Gladstone, Canada and calibration: Part 1 of Gladstone and Canada

"Gladstone, Canada and calibration" forms the first part of a two-part essay examining Gladstone's involvement with, and attitudes towards, British North America.

Part II, "Gladstone Through the Looking Glass", discusses contexts in which Gladstone may have defined his own identity and suggests interpretations that may throw a more general light on the way that he reached decisions. The overall study accompanies "Gladstone and the limits of Canadian self-government, 1849: the Canadian Rebellion Losses Bill in British Politics": Gladstone's 1849 challenge to controversial legislation passed by the provincial legislature represented an important episode in his political career, one that has been largely ignored by most biographers. However, it should interpreted less as a landmark on his journey from reactionary to liberal, but rather more as raising a basic issue in British-Canadian relations which, arguably, he never fully resolved. Overall, the study emphasises elements of continuity in his attitude to British North America throughout a long and active political career. His appeals to the Canadian example in support of Irish Home Rule should be seen as an inconsistent tailpiece, a minor rhetorical theme and definitely not a determining issue in the evolution of his policy towards Ireland.





[Continued in "Gladstone Through the Looking Glass"]





This essay began as an attempt to set in broader context Gladstone’s attempt in 1849 to prevent the Canadian parliament from passing legislation which he believed paid compensation to inhabitants of Lower Canada (mostly Francophones) who had participated in the rebellions of 1837-8. An accompanying study, which concentrates upon the events and issues of 1849, is itself based upon an article published in 1977.[1] This concentrated on the implications of responsible government, the system recently conceded to the united province of Canada, but with its limits carefully undefined: in 1977, control over Canada’s constitution, the British North America Act, was still formally vested in the Westminster parliament, and it seemed worth examining the origins of this increasingly irrelevant ambiguity. Yet even then, I was struck by the centrality in the Rebellion Losses debate of Gladstone himself, especially the combination his portentously precise identification of the boundary between Imperial and colonial spheres of responsibility and his apparently naïve expectation that MPs would accept both his motivation and his tactics at his own valuation. In British political history, the episode remains an important if under-emphasised illustration of the internal strains of the centrist Peelite group. In Canadian history, as I argue in the accompanying essay, the Rebellion Losses controversy merits re-evaluation as part of the process of rebuilding a political community in the aftermath of the divisive rebellions of 1837-8. Hence 1849 stands alone as a specific and separate study, although the main themes of Gladstone’s colonial theorising on that occasion are considered here as they arise. During his final years, he engaged in a heart-searching process in which he identified major errors in his political career, although it is possible that the exercise was intended either to deceive himself or to direct the attention of future historians into relatively safe channels.[2] In this exercise, he did not return to 1849, despite the evident trauma of his failure in the Commons that year. It is important to stress that Gladstone never formally disavowed his campaign against the Rebellion Losses bill, although he certainly shifted to approaches that enabled him to sidestep his uncompromising stance. 

The essay is also designed to serve a wider purpose, outlining aspects of Gladstone's involvement with Canadian issues throughout six decades in public life. To accept this as a worthwhile exercise, it is first necessary to grasp that, from the eighteen-thirties until at least the Second World War, Canada formed part of the mental world of leading British politicians. Senior politicians, especially cabinet ministers, were generally aware of major Canadian issues, and often had contact with their Canadian counterparts to a much greater extent than is the case today. The relationship was not always entirely harmonious, but it did exist, although it usually played a relative secondary role, one that is easily filtered out of biographies and textbooks.[3] Any historian attempting an overview of Gladstone’s long and massively complex career must necessarily be selective, and by the late twentieth century, relations with Canada had become a low priority. (If Canadians were offended by such myopia, they might take comfort in the fact that another formidable presence in Gladstone’s universe, Almighty God, to use his favourite term, has also tended to be quietly eclipsed in a cumulative biographical approach that was not only metropolitan but also secular.) Indeed, it might be fairly conceded that downplaying the role of Canada in his career risked at worst some minor distortion in his world picture. But though Canada might be discounted from Gladstone’s career, Ireland could not be omitted: in 1886, when he attempted to introduce Home Rule, it was to the Canadian example of self-government that he appealed (although, as will be seen, neither very often nor with any great profundity). Thus Gladstone's various involvements with British North America do constitute part of the full record, and call for assessment. Indeed, a case may be made for the centrality of Canada, if not in the day-to-day priorities of his political career, but at least in the determination of its overall trajectory. Unfortunately, this would require acceptance of a traditional, almost mythic, interpretation of Gladstone's career, one set in stone by Morley in 1903, as a pilgrimage from reaction to liberalism.

