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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.


  • [The Rt. Hon. William Ewart Gladstone, statesman, orator, and author; born in Liverpool, Dec. 29, 1809; educated at Oxford; entered Parliament as a Conservative, 1832; vice-president and president of the Board of Trade under Peel; colonial secretary, 1845; supported the repeal of the Corn Laws, 1846; chancellor of the exchequer as a Peelite, 1852, as a Liberal, 1859 and 1865; prime minister, 1868; disestablished the Irish Church, 1869; resigned, 1874; prime minister again, 1880 and 1886; passed the Irish Land Act, 1881.]
  • Liberalism is trust of the people, tempered by prudence; Conservatism, distrust of the people, tempered by fear.

  • He defined a Radical as “a Liberal in earnest.”
  • I am come among you unmuzzled.

  • When his defeat for Oxford University was evident, during a six-days’ polling, Mr. Gladstone was nominated for South Lancashire; and made his first appearance at Manchester, the result at Oxford being in the mean time declared, on the 17th of July, 1865. “At last, my friends,” he said to the electors, “I have come amongst you; and I have come, to use an expression which has become very famous, and is not likely to be forgotten,—I am come among you ‘unmuzzled.’” This he explained, further on, to mean the liberty of joining in the generous sympathies of his countrymen, Oxford remaining Conservative.
  • Time is on our side.

  • In closing the debate on the Reform Bill of Earl Russell’s administration, in 1866, Mr. Gladstone said, “You may slay, you may bury, the measure that we have introduced; but we will write upon its gravestone for an epitaph this line, with certain confidence in its fulfilment:—
  • ‘Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor.’
  • You cannot fight against the future. Time is on our side.” The second reading was carried by a majority of five; but the bill was finally defeated by a majority of eleven.
  • The expression, “Time is on our side,” is first heard of as a motto of Cardinal Mazarin, the French premier during Louis XIV.’s minority. “Time and I,” he used to say, “against any two” (or shorter, Le temps et moi; in Italian, Il tempo è un galant’ uomo). Philip II. of Spain said, “Time and I are the two mightiest monarchs.”
  • It is the duty of a minister to stand like a wall of adamant between the people and the sovereign.

  • Speech at Garston, Nov. 14, 1868.
  • The oppression of a majority is detestable and odious: the oppression of a minority is only by one degree less detestable and odious.

  • In the House of Commons, on the second reading of the Irish Land Bill, 1870.
  • Floundering and foundering in the Straits of Malacca.

  • In a speech to his constituents at Greenwich, January, 1874, Gladstone referred to the accusation of Mr. Disraeli, that the Liberal government had neglected British interests in the Straits of Malacca. His answer was, that any such neglect must be charged to the previous Conservative administration, of which Mr. Disraeli had been chief; and he finished by saying, “I will leave the leader of the opposition, for the present, floundering and foundering in the Straits of Malacca.” Mr. Gladstone may have remembered another alliterative phrase, used by Disraeli in a letter to Lord Grey de Wilton, October, 1873, where, after accusing the Liberal Government of harassing every trade, worrying every profession, and assailing or menacing every class, institution, and species of property in the country, he said, “The country has, I think, made up its mind to close this career of plundering and blundering.”
  • Bag and baggage.

  • It was in reference to the occupation of Bulgaria by Turkey that Mr. Gladstone made his celebrated “bag and baggage” speech, saying, “I entreat my countrymen to insist that our government shall concur with the other states of Europe in obtaining the extinction of the Turkish executive power in Bulgaria. Let the Turks now carry away their abuses in the only possible manner,—namely, by carrying off themselves. Their zaptiehs and their mudirs, their bimbashes and their yuzbashis, their kaimakans and their pashas,—one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the province they have desolated and profaned.” (May 7, 1877; v. As You Like It, iii. 2.)
  • The resources of civilization are not yet exhausted.

  • At a banquet given to him at Leeds, Oct. 7, 1881, just before the arrest of the leaders of the Irish Land League, Mr. Gladstone gave an intimation of the purposes of the government by saying: “If the law, purged from defect, and from any taint of injustice, is still to be refused, and the first condition of political society to remain unfulfilled, then I say, gentlemen, without hesitation, that the resources of civilization are not yet exhausted.”
  • Out of the range of practical politics.

  • Mr. Gladstone said in April, 1867, when Sir John Gray brought forward his resolution in favor of the abolition of the Established Church in Ireland, that down to the year 1865 he considered such abolition “out of the range of practical politics,” and he explained that phrase to mean that “when at an election you say a question is out of the range of practical politics, you mean it is not a question likely to be dealt with in the Parliament you are now choosing.” In 1867, however, certain occurrences, such as the murder of policemen in Manchester, and the blowing up of the wall of Clerkenwell prison, changed Mr. Gladstone’s mind concerning the Irish Church, and brought the question of its abolition “within the range of practical politics.”—T. P. O’CONNOR: The Parnell Movement, 216.
  • As an illustration of Mr. Gladstone’s dialectical skill, it is told that when Garibaldi first visited England, there was some talk, says Lucy (“Diary of Two Parliaments,” 417), of his marrying a wealthy widow, much devoted to his cause. It was asked what was to be done with the wife he was said to have: “You must get Gladstone to explain her away,” was the answer, attributed to Mr. Beresford Hope.
  • Mr. Lucy tells the story in this volume, of the reply of the Hon. W. M. Evarts to Lord Coleridge, who was visiting him in a house once belonging to Washington (perhaps during an excursion to Mount Vernon): “I have heard it said” (of the first President), remarked the Lord Chief Justice, “that he was a very strong man physically, and that, standing on the lawn there, he could throw a dollar right across the river, on to the other bank.” Mr. Evarts replied that it was very likely to be true; “You know a dollar would go much farther in those days than it does now.” Among many post-prandial stories attributed to Mr. Evarts is one that, wishing to slyly rebuke the habit of a well-known Massachusetts politician and capitalist, of telling stories of public men asking his advice in trying political emergencies, he said in this gentleman’s presence, that when Christopher Columbus found himself approaching the shore of the New World, he turned round and asked, “A——, where shall we land?” During the administration of President Hayes, wine was banished from the dinner-table of the White House. Mr. Evarts, the Secretary of State, characterized the period as one when “water flowed like champagne.”
  • Rescue and retire.

