14 AUGUST 1880, Page 6


IT is the fashion in certain quarters to deride Mr. Gladstone's ignorance of and indifference to foreign politics. He is credited by these critics with classic sympathies for the Greeks, and is supposed to have cherished, during the last four years, a passionate interest in the various members of the great Slav- race. But, with these two insignificant exceptions, the wide and diversified field of foreign politics is assumed to be a terra incognita to Mr. Gladstone,—a department of statesman- ship which has no attraction for him, and with respect to. which his knowledge is both narrow and superficial And this depreciatory estimate is commonly made still more effec- tive by contrasting it with the unusual knowledge and sagacity of Lord Beaconsfield. It is difficult even to guess the origin. of this myth, for a myth it certainly is. The simple truth is• that there are few statesmen of our time who have always taken so keen an interest in foreign politics as Mr. Gladstone.; fewer still whose knowledge of foreign politics is-at ones so large and so accurate ; and fewest of all, perhaps, among English politicians, who have exercised so much int:Lusa:e- on the politics of Europe during the last thirty yearsosa whose views have been so much justified by events. The- question is one which can be tested by facts easily ac- cessible to anybody who cares to verify his own impres- sions on the subject. It will probably be admitted that formation of the Italian Kingdom, the Franco-Ger- man war resulting in the unity of Germany on the, one hand and the establishment of a French Republic on the other, and the development of the Eastern Question- which issued from the events of 1876, are, on the whole, the three most important facts in the foreign politics of Europe during the last thirty years. What part was played in each of them by Mr. Gladstone and Lord Beaconsfield respectively ?

An Englishman, who chanced to be in Rome when Mr. Disraeli succeeded Mr. Gladstone as Premier in 1874, received from two opposite quarters in the course of one day a remarkable testimony to the extraordinary influence of Mr. Gladstone-in Italian politics. He had an interview with a• leading Roman Cardinal on the morning of the day on which Mr. Disraeli had begun to form his Cabinet. His Eminence expressed much satis- faction at the supersession of Mr. Gladstone by Mr. Disraeli, and proceeded to explain his reasons. " We greatly admire Mr. Gladstone," he said, "for his personal char- acter and great gifts. But he is not a Catholic ; and, moreover, it is to him we attribute all our own misfor- tunes. Yes," he continued, on noticing the surprise of his visitor, " it was Mr. Gladstone's pamphlet in 1851 that destroyed the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. He it was dst- made Cavour and Garibaldi possible. To him, even more Akin to Cavour, we are indebted for an Italian kingdom: The unity of Italy has paved the way for the unity of Germany; and you know what that has brought us to." OA the evening of that day the Cardinal's English visitor happened to meet at dinner a Neapolitan nobleman and a member of the Italian Government of the day (Minghetti's). Both deplored the fall of Mr. Gladstone's Government, and the reason they gave was that, next to Cavour, Mr. Gladstone was Italy's greatest bene- factor. It was his letters to Lord Aberdeen, they asserted, that gave its death-blow to the Bourbon regime, and prepared the way for Cavour's policy. All this may seem exaggerated now ; but it will so seem only to those who do not remember or have not read

of the extraordinary sensation produced throughout the civilised world by Mr. Gladstone's scathing exposure. Lord Palmer- ston, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, communicated a copy of Mr. Gladstone's pamphlet officially to every Court in Europe, and the atone thus set rolling did not rest till it brought down with a crash the whole system of despotism which oppressed the life and limbs of Italy like a paralysing nightmare. Soon after the publication of his Letters to Lord Aberdeen, Mr. Gladstone published an English translation of Farini's "Stato Romano," which he followed up (in 1852) with an elaborate article on Italian politics in the Edinburgh Review. Even at that date Mr. Gladstone foretold the impending downfall of the Pope's temporal power, to be fol- lowed by a regenerated and unified Italy. It is easy now to say that facts were tending so strongly in that direction, that no great foresight was required to tell the issue. To contem- porary politicians facts did not seem at all to point to the downfall of the temporal power or the advent of an Italian kingdom. In a foot-note appended to the republication of his article on Farini last year Mr. Gladstone says :—" At the date of this article most of those in England who were friendly to the Italian cause contended only for local freedom and reforms in the several States. The Italians had already learned to see what was hid from our eyes. I remember that, as late as 1854, Manin came to this country, and could not persuade even Lord Palmerston that the unity of Italy was the true basis for reform." Mr. Gladstone was probably himself, at that time, the only Englishman who understood the strength and tendencies of the forces which were at 'work, to 'a great extent silently and invisibly, through- out Italy. And it was fortunate for Italy that when the hour of her redemption struck, in the beginning of 1859, a Cabinet had just come into office in England of which Mr. Gladstone was a leading member. No one, indeed, who has a tolerable know- ledge of the facts -will doubt that, for the last forty years, no Englishman has even approached Mr. Gladstone in knowledge of the internal condition, aspirations, and potentialities of the Italian people'; and many of the Italians themselves are the first to in- sist that, next to Cavour, no one single person has done so much for the cause of Italian unity as Mr. Gladstone. How stands, in this respect, the record of Mr. Gladstone's great rival / It may be told in a very few words. We cannot remember a passage in any of Lord Beaconsfield's speeches or writings which shows an intelligent 'conception of the real condition of affairs in Italy, or a gleam of prescience as to their future development. The full weight of English influence, so far as the Government of the day could direct and represent it, was thrown by Mr. Dis- raeli in 1858-9 into the scale of Austrian domination against the cause of Italian freedom. And in a deliberately prepared speech on foreign policy in 1864 Mr. Disraeli insisted that the temporal -power of the Pope was a necessary ingredient in that political fiction, the Balance of Power.

