Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/306

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Gladstone
Gladstone
294

candidate, Mr. Gathorne-Hardy (afterwards Lord Cranbrook). On 18 July the numbers were declared as follows: Heathcote, 3,236; Hardy, 1,904; Gladstone, 1,724; being a majority for Hardy over Gladstone of 180. Gladstone had a majority among the resident members of the university, and even among the heads of houses. Of the professors, twenty-four voted for him, and only ten against him. Bishop Wilberforce used all his influence in support of his old friend, who received the suffrages not only of Jowett and Pattison but of Keble and Pusey. On 17 July, the day before the declaration of the poll at Oxford, Gladstone had been nominated for South Lancashire. On the 18th he wrote a dignified farewell to the university, and on the same day arrived at Manchester, where he addressed a crowded meeting in the Free Trade Hall. He described himself as 'unmuzzled,' and intimated that a serious check to his liberal developments had been taken away. There was, however, another which was soon to follow it. On 18 Oct. Palmerston died. Gladstone, who had on 29 July been returned for South Lancashire below two conservatives, at once wrote to Lord Russell, and offered, in the event of the queen sending for him, to continue in office as chancellor of the exchequer, with or without the lead of the House of Commons, now vacant by Palmerston's death. The queen sent for Lord Russell, who became prime minister, and requested Gladstone to lead the house in his present office. The relations between Gladstone and Russell were extremely cordial, whereas Palmerston had more than once written to the queen about his chancellor of the exchequer in terms of sarcastic censure, which would have been unusually strong if applied to a political opponent.

The first duty of the new parliament, after suspending the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland to provide against the first appearance of fenianism, and passing a bill to authorise the compulsory slaughter of cattle as a protection against the rinderpest, was to deal with reform. On 12 March 1866 Gladstone introduced the government's reform bill in the House of Commons. The bill reduced the franchise in counties from a property qualification of 50l. to one of 19l., and the borough franchise from 10l. to 7l. It gave votes to compound householders, whose rates were nominally paid by the landlords, and to every man who, for two years, had had 50l. in a savings bank. A vehement opposition to the bill was at once declared from the liberal as well as the conservative side of the house. The most

eloquent and powerful of its liberal opponents was Robert Lowe (afterwards Lord Sherbrooke) [q.v.] The second reading was postponed till after Easter, and during the recess, on 6 April, Gladstone made an important speech at a liberal dinner in Liverpool, declaring that in no circumstances would the bill be withdrawn. On 12 April he moved the second reading, and took occasion to point out that the working classes, who had less share in the representation than they had before the great Reform Act, paid five twelfths of the taxes. He ridiculed the idea that they would all vote together as a class, a prediction which was amply fulfilled. The debate lasted for eight nights, and closed with a reply from Gladstone. Rising at one in the morning, he reviewed the whole course of the debate, directing himself more especially to Lowe's arguments. His speech was a masterpiece of classical eloquence, freely adorned and illustrated by those rich Virgilian hexameters with which, like Lowe, he delighted to season his parliamentary oratory. Contrasting himself with Lord Russell, a lifelong reformer, he admitted the tardiness of his own conversion, and thanked the liberal party for accepting him as leader. His speech was, in fact, far too great for the bill. But he concluded with a prophecy, fulfilled more speedily than even he could have anticipated, that time was on his side; that the great social forces, which the tumult of debate could neither impede nor disturb, were fighting for him, and would end in a certain if not distant victory. As soon as he sat down the house divided. The government secured a bare majority of five.

Before the house went into committee on the bill, and amidst a fever of public excitement, Gladstone on 3 May produced his budget. The surplus was nearly a million and a half. With it he repealed the duty on timber and the pepper duty, and reduced the duty on bottled wine to the same level as that on wine in casks. He also lowered the tax on cabs and omnibuses from a penny to a farthing a mile. He announced that commercial treaties, on the model of the treaty with France, had been concluded with Belgium, with the German Zollverein, and with Austria. He then turned to the subject of the national debt, and pleaded earnestly for the importance of making a more serious effort towards paying it off. He warned the country that the supply of coal would probably be exhausted in a hundred years, and that the consequent diminution of productive power would be enormous. This prediction, though supported