England and Turkey furnished the text for a vigorous speech which Gladstone delivered at Bermondsey on 20 July. This convention provided that, in return for the cession of Cyprus and the usual promises of reform, England should protect the remaining territories of Turkey in Asia. Gladstone called it 'an insane covenant.'
On 30 July the treaty of Berlin was brought before the house by Lord Hartington, who moved a resolution sarcastically described by Beaconsfield as 'a series of congratulatory regrets.' Lord Hartington asked the house to condemn the failure of the congress to satisfy the just claims of Greece, and to censure the government for having incurred a liability to defend the Asiatic dominions of the sultan. To this debate Gladstone contributed an elaborate and argumentative speech, unusually devoid of rhetoric, and devoted to an exhaustive analysis of what the treaty did and failed to do. None of his parliamentary speeches delivered in opposition show signs of having been more carefully prepared, and it is one of the few which he revised before it appeared in 'Hansard.' He began with a reference to the personal attack made upon him a few nights before by Beaconsfield at a dinner given in his honour in the Knightsbridge riding school. Beaconsfield had then charged Gladstone with indulgence in very gross personalities, and in particular as having described him as a dangerous and even devilish character. Gladstone at once wrote a letter, beginning 'Dear Lord Beaconsfield,' in which he asked for a specification of the time and place in which he had used such language, or any other of a personal as distinguished from a political kind. Beaconsfield replied in the third person that he was 'much pressed with affairs,' and unable to examine the speeches of two years. But he cited an instance in which some one, not Gladstone, had compared him, in Gladstone's presence, with Mephistopheles. Passing from this repulsive subject, as he called it, Gladstone proceeded to deal with the treaty, which he said had been described by its admirers as concentrating the Turkish empire. But the Slavs, who relied upon Russia, had got most, if not all, of what they wanted. He severely criticised the conduct of Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury for having actively opposed at the congress the claims of Greece, which had been urged especially by the representatives of France. He attacked the government for abusing the prerogative of the crown to make treaties without the consent of parliament. The treaty of Berlin, he said, not having been ratified, was open to parliamentary disapproval. But the treaty of Berlin was good so far as it went, and no one desired to disavow it. The separate engagements between England and Turkey, which he and the opposition regarded as wholly bad, had been ratified, and were therefore beyond the power of parliament altogether. Lord Hartington's motion was, however, after a long debate, defeated by a majority of 143.
From the east of Europe Gladstone turned his attention to India. On 30 Nov. he delivered to his constituents a farewell address at Plumstead; he had determined not to contest Greenwich again. The greater part of this speech was an incisive indictment of Lord Lytton's policy of attacking the ameer of Afghanistan, which the cabinet approved and adopted [see Lytton, Edward Robert, first Earl Lytton]. The outbreak of the Afghan war made it necessary to call parliament together in the winter, and both houses met on 5 Dec. An amendment to the address, condemning the Afghan policy of the government, was moved by Mr. Whitbread on the 9th, and on the 10th Gladstone spoke. He quoted freely from the blue books presented by the government to show that the ameer had not, as was said, insulted either the British envoy or the Indian government. In a subsequent debate he protested against saddling the expenses of the Afghan war on the taxpayers of India. But the government were quite unassailable in the House of Commons, and their majorities suffered no appreciable diminution.
Gladstone's chief efforts in 1879 were made outside the walls of parliament. At the request of Lord Rosebery and other influential iberals, he agreed to contest the county of Midlothian against Lord Dalkeith, the eldest son of the Duke of Buccleuch. He at once entered on a political campaign of unsurpassed vigour and energy. He left Liverpool on 24 Nov., and from that date till 9 Dec., when he returned to Hawarden, there was scarcely a lawful day on which he did not deliver at least one speech; more often it was two or three. On 25 Nov., at a crowded meeting in the music hall at Edinburgh, he dwelt upon the danger of enlarging British responsibilities, and proclaimed that the real strength of the empire must always lie in the population of the United Kingdom. He again condemned the Afghan war. He denounced also the Zulu war [see Frere, Sir Bartle]. Criticising the annexation of the Transvaal, which had occurred in 1877, he contended that the people of Great Britain had been misled into supposing that the Boers wished to become British subjects. At