  • This was the policy announced by Mr. Gladstone, in the session of February, 1885, in supporting the Khedive of Egypt to regain his authority over the Soudan, after the death of Gen. Gordon, without intending to make a permanent English occupation of that country. It was parodied as a policy of “save and scuttle,” and “butcher and bolt.” The purpose of Gen. Gordon (killed Jan. 26, 1885), in leading an expedition to Khartoum, was stated by himself, Feb. 26, 1884, to “smash the Mahdi,”—“You must smash the Mahdi, or the Mahdi will smash you;” and when it was suggested that the latter might be allowed to rule over the country, under British control, Mr. Goschen said, Feb. 24, 1885, that to utilize “a smashed Mahdi” was one of the most curious ideas he had ever heard of. The last communication of Gen. Gordon, Dec. 29, 1884, was, “Khartoum all right. Can hold out for years;” and in the postscript of a letter dated Dec. 14, he said, “I am quite happy, thank God, and, like Lawrence, I have tried to do my duty.” He referred to Sir Henry Lawrence, one of the heroes of the defence of Lucknow (died 1857), who wished inscribed upon his tombstone: “Here lies Henry Lawrence, who tried to do his duty.”
  • The grand old man.

  • It might be difficult to say who first applied to Mr. Gladstone the title of the “grand old man;” but Sir William Vernon Harcourt fastened it upon Sir Stafford Northcote (Lord Iddesleigh), in a speech at Derby, April 25, 1882, when he said, “Sir Stafford Northcote cannot understand what we see in what he is pleased to call ‘that grand old man.’ He is a grand old man. I do not wonder that the Tory party cannot comprehend our feeling for Mr. Gladstone. There are some parties who are not very old, and not at all grand.” Sir W. V. Harcourt was once termed by Sir Stafford Northcote “the political Zadkiel,” because, like the latter’s almanac, “he is in the habit of giving a very large number of prophecies each year, assuring us that all previous prophecies have come true;” but Sir William once said at Birmingham, “I am not come here to prophecy. Inspiration only comes to me on my domestic tripod.” Mr. Lowe had but one fault to find with him, May 1, 1871, “He thinks all the world as clever as himself.” The title, “grand old man,” had, however, already been applied to a less known personage than Mr. Gladstone; for Dean Hook, in his “Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury” (1860, I. ch. 4), says of Theodorus, an early archbishop, native of Tarsus in Cilicia, that, “on the 27th of May, 669, amid great rejoicings, he was placed in Augustine’s chair at Canterbury, and with all the ardor of youth the grand old man, being now sixty-six years of age, commenced his historical career, and addressed himself to the duties of his station.” A few days before Sir William Harcourt’s speech at Derby, Pigott, in the preface to his “Recollections of an Irish Journalist,” dated April 17, 1882, spoke of “a meeting of the grand old man and John Dillon” in 1879. He alluded to Isaac Butt, leader of the Home Rule party, who died in the latter year. Tennyson (“In Memoriam,” cx.) uses an almost identical expression:
  • “And thus he bore without abuse
  • The grand old name of gentleman.”
  • Mr. Gladstone has often been called “the people’s William;” but Charles James Fox, during the celebrated Westminster election of 1784, was called “the man of the people.” It was during this canvass that the Duchess of Devonshire purchased for Fox the vote of a butcher with a kiss, a tradition said to be unquestionable by Grego, in his “History of Parliamentary Elections in the Old Days,” 1886, 272. It was on one of these canvassing visits that the well-known compliment was paid the duchess by an Irish mechanic, “I could light my pipe at your eyes.” Fox was returned, but many of his followers were defeated, and were called “Fox’s martyrs.”
  • In a letter to his constituents of Midlothian, during the electoral campaign of 1885, Mr. Gladstone said that the disestablishment of the Scottish Church “belongs to the dim and distant courses of the future.” During this campaign the Earl of Rosebery exhorted all liberals to march together, “under Mr. Gladstone’s umbrella.” No man enjoyed worrying Mr. Gladstone in debate more than Lord Randolph Churchill, once Secretary of State for India, and Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1886; referring to his resignation of that office, Bismarck is reported to have called him “a twopenny Catiline.”
  • John Morley once said of Mr. Gladstone, “His mind is a mint of logical counterfeits.” Lord Houghton, saying that Mr. Gladstone needed to inform himself of public opinion, once remarked that he committed “the unpardonable sin of never looking out of the window;” and contrasted Mr. Gladstone with Lord Beaconsfield, by saying that the former was a statesman “who knew mankind but not men, while Beaconsfield knew men but not mankind.”