Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/335

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Gladstone
Gladstone
323

solution of 1895, he issued on 21 March 1894 his farewell address to the electors of Midlothian. In this he made a dignified appeal to the masses of the people, in whose hands, he said, political power now rested. And he warned them that they must be on their guard against the temptation to pursue their own selfish interests, which sometimes beset every portion of the community. He proclaimed his unalterable devotion to the cause of home rule, although his personal connection with it was at an end. Writing on 7 July to Sir John Cowan, the chairman of the Liberal Association for Midlothian, he announced his definite retirement from public life.

The subject which most interested him in his retirement was the persecution of the Armenian Christians by the sultan of Turkey. On 29 Dec. 1894, his eighty-fifth birthday, he received at Hawarden an Armenian deputation, and spoke with an eloquence worthy of his prime. Denouncing the recent massacres in Armenia by Kurds, at the instigation of the Porte, he warned the sultan that he was rushing on his own destruction.

On 14 June 1895 Gladstone went in Sir Donald Currie's ship, the Tantallon Castle, to Hamburg for the opening of the Baltic Canal, and, though not supposed to be a popular statesman in Germany, was received with great enthusiasm by the inhabitants. On 18 June it was announced in the 'Times' that he had cancelled his pair with Charles Pelham Villiers, the unionist member of parliament for South Wolverhampton. No authentic explanation of this step was given. But it was asserted, and not denied, that Gladstone considered the bill for the disestablishment of the Welsh church, then in committee, to be unduly harsh in some of its provisions.

After the dissolution of parliament on 8 July, Gladstone, who took no part in the general election, retired permanently to Hawarden, and occupied himself with the foundation of St. Deiniol's library, intended for theological students. In the deed by which he established the library, he expressed the opinion that theology should be studied in connection with history and philosophy. Its shelves therefore contain historical and philosophical books as well as works on divinity. He further explained that, though primarily intended for members of the church of England, he wished it to be open to other Christian churches, and even to those who were not Christians. But there is an honourable obligation upon all who avail themselves of it not to use it for merely secular purposes.

Even in his eighty-sixth year Gladstone was still alive to the calls of humanity. The continuance of the Armenian massacres drew him from his repose, and at Chester on 6 Aug. 1895 he addressed a public meeting called to express horror at the conduct of the sultan. The Duke of Westminster, an old political follower, who had been estranged from his chief by home rule, but who, like the Duke of Argyll, had been brought back to friendly alliance with him by this recent phase of the eastern question, was in the chair. Gladstone maintained that England had a right of interference under the treaty of Paris, and that by the Anglo-Turkish convention of 1878 England was not merely authorised, but bound, to protect the Asiatic subjects of the Porte. But moral considerations, he said, had no weight at Constantinople. He returned to the subject on 17 Dec. in a public letter which ironically described the six great powers of Europe as prostrating themselves at the feet of the impotent sultan.

In 1896 Gladstone took part in a curious discussion, which led to no practical result, upon the validity of Anglican orders. Leo XIII had issued an encyclical that was interpreted by Gladstone and others as implying an intention to inquire into the possibility of an English clergyman being recognised as a priest by the church of Rome. Impressed by the urbanity characteristic of the pope, Gladstone, in a letter to Cardinal Rampolla, the papal secretary of state, reviewed the history of the subject, and earnestly pleaded for a recognition which he thought might be a first step to the reunion of Christendom. This letter was published on 1 June by the archbishop of York, and astonished Gladstone's nonconformist admirers, who did not realise that, little as he cared for the establishment, he believed in the absolute necessity of a church. The earnestness and courtesy of the letter were universally admired. But ordinary protestants could not understand what the pope had to do with the church of England, while his holiness finally closed the discussion by intimating with great politeness that, for all Englishmen, clergymen and laity alike, the church of Rome kept an open door. But those who entered it must do so upon the terms laid down by the church, and not upon their own. Writing from Cannes in March 1897 Gladstone expressed his disappointment with a plainness and vigour which recalled the old days of the Vatican pamphlet.

On 26 June the prince of Wales was installed as chancellor of the new Welsh university at Aberystwyth. Among the re-