Gladstone Through the Looking Glass: Part 2 of Gladstone and Canada

"Gladstone Through the Looking Glass" is the continuation of "Gladstone, Canada and calibration: Part 1 of Gladstone and Canada":


++ Gladstone and Canada: breadth of information, lack of context Congratulating Lord Lorne on his appointment as Governor-General of the Dominion in 1879, Gladstone wrote that "the years behind me are too many, and those still possibly before me too few, to allow me any reasonable expectation of being able to fill that gap in my life and in the lives of all who have not seen the American Continent". Translated, this meant that, as he approached the age of 70, it was unlikely that he would ever visit Canada.[1] Indeed, it is hard to imagine Gladstone crossing the Atlantic. Like many Victorians, he was a poor sailor who lived most of his life in an era of slow, small and vulnerable shipping: a voyage from London to Aberdeen in 1833, his first visit to Fasque, took 56 hours. Not until the eighteen-eighties did he discover the delights of sailing the British coasts and the North Sea in Sir Thomas Brassey's large luxury yacht (and at Sir Thomas Brassey's expense). Only once does he seem to have considered tackling the Atlantic, offering in 1838 to make a fact-finding visit to his father's plantations in Demerara. With what Morley suspected was "prudent instinct", John Gladstone vetoed the project.[2] Continental Europe, so much closer at hand, offered far greater attractions, the more so as Gladstone was fluent in Italian and could also speak French and German. In Naples he met the fascinating Giacomo Lacaita (who quickly relocated to England and became Sir James); in Munich, he fell under the spell of the Catholic theologian Ignaz von Döllinger. From 1871, Canada's resident intellectual was the ponderous Oxford exile Goldwin Smith: it would have been worth travelling a long distance to avoid meeting Goldwin Smith, and – especially after 1886 – neither would have welcomed the encounter.[3] Like the Prince of Wales in 1860 (or George VI in 1939), Gladstone could hardly have visited Canada without travelling on to the United States. Although he was invited in 1878 to lecture at Harvard,[4] there would have been some risk that the ill-considered sympathy for the Confederacy that he had expressed in 1862 might have exposed him to insult. Fundamentally, the People's William was only comfortable when operating within (and near the top of) a hierarchical society. There was, too, the problem of distance. Gladstone was skilled at making tactical withdrawals to the margins of politics, but he needed to be close enough to the centre of events, Westminster, to rebound. To have been marooned across the Atlantic, as Parnell was caught in Montreal by the announcement of the 1880 general election, would have been a disaster that he took care to avoid.[5]

Given that Gladstone did not visit Canada and never had any intention of seeing the country at first hand, the range of his involvement with its problems and challenges seems impressive. At some stage in their careers, most Victorian British statesmen had to deal with some aspect of Canada, either as troublesome colony or as expanding Dominion. What is remarkable about Gladstone's activities is that they spanned the continent from ocean to ocean. Of course, to some extent, this was the product of sheer longevity: he read a newspaper report of William Huskisson's denunciation of French Canadian culture in 1828; he energetically charmed Wilfrid Laurier on the lawns of Hawarden in 1897. He played a part in the Imperial retreat over the clergy reserves of Upper Canada. Newfoundland, which only became Canada's tenth province half a century after his death, intermittently crossed his desk from the eighteen-thirties to the eighteen-nineties. He absorbed Arthur Gordon's gloomy analysis of pre-Confederation New Brunswick, and responded warmly to Charles Hibbert Tupper's upbeat assessment of post-Confederation Nova Scotia. As a freelance financial expert, he helped block Prince Edward Island's plans to borrow money for a spending spree in 1858, but his first ministry guaranteed the loan finance that the new Dominion required for westward expansion. In a sense, Gladstone's vision ranged far ahead of Canada's ambitious politicians, at least in spirit. In 1848, he had dreamed of cloning a new Britain on Vancouver Island. His mistrust of the Hudson's Bay Company led him to a few atypical outbursts of compassion towards the indigenous people of the prairies, and he took an active interest in the creation of Manitoba in 1870. He could be minutely informed, for instance about the customs facilities at the St Lawrence town of Prescott, and voracious in his pursuit of facts, seeking information about the potential for farming along the Rainy River or the chances of operating steamships on the south Saskatchewan. He played his part in some of the landmark events that shaped modern Canada, reluctantly supporting the union of Upper and Lower Canada in 1840, and supplying calculating but nonetheless important support for the Confederation project in the mid-eighteen-sixties.

Yet it seems unlikely that Gladstone ever engaged with Canada on its own terms. Indeed, he rarely met Canadians and, when he did, generally encountered them in formal settings. Certainly he had no transatlantic friends, certainly nobody of the social status of the New Zealander J.E. FitzGerald. Two of his cabinet colleagues, H.C.E. Childers and Robert Lowe, were returned colonists from Australia (and graduates of Cambridge and Oxford respectively), but it is difficult to image any Canadian politician achieving ministerial rank at Westminster, where none were even elected before Edward Blake in 1892.[6] Hence, every time Gladstone had to deal with some British North American issue, we seem to learn more about the beholder than the subject. One major reason for this myopia of perception was that Gladstone almost invariably approached Canadian questions through the filter of some other concern – the Church, relations with the United States, trade and tariffs, or defence. However, in itself, this explanation does not take us very far, since it masks a deeper problem in the contexts that he sought to impose. We should never forget that Gladstone saw himself as the agent of an essentially religious mission in politics.[7] In a sense, his career is the story of the unravelling of a massive exercise in self-delusion, a journey from imagined spirituality to practical secularism. The negative response to his 1838 call for the British State to act as handmaiden to the Church began a process – substantially rapid, but slow in recognition – of accommodation with reality. The mirage dissipated even faster when projected upon the colonies, with the result that Canada occupied no intellectual niche of any kind in his private worldview after 1853.

However, conceptually speaking, this was nothing compared with the phantom context of placing Canada alongside the United States. Certainly, in real-world terms, in order to appease American hostility, Gladstone ruthlessly imposed the Treaty of Washington settlement upon the Dominion.  Yet when it came to understanding the United States, assessing its role in the world, taking account of its likely future, predicting its impact upon Britain and Ireland, there was something of a void in his mighty intellect. Of course, he had always been aware of the existence of the American republic: the ships that sailed past Seaforth House to Canada also traded with its southern neighbour.[8] John Gladstone had travelled through the United States between 1789 and 1791, seeking business opportunities: he had been presented to George Washington and, despite his toryism, became a life-long admirer of the first President, a sentiment that increased to "veneration" in his son.[9] Gladstone himself recorded only one foray into de Tocqueville, although he had some awareness of the governance of the Episcopalian Church in the United States.[10] In 1862, in support of his advocacy of European arbitration in the American Civil War, he typically made himself the master of detail, sketching a partition that would award Maryland and Kentucky to the North and New Mexico to the south, with Missouri and Virginia partitioned between the two.[11] Yet there is no indication that he ever mobilised a similar level of detail in order to immerse himself in American affairs again. He seems to have made only one substantial attempt at an evaluation, much of it superficial, in an article on "Kin Beyond the Sea" contributed to the North American Review in 1878. This accepted that the United States, which Gladstone insisted on regarding as a "daughter" nation, would overtake Britain in economic and military power: "We have no more title against her, than Venice, or Genoa, or Holland has had against us." But he compared his ability to write about American institutions to "one who attempts to scan the stars with the naked eye", while devoting most of his essay to praise of Britain's constitutional monarchy and explanation of its parliamentary and cabinet system. Self-governing colonies were mentioned in passing, but no attempt was made to accommodate Canada into some overall system of British-American relations.[12] America, he wrote in 1880, "is a wonderful country, and as yet we know very little of it", but there is little indication that he found either the time or the interest to repair the deficiency.[13] Morley tried to make some strawless bricks about his views on American affairs – most of them from the unpromising material of his flirtation with the new nation created by Jefferson Davis – but few of his major biographers have even posed the question.[14] If a study of Gladstone and Canada may seem to be pushing the study of the Grand Old Man into an obscure corner, it may also be pleaded that there is hardly more material on which to build any consistently argued analysis of Gladstone and the American republic.[15]

Thus if Gladstone viewed Canada, in part, through the prism of the United States, it was a prism that lacked depth and focus. In his obituary tribute in 1898, his former secretary Edward Hamilton attributed to him an "implicit belief in the future of the English-speaking races on both sides of the Atlantic". It is difficult not to believe that Hamilton was ticking the 'USA' box by appealing to generalities. Gladstone, he insisted, believed in "[t]he ultimate if not the immediate prospect of those races, united in blood and language". While concepts of 'race' and 'blood' exercised a powerful impact upon Victorian minds, they were often used very loosely, and could only be applied here by overlooking mass immigration from continental Europe and by ignoring America's Black minority. The point of distinguishing between the immediate and the ultimate was, of course, that, as recently as 1895, relations between the two countries had deteriorated to the point that there were fears of war. Hamilton took the opportunity to quote Gladstone's worthy sentiment that it would be "nothing short of a crime, were there not an understanding among these peoples". No doubt Gladstone's view of the future of British-American relations was "as he once expressed himself, 'majestic, inspiring, and consolatory'", but it was equally true that his attitudes to the United States were diffuse and lacking in focus.[16]

Gladstone had mentioned the possibility of the union of British North America as early as 1849, and – as outlined earlier – he supported Confederation as a step towards easing Britain's defence burden. Other British statesmen, including his friend the Duke of Newcastle, cherished the vision of a British North American state, a friendly ally which would be "a most valuable … makeweight in the balance of power on the American Continent".[17] But Gladstone was neither warmed nor inspired: to him, the notion of Canada as a loyal ally simply meant that Britain would be obliged to fight Canada's battles. Ever faithful to his father's belief that the colonial relationship was merely transient, Gladstone saw no essential difference between Canadians and Americans, and regarded the unification of the provinces as nothing more than a balance-sheet item that might reduce overseas miitary and naval expenditure.[18]

++ Gladstone, Scotland and Canada In contrast to these imprecise contexts, is it possible to discern a framework within which Gladstone might have related to Canada and Canadians, through a shared wavelength of Scottish identity? It sometimes seems as if nineteenth-century British North America was a vast projection of Scotland on a transatlantic canvas, with Canada's destiny shaped by public figures bearing Scottish surnames, some of them recent arrivals from the homeland.[19] Not only was Gladstone himself the son of Scots parents, but he came from the same sort of middle-class, mercantile background as many of the bankers, businessmen and lawyers who dominated colonial politics. If a postulated Caledonian connection failed to produce some degree of understanding, why not? Christopher Harvie perceptively noted the "curious, flickering quality" of Gladstone's association with Scotland in the many biographies.[20] Yet it is not merely in his relationship with Scotland that we may detect an evanescent quality about Gladstone's national or regional identities. "Oxford on the surface, but Liverpool below." Bagehot's pithy summary of Gladstone's personality is often quoted – but rarely analysed. The comment of an anonymous Whig, presumably a grandee, it was reported to have been uttered "with a touch of bitterness", presumably conveying the sneer that a superficial layer of the elite and effete masked qualities that were deplorably commercial and provincial. "No bad combination", was Morley's riposte, but this overlooks the central point that it was a mixture of elements that created an identity that was entirely English.[21] Bagehot's famous aphorism was doubly misleading: Gladstone's university experience was an extension of his public school experience, his childhood in Lancashire was the accidental location of a family of detached exiles. If we wish to encapsulate Gladstone in geographical terms, it might be better to think of a Scots foundation obscured by suffocating layers of Eton. Although buried deep, Scotland might still erupt in seismic crisis. "It'll na dee", was his explosive verdict on Parnell's refusal to quit politics after the O'Shea divorce case.[22]

Gladstone was the son of Scottish parents and was reared in a very Scottish household: even the servants at Seaforth House were imported from north of the Border. When a Liverpool theatre staged a performance of Macbeth in the early nineteenth century, the famous question "Stands Scotland where it did?" provoked an intervention from the gallery: "there's pairt o' Scotland in England noo – there's John Gladstone and his clan".[23] Yet Gladstone was remarkably reticent in asserting a Scottish identity.  Morley chose to depict him as "far the most conspicuous and powerful of all the public leaders in our history, who have sprung from the northern half of our island". In fact, the sole piece of evidence that he was "not slow to claim the name of Scotchman" came from a speech delivered in Dundee at the age of eighty, which hardly suggests a very rapid proclamation of personal identity – and, in any case, Morley (as so often) doctored the quotation.[24] Similarly, a quarter of a century earlier, Gladstone had said that "there are very few of those who can claim a connection with Scotland who are indisposed to make that claim wherever they may find themselves". With his remarks punctuated by cheers, he continued: "If Scotland is not ashamed of her sons, undoubtedly … her sons are not ashamed of her." The memory of his parents made him "glad and thankful to remember that the blood that runs in my veins is exclusively Scottish". His Glasgow audience loved it, but he stopped short of asserting that he was a Scot himself.[25] In 1879, he fought perhaps his greatest political campaign in Midlothian, addressing huge meetings there and across Scotland to adoring audiences, yet he neither claimed nor even implied that he was a fellow-countryman.[26] Not until his last years, it seems, did Gladstone ever go beyond describing himself, in the phrase that he chose in 1852, as "one connected with Scotland".[27] At another Glasgow event, this time in 1892, he exonerated Scotland from all responsibility for the mistreatment of Ireland: the crimes of Cromwell predated the Union of 1707, and until the Reform Act of 1832, the Scottish people had no real voice in what passed for parliamentary elections. "I have often said to Scottish audiences how much I rejoice as a Scotchman that Scotland is far from having a share in the regulation of these relations". So far as his own self-definition was concerned, the claim was questionable.[28] In 1892, writing to an American correspondent, he flamboyantly declared: "I am a pure Scotchman".[29] The letter duly made its way into the press, prompting a sour comment from the Glasgow Herald:  "The remarkable flexibility of Mr Gladstone's nationality has often been remarked upon".[30] Goldwin Smith denounced Gladstone's Caledonian pretensions: "he was bred in England; brought up at an English school, and in an English University …was indebted for his brilliant start in life to honours won at an English University; was brought into Parliament through the influence of an English nobleman for an English borough; sat for English constituencies nearly all his life; and apparently, owes as much to England as ever a man owed to his country".[31]

The hyphen that linked Gladstone's Englishness to his parental heritage was his mother's upbringing in the minority Scottish Episcopal Church. On their marriage in 1800, John Gladstone abandoned his Presbyterian background and Unitarian practice, and the couple became energetic members of the Evangelical wing of the Church of England. As a result, Gladstone was reared to become a devout Anglican, although he later came to adhere to its contrasting ritualist wing. A minority communion, persecuted as recently as the eighteenth century, the Scottish Episcopal Church was very definitely not the northern branch of the Church of England. There were minor liturgical differences between the two bodies, which reflected nuances of distinction between their collective theological moods: given the competition they faced on the ground, Scottish Episcopalians were understandably suspicious of anything that smacked of Calvinism. [32] Gladstone's enthusiastic adherence when he was north of the Border represented something more complex than simple patronage of a local form of own-brand Anglicanism. He used the Episcopal Church both as a means of defining his own relationship with the northern half of Britain and as a protective mechanism against the full-blooded Scottishness of the Kirk and all its works.[33] Few biographers have discussed this remarkable eclecticism, a form of through-the-looking-glass stance that enabled him to juggle the attempted hybrid of an Anglo-Scots identity. Its subtlety was certainly too much for his Oxford detractors who whispered, especially during the hard-fought by-election of 1853, that he had seceded to a rival communion.[34] Nor did membership of the Episcopal Church gain him much credit with the Scottish mainstream. It was not a bridge that eased him into an unfamiliar society, but a bridgehead that left him an intruder in a hostile landscape. At Gladstone's death in 1898, the Glasgow Herald combined obligatory admiration for his career with venomous contempt for his attachment to the faith of the alien laird. "So far from being a Presbyterian, Mr Gladstone belonged to that communion in Scotland which, in spite of the fact that it comprises within its nowise extensive bounds the elect of society, if not of saintliness, is more disliked by non-Episcopalian denominations in Scotland than any other, and is generally credited with returning the compliment."[35]

Always feeling themselves to be exiles in Liverpool, his parents reasserted their Scottish identity by retiring in 1833 to Fasque, the Kincardineshire estate purchased by John Gladstone four years earlier. As Dr Johnson had acidly observed, many Scots made their careers in England, but the Gladstones were among the few who ever returned home. For Gladstone on the verge of adult life, their relocation was a challenge to connect with a Scottish identity attributed to him by his family, but with which he seems never to have been wholly comfortable. For a quarter of a century, he tried to define himself in his own version of being a Scot. Substantially, he failed. There are surely clues here that might help us understand how he functioned as to some extent an outsider on both sides of the Border. Yet his biographers, mostly English, have largely failed to explore the possibilities.[36]

Although he spent long periods at the new family headquarters, Gladstone was largely a tourist who enjoyed energetic walks in a beautiful landscape.[37] By the eighteen-forties, when he brought his own family for extended visits as part of a compulsory attendance upon his increasingly querulous father, he simply brought with him his intellectual, political and theological interests and ignored everything around him except family quarrels and the scenery. He was uncomfortable in his occasional experiences of Presbyterian worship, and sought to mask the reality of Scotland by imposing upon it a combination of the fantasies of his favourite author in the English language, Walter Scott, and the institutions of a revivified Episcopal Church. He badgered his father into building a church at Fasque: it was dedicated to St Andrew, Scotland's patron saint, but its consecration in 1847 by the bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, symbolised not merely an anglicising purpose but a desire to establish a direct connection with Gladstone's college, Christ Church.[38] His commitment to the Episcopal Church went far beyond a single building. In the eighteen-forties, his institutional identification was very close:[39] Gladstone planned to raise endowment funds to support the Scottish bishoprics,[40] and took a leading part in the founding of Trinity College, Glenalmond.[41] It was in this period that he became interested in synodical Church government, a structure which encouraged the participation of laity, an approach that he favoured for the Anglican Church in England and sought to apply to the colonial churches overseas.[42] Furthermore, Gladstone not only observed his father's homeland from its Episcopal sidelines, but the move to Fasque hardly replicated John Gladstone's boyhood behind a shop counter in Leith. He also came to view Scotland from the windows of the great houses. In 1853, he briefly stopped at Dingwall, his mother's birthplace, his first visit since childhood. He was on his way from Dunrobin Castle, where he had accepted the hospitality of the Duke (and, especially, the Duchess) of Sutherland, via an overnight stop with their son, the Marquess of Stafford at Tarbat House, to be the guest of the Duke of Buccleuch at Drumlanrig Castle.[43]

All in all, there was remarkably little in his experience and his personal make-up that could create some shared sympathy with the Canadian Scots whom he encountered. The most notable difference was that they most definitely did not have astonishingly wealthy fathers. Indeed, it was parental inadequacy that often explained why they found themselves living a colonial life at all. John A. Macdonald's father had emigrated after the failure of his Glasgow textile business: he would not be notably more successful in Upper Canada.[44] Alexander Galt's father was once imprisoned for debt.[45] Perhaps the most remarkable story was that of George Brown, with whom Gladstone jousted over the cost of Canadian defences. Brown's father, a failed Edinburgh businessman who became "a trusted civic official", managed to lose £2,800 of "public money that had been mixed up with his own accounts". Brown's biographer, J.M.S. Careless, one of Canada's finest historians, offered a remarkably indulgent account of the disaster, but even he had to acknowledge that "plainly such a confusion should never have occurred".  Guarantors made good the loss, and – no doubt with worthy intentions – Peter Brown and his eighteen-year old emigrated to New York to pay off the debt. Six years later they transferred to Toronto: George Brown's schooling had been disrupted by his father's financial problems – and, anyway, he was never one to bow to instruction – and he pressed for the relocation, arguing that Canada contained "few persons of ability and education".[46] Given the taint of slave-owning in his own background, Gladstone could hardly afford to be prejudiced against the sins of anybody's father, but John Gladstone's wealth had provided him with a much more comfortable upbringing than had been the lot of his Canadian contemporaries. They were pitchforked into adult life at an early age. At eighteen – the age when Gladstone entered Oxford – Allan MacNab, the Tory leader who opposed the Rebellion Losses bill, was articled to a lawyer. By contemporary Canadian standards, he was almost a late developer: Macdonald was running a small-town law office at seventeen. At the same age, Galt was working as a book keeper for a land sales company: at 22, he produced a report recommending policies to rescue its flagging fortunes.[47] Like Gladstone – although at different angles – their connections with Scotland became oblique. Canadian-born but a self-declared Highlander, MacNab did not visit his ancestral homeland until he was 45. Macdonald arrived in Canada at the age of five and spoke with a North American twang. He once joked that, although he had "the misfortune … to be born a Scotchman", he had been brought to Canada "before I was very much corrupted". On a holiday in 1842, he visited some of his Scottish relations, but on his later official visits to London, he never made time to travel north of the border.[48] Emigrating as a young adult, George Brown kept in closer touch with Scottish issues, becoming a fervent adherent of the Free Church at the time of the Disruption in 1843 – a denominational affiliation poles apart from Gladstone. He revisited Edinburgh after 25 years – having waited until his father's debts were resolved – to find a bride, but his experience left him proclaiming "Canada for me!"[49] To appropriate a Gladstonian adjective, the Scots in Canada were "unmuzzled". Macdonald struggled, not always very hard, with alcohol.[50] MacNab had difficulties with money, especially other people's.[51] Brown had problems with anybody who ventured to disagree with him.[52] Their various forms of shared experience with Scotland failed to provide any common ground of Highlands and heather that might allow Gladstone to feel sympathetic empathy.

Indeed, it may be possible to take the argument further, and to suggest that Canada probed potential insecurities in Gladstone's complex sense of his own identity: had he not been born to wealth, sent to Eton and finished at Oxford, might he too have been a colonial Macdonald or a Canadian Brown? As with most extended families, the Gladstone background contained a broad range of surnames, two of which uncomfortably surfaced in the Canadian turbulence that led to the rebellions of 1837.  The maiden names of his grandmothers had been Neilson and Mackenzie, and these were recycled as forenames in later generations. Gladstone was about three years younger than the third son, his brother, John Neilson, and the initials "J.N.G." frequently appear in his diary. There was Canadian John Neilson, a bilingual Scot who came to London to plead the cause of the Lower Canada Assembly in 1828.  He returned undertaking a subsequent mission on behalf of the English-speaking merchant community in 1835, arriving just too late to lobby Gladstone at the Colonial Office. Neilson broke with Papineau, tried to avert violence and became a fierce critic of the francophobic contempt of the Durham Report. His birthplace was in Galloway, some distance from the Gladstone heartland in south Lanarkshire, and it is unlikely that he was a relation, but the coincidence of names could hardly have escaped notice.[53] Gladstone's parents were particularly proud of their connection to the Mackenzies, one of the great Highland clans: his favourite sister, Anne Mackenzie, was named after their mother's people. It can only have been galling that the Upper Canadian rebellion should have been led by a namesake, William Lyon Mackenzie, "an insignificant pedlar-lad", with an "extraordinary talent … in inventing gross falsehoods", in the words of Sir Francis Bond Head, whose Narrative Gladstone read aloud to his father in February 1838.  Mackenzie was from Dundee, the constituency that John Gladstone very unsuccessfully contested as a Conservative in the 1837 general election, a few months before the rebellions.[54] Surely it would have occurred to Gladstone that he too might have become an exile in the colonies. In 1800, grandfather Thomas Gladstones had written to his son: "it has been your fortune in life to advance into a class of Society that we did not expect".[55] Boldness and determination had carried him upwards, but – like many other merchants – he might easily have plunged to destruction. One of his earliest cargoes of wheat from the United States had been wrecked by mildew, and commerce – and especially the insurance business in which he dabbled – was a risky enterprise during the long wars against France. And there was a sense in which John Gladstone was a migrant, if not overseas, then in his move, at the age of 24, from Leith to Liverpool. A lengthy tour of the United States had followed soon afterwards: although John Gladstone was glad to get away from the newly independent republic, sheer inertia might have kept him on that side of the Atlantic.[56] The boom-and-bust years that followed the Napoleonic wars were also dangerous: Hugh Gladstone, the last of the brothers to operate from Leith, went bankrupt in 1816. Gladstone's father brought him to Liverpool and set him up in business again – but, without a wealthy and supportive sibling, Uncle Hugh might well have been banished to the colonies.[57]

For Gladstone himself, one related nightmare would have been the risk inherent in any form of migration, even between cities, of falling away from the Church into heresy. In his first years in Liverpool, John Gladstone had attended a Unitarian chapel, and his youngest brother, David, became a firm adherent of that denomination. It was a heretical offshoot of mainstream Christianity to which Gladstone felt the deepest revulsion: when another brother, Robertson, announced his forthcoming marriage to a Unitarian bride, Gladstone engaged in a campaign of "sanctimonious objectionableness" in the hope of derailing the nuptials.[58] The depth of his animosity perhaps suggests that he saw in the Unitarian creed an alternative destiny that might have overwhelmed him had he become an emigrant rather than an Etonian. Perhaps it would be straining credulity to suggest that Gladstone sought to repel Canada and Canadians simply because the colony and its people frighteningly reminded him of an alter ego that had happily never come to be. Nonetheless, the elusive and generally unexplored question of Gladstone's sense of personal identity may well be connected with his apparent inability to deal with Canadian issues exclusively upon their own merits. Certainly, it may be said that his connection with Scotland gave him neither sympathy nor understanding in his dealings with Canada and Canadians.

++ How Gladstone made decisions As this essay developed, it became clear that, while an examination of Gladstone's views on Canadian issues offered a useful supplement to his role in the formation of British policy and attitudes, the study should also attempt the wider task of throwing light on the way he made decisions – an issue which involves key questions that have fascinated and perplexed students of his career for over a century. The two approaches suggested here both draw upon popular culture: the story of Goldilocks, and the fable of Alice Through the Looking Glass.

