Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/315

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Gladstone
Gladstone
303

which was very much in excess of what the government could ordinarily anticipate. Out of doors his popularity ran very high. In October he paid one of his rare visits to Ireland, where he was presented with the freedom of Dublin, and delivered a speech on the successful working of the Irish Land Act. In Ireland he said nothing about eastern affairs; but he dealt with them at Holyhead on his way back, and paid an eloquent tribute to the nonconformist churches for the help which they had given him in his efforts for the Christians of Bulgaria. On 15 Nov. he was chosen to be lord rector of Glasgow in succession to Lord Beaconsfield, his competitor being Sir Stafford Northcote.

Meanwhile the Russo-Turkish war had proceeded rapidly, and by the beginning of 1878 Turkey was at the feet of Russia. Parliament was summoned for 17 Jan., and the queen's speech announced that Turkey had asked for the mediation of the queen's government, which her majesty was not indisposed to offer. The government immediately ordered the Mediterranean fleet to Constantinople, with the ostensible object of protecting British subjects, and announced that they would ask the House of Commons for a vote of credit of 6,000,000l. on the 31st. The day before, Gladstone attended at Oxford, which he had not visited since his rejection by the university, the foundation of the Palmerston Club. Speaking at the inaugural dinner, he admitted that circumstances had driven him into a course of agitation for the last eighteen months, and confessed that during that period he had laboured day and night to 'counter-work the purposes of Lord Beaconsfield.' On the next evening, when the vote of credit was to have been proposed, before the speaker left the chair, Forster moved a preliminary amendment, declaring that there was no ground for taking steps which implied a possible extension of the war. Gladstone spoke to the amendment on the 4th, denouncing 'prestige,' in almost the same language used by Lord Salisbury eleven years before, as a hateful sham. Alluding to the proposal of a European conference, he protested against accompanying pacific negotiations with the clash of arms. On 7 Feb. Forster withdrew his amendment, after the mistaken announcement, on the authority of (Sir) Austen Henry Layard [q. v. Suppl.], British ambassador at Constantinople, that the reported armistice between the two powers had not been signed, and that the Russian army was close to Constantinople. On 3 March the treaty of San Stefano between Russia and Turkey brought the war to an end. But the British government insisted upon its revision, under the treaty of Paris, by a conference of the powers, and to this course Russia ultimately consented. On 12 March Mr. Evelyn Ashley moved a vote of censure on Layard for having taken up an unfounded charge, made by a correspondent of the 'Daily Telegraph,' that Gladstone had been trying to stir up rebellion among the sultan's Greek subjects. Layard was proved to have made a sort of apology, and the motion was rejected by a majority of seventy-four, Gladstone taking no part in the debate.

On 28 March Lord Derby resigned office, on the decision of the government to call out the reserves and to occupy Cyprus, and was succeeded at the foreign office by Lord Salisbury, who on 1 April criticised, in a long and able despatch, the terms which Russia sought to impose on Turkey. On 8 April Gladstone commented strongly upon Lord Salisbury's despatch, which he described as substituting England for Europe. At this time his unpopularity in London, and especially in the House of Commons, was extreme. His house in Harley Street was attacked by a mob of political opponents, and he himself, with Mrs. Gladstone, was hustled in the streets.

On 16 April the House of Commons adjourned for a long Easter recess, after a positive assurance from Sir Stafford Northcote that the government contemplated no immediate change of policy. On the 17th it was announced that seven thousand Indian troops had been ordered to Malta. When parliament re-assembled the liberal leaders, including Gladstone, argued that this step was unconstitutional, and inconsistent with the Mutiny Act, which determined the number of the standing army. But the government were supported by large majorities in both houses.

On 13 June a European congress met at Berlin under the presidency of Prince Bismarck, the British representatives being Lord Beaconsfield, Lord Salisbury, and Lord Odo Russell (afterwards Lord Ampthill). While the congress was sitting the 'Globe' newspaper published a stolen copy of an agreement between England and Russia, defining, among other things, the limits within which independence should be given to part of Bulgaria. The treaty, signed on 30 May, was intended to be secret, but the understanding which it proved to exist between England and Russia strengthened the case of those who had urged that there was no ground for warlike preparations before the congress. A further agreement between