Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/307

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Gladstone
Gladstone
295

in debate by John Stuart Mill, was generally regarded as fantastic. But it was revived some years afterwards by W. S. Jevons, its real originator, and it cannot be said to have been refuted. He then propounded a scheme by which, beginning with a sum of half a million a year, debt to the amount of fifty millions would have been extinguished by 1805. But he did not remain in office long enough to carry this plan into effect. On 7 May Gladstone fulfilled his promise to the house by bringing in a redistribution bill. By grouping the small boroughs and taking away one member each from several of them, he obtained forty-nine seats, which, without altering the number of the house, he distributed among the larger towns, the more populous divisions of counties, Scotland, and the university of London. On 14 May the bill was unanimously read a second time. On the 28th, which had been fixed for the committee of the reform bill, the serious troubles of the government began. Sir Rainald Knightley (afterwards Lord Knightley) carried against ministers, by a majority of ten, an instruction to include in the bill provisions for dealing with bribery. (Sir) Arthur Hayter then moved an amendment against the system of grouping in the redistribution bill; but Gladstone, after a protest against obstruction, declared that he did not regard the principle of grouping as vital, and the amendment was not pressed. Then came the tug of war. Lord Dunkellin moved to substitute rating for rental as a qualification for the franchise. Gladstone opposed this on the double ground that it would give the assessors of rates control over the suffrage, and that it would much diminish the number of new voters. But on 18 June the amendment was carried by a majority of eleven, and on the 19th Lord Russell's government resigned. The queen was unwilling to accept their resignation. Ministers, however, succeeded in overcoming her majesty's scruples, and on 26 June Gladstone defended in the House of Commons the course which they had taken. His reasons were mainly two. He said that the only alternative to resignation was the frank acceptance of the amendment, and that the cabinet had entirely failed to find any practicable means of carrying it out. He further stated that the present reform bill, as originally drawn, was smaller than the bill of 1860, and that the government could not consent to any further diminution of it.

The queen sent for Lord Derby, who became for the third time prime minister, with Disraeli once more chancellor of the exchequer and leader of the House of Commons. Meanwhile the popular enthusiasm for reform had become intense. On 27 June ten thousand Londoners assembled in Trafalgar Square and marched in procession to Gladstone's house. Gladstone himself was not at home; but Mrs. Gladstone, in response to calls, appeared on the balcony, and there was tumultuous cheering. On 23 July a great procession of reformers marched to Hyde Park. The police, by direction from the home office, closed the gates [see Walpole, Spencer Horatio]. But the crowd broke down the railings and entered the park in triumph. Both Lord Derby and Disraeli, having taken office, calmly declared that they had never been opposed to the principle of reform, and that they had just as good a right to deal with it as their political opponents. Gladstone replied, at Salisbury, by saying that he would give an impartial consideration to any plan they might propose. Little surprise was therefore felt when a paragraph in the queen's speech for 1867 announced another reform bill. Before introducing their bill the government proposed colourless resolutions, which did not satisfy the public curiosity.

On the 18th Disraeli introduced the bill, which went much further than the resolutions. Every ratepaying householder was now to have a vote. Gladstone at once protested against the principle of dual voting, which formed part of the bill, and insisted upon votes being given to lodgers as well as to compound householders. On 25 March Disraeli moved the second reading of the bill, and after Gladstone had obtained from Disraeli an assurance which was understood to mean that he would be flexible, the bill was read a second time without a division.

On 5 April there was another meeting at Gladstone's house, when it was arranged that John Duke Coleridge (afterwards Lord Coleridge) [q. v. Suppl.] should move an instruction to the committee, which would have the effect of enlarging the number of householders enfranchised. But, in consequence of a protest made at what was called the 'tea-room meeting,' part of this instruction was dropped, and Coleridge only moved that the committee should have power to deal with rating. This Disraeli accepted, and Gladstone thereupon moved in the committee that all householders should have votes, whether their rates were paid for them or not. This amendment was rejected by a majority of twenty-one. The blow to Gladstone's authority, as leader of the opposition, was rather serious, and in reply to a letter from one of his supporters, Robert