++ "Just right": Gladstone, Goldilocks and Arbitrary Calibration In the story of Goldilocks, a little girl entered a strange house and tasted three bowls of porridge. The first was too hot, the second too cold, but the third was approved as "just right". Implicit in the story is the point that that this ideal is never defined, still less explained: the answer simply rested upon the instinctive response of girl herself. Similarly, Gladstonian Goldilocks solutions were embodied in terms of mistily subjective precision, although they were generally much less simple. In older and darker versions of the Goldilocks tale, the intruding female was a witch-like old woman, who also tried the furniture. One chair was too hard, another too comfortable. The third proved to be "just right" but only momentarily, because it broke under her weight.[59] Rebellion Losses was one of the many issues to which Gladstone applied his version of the Goldilocks principle, infusing the terms "just" and "right" with his own moralistic fervour. In June 1849, he mounted himself on his compromise seat of judgement, only for it to shatter beneath him.

Gladstonian Goldilocks solutions were not merely just and right in their rectitude, but in terms of their precision as well. George W.E. Russell, who served as a junior minister in two of Gladstone's governments, noted that there was "an almost excessive exactness in [his] statement of propositions".[60] Morley agreed, deploring "an over-refining in words, an excess of qualifying propositions, a disproportionate impressiveness in verbal shadings without real difference".[61] I term this aspect of Gladstone's decision-making Arbitrary Calibration, and the notion may help to illuminate if not the nature of his political thought and the outcomes of his political thinking, then at least the methodology that shaped it.[62] Imagine that on any proposal for change, opinions may be registered on a scale from Zero (No) to 100 (Yes). On hotly contested issues, there will tend to be two opposing camps or clusters, one scoring below 10 – those who denounced change, although some may be prepared to offer minor concessions – and the other coming in above 90 – supporters of change, some fervent, others willing to compromise on details. There were certainly episodes in Gladstone's career when he found himself at either extreme, returning himself at 0 on parliamentary reform in 1831 and in his disgust at birth control ("the saddest & most sickening of subjects") in 1888,[63] while he claimed to register 100 on free trade issues after 1846.  (In practice, complete free trade remained an ideal and a slogan: as late as 1882, the British government derived almost one quarter of its revenue from customs duties.)[64] However, in many instances, Gladstone's prescription for some nagging problem came in at 54, or 67, or 73 – a very precise calibration, and one chosen, calculated or evolved by its proposer, and sustained by his personal authority. Sometimes his exactitude seemed to require the violent fusion of opposites – Roy Foster called his appeals to Imperial unity and Irish autonomy in support of the 1893 Home Rule bill "a classic fudge"[65] – but he was tenacious in the defence of his concatenations. Morley thought his "aversion ever to yield the smallest point" to a lifetime that was "saturated" with political debate.[66] However, for long periods in Gladstone's career, party lines were fluid and House of Commons discourse pointed to the search for consensus rather than the proclamation of confrontation.  Gladstone's intellectual "tenacity" was the product of personality, not parliamentarianism.[67] This does not mean that his nuanced solutions were either necessarily wrong nor, indeed, peculiar to himself. He steered a firm course of adopting certain Catholic practices and theological attitudes while remaining a communicant member of the Church of England. He had no doubt that it was possible to be a Conservative and to believe in free trade. The Puseyites shared the first position, the Peelites endorsed the second. (True, the ranks of Gladstone's Puseyite friends were thinned by defections to Rome, while the Peelites effectively disappeared after 1857, although he clung to the label "Liberal-Conservative" for another thirteen years.)

One problem with Gladstone's precision-focused calibrations of policy was that although based upon detailed evaluations, they often lacked broader contexts and failed to envisage likely consequences.[68]  Frederic Rogers knew him from school and university days, and shared his High Church enthusiasms. His 1853 assessment of Gladstone merits quotation. "He has an immense mass of knowledge most methodically arranged, but the separate items must be looked for in their respective boxes, and do not float about and combine." The result was a "crotchety, one-sided, narrowish mode of viewing a matter uncorrected by the necessary comparisons and considerations". Awestruck observers called his intellectual positions "ingenious and subtle and Gladstonian", but in reality they were the result of pursuing a subject "hither and thither from one starting-point, not by walking round it".[69] Leonard Courtney, who would later become an unco-operative junior member of Gladstone's ministerial team, similarly focused upon "his weak feeling of proportion" in an anonymous Times review of his 1864 financial statement. Courtney found it easy to explain how Gladstone's "remarkable facility of belief" impelled him "to ardent and confident utterances on subjects which others approach with doubt and hesitation": "he muses for a season over a particular subject, and its importance rapidly rises in his mind; the counter-checks and qualifications which are involved in its relations with other facts are overlooked or forgotten".[70]

The extent to which a Gladstonian proposition sometimes fell short of the root-and-branch demands of his fervent admirers was obscured by the remarkable talent he could display in masking the small print in his sometimes convoluted proposals. The use of some electrifying phrase could create the emotional impression that a 61-degree scheme actually registered at 100, or even above. Thus, in 1864, he shocked the House of Commons by stating that "every man who is not presumably incapacitated by some consideration of personal unfitness or political danger is entitled to come within the pale of the Constitution". The apparently breathtaking quality of the statement was enough to single him out as the champion of the people, most of whom did not appreciate that Gladstone was saying that Terms and Conditions would apply, in order to guard against "sudden, or violent, or excessive, or intoxicating change".  Two years later, the Conservative intellectual Lord Cranborne (later the Marquess of Salisbury) complained about the same duality of approach: Gladstone supported a Reform solution based on franchises carefully calibrated at somewhere around 60, but vaunted them in the language of 100, advancing "principles which would cover not only those suffrages, but even household or manhood suffrage. He proposed a lowering of the line of extension; but he argued against any line at all."[71] As F.B. Smith put it, Gladstone "always evaded the argument that 'worthiness of inclusion' perhaps inferred [recte implied] a 'right to inclusion', though, conveniently, his utterances seemed to mean the latter when he intended the former".[72] Excusing himself to an angry Prime Minister, who resented being bounced into endorsing Reform, Gladstone conceded to Palmerston that his 1864 speech needed "to be construed", but insisted that he had made clear the precision of his position. This confidence was not widely shared.[73]

On one occasion, Gladstone archly grumbled that his words were subject to minute and unsympathetic analysis: "they are commonly put under the microscope, and then found to contain all manner of horrors, like the animalcules in Thames water".[74] This surely was a response that the "sophistical rhetorician … gifted with an egotistical imagination" inflicted upon himself.[75] Even the loyal Morley could express exasperation at Gladstonian obfuscation. "If Mr. Gladstone had only taken as much trouble that his hearers should understand exactly what it was that he meant as he took trouble afterwards to show that his meaning had been grossly misunderstood, all might have been well."[76] A particularly sensational example was his demand in 1876 that the Turks should "clear out" of Bulgaria, "one and all, bag and baggage". This had the effect of making him sound more extreme than was actually the case, obscuring the fact that he also specifically supported the maintenance of Ottoman "titular sovereignty" to prevent other European powers from gobbling up the fledgling Balkan principalities.[77] Both in the franchise debate of the 'sixties and the Bulgarian agitation of the 'seventies, Gladstone succeeded in masking relatively moderate proposals behind a mask of shocking radicalism. Some felt that these outbursts were indiscretions, evidence of his fundamental lack of stability. Maybe so, but Gladstone's opaque presentations could also prove to be highly convenient in disguising unpalatable details. Parnell complained to Henry Labouchere "that he has a way of getting people to agree with him by the enunciation of generalities, but that when he has got what he wants, his general principles are not carried out as might have been anticipated".[78] The imposture, deliberate or not, was harder to maintain when it was necessary to make simultaneous appeals to two constituencies. In 1886, he sought to convince the Irish that they were about to be granted virtual independence, while seeking to reassure the English that his Home Rule was little more than a housekeeping measure. This dual-visaged approach was not wholly successful.

The arbitrary element in the calibration of policy was Gladstone himself. Only he could determine that the answer to some particular issue registered at 62, not 61 or 63 or 64. And only he could carry the complexity of the solution through to a successful outcome.[79] Peel's biographer complained of "Gladstone's ability to see three sides to every question and insist on discussing all of them".[80] But when Gladstone presented an analytical triptych, it was with the intention of emphasising only one of the pictures, the one that he had himself already selected. Shannon argued that Gladstone was "a statesman of almost superhuman energy and forcefulness of character", who fought "to realize God's purposes, as he saw them".[81] That perspective usefully restores the religious dimension to his thinking that secular-minded biographers have pointedly omitted. But it might almost be possible to contend that Gladstone sometimes saw himself less as the agent, but rather more as the embodiment, of the Almighty. There were many issues on which he not only claimed omniscience but also assumed that it gave him the right to omnipotence, at least within the realm of politics. Several episodes illustrate this trait.

In 1841, the incoming Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, appointed Gladstone Vice-President of the Board of Trade. The job was outside the cabinet, but it carried with it a more proactive role in policy-making than the file-shuffling routines of an Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office. Indeed, Gladstone's memorandum in favour of raising revenue through a house tax proved helpful, although not in the way he had intended: its impracticability served "to demonstrate the absence of any acceptable alternative" to the reintroduction of income tax.[82] But when the government turned to the revision of import tariffs on grain crops early in 1842, he went out on a limb in a recklessly confrontational  manner. The details of the "sliding scale" of duties involved in the Corn Laws are complex, but – broadly speaking – Peel aimed to stabilise wheat prices at around 71 shillings a quarter, while Gladstone targeted a lower price of 61 shillings. When told by his boss at the Board of Trade, Lord Ripon, that the cabinet had accepted Peel's proposals, Gladstone commented "in a marked manner 'I am very sorry for it'":[83] ministers had not only adopted a mistaken policy, they had committed the more serious offence of spurning his proffered wisdom. Despite his insignificant status, Gladstone's objections were treated with commendable indulgence, which included being given the opportunity to put his case at an informal meeting of cabinet ministers at Peel's house. When they proved resistant to his pleas, he sought a private meeting with the Prime Minister, and offered (or threatened) to resign. Peel furiously warned him that such a defection "would endanger the existence of the Administration", a form of blackmail which forced Gladstone into a humiliating retreat (or, as he put it, a sudden realisation that "my higher duty was to suppress my doubts upon this particular measure").[84] Although he pleaded, both in his own defence and to his private conscience, that he still did not "know what was expected of a person in my office", his obstinately defiant stance had been both provocative and unwise. The Prime Minister was not only the party leader but Gladstone's political patron. While he may not have been an authority on matters theoretical – although, like Gladstone, he was an Oxford First in mathematics – Peel was surely the leading political economist of his day, in the sense of knowing what was acceptable in practical terms to parliament, public and party. It was astonishing that Gladstone, a junior minister appointed just a few months earlier, should have pitted his own sense of infallibility against the wisdom of an elder statesman who had first held office when his young colleague was two years of age. The "chilling effect" of Peel's angry hostility left Gladstone lamenting his own wounded feelings: "he would not give me a word of help or of favourable supposition as to my own motives & belief".[85] This early venture into the politics of arbitrary calibration taught him a sharp, if not necessarily long-lasting, lesson. As Goldilocks also discovered, determination that a particular solution was "just right" did not necessarily win over all the stakeholders.

Even Goldilocks might have found it difficult to strike an acceptable political balance in the years between 1846 and 1859, as at various times Gladstone found himself in the political wilderness. During a period of temporary coolness between them, Sir James Graham took some pleasure in the difficulty he found in defining his independent relationship to Derby's minority government. "Gladstone seems uneasy on the Opposition side of the House, even below the gangway. So nice is the equipoise of his balanced opinions that he wishes to be, he says, 'on the Liberal side of the Conservative party rather than on the Conservative side of the Liberal party'."[86] Here, his decision three months later to join the Aberdeen Coalition meant that the problem of party affiliation which Gladstone was trying to register at a barely Conservative 49 pushed him into an association that scored a marginally Liberal 51. Unfortunately, his two years in office did little to expand his capacity for flexibility. In the closing months of 1855, the thoughts of politicians turned towards acceptable terms of peace that might end the Crimean War.[87]  Despite their capture of Sebastopol (now Sevastopol) in September, the Allies had been unable to land a knock-out blow. Since the new Tsar, Alexander II, was believed to be ready to cut his country's losses, everything pointed towards a negotiated settlement. But here, the adjective, negotiated, would be of key importance: since neither side could dictate terms, an agreement would involve horse-trading and give-and-take. As a man of peace and an upholder of administrative efficiency, Gladstone might have been expected to favour a speedy end to hostilities in order to overhaul the failings in the government machine exposed by the Crimean campaign.[88] In fact, there was what George W.E. Russell would perceive as "an almost excessive exactness" in Gladstone's conception of acceptable terms. The Duke of Argyll attempted to remonstrate with him. "You define much too sharply, I think, the point – the exact point at which peace ought to be made. I cannot so define it in my mind."[89]

Since Gladstone was out of office in 1855, his stubborn precision could not affect the practical issue of making peace with Russia. Eleven years later, the political and personnel situation was very different, as the Whig-Liberal ministry tried to carry a new Reform bill, which pivoted on a £7 annual rental qualification in the boroughs. Russell, Prime Minister for the second time on a kind of political lap of honour, had been promoted to the Lords with an earldom; Gladstone, widely assumed to be his heir apparent, was the Leader of the House of Commons. This is a post that required (and requires) flexibility and goodwill, a readiness to give ground to reasonable pleas from the opposition: on the question of the franchise, Gladstone possessed none of these qualities. He made the mistake of threatening MPs with the unwelcome prospect of an autumn session that would disrupt their comfortable vacations if they did not come to heel. His Whig colleagues were uneasy at what the historian F.B. Smith called Gladstone's "implacable high-mindedness": Sir George Grey reportedly feared that he would adopt the tone of "a spoilt child". Lord Clarendon feared that his refusal "to make such reasonable concessions as are necessary where compromise & conciliation are honestly required" was tantamount to a desire to "humiliate" the House of Commons into surrender: "he wants a triumph over them to wh[ich] they will not submit". The crucial division that overturned the ministry, Lord Dunkellin's amendment, was lost by just eleven votes. Some contemporaries blamed the narrow defeat upon Gladstone's attempt to bully his own party.[90] Matthew explained that Gladstone's "strict adherence to the £7 level of qualification" should be interpreted "in the context of his views on the role of taxation in politics". Extension of the franchise to that point, and not further, would give the vote to working men who were prosperous enough to pay taxes but sufficiently close to poverty to vote for politicians (such as himself) who would keep expenditure to a minimum. Because his instinct for calibration had fixed upon the £7 franchise as just and right, any modification would have been a concession to error.[91] When MPs not unreasonably pressed Gladstone to tell them just how many new voters the 1866 Reform bill would add to the registers, they received a classic 'because-I-say-so' answer: "I cannot accede to the demand for information founded on a principle which I consider mischievous and untrue.... There are certain facts, at any rate, which do not require to be made the subject of a statistical Return".[92] Cranborne summed up his approach with a touch of sarcasm. "The imperiousness which is so irritating to an assembly of English gentlemen", he noted, was attributed by Gladstone's admirers to "a virtuous indignation and a consciousness of superior purity, which will not suffer him to treat with forbearance the meannesses or the follies of his opponents. Perhaps, if the House of Commons realized this superiority, it might take his rebukes more meekly and kiss the rod that smites them."[93] The disaster of 1866 threw doubt upon Gladstone's fitness to succeed Russell, and it took his fiery agitation of the Irish Church issue to re-establish his position as party leader.

In collision with Peel in 1842 and with parliament in 1866, Gladstone's rigidity came off second -best. But there were other occasions where the onrush of events handily obscured the relatively unambitious nature of the solution he would have liked to impose. The Risorgimento is an episode where he acquired a perhaps exaggerated reputation as a wholehearted sympathiser with what he called "the yearning of the Italians for political unity". Italian schoolchildren were taught that "Gladstone was one of the benefactors of their nation" – a tribute that Mussolini appears to have ended. Philip Magnus, an influential biographer in the mid-twentieth century, portrayed him as a profound supporter of the desire of Italians for national unity. The truth is less dramatic: Gladstone himself told the House of Commons in March 1861 that he was "ashamed to say that for a long time I … withheld my assent and approval of those yearnings. I asked why they were not content to pursue … local reforms?"[94] Magnus attributed his decision to join Palmerston's second ministry 1859 to "the one word, 'Italy'", and Gladstone himself in 1864 claimed that "the overwhelming interest and weight of the Italian question … led me to decide without one moment's hesitation" to forge a previously unthinkable partnership with the bellicose adventurer whose cabinet he had quit in such bitterness four years earlier. However, as Matthew pointed out, with parliaments lasting for up to seven years, governing alliances had to be constructed on more durable foundations than could be provided by a transient national revolution. Nor can Italy cannot explain why Gladstone made it clear that he would only join the cabinet if appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer.[95] Indeed, once the mythology is cut through, Gladstone emerges as a distinctly lukewarm supporter of Italian unity. In a lengthy memorandum written at the end of June 1859, he expressed concern even about the enlargement of the kingdom of Sardinia into a North Italian state, "which might be prejudicial to the internal equilibrium of Italy itself, over which the House of Savoy might seek to domineer". He wanted to get Austria out of Italy, but favoured retaining Hapsburg rule over the northern provinces of Lombardy and Venetia, which he wished to see handed to the dynasty's token liberal, the Archduke Maximilian. (Maximilian would have been lucky to get the job: instead he was shipped off to become Emperor of Mexico, where he died before a firing squad.) Even more surprising was Gladstone's attitude to the dominions of the Pope. A fervent critic of the temporal power of the papacy, he now argued for European intervention to strike a balance between absolutism and its likely corollary, a revolutionary republic. As with his well-masked preference for the retention of nominal Turkish sovereignty over the Balkans in 1876, the rhetoric of denunciation coexisted with a thin thread of continuity: he even envisaged the Pope becoming nominal president of an Italian confederation. Much as Gladstone loathed the decadent tyranny of the kingdom of Naples, in mid-1859 the southern half of the Italian peninsula and the island of Sicily were neither on his agenda nor even his political radar. It is important to stress that Gladstone was not out on a limb in his highly precise prescription for the peninsula. He shared Palmerston's determination to prevent Piedmontese expansion into the region referred to as Central Italy, where the Prime Minister toyed with the idea of establishing "a little nest of Republics". The dramatic pace of events would soon sweep the concept of Central Italy from the map as totally as the baby-Bulgaria of Eastern Roumelia would vanish a quarter of a century later. Overall, as an offering towards the hundred-percent solution of Italian unity, Gladstone's June 1859 scheme would have been hard–put to score 23. It was the explosion of popular feeling that turned the kingdom of Sardinia into a north-Italian state, followed by the collapse of Neapolitan rottenness under the light pressure of Garibaldi's paramilitary incursion that created a country from Sicily to the Alps.[96] Gladstone nimbly scrambled aboard, concluding his Commons speech of 7 March 1861 with a rousing prediction. "The consolidation of Italy, her restoration to national life – if it be the will of God to grant her that boon – will be, I believe, a blessing as great to Europe as it is to all the people of the Peninsula."[97] He had copper-bottomed his own position as an uncompromising friend of Italian unity, but that position was very far advanced from the low calibration of his original approach.

Irish Home Rule is another notable episode in which the unpredictability of events has given Gladstone something of a historical free ride. He is perhaps the only prominent British political figure to occupy even a minor place in Ireland's popular pantheon of the great leaders who pointed the way to nationhood. Happily for his mythic historical status, the failure of his Home Rule bills masked their utter inadequacy: if the target of Irish sovereign independence were calibrated at 100, Gladstone's proposals would have been fortunate to rate as high as 37.[98] It was the defeat of the 1886 Home Rule bill which spared him from the burden of association with a scheme that Dicey was almost certainly correct in dismissing as "radically unworkable".[99] Ironically, Gladstone's own rigidity played a key part in ensuring that his draft legislation did not progress very far in the process of detailed parliamentary scrutiny. Shannon was perhaps predictably critical of his inflexibility, but even Matthew, who generally portrayed Gladstone in a favourable light, noted that "there was an off-hand, 'take-it-or-leave-it' quality about his approach", and that he "refused any basic change either in the bill or in the parliamentary strategy". Even defeat in the Commons and disaster at the polls could not shake his "certitude … that the measure will and must pass".[100] Given the degree of opposition in Great Britain – not to mention Protestant Ulster – it was unlikely that Home Rule would have been accepted by the House of Lords in 1886. Even so, greater flexibility – and especially an openness to negotiate with Joseph Chamberlain – might have achieved the symbolic victory of a narrow majority on the second reading in the Commons. Gladstone's bill envisaged "an Irish Legislative Body" – for all Parnell's rhetoric, the term "parliament" was never used. "Why could not a compromise have been arranged between the inventor of the National Council Scheme and the author of the Home Rule Bill?" asked the young Liberal theorist F.W. Hirst in 1899.[101] The answer lies in arbitrary calibration: if Gladstone had determined that a scheme was just and right, then it was his duty to defend it in every tittle and jot. James Knowles, proprietor of the thoughtful review, Nineteenth Century, likened his sense of certainty to the immovable pretensions of the Vatican. "No pope, indeed, was ever more infallibly certain and immovable than Mr Gladstone when once he had become convinced that such or such a course was right  and true." Knowles saw Gladstone as a combination of tribal chieftain and religious prophet: seeing himself as "[a]s the chosen and official leader … of a free people, he felt that he was the appointed instrument of Heaven, and would act as if ordained to an arch-priesthood which nothing earthly could shake".[102] Knowles may have been on stronger ground in identifying Gladstone's sense of infallibility than in his consciousness of national leadership. In Gladstone's eyes, winning an election certainly had not conferred upon Disraeli any moral right to consider himself the embodiment of Britain.[103] Nonetheless, in the winter of 1885-6, he would have been very happy to have supported an attempt by Salisbury to solve the Irish problem, even though the Conservative electoral defeat had presumably stripped them of any legitimacy to do so. In 1886, there was the additional complication that the free people who had so recently gone to the polls had not known that he was about to embrace Home Rule.  However, there can be little doubt that Gladstone saw himself as "the appointed instrument of Heaven", and regarded that instrument as so finely tuned that his projects were not only just in principle but right in every detail. 

++ Changing his opinion: Gladstone Through the Looking Glass Of course, we cannot be sure that Gladstone was about to embrace Home Rule as Britain voted on its new, enlarged franchise in November and December 1885. Elsewhere, I have argued that. although the writing of history largely focuses on the origins and consequences of human decisions, there seems little consideration of the nature and definition of a decision itself.[104] Thus biographers frequently discuss the evolution of a subject's opinion both as a process and as an event, on the one hand tracing responses to challenges and problems that may frame a point of view, on the other seeking what might be called a 'light-bulb' moment, when sudden awareness of the insufficiency of previous ideas produces a dramatic shift to a wholly new intellectual framework. Partly because their incompatibility is rarely (if ever) confronted, these alternative approaches may become unhelpfully confused. Indeed, in many cases, it may be impossible for the historian to identify the precise moment of conversion, simply because their subjects were equally unaware of their own key points of transition. The most magnificent intellectual autobiography from nineteenth-century Britain, Newman's Apologia pro Vita Sua, provides a little noticed example.  The future Cardinal leads readers through the intellectual canyons of his ongoing engagement with Catholicism, but the author never reveals the exact moment when he was received into the Church of Rome: by some osmotic device, readers become aware that the transition has occurred – it was "like coming into port after a rough sea" – but even turning back a few pages and studying the text in detail cannot elucidate the mystery of when and how his conversion took effect. Did Newman take a decision to become a Catholic, or did the decision take him?[105] There was the same elusive quality in Gladstone's Chapter of Autobiography, his defence in 1868 of his decision to propose the disestablishment of the Irish Church. He began the pamphlet by insisting that "that the great and glaring change in my course of action with respect to the Established Church of Ireland is not the mere eccentricity, or even perversion, of an individual mind, but connects itself with silent changes, which are advancing in the very bed and basis of modern society". There followed sixty pages of minute discussion of debates, statements and formulae, in the midst of which he managed to bury a remarkable statement : "The reasons that, in my judgment, prove the time now to have arrived for dealing decisively with the question of the Irish Church Establishment, must be treated elsewhere than in these pages." Readers who had followed thus far were provided with a do-it-yourself kit of arguments for disestablishment, but were given no indication of which, if any of them, had swayed Gladstone himself.[106] 

Newman and Gladstone had much in common in their labyrinthine intellects. Contemporaries were fascinated (or repelled) to observe the signs of Gladstone changing his mind. It was as if the ground beneath their feet was shaken by preliminary tremors that warned of a mighty earthquake that was about to transform, even up-end, in his point of view. Cranborne in 1866 viewed the awesome phenomenon with markedly little respect. "No one who has closely watched the progress of his political career can doubt that the sudden development of vehement opinions, where they existed only faintly or not at all before, had some connection with the political advantages which at the moment of their appearance they seemed to promise." Given that he had been for six years a member of a government determinedly opposed to parliamentary reform, Gladstone's conscience was obviously "intermittent in its activity": indeed, if his mind was "constructed upon the ordinary plan", then his acquiescence in Palmerston's refusal to embrace the issue had to be regarded as "an insoluble mystery". Having more-than-hinted that Gladstone was an unscrupulous hypocrite, Cranborne drew back to deliver an even more devastating assessment. "The only mode of reconciling his sincerity with the facts, is to assume that the process by which the mind is made to accept the most advantageous or the most convenient belief, is with him automatic and unconscious." Two decades later, Lord Acton, a more charitable observer, wondered whether Gladstone "is not wholly unconscious when working himself up to a change of position.  After watching him do it, I think that he is so.  He lives completely in what for the moment he chooses to believe."  Cranborne made the same point in less sympathetic fashion. "The process of self-deceit goes on in his mind without the faintest self-consciousness or self-suspicion."[107] Perhaps the obscurity that sometimes surrounded even Gladstone's most dogmatically calibrated statements was a device to permit the possible inversion of his stance. "He had a habit … of making his words open to a double construction," wrote Goldwin Smith, who regarded that as evidence "perhaps, of consciousness that his mind was moving and that the position might be changed."[108]

Thus with Gladstone, it is peculiarly difficult to know whether the adoption of some new opinion, the process by which he came to support a policy that opposed or substantially modified his previous point of view, was the result of gradual erosion or of a dramatic event. Had the foundations of previous ideas become slowly undermined to the point where he recognised that his beliefs had become untenable, or should we accept that the road to Damascus ran through Hawarden Castle: in short, did Gladstone's mind operate like Newman's or that of St Paul?  Feuchtwanger wrote of "the volcanic eruptions which from time to time resolved Gladstone's doubts and propelled him with great force along a new path", but it is more likely that those explosions were the result, not the cause, of some seismic change in his opinions. Magnus was surely on firmer ground when he wrote of Gladstone's "high moral causes" that "he discovered them usually after prolonged periods of self-absorbed concentration, and of partly sub-conscious brooding" – the latter phrase hinting that Gladstone himself could not fully comprehend how his attitudes had changed, although he might well attempt subsequent rationalisation.[109] Shannon once used the phrase "epiphanal moment" in an attempt to capture the precise point at which he became a Home Ruler.[110] It was helpful to define the concept, but impossible to identify the time.

