Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/298

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Gladstone
Gladstone
286

and even his judgment should not be lightly impugned; but Gladstone's moral indignation was not to be restrained, and the letter was published. It was followed by two others, in the second of which Gladstone replied exhaustively and conclusively to the official defence put forward by the Neapolitan government; they went through eleven editions in 1851, reached a fourteenth edition in 1859, and were translated into French and Italian. Lord Palmerston, who on this point, and perhaps on this point only, entirely agreed with Gladstone, sent a copy of the first letter to the British representative at every court in Europe. Gladstone's letters undoubtedly contributed to the ultimate independence and union of Italy. But Lord Aberdeen was so far justified that they did not immediately procure the liberation of the captives, and it was Lord Derby's government who obtained the freedom of Poerio in 1852. At this time Gladstone took the trouble to translate the whole of Farini's 'Roman State from 1815 to 1850' (London, 4 vols. 1851-4).

Gladstone returned home towards the end of February 1851, in the middle of a political crisis. On 20 Feb. Locke King's proposal to reduce the county franchise to 10l., at which it stood in boroughs, was carried against the ministry by a majority of nearly two to one. Lord John Russell thereupon resigned. Lord Stanley, for whom the queen sent,declined to take office until Lord John had attempted a conjunction with the Peelites. The Peelites refused to join him because they disapproved of the ecclesiastical titles bill, which Lord John had already introduced. Lord Stanley then tried to obey the queen's commands, and approached Gladstone and Lord Canning, another Peelite. They, however, would not serve under a protectionist, and Lord Stanley gave up the task in despair. Lord John returned to Downing Street on 3 March, and proceeded with the ecclesiastical titles bill in a modified form. On 14 March Gladstone made a powerful speech against the bill, urging that it was a violation of religious freedom, and that the act of the pope, being purely spiritual, was one with which parliament had no concern. Public opinion, however, was strongly the other way, and the second reading was carried by 438 votes against 95. The bill, strengthened in committee by tory amendments, passed both houses and became law. But it was disregarded, and, twenty years afterwards, it was repealed at the instance of Gladstone himself (Russell, p. 113).

On 20 Feb. 1852 Lord John was again defeated, and this time Lord Stanley, who had become Lord Derby, succeeded in forming a conservative administration without recourse either to whigs or to Peelites. Disraeli became chancellor of the exchequer and leader of the House of Commons. At the end of the session, in July, parliament was dissolved. The result of the general election was the return of 315 liberals (counting the Irish), 299 conservatives, and forty Peelites. Gladstone was re-elected for Oxford, though he was opposed by Dr. Marsham, warden of Merton. The conservative cabinet was saved from the defeat with which it was threatened on Villiers's free trade-resolutions by Palmerston's intervention with a colourless amendment. Gladstone strongly supported the amendment (which was carried by a majority of eighty), on the ground that it was in accordance with the well-known magnanimity of Sir Robert Peel, and that it would give protection decent burial. Disraeli's first budget was, however, unfortunate. He proposed to relieve the agricultural depression by taking off half the duty on malt, and, to supply the deficiency, by doubling the duty on inhabited houses. Disraeli's speech at the close of the debate proved the beginning of the long oratorical duel between him and Gladstone that only ended in Disraeli's removal to the House of Lords, nearly a quarter of a century later. Gladstone replied for the opposition. The bulk of his argument was entirely financial, and he condemned the budget because, as he said, it 'consecrated the principle of a deficiency.' He proved that the small surplus for which the chancellor of the exchequer estimated was not a real one, and that therefore his whole scheme was without solid foundation. On a division, which was taken in the early morning of 17 Dec. 1852, the government were left in a mino- rity of nineteen. The same day Lord Derby resigned.

'England,' Disraeli had said in his speech, 'does not love coalitions.' She was now to try one. Lord Aberdeen became prime minister, and constructed a mixed cabinet of whigs and Peelites, with one radical, Sir William Molesworth [q. v.] Gladstone became chancellor of the exchequer. His acceptance of office of course vacated his seat, and there was a fierce contest at Oxford, which lasted for fifteen days. Gladstone had excited the animosity of a clerical faction, led by Archdeacon Denison [q.v. Suppl.], who, five years before, had been one of his strongest supporters. Their candidate was Dudley Perceval, son of the murdered prime minister, and Gladstone's majority was considerably educed. At the close of the poll