since he defeated Peel in 1829, was returned at the head of the poll with 1,700 votes. Gladstone came second with 997, and Round, the defeated candidate, polled 824. The whigs obtained a majority and remained in office. One of Gladstone's first acts in the new parliament was to support Lord John Russell's resolution that the prime minister's colleague in the representation of London, Baron Rothschild, who, though not legally ineligible, was unable, as a Jew, to take the parliamentary oath ' on the true faith of a Christian,' might omit these words. Alluding to a previous vote which he had given against the admission of Jews to municipal office, Gladstone repeated his previous argument that if they were admitted to corporations, as they had since been, it was illogical to exclude them from parliament [see Rothschild, Lionel Nathan]. In 1848, on the eve of the chartist rising,Gladstone was sworn in a special constable. The most memorable debate of the parliament (of 1847-52) began on 24 June 1850. It was memorable not only for the brilliancy of the speeches delivered in it, of which not the least brilliant was Gladstone's, but also for the fact that it was the last in which Peel took part before his fatal accident of 29 June. The subject was Lord Palmerston's quarrel with the Greek government, who had failed to protect Don Pacifico [q. v.] from the violence of an Athenian mob. Lord Palmerston defended himself in a speech five hours long, in which he employed the celebrated phrase ' Civis Romanus sum.' Gladstone, taking a less popular line, pointed out the dangers of Palmerston's policy, and defined a Roman citizen as 'the member of a privileged class,' enjoying, by the exercise of force, rights denied to the rest of the world. Roebuck's motion of confidence in the government was, however, carried by a majority of forty-six.

Peel died on 2 July 1850. Next day Gladstone seconded the proposal to adjourn the House of Commons as a mark of respect, in a brief speech, full of deep feeling, in which he quoted the noble lines from 'Marmion' on the death of Pitt. Peel, he said, at the close of his own life, was upon the whole the greatest man he ever knew. After Peel's death he called no one master ; but the statesman to whom he most attached himself was Lord Aberdeen. The death of their chief did not dissolve the Peelites, who continued to act and vote together on most questions, if not on all, until they coalesced with the whigs in Lord Aberdeen's administration.

The winter of 1850-1 was spent by Gladstone at Naples, and momentous consequences followed. He discovered that Ferdinand II, king of the Two Sicilies, had not only dissolved the constitution, but had confined some twenty thousand persons as political prisoners. Nearly the whole of the late opposition, and an actual majority of the late chamber, were in gaol. One statesman in particular, Poerio, was seen by Gladstone himself, chained to a murderer, and suffering terrible privations, although, as Gladstone said, his character stood as high as that of Lord John Russell or Lord Lansdowne. Moved by these discoveries, Gladstone addressed a very eloquent and extremely indignant letter to Lord Aberdeen, in which he told the story of King Ferdinand's cruelty and atrocities from the beginning. He had not selected the most sympathetic correspondent, for Lord Aberdeen, in his foreign policy, had more in common with Metternich than with Cavour. The letter was dated 7 April 1851, but it did not actually appear till July. The delay was due to Lord Aberdeen, who earnestly entreated Gladstone to abstain from publication on the ground that it would render more difficult the task of procuring release for these Italian patriots. Lord Aberdeen's good faith cannot be doubted,