In May 1880, as he was moving into Ten Downing Street for the second time, Gladstone took the trouble to reply to Sir Francis Doyle, an old friend who was troubled at his political trajectory. Once Gladstone's best man but no longer a political adherent, Doyle urged the newly anointed Prime Minister "to pause for a moment to look back across the immense space, from Toryism to Radicalism, which you have traversed in the course of your political career", specifically reminding him of the contempt that he had expressed back in the eighteen-thirties for the Scottish Radicals who had responded so ardently to his Midlothian campaign. A private secretary, Edward Hamilton, thought Gladstone's reply "interesting. … He maintains that it has been experience that has changed his politics". In fact, he offered Doyle two contradictory forms of self-defence, one accepting that his opinions had indeed mutated, the other laying claim to an underlying consistency: "on every subject as I came to deal with it practically, I had to deal with it as a Liberal elected in 1832".[111] This was utter self-delusion: as Doyle well knew, Gladstone had very definitely not been elected as a Liberal in 1832. Nor did he ever have much to say about "the mass of continuous and searching experience" that had allegedly undermined earlier certainties, leaving unidentified which aspects had changed his opinions or when they had hit their target. He did occasionally refer to his "hard, steady, and honest work" at the Board of Trade where "every day so spent beat like a battering ram on the unsure fabric of my official Protectionism".  This is hardly persuasive. Gladstone was a trade minister for three years and five months between 1841 and 1845, and he resigned over Maynooth. It would surely have been impossible for so insistent a conscience to have coexisted with some agnostic revelation towards tariffs, and far more likely that he reconciled his doubts by seeking to calibrate some position that straddled the extreme. As he recalled of his dispute with Peel over the sliding scale, "I had not given up Protection in principle; it was matter of degree."[112] In relation to the other dramatic transitions in the odyssey of his career, he had no administrative relationship with franchise questions in the eighteen-sixties. Although challenges of land tenure and public order meant that Ireland dominated his second ministry, their very prominence pushed Irish local government and devolution to the margins. Neither his 1864 "pale of the Constitution" speech nor the Hawarden Kite emerged on the end of any desk-bound battering ram. Rather, we may despairingly conclude, with J.P. Parry, that "Gladstone's vision, and his mode of arriving at his political views, were unique".[113]

As already foreshadowed, perhaps the most satisfying way to resolve this conundrum is to identify these amorphous processes of analytical transition with the experience of Lewis Carroll's Alice, who somehow passed Through the Looking Glass into a different but oddly similar world.[114] At key points in his career, Gladstone similarly discovered that the elements of his thought processes had reassembled on the far side of the intellectual Looking Glass. He may never have known how, when or even why the transformation occurred, although he was temperamentally adept at self-justification after the fact. The suggestion is not intended to be whimsical. Like Gladstone, Charles Dodgson (alias Lewis Carroll), the author of Through the Looking Glass, was a brilliant Christ Church mathematician. The Alice books were not simply charming children's stories, but satirical explorations of the concept of reality.[115] As with Newman's defection to Rome, and Gladstone's conversions to parliamentary reform and Home Rule, we are not told how (nor even precisely when) the heroine transmuted herself into a previously inaccessible parallel world. Somehow the mirror became gauze before dissolving into mist. "In another moment Alice was through the glass, and had jumped lightly down into the Looking-glass room." Something similar may be observed on more than one occasion in the career of Gladstone. Selborne, who came to distrust him, concluded that Gladstone's opinions "were in a constant process of flux and decomposition…. With great appearance of tenacity at any given moment, his mind was apt to be moving indirectly down an inclined plane."[116] "He runs from one extreme to the other", the Duke of Somerset complained in 1869. "With him there appears to be no halting-place between the torrid and the frigid zones."[117] The key word here is "appears": in reality, with the exception perhaps of free trade, Gladstone's views rarely changed from one extreme to the other.  It was not so much their orientation as their calibration that had shifted, finding a new resting place on the gentle slope that Selborne had perceived.

In 1859, Gladstone had taken a mild interest in the possibility of a modest extension of the franchise, but he showed no regret when the project failed to materialise.[118] Five years later, he was talking democracy. In 1882, he ruled out Home Rule as both undefined and impractical. Another four years and it had become the obsessive centre of his political being.[119] Intriguingly, Gladstone unwittingly described these looking-glass transitions himself, in the notable Reform speech on 26 April 1866. He based his case upon the improving condition of the laboring classes, which he described as "a movement onwards, and upward". However, he recognised that the change could not be easily captured, "for, like all great processes, it is unobservable in detail, but as solid and undeniable as it is resistless in its essential character. It is like those movements of the crust of the earth which science tells us are even now going on in certain portions of the globe. The sailor courses over them in his vessel, and the traveller by land treads them without being conscious of these changes; but from day to day, from hour to hour, the heaving forces are at work, and after a season we discern from actual experience that things are not as they were."[120] It seems fair to attribute Gladstone's evocative imagery to the tectonic plates of his own mighty intellect: it was certainly possible to argue that there was an increased respectability and social cohesion among the skilled working classes, but the key point here was his changing perception of their suitability for inclusion within the political nation. Just as there had been no single moment when the "aristocracy of labour" had become fit to vote, so there was no defined decisive turning point in Gladstone's mental analysis: by some form of intellectual osmosis, he had moved through the political Looking Glass, hoping that others would follow him in recognising that "after a season we discern from actual experience that things are not as they were".[121] 

Two years later, he returned to the theme of the relationship between public opinion and political leadership in his Chapter of Autobiography, an attempt to explain his change of opinion on the Irish Church, or at least identify the context in which it happened. In the era of the French Revolution, he noted, a time of stark confrontation in the principles of government, party-switching was unknown. By contrast, "beginning with the epoch of Roman Catholic Emancipation", there had been "a great increase in the changes of party, or of opinion, among prominent men". However, this was not the result of any decline in the integrity or consistency of the politicians themselves. It was rather "that the movement of the public mind has been of a nature entirely transcending former experience; and that it has likewise been more promptly and more effectively represented, than at any earlier period, in the action of the Government and the Legislature".  The problem with this new-found flexibility was that because "the actual opinions and professions of men in office, and men in authority without office, are among the main landmarks on which the public has to rely", recognition of their right to change their minds could "destroy the principal guarantees of integrity which are available for the nation at large, and with these all its confidence in the persons who are to manage its affairs". Rather than destroy the implicit contract of trust between the people and their rulers, it might seem necessary "to stereotype the minds of men, and fasten on their manhood the swaddling clothes of their infancy". Fortunately, in the Britain of 1868, such a stark choice was not necessary. "We may regulate the changes which we cannot forbid, by subjecting them to the test of public scrutiny, and by directing that scrutiny to the enforcement of the laws of moral obligation." The Looking Glass was to be subjected to the microscope of public opinion; Gladstone's conscience might defy the laws of physics, but it could not evade ethical interrogation. So far as the Irish Church was concerned, that investigation rested upon an assumption that, thanks to parliamentary reform, vox populi was now the equivalent of vox dei: "when, either by some Revolution of institutions from their summit to their base, or by a silent and surer process, analogous to that which incessantly removes and replaces the constituent parts of the human body, the State has come to be the organ of the deliberate and ascertained will of the community, expressed through legal channels, then, indeed, the inculcation of a religion can no longer rest, in full or permanent force, upon its authority".[122]

Of course, there were problems in this analysis which Gladstone chose to gloss over. For instance, it did not explain why "the inculcation of a religion" was inappropriate in Ireland but not in Great Britain: the 1870 Education Act would have a great deal more to say about the preaching of Scripture than the teaching of mathematics.[123] More to the point, the political defections of the mid-century decades were anything but unidirectional. Stanley, later the fourteenth Earl of Derby, had deserted the Whigs in 1834 in defence of the Irish Church, and later broke with Peel to defend Protection, both causes that were allegedly swept into the dustbin of the past by the advance of public enlightenment. Palmerston moved from Tory to Whig (some would say, in pursuit of an official salary) without ever becoming notably progressive in domestic affairs. We should beware of attributing the ideological definitions of the twenty-first century to the tags and labels of the nineteenth. When the young Disraeli indicated that he was available to stand for parliament either as a Radical or as a Tory, the diarist Charles Greville sarcastically noted that he was "a mighty impartial personage", but both philosophies – if that it is not too precise a term – were animated by a romantic belief in the past that was fundamental to Disraeli's world view.[124]

On the eve of his eighty-first birthday, Gladstone laughed when Morley reminded him of the saying that "nobody is worth much who has not been a bit of a radical in his youth, and a bit of a tory in his fuller age". He replied that his trajectory could be expressed in a single sentence (in fact, two of them): "I was brought up to distrust and dislike liberty, I learned to believe in it. That is the key to all my changes."[125] It was a commendable sentiment, but it left many questions unresolved: whose liberty?; liberty to do what? It is perhaps not surprising that biographers and historians have tended to define Gladstonian liberalism less as a philosophy and more as a list of things Gladstone hoped to achieve.[126]  Both from family background and through intellectual interests, Lord Acton looked at English life through continental lenses. Although an admirer and an acolyte, he sought in 1888 to dissuade Gladstone from publishing a review of a controversial novel, challenging the arguments in his draft: "it might be said that … you do not work really from the principle of Liberalism, but from the cognate though distinct principle of Democracy, Nationality, Progress, etc."[127] The comment needs to be set in contexts that may narrow its applicability: a dispute over Christian belief (although of fundamental importance to both men) and the influence of German thought upon Acton's analysis. Nonetheless, Acton indicated sympathy for the objection, and the alternative categories that he postulated suggested a far wider context than the theological. It is a quotation that merits a central place in any biography of Gladstone, but I doubt if it has been often quoted. Like most of his calibrated positions, Gladstone's liberalism was certainly streaked with rival, even contradictory, qualities. "I have never been a lover of change, nor do I regard it as a good in itself, he remarked to W.T. Stead in 1892.  "In all matters of custom and tradition," he claimed in 1896, "even the Tories look upon me as the chief Conservative that is."[128] Indeed, for the last thirty years of his life, he was inclined to criticise the Conservative party for the abandonment of values that he himself still cherished.[129]

Morley coped with the apparently violent inversions of Gladstone's political opinions, good-humouredly noting that his "natural habit of resort to qualifying words" combined with a skill "in showing that a new attitude could be reconciled by strict reasoning with the logical contents of old dicta" allowed him to deny inconsistency: "if circumstances make him as vehement for one opinion to-day as he was vehement for what the world regards as a conflicting opinion yesterday, his intellectual self-respect naturally prompts him to insist that the opinions do not really clash, but are in fact identical".[130] But this did not necessarily constitute self-deception. Much as Alice found that the world beyond the mirror was "just the same as our drawing room, only the things go the other way", so there were continuities and resemblances in Gladstone's apparent inversions on subjects such as parliamentary reform and Home Rule, not to mention a potent thread of unsympathetic consistency in his attitudes to Canada. In practice, the franchise proposals that he favoured in 1864-6 were little more than extensions of the more modest tinkerings that Russell had tried to carry in 1859. For all the talk of righting the wrong of the Act of Union and restoring an Irish parliament, his Home Rule bill could be seen as a natural development from the Irish Councils and Central Board schemes of 1883-5. Ostensibly, Gladstone's views on Canada had transmogrified to the far side of the Looking Glass thanks to his espousal of the colonial Church issue, where the virtues of autonomy had suddenly appeared in a desirable format. In that sense, he had stepped not through to a different world, but found a byway that simply carried him around the obstacle. Yet the major features in this inverted universe looked remarkably like those that they reflected from earlier reality. The colonial Churches were still tied by personnel and liturgy to Canterbury. There was still a dividing line between Canadian self-government and British imperial authority. The fact that the boundaries were no longer defined made them, if anything, all the more potent.

++ The growing pace of events The modification of Gladstone's opinions Through the Looking Glass was very much a function of timing, his claimed ability to disguise the determinant of change by choosing rather the moment to reveal that the intellectual transformation had already occurred. As Southgate observed, "he was always adept at refusing to be drawn except at his own season".[131]  By the eighteen-eighties, the growing pace of events made it harder for him to command the political timetable. In his last years, he began a memorandum – which, unfortunately, he did not complete – in which he tentatively identified his "striking gift" in politics as his skill at conceiving an "appreciation of the general situation and its result". This was something more than an ability to sniff the wind of public sentiment and assess when it had "risen to a certain height needful for a given work, like a tide". Rather, it was "an insight into the facts of particular eras, and their relations one to another, which generates in the mind a conviction that the materials exist for forming a public opinion, and for directing it to a particular end".[132] Morley confronted the implication that this was a cynical admission by arguing that an opportunist was "a statesman who declines to attempt to do a thing until he believes that it can really be done… a man of common sense".[133] When his father complained in 1847 that he had concealed his emerging sympathy for the recognition of Jewish civil rights, Gladstone pleaded, with much emphasis, "suspense is of constant occurrence in public life upon very many kinds of questions, and without it errors and inconsistencies would be much more frequent than even they are now".[134] The stately rhythms of mid-century public life made it possible for Gladstone to impose some measure of his own control over the development of a point of view. Throughout the entire decade between 1849 and 1859, the question of the future of the Peelites was effectively postponed whenever it crossed the political agenda, as it did with the collapse of the Aberdeen coalition in 1855. "I had now for two years been holding my mind in suspense upon the question I used to debate with Newcastle", who had argued "that we should grow into natural leaders of the Liberal party". Gladstone saw the "opaque body" of the Whigs as an insuperable obstacle to this happy scenario.[135] In this case, evading an issue hardly proved advantageous: when the surviving Peelites made terms with Palmerston in 1859, their market value was much reduced from the heady days of 1852. Yet when his apparent endorsement of the Confederacy provoked a storm of protest in 1862, Gladstone responded with a statement, issued through a private secretary, that is so pricelessly funny it is surprising that biographers have not quoted it more often. "Mr Gladstone desires me to remark that to form opinions upon questions of policy, to announce them to the world, and to take or to be a party to taking any of the steps necessary for giving them effect, are matters which, though connected together, are in themselves distinct, and which may be separated by intervals of time longer or shorter according to the particular circumstances of the case."[136] In short, a senior cabinet could think out loud in a public speech but reserve the right to determine when and how far action might follow.[137]

In 1864, Gladstone's declaration in favour of franchise extension was successful in identifying him with the cause, even if less so in enabling him to determine the outcome. But when in 1885 Herbert Gladstone signalled that his father proposed to expel Ireland from the pale of the constitution, the strategy of enigmatic silence quickly lost control of the Home Rule debate. By about 1880, intellectual developments and technological advances meant that suspense could no longer evade decision at home or abroad. Morley recalled breaking the news to Gladstone that year that the Bessborough Commission intended to recommend the "3Fs", the principles of fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale of tenancies that would make Irish farmers virtually co-proprietors of their holdings. Gladstone's found the news "incredible" but – so said Morley – "it was only a step from the incredible to the indispensable". This was something of a simplification: Gladstone refused to admit that he had failed to resist the inclusion of the 3Fs in his 1881 Land bill, although the substance was conceded. This was an attempt to deny that the political landscape had changed. His own first ministry had enormously extended the role of the State, and the breaking down of laissez faire mental barriers made calls for government intervention louder and more frequent. The spread of literacy and the growth of newspaper readership – the latter a trend encouraged by Gladstone's repeal of the "taxes on knowledge" – underpinned the creation of a predominantly non-violent but deeply intimidating movement for change in Ireland.[138] The leisurely path to war in the Crimea thirty years earlier was rendered impossible of replication by railways, steamships and telegraphs. For much of 1882, he attempted to impose a strategy of delay on his own government's response to the developing crisis in Egypt. In April, he opposed the sending of a three-power military mission because it "seems to suppose that there are producible reasons for apprehending a necessity of some kind for doing something". By July, he expressed doubts about the need for armed intervention: "Is there any great necessity for a step at present?" When even his closest cabinet ally, Granville, saw no alternative to invasion, he still demurred: "I do not think I can travel quite at the pace you propose." But he could no longer control the pace of events, and found himself on this occasion dragged through the Looking Glass. "We have done our Egyptian business", he remarked, "and we are an Egyptian government."[139] The story was soon repeated from Walvis Bay to New Guinea, eliciting a banal comment from Sir Hercules Robinson, Britain's proconsul in South Africa: "How strange it is that the Government which came in on the platform of curtailing Imperial responsibilities should be likely to add more to them than any previous Ministry in the present century".[140] There followed the tragedy of the Sudan, where Gladstone was determined that the agent chosen by his own government, General Gordon, should "not shift the centre of gravity as to political and military responsibility for that country". The upshot was the worst of all worlds, a military expedition dispatched too late to prevent the disaster of Gordon's death.[141] Home Rule would prove to be the final disastrous attempt to impose temporal control over an unstoppable political agenda. Curiously, Gladstone listed Home Rule as one of the episodes where he read the inner drift of public opinion.[142]  In fact, his futile hope for "a healthful, slow fermentation in many minds, working towards the final product" would culminate in his denunciation by Randolph Churchill as "an old man in a hurry". Churchill's cruel invective was right in one respect. In the eighteen-fifties, Gladstone had been able to undertake the leisurely repositioning of himself on Canada, just as in the eighteen-sixties he had floated Through the Looking Glass on franchise reform. But now, as he tried to invert himself on Irish devolution, the mirror smashed into shards, and – as Randolph put it – "the Liberal party shivered into fragments".[143]  

++ The shaping of Gladstone's thought processes: religion and slavery  Gladstone's contemporaries were aware of the sharp edges of his mental architecture, and historians might well wonder how he came to conceptualise political issues with such complexity, let alone explain how he could transmute from unbending resistance to pliable accommodation on subjects of fundamental importance. The answers – if answers there be – must lie deep in Gladstone biography, probably through approaches to Gladstone biography that have not previously been made explicit.[144] Two potentially fruitful lines of enquiry are sketched here, suggesting attention to the formative themes of religion and slavery.  By and large, Gladstone's biographers have not taken very seriously his undergraduate ambitions to become a clergyman. Shannon may well have been right in his mocking comment that it would become "a feature of Gladstone's own mythology about himself that it was ever the desire of his youth to have taken Holy Orders".[145] There may have been an element of self-deception, but he certainly thought of his parliamentary career as a "calling", and later described himself during his twenties as a "youth ... who resigned himself to politics, but whose desire had been for the ministry of God".[146] It may certainly be argued that he brought a theological mind to bear upon secular problems, in a rigid manner that made him, in the comment of James Knowles already quoted, "infallibly  certain and  immovable …  when  once  he  had  become  convinced  that  such  or such  a  course  was  right  and  true". Yet, even here, nuances of idiosyncratic sophistication may be perceived. For instance, despite his personal association with the leading Puseyites, he was anything but a typical Anglo-Catholic. He had left Oxford the year before Keble's celebrated sermon of 1833, and insisted that the subsequent movement "had no direct effect upon me. … I did not see the Tracts, nor follow details".[147] Rather, his religious belief, like his political campaigns, rested upon a highly personal and precisely calibrated construction, a bedrock of inherited evangelicalism upon which he erected "a conception of the Church of England as a branch of the historic Church catholic".[148] Thanks to Macaulay's mobilisation of the adjectival combination "stern, unbending", his manifesto of 1839, The State in its Relations with the Church, has been seen as an inflexible statement of principle. However, as Matthew pointed out, "at the heart of the book lay a profound contradiction, the result of the attempt to use two quite separate philosophical traditions to justify first an Ideal of society, then practical anomalies to that Ideal which already existed". What read as an absolute statement on Church-State relations was in reality an impacted compromise, in this instance one that quickly crumbled but handily contained "a lifeline to utilitarianism and consequently secularism", along which Gladstone would gradually haul himself in the following decades.[149] Fortunately, given the complexity of the positions that he adopted, he was prepared to tolerate ambiguity and, accordingly, reacted against claims of absolute authority – especially when advanced by others.[150] Thanks in part to the accident that his first major biographer, John Morley, was an agnostic, received interpretations of Gladstone were essentially set in a secular mould.[151] It has taken a very long process of reappraisal to establish that his core beliefs were religious. The practical expression of those principles might vary over time, but the underlying basis remained solid – and their political ramifications were expounded with appropriate fervour.  

Most of the religion-related questions in which he became involved were Church-and-State issues,[152] but his occasional involvement in outright theological controversy revealed a mind that was both dogmatic and dogged. One overlooked episode was his fervent defence of the "Scottish office", a phrase that denoted the Communion service used by the Episcopal Church of Scotland. Differences in wording from the liturgy of the Church of England encouraged some Scots clerics to engage in interpretations of the Real Presence and, in the late eighteen-fifties, this tiny communion fell into a venomous and divisive round of heresy-hunting. In 1862, an anglicising and Protestant party pushed for the adoption of the Church of England Prayer Book, a move opposed by Gladstone as well as by Tractarian notables such as John Keble. On learning that his close ally, the bishop of Oxford Samuel Wilberforce, was supporting the plan, Gladstone despatched an ultimatum, which he bizarrely signed "Affectionately yours". The issue of abandoning the traditional Scottish liturgy, he esplained, was "quite different from a question on which we say Aye or No, and the go home to dinner. If this thing is done, and done with your authority, all I can say is that point is for me a new starting-point, the relations between us are new relations, I must consider my course afresh upon many matters".[153] In the event, a breach was avoided, but this little-noticed episode gives a glimpse of the ecclesiastical foundations of what can only be called an excommunication mentality that Gladstone applied to politics. Friends such as Hope-Scott and Manning who went over to Rome were completely cut off, although sometimes awkward contacts were eventually resumed. Conversion was an all-or-nothing step, going all the way to 100 on the scale of Protestant-Catholic relations, an extreme which Gladstone was temperamentally and intellectually unable to contemplate. By contrast he did feel empathy with Döllinger and the Old Catholics, who were stranded by their opposition to the Vatican decrees at somewhere around 92, within hailing distance of Gladstone's own High Church Protestantism.

Identifying the bedrock of religious dogmatism in Gladstone's outlook may help to place the arbitrary calibration of his secular activities, but it does not necessary explain it. The rigidity of his views on colonies and on Catholicism may stem from innate elements of his personality which are beyond the speculations of biographers. A more plausible matrix for the formation of his sometimes tortured political positions may perhaps be found in his engagement with the question of slavery, where he attempted to combine positions that proved irreconcilably opposed. Gladstone's own protest in 1837, that of all public issues, slavery was the "question upon which I would desire to submit all that I have ever said to a candid enquirer", should alert us to the existence of a more complicated mental odyssey than the surface record implies.[154] While it is now established that Gladstone entered parliament as an apologist for the West Indian planters, few of his early biographers enquired very deeply into his views on slavery, and the centrality of the issue during the first decade of his career has only gradually been appreciated.[155] In late-Victorian (and, indeed, post-Victorian) hagiography, this original sin of reactionary authoritarianism became the necessary starting point that made all the more virtuous Gladstone's long pilgrimage towards liberal enlightenment. What is missing in our appreciation in our appreciation of the role of slavery in the formation of his habits of analysis is a recognition that the campaign for Abolition gathered pace through his teens and early manhood, dramatically undermining his father's status as a respected businessman. As he became aware of the world around him, the young Gladstone was forced into a complicated mental accommodation between religious principle and family interest.

For a decade and a half after 1807, when parliament had abolished Britain's Atlantic slave trade, abolitionists had assumed, as William Wilberforce explained sixteen years later, that "the absolute prohibition of all future importation of slaves into the colonies ... would exercise a sort of moral compulsion over the minds of the planters  ... and induce them, for the necessary end of the black population, to adopt effectual measures for reforming the principal abuses of the system". This gradual strategy assumed that "the slaves would have become qualified for the enjoyment of liberty; and preparation would have been made for that happy day, when the yoke should be taken off for ever". Hence plantation owners, especially absentee investors resident in Britain, were viewed as potential allies in a historically-driven process: "we should treat with candour and tenderness the characters of the West Indian proprietors".[156] Indeed, Wilberforce himself was a friend of the Gladstone family. Unfortunately, by 1823 – as Gladstone entered his teens – the antislavery lobby was forced to realise that "we greatly deceived ourselves by expecting much more benefit to the plantation Negroes from the abolition of the Slave Trade than has actually resulted from that measure".[157] Full emancipation became the target, an aim that advanced with remarkable rapidity from Utopian to unavoidable during the decade that the young Gladstone was receiving his education at Eton and Oxford.