Gladstone himself believed that his engagement with Canadian problems played a part in his move towards liberalism. "Colonial subjects … made a first breach in my Toryism", he claimed in 1892.[4] Thus it would seem that Canada was not simply one of the many subjects upon which Gladstone steadily moved from his original world-view of authoritarian conservatism towards enlightenment, but arguably provided an important trigger in the process of his conversion. As will become apparent, there were important elements of continuity in the positions that he adopted on British North American issues: if liberalism is assumed to embrace generosity of spirit, it has be conceded that he was consistently unsympathetic towards Canadian aspirations. He never fully abandoned his position of 1849 that the colony (or, later province, and then Dominion) owed obligations to Britain, nor that Britain for its part would determine the extent of its reciprocal responsibilities – and how best, indeed how far, to discharge them. The enthusiasm which he later demonstrated towards oppressed peoples on the fringes of Europe was never aroused for kindred communities across the Atlantic.[5]

Two fundamental elements characterised Gladstone's involvement with Canadian issues. One is that they intersected with his political trajectory at intervals for fifty years from the earliest years of his political career, although their intensity slackened during its final decade.  While they were generally (but, as in 1849, not always) of secondary importance to him overall, they extended over a longer period than most of his intensive concerns: for instance, Ireland only became a pressing question for him after 1867,[6] South Africa and Egypt intruded upon him for relatively brief periods in the early eighteen-eighties.[7] As a result, if the unifying theme in the Gladstone story was his gradual movement from Tory darkness to Liberal enlightenment – Canada, in its persistent if low-key reappearances, may reveal more than more intense but short-lived episodes such as his enthusiasm for the Bulgarians in the late eighteen-seventies, or the Armenians in his twilight years two decades later. It is also worth noting that, for all his encyclopedic hyperactivity, there were subjects that never seriously concerned him. In Europe, he interested himself in France, Germany and Italy, but hardly at all in Spain and Portugal. His family origins were in the North Sea port of Leith, and his Scottish connections were all along the east coast, but it was 1885 before he discovered Norway. His father owned plantations in British Guiana, the Empire's only South American colony, yet – despite his admiration for Canning – he took almost no interest in Latin America. Perhaps most noteworthy of all was the relatively small role played by India in his career, although he appointed viceroys, grumbled about the finances of the Raj and – briefly in the Midlothian era – proclaimed his outraged sympathy for the Afghans.[8] (This myopia was despite the fact that Gladstone's father traded to Calcutta [Kolkata] and his own son Henry spent fourteen years in business there.)[9] Japan began its adventure with modernity with the Meiji restoration in 1868, the year Gladstone formed his first government, yet he took almost no interest in its affairs.[10]  Similarly, in domestic affairs he made little or no contribution to what were called sanitary questions: godliness excited him much more than cleanliness.  

The second key element in the picture is that his handling of Canadian questions generally subordinated them to some larger concern of his own. His various stances were successively filtered through principles distilled from questions as varied as imperial supremacy, free trade, the Church, retrenchment in public expenditure, defence, relations with the United States and – finally, if obliquely – Ireland. Canada’s comet-like reappearance upon his political agenda at intervals of a few years each time meant that, in effect, he was responding to a different Canada on each occasion, and it is likely that he did not always appreciate that he was dealing with a moving target. The unstable frontier colonies of the eighteen-thirties had merged by 1849 into a united province – in outline structure at least – and would evolve, thanks to railways and a developing bureaucratic structure, into the Confederation established in 1867 that included much of eastern British North America. By the eighteen-eighties, the transcontinental Dominion was virtually an associated state which preserved its links with Britain partly for convenience but essentially for survival alongside a larger and potentially voracious United States.[11] Unfortunately, it is doubtful how far Gladstone appreciated that he was dealing with a society engaged in continuous evolution. Notwithstanding his proclaimed shift towards liberalism on colonial issues, he continued to expect a sometimes burdensome degree of Canadian deference to British interests. Given his intermittent engagement with the colony-cum-Dominion, it might be concluded that Gladstone's attitude to Canada was predominantly negative for much of his career, until the moment sometime in 1885-6 when he drew upon the example of the Dominion to justify the extension of local self-government to Ireland. In fact the Gladstone of 1886 never repudiated the Gladstone of 1849, leaving unresolved a central problem of metropolitan-periphery relations in both the colonial relationship and Irish Home Rule.  

