Gladstone and Liberalism

Gladstone and Liberalism

Gladstone and Liberalism

Gladstone and Liberalism

Excerpt

When Gladstone died in 1898 it was universally recognised that he had been the leading figure of the nineteenth century in the history of Liberalism, not only in Great Britain but in Europe. 'No other statesman on our famous roll', said Morley, describing the tributes paid to his memory in different countries, 'has touched the imagination of so wide a world'; and it was the Liberal in him that was then most prominent and most praised. Yet for the first twenty-seven years of a career devoted to politics he had been a Conservative. He entered Parliament when he was twenty-three, and was a Minister in a Conservative Cabinet before he was thirty-four. When the Conservative party broke up in 1846 he remained loyal to its leader Sir Robert Peel, and was one of the most conspicuous of the band of 'Peelites' who wandered between the two great parties for the next thirteen years. With some of them he took part in the coalition under which we found ourselves at war in the Crimea. As late as 1858 it was generally expected that he would join Derby's Conservative Government formed that year, a government in which he was offered high office with prospects calculated to tempt ambition. When it fell in 1859, he gave a silent vote in its defence. In that year he first became a Liberal in any sense: he then decided . . .

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