The incidents of the Franco-German war are so fresh in the memory of every one, that a few words will suffice to describe the line taken by Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Disraeli respectively. Mr. Gladstone dedfined to discuss whether it was the French or Prussian Govbrnment that first broached the project of sitcrifieing to its ambition the independence of Belgium. But he summoned 'both those Governments to sign, together with England, a treaty guaranteeing, by force of arms, the inde- pendence which each accused the other of menacing. And meanwhile he asked Parliament for a vote of credit to enable him to enforce his policy. The belligerent Powers signed the treaty; and Mr. Gladstone's Government observed an impar- tial neutrality throughout the war. Thus was the independ- ence of Belgium secured, without brag or bluster, or any vulgar appeal to the fighting propensities of the British public,— propensities which have always more need of the curb than of the spur. But the policy was far too tame for the taste of Mr, Disraeli, and he impeached it, in a great speech in which he propounded, as an alternative policy, a fantastic scheme of "armed neutrality," which would infallibly have dragged England into the conflict, and probably resulted in a general European war. A comparison of the speeches delivered by Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Disraeli on that occasion, read in the light of subsequent events, must convince even the most sceptical that it was not Mr. Disraeli who then exhibited a statesmanlike mastery of the question.

It is generally supposed that Mr. Gladstone's study of, and interest in, the Eastern Question date from the autumn of 1876. Passages might be produced from his writings which show that he interested himself in that question before some of his critics were born. But let us take a more modern illus- tration. In the year 1858 there was a movement in Roumania for the political union of the two principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. Their union was strongly opposed by Austria and Turkey, and a European Congress met in Paris to discuss the question. The late Lord Derby was in office, with Mr. Disraeli as Leader of the House of Commons. Mr. Gladstone, who was then an independent Member, moved, in an eloquent and comprehensive speech, an address to the Crown in favour of the union of the Danubian Principalities. Ho warned the House that the next time Russia made war on the Sultan there was very little chance of her being checked by an Anglo- French or any other alliance. Alliances of that sort were only temporary expedients, which could not interpose a permanent check between Russia and Constantinople. The true barrier was a rampart of free States, which would value their freedom too much to endure absorption into the Russian Empire. " There is no barrier like the breasts of freemen." People laughed at the idea of a rampart of Roumanian warriors, and the laugh was repeated on the eve of the day on which a Roumanian army exhibited itself on the heights of Plovna as the equal in gallantry of any army in Europe. Mr. Gladstone's keener instinct enabled him to judge more accurately. " It is true," he said, " that the people of these Principalities are not accustomed to take part in the military operations of Europe ; but the Americans, when the War of Independence broke out, were not a military nation, yet they proved themselves more than a match for your well-trained and disciplined armies. If you want to oppose an obstacle to Russia, arm those people with freedom, and with the vigour and prosperity that freedom brings." It may be retorted that in the late war the Roumanians, so far from presenting their breasts as a barrier against Russia, sent an army to co-operate with her troops. The answer is that Roumania wished to be in- dependent, and therefore formed an alliance with the only Power which offered her that boon. It must not be forgotten, more- over, that before making an alliance with Russia the Roumanian Government offered to defend its neutrality, if the signatories of the Treaty of Paris would promise to shield it ; and it was after the refusal of all of them that Roumania accepted the

alliance with Russia. Such was Mr. Gladstone's policy with regard to Moldo-Wallachia in 1858. How did it fare in Parliament ? It fared as his more recent policy on the Eastern Question fared before that tribunal. Mr. Disraeli and Lord Palmerston denounced it and combined against it, and Mr. Gladstone was defeated by an overwhelming majority. Within a year, however, the wisdom of Mr. Gladstone's policy was vindicated by the stern logic of facts, and accepted by the whole of Europe. We are now witnessing a similar revindica- tion. Those parts of the Treaty of Berlin which promise to endure are laid down on the lines of the policy recommended by Mr. Gladstone in the autumn of 1876. In so far as the Treaty of Berlin has run counter to that policy, it has proved a failure. In short, there has been no great debate on foreign policy in Parliament for the last forty years in which Mr. Gladstone has not taken part, and with respect to which the part he has taken has not been justified by the course of events.