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Gladstone, but the knowledge that politicians in plenty will be tempted to copy his example makes it absolutely necessary to speak fearlessly and strongly.

The first, the cardinal point to note about Mr. Gladstone is the fact that in political affairs he has always had a House of Commons conscience. He has again and again shown that in his opinion questions of public concern are not to be decided on their plain merits, or in accordance with the simple standards of right and wrong, justice or injustice, but mainly with reference to the momentary opinion of the House of Commons. With him the situation has always been a House of Commons situation. No doubt a certain amount of opportunism must be allowed to all statesmen. Solon gave the Athenians not the best laws, but the best laws that he could induce them to accept. Mr. Gladstone, however, carried this rule of convenience beyond all bounds. It became with him not a limitation but a ruling principle. Instead of trying to guide the nation in safe and prudent paths, he listened with attentive ear to catch the voice of the majority, and then shaped his course accordingly. Take the case of the Egyptian policy of the Government of 1880. It is notorious that Mr. Gladstone was personally inclined to pacific courses. Yet because the situation in the House of Commons demanded vigorous action he did not hesitate to drift into war, or, as he preferred to call it, into military operations.' His House of Commons conscience was satisfied by the fact that a warlike policy was the one which the situation demanded, if the situation was viewed from the point of view of Parliament. It was the same in the case of the Penjdeh incident. Mr. Gladstone brought us within a hair's breadth of war with Russia, not because he believed that Russia was attempting to bully us, not because he knew or cared a snap of the finger about the line of the Afghan frontier, but simply and solely because he believed a stiff attitude towards Russia and the threat of war would have a good effect in the House of Commons. Still more remarkable was the case of Mr. Gladstone's conversion to Home Rule. From the year 1880 to the year 1885 the situation in the House of Commons demanded a Liberal Ministry strongly opposed to Home Rule. Mr. Gladstone fulfilled that demand. In 1885 a Parliament was elected in which a Liberal Government opposed to Home Rule was an impossibility. Within a month of the close of the elections Mr. Gladstone had let it be known that he had become converted to the cause of Home Rule. Possibly

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Mr. Gladstone may have been inclining to the notion that the Liberal party would sooner or later find it politic to adopt Home Rule; but who can doubt that if the result of the elections of 1885 had been to give him what he asked for a majority over Irish and Conservatives combined-we should have heard little more of Home Rule, but should have instead beheld the spectacle of Mr. Gladstone and his Administration renewing what he himself had described as the useful and salutary provisions of the Crimes Act? It was through the working of the House of Commons conscience, not through that of the natural conscience, that Mr. Gladstone found salvation.'

Mr. Gladstone was, we do not doubt, the unconscious slave of a syllogism. He started by assuming that the interests of the country peremptorily demanded a Liberal Ministry. He went on to note that a Liberal Ministry could only remain in power by securing a majority in the House of Commons, and to assume that such a majority could only be secured by shaping a policy in accordance with the wishes expressed from time to time by that majority. From these premises he concluded that it was essential to the true interests of the country that a Liberal Government should obtain a majority in Parliament, and should secure it by catching and giving force to the kaleidoscopic whims of the Liberal majority, by worshipping-to use a homely but expressive phrase-at the shrine of the 'jumping cat.' By such means Mr. Gladstone contrived to delude himself into the belief that the needs of the higher patriotism required him to huxter for votes like a ward politician during an American election. It is remarkable that at the very outset of Mr. Gladstone's career Lord Macaulay should have detected this defect, and should in these pages have pointed out Mr. Gladstone's blind reliance upon an imperfect application of the apparatus of logic. Lord Macaulay, in reviewing Mr. Gladstone's work on Church and State, notes how careless is the author as regards his premises. The foundations of 'his theory, which ought to be buttresses of adamant, are 'made out of the flimsy materials which are fit only for ' perorations.'* This, as Lord Macaulay points out, is a fault

Edinburgh Review, April 1839. The whole of the passage in which these words occur is worth quoting. No greater proof could be given of Lord Macaulay's prescience: Whatever Mr. Gladstone sees is refracted and distorted by a false medium of passions and prejudices. His style bears a remarkable analogy to his mode of

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which no subsequent care can correct. The more strictly 'Mr. Gladstone reasons on his premises, the more absurd are 'the conclusions which he brings out.' No doubt, if it were true that the one thing necessary to the salvation of the country was a Liberal Government, and that such a Ministry could only remain in power by bending first this way and then that, to the random wishes of the majority of the House of Commons, Mr. Gladstone's practical conclusion that it was necessary and patriotic to be governed by the admonition of a House of Commons conscience would be perfectly correct. But these premises, instead of being of adamant, are, as Lord Macaulay says, made out of the flimsiest materials. A Liberal Government may be, and no doubt often is, a good thing, but it is never in any absolute or unlimited sense a necessity. The country will not perish without it. Equally mistaken is the other premise. The condition on which a Ministry remains in office is not setting its sails to every passing breath of favour. Experience has again and again shown that the Ministry which refuses to hunt for popularity either in the House of Commons or in the country, which leads instead of follows, which instructs public feeling rather than waits upon it, is as a rule far more successful than the Admin