Gladstone’s engagement with Canada may be divided into three phases. For much of his first two decades in public life, a broad knowledge of colonial affairs constituted one of the political strengths that gave him some claim upon the ear of the House of Commons, and hence helped keep him at the forefront of politics during years spent in apparently directionless opposition. Yet he acquired this status accidentally. Gladstone became Under-Secretary for the Colonies, at the age of 25, because Peel believed that the appointment of the son of a slave-owner would reassure the West Indian planters that their interests would be protected during the process of Emancipation. Hence he became involved in Canadian issues – a major headache for the Colonial Office in the eighteen-thirties – incidentally, peripherally and without much sign of enthusiastic engagement. Regarded as a parliamentary authority on Canadian affairs, he was primarily concerned with the nature and limits of colonial self-government, although he also involved himself in other questions, for instance working to secure the future of the Anglican Church overseas, and to oppose the territorial rights of the Hudson’s Bay Company.  It would be his concern for the Church of England in the colonies that provided him with a secondary route towards a more relaxed attitude to Canadian self-government.

During the eighteen-fifties, Gladstone moved into a second phase of his political career, successfully rebranding himself as a champion of financial rectitude. His "economical venom"[12] not only brought him into conflict with the more relaxed fiscal attitudes of Canada's development-minded politicians, but led him to look towards the gradual dissolution of the link between Britain and the emerging Dominion altogether. Yet the two apparently inverse approaches that characterise these two phases of Gladstone’s career mask underlying continuities: indeed, formal separation was an eventuality that he had discussed as early as 1838. Until 1849 (at least) he viewed Canada as a dependency, in which Britain retained the right to intervene against dishonourable and disloyal activities. Certainly from 1865, and probably earlier, he treated Canada as a type of associated state ("morally in the attitude of an independent Power” as he put it that year), but one that was under obligation to respect the interests of its protector. (Britain, by contrast, retained its freedom to determine the nature and the extent of the defensive shield that it might confer.) In 1871, those two perceptions, one involving British suzerainty, the other Canadian deference, were brutally fused together during the negotiations for the Treaty of Washington, in which the Dominion paid a large share of the price of buying off American intimidation. 

Suddenly, in 1886, Gladstone's predominantly negative attitudes gave way to unprecedented enthusiasm: Canada was “loyal and friendly” to Britain, thanks to the concession of self-government – and the panacea would work equally effectively if Home Rule was granted to Ireland. Of course, it might be concluded that, in the mid-eighteen eighties, Gladstone was startled into recognising the unexpected fact that the Dominion was still part of the British Empire, and determined to apply the magic remedy of local self-government to Ireland. If so, the revelation was certainly a convenient coincidence. Unfortunately, it is also hard to believe, not least because the Gladstone of 1886 never repudiated the Gladstone of 1849, leaving unresolved a central problem in both the colonial relationship and Irish Home Rule. The benign myth has endured partly because the Canadian dimension to Gladstone’s political career has been excised from the standard biographical record, thereby obscuring the blunt truth that his own attitude to British’s transatlantic territories had fallen markedly short of amicability. In fact, as Section C explores, there were two Canadian analogies floating around in the Home Rule debates, one likening potential relations between Westminster and Dublin to those between Britain and the Dominion, the other seeing them in terms of the balance between Ottawa and the provinces. Neither would prove particularly helpful, informative or durable. In particular, Gladstone's apparent lack of awareness (which he shared with most British politicians) of the changing balance of internal relations between the Dominion government in Ottawa and the country's largest province, Ontario, entirely undermined his assumption that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council could act as the effective arbiter between the parliaments of Westminster and College Green. Indeed, it was the decisions of the Judicial Committee that were unstitching the centralised structure designed in 1867. 