If there was an abolitionist tide flowing across Britain throughout the first three decades of the nineteenth century, Gladstone's father was swimming against it. From 1804, he extended his business interests from importing West Indian sugar to extending mortgages on properties in the recently acquired territory of Demerara (now part of Guyana). It was a short step to outright ownership through foreclosures upon defaulted loans, and then to expansion of his holdings through purchase on the open market. In 1826, he extended his operations to Jamaica. "To do so in the teeth of the growing abolitionist movement seems extraordinary", S.G. Checkland observed.[158] John Gladstone's business plan quickly brought him into conflict with the advocates of outright emancipation. In 1823, he engaged in a virulent newspaper war with James Cropper, a Liverpool merchant and member of the Society of Friends. Some of the methodology of arbitrary calibration that would characterise his son's more controversial stances may be detected in his polemic. Gladstone senior began by adopting a dogmatic but undefined position on the general subject: "It is not my intention to advocate Slavery in the abstract …. It is enough to know, that Slavery has prevailed, without interruption, from the earliest ages." The real scandal was not the pretension of investors like himself to ownership over fellow human beings, but the "unjust and indiscriminate abuse of those who, under the guarantee and safeguard of the laws of the land have vested their property in the labour of Slaves". Like his son in later battles, John Gladstone fought every inch of the ground, angrily contesting every one of Cropper's allegations.[159]

The Eton schoolboy was well aware of the charges against his father. A few weeks before his fourteenth birthday, he followed "the whole of the paper war" against Cropper.[160] The campaign to free the slaves would reach its apogee during his years at Oxford, from 1828 to 1832: his diaries record two long discussions on the subject with fellow students, one of which went on until half past one in the morning.[161] Not only was he faced with the conflict between his father's economic interests (which, by extension, was his own) and the evangelical Christianity in which he had been reared to believe, but a shift in his religious beliefs added an even darker dimension to the turmoil. It was at this period, under the gently persistent persuasion of his elder sister Anne (who was also his godmother), that he came to accept the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Its implications for John Gladstone's son were stark: if the slave-owners were preventing the people of the Caribbean from embracing Christianity, they were not merely condemning them to bondage in this world, but to the risk of perdition in the next. Gladstone could never be a one-hundred-percent abolitionist, but he was too shrewd not to realise that abolition, in some form, was inevitable. Hence, he urgently needed to construct some structure of Gothic intellectualism that might straddle the extremes. Arguably, the exercise formed a matrix for subsequent mental gymnastics.

Arbitrary calibration was out of the dilemma posed by slavery, and its first public manifestation would be ludicrously convoluted. Within the privileged cocoon of Christ Church, his lucubrations and qualifications were unlikely to be robustly challenged. However, a more contested battleground beckoned when he canvassed for votes among the 1500 electors of Newark, about sixty of whom specifically raised the slavery question.[162] Privately, Gladstone sought to cast himself in the balanced role of one who steered a careful course between the extremes: "God help the poor slaves, whose interests I fear will be torn in pieces between the contending parties", he wrote, in a rare extended diary entry. He was absolutely certain of his own rectitude. "In my soul and conscience, as I shall answer at the day of judgment, I do not feel that I have any bias on that question; nor is this at all laying claim to a superior impartiality: for I think I could account for it intelligibly enough to any moderate person."[163] Moderate persons among the voters of Newark may have been puzzled by the masterpiece of unctuous obfuscation that constituted his election address. It began with an attempt to enmesh potential critics in a web of asserted consensus. "We are agreed, that both the physical and the moral bondage of the slave are to be abolished. The question is as to the order, and the order only: now Scripture attacks the moral evil before the temporal one, and the temporal through the moral one, and I am content with the order which Scripture has established." (When an assertive citizen "took upon him[self] coolly to assert, that the slavery of the Christian era [i.e. New Testament times] was entirely different in kind from that of our days", Gladstone lost his temper at the challenge to his omniscience.[164]) The appeal to Scripture enabled Gladstone to argue that the essential precondition for emancipation was the establishment of "an universal and efficient system of Christian instruction". While the aim no doubt sounded noble, it cloaked a remarkable piece of political sleight of hand, by which the task of achieving freedom could be transferred to the slaves themselves. "Let fitness be made a condition of emancipation". Gladstone imagined the typical slave to be an adult male. "Let him enjoy the means of earning his freedom through honest and industrious habits; thus the same instruments which attain his liberty, shall likewise render him competent to use it: and thus, I earnestly trust, without risk of blood, without violation of property, with unimpaired benefit to the Negro, and with the utmost speed which prudence will admit, we shall arrive at that exceedingly desirable consummation, the utter extinction of Slavery."[165] This was arbitrary calibration conveyed by a confidence trickster. Under the guise of an earnest supporter of abolition, Gladstone had shifted responsibility for the continuation of a condemned system to the victim. At best, the allegedly desired outcome would emerge very slowly, and nothing was said about the fate of those slaves who were feckless, female or too young to work their way out of the bondage into which they had been born.

Not surprisingly, that particular formula for sabotage could survive neither the scrutiny of debate nor the unveiling of the actual government proposal for abolition. In his first major parliamentary speech, in June 1833, he still hankered after the notion of compelling slaves to earn their freedom. "It was the duty of the House to place as broad a distinction as possible between the idle and the industrious slaves, and nothing could be too strong to secure the freedom of the latter; but, with respect to the idle slaves, no period of emancipation could hasten their improvement." However, his battleground was no longer morality, but centred upon the more crucial element of money. "He deprecated cruelty – he deprecated slavery; it was abhorrent to the nature of Englishmen; but, conceding all these things, were not Englishmen to retain a right to their own honestly and legally acquired property[?]"[166] In 1892, he assured himself that he "did not say a word, I think, unfavourable to the great change", but his speech was anything but dripping with enthusiasm for abolition: after a further reading, he admitted in 1897 that he had "found its tone much less than satisfactory".[167] As the historian Roland Quinault observed, "Gladstone's passionate commitment to liberty for oppressed peoples was seldom evident in his attitude to slavery": the classic example was the sympathy that he expressed in 1862 for the Confederacy, Southern whites struggling to be free to oppress their Blacks. "Gladstone's support for abolition was always qualified, rarely committed, and often self-serving." This was unfortunate enough in his Tory youth, but "there is no substantive evidence that Gladstone's conversion to Liberalism significantly changed his attitude to slavery and the slave trade".[168] Sixty years after his first Newark election, he continued to regard slavery not just as a moral issue, but as a moral issue interpreted on his own terms. "I hold the great evil of slavery to have been, not physical suffering, but moral debasement" – which included its negative effects upon the slave-owners themselves.[169] His pious sophistication may not have been shared in the gulags of Guyana. Curiously, for a politician who prided himself on his instinctive ability to pounce upon the evolution of public attitudes, he took refuge by claiming that "allowance is to be made for the enormous and most blessed change of opinion since that day on the subject of negro slavery".[170] On the issue of slavery, it seems, Gladstone had to be dragged Through the Looking Glass. It may be doubted whether he ever fully appreciated that he had arrived on the other side.

++  Canada and the mind of Gladstone These attempts to penetrate Gladstone's mind can be specifically related to his attitudes to Canada. Unlike parliamentary reform or the problems of Ireland, which occupied the forefront of British politics for long periods on a daily basis, Canadian issues impinged upon Gladstone (or vice-versa) at intervals of a few years at a time. This may have made it easier for him to modify entrenched positions, especially since the circumstances of Canada itself changed rapidly and dramatically: in 1837, it was reasonable for him to dismiss the feasibility of immediate separation from Britain, by 1865 he could regard the transition to complete independence as "morally" completed, and worth the gentle push that might convert practical into formal separation. Hence, until the early eighteen-fifties, he argued for an imperial role in the colony's affairs, while from the beginning of the eighteen-sixties, he insisted that a fully autonomous Canada should have regard to the regards of the protecting power. At key points, Gladstone assumed that his pronouncements commanded universal authority: it was hardly necessary for a spiritualist medium to urge him "to rely on my own judgments rather than on others".[171] In 1837, his verdict that Canadians had no grievances was sufficient to dismiss their unrest out of hand; in 1865, his assessment that they faced no threat of invasion overrode the concerns of their elected representatives that the province was in imminent danger of American attack. In both phases, his ideas are best explained as examples of arbitrary calibration, the Goldilocks principle of an exact line of decision that was both just and right – and which only Gladstone himself seemed capable of minutely discerning. But the precision of Goldilocks merged into the transmogrification of Alice. His attitude to Canadian self-government certainly appeared to shift between his assault on the Rebellion Losses bill in 1849 and his espousal of the cession of the Clergy Reserves in 1853, Nonetheless, he continued to insist that there was some imperceptible line between Canadian and British spheres of authority. Moreover, while the emphasis in his attitude to Canada had shifted by 1861, there were considerable elements of continuity, with the second phase having Through the Looking Glass similarities to the first. He insisted that the practical independence that Canadians enjoyed in setting their own tariffs, and the pleasure they seemed to take in erecting barriers against British goods, must be matched by acceptance of primary responsibility for their own defence – but even so, he could not escape the liability that that the Empire was committed to their protection. When he attempted to define that boundary line in his five-point memorandum of January 1870, even Gladstone was unable to perform the Goldilocks trick, as his step-by-step analysis found him facing an open-ended British commitment to defend Canada if its people were resolved to fight. Arbitrary calibration almost surfaced again a few weeks later, when he toyed with the idea of a plebiscite at the Red River. The inherent rights of the Metis would be recognised, but at some point on the scale much less than their own charmingly impossible 100-percent claim to sovereignty over the entire North West. Gladstone seems to have taken for granted that, in any such referendum, the Metis would conform to his own wishes and world view, and vote themselves into the Dominion of Canada. Goldilocks might have regarded it this as a convenient package, but Louis Riel most certainly would have disagreed.

For historians and biographers in search of a tidy explanation, it is tempting to identify the years 1849 to 1853 as the phase in which Gladstone somehow made the phantasmagorical transition Through the Looking Glass in respect of the limits of Canadian self-government. As always with such a complex personality, the story may not be so simple. As has been argued above, Gladstone tended to view issues relating to Canada through the prism of his main interests and fundamental principles – one of which was the Anglican Church, and its branches overseas. Here, his "abortive" (his term) Colonial Church bill of 1852 is almost certainly crucial, and probably merits the scrutiny of students of matters ecclesiastical. "I was very desirous to obtain a liberating measure which should place these churches in a condition legally to make resolutions for the government of their own affairs on the same footing as other religious bodies [in each colony], that is by pure compact and consent." Private members' bills rarely became law through the arthritic machinery of Victorian Westminster, but the problem in Gladstone's initiative was that it sought to impose a form of colonial autonomy through the creation of an Imperial framework. "It may be that the language of my bill was not well chosen", he conceded in 1897.[172] Perhaps it is characteristic of Gladstone's religiosity that his transition Through the Looking Glass of colonial autonomy should have involved his absorption in a stained-glass mirror.

Notwithstanding his apparent acceptance of the principle of colonial self-government, there was a continuity between Gladstone's view of 1849, that a self-governing Canada must accept an imperial right of intervention, and his stance from 1865, that a virtually independent province should recognise obligations to Britain as its protecting power – or, as happened in 1871, be virtually compelled so to do when it was necessary to appease the United States with Canadian concessions. It is obviously much harder to accommodate within any overall pattern the third phase of Gladstone's professed attitudes to Canada, the portrayal from 1886 of a "loyal and friendly" Dominion, a success in devolution that could provide, if not a template, then at least an inspiration for Ireland. However, the inconsistency may be less important than at first appears. Between 1837 and 1885, Gladstone called upon basic assumptions and principles to guide his response to Canadian issues. In 1886, he offered, not a blueprint for future relations with the Dominion but a conveniently romanticised reflection upon the way they had operated in the recent past.  "The thread of political connection is wearing thin", Goldwin Smith commented in his July 1886 article on "The Political History of Canada".[173] For once, the gloom-monger who so richly enjoyed his own pessimism had got it right. Gladstone's dismissal, in February 1886, of the case for subsidising a Canadian trans-Pacific steamship link was almost certainly his last experience of a government-to-government question between London and Ottawa: from then on, the issues that arose between Britain and its senior Dominion were mostly mundane matters that were capable of resolution at departmental level. No doubt Gladstone had made himself believe that relations with Canada were so rosy that they might be applied to Ireland but, essentially, his "loyal and friendly" appeal formed only a very minor part of the argument for Home Rule, an example of Peel's parliamentary advice "to state your case in many different ways, so as to produce an effect on men of many ways of thinking". Nor did the Canadian analogy feature for very long. The Round Table talks early in 1887 were enough to dispel the fantasy that a model for British-Irish relations might be found in Canadian federalism. Quebec's Jesuits Estates Act in 1889 did not promise well for the fate of a Protestant minority ruled by a legislature dominated by devout Catholics. In any case, the Home Rule issue became so bitter and all-embracing a cause of division in British political life that nobody was likely to be persuaded by exotic appeals to Canada, Croatia or Christiania.

One other element should perhaps be noticed here, an aspect of Gladstone that may seem oddly absent in his dealings with Canada and Canadian issues. A century and a quarter after his death, there remains something terrifying about his notorious conscience, the inner voice of an angry deity that consumed and drove him onward. As a result, we may be prepared to take, or even quake, at face value the massive sense of outrage against the immoral methods employed to pass the Act of Union in 1800 that impelled him to support Home Rule as an act of restorative justice. Yet why should Gladstone have become so obsessed with this episode? The repression of the 1798 rebellion had indeed been violent, sadistic and tyrannical, but the Act of Union was eased through largely by corruption, in money and titles: there was no repression, there were no murders, judicial or otherwise. His former friend, Sir Francis Doyle, questioned his sense of proportion. As Doyle put it, "we were … engaged in a desperate struggle to maintain the existence of England. Now, if you have to prevent a terrible fire from spreading, you must extinguish it as best you can, and all scruples must be put aside. Mr Pitt was neither a corrupt nor a profligate minister, and if he resorted to questionable means in bringing about the Union, it was because he had no choice open to him." It is tempting to suggest that Gladstone discovered the immorality of the Act of Union with Ireland because he needed to re-assert his own sense of ethical rectitude after his invasion of Egypt in 1882. But even if the period that produced the Act of Union was backdated to include the military campaign of 1798, was Vinegar Hill more wicked than Tel-el-Kebir? Doyle also queried the selectivity of his anger: "if Mr Gladstone begins to enter upon a retrograde course, because the conduct of certain statesmen was not to his taste three generations ago, where is he to stop? Boadicea and Caractacus were ill-treated by the Romans, is Mr Gladstone prepared to call upon the King of Italy for compensation in consequence?"[174] Here we may note that Gladstone never denounced the conquest of Quebec in 1759, nor did he condemn that the consigning of its 60,000 French-speaking people, without consultation, to British rule in the Treaty of 1763 – and this despite toying with the idea of holding a plebiscite among the Red River Metis to establish whether they wished to join the Dominion in 1870.

One possible explanation for the apparent randomness of his denunciation may be found in the old conundrum of the distinction between History and the past. The writing of History, that combination of narrative, explanation and analysis that forms the centrepiece of a modern liberal education, was in its prototype stage during Gladstone's lifetime. In 1886, he recognised the irony that the two historians from whom he claimed to have imbibed the "moral invalidity" of the Union with Ireland, W.E.H. Lecky and Goldwin Smith, were both opponents of Home Rule.[175] The prehistory of academic writing about the Canadian past unfolded even more slowly. F.-X. Garneau's three-volume Histoire du Canada, published between 1845 and 1848, does not seem to have made any impact in Britain: it was translated into English in 1860, but had only the limited circulation of a Montreal publisher. Garneau saw French Canada as a nation in embryo from the moment of its foundation, and referred to the "tragedy of conquest".[176] There is no indication that Gladstone ever read any Canadian history, although he was probably reared on stories of the heroic sacrifice of General Wolfe.[177] His roguish letter to the Speaker of the Quebec Assembly, welcoming its members' endorsement of Home Rule, suggests some awareness of the impact of the British conquest upon French Canada. Doyle's point about demanding an apology from Victor Emmanuel for the cruelties of Julius Caesar applied in reverse: the wrongs of 1759-63 could hardly be put right by handing over what had become a majority Anglophone society to the Third Republic. Hence, if Gladstone had been taxed with the injustice of the Conquest, he would probably – and no doubt fairly – have appealed to the concession of self-government as settling the account.

Thus in dealing with Canada, unlike (eventually) his commitment to Ireland, Gladstone was driven by no overwhelming sense of duty to put right a historical wrong. Yet it seems reasonable to seek the underpinnings of powerful ethical principles to explain his attitude to Canadian issues, if only because they are to be found everywhere else. "I am a Free Trader on moral no less on economic grounds", he wrote in 1894, "for I think human greed and selfishness are interwoven with every thread of the Protective system."[178] Consciousness of his own ethical rectitude certainly infused – one might also say, enthused – the positions Gladstone took on trade and tariff questions, but we should probably search elsewhere for the underlying principles that shaped his approach to Canadian issues. In the first two decades of his career, his motivation can perhaps be summed up as a concern for "the honour and dignity of the Crown", as he put it in 1849, the assertion that a Governor-General should refuse to countenance legislation that he denounced in his instructions to Cathcart as "dishonourable and unjust". In inspirational terms, this had the disadvantage of being a faintly worthy but ultimately nebulous concept, a high-flown way of saying that Britain retained the right to intervene in Canada's internal affairs. Once he had rebranded himself as a financial expert, Gladstone was powered by a far greater moral imperative – the interests of the British taxpayer. As he put it in 1855, Britain had been "obliged to put our dignity in our pockets" in swallowing the Rebellion Losses bill, but this made him all the more determined to protect those pockets against Canadian covetousness. His magnificent parsimony spanned a third of a century and encompassed the entire North American continent, from ocean to ocean. In 1858, he helped prevent Prince Edward Island from using British credit to finance an ambitious land purchase project. In 1886, just weeks before he hailed Canada as "loyal and friendly", he squashed a proposal to subsidise a Pacific steamship service. It was not difficult to predict his response to the suggestion in 1892 that Newfoundland might be granted an interest-free loan.

By the general standards of political moralising, the honour of the Crown and the interests of the taxpayer represented cold Puritan yardsticks, handy for beating unruly Canadian politicians. They may embody Gladstonian principles – the second more than the first – but they lack the volcanic force that erupted in outrage against the Neapolitan prisons, and Bulgarian massacres. Only in relation to the Hudson's Bay Company did he mobilise the spectacular rhetoric that would immortalise the Midlothian campaign. Here, at least, the twenty-first century can cheer his denunciations of the unjust treatment of the Company's employees and its exploitation of its First Nations suppliers. That his indignation was not simply fuelled by his opposition to the monopoly of a chartered company may be indicated by the sympathy that he showed for the Metis in 1870, brief though it was, and unaccompanied by similar concern for the indigenous peoples of the prairies. Nonetheless, the fervour with which Gladstone denounced the Hudson's Bay Company may reflect his father's campaign against another great Imperial-commercial entity, the East India Company. John Gladstone was one of the first licensed independent traders to Calcutta (Kolkata), and he sought to capitalise upon the Company's links to China to gain access to that massive market too.[179] Of course, the specific indictments against the two monopolies were very different: the Hudson's Bay Company was condemned for doing too little, the East India Company had surely done far too much. Yet it may be appropriate to close this exploration of the relationship between the immensity of British North America and the conscience of William Ewart Gladstone at this point. Like Canada, Gladstone's moral intellect was a vast territory, barely knowable and ever threatened by "the sterility of pinching winter".


As with most historical analysis, the basic method employed in this attempt to understand Gladstone involves the connecting – perhaps, the stringing together – of his own statements on events and problems. That is how historians work, but the task of constructing the mosaic is not without its hazards. Andrew Jones rightly dismissed the popular assumption that the process was "an academic canter", that "between the archive and the monograph there lies only a simple manipulation of [filing] cards".[180] Indeed, in writing about Gladstone, there are particular challenges here in both the quantity and quality of evidence. The sheer bulk of the material that he generated is in itself intimidating. An authoritative bibliography identified over 3,000 speeches. In the House of Commons alone, he filled 15,000 columns of Hansard.[181] He delivered impromptu addresses from railway carriages to the adoring crowds who gathered to hail him at passing stations.[182] In 1883, he spoke in the partly excavated Mersey tunnel, urging the promoters on to its completion. His daughter Mary found the scene "weird and picturesque … the dripping rocks, flaming torches, the glare on the workmen's faces. Extraordinary to realise we were right under that vast roll of the Mersey."[183] In 1889, he delivered what he called an "oratiuncle" (a very rare word denoting a short speech, indeed an equally rare phenomenon) at the top of the Eiffel Tower, brevity perhaps forced upon him by the need to speak in French.[184] He once delivered an election speech, almost an hour in length, despite having been just hit in the eye by a missile, which hampered his attempts to read from notes.[185] His written output was equally overwhelming: articles, books, diary entries (although usually unhelpfully staccato), essays, memoranda and pamphlets. Above all, he was a tireless correspondent. Morley simply described the number of letters he wrote as "enormous". Gladstone himself estimated that close to 100,000 letters were filed at Hawarden as worth preserving: if the incoming mail was worth keeping, he would invariably have replied, often at length.[186] There are 750 volumes in the British Library collection of Gladstone MSS. To take one example of a demanding correspondent, it was estimated by his son, Herbert, that he wrote 1,017 letters to Queen Victoria during the five years of his second term as Prime Minister, and that figure excluded more formal communications regarding appointments and honours. The development of the halfpenny postcard provided him with a new outlet for condensed obiter dicta, some of which became political hostages. "Mr Gladstone's supply of postcards ought to be cut off", Parnell drily remarked after the Grand Old Man had hinted to some unknown correspondent that he was open to the retention of a token Irish delegation at Westminster after the introduction of Home Rule.[187]

Gladstone's contemporaries sometimes reeled under the tidal wave of statements, paragraphs, declarations and arguments that he generated. As Punch sang of the Midlothian campaign: "since first the roving Statesman stumped / The public ear was never so bethumped / With words – words – words".  Nor was it always easy to decode the intended meaning behind the verbal barrages. Critics of his Midlothian oratory dismissed him as "vapid though exuberant verbosity / Inspired by sophistry and animosity".[188] "Study plainness of language, always preferring the simpler word," and speak in short sentences – such was the core of advice Gladstone offered on public speaking in 1875, but he hardly practised what he preached. He was once accused of "prolix clearness"; the alternative, he retorted, was "obscure compression". As even the devoted Morley complained, too often he was both verbose and opaque. "A reader might have to think twice or thrice or twenty times before he could be sure that he interpreted correctly." Since most people could not be bothered to parse any political declaration so minutely, there was a tendency "to take the meaning that suits their own wish or purpose best, and then to treat that as the only meaning".[189] Hence, paradoxically, Gladstone's voluble obscurity helped make him the focus of broad public support.

It may even be tempting to wonder whether there was any consistent core to Gladstone's extensive pronouncements. In the days before the invention of word processors, scientists sometimes illustrated the concept of infinity through the comfortable imagery of the Infinite Monkey Theorem. This postulated that if an unlimited quantity of monkeys were let loose on an endless supply of typewriters throughout the whole of Time, one of them would eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare.[190] While most proponents gravely added that the monkeys were metaphorical, and the entire scenario was highly improbable, anybody struggling with Gladstone's opinionated output may be tempted to apply the Theorem. Was Gladstone a one-person infinity of monkeys, engaged in the merely random generation of commentary and ideas?[191] Could it be that students of Gladstone, if endowed with sufficient patience and remarkable longevity, might eventually conclude that the Grand Old Man had boxed every corner of every question, advancing at some time or other a totality of perspective and opinion on the whole range of the issues that drifted across the agenda of Victorian politics?

The barrage of documentary quotation mobilised by John Vincent in his 1977 British Academy Lecture, "Gladstone and Ireland", posed the issue of the Infinite Monkey Theorem in a raw form. In a wide-ranging, even rollicking survey of accepted interpretations of a venerable Gladstone engaged in a wise and enlightened education on Irish issues, Vincent shook the shibboleths, even reducing the 1886 Home Rule bill to an insincere device to purge his party of disruptive elements. Vincent's peroration, which hailed Gladstone as "the most masterly upholder of Unionism since Pitt", was no doubt breathtaking, but it could be reconciled, at least in outline, with the interpretations suggested here. As Alice found when she entered the Looking Glass chamber, the furniture looked very familiar, although she was seeing it from an inverse angle. Gladstone very rarely shifted his position on any issue from zero to 100 on any calibrated scale of opinion. It was more likely that he would move from a qualified opposition of, say, 29 to a moderate endorsement which, when carefully analysed, turned out to score no more 77. It is therefore no surprise that an enterprising historian should perceive the rags of Unionism even within the rhetoric of devolution, the more so as it was in Gladstone's interests to argue that his Home Rule bill would actually create harmonious relations between the two islands.[192] However, the key methodological point here is that Vincent's sallies depended not simply upon the words that Gladstone used, but – to revert to the protest made by Jones – upon the selection or imposed by Vincent himself. The point was made by F.S.L. Lyons who, as the biographer of Parnell, was well versed in the art of decoding the political semaphore of a leader who liked to keep his options open. While recognising Vincent's skill in threading together Gladstone's own statements, Lyons sounded a note of caution. "The only danger of such a proceeding is that Gladstone used so many words to express so many different meanings that to select only those that point in a particular direction is to incur the risk of distortion by omission."[193] Most historians since 1977 have tacitly concluded that Vincent joined up the wrong file cards.

