Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/314

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Gladstone
Gladstone
302

tance. Parliament rose on 15 Aug., and a few days afterwards appeared the official report of Mr. Walter Baring, second secretary of legation at Constantinople, who was commissioned by the British government to investigate the alleged outrages in Bulgaria. Mr. Baring confirmed the correspondents of the 'Daily News.' Gladstone was deeply stirred by these revelations, and on 6 Sept. published a pamphlet called 'Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East,' which had a rapid and general sale. In this he demanded that the officers of the Porte, from the lowest to the highest, should be cleared 'bag and baggage' out of the countries which they had desolated and destroyed. A few days afterwards, on the 9th, he addressed his constituents on Blackheath, and, after a denunciation of Turkey, declared it to be the duty of England to act with Russia in securing the independence of the sultan's Christian provinces. Disraeli, who had now become Lord Beaconsfield, replied to these arguments both at Aylesbury and again on lord mayor's day at the Guildhall. An attack on Turkey by Russia was imminent, and the close of Lord Beaconsfield's Guildhall speech suggested that England might resist Russia, and was well prepared for war. Liberals thereupon held a national conference at St. James's Hall to protest against any further support of the Turkish empire (8 Dec.) Gladstone spoke in the evening with careful moderation, but emphatically asserted that the English people would be content with nothing less than the strict fulfilment of those duties to the Christian subjects of the sultan which were the result of the Crimean war.

In 1876 appeared Gladstone's third book on Homer, 'Homeric Synchronism,' which is sufficiently described in its second title as 'An Inquiry into the Time and Place of Homer in History.'

Early in 1877 Gladstone entered upon an active political campaign against the government's inclination to support Turkey. He attacked the government, at Frome, for failing to discharge their obligations; and at Taunton he made the first of those speeches on railway platforms which played afterwards so large a part in English politics. Parliament met on 8 Feb. 1877, and in the debate on the address Gladstone pronounced the eastern question to be, without exception, the most solemn which the House of Commons had ever had to discuss. On the 16th he drew attention to Lord Derby's despatch condemning the Bulgarian massacres, and asked what course the government intended to adopt. After Mr. Gathorne Hardy (subsequently earl of Cranbrook) had replied in a guarded manner to Gladstone's question, and the debate had proceeded in a rather humdrum fashion, Mr. Chaplin suddenly interposed with a personal attack upon Gladstone, accusing him of making charges against his opponents behind their backs. To give Gladstone an opportunity of replying, Mr. Chaplin moved the adjournment of the house. Gladstone at once rose to second the motion, and delivered off-hand one of the most amusing as well as one of the most effective replies ever heard in the House of Commons. At the end he took a serious tone, declaring that England was responsible for the power which Turkey had abused.

The real struggle came nearly three months later. The reason for Gladstone's unexpected mildness in parliament was that the liberal party were not agreed, and especially that their titular leader, Lord Hartington, did not go so far as Gladstone in zeal for the Christians of the east. Meanwhile, on 24 April, Russia declared war against Turkey. Gladstone gave notice that on 7 May he would move four resolutions defining his eastern policy, and a fifth combining them all in an address to the crown. The first of these resolutions was a censure of Turkey for not fulfilling her obligations. The second declared that she was entitled to neither moral nor material support from England. The third laid down the principle that the Christian subjects of the Porte were entitled to local liberty and practical self-government. The fourth defined the concert of Europe as the proper method for carrying these proposals into effect. These resolutions were too strong for the moderate liberals, and Sir John Lubbock (afterwards Lord Avebury) gave notice on their behalf that he would move the previous question, which it was understood Lord Hartington would support. But before the debate came on an arrangement was made. Gladstone agreed to move only the first of his resolutions, for which the whole liberal party were ready, with a slight verbal amendment, to vote. In bringing forward this motion, however, which he did in a great rhetorical effort, Gladstone contrived to argue on behalf of his whole policy. The debate, thus begun, lasted till 14 May, when Gladstone rose at midnight to reply and summed up the arguments on his side with singular power. He declared himself for the coercion of the Porte by united Europe, and it was the British government, he added, which had stood in the way of European unity. His motion was rejected by a majority of 131,