A study of Gladstone and Canada must obviously seek any device or process that might   establish a connection between Gladstone's 1849 insistence upon a distinct sphere of imperial supremacy that carried the right to intervene in the internal affairs of Canada, and his confident assertion in and (occasionally) after 1886 that Britain and Ireland could effectively co-exist under Home Rule, an argument buttressed by appeals to the Canadian parallel. In fact, as late as the early eighteen-eighties, he remained reluctant to regard the Dominion as a possible model for Irish devolution. His conversion to Home Rule in 1885-6 was accompanied by characteristic oratorical sleight of hand, by which he projected himself as an elder statesman who had helped steer Canada to nationality and freedom without in fact explicitly renouncing his earlier views on the limits of colonial autonomy.  To put it mildly, there is some danger of simplification in attempting to construct links between his attitude of 1849, that Canada was disloyal and untrustworthy, and his 1886 celebration of a Canada that had become loyal and friendly.

Indeed, it would surely be at least unbalanced and probably unhelpful if this study were to convey a great deal of information about Canada, much of it arcane, at the cost of endorsing and thereby reinforcing mythic stereotypes of the man himself. Baldly summarised, Gladstone has habitually been portrayed – and depicted himself – as someone who moved from the depressing darkness of toryism towards the enlightened sunshine of liberalism. It was an all-embracing, all-explaining matrix that he himself encouraged. "I was brought up to distrust and dislike liberty", he remarked in 1891, "I learned to believe in it. That is the key to all my changes."[13] The Canada-related aspects of his career point rather to complex intellectual positions that are not easily captured in the blanket categorisations of reactionary conservatism or progressive liberalism. Accordingly, this essay proceeds from the specific to the speculative, seeking to explore the nature of the political positions that Gladstone adopted, and the processes by which they changed. In seeking to understand his decision-making processes, I have drawn upon two contemporary children's stories, the tale of Goldilocks and the fable of Alice Through the Looking Glass. These are discussed in Section D, but I outline them here in order to signpost references to them at various points in the discussion.

The first refers to Gladstone's predilection for adopting highly precise solutions to problems, prescriptions that often avoided extremes in some awkward fusion of opposites that only he could discern, and only he could steer into law. This I liken to the formula identified by Goldilocks for the ideal temperature of porridge, unspecified but subjectively pronounced to be "just right".   I call Gladstone's version of this process "abitrary calibration", the advocacy of some exact position that was not simply "just right" but, more particularly, just and right. The concept of arbitrary calibration invites readers to imagine that, on divisive political issues, opinions may be registered on a scale from 0 to 100, from total opposition to reform through to fervent support for change. Gladstone himself frequently adopted all-or-nothing positions on major questions, but he was also prone to adopting highly precise positions, which might register at 28 or 57 or 83 on the calibrated scale. His opposition to the Rebellion Losses bill was a classic example, indeed one where it is difficult to measure his score at all, since he apparently accepted the principle of colonial self-government but insisted that it should be cut off at an exact point that was evidently not obvious to other British politicians. But while some of Gladstone's policy positions were bafflingly complex, his tempestuous oratory managed to project the notion that others were more sweeping than their small-print, terms-and-conditions actually conveyed. The classic example of this was his success in 1864 in making support for a relatively modest extension of the right to vote sound like an endorsement of manhood suffrage, thereby capturing the loyalty of a large and unquestioning section of public opinion.

Once Gladstone had determined to his satisfaction that the answer to a particular problem was scored at 38, he became tenacious to the point of obstinacy in resisting the slightest alteration to the package that had emerged from his own wisdom. Compromise was not a term that appeared in the Gladstonian lexicon, as shown by his refusal to budge on even small details of parliamentary reform in 1866 and 1884. Yet these arbitrary calibrations were sometimes accompanied by an inverse phenomenon. The great political issue – such as definition of the right to vote – might go into abeyance, fading into the margins of public concern for months or years, before reappearing in perhaps some slightly changed guise. Remarkably, as the stage lights came up again in the theatre of politics, Gladstone's calibration at 38 would somehow have transmuted into a score of 83, maybe trumpeted by its evangelist as if it were a full 100. "Long and intricate intellectual processes preceded apparently sudden changes of mind".[14] Precisely because it is virtually impossible to provide mechanical, step-by-step explanations of these mental transmutations, I have borrowed the theme of Alice Through the Looking Glass, a fable crafted by Lewis Carroll (in real life Charles Dodgson, and, like Gladstone, a Christ Church, Oxford mathematician) in 1871. In Carroll's story, Alice simply stepped through a mirror in some manner that was not explained. On finding herself in the Looking Glass room, she found that the reflected features from her real-life home, although reversed, were strangely familiar, just as Gladstone was driven by what Morley called "intellectual self-respect" to insist that his diametrically changed points of view "do not really clash, but are in fact identical".[15] Since Canadian issues encroached upon British politics intermittently and tended to arise in random fashion, it was possible for Gladstone to modify his responses, especially towards settler communities that were fast evolving from dependent to associated status. Yet his fundamental attitudes to Canada remained remarkably similar from 1837-8, through 1849 and 1861-5 and into the early eighteen-seventies. Goldilocks and Alice are occasionally flagged the narrative but are discussed in more detail in the Section D of this essay.