Lyons offered wise counsel, but it is advice that is extraordinarily difficult to apply to any study of Gladstone, not least because we cannot always be sure what message he intended to convey. Malcolm MacColl's claim in 1884 that the Grand Old Man had often been heard to "lament his own defect in not being able always to say precisely what he means; neither more nor less" may be discounted as the special pleading of a devoted admirer.[194] Nonetheless, there is a note of envy about Gladstone's own admiration for Parnell's "guardedness of expression" and his "happy faculty of making his words exactly fit his meaning". "He was wonderfully laconic and direct," he said of the Irish leader. "I could hardly conceive his ever using an unnecessary word."[195] By contrast, the historian will certainly sympathise with Henry Labouchere's impatient demand during the 1886 Home Rule debates that someone on the government front bench might "translate from one hour of Gladstonese into five minutes of English".[196] Even when we may feel reasonably confident that we comprehend what Gladstone was trying to say, can we be sure that he attributed the same weight to every argument he advanced? We should not forget Peel's advice to him, to "state your case in many different ways, so as to produce an effect on men of many ways of thinking" – surely a fundamental clue to his oratory, but one largely ignored by the biographers – nor should we ignore Kimberley's complaint that, in cabinet discussion, he was inclined to advance "arguments useful perhaps in debate but more plausible than sound".[197] And if the task of transferring the quotations from file cards to keyboard is daunting, the imperative of placing Gladstone's opinions in a wider context is an even greater challenge. Did he judge the colonies of British North America against the Greek city states of antiquity that spread around the Mediterranean – an idealised yardstick against which they were bound to fail? Did he see Canada exclusively through the prism of the United States, a country which he barely tried to understand? Was his lack of sympathy for Canada in some way a projection of the unresolved question of his own relationship to Scotland? Should we even assume that there were necessarily contexts to Gladstone's more passionate policy positions, some of which were dogmatically defined and narrowly pursued, recalling rather how  Frederic Rogers deplored his tendency to argue a question "hither and thither from one starting-point, not by walking round it".[198]

The warning by Lyons of "the risk of distortion by omission" may compel us to recognise that Gladstonian infinity may embrace every aspect of a question, so that no purpose is served in threading together aspects of his comments upon any problem, since some equally plausible alternative could be assembled in equally timeless simian analysis. Peel's advice on House of Commons speech-making should be enough to establish that his voluminous parliamentary speeches do not necessarily constitute evidence for the formation of his ideas, but rather they include much illustrative, parallel and analogous material aimed at winning support from the substantial cohort of independent and frequently undecided MPs who remained a prominent element at Westminster at least until the eighteen-eighties. The insight is valuable, but it does not entitle us to dismiss every Gladstonian oration as a rodomontade of random hypocrisies. Gladstone's own advice on parliamentary speaking to the newly elected John Morley was very different: assemble facts and statistics and then argue them "as if all the world must irresistibly take your own eager interest in them".[199] The task for the historian in assessing any pronouncement is to determine whether Gladstone sought consensus or aimed at conversion.

In fact, there is a considerable degree of continuity in his attitudes to Canada, with very few obvious outliers in his pronouncements that seem to contrast with the overall pattern. One specific episode that does not 'fit' was his Commons speech in 1853 supporting the transfer of the clergy reserves to Canadian control. This might be seen as a (relatively atypical) example of Gladstone acting as a team-player, showing solidarity with colleagues in what was still a novel grouping (he rejected the term 'coalition') of previously opposed politicians. More likely, it formed part of his new-found enthusiasm for the autonomy of overseas branches of the Anglican Church, for he had indicated a change in position when raising the question the previous year. A rollicking parliamentary performance full of knock-down simplifications, the speech should not be interpreted as a disavowal of his opposition to the Rebellion Losses bill, a stance that he never repudiated, but was probably intended more as a flamboyant exorcism of his ill-judged resignation from Peel's cabinet over Maynooth eight years earlier. The theme now was that different societies required different relationships between secular authority and religious belief. Even so, Gladstone's attempt to persuade himself that the transfer of the reserves to Canadian control might ensure their preservation was a piece of self-deception that amused MPs.

The other Canada-related theme that seems to break continuity was Gladstone's espousal in 1886 of Duffy's sentimentalised "loyal and friendly" Dominion precedent for Irish devolution. This represented not so much a considered position – until the eve of Home Rule, Gladstone had refused to draw any parallels between Ireland and the self-governing colonies – but was more likely a resoundingly empty slogan adopted on the Peel principle of aiming to persuade as many waverers as possible. As the breakdown of the Round Table negotiations abundantly proved, there was little mileage in the Canadian analogy, all the more so because the JCPC, on which Gladstone placed such emphasis as the arbiter of relations between London and Dublin, was in fact the wild card that was redefining the balance of power within the Canadian federal system. The most that could be said for "loyal and friendly" was that, by the eighteen-eighties, the Dominion had effectively evolved into an associated state: Gladstone himself had incautiously explained to parliament that Britain would exercise more control over the Transvaal through the imposition of suzerainty upon nominal independence than it could possibly assert over self-governing but notionally dependent Canada. In that case, it was disingenuous of him to apply the Canadian parallel to a version of Home Rule that proposed tight controls over Irish autonomy.

Thus the methodological conundrum surrounding Gladstone's encyclopedic engagement with Canada lies not in the random effusions of an Infinity of Monkeys, but rather in the continuity of key themes throughout his career, and especially between 1837 and 1885. Central to them was his insistence upon some definite line of division between the metropolitan and local spheres of control. While the precise frontier shimmered and shifted, he never wavered in his determination that the boundary existed – nor, indeed, did his confidence that he, and often he alone, could discern, define and determine its location. It becomes difficult to countenance his own mythology, that "[c]olonial subjects … caused the first breach in my Toryism".  Perhaps aware of the obstinate continuities in his attitudes, when he looked back from 1892, Gladstone characteristically attempted to turn the subject inside out, laying claim to elements of liberalism from his earliest Canadian speeches. "I had not yet attained to a full conception of the true colonial policy, but I must have moved in the right direction, for, under the Melbourne government, Lord J[ohn] Russell … passed an eulogium on one of my speeches with regard to that particular question." This was octogenarian self-deception built upon a young man's sense of insecurity. In the debate of 22 December 1837, Russell briefly referred to "the hon. Member for Newark, who spoke with so much ability tonight", agreeing with him that the American colonists of 1776 had real grievances against Britain, whereas the Canadian rebels did not. It was a passing allusion, and an indication that, as regards a liberal colonial policy, Russell himself still had some distance to travel.[200] We may accept that Gladstone did indeed aim to write objectively about his political career in the autobiographical fragments that he attempted in his eighties, but he himself recognised "that underneath and behind my resolution to that effect, the subtle powers of self-deception may have been at work, and may impair or vitiate the relation between my narrative and the absolute truth of the case".[201]

For all its length, propelling its readers through the farms and fishing ports, the lakes and rivers of British North America, this essay can only function as a reconnaissance, offered in the hope that others will further explore the relationship between Gladstone and Canada. One reason for this is that many of Gladstone's initiatives and interventions were influenced or affected as much by factional considerations within Westminster politics as by the inherent merits of the colonial topic. This was particularly true of issues that rose in respect to Canada, rather than the smaller colonies and peripheral territories, between 1837 and 1865. Thereafter, there were fewer major transatlantic challenges, and Gladstone himself had achieved a political ascendancy which usually made him secure from the machinations of rivals and foes. But the core element of uncertainty in interpretation undoubtedly lies in the wordiness of the evidence. The limiting problem lies not in his promiscuity of argument, nor in the opaque verbosity of his expression, and still less are we entitled to blame Gladstone's forgetfulness and misinterpretation of his own motivations. Rather, it lurks in his astonishing mastery of detail. The historian may meld the file cards together, but there can be no certainty that the most quotable statements reflect what were, to Gladstone himself, the key points in any of his controversies. No doubt there is valuable counsel in one of his later theological ruminations: "we should beware of being drawn into captious debate on questions of words".[202] Nonetheless, in seeking to understand Gladstone, we should never forget that we have only words, and many, many of them, to guide us, and that those words may both illuminate and mislead.


A small number of specific points may be distilled from this study of Gladstone and Canada. The first, and perhaps most basic, point is that it established that he took an extended interest over many decades in a wide range of Canadian issues, to an extent that may seem surprising in an era when, at least in the political sphere, relations between Britain and Canada are tenuous, vague and ill-informed. Gladstone, we may be sure, was far more aware of the existence of nominally British communities across the Atlantic than have been most of his biographers, and it is for that reason that his involvement has been filtered out of the mainstream narrative of his career. A related point here is that, although he brought a great deal of information to bear on Canadian questions, his encyclopedic breadth was matched neither by a concomitant depth of comprehension nor by an effective lateral grasp of context.

Within this overall involvement, three themes may be emphasised. The first relates to the longer-term centrality of his challenge to the Rebellion Losses bill in 1849. While Gladstone never disavowed his stance, the defeat of his attempt to override legislation passed by the provincial parliament effectively made him write off any prospect of exercising control over Canada. He switched his efforts to ensuring that the Anglican Church, still the main concern of his political life, was equipped to hold its own in the open religious culture of colonial societies. In the event, the contradiction of imposing local ecclesiastical autonomy by fiat from the central authority of Westminster was never resolved through legislation, and this theoretical Canadian issue, like so many others, had to be left to rough-and-ready compromises that evolved over time. As argued in a parallel essay, the Rebellion Losses affair was also a milestone in Gladstone's career in British politics, one that highlighted hs isolation by demonstrating the fragility of the Peelite coalition.

The second theme to be emphasised is the underlying continuity of his attitudes to Canada, at least from 1837 until 1885. Although by 1865 he claimed to regard Canada as "morally" independent, he continued to base his policy responses on the assumption of some form of borderline between British supremacy and colonial autonomy, a division that only he could perceive, and one that mysteriously oscillated to Canadian disadvantage. The most notable example of this intellectual flexibility was his ruthless manipulation of Dominion autonomy, in the 1871 Treaty of Washington negotiations, complete with a cunningly assigned fall-guy role to its Prime Minister, Macdonald. The key issue here, and the last remaining element of apparent British leverage over the Dominion, was Britain's imperial responsibility to defend Canada against possible American aggression. Here Gladstone combined rigidity with denial, as only he could, pressing Canadians to take primary responsibility for their own defence while dismissing their fears of invasion. Between 1868 and 1870 he made some tentative moves designed to encourage the new Dominion to break its links with Britain altogether. Not only did these fail utterly when they encountered an almost universal Canadian refusal to engage in full decolonisation, but they left him facing the imponderable that he had hoped to conjure away, the nightmare that national honour would force Britain to fight the United States in defence of a colony that he had no wish to retain.

The third theme is perhaps most noteworthy by its relative absence from the Gladstone-Canada saga. One of the few appearances of the Empire's senior colony in what might be called the standard narrative of his life has been his appeal in 1886 to make Ireland "loyal and friendly" by emulating the success of Canadian self-government. This slogan was hardly consistent with the two preceding themes postulated here: Gladstone had shown himself neither supportive of Canadian autonomy nor sympathetic to Canadian interests. Perhaps more to the point, he had involved himself in many British North American issues that had obvious Irish parallels, without, it seems, ever emphasising the connections between them. He first confronted the potential for instability arising from a broad adult male franchise through the turmoil of Newfoundland politics in the eighteen-thirties, where one temptingly attractive solution to the problems associated with a turbulent Irish Catholic electorate was to close down their Assembly altogether. In the eighteen-fifties, he was actively involved in the disendowment of the minority Anglican Church in Canada and cast a suspicious eye upon Prince Edward Island's attempts to appropriate its landlords. The antipathy that he displayed towards Canadian demands in the eighteen-sixties was driven by resentment at the province's obstinate insistence upon tariff autonomy, increasingly expressed in its espousal of Protection – a heresy that he would have been well aware twenty years later was shared by Parnell. Yet Gladstone rarely if ever elided these specific British North American questions with their Irish parallels. Perhaps this represents evidence of his ability to compartmentalise different aspects of his public life, the refusal noted by Rogers to walk all round problems and view them in assorted contexts. Nonetheless, it seems strange that he should have apparently forgotten Peel's bleak warning of 1837, that Britain faced the danger of "another Ireland growing up in every colony".

In the case of Irish devolution, he may perhaps be exonerated from having failed to explore colonial precedents, if only because, at least until 1885, there were almost as many versions of Home Rule as there were Home Rulers, but it is clear that he had previously firmly ruled out applying Canadian (or Australian) self-government to the neighbouring island. It is unlikely that he regarded his occasional appeals to the Canadian analogy in 1886 as anything more than debating points. Unusually, he was poorly informed about the implications of his comparison. Famously, he used the text of the British North America Act when he drafted his Home Rule bill, but he made no attempt to discover how the machinery actually worked. The distant Westminster-Ottawa analogy was implausible enough when applied to potential clashes between London and Dublin. But it was the second level of Canadian imagery that contained the real landmines. Gladstone evidently knew nothing of the developing tensions between the

Dominion government and Canada's provinces, a balance that was being shifted by the decisions of the very body that he relied upon as the umpire for Home Rule, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. No doubt the death the previous year of his close friend, Sir Robert Phillimore, had deprived him of an informed adviser on the proceedings of the body of which Phillimore was a key member, but that hardly excused Gladstone's failure to seek alternative sources of information.  British historians have noted that an appeal to the Ottawa model seemed to offer a promising basis for Liberal reunion in 1887, without being aware that it was the shifting of the tectonic plates of Canadian federalism – not to mention the angry discontents of secessionist Novas Scotia – that guaranteed the failure of the Round Table initiative.

The most favourable interpretation of Gladstone's attempt to invoke Canada as an argument for Home Rule in Ireland would be that, by the time of his second ministry, the Dominion had in fact evolved to the status of a de facto associated State, with quasi-diplomatic representation in London. Contact now occurred, or erupted, not so much over substantive issues as through occasional episodes such as the Costigan resolutions or the possibility of Canadian logistical support on the Nile. The phrase "loyal and friendly" might even have been deconstructed as "inconveniently limpet-like and impertinently intrusive". However, if that was how Gladstone had come to conceptualise the British-Canadian relationship in that form, it was disingenuous of him to cite it in support of an Irish measure that he insisted would concede only a very limited degree of devolution. Indeed, it may be that the focus here should not be upon Canadian developments at all, but rather should be regarded as part of the evidence that the last nine years of Gladstone's career, from the Hawarden Kite of December 1885 to the blubbering cabinet of March 1894, form a largely embarrassing tailpiece to an otherwise impressive and varied career.

Thus "Gladstone and Canada" may start with the elucidation of problems and issues arising across the Atlantic, but the emphasis steadily shifts towards the intriguing personality through whose complex mind they were shaped and processed. Of course, there was no such thing as the identikit Victorian politician: idiosyncrasies and enthusiasms characterised them all. Yet most of them were drawn from similar backgrounds, and espoused common values, however much they might disagree over specific challenges. Hence, to conjure the example of an imaginary cabinet minister, whether Whig or Tory, a dissertation on "Henry Hackforth and Canada" might reasonably be assumed to throw a more general light upon Britain's transatlantic connections, simply because the statesmen of that era tended to act upon shared assumptions of national interest and national honour. Unfortunately, the typicality that might be projected upon the diligent but hypothetical Henry Hackforth cannot be assigned to the very real and perplexing William Gladstone. Thus "Gladstone and Canada" has carried a scholarly responsibility to offer speculations and hypotheses that may suggest ways in which the subject matter could help us to understand the subject. It may be frankly accepted that the speculations may prove to be unfounded and the hypotheses untenable. That will truncate their durability but it will not necessarily undermine their usefulness. It might be argued that Gladstone biography calls for fresh approaches, and those that may prove to be unsustainable could provide catalysts for the emergence of more helpful perspectives.

The framework of Gladstone's dealings with Canada raises at least one conundrum regarding his sense of personal identity. His most influential biographers have been English, predominantly male, and graduates of Oxford. They could not fail to notice elements of duality within Gladstone's personality, but they have tended to contain the appositions and conflicts that characterised his complexity within predominantly English frameworks, Oxford versus Liverpool, plutocratic commerce versus landed aristocracy. Consideration of Canadian problems brought him into contact with exiled Scots, men such as Brown the newspaper editor, Galt the financier, Macdonald the lawyer-politician, MacNab the fake laird, adventurers who saw a British Canada as an extension of the northern land of their birth or background. These contacts should prompt historians to probe Gladstone's own relationship with Scotland. Of course, Gladstone scholars have noted that his parents were Scots, who in later years they returned to their homeland, but it is hard not to feel that there is a certain element of biographical box-ticking about this, an element of just-fancy-that acknowledgement of a faintly exotic family background, all based on the assumption that Scotland in the early nineteenth century was some sort of England-lite, rather than a cultural realm that would have been alien to most denizens of the southern half of the island – had they ever made the effort to cross the Border.  Biographers who engage in imaginative empathy with their subjects risk crossing the delusory boundary into historical fiction, but there is surely a case for asking how a young man of eighteen, a product of Eton waiting to go up to Oxford, would have reacted in 1828 when he realised that his parents were planning to uproot from the Merseyside world of his upbringing to relocate the family to an estate in the Highlands, plus an urban mansion in Edinburgh. In fact, his diary for that year gives us a very good indication of the strategy that he planned to adopt, and to impose. He would discharge his hereditary obligation to be a Scotsman by immersing himself in the Episcopal Church, a kind of hermetically sealed bubble from within which he could observe the strange Presbyterian world without becoming fully part of it. The years in which he grappled with the implications of Canada's progression towards self-government, in particular from 1837 to 1849, were also the period of his life when he was an active lay supporter of the minority denomination in which his mother had been reared. The Canadian Scots were unashamedly British, but Gladstone never echoed George III's pride in being a "Briton". Until his father's death in 1851 – and his estrangement from his elder brother – effectively severed his link to John Gladstone's trophy estate of Fasque, he lived a dual existence as an outsider, a semi-Scot when in England, and an expatriate tarnished with Sassenach affectation when in Scotland. That ambiguity would reappear, although in different form, when he renewed his engagement with his parents' homeland through the fiery Midlothian campaign in 1879. This question of self-identification, hidden if indeed concealed at all in plain sight, merits exploration as a potential theme for understanding one of the most volcanic forces in nineteenth-century British public life. Could this unresolved fissure in his personality help to explain his combination of profound reverence for established institutions and his occasional explosive desire to tear them apart and remodel them? At the very least, his interactions with Canadian Scots may have prompted the reflection of "there but for the grace of God", for John Gladstone's migration from Leith to Liverpool might so easily have been a step towards failure in business, the disgrace of emigration and the inherited compulsion that his own children would have been forced to fight their way to the top in the pioneer world of Canada.

A major element in Gladstone's humiliation in 1849 lay in the rejection of his claim to discern a subtle but unbreakable line between British and Canadian authority, a balance that he insisted had been transgressed by the passage of the Rebellion Losses legislation. Peel's rejection of his factual interpretation was a painful blow, and the general refusal of MPs to bow to his judgement was a shattering setback.  Somehow he managed to reposition himself as a statesman who not only accepted Canada's autonomous status, but who aimed to extend it, not least by providing Britain with some escape route from an obligation to provide an imperial defence that could neither be delivered in practice nor dishonoured in theory. Thus Canada provided examples of two obscurely interconnected aspects of his decision-making, in one of which he sought to impose an inflexible and apparently arbitrary solution, but curiously matched by a contrasting process that seemed to waft him towards an apparently opposed point of view. The first was characterised by a precision of detail that only he could discern, the second seemingly defied explanatory analysis, not least because no evidence survives that might date the exact moment of his conversion, and thereby perhaps identify some key argument or event that might have triggered, or crystallised,  his shift of position.

Gibbon may have exaggerated when his called History "little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind", but it is certainly a solemn discipline that imposes upon its practitioners the responsibility of mature and balanced assessment. In their professional capacities at least, historians are serious people who reject the flippant and the frivolous. Hence it may seem provocative to invoke the tale of Goldilocks and the fable of Alice Through the Looking Glass as vehicles for the exploration of the Gladstonian mentality. To such concerns, it may be riposted that Gladstone's thought processes often seem to have operated in some sphere above narrow and terrestrial logic. Goldilocks famously adjudged the answer to one problem, the temperature of porridge, with the verdict that it was "just right". So too did Gladstone pronounce upon the trigger point in the sliding scale on corn imports in 1842, the precise limits of Canadian autonomy in 1849  and the qualification to vote in 1866. In the secular sphere at least, he rarely embraced all-or-nothing solutions, extreme positions that registered at either zero or one hundred percent in his evaluations. I have termed this response "arbitrary calibration", the predisposition to settle at 38 or 79, a position laden with qualifications that were not always audible in the white heat of his oratory. As Matthew noted of his Church-and-State views in the late eighteen-thirties, close examination of a Gladstonian position that professedly embodied some rigid and detailed prescription might conceal an awkward concatenation of theoretically opposed approaches. Hence their arbitrary calibration sometimes exploded, and the pieces settled in some apparently wholly new construction.

While these positions changed, two features may be noted about his various political apostasies. The first is that they are impossible to explain, indeed even to date. Precisely how Gladstone mutated from 38 to 79 on the Irish Church, tenant right or Home Rule can never be reconstructed. The clinching argument, the epiphanal moment, invariably elude us. Second, when the dust settled and the shouting ceased after each of his seismic upheavals, the new political stage bore a strange resemblance to the set that had allegedly been swept away. Certainly the shift in the centre of gravity of British-Canadian relations across the Atlantic did nothing to reduce – and may even have increased – Gladstone's demands upon the Dominion. Similarly, Lewis Carroll did not, could not, tell us how Alice managed to step Through the Looking Glass, but he did reveal that the furniture in the reflected chamber seemed oddly familiar. In ceasing to understand Gladstone, there is a sense in which Goldilocks and Alice were intertwined. The terrifying omniscience with which he pronounced his just-right diktats upon the world seemed to constitute verdicts whose complexity emerged from a genius too elevated for the comprehension of ordinary mortals. In reality, they often masked an awkward collision between conflicting points of view, practically and even theoretically to one another. Sometimes, the internal tectonic plates could not hold, and he found himself catapulted into an inverted political universe.

The two fictional females may help to define Gladstone's thought processes, but they can hardly explain why he was so determinedly attached to arbitrary calibration, still less why such dogmatically maintained opinions apparently suddenly crashed down what Selborne called an "inclined plane" to some new point of infallibility. Once again we are brought face to face with his innate qualities of character and intellect, a confrontation similar to staring down the crater of an active volcano. Two formative experiences are suggested here as having shaped his thought patterns, although both were, of course, themselves manifestations of deeper personality traits.  The first is his religious belief. In his refusal to wade through the everglades of theological controversy, the agnostic Morley did Gladstone biography the disservice of implying that his political career could be presented in essentially secular terms. Half a century of revisionist scholarship has done much to redress the balance, but it is still necessary to assert the primacy of Gladstone's own sense that he was in politics for the service of the Anglican Church. His religious beliefs, as they crystallised by the eighteen-thirties, represented an expression of arbitrary calibration that was founded upon the "confusion of incompatibles" that Lytton Strachey suspected at the core of his make-up. His belief system was the result of a collision between the bleak intolerance of evangelical Christianity and the romantic ritualism of Anglo-Catholicism. While the core remained unshaken throughout his lifetime, the political positions that might evolve from the essence of his theology could legitimately change, even though – no surprise here – the process of their adaptation could not necessarily be traced. As Deryck Schreuder wrote, Gladstone emphasised the importance of morality in public life, "but the manner in which moral idealism came to shape political practice was often far less clear".[203] It is noteworthy that it was Church issues – synodical self-government and the clergy reserves – that took Gladstone Through the Canadian Looking Glass in the early eighteen-fifties – or, at least enabled him to claim that he had become transmogrified into a reflected universe. It is possible also to suspect that this determination to confer autonomy upon Anglican provinces overseas was influenced by his affiliation, when north of the Border, with Scotland's independent Episcopal Church – although his anglocentric biographers do not seem to have made the connection, and the parallel was no doubt too dangerous to the Establishment in England to be invoked by Gladstone himself even within the broad pursuit of parliamentary coalition-building. The second issue, slavery, followed from the first. The servant of Almighty God and the son of an authoritarian plantation owner, Gladstone was forced to fine-hone his tortuous mental skills by reconciling opposites through a calibrated concatenation of wordy high principle freely mixed with quibbles, evasion and the trench warfare of contested charges and allegations. Unfortunately, it took more than "an intensity, a fervour, a conviction of absolute right and wrong"[204] to impose his self-interested constructs upon the political world. The slaves were liberated without the imposition of any character-building obligation to earn their emancipation through good behaviour, and Gladstone spent his first seven years in parliament in steady retreat before the overwhelming forces of reality. When a politician of the eighteen-thirties was described as having an interest in colonies, it usually meant that he was concerned about the West Indies. It was to reassure the planter lobby that Peel sent the raw young Gladstone to the Colonial Office in 1835. Fortuitously, the portfolio included the problems of Canada, through which he acquired the status of a parliamentary authority that enabled him to command the attention, if not always the endorsement, of the House of Commons at intervals over the next twenty years, before his transition to the more terrifying pretensions of fiscal authority. It is hardly surprising that the calibrated concision that he had tried to apply to the Caribbean should also have surfaced in his attempts to shoehorn Canadian reality into his labyrinthine mental universe.

Gladstone's death, on Ascension Day 1898, was mourned in Canada. In the House of Commons, there were tributes from the Prime Minister, Wilfrid Laurier and his Trade Minister, Richard Cartwright, and from the opposition leader, Charles Tupper, who had encountered Gladstone while serving as Canada's High Commissioner in London from 1893 to 1896. The formal condolences could hardly be complete without some oratorical keening from Ottawa's professional Irishman, John Costigan, whose Home Rule resolutions had aroused Gladstone to such contempt sixteen years ago. The proprieties were observed, Gladstone's career described and lauded, with due emphasis upon his sympathies for Italy and his noble but unconsummated campaign for Ireland.  Yet the superlatives contained not one single allusion to any service performed by this great statesman of Empire to the Dominion and people of Canada. There was nothing ironic or sardonic in their silence, for Canada's politicians were speaking as citizens of what is now called the British world, their funereal tributes to greatness transcending any localised self-interest.[205] Yet it is instructive that there was no overarching Canadian project, no generous boon to which they could appeal as locally illustrative of Gladstone's vision and goodness. No doubt at many points in his career, he had oiled the wheels in the process of building colonial nationhood, for instance supporting the Confederation project from the sidelines and backing the fragile Dominion in the expansion to the west. Yet there was never much goodwill in Gladstone's attitude to Canada, and he aimed some notable spanners at its machinery, seeking to hinder Canadians when they sought to borrow British money and even, in 1849, to bat them from spending their own. His sixty-year career in public life was marked by relatively frequent engagement with Canada, but it was notably lacking in any specific Canadian achievement. Perhaps that verdict may be projected on to a wider canvas. Ottawa's politicians paid homage to a mythic Gladstonian colossus, whose actual legacy was harder to discover.

