For Gladstone a political career was a means by which he could influence the mass of the community with his own powerful sense of moral purpose. In his long parliamentary career, stretching from his entry into the House of Commons in 1832 at the age of twenty-three until his retirement sixty-two years later in 1894, there were occasional episodes when his actions seem to have been decided by reference to his own or his country’s advantage rather than by reference to principle. His sharp suppression of the nationalist movement in Egypt in 1881–2 contrasts oddly, for instance, with his sympathy for nationalist movements in Ireland, Italy, South Africa, the Balkans, and Afghanistan. There are a few other occasions, too, where it is difficult to reconcile his actions with his own stern judgment of what constituted a proper standard of conduct in political life. The use of the Royal Warrant method, for instance, to secure the abolition of commission purchase in 1871, though constitutional, was regarded as being somewhat sharp practice since it was used to by-pass the opposition of the House of Lords who were acting in full accordance with their constitutional rights in opposing the Bill.
KeywordsPrime Minister Free Trade Trade Union Foreign Trade Political Career
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