++ The structure of the essay Section B outlines Gladstone's involvement with Canada over the half century from 1835. Since it attempts both to highlight continuing themes in his attitude to Canadian problems and to indicate the breadth of his responses to assorted British North American issues, the analysis is likely to be tidier than the narrative. I have used the term 'Canada' with some historical and geographical looseness, in effect to include all the territory that has formed part of the country since Newfoundland became the tenth province in 1949, half a century after his death. When Gladstone first engaged with the affairs of British North America, Canada (or "the Canadas") referred to the colonies that later became the core of the provinces of Ontario (Upper Canada) and Quebec (Lower Canada). In the aftermath of the rebellions of 1837-8, they were united by the British parliament in 1840 but redivided in 1867, when New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined them to form the new Dominion of Canada. The Dominion rapidly, and maybe too rapidly, absorbed the Hudson's Bay Company territories as far west as the Rocky Mountains in 1870, the Pacific province of British Columbia in 1871 and the tiny Gulf of St Lawrence colony of Prince Edward Island in 1873.[16] Prior to 1867, Gladstone probably thought of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in the general context of Canada, the dominant province in eastern British North America.  When he took an interest in the settlement of Vancouver Island in 1848, he was unlikely to have foreseen the transcontinental union that emerged two decades later. However, by 1858, he was cautiously supportive of the idea that Canada might undertake the development of the Hudson's Bay Company territories. For much of his career, Newfoundland also probably fell into a distinct mental category: its fishing economy gave the island an unstable population, and control over its natural resources was complicated by treaty relations with France. However, by 1892, he hoped that the island colony would join Canada, although he could see no way in which British influence might bring this about.

Canadian analogies with Ireland form the focus of Section C, which covers his final years, from 1885 to 1898. Gladstone was to some extent responsible for unleashing Canadian parallels into parliamentary debates on Home Rule – they already had a toehold in newspaper controversy – but it is argued that his "loyal and friendly" argument was not only shallow but hardly consistent with the generally negative attitude he had displayed towards the Dominion during his second term as Prime Minister. As already noted, although hitherto seemingly overlooked by historians, he failed to comprehend the internal tensions and changing balance between the Dominion government and the provinces. Gladstone's appeal to Canada represented little more than a brazen debating point. When the Dominion constitution was identified as the basis for peace talks designed to reunite the divided Liberal factions the following year, it quickly proved incapable of supporting the hopes and assumptions of the negotiators.

In Part II, "Gladstone Through the Lookin Glass", Section D offers possible interpretations of Gladstone, beginning with an exploration of a neglected aspect of his identity, his association with Scotland. Biographers, most of them English, seem generally to have noted Gladstone's Scottish background in a spirit of just-fancy-that, regarding it as a box to be ticked from his early life before situating his career entirely within England and Englishness. I argue that Gladstone's attempts to reach an accommodation with his parents' homeland, to which John Gladstone and his wife returned in 1833, constitute a neglected key to possible biographical understanding. His attempt to define for himself a fluid identity spanning both sides of the Border hinged very firmly on his support for the Episcopal Church, a minority sect that was neither mainstream Scots nor a transfer of England. It may be that his active involvement with the self-governing Episcopal Church provided the route through which he came to demand autonomous Anglican provinces overseas, a campaign that eased his partial acceptance of colonial self-government. There may, too, have been a psychological element in his inner dialogue with his heritage. In the lottery of the Scottish Diaspora, Gladstone's father had struck it very rich indeed as a Liverpool merchant. Contact with less successful – definitely less gentlemanly and usually less scrupulous – transatlantic exiles may have reminded Gladstone that some small twist in family fortune might have condemned him to a struggling life as a Montreal businessman or a Toronto journalist, with all the pressures to cut ethical corners that financial insecurity necessarily engendered. Section D also elaborates the Goldilocks theme of arbitrary calibration and explores the implications of associating his mental processes with Alice's excursion Through the Looking Glass. These have already been flagged in Section A: readers who may suspect these are whimsical devices are asked to suspend judgement.

