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BENJAMIN DISRAELI AND JOHN BRIGHT Two great orators of England in the latter half of the 19th Century. The former was Prime Minister and overcame great natural obstacles to oratory; the latter was the great orator of reform, who was in sympathy with the common people and championed their rights in and out of Parliament.
WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE
have been in the more advanced periods of human history. Why, what is the case with a war? It is a case in which both cannot be right, but in which both may be wrong. I believe if the impartiality of the historian survey a very large proportion of the wars that have desolated the worldsome, indeed, there may be, and undoubtedly there have been, in which the arm of valor has been raised simply for the cause of freedom and justice—that the most of them will be found to belong to that less satisfactory category in which folly, passion, greediness, on both sides, have led to effects which afterwards, when too late, have been so much deplored.
We have had in the history of the world religious wars. The period of these wars I trust we have now outlived. I am not at all sure that there was not quite as much to be said for them as for a great many other wars which have been recorded in the page of history. The same folly which led to the one led, in another form, to the other. We have had dynastic wars-wars of succession, in which, for long periods of years, the heads of rival families have fought over the bleeding persons of their people, to determine who should govern them. I trust we have overlived the period of wars of that class. Another class of wars, of a more dangerous and yet a more extensive description, have been territorial wars. No doubt it is a very natural, though it is a very dangerous and a very culpable sentiment, which leads nations to desire their neighbors' property, and I am very sorry to think that we have had examples—perhaps we have an example even at this moment before our eyes—to show that even in the most civilized parts of the world, even in the midst of the oldest civilization upon the continent of Europe, that thirst for territorial acquisition is not yet extinct.
But I wish to call your attention to a peculiar form in which, during the latter part of human history, this thirst for territorial acquisition became an extensive cause of bloodshed. It was when the colonizing power took possession of the European nations. It seems that the world was not wide enough for them. One would have thought, upon looking over the broad places of the earth, and thinking how small a portion of them is even now profitably occupied, and how much smaller a portion of them a century or two centuries ago, one would have thought there would have been ample space for all to go and help themselves; but, notwithstanding this, we found it necessary, in the business of planting colonies, to make those colonies the cause of bloody conflicts with our neighbors; and there was at the bottom of that policy this old lust of territorial aggrandizement. When the state of things in Europe had become so far settled that that lust could not be as freely indulged as it might in barbarous times, we then carried our armaments and our passions across the
WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE
Atlantic, and we fought upon American and other distant soils for the extension of our territory.
That was one of the most dangerous and plausible, in my opinion, of all human errors; it was one to which a great portion of the wars of the last century was due ; but had our forefathers then known, as we now know, the blessings of free commercial intercourse, all that bloodshed would have been spared. For what was the dominant idea that governed that policy? It was this, that colonizing, indeed, was a great function of European nations, but the purpose of that colonization was to reap the profits of extensive trade with the colonies which were founded, and, consequently, it was not the error of one nation or another-it was the error of all nations alike. It was the error of Spain in Mexico, it was the error of Portugal in Brazil, it was the error of France in Canada and Louisiana, it was the error of England in her colonies in the West Indies, and her possessions in the East; and the whole idea of colonization, all the benefits of colonization, were summed up in this, that when you had planted a colony on the other side of the ocean, you were to allow that colony to trade exclusively and solely with yourselves. But from that doctrine flowed immediately all those miserable wars, because if people believed, as they then believed, that the trade with colonies must, in order to be beneficial, necessarily be exclusive, it followed that at once there arose in the mind of each country a desire to be possessed of the colonies of other countries, in order to secure the extension of this exclusive trade.
In fact, my Lord Provost, I may say, such was the perversity of the misguided ingenuity of man, that during the period to which I refer he made commerce itself, which ought to be the bond and link of the human race, the cause of war and bloodshed, and wars were justified both here and elsewhere-justified when they were begun, and gloried in when they had ended-upon the ground that their object and effect had been to obtain from some other nation a colony which previously had been theirs, but which now was ours, and which, in our folly, we regarded as the sole means of extending the intercourse and the industry of our countrymen. Well, now, my Lord Provost, that was a most dangerous form of error, and for the very reason that it seemed to abandon the old doctrine of the unrestricted devastation of the world, and to contemplate a peaceful end ; but I am thankful to say that we have entirely escaped from that delusion. It may be that we do not wisely when we boast ourselves over our fathers. The probability is that as their errors crept in unperceived upon them, they did not know their full responsibility; so other errors in directions as yet undetected may be creeping upon us. Modesty bids us in our comparison, whether with other ages or with other countries, to be thankful
WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE
-at least, we ought to be—for the downfall of every form of error; and determined we ought to be that nothing shall be done by us to give countenance to its revival, but that we will endeavor to assist those less fortunate than ourselves in emancipating themselves from the like delusions. I need not say that as respects our colonies, they have ceased to be—I would almost venture to say a possible—at any rate, they have ceased to be a probable cause of war, for now we believe that the greatnees of our country is best promoted in its relations with our colonies by allowing them freely and largely to enjoy every privilege that we possess ourselves; and so far from grudging it, if we find that there are plenty of American ships trading with Calcutta, we rejoice in it; because it contributes to the wealth and prosperity of our Indian empire, and we are perfectly assured that the more that wealth and prosperity are promoted, the larger will be the share of it accruing to ourselves through the legitimate operation of the principles of trade.
HOME RULE FOR IRELAND
[The final great effort of Gladstone's career was to restore to Ireland that principle of Home Rnle,—the privilege of making its own laws by its own Parliament,which it had lost in 1800. It was this he undertook when he returned to the premiership in 1886, and which he succeeded in carrying through the House of Commons in 1893, just before his final retirement. The following selection is from a speech made in Parliament in February, 1888.]
We have evidence before us to show that as regards the great objects which the Government have had in view, of putting down the National League and the Plan of Campaign, their efforts have resulted in total failure. Such is the retrospect. What is the prospect? There are many things said by the Government in debate ; but I never heard them express a confidence that they will be able to establish a permanent resistance to the policy of Home Rule. You are happily free, at this moment, from the slightest shade of foreign complications. You have, at this moment, the constitutional assent of Ireland, pledged in the most solemn form, for the efficacy of the policy which I am considering. But the day may come when your condition may not be so happy. I do not expect, any more than I desire, these foreign complications, but still it is not wise to shut them wholly out.
What I fear is rather this, that if resistance to the national voice of Ireland be pushed too far, those who now guide the mind of that nation may gradually lose their power, and may be supplanted and displaced by ruder and more dangerous spirits. For seven hundred years, with Ireland practically unrepresented, with Ireland prostrate, with the forces of this