Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/336

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Gladstone
Gladstone
324

cipients of honorary degrees were the princess of Wales, who received a degree in music, and Gladstone, who was greeted with the utmost enthusiasm by the Welsh audience.

At the end of August 1896 a general butchery, by order of the sultan, of the Armenian residents in Constantinople drew Gladstone once more into the political arena. On 24 Sept. he spoke with undiminished eloquence and power to a mass meeting of six thousand persons in Hengler's circus at Liverpool. The meeting was composed of both political parties, and the lord mayor, the Earl of Derby (a conservative), presided. Gladstone suggested that the British ambassador should be recalled from Constantinople, and that the Turkish ambassador in London should be given his passports. He followed up this speech by an article in the 'Nineteenth Century' for October, strongly urging that this country was under a moral obligation to intervene, and that if she did not discharge it, the word 'honour' should be dropped from the language. The speech and article had no visible effect upon the policy of Lord Salisbury's government, but they were among the reasons given by Lord Rosebery in his valedictory speech at Edinburgh for retiring from the leadership of the liberal party. Lord Rosebery intimated his dissent from Gladstone's proposals, which, if adopted, would, in his opinion, have led to a European war. This was on 8 Oct., and on the 19th, at a meeting in St. James's Hall, with the bishop of Rochester in the chair, a letter from Gladstone was read replying to Lord Rosebery, though not by name. Premising that he desired not to attack the government, but to strengthen Lord Salisbury's hands, he described the sultan as the great assassin, and announced as a 'wild paradox' the fear of war.

During 1896 there appeared in two instalments Gladstone's contribution towards the study of Bishop Butler, to whose dry and bracing philosophy he had been devoted since his Oxford days. Early in the year the Clarendon Press published his edition, in two volumes, of the 'Analogy' and the 'Sermons,' with brief explanatory notes, a rearrangement of the text in paragraphs, and a complete index, which must have been a work of enormous labour. Soon afterwards there came out an additional volume called 'Studies subsidiary to the Works of Bishop Butler,' in which Gladstone defended the bishop against some of his modern critics, and entered at large into modern speculations on the immortality of the soul.

In 1897, though his published utterances were almost entirely confined to the new phase of the eastern question, Gladstone spoke at Hawarden on 4 May in favour of the bishop of St. Asaph's diocesan fund. On 13 March, in a letter to the Duke of Westminster (subsequently published as a pamphlet), he paid an eloquent tribute to 'the recent and marvellously gallant action of Greece' in going to the assistance of Crete and declaring war on Turkey. Greece fell an easy prey to the superior discipline of the Turkish army, and on 21 Sept. Gladstone summed up the previous two years of eastern policy in the following words: 'First, 100,000 Armenians slaughtered, with no security against repetition, and great profit to the Assassin. Secondly, Turkey stronger than at any time since the Crimean war. Thirdly, Greece weaker than at any time since she became a kingdom. Fourthly, all this due to the European Concert: that is, the mutual distrust and hatred of the Powers.' Crete, however, was liberated from Turkey, and, after a period of government by European admirals, was placed under the control of a Christian administrator, Prince George of Greece.

Gladstone's speech at Queen's Ferry on 2 June, when the Victoria Jubilee Bridge was opened over the Dee, was the last he delivered. In the summer of 1897 he suffered very acute pain, supposed at first to be neuralgia, and in November he went again to Cannes. But he grew worse, and in February 1898 returned to England. At Bournemouth, on 18 March, the doctors told him that the pain was due to a disease which must soon prove fatal, and on the 22nd he returned to Hawarden a dying man. The remaining weeks of his life were spent chiefly in religious devotion, fortified by the rites of the English Church; and early in the morning of Ascension Day (May 19) he died. Among the innumerable messages which he received during his last illness was a unanimous vote of sympathy passed by the senate of Italy, the country to which, after the United Kingdom, his greatest services had been rendered. On the day of his death the House of Commons at once adjourned as a mark of respect to his memory. On 20 May an address was carried by both houses for a public funeral and national monument in Westminster Abbey. On this occasion speeches were delivered upon Gladstone's character and career by the leading members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The most interesting, because the most personal, was Lord Rosebery's. But Mr. Balfour's, which was read from manuscript, is careful, appreciative, and valuable to the historian.