Section E is a tailpiece on method, which touches upon a fundamental challenge in the writing of history: how far can we trust and how deeply can we interrogate the sayings and the statements of contemporaries? The problem is particularly intractable with somebody so durable and so voluble as Gladstone, the more so as he sometimes used words as a snare and usually failed to confront his considerable capacity for self-delusion. Section F reviews and summarises the arguments.

Two non-apologies should be offered at this point. Gladstone praised the historian Macaulay for "rigorously abstaining from the inclusion of matter in footnotes".[17] I do not aspire to the status of Macaulay, and can only plead that my asides are intended to supplement and support the main argument and, of course, they may be ignored. In a nephew's devoted invocation of Lord Dufferin, the Dominion's most flamboyant Governor-General, Harold Nicolson protested that he had "no desire, in this portrait of a personality, to weary the reader with forgotten Canadian controversies".[18] One of Gladstone's peculiarities was his ability to immerse himself with tenacious and forensic intensity in the abstruse details of such issues, in which Gladstone scholars have generally shown little interest and less comprehension. This essay argues that their rediscovery may throw some light, if not upon the mysterious personality of William Ewart Gladstone, at least upon the labyrinthine thought processes that he brought to bear upon the problems of British North America. 

            B: GLADSTONE AND CANADA, 1835-1885

++  Gladstone and Canada, 1837-1840  At various phases during Gladstone's career, Canada and Canadian issues impinged upon the British public, or at least imposed themselves upon the attention of those who took an interest in politics. By contrast, the years of his teens and early twenties were largely devoid of those oases of interaction. However, having spent his early years in Liverpool, he was more likely than most of his contemporaries and compatriots to be aware of the colony's existence. Early in his childhood, the family relocated to Seaforth House, a country estate four miles north of his birthplace. The mansion looked out across the Irish Sea, and when easterly winds blocked access to the Mersey estuary, sailing ships from all over the world tossed on the waters of Liverpool Bay waiting to dock. Local roads were poor: when the young Gladstone wanted to go into town, he simply rode along the beach, "the most delightful method of finding access to Liverpool".[19] For a major river, the Mersey was remarkably narrow – barely a mile wide at some points: it would have been difficult to live on Merseyside and not be aware of the port's connection with Canada. Liverpool was not only the commercial metropolis for British North America, it was also a major port for emigration. By the eighteen-thirties, over 20,000 emigrants passed through the port each year.[20] In 1835, in one of his first ministerial utterances, Gladstone identified them as the poorest members of the community. Arguably, he never abandoned an attitude to the colony – as there can be no doubt that he always thought of Canada as a colony, and hence as a dependency[21] – that stemmed from a sense of class superiority: in 1837, 1849, 1865 and 1871, he felt not a scintilla of self-doubt at regarding himself as better qualified to make judgements about the needs and interests of Canada than the people who actually lived there. Similarly, while he came to support, if intermittently, small communities struggling to control their own destinies, his sympathies did not embrace New Brunswick and Nova Scotian reluctance to the inclusion of their colonies in Confederation, a project that he endorsed on wider imperial grounds.

Although his father, John Gladstone, was one of Liverpool's most successful magnates, he involved himself neither in shipping emigrants nor in trade with British North America. Indeed, he showed no sympathy towards Canada:  in 1825, he criticised protective tariffs that encouraged settlers to clear forests and turn them into farmland. Since shipbuilders wanted cheap access to higher quality Baltic timber, they had no interest in protective tariffs designed to stimulate British North Americans into felling their forests, while imports of colonial wheat would undermine the British farmer. Fundamentally, John Gladstone doubted whether the British connection with Canada would survive, and hence saw no point in making concessions that would only damage domestic interests. His son inherited both this distrust of Canadian economic interests and his pessimism about the durability of the imperial relationship.[22]

