GLADSTONE'S SECOND GOVERNMENT, 1880
THE STRUGGLE FOR ORDER AND REFORM
When Gladstone kissed hands in April, 1880, as Prime Minister for the second time, he looked like a man at the summit of his power. He had overthrown a statesman and a policy, both of them apparently popular and firmly established. He had started his campaign on the Eastern question with the support of less than half the Liberal party and of scarcely any of its leaders. Offering to the electors a solemn and elaborate argument for an overruling European sense in foreign policy, he had attacked a statesman who had given to British interests and British power all the attractions of religion and romance. With this programme, ascetic, disinterested, almost academic, he had wrested from Disraeli his command over the imagination of the English people. The Conservatives had lost over a hundred seats.1 To understand Gladstone's achievement we may recall the event of the last election fought on a comparable issue. In 1857 Palmerston, censured in the House of Commons for the iniquity of his Chinese war, had dissolved Parliament and put the Manchester School to rout. What Gladstone had done in these years was to make himself the master of the England created by the second Reform Bill, as Palmerston had once made himself the master of the England created by the first.
Unhappily, Gladstone's strength was illusory, and to understand the disasters that overwhelmed his second Government it is necessary to glance at the causes of his weakness.____________________