For a list of material relating to W.E. Gladstone on this website, see "Gladstone on" (

ENDNOTES   Endnotes are continued in short form from first citation in "Gladstone, Canada and calibration: Part 1 of Gladstone and Canada": GD is the Gladstone Diaries.

 [1] Gladstone to Lorne, 7 March 1879, MacNutt, Days of Lorne, 230-1.

[2] Morley, Gladstone, i, 147-8. Gladstone was suffering from a broken heart at the time, and the project may have been his equivalent of joining the French Foreign Legion.

[3] It was almost certainly the anti-Semitic "Scoldwin" (as Punch nicknamed him in 1887) to whom Gladstone smilingly referred when he said in 1894: "He hates the Jews as much as he hates me." Briggs, ed., Gladstone's Boswell, 109.

[4] He declined: GD, ix, 338. Reasonably enough, at the age of 84, he also refused an invitation to make a lecture tour of the United States: Dickens had probably hastened his death by undertaking a gruelling series of public appearances  in 1867, while Parnell, 50 years younger than Gladstone, had wrecked his health by a similar speaking marathon across North America in 1880. Shannon, Gladstone: God and Politics, 467. In 1896, Gladstone noted the paradox that "the United States have been that country of the world in which the most signal marks of public honour have been paid to me and in which my name has been the most popular". PMP:WEG, i, 134. 

[5] In 1883, he politely declined an invitation from the New Zealand parliament to visit the colony, pleading "the constant pressure of my official duties which ill admit of my removal even to points much nearer this island and this metropolis" (GD, xi, 50). In his hedonistic later years, he was flexible in his interpretation of the restriction.

[6] Gladstone probably met Macdonald three times, twice in 1865 and once in 1884. He first welcomed a Canadian politician to his home when Laurier visited Hawarden in 1897, months before his death. Goldwin Smith, an Englishman in exile, was never a close friend, and their relations cooled distinctly when Smith impugned his veracity in 1887. Various Canadian clergy, e.g. Medley and Strachan, were associates rather than intimates. In 1887, Gladstone exchanged letters with John Britnell, owner of a Toronto bookstore, who had formerly traded in London. Britnell later recalled Gladstone as a customer: "the inside pockets of his overcoat when filled with purchases would make a modern student hold up his hands in alarm". GD, xii, 156 (26 October 1888); J. Britnell, Books and Booksellers in Ancient and Modern Times (Toronto, 1923), 26. They could hardly be called friends.

[7] Shannon's Gladstone, God and Politics is a reminder of this centrality, although Shannon exaggerated his thesis.

[8] In 1860, Walter Bagehot referred to Liverpool's nickname of "America and water", adding "we suspect it is America and very little water".  W. Bagehot Biographical Studies (ed. R.H. Hutton, London, 1889), 89.

[9] Checkland, The Gladstones, 24-6. The meeting probably took place in Philadelphia, the seat of the federal government until 1800, not at Washington D.C. as stated. E.W. Hamilton, Mr Gladstone… (London, 1898), 129 for Gladstone's praise for Washington's "moral elevation and greatness of character".

[10] GD, iii, 24 (23 April 1840) for de Tocqueville.

[11] P. Guedalla, ed., Gladstone and Palmerston … (London, 1928), 230-1 (memorandum, 312 July 1862).

[12] W.E. Gladstone, Gleanings of Past Years, 1843-1878, i ... (New York, 1879), 203-48.

[13] Letter to his son Harry, 1880, F.W. Hirst, Gladstone as Financier and Economist (London, 1931), 313. He consulted James Bryce's authoritative and recently published The American Commonwealth at Christmas 1888, and spent a day in bed the following September devouring "many chapters", apparently of Bryce's description of American party politics. GD, xii, 174, 234.

[14] Matthew put a positive gloss upon Gladstone's interest in the United States, but acknowledged that he seemed to possess little awareness of American machine politics. "May Heaven avert every darker omen, and grant that the latest and largest of the great Christian civilization shall also be the brightest and the best!", his appeal to an American audience in 1890, was full of goodwill but notably short on content. Gladstone certainly wrote fairly frequently for the North American Review in the last decade of his life. (It paid well, £315 for a single article in 1892: Matthew, Gladstone: 1875-1898, 374.) But, by 1886, Canadian-American relations had settled to endemic and generally minor friction, and any increased awareness of the USA (which may be doubted) implied little by way of insight into its northern neighbour. Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 317-18.

[15] It is striking that Gladstone had little contact with one of the most interesting American Ministers to the Court of St James, Charles Francis Adams, who functioned, according to his son, as "a kind of American Peer of the Realm".  The two met in May 1861, when Adams took up his post, but probably avoided one another during the Civil War. Contact was re-established after Appomattox, and Adams was invited to one of the Gladstone family breakfasts in June 1866. Lord Houghton, the notorious wit Richard Monckton Milnes, was also present, conversation sparkled, but the United States was not one of the topics discussed. "Fifteen to breakfast" was Gladstone's comment. GD, vi, 37, 441; [H. Adams], The Education of Henry Adams (Washington, 1907), 168; C.F. Adams, jr, Charles Francis Adams (Boston, 1900), 368-9, partly quoted R. Jenkins, Gladstone (London, 1995), 257-8.

[16] Hamilton, Mr Gladstone, 129-30.

[17] Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-1867, 112-13. In 1864, Gladstone cited an unnamed economist who argued that "if Canada were ever annexed to the United States, the value of land in Canada would greatly increase". However, this was not an endorsement of Canadian absorption in to the Republic, but a comment in support of his view that Prussian annexation of Schleswig-Holstein would expose the duchies to the impact of "such an active and progressive nation". (He had visited Copenhagen the previous year.) Briggs, ed., Gladstone's Boswell, 22-3.  

[18] An episode in 1886-7 provides negative supporting evidence. Tennyson had revisited Locksley Hall, his optimistic poem of 1835 in a sequel, Locksley Hall Sixty Years After, in which he bemoaned the way the world had developed. Gladstone produced a rejoinder, in which he ranged very widely to prove that almost everything had improved. There was a boiler-plate allusion to the replacement of Downing Street rule by colonial self-government, but no mention of Canada. Some at least of Gladstone's contemporaries would have contrasted the discontented colonies of the 1830s with the transcontinental Dominion of the 1880s, but the idea evidently did not occur to him. W.E. Gladstone, "'Locksley Hall' and the Jubilee", Nineteenth Century, January 1887, 1-18.

[19] When her son-in-law Lord Lorne accepted the post of Governor-General of Canada in 1878, Queen Victoria consoled herself with the thought that her daughter, Princess Louise, could come home every year. "There being so many Scotch there will also be an additional satisfaction." R. Fulford, ed., Beloved Mama … (London, 1981), 24. In reality, birthplace information in mid-19th-century Canadian censuses reveal that Ireland was a more important source of population than Scotland. The Irish in Canada were less visible probably because they were divided along religious lines (although there were also notable communities of Highland Catholics in Nova Scotia and Ontario). For reasons that do not seem to be explained, Irish migration to Canada dropped sharply after 1855. D. H. Akenson, The Irish in Ontario... (Kingston and Montreal, 1974), 3-47. It is possible that some Irish (e.g. Ulster Presbyterians) passed themselves off as Scots. The grandfather of Canada's First World War general, Sir Arthur Currie, changed his name from Corrigan to Curry; the grandson modified the spelling to a Scottish form.

[20] Quoted by R. C. Windscheffel, "Gladstone and Scott: Family, Identity and Nation", Scottish Historical Review, lxxxvi (2007), 69–95, esp. 73.

[21] Bagehot, Biographical Studies, 86; Morley, Gladstone, i, 192. Bagehot attributed the comment to "an old Whig" who disliked Gladstone's 1860 budget. The source may have been George Cornewall Lewis, also a subject of a Bagehot profile. The comment may have referred to Gladstone's "Lancashire twang", which irritated the one Liberal backbencher in 1871, simply because he had to listen to so much of it: T.A. Jenkins, ed., The Parliamentary Diaries of Sir John Trelawny, 1868-73, Camden Miscellany, xxxii (1994), 431. C.L.R. Fletcher, who encountered Gladstone at Oxford in 1890, referred to his "broad rolling Lancashire accent". Although based on a phonograph recording, Matthew's statement that he spoke with "a slight North Welsh accent" is puzzling: Gladstone was nearly 30 when he married into the Flintshire Glynne family, and into his forties before he made Hawarden his country home. This is late in life to acquire an accent. It is possible that the phonograph recording was a copy made by an actor, who perhaps assumed that the squire of Hawarden spoke with a Welsh accent. A purported recorded greeting to Edison on does not resolve the question. C.L.R. Fletcher, Mr Gladstone at Oxford, 1890 (New York, 1908), 91; Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 299-300. Bagehot's assessment that Gladstone possessed "the speculative hardihood, the eager industry of a Lancashire merchant" (Biographical Studies, 89) was wide of the mark. Gladstone had no involvement in his father's commercial activities, and described himself as "totally ignorant of trade and political economy" when Peel appointed him to the Board of Trade in 1841.  (PMP:WEG, i, 44.) He had no experience of business management until he was obliged to deal with the problems of his brother-in-law's Oak Farm ironworks in the 1840s. Oxford on the surface, Liverpool underneath was probably a thinly coded sneer at Gladstone's middle-class origins. In 1861, an Edinburgh journalist thought that "no little of the persevering enmity, almost amounting to malignity" directed against Gladstone was based on the fact that he "sprang directly from the people.... It is true nobody has ever dared publicly to avow this as an objection", but there were "certain whisperings" that suggested that "the strong antipathy against the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a good deal tinged and coloured with aristocratic pride". (Caledonian Mercury, 18 October 1861). But Gladstone's plebeian roots were in Leith, not Liverpool. Gladstone renewed his contact with his native city when he contested South Lancashire in 1865, but by 1893 a local chronicler claimed that he "will not let Liverpool claim him, but keeps apart, rarely coming hither, and declaring that he is a pure Scot". His detachment was the more remarkable, given that Hawarden was barely 25 miles away. Irish immigration exacerbated a sectarian local culture, making Liverpool the only large provincial city which generally returned Conservative MPs. Typically, Gladstone sought to impose his own filter, in 1872 urging Liverpudlians to become a great cultured commercial city, like Florence (maritime Venice would have been a better model); he did indeed make a small contribution to the endowment of a Chair of Italian at the University College. He described a day excursion from Hawarden to receive the freedom of Liverpool in December 1892 as an "[e]xpedition", having prepared his speech of thanks "in utter deadness & reluctance of mind". Planning his own memorial library in 1888, he had ruled out Liverpool as a location because of its "inhospitable atmosphere". This may refer to its Protestant-Catholic divide, or perhaps relates to memories of his defeat in South West Lancashire in 1868.  P.J. Waller, Democracy and Sectarianism ... (Liverpool, 1981), 74-5; GD, xii, 416; xiii, 157-9; xii, 161 (12 November 1888). 

[22] Letter to Morley, 19 November 1890, Morley, Gladstone, iii, 481. For other versions, Magnus, Gladstone: a Biography, 387 and L. Masterman, ed., Mary Gladstone (Mrs Drew)... (London, 1930), 413. "You will be canny and you will be couthy", he assured Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who was nervous at being appointed to the cabinet in 1886. "That he should address me in the patois of my own village put me at once at my ease," C-B recalled, "and enhanced my sense of his general omniscience." J.A. Spender, Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (2 vols, London, 1923), i, 100. Like Gladstone, Campbell-Bannerman was the younger son of a Scots businessman who had set himself up as a landowner.

[23] A.F. Robbins, The Early Public Life of William Ewart Gladstone… (London, 1894), 6. Henry Brougham was present at the Liverpool performance of Macbeth, which probably dates the event to the 1812 by-election campaign. In stressing that Gladstone grew up in a transplanted Scottish environment, it is important to avoid conveying the impression that he inherited a total package of 'Scottishness', e.g. Checkland (The Gladstones, 8) makes the point that John Gladstone was almost certainly untouched by the Scottish Enlightenment. In conversation with Morley, Gladstone called the poetry of Robert Burns "very fine and true", but his diaries indicate that he rarely read Burns, although his verse may have been recited in the family. Morley, Gladstone, iii, 472. As a schoolboy, he once read "a little" of James Hogg, but he did not return to the Ettrick Shepherd until 1882. GD, i, 50; x, 350.

[24]  When the Lord Provost of Dundee described Gladstone in 1890 as "the foremost Englishman of our time", voices in the crowd shouted "Scotchman". The civic dignitary hastily corrected himself, adding "I know how proud he always is to boast of his Scottish nationality." Accepting the status of Free Burgess of the city, the guest of honour used soothing words to deflect any embarrassment. "You have said that I am not slow to claim the name of Scotchman, and undoubtedly if I were slow to claim it there is the fact staring me in the face that not a drop of blood runs in my veins except what is derived from a Scottish ancestry." Morley ruthlessly pruned his quotation of that polite sentence, deleting the first four words (and incidentally emending the national label to "Scotsman") to make it seem that his subject was indeed unambiguously claiming Caledonian citizenship.  If Gladstone had in fact first laid claim to that identity at Dundee, he would indeed have been slow to reveal his true self, since he was eighty.  Glasgow Herald, 30 October 1890; Morley, Gladstone, i, 17-18.

[25] Glasgow Herald, 2 November 1865. Similarly, in two speeches in Leith in 1862, he claimed "a great attachment in general to the land from whence I draw my blood and my extraction", and spoke of his father's birth in and affection for the town. Victorian politicians were not expected to bare their souls, but the allusions were hardly extensive.  Glasgow Herald, 13 January 1862.

[26] Only once during the Midlothian campaign did he refer to his own background, speaking at the non-political presentation of an address of welcome in Edinburgh, where he reminisced about childhood visits to the city – but his boast that in his early years he "knew almost every street and every corner" of the city was slightly undermined by his failure to remember the name of one of them. Even those recollections were intended to qualify an admission that he was "in some sense a stranger to the county of Midlothian".  There was no mention of his father's birth and upbringing in the nearby port of Leith, nor any appeal to his ancestry in Biggar, less than thirty miles away. (In 1892, he recalled a childhood visit to Biggar, where his father's cousin was "a small watchmaker".) Gladstone, Midlothian Speeches 1879 (ed. Foot), 217-18; PMP:WEG, i, 17.

[27] W.E. Gladstone, A Letter to the Right Rev. William Skinner, D.D. … (London, 1852), 9, reprinted in W.E. Gladstone, Gleanings of Past Years, 1843-1878, vi (London, 1879), 1-46.

[28] Freeman's Journal (Sydney, New South Wales), 20 August 1892.

[29] Gladstone to Douglas Campbell, 17 October 1892 (GD, xiii, 114).

[30] Glasgow Herald, 6 January 1893. It is difficult to deduce how the voters of Midlothian assessed him. At Gorebridge in 1879, a local man seized him by the hand said "Aye, man, Wullie Gladstane, ye're just like Robbie Burns; ye'll be faur more thocht o' wi' a' body when ye're deid." An eyewitness to his last campaign, in 1892, reported that friend and foe alike referred to him as "Auld Wullie". These reports come from New Zealand newspapers, and are unlikely to constitute first-hand evidence: Nelson Colonist, 25 August; Auckland Star, 31 May 1898.

[31] The Times, 5 January 1893. The explorer and mountaineer W.M. Conway had some fun with Gladstone's claim to be a pure Scot: "Is Mr Gladstone, then, a Pict or a Celt, and if Celt, then of what branch of the Celts; and were they pure Scotchmen or come from somewhere? Or is he sprung from some yet deeplier-buried prehistoric folk, in its turn presumably a compound of immigrants with a kindred elsewhere?" As a mathematician, Gladstone was well aware, as he put it, that "at the distance of a moderate number of centuries everybody has some hundred thousand ancestors, subject, however, to deduction [i.e. marriage of cousins]". The Times, 7 January 1893; letter to the Duchess of Sutherland, 19 October 1860, Morley, Gladstone, ii, 184.

[32] The French Revolution had inclined the British (in this case, Scottish) State to abandon ancient vendettas. The Scottish Episcopal Church disavowed its Jacobite overtones and was exempted from previous sanctions in 1792. In 1804, it adopted the Thirty-Nine Articles, drawing closer to the Church of England but – unlike the Protestant Church of Ireland – maintaining a separate existence. The 1804 synod met at Laurencekirk in Kincardineshire, 5 miles from Fasque: the Gladstones worshipped there until their estate chapel was built in 1846. M. Lochhead, Episcopal Scotland in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1966), passim.

[33] "I have long resided in Scotland, and was in communion with the Episcopal Church in that country", he told the House of Commons in 1867, when he claimed to be "interested in its fortunes". Hansard, clxxxvii, 7 May 1867, 130.

[34] Morley, Gladstone, i, 452.

[35] Glasgow Herald, 20 May 1898.

[36] Given the potential for conflict between his (Scottish) family background and his own (English) upbringing and education, we might expect Gladstone to have been an examplar of the arguments for a new unified national identity advanced in Linda Colley's Britons: Forging the Nation (London, 1994 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1992).  In 18th-century Scotland, this took the form of "North Britishness". However, this was a construct confined to a small intellectual minority, which struck no corresponding echo south of the Border, where the English radical John Wilkes mobilised "North Briton" as a term of ethnic abuse. Graeme Morton has cogently argued that the Colley thesis had ceased to apply to Scotland in the period of his study, 1830-1860, which happily coincided with the decades when Gladstone tried to make his own accommodation with the northern kingdom. R.J. Finlay, "Caledonia or North Britain? Scottish Identity in the Eighteenth Century" in D. Broun et al,. eds, Image and Identity… (Edinburgh, 1998), 143-56; C. Kidd, Subverting Scotland's Past… (Cambridge, 1993), 205-15; G. Morton, Unionist Nationalism… (East Linton, 1999), 10-21. It is doubtful whether a North British identity would have been of much use to Gladstone in his search for self-definition, nor was he likely to conform to the artificial adoption of Highland symbols popularised by George IV's visit in 1822: from his Midlothian campaign in 1879, cartoonists often caricatured him in Highland dress, but there is no evidence that he ever wore a kilt. Apart from allusions in the external (foreign policy and Empire) context, Gladstone was remarkably sparing in his use of 'British' terminology. A rare exception was his declaration in Midlothian that no "wise statesman or right-minded Briton" would allow Irish local government to undermine the authority of the Westminster parliament. Indeed, far from using it as an all-embracing term, he seems to have regarded it as a distinguishing synonym for Celtic, e.g. his 1889 description of Cornish people as "truly British". Midlothian Speeches 1879 (ed. M.R.D. Foot), 87; GD, xii, 210.

[37] "Dear Fasque", he wrote in 1889, "one of my three homes: the others are (or were) Seaforth and Hawarden." GD, xii, 191 (25 March 1889). Gladstone was attending the funeral of his elder brother, Sir Thomas Gladstone, and in an emotional mood. His daughter Catherine Jessy, who had died in childhood, was buried in the family vault at Fasque. It is of interest that Gladstone apparently did not regard any of his London houses as a "home", even though he was closely identified with several addresses, e.g. Carlton House Terrace.

[38]  Windscheffel, "Gladstone and Scott: Family, Identity and Nation". Oxford Cathedral is the chapel of Christ Church. But, as discussed below, Gladstone angrily warned Wilberforce against attempting to pressure the Scottish Episcopal Church in to giving up its own Communion service in 1862: W. Perry, "Alexander Penrose Forbes: Bishop of Brechin, the Scottish Pusey (1939), consulted via the Project Canterbury website:

[39] This was at the time when he nursed the preposterous hope that he might oust his siblings from the succession and inherit Fasque himself. Gladstone did not follow friends from the Tractarian movement who converted to Rome. One explanation for this may lie in his attachment to an independent Episcopal Church that operated in parallel with the Church of England. However, this did not work with his friend, James Hope, who was also the English-born son of Scottish parents (and grandson of the Earl of Hopetoun), and a product of Eton and Christ Church. The two had worked together to establish Trinity College, Glenalmond, but Hope joined the Catholic Church in 1851. Through his wife, Walter Scott's grand-daughter, he inherited Abbotsford in 1853 and changed his name to Hope-Scott. Thus Hope acquired an estate in Scotland, but Gladstone did not.

[40] GD, iii, 478, 482 (1845).

[41] "The Presbyterian workmen & country folks listened devoutly", he wrote of the service of dedication in 1846, GD, iii, 570.

[42] See his 1852 letter to Bishop Skinner, referred to above: Gladstone, Gleanings of Past Years, 1843-1878, vi, 1-46.

[43] Caledonian Mercury, 29 September 1853; GD, iv, 554-9. John Gladstone had cultivated the Buccleuch connection 30 years earlier: the Duke had stayed at Seaforth House in 1824 to be shown the marvels of Merseyside. Caledonian Mercury, 26 July 1824.

[44] D. Creighton, John A. Macdonald: the Young Politician  (Toronto, 1952), 5-13.

[45] John Galt was known as the "Ayrshire novelist": Gladstone apparently read none of his works. R. Hall and N. Whistler, "Galt, John", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vii:

[46] J.M.S. Careless, Brown of the Globe, ii: … (Toronto, 1959), 2-3,22. John Gladstone maintained a house in Edinburgh's New Town, and the family perhaps knew of George Brown's controversial background.

[47] D.R. Beer, Sir Allan Napier MacNab (Hamilton, Ont., 1984), 9; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: the Young Politician, 24-5; J.-P. Kesteman, "Galt, Sir Alexander Tilloch", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xii:  

[48] Ged Martin, John A. Macdonald ... (Toronto, 2013), 19-20; Ged Martin, "Sir John Eh? Macdonald: Recovering a voice from History", British Journal of Canadian Studies, xvii (2004), pp. 117-124:; Ged Martin, "John A. Macdonald: Scotsman or Canadian" (University of Edinburgh, Standard Life Lecture in Canadian Studies, 2004):

[49] Careless, Brown of the Globe, ii, 75.

[50] Ged Martin, "John A. Macdonald and the Bottle", Journal of Canadian Studies, xl (2006), pp. 162-185, updated as "John A. Macdonald, Alcohol and Gallstones":

[51] One frustrated creditor called him a "villain". P. Baskerville, "MacNab, Sir Allan Napier", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, ix:

[52] Although excellent in its detailed account, Careless's Brown of the Globe is an example of a biography written by a very decent and honourable scholar of a subject who was utterly unpleasant. As a result, Brown's aggressive bigotry is played down.

[53] S. Chassé, R. Girard-Wallot and J.-P. Wallot, "Neilson, John", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vii:; G. Martin and J. Simpson, Canada's Heritage in Scotland (Toronto, 1989), 131-3. Neilson maintained contact with home parish of Balmaghie, where a memorial in the kirk yard describes him as "a zealous advocate for civil and religious liberty".

[54] F. H. Armstrong and R. Stagg, "Mackenzie, William Lyon", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, ix:; F.B. Head, A Narrative (London, 1839), 1: GD, ii, 583-4 for Gladstone's reading of Head's book aloud to his father.   Mackenzie, in exile in the United States, wrote to Gladstone when he was Colonial Secretary, but received no reply.

[55] Checkland, The Gladstones, 41. John Gladstone dropped the final S in the surname.

[56] Checkland, The Gladstones, 16-81; Matthew, "Gladstone [Gladstones], Sir John, first baronet (1764–1851)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[57] London Gazette, 13 April 1816, 703; Checkland, The Gladstones, 98.

[58] Shannon, Gladstone 1809-1874, 6, 63.

[59] The benign modern version of the story, with the heroine first named as Goldilocks, dates from 1904, 6 years after Gladstone's death.

[60] G.W.E. Russell, William Ewart Gladstone (5th ed., London, 1910, cf. 1st ed., 1891), 22.

[61] Morley, Gladstone, i, 210.

[62] I was intrigued to note that Shannon had also used the term "calibration" to describe franchise proposals in the early 1860s. Shannon, Gladstone: God and Politics, 191.

[63] The motion that he moved in the Oxford Union in 1831 described the Reform Bill as threatening "ultimately to break up the very foundations of social order, as well as materially to forward the views of those who are pursuing this project throughout the civilized world". (The second group probably included the anti-slavery lobby.) H.A. Morrah, The Oxford Union 1823-1923 (London, 1923), 48. This would seem to add up to nul points. Acting as unpaid secretary, his daughter Mary Drew passed to him a book on birth control from the morning mail with a covering note explaining that the views expressed were" generally held and practised in America" and were also "prevalent" in England. She was summoned to her father's presence. "Never as long as I live shall I forget the sight that met my eyes as I entered the room." Gladstone described her report as "one of the greatest blows of my life", and wished that he had the energy to "head a Crusade" against the practice. His lecture to her on the subject presumably carried an implied rebuke that a clergyman's wife should know about such things. GD, xii, 157 and n.

[64] Matthew (Gladstone, 1809-74, 180) pointed out that Britain had not adopted free trade through "unilateral tariff abolition" but had adopted the approximate strategy of negotiating "a complex series of trade treaties, most of them most-favoured-nation treaties" with other European countries, a process which remained incomplete even in the late 1860s. Free trade only gradually became a Liberal party dogma. Gladstone's own positions in the 1840s were calibrated: he favoured a lower sliding scale on corn imports in 1842, and would have preferred a modest fixed rate in 1845-6 ("but that was decided otherwise"' GD, iii, xxxix). In 1848-9, he supported repeal of the Navigation Acts subject to reciprocal concessions by other countries – an approach that would be regarded as heretical in the later 19th century. For the comparison between British and Canadian public funding: Ged Martin, "Income Tax in Canada before 1917":, esp. endnote 7.

[65] R. Foster, Paddy & Mr Punch… (London, 1985 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1983), 264.