In May 1828, while waiting to enter Oxford University, Gladstone read a newspaper account of a House of Commons debate on Canada, and was sufficiently impressed to note it in his staccato diary.[23] He was perhaps drawn to the report because the discussion was initiated by the Colonial Secretary, William Huskisson, heir to his family's political hero, George Canning, who had died the previous year.[24] At Eton, Gladstone had become an enthusiastic debater, and he may have been attracted less by the subject matter than by the cut-and-thrust of parliamentary oratory. The 1828 Canada debate showed the unreformed House of Commons at its best. There was almost no adversarial element, since all sides endorsed Huskisson's proposal to establish a select committee, an enquiry by MPs to review the principles laid down almost forty years earlier in Pitt's 1791 Constitution Act, but members set out different visions of the way in which British-Canadian relations might evolve. One historian has called it "almost unique in the clarity with which both sides of the Canadian controversy were stated". Huskisson attributed the problems of Lower Canada to its ancien-régime French culture. This view was rejected by Sir James Mackintosh, one of the forerunners of modern liberalism, who argued that the colony's malaise was not the fault of the elected and Francophone-majority Assembly, but was caused by the obstructionist appointed upper house, the Legislative Council, which was dominated by English-speaking merchants and officials.[25]  Although Gladstone undoubtedly possessed a retentive memory, and one capable of mastering masses of detail, it would be straining credulity to claim that his subsequent attitudes to Canada were programmed by a single newspaper report. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that his first informed acquaintance with the challenges and options facing Canada occurred during what would come to be thought of the Dark Ages of colonial policy, but through a parliamentary exposition of impressive breadth and maturity.

Although John Gladstone later branched out into the East India trade, even founding a branch of his own firm in Calcutta, he made his money in the Caribbean, eventually becoming a plantation owner in Demerara, with some additional interests in Jamaica. It was for this reason that his son was appointed, a month after his twenty-fifth birthday, as Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office. In appointing him, Peel specifically described his "connection with the West Indies as likely to give satisfaction to persons dependent on those colonies".[26] Even so, the appointment was fortuitous: Gladstone was the third choice for the job, the first having failed to win election to the House of Commons, while the second refused.[27] Thus, by an accidental combination of circumstances, the young Gladstone was propelled into a job that lasted just three months before the ministry resigned, but which would cast him in the role of a parliamentary authority on British North American affairs for two decades ahead.[28]

Almost immediately, Gladstone plunged into intensive reading of briefing papers on Canada, a subject with which he was evidently unfamiliar.[29] During the ministry's brief term of office, Peel seemed keen to shield his inexperienced junior colleague. Although the Prime Minister doubled as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he also took the lead in rebutting the criticisms of J.A. Roebuck, the Radical MP who acted as spokesman for the discontented Lower Canada Assembly.[30] Gladstone made only two brief statements in relation to Canadian affairs, both of them procedural in nature and one of them a single-sentence interjection.[31] He introduced just one piece of legislation, an amendment to the Passenger Acts, but did not carry it through any further parliamentary stages. Noting that in 1831, 51,000 people had emigrated to the Canadas, he appealed to the "humanity and good feeling" of the House of Commons towards people who "were of the poorest condition in the community". "Gladstone disappointed", was the verdict of Oliver MacDonagh, the historian of the Passenger Acts: his assertion that, even allowing for inexperience, he displayed "ineptitude" is surely unfair. Perhaps, too, we should remember that a large proportion of those emigrants sailed from Gladstone's home city of Liverpool, where they were exposed to ruthless exploitation and fraud.[32] The son of a shipowner was not the obvious person to reform these endemic abuses.

