Decorated initial I

n 1859 Gladstone, partly apparently to enable himself to do what he could do for Italy, definitely went over to the Whig-Liberal side in politics and Lord Palmerston’s administration. The period of Peelite hesitation was over, politics could become simpler and more effective, and what was most important from this time onwards the cabinet contained one who possessed, uniquely, certain characteristics which gave to him the key to the situation. Gladstone could work with the old ruling classes, with whom he had always passed his life, he was not a Whig but he was connected with them by marriage; he had been trained in what had been the best school for statesmen in nineteenth-century English history, Peel’s conservative administration of 1841-1846, and yet by 1859 his opinions are definitely liberal, indeed, for that period, radical. Most important of all, however, for the task which history had set him, he was developing a way of speking that could move the hearts if men who were entirely beyond what might be deemed at that time to be educated circles, a power that possibly evinced itself in him for the first time during his visit to Newcastle in 1862.

At first after 1859 there straddled right across the path of Gladstone the Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, who maintained the old Whig compromise with surprising vigor into what seemed likely to be an indefinitely prolonged old age. In 1865, however, it was proved against all expectation that Lord Palmeston was in fact mortal, Lord John Russell succeeded as prime Minster with the Gladstone as his chief Lieutenant and they produced the Reform Bill of 1867 which did not pass, but was followed by the Conservative Bill of 1867 which did, and that in turn is followed by the election of 1868 which brought Gladstone back into power as Prime Minister himself, this time at the head of what has been reasonably been called the first truly Liberal administration. . . . [52-53]

Much has been written about various men and events that influenced Gladstone's mind in the critical ten years between 1858 and 1868, but there is one influence that is not often mentioned though in all probability it was as potent with him as anything else, it was the influence of popular audiences that were responsive to him. Indeed, a study of his opinions from now on suggests that these people had an increasing effect on the ways he thought. It was this characteristic that made him seem to be a renegade from the educated classes. [56]


Clark, G. Kitson. The Making of Victorian England (1962). New York: Atheneum, 1971.

Last modified 18 March 2002