[66] Morley, Gladstone, iii, 34. Gladstone's obstinacy was widely recognised as one of his defining qualities. In 1887, Punch was (rightly) suspicious of letters published by The Times which purported to prove that Parnell was in league with terrorists. The satirical magazine published a series of spoof missives, each with elaborate but detached signatures. These included an application from John Dillon to join the Primrose League, and a request from the Archbishop of Canterbury to enrol in the Salvation Army. The Gladstone example, asking Harcourt to tell Chamberlain and Hartington that he had abandoned Home Rule, was laced with heavy sarcasm. "The news will not surprise them, as they know how little I am in the habit of being tenaciously wedded to my own views, and how ever open I am to the fair and valid arguments of those who happen to be politically opposed to me." Punch, 7 May 1887, 228.

[67] Lord Ashley (later Shaftesbury) concluded in 1843 that Gladstone's intellectual contortions were necessary for him to reconcile his conscience with his ambition for office. "His public life has long been an effort to retain his principles, and yet not lose his position. He seems a kind of theological bat, partaking of two natures." Yet this would not explain the highly technical calibration of his views on Canadian self-government in 1849, when he was out of office and with little prospect of an early return. A more likely explanation of the evolution of a mindset that sought to impose its own elaborate constructions on controversial questions was that his attempt to craft a personal political philosophy was based upon conflicting elements. In 1892, he concluded that "my earlier political opinions … were formed under many and sometimes complex influences, and they form a whole far from congruous". The classic example here would be slavery, where Evangelical and humanitarian beliefs pulled him towards Emancipation, but loyalty to his father and family economic interests constituted an obstacle. The result was a stance that claimed to support freeing the slaves but sought to impose restrictive conditions. E. Hodder, The Life and Work of … Shaftesbury (3 vols, London, 1886), i, 445; PMP:WEG, i, 33; R. Quinault, "Gladstone and Slavery", Historical Journal, lii (2009), 363-83. 

[68] Once Gladstone's famous conscience was persuaded that a particular solution was just and right, he became largely oblivious to the consequences of each crusade.  A sense of outrage against the "horrors" of Turkish rule propelled his Balkan crusade: the Christians of south-eastern Europe were no doubt downtrodden victims of the Turks, but they were also divided by what he later acknowledged as "the sharp feud of Slav and Hellene".  Similarly, historians generally accept the explanation that his conviction that the 1800 Act of Union lacked ethical validity impelled him to embrace the cause of justice to Ireland, but that he overlooked the inconvenient problem that the Irish were also unhelpfully split between Catholics and Protestants.  Gladstone's overwhelmingly moralistic torrent occupied a frantic present that somehow discounted the needs and menaces of the future. For the sake of humanity, he insisted, "British interests" could not be made "the measure of right and wrong" – an attitude that left him dangerously dependent upon Russia to act as the agent of civilisation in the Balkans.  Certainly from the eighteen-fifties, his attitude to Canada was driven by two imperatives based upon outrage: it was wrong for Britain to incur the hazard (and the cost) of defending Canada (unless the Canadians took the lead) and it was intolerable (or, when pressed to retreat, highly undesirable) for the British taxpayer to take the risk of guaranteeing expenditure on Canadian infrastructure, even when it was contended that the investment was required to enable Canadians to defend themselves. Just as he closed his mind to the argument that British naval security in the Mediterranean depended upon keeping the Russians out of Constantinople, so he seemed oblivious to the fundamental importance of Halifax in the north Atlantic. Keeping Canada loyal, or at least friendly, was not about warmth and harmony across the seas. It was about preserving an alliance with the country that formed the hinterland to the naval base that was vital for the control of the oceans. That is why British governments spent almost a quarter of a million pounds fortifying the Nova Scotian port between 1828 and 1861. That is why even Gladstone's first ministry, in withdrawing the colonial garrisons, left almost 1,600 men to defend Halifax.  Yet it is doubtful whether Gladstone himself ever explicitly endorsed, let along emotionally embraced, the argument that the connection with Canada should be nurtured for the sake of naval dominance in the North Atlantic. I suspect that British historians are generally unaware of the importance of Halifax. It is an ice-free, deep-water port, its approach protected by islands and headlands which were fortified. Unlike its New Brunswick rival, Saint John, which has to cope with the elephantine tides of the Bay of Fundy, sea levels rise and fall by no more than 4 feet. The harbour leads to the deep and calm Bedford Basin, behind the city, where wartime convoys were assembled. Warships anchored here were about ten miles from possible bombardment by any attacking force at sea. Halifax is about 300 kilometres from the United States border, and the surrounding country is rocky and timbered, giving little help to any overland invasion. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of its role during the two world wars.  Schreuder, "Gladstone and the Conscience of the State", passim; Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1876-1886, ii, 398 (22 September 1885); Shannon, Gladstone: God and Politics, 288; Bourne, Britain and the Balance of Power in North America 1815-1908, 48, 310. 

[69] G.E. Marindin, ed., Letters of Frederic Lord Blachford ... (London, 1896), 150-1 (letter to R.W. Church, 29 December 1853, [possibly recte 1852]). Selborne similarly noted that it was "not his habit to look all round a question". Lord Selborne [Roundell Palmer], ed. S.M.P. de Franqueville, Memorials, Part 1 ... 1766-1865 (2 vols, London 1896), ii, 349.

[70] Authorship of the article in The Times, 5 April 1864, was identified in G.P. Gooch, Life of Lord Courtney (London, 1920), 81: there was some conflation in his quotation. Kimberley recorded a confrontation with Gladstone in 1870, in which he unsuccessfully demanded sterner measures against agrarian crime in Ireland. "I shall not easily forget my interview with him. … I made the best fight I could, but it is impossible to get the best of Gladstone in argument. His ingenuity in shifting his ground, and in probing every weak point in his adversary's armour render him almost invincible. Unfortunately, he is often led astray by his own subtilty [sic], and thus gives exaggerated weight to  in council to arguments useful perhaps in debate but more plausible than sound (italics added)." Drus, ed., "A Journal of Events during the Gladstone Ministry, 1868-1874", 12 (2 March 1870).

[71] Shannon, Gladstone, i, 508; Cranborne's article, "The Change of Ministry", appeared anonymously in Quarterly Review, July 1866, P. Smith, ed., Lord Salisbury on Politics (Cambridge, 1972), 233.

[72] Smith, The Making of the Second Reform Bill, 86.

[73] Morley, Gladstone, ii, 129 (letter to Palmerston, 13 May 1864).

[74] Morley, Gladstone, i, 210. Morley's reference is unhelpful and I am unable to date this statement. Thames water was notoriously polluted.

[75] Disraeli's description in 1878, best known for the intervening phrase "inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity". R. Blake, Disraeli (London, 1966), 650.

[76] Morley, Gladstone, i, 211.

[77] W.E. Gladstone, Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East (London, 1876), 31, 26; Shannon, Gladstone and the Bulgarian Agitation 1876, 109-10.  Gladstone's denunciation of " [t]heir Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bimbashis and their Yuzbachis, their Kaimakams and their Pashas" was undeniably xenophobic invective.

[78] A.L. Thorold, The Life of Henry Labouchere (London, 1913), 253. Labouchere reported the comment in a letter to Chamberlain in December 1885. Never the one to resist political mischief, he also related Parnell's complaint to Gladstone himself. Selborne, who served as Gladstone's Lord Chancellor in 1872-4 and 1880-5, similarly observed that his language contained "an involution and indistinctness, which made his footing less secure than it seemed, and his guidance less safe". As a lawyer, Selborne suffered from the burden of believing that words should have definite meanings. Selborne [Roundell Palmer], ed. de Franqueville, Memorials, ii, 348-9.

[79] Gladstone even hankered after the notion of imposing his own terminology on contested topics. In 1849, he agreed with Brougham in "rather misliking" the term 'responsible government'. In January 1886, Lord Derby noted that 'Home Rule' was "a phrase which he said he disliked", preferring 'local autonomy' as an alternative. It may be noted that 'responsible government' and 'Home Rule' were the two basic terms for forms of devolution in the 19th century. Memorandum, 8 June 1849, British Library, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS. 44777, fos 294-6, printed GD, iv, 128; Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby … between 1878 and 1893, 830 (30 January 1886).

[80] N. Gash, Sir Robert Peel ... (London, 1972), 277.

[81] Shannon, Gladstone: God and Politics, xi.

[82] Gash, Sir Robert Peel, 302-3.

[83] Morley, Gladstone, i, 253 added italics to the statement, but cf. GD, iii, 176.

[84] E.J. Feuchtwanger, Gladstone (London, 1975), 43; Shannon, Gladstone, i, 127-8; Morley, Gladstone, i, 252-4; GD, iii, 175-8. Gladstone had been briefed by his father, a veteran corn importer.

[85] GD, iii, 178. "There are probably few persons who are not very much in the same position in which you are who would not (if their single voice could determine the question) modify the plan which I propose for the settlement of the corn question," Peel wrote frostily in accepting Gladstone's surrender. The cabinet had decided to "look to that point which must always be looked at by the members of a government, the prospect of carrying the measure they propose". Peel to Gladstone, [6 February 1842], PMP:WEG, i, 235.

[86] Graham to Aberdeen, 15 September 1852, C.S. Parker, Life and Letters of Sir James Graham... (2 vols, London, 1907), ii, 178. Gladstone had used a similar formula in a letter to Newcastle on 17 August 1852. Evidently his precision was sufficiently delicious to get into circulation. J.B. Conacher, The Peelites and the Party System 1846-52 (Newton Abbot, Devon, 1972), 140-1.In February 1852, anxious to keep open the possibility of reunion with the Protectionists, Gladstone argued to Aberdeen that the Peelites should pursue "a liberal policy through the medium of the Conservative party". It would have taken the political taste buds of Goldilocks to have converted that slogan into a programme. GD, iv, 398 (24 February 1852).

[87] As Hammond and Foot noted, "Gladstone's attitude towards the Crimean War, as so often happened, defied all the familiar classifications". Uncomfortably, he sought a formula by which Britain could fight against Russia without fighting for Turkey. This was not easy. Hammond and Foot, Gladstone and Liberalism, 68-9.

[88] In fact, Gladstone's determination to entrench Treasury control of the government machine had meant that he was not always supportive of the reform of the (potentially rival) administrative structure of Britain's defences: Anderson, A Liberal State at War, 58-9.

[89] Argyll to Gladstone, 9 October 1855, Crosby, The Two Mr Gladstones, 82.

[90] F.B. Smith, The Making of the Second Reform Bill (Melbourne, 1966), 103-11 and Clarendon to Russell, 25 June 1866, 119-20; M. Cowling, 1867: Disraeli, Gladstone and Revolution… (Cambridge, 1967), 102-5; Shannon, Gladstone: God and Politics, 195-9. Cranborne thought that Gladstone's "singular dexterity in giving offence to waverers" possibly "sent two or three votes into the wrong lobby" – but the real charge against him was that explicit concession might have won far more of them. Cranborne, "The Change of Ministry" (July 1866), Smith, ed., Lord Salisbury on Politics, 230.

[91] Matthew, Gladstone, 1809-1874, 128.  The same attitude may be detected in a speech introducing the 1884 Reform Bill, in which he urged the House of Commons to follow the example of "the Liberal Party in 1831" which "looked at the Reform Bill of that date, and determined that they would waive criticism of minute details, that they would waive particular preferences and predilections, and would look at the broad scope and general effect of the measure. ... Let us enter into no bye-ways which would lead us off the path marked out straight before us; let us not wander on the hill-tops of speculation; let us not wander into the morasses and fogs of doubt." The application of the term "Liberal Party" to the circumstances of 1831 was questionable (it may be assumed that Gladstone corrected his speech for Hansard, and approved the use of capital letters here). The notion that the 1831 legislation was wafted through on a magic carpet of high-minded unanimity was nonsense. The key point here is Gladstone's determination to press his legislative project exactly as he had conceived it. Hansard, cclxxxv, 28 February 1884, 133. Such appeals, not simply for Liberal party unity but for absolute unanimity in the endorsement of details, were remarkably effective: Jones, The Politics of Reform 1884, 5-6.

[92] Hansard, clxxxiii, 23 March 1866, 873-4.

[93] Smith, ed., Lord Salisbury on Politics, 229. Lord Robert Cecil had criticised Gladstone's asperity in an earlier anonymous article. "He has two styles of speaking – the angry and the ambiguous. When he is angry, he is as clear as crystal; when he is wordy and obscure, he is as mild as a sucking dove. But... he has never yet succeeded in producing an address that was at once pacific and intelligible. ... He seems in all good faith to believe that his cloud of words conveys a clear explanation of his meaning, and that his supercilious objurgations are gentle and dignified remonstrances." Saturday Review, xvi (25 July 1863), 105, authorship identified by M. Pinto-Duschinsky, The Political Thought of Lord Salisbury, 1854-68 (London, 1967), 179.

[94] Hammond, Gladstone and the Irish Nation, [vii, unnumbered]; Magnus, Gladstone: a Biography, 138; Hansard, clxi (7 March 1861), 1576. Although Morley insisted that "the sympathies of Mr Gladstone never wavered", his discussion of his hero's views in 1859-60 was muted: Morley, Gladstone, ii, 1-17, esp. 11.

[95] Magnus, Gladstone: a Biography, 139; Morley, Gladstone, i, 628; Matthew, Gladstone, 1809-1874, 108 ("it is hard to see Italy as more than a convenient issue on which to combine with the Whigs on their own ground of foreign policy").

[96] GD, v, 404-6; D. Beales, England and Italy 1859-60 (London, 1961), 96-127.  The kingdom of Sardinia took its name from the Mediterranean island, but its core was Piedmont, the location of its capital, Turin. Piedmontese language and culture were essentially Italian (although d'Azeglio doubted the concept of an Italian identity, and Napoleon III helped himself to the peripheral districts of Nice and Savoy) but it was not part of the Italian peninsula. Hence Gladstone's comment that "it seems uncertain how far Sardinia has mixed sheer ambition with those Italian aims which (I cannot but think) the absolute necessity of her position has required her to adopt".

[97] Hansard, clxi (7 March 1861), 1579. Rome and Venice were still not part of Victor Emmanuel's realm.

[98] For a sidelight on his popularity in Ireland, see "The Gladstone Streets of Ireland: a short note":  

[99] Dicey (ed. Feuchtwanger), England's Case against Home Rule, 277.

[100] Shannon, Gladstone, ii, 450-1; Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 254.

[101] F W Hirst, "Mr Gladstone and Home Rule, 1885-1892", Reid, ed., The Life of William Ewart Gladstone, 705.

[102] Nineteenth Century, 1898, quoted Hirst, "Mr Gladstone and Home Rule, 1885-1892", 705n.

[103] In 1884, he advanced a curious argument. Twelve parliaments had been elected since the 1832 Reform Act. Ten of these had Liberal majorities, the eleventh (that gave Peel a majority in 1841) turned into a reforming legislature, a continuity which thereby morally invalidated Disraeli's victory in the 1874 general election: "looking back for a period of more than fifty years, which represented the solid permanent conviction of the nation? – the ten parliaments that were elected upon ten out of the twelve dissolutions, or the one parliament that chanced to be elected from the disorganized state of the liberal party in the early part of the year 1874?" Morley, Gladstone, iii, 144.

[104] Ged Martin, Past Futures: the Impossible Necessity of History (Toronto, 2004), 77-107 ("The Moment of Decision").

[105] Martin, Past Futures: the Impossible Necessity of History, 91-2.

[106] W.E. Gladstone, A Chapter of Autobiography (London, 1868), 7, 46.

[107] Smith, ed., Lord Salisbury on Politics, 234-5; S. Gwynn and G.M. Tuckwell,  The Life of Sir Charles W. Dilke (2 vols, London, 1917), ii, 62, quoting Dilke's diary for 20 February 1885. The change of mind here related to the Sudan, not to Ireland.

[108] G. Smith, My Memory of Gladstone, 11-12. Allowance must be made for Goldwin Smith's hostility. In 1892, Gladstone recalled an incident during the 1847 general election, when he had been challenged to express his support for the Protestant established Church in Ireland. His reply, that "I did not anticipate any proposal hostile to it which would receive my support", sounded evasive but was more likely the product of his preternatural caution in the use of words. In 1847, and for many years afterwards, he had no intention of laying hands on the Irish Church.  PMP:WEG, i, 51 (16 July 1892). In 1884, Canon MacColl attempted a defence: "I have more than once heard Mr. Gladstone lament his own defect in not being able always to say precisely what he means; neither more nor less." MacColl was a devoted admirer, engaged in an unauthorised attempt to persuade the Conservative leader, Lord Salisbury, to enter into open-ended negotiations on Reform. It is more likely that Gladstone generally knew precisely what he intended, but managed to wrap up his thinking in phraseology that offered a possible escape route. Nor would MacColl's apologetic portrayal have inclined made Salisbury to think that discussions with Gladstone might be fruitful. "I am an impulsive Highlander, given, like the rest of my race, to hero-worship", was MacColl's explanation of his loyalty to Gladstone, who had rescued his career after he backed the wrong side in a liturgical dispute within the Episcopal Church of Scotland Russell, ed., Malcolm MacColl, 98 (21 July 1884); 96.

[109] Feuchtwanger, Gladstone, 282; Magnus, Gladstone: a Biography, 441.

[110] Shannon, Gladstone, God and Politics, 360. A reported conversation between A.J. Mundella and Henry Campbell-Bannerman early in 1886 throws a cynical light upon the idea of an "epiphanal moment". Mundella admitted "that Home Rule has got to be accepted". Campbell-Bannerman replied, "Yes, you are just in the position of a man who, in the language of the Salvation Army, has found Jesus. He has been in great perplexity and distress and he feels that everything has been made straight and right by this one thing." It may be doubted whether all Liberal Home Rulers felt such overwhelming confidence in Gladstone's policy. Spender, Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, i, 97n.

[111] D.W.R. Bahlman, ed., The Diary of Sir Edward Walter Hamilton (2 vols, Oxford, 1972), i, 12 (11 May); Doyle, Reminiscences and Opinions, 404-6; GD, ix, 519-21 (10 May 1880).

[112] PMP:WEG, iv, 60 (15 September); 46 (3 June 1897).

[113] J.P. Parry, Democracy and Religion… 1867-1875 (Cambridge, 1986), 181.

[114] Gladstone may well have encountered Alice Liddell (the model for the heroine) when he stayed with her father, the head of his college, at the Deanery in 1862: she was nine, old enough to be seen if not heard. 

[115] Parnell (another mathematician) was introduced to Alice in Wonderland by Katharine O'Shea. "I do not think that he ever thought it in the least amusing, but he would read it earnestly from cover to cover, and, without a smile, remark that it was a 'curious book'." K. O'Shea, Charles Stewart Parnell... (2 vols, London, 1914), i, 166. Gladstone himself was not averse to an appeal to classic fiction, invoking Gulliver's Travels in Midlothian to mock the Conservatives as Lilliputians who attempted to ensnare the British people in fragile threads. He called Swift's tale "a work of fancy, and at the same time full of the most profound good sense". Midlothian Speeches 1879 (ed. Foot), 65-6.

[116] Selborne, ed. de Franqueville , Memorials (2 vols, London 1896), ii, 348-9.

[117] Hansard, 12 July 1869, 1639.

[118] Shannon, Gladstone, i, 390-1.

[119] Occasionally, the process could be faster. Morley described a parliamentary episode, apparently in 1893, where it became clear that criticism from the Irish would force the government to abandon some proposal. Unionist MPs relished the retreat, Liberals were mortified. But Gladstone captured the House of Commons with a mixture of banter and "graceful arguments" before showing "in triumph that the concession that we consented to make was so right and natural, that it must have been inevitable from the very first. ...the opposition watched first with amazement, then with excitement and delight as children watch a wizard; and he sat down victorious." Morley, Gladstone, iii, 556-7. The key word here is "wizard".

[120] Manning conjured a similar picture in congratulating Gladstone on his timing of the Irish Church issue in 1868, which proved to be in tune with opinion in England and Scotland. "It is not so much a change in men’s thoughts, but a revelation of what they have been thinking." The quotation is so convenient to the argument that the historian should be wary: Manning was not a particularly good interpreter of public opinion. Morley, Gladstone, ii, 250.

[121] Hansard, clxxxiii, 16 April 1866, 148; Smith, The Making of the Second Reform Bill, 8-14. Smith used the term "labour aristocracy" to describe the emerging class of respectable working men considered eligible for the franchise. He cited the comments of Henry Parkes, revisiting England after 2 decades in New South Wales and of Charles Kingsley, in his 1862 revision of Alton Locke. Also germane was the decline of Chartism, which had threatened the established order in 1848, and its replacement by the Volunteer movement, in which patriotic working men deferentially served under middle-class officers (although we cannot be sure that the same individuals were involved in both episodes). Gladstone emphasised the (to him) all-important moral aspect of working-class improvement by appealing to the suffering of Lancashire families, "so nobly and gloriously borne", during the cotton famine caused by the American Civil War (86).He sometimes gave the impression that these qualities automatically extended to the entire working class, e.g. Hansard, clxxxii, 23 March 1866, 873, where they all became "our fellow-subjects, our fellow-Christians, our own flesh and blood, who have been lauded to the skies for their good conduct".

[122] W.E. Gladstone, A Chapter of Autobiography in Gleanings of Past Years, 1843-1878, vii, 101, 103, 166-7. A light-hearted verse from Punch in 1891 (7 February, 63) offers a perspective on this complex analysis: "Some swore he'd veer to catch a vote / Old age to flout one loathes / But, if he never turned his coat / He often changed his clothes."

[123] In fairness, it should be pointed out that Gladstone argued for a school system by which the State "should provide the secular teaching", leaving local communities "to find Bible & other religious education from voluntary sources". He was over-ruled. Matthew, Gladstone, 1809-1874, 203-4.

[124] Blake, Disraeli, 121.

[125] Morley, Gladstone, iii, 528 (27 December 1891).

[126] This was particularly the approach of Hammond and Foot in Gladstone and Liberalism, which had some difficulty in explaining the decline of the Liberal party in the 20th century. Shannon, Gladstone, God and Politics, 334-5, 339-40 questioned whether Gladstone was a Gladstonian Liberal by the 1880s. Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 387-93 offered a thoughtful thematic discussion, although its value was undermined by an attempt to draw a line between Irish Home Rule and the European Union. The comments of J.P. Ellens, Religious Routes to Gladstonian Liberalism…  (University Park, Penn., 1994), 269-71 are useful, not least because they take account of sources that I have been unable to consult. It is well established that Gladstonian Liberalism was not Gladstone's personal creation, but was projected upon him by various converging groups from the margins of the political world.  As Vincent put it, the urban working class "created a figure whom they called Gladstone and whom they invested with their own political ideas, with all the intensity of a cult". J. Vincent, The Making of the British Liberal Party (Harmondsworth, 1972 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1966 and note amendment of title), 265-7. See also Magnus, Gladstone: a Biography, 443, who wrote of Gladstone's liberalism that "the ends were never clearly formulated".

[127] J.N. Figgis and R.V. Laurence, eds, Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, i (London, 1917), 218 (2 May 1888); Morley, Gladstone, iii, 402-3. Acton's editors capitalised the concepts; Morley preferred lower case, and omitted the conditional opening words. The novel, Robert Elsmere by Mrs Humphry Ward, explored conflict between traditional belief and German rationalism. Gladstone's review appeared in Nineteenth Century, May 1888, 766-88.

[128] W.T. Stead, Gladstone 1809-1898: a Character Sketch (London, 1898), 70; Briggs, ed., Gladstone's Boswell, 123. Feuchtwanger, Gladstone, 281-2 pointed out that Gladstone's glorification of his eternal toryism may reflect the nostalgia of his final years.

[129] In 1873, he wrote that the Conservative party "will never assume its natural position until Disraeli retires". In 1885, he alleged that "Conservatism, so called … now depends largely on inflaming public opinion, and thereby has lost the main element which made it really Conservative", a view which he accepted would be ascribed by many to my prejudice and partiality." "Reverence it has almost forgotten", he complained later that year. In 1891, "he expressed a wish that modern Conservatism had a greater love of antiquity. Lord Salisbury had broken too much from old traditions". Morley, Gladstone, ii, 456 and cf. GD, xi, 302 (28 February 1885); PMP:WEG, iv, 103-4; Briggs, ed., Gladstone's Boswell, 78. Once again, the 'Rousseau' issue surfaces: Conservative oratory inflamed illegitimate public passions, Gladstone's speeches articulated the mature communal will. 

[130] Morley, Gladstone, i, 211-12.

[131] Southgate, The Passing of the Whigs 1832-1886, 326.

[132] PMP:WEG, i, 136 (undated). 

[133] Morley, Gladstone, ii, 241. Elsewhere, Morley noted that Gladstone's critics "dismissed him as an opportunist, but whenever there was a chance of getting anything done, they mostly found that he was the only man with courage and resolution enough to attempt to do it". Ibid, iii, 600. In 1884, Gladstone discouraged Dilke from arguing that the Reform Bill should provide for women's suffrage by drawing a distinction between "supporting a thing in its right place and thrusting it into its wrong place". The point here, of course – as so often – was that Gladstone determined the appropriateness of the matter to be included and the correctness of the timing. (GD, xi, 145: 13 May 1884, and cf. Jones, The Politics of Reform 1884, 129-30). The classic example of Gladstone's convenient opportunism was his admission that news of a working men's rally on Bulgaria in August 1876 meant that "the game was afoot and the question yet alive". Morley omitted to quote this. Shannon, Gladstone and the Bulgarian Agitation 1876, 100.

[134] Morley, Gladstone, i, 376.

[135] PMP:WEG, iii, 166.

[136] Morley, Gladstone, ii, 80.