thinking, and, indeed, exercises great influence on his mode of thinking. His rhetoric, though often good of its kind, darkens and perplexes the logic which it should illustrate. Half his acuteness and diligence, with a barren imagination and a scanty vocabulary, would have saved him from almost all his mistakes. He has one gift most dangerous to a speculator-a vast command of a kind of language, grave and majestic, but of vague and uncertain import; of a kind of language which affects us much in the same way in which the lofty diction of the chorus of clouds affected the simplehearted Athenian. . . . Now, Mr. Gladstone is fond of employing the phraseology of which we speak in those parts of his works which require the utmost perspicuity and precision of which human language is capable; and in this way he deludes first himself and then his readers. The foundations of his theory, which ought to be buttresses of adamant, are made out of the flimsy materials which are fit only for perorations. This fault is one which no subsequent care or industry can correct. The more strictly Mr. Gladstone reasons on his premises, the more absurd are the conclusions which he brings out; and when at last his good sense and good nature recoil from the horrible practical inferences to which his theory leads, he is reduced sometimes to take refuge in arguments inconsistent with his fundamental doctrines, and sometimes to escape from the legitimate consequences of his false principles under cover of equally false history.'

istration which cringes to every section or clique for its support. The path of safety for Ministries as for men is the path of honour and good sense, and not the line of most votes and least resistance. It is not the most squeezable Ministry which in the end wins the day, but the one which shows itself most fearless and most independent. But on premises so faulty as those adopted by Mr. Gladstone, what wonder that his reasoning availed him nothing and that he developed the preposterous doctrine and practice of Parliamentary opportunism? His premises of sand and his ruthless logic led him hopelessly astray. Mr. Gladstone first recklessly deluded himself with the belief that the success of his party was necessary to the salvation of the country, and then followed the notion to its logical conclusion-the necessity for adopting, not honour and good sense as the index of policy, but the windy impulses of the House of Commons.

We have dealt with Mr. Gladstone as an opportunist politician. It remains to notice briefly the claims that are made for him in other respects. It is true that in the worship of the Goddess Occasion he has been successful, but failure is elsewhere the dominant note of his career. Who would be found hardy enough to suggest that Mr. Gladstone deserves notice as a great political thinker? In spite of his sixty years of political life; in spite of writings, that cover all subjects from the colours in Homer to the swine of Gadara; in spite of the torrent of his speeches, a very Amazon of eloquence, there is not a passage, not a line, not a word which is memorable as a contribution to political science. There is more of guidance in public affairs in the shortest page of Burke than in the whole Corpus politicum Gladstoniense. Not a saying of general force and applicability can be drawn from this colossal quagmire of non-committal and ephemeral verbosity. Admirably suited for the purpose of the moment, it sinks to the level of opportunist rhetoric.

In any case the fact remains that Mr. Gladstone's speeches are deficient in literary form, and still more deficient in precision of language. Yet as spoken these same speeches are among the greatest, because the most successful of oratorical efforts. The grace of manner, the appropriateness and dignity of gesture, the noble bearing, the resonant voice, and the whole passion of eloquence with which Mr. Gladstone was able to endow his speeches, laid men under a charm which few or none failed to feel, and many found irresistible. But when those who at night had listened spell-bound to

the orator turned next morning to the printed report, it was seldom that they were able to suppress the sense of disappointment. With the charm of the speaker's personality had gone a large portion of the eloquence. No doubt those in full sympathy with Mr. Gladstone found in his speeches, even when read, much to sustain them in the attitude they had adopted, much to soothe their fears and to allay their doubts; but to those not under the spell the speeches, when read and not listened to, seemed hardly to deserve the name of oratory. Posterity will, we believe, hardly regard Mr. Gladstone among the contributors to the treasury of England's eloquence. While Mr. Bright's speeches will be kept alive by their intrinsic merits, and will be read as are read those of Burke and Canning, Mr. Gladstone's will remain unconsulted, except by some historian bent on discovering the secret of the mighty spell they once invoked.

It is impossible to deal with the leading characteristics of Mr. Gladstone's political personality and not notice what has euphemistically been termed his mastery over language —that is, his power of expressing his opinion, or lack of opinion, upon this or that subject in such a way as to suggest two or more inconsistent or antagonistic explanations. In his practice of the art of verbal ambiguity Mr. Gladstone has far outdone the record of the Delphic oracle. The answers vouchsafed by the Pythoness were not half so cunningly constructed as many of Mr. Gladstone's utterances on public affairs. Mr. Gladstone early discovered that the true art of mystification lay in verbosity. The utterers of the oracles were placed at a disadvantage by their desire to comprise their answers in a short and concentrated sentence. He saw how incomparably diffusion surpasses concentration when the object is to give different impressions to different persons, and hence he would not deviate even on the most pedestrian occasion into shortness and simplicity. A good example of his method is to be found in one of the speeches made by him in June 1889 in regard to Disestablishment in Wales and Scotland:

'You will understand, therefore, that the condition I have laid down was this: full and unequivocal evidence of the sense of the two countries. Having that full and unequivocal evidence before me, when the question is brought forward with respect to the one country or the other, I will be ready to render a distinct account of my opinion. I shall not flinch from entering into the division lobby, and from what I have said you may, perhaps, be able to form a conjecture as to what my vote will be; but at any rate that will be the course I shall take, and I shall feel, in taking that course, that I have done all

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