[137] For Gladstone, one incidental advantage of the chronological vagueness of the Through the Looking Glass process was that he could nominate what Shannon once called the "epiphanal moment" at which his fluid opinions reached what we might term the tipping point. There may be reason to suspect that he retrospectively adopted incidents or comments that proved convenient at the time of recollection. Thus in 1892, he wrote of a conversation with the high Tory Sir Robert Inglis after he had resigned from Peel's cabinet over Maynooth. Inglis lamented the rejection of his advice in 1829 "which was that the Duke of Cumberland should be sent as Lord Lieutenant to Ireland with thirty thousand men". Gladstone recalled that "my blood ran cold, and he too had helped me onwards on the path before me [italics added]". What did this mean? Magnus, one of the few biographers to quote the episode, was evidently puzzled, since he omitted the italicised phrase. Gladstone was already virtually converted to free trade. It would take four decades for him to embrace Home Rule, presumably the polar opposite to the solution Inglis had envisaged in 1829, and the journey included some notable excursions into Coercion. Indeed, Gladstone's threat in his 1881 Leeds speech that "the resources of civilisation against its enemies are not yet exhausted" has something of the ring of Inglis about it. PMP:WEG, i, 50; Magnus, Gladstone: a Biography, 71; Morley, Gladstone, iii, 69. Another example was provided in 1913, Henry Lee Warner, a retired schoolmaster (he had taught at Rugby) in a letter to The Times. He recalled a conversation in 1890 in which he had asked Gladstone "whether he could identify in his mind the crucial moment at which he determined to adopt the policy [Home Rule]". Gladstone "paused and thought and then replied, 'Yes, I had been reading a speech of Mr William O'Brien, and I put it down and said to myself, 'What is there in this speech which I must get to realize before I throw it aside?' And I saw then that there was and could never be any moral obligation to the Irish nation in the Act of Union.'" In 1928, O'Brien's biographer, Michael MacDonagh, identified the speech as one delivered at a protest meeting in the Phoenix Park on 1 March 1885. O'Brien, who had just been temporarily expelled from the House of Commons, delivered what Shannon called a "rant", in which he described relations between Ireland and England as "civil war tempered by the scarcity of fire-arms". He did not mention the Act of Union, but he did include an uncharacteristic statement of "deep and sincere respect" for Gladstone, to whom he attributed a "tenderness" for Ireland. (This was remarkable, given that Gladstone had interned him in Kilmainham.) The report in the Freeman's Journal indicates that this unexpected tribute was received with "laughter and hisses", a response omitted in the briefer summary in The Times. If O'Brien's speech had any influence upon Gladstone, it was perhaps to confirm his sense of mission by encouraging him to believe that any initiative he might take would be welcome in Nationalist circles. Gladstone's diaries generally note one-to-one conversations, and it is possible that he met Lee Warner, the son of an Eton contemporary, at an unrecorded social gathering: Shannon's suggestion that the encounter took place during a short visit to Lee Warner's home county of Norfolk is possible, but not easily fitted into the diary entries. Gladstone would have had a general motive for wishing to portray his conversion to Home Rule as a moral imperative, rather than a tactical response to the 1885 general election. By 1890, he also had some reason to 'talk up' O'Brien as a possible alternative leader to Parnell, who had divorce proceedings hanging over him. The point is of some importance, since it has pushed back the date of Shannon's "epiphanal moment" to March 1885, thereby attributing a lack of candour to his statements on Ireland in the next 11 months. Lee Warner's reminiscence is of interest, but hardly strong enough evidence on which to explain Gladstone's conversion to Home Rule. MacDonagh offered no evidence to back his decision to link the story to the 1 March speech. Nor can it be said whether, or when, Gladstone read the speech. The Times, 9 October 1913; 2 March 1885; Freeman's Journal, 2 March 1885; M. MacDonagh, The Life of William O'Brien…. (London, 1928), 81-2; Shannon, Gladstone, ii, 352-7; Shannon, Gladstone: God and Politics, 359; GD, xii, 292. J. Loughlin, Gladstone, Home Rule and the Ulster Question 1882-93 (Dublin, 1986), 36 inserted the 1 March date into the Lee Warner quotation in square brackets; Shannon postulated a 2-month delay between Gladstone's reading of the O'Brien speech and the detonation of the mental firework. Perhaps, in both the Inglis and O'Brien examples, Gladstone was engaged in unconscious self-deception, but it is tempting to conclude that he wished to project the impression of an insightful intellect capable of detecting seismic moments that other minds were too prosaic to perceive.

[138] Morley, Gladstone, iii, 63; Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 192-6.

[139] R.E. Robinson and J. Gallagher, Africa and the Victorians... (London, 1965), 101, 110-11, 115, 138.

[140] H. Robinson to J.X. Merriman, 3 January 1884, P. Lewsen, ed., Selections from the Correspondence of J.X. Merriman 1870-1890 (Cape Town, 1960), 155.

[141] Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 144; Robinson and Gallagher, Africa and the Victorians, 132-55.

[142] Gladstone's curious interpretation of the events of 1885-6 again once again suggests Rousseau's distinction between the "general will" (la volonté générale) and the "will of all" (la volonté de tous). Indeed, there was a curious Gladstonian dichotomy in his interpretation: the verdict of the Irish electorate in 1885 was emphatically for Home Rule, but its rejection by the majority in England and Scotland in 1886 did not count. Perhaps Gladstone evolved some version of the concept of the general will for himself; he certainly had no doubt that he was the individual predestined to discern it. Morley, Gladstone, i, 203; GD, i, 374.

[143] Magnus, Gladstone: a Biography, 358. Lord Randolph's modern biographers seem embarrassed by his famous gibe. Rhodes James, 246-7 quoted the notorious 1886 election address at some length but with considerable excisions of the "shocking language"; R.F. Foster's 1981 biography passed over its content altogether. R.R. James, Lord Randolph Churchill (London, 1994 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1959), 247-7. Yet even Alfred Pease, who embraced Home Rule, agreed that "it was unreasonable of Gladstone to think he could settle so contentious and so complicated a question, which had perplexed generations, in a few weeks". A.E. Pease, Elections and Recollections (London, 1932), 102n.

[144] I plan to add a note to this website discussing an agenda for Gladstone biography. The psychohistory approach of Travis L. Crosby [The Two Mr Gladstones... (New Haven, Conn.), 1997] offers a useful start, but its value is perhaps reduced by Crosby's emphasis on Gladstone's use of strategies of evasion.

[145] Shannon, Gladstone, God and Politics, 12. Matthew, Gladstone: 1809-1874, 27-9 was more sympathetic, but stated that he had "no clear call".

[146] Morley, Gladstone, i, 357 (1847); PMP:WEG , i, 40 (1892). Despite the emphasis in Shannon, Gladstone: God and Politics, it does not follow that Gladstone was unique in believing that his political trajectory was divinely inspired. His first patron, the 4th Duke of Newcastle, remarked to him in 1832: "Let a man keep God in his mind as much as he pleases – and let him remember his God in every action of his life – but it does not therefore follow that he is to be always talking about him." Perhaps this was a coded message to his over-serious protégé.  PMP:WEG, ii, 26.

[147] Composite quotation from PMP:WEG, i, 151 (undated) and 143-4 (26 July 1894). In fact, Gladstone's diaries record that he did occasionally read the Tracts for the Times, although he certainly did not follow the series closely. In 1841, he regarded Newman's controversial Tract XC as "ominous … written by a man if in not of the Ch[urch] of England". GD, iii, 89, 98.  Cf. Matthew's verdict that Gladstone's own book was "not a characteristic tractarian production". GD, iii, xxvi.

[148] Parry, Democracy and Religion… 1867-1875, 153. I have been unable to consult P. Butler, Gladstone, Church, State and Tractarianism … (Oxford, 1982) but note that Parry's succinct discussion of the intersection between Gladstone's religious beliefs and his politics (150-91) follows Butler's work. Gladstone's surely unusual fusion of High Church practice with Low Church heritage seems to have been expressed more in obsessive observances rather than in the ritual of worship. In 1847, Sir James Graham was amused by an anecdote about the recently elected member for Oxford University: "the chairman of his election committee asked him to dinner. He did not refuse, but begged him to consider that the day named was the Vigil of St. Simon and St. Jude". Gladstone's famous rescue work directed at sex workers was another aspect of his observances. Parker, Life and Letters of Sir James Graham, ii, 61. In the 1840s, Gladstone found the Easter services at the High Church Margaret Street chapel "most edifying and beautiful", but a return visit to the successor church, All Saints, in 1878 was disappointment: "The beautiful and touching service of former times has alas! lost every characteristic feature." GD, iii, 367; ix, 307.

[149] GD, iii, xxvii.

[150] A. Ramm, "Gladstone's Religion", Historical Journal, xxviii (1985), 327-40.

[151] M.R.D. Foot, "Morley’s Gladstone: a reappraisal", Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, li (1969), 368-80.

[152] Gladstone could be particularly energised when religious questions intruded upon the political sphere. In 1891, at the age of 81, he spoke for 70 minutes introducing a bill to open the offices of Lord Chancellor and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to Roman Catholics. The young Liberal MP David Lloyd George called it "one of the finest orations he ever uttered…. Give the Old Chap an ecclesiastical topic & he is happy. He bounced, he whirled around, he flung his arms, he banged the brass box, he shouted until the corridors rang." Gladstone argued, inter alia, that "any principle which justifies your excluding a Roman Catholic from the office of Viceroy of Ireland is just as good and rational for excluding him from the office of Viceroy of Canada or the office of Viceroy of India", an oratorical elaboration in regard to the Dominion. Critics quoted Gladstone's censure of the Vatican decrees in 1875, which he alleged forced Catholics to make a choice of loyalties, and pointed out that he had served 3 terms as Prime Minister without tackling an issue that he now declared to be a fundamental injustice. K.O. Morgan, ed., Lloyd George Family Letters 1885-1936 (Cardiff, 1973), 42; Hansard, 4 February 1891, 1733-99.

[153] Lathbury, ed., Correspondence on Church and Religion of William Ewart Gladstone, i, 438-9. The Episcopal Church was divided between 1857 and 1860 by the prosecution of Alexander Penrose Forbes, the bishop of Brechin, whom Gladstone had nominated. The nature of the dispute was not entirely clear, although it was obvious that Forbes, the youngest bishop, was disliked by the other 6 (the Episcopal Church was over-generalled). Since Forbes explicitly repudiated the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation, it was difficult to determine whether he was arguing for the real presence of the Real Presence, or merely offering a plausible deduction from the elements of the Eucharist. Something of the flavour of the controversy may be deduced from the claim by Forbes that the Thirty-Nine Articles (to which the Scottish Church adhered) were "rather statements about truths than the truths themselves". In the ecclesiastical trial of one of his supporters, the case turned on the ambiguous meanings of the words "substance" and "substantially". In any case, lacking Establishment status, the Church could do little more than admonish Forbes. Opponents alleged that the attempt to sideline the Scottish liturgy in 1862 was motivated by the desire  of some clerics ordained north of the Border to secure "titles" (recognition of their orders) by the Church of England, and hence a wider range of possible preferment: Gladstone angrily suggested that Esau should be elected Primus (the Scottish equivalent of archbishop). A compromise was agreed (although presumably not by Gladstone): the Anglican liturgy was adopted as the basic Communion service, but both existing and future parishes might use the Scottish office. (This of course became an administrative term, with capital letters, in a wholly different context after the post of Scottish Secretary was created in 1885. ) M. Lochhead, Episcopal Scotland in the Nineteenth Century, 106-38 for Forbes, and passim for liturgical debates; R. Strong, "Forbes, Alexander Penrose (1817-18975), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[154] R. Quinault, "Gladstone and Slavery", Historical Journal, lii (2009), 363-383, quoting speech of 9 August 1837. I intend to add a note to this website discussing of the role of slavery in Gladstone's career. 

[155] An inattentive reader might miss his opposition to Abolition altogether if dependent upon Jenkins, Gladstone, 36.

[156] W. Wilberforce, An Appeal... (London, 1823), in E.F. Hurwitz, Politics and the Public Conscience... (London, 1973), 106-7, 111.

[157] Hurwitz, Politics and the Public Conscience, 106.

[158] Checkland, The Gladstones, 197, and 44-5, 59, 185-200 for John Gladstone's West Indian investments.

[159] Checkland, The Gladstones, 190-2. John Gladstone also threw in personal attacks which would be notably absent from his son's oratory, for instance taking for granted that "Quaker" was a synonym for "hypocrite": Cropper imported sugar from India, and so could be painted as a rival who sought to destroy the Caribbean economy. The West India lobby published the exchanges as The Correspondence between John Gladstone, Esq., M.P., and James Cropper … (Liverpool, 1824), quotations at 16.   

[160] Checkland, The Gladstones, 192.

[161] GD, i, 326 (21 October 1830); 359 (15 May 1831).

[162] PMP:WEG, ii, 13.

[163] GD, i, 565 (retrospect of early August 1832). 

[164] PMP:WEG ii, 18 (28 November 1832).

[165] Robbins, The Early Public Life of William Ewart Gladstone, 126.

[166] Hansard, 3 June 1833, 336, 334-5.

[167] PMP:WEG, i, 41(16 July 1892), 55 (3 June 1897).

[168] Quinault, "Gladstone and Slavery", 382-3. In 1850, he had even objected to the cost of naval patrols off the coast of Africa,; more than that, he argued that, if Brazilians wished to import slaves, Britain had no moral right to interfere. In 1852, he acknowledged that Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was "a great book, but scarcely denies exaggeration", an opinion which he repeated in 1891: "the picture is too darkly coloured".   GD, iv, 461; Briggs, ed., Gladstone's Boswell, 59.

[169] Briggs, ed., Gladstone's Boswell, 59 (2 January 1892).

[170] PMP:WEG, i, 55 (3 June 1897). There is a curious formulation in a letter written to his wife from Balmoral in 1863, where he reported that one of the Queen's children had acquired an Afro-Caribbean servant:  "Princess Alice has got a black boy here who was given to her [italics added]". Deep down, had he come to terms with abolition?  Morley, Gladstone, ii, 97.

[171] Gladstone commented that "good advice is to be remembered come how it may". The medium also recommended increased expenditure on the Navy. GD, xi, 243-4 (18 November 1884).

[172] PMP:WEG, i, 70-1 (memorandum of 9 September 1897). The parallel between the status of the Anglican churches in the colonies that he envisaged and the self-government of the Episcopal Church of Scotland may be noted. "No new act was passed either at home or in the colonies generally", he observed, but the overseas churches gradually "acquired self-consciousness and corporate feeling". Nonetheless, one of the colonial prelates whom he admired, Gray of Cape Town, encountered legal problems when he sought to deal with the crisis caused by Bishop Colenso of Natal's disbelief in eternal punishment. It is a measure of the gap between the intellectual life of England and Scotland that D.C. Lathbury, who carefully edited Gladstone's correspondence on religion, "was indebted to a Scottish friend" for a "very clear account of what actually happened". Correspondence on Church and Religion of William Ewart Gladstone, i, 414.

[173] Nineteenth Century, July 1886, 29.

[174] Doyle, Reminiscences and Opinions, 407.

[175] Shannon, Gladstone: God and Politics, 406-7 (I am unable to trace the origin of Shannon's quotation). There is some reason to doubt Roy Foster's conclusion that Gladstone's reading of Irish history had a "cataclysmic" effect upon him. (R. F. Foster, "History and the Irish Question", Transactions of the Royal Historical Society , xxxiii (1983), 169-192, esp. 181) Loughlin, Gladstone, Home Rule and the Ulster Question 1882-93, 172-96 is thoughtful on Gladstone's use of Irish history. See also Ged Martin, "Lecky dip? Gladstone's reading of Irish history":

[176] F.-X. Garneau, History of Canada: from the Time of its Discovery till the Union Year (1840-1), trans. A. Bell (3 vols, Montreal, 1860), iii, 427 for "tragedy of conquest".  The first multi-volume history in English began to appear in 1886, and was written by William Kingsford. He had served in the British Army during the 1837 rebellions, and took a sharply different view of Britain's arrival on the scene. "It is impossible not to contrast the benefits which Canada  has enjoyed from the date of the conquest, with the hard, stern, depressing rule which weighed them down under the French government." W. Kingsford, The History of Canada, iv (Toronto & London, 1890), 503. An academic journal devoted to Canadian history was founded in 1896.

[177] In 1885, he read (apparently all 3 volumes) of the recently published Montcalm and Wolfe by the American historian Francis Parkman, whose verdict on the effects of the Conquest upon French Canadians was brief and bald. "Civil liberty was given them by the British sword; but the conqueror left their religious system untouched, and through it they have imposed upon themselves a weight of ecclesiastical tutelage that finds few equals in the most Catholic countries of Europe.… if French Canada would fulfil its aspirations it must cease to be one of the most priest-ridden communities of the modern world." GD, xi, 272-6; quotation from the 1905 Boston ed., of Parkman, iii, 259. In December 1884, Gladstone noted that the "infinitely lauded" conquest of Canada "killed dead as mutton our best security for keeping the British Provinces" [i.e. eliminating the French threat in North America encouraged the Thirteen Colonies to rebel]. At the time, Gladstone welcomed a German presence in south-eastern Africa, apparently as a means of keeping the semi-independent Transvaal in line. He made no mention of 1759 as an injustice to French Canadians, although this was implied in his letter to the Speaker of the Quebec legislature in 1886. GD, xi, 264; Schreuder, Gladstone and Kruger, 474-5.

[178] PMP:WEG, i, 74 (12 July 1894).

[179] Checkland, The Gladstones, 62-3, 71-2, 116.

[180] Jones, The Politics of Reform 1884, 5-6.

[181] A.T. Bassett, Gladstone's Speeches... (London, 1916), 5.

[182] By 1880, anyone who caught the same train as Gladstone could expect a delayed arrival. On his way to launch his election campaign in Midlothian, he spoke to crowds at Grantham, York (where 3,000 gathered), Newcastle and Berwick. Remarkably, the train was only 40 minutes late when it reached Edinburgh: there must have been some heroic coal-shovelling on the footplate. T.O. Lloyd, The General Election of 1880 (Oxford, 1968), 24-5. Only at Preston, a Tory stronghold, did railway company staff attempt to sabotage his speech-making, in 1884 using an engine with steam up to drown his remarks before abruptly announcing the departure of his train. Gladstone called their behaviour "scandalous". GD, xi, 213.

[183] Widely reported, e.g. Glasgow Herald, 12 October 1883; Masterman, ed., Mary  Gladstone (Mrs Drew), 295-6.

[184] GD, xii, 230 (7 September 1889). Three years later, in an almost Biblical scene, he spoke – reluctantly, he claimed – to a crowd of 2,000 people on Snowdon, where he had inaugurated a new route to the summit. Gladstone assured his hearers that Wales was a nation; they replied by singing hymns in Welsh. GD, xiii, 77; Wrexham and Denbighshire Advertiser, 17 September 1892 (via National Library of Wales online Welsh Newspapers collection).

[185] This was in Chester in 1892: GD, xiii, 36. Insultingly, the missile was a piece of (hard) gingerbread: the woman who threw it vanished into the crowd. Given his accessibility and his remarkable skill at arousing hatred, Gladstone was subject to remarkably few assaults, certainly in comparison with the relatively innocuous Queen Victoria, who survived 5 assassination attempts. A stone had been thrown at him 60 years earlier, during his first Newark election ("thank God missed"), but this was perhaps too early in his career to have been personal. He had been roughed up at Oxford in 1830 by hearties who disliked his religiosity: he was unctuously thankful for "the mortification of my pride" and the "opportunity of exercising the duty of forgiveness". GD, i, 591, 290-1.  His decision to vote against Derby's government in 1852 was followed by a confrontation with irate Conservatives at the Carlton Club, although Gladstone – who would have been better advised to avoid the Carlton in the first place – managed to retreat before violence broke out. Shannon, Gladstone, i, 263.

[186] J.B.M. Mozley was impressed by "the ubiquity of his correspondence" as MP for Oxford University in 1853, when the institution felt under threat from proposed reformist legislation. "Three-fourths of the Colleges have been in communication with him, on various parts of the bill more or less affecting themselves. He answers everybody by return of post, fully and at length, quite entering into their case, and showing the greatest acquaintance with it." A. Mozley, ed., Letters of the Rev. J. B. Mozley, D.D. (London, 1885), 220 (1 April 1853).

[187] Morley, Gladstone, i, 6; Hamilton, Mr Gladstone, 79; Jenkins, Gladstone, 469-70n; Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 64; E. Byrne, Parnell: a Memoir (ed. F. Callanan, Dublin, 1991), 28. The postcard format did always compel Gladstone to brevity. A correspondent once put a question and requested a plain 'yes' or no': "The Question was simple, the matter not weighty / Bill answer'd in words just a hundred and eighty!" Gladstone & Co. (Edinburgh, ?1882), unpaginated.  

[188] Punch, 13 December 1879, 270-1. A longer extract may convey the sheer sense of awe inspired by Gladstone's torrential oratory: "How should one hope / By use of simile or sounding trope / With such a stream descriptively to cope? / Lodore's loud water-floods, the brook of Tennyson / Niagara, an angry woman's tongue / An Irish mendicant's ironic benison / And all similitudes e'er said or sung / Suggestive of tumultuous, never stopping / Onpouring or down-flopping / Fail wholly, as his wordy war he carries on / None but himself can furnish fit comparison / For fire Demosthenes, perchance, may serve / And Burke for force and verve, / For grace his friends may count him Ciceronian / But stintless fluency henceforth 's Gladstonian / Surely, since first the roving Statesman stumped / The public ear was never so bethumped / With words — words — words / Spontaneous as the jargoning of birds…" Lodore Falls in the English Lake District hardly rivalled Niagara.

[189] Morley, Gladstone, i, 192; iii, 608.

[190] In British intellectual life, the Theorem was associated with the astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington, who used a variant version referring to the all the books in the British Museum. However, Eddington did not take the idea very seriously. 

[191] Gladstone's demonic energy was captured in a cartoon by Harry Furniss of the 81-year-old with 13 arms, three of them writing, others clutching speech notes and wielding an axe. Punch, 21 February 1891, 94;

[192] J. Vincent, "Gladstone and Ireland" (the 1977 Raleigh Lecture),  Proceedings of the British Academy 1978, 193-238, especially 232: The argument that the manoeuvres of 1886 were largely about control of the Liberal party had already been advanced in Cooke and Vincent, The Governing Passion … 1885-86.  In 1977, Vincent dismissed Gladstone's apparent strategy of accompanying Home Rule with land purchase legislation, claiming that the land bill was a "dummy" which could not possibly pass in the time available. This view was effectively challenged by J. Loughlin, Gladstone, Home Rule and the Ulster Question... (Dublin, 1986), 80-94. Loughlin argued that if the Home Rule bill had passed into law in 1886, Unionists would have had every reason to accept land purchase legislation to provide a lifeline for landlords. Had Gladstone won the 1886 election, it is likely that he would have reintroduced both bills in an autumn session. A more general comment on Vincent's attempted revisionism might note that Gladstone shared a widespread but unfortunately fallacious English belief that there was a potential force of moderate opinion in Ireland which could be split from the extremists by concession from Westminster, an optimistic belief that can be traced back to Catholic Emancipation in 1829. A satirical history inadvertently exploded this misconception in its statement that Gladstone "spent his declining years trying to guess the answer to the Irish Question; unfortunately, whenever he was getting warm, the Irish secretly changed the Question". W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, 1066 and All That (London, 1930), 107.

[193] F S.L. Lyons, review of J. Vincent, Gladstone and Ireland (1978) in Irish Historical Studies, xxii (1979), 498. It should also be noted that Gladstone's words, and some interpretations of his motives, were filtered through the diaries of the 15th Earl of Derby, selections from which Vincent eventually published in 3 impressive volumes. Hence there is an "as-told-to" quality about some of the evidence which should put historians on their guard.

[194] Russell, ed., Malcolm MacColl, 98 (21 July 1884). MacColl was trying to evolve some formula that might bridge the gap between Gladstone and Salisbury on Reform. His plea may be contrasted with a comment from Rosebery: "Mr. Gladstone use[d] his words to guard carefully his every step of advance from possible attack on flank or in the rear". Lord Randolph Churchill (London, 1906), 92.

[195] Briggs, ed., Gladstone's Boswell, 50 (conversation, 23 December 1891); R.B. O'Brien, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell 1846-1891 (2 vols, London, 1898), ii, 355 (letter to O'Brien, 11 December 1895). Both assessments were made after Parnell's death.

[196] Thorold, The Life of Henry Labouchere, 318 (letter of 26 May 1886). The Labouchere referred to here was the nephew and namesake of the Colonial Secretary of 1855-8.

[197] Morley, Gladstone, i, 192; Drus, ed., "A Journal of Events during the Gladstone Ministry, 1868-1874", 12 (2 March 1870).

[198] Marindin, ed., Letters of Frederic Lord Blachford, 150-1.

[199] J. Morley, Recollections (2 vols, London, 1917), ii, 197.

[200] PMP:WEG, i, 42-3; Hansard, 22 December 1838, 1498.

[201] PMP:WEG, i, 53 (16 July 1892).

[202] W.E. Gladstone, Later Gleanings ... (New York ed., 1897), 372 (essay of 1891).

[203] L. Strachey, Eminent Victorians (London, 1918), 308; D. Schreuder, "Gladstone and the Conscience of the Victorian State" in P. Marsh, ed., The Conscience of the Victorian State (Hassocks, Sussex, 1973), 73. Morley also wrote of "the union of what seemed incompatibles", in this case of "religious conservatism" and "radical alliances". And, in fairness to Morley, he did insist that Gladstone's "[p]olitical life was only part of his religious life". Morley, Gladstone, iii, 601; i, 200.

[204] Robert Blake's description in a lecture on Disraeli and Gladstone (Cambridge, 1969), quoted J.S. Meisel, "The Importance of being Serious … Gladstone and Humour", History, lxxxiv (1999), 292.

[205] Debates of the House of Commons of Canada, 20, 26 May 1898, 5867-70, 6115-20. Extensive tributes in the Toronto Globe, 18-20 May 1898, also had nothing to say about any direct contribution to Canada. The Globe was fervently Liberal, and Gladstone's well-publicised final illness had given journalists plenty of time to prepare obituaries.