It was hardly a flying start to a ministerial career. However, as a result of that brief appointment, Gladstone would emerge two years later as an authority on colonial issues, a role that he intermittently reprised for about fifteen years, before successfully rebranding himself after 1852 as the ferociously parsimonious finance minister in the Aberdeen coalition. The middle years of the eighteen-thirties were an unhappy time in his personal life, and it has been suggested that this explains why he spoke relatively rarely in parliament.[33] In March 1837, Peel mobilised him to provide the Conservative party with well-informed debating firepower. The confrontation between the British government and the Lower Canadian Assembly – in effect, between the Empire and French Canada – had reached an impasse. To break the deadlock, Lord John Russell, the dominant House of Commons minister in Lord Melbourne's Whig ministry, introduced the Ten Resolutions, which empowered the Governor-General to spend public funds, notwithstanding the refusal of supply by the elected representatives.[34] The official opposition needed to steer a careful course, simultaneously supporting ministers against their own Radical allies, while criticising their perceived failures. This required speakers who were measured in their use of language and capable of handling detailed evidence culled from official papers: neither skill was abundant in Conservative ranks. Moreover, as an ex-minister, however fleeting and junior, Gladstone could claim the ear of the Commons to speak on a subject that he could imply that he had handled when in office. Peel discussed Conservative party tactics with Aberdeen and Gladstone: aged just 27, Canada was bringing him for the first time into the heart of politics. Russell's resolutions included a feeble olive branch: the promise that moderates would be appointed to the nominated colonial upper house, the Legislative Council, in the hope of avoiding clashes with the elected chamber. The three of them agreed that it was "quite impossible" to support this concession "without at least a protest". Gladstone was particularly struck by one gloomy remark from his leader: "You have got another Ireland growing up in every colony you possess".[35] With six years' turbulent experience as Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1812 to 1818, and his more recent memories of the Catholic Emancipation crisis of 1828-9, Peel was solemnly qualified to make the connection. However, this seems to have been Gladstone's first experience of an attempt to draw an explicit link between Canadian and Irish issues. It is striking that so few similar parallels were voiced by him in the half century that followed.

Hence it was on the Canada issue that, on 8 March 1837, Gladstone delivered one of his first major parliamentary orations. He felt that he had "insuff[icien]t possession of the subject",[36] but his speech of about three-quarters of an hour reads as impressively well-informed. In religious controversy or classical scholarship, Gladstone revelled in obscurity and wallowed in verbosity. Yet his speeches on Canada during his years in opposition from 1837 to 1840 tend to display the air of pro forma recitations of an opaque party line. Nonetheless, some themes would recur in the years to come. Colonies, he insisted, "were to be regarded as the children of the parent country". This did not mean that "we ought to maintain the institutions of Canada for ever in the subordinate situation in which they now existed", but it did mean that it was ridiculous for the Lower Canadian Assembly to claim "a position which was analogous to that of the Legislature in this country, so long as they were in the situation of a colony". It was perhaps striking that he "did not think the separation of the colonies from the mother country was at all times and under all circumstances to be regarded with apprehension" – a consistent element in his thinking that would surface again thirty years later – but he insisted that Lower Canada would be the loser by breaking the connection under current circumstances. Nor did he believe that the French Canadians "wished to throw themselves into the arms of the United States", since annexation would be followed by the destruction of their cultural identity. Essentially, he could not understand why Canadians thought they had grievances at all: "Was personal security invaded? Was property inadequately protected by the laws? Was religion oppressed? Was taxation heavy?" Even the Radical complaint that the Francophone majority lacked adequate representation in the upper house drew a patronising response: "it must be remembered that the French population did not comprise so great a proportion of the upper class – of persons fit to be appointed to so important a situation as that of a member of the Legislative Council – as the British". Politicians who tell people they have nothing to complain about are generally unpersuasive, and usually reveal their own failure to understand the issues.[37] Gladstone was factually well informed, but his understanding was essentially obtuse.

Even as news of the 1837 rebellions reached Britain, he could describe Canada as "a country where no practical oppression was proved to exist". As with his attempt the previous March, he was not happy with his performance on 22 December: "Spoke (in a way) on Canadian matters." Perhaps the most interesting part of his speech lay in the repetition of his dismissive comments on the colonial relationship: "he was not terrified at the prospect of separation. He did not think that the prosperity of England was dependent on its connexion with Canada." Both sides gained from their relationship, but "in point of commercial advantage, England gave more than she received". He did not believe "that this island should have distant portions of the globe for ever dependent upon it; but the time when a separation on the part of Canada might be beneficial had not certainly arrived". Canadian independence would not be a good idea "when her population was divided into two parties of different origin, and inflamed by their passions into continual collisions with each other".[38] These sentiments might be discounted as homage to the dogmatic opinions of his father, but they would reappear in later episodes.

The debate of 22 December specifically resurfaced in his memory over forty years later, as he began to toy with a mythology that, in truth, he had always been a Liberal even when he was officially a Conservative. In dealing with "the large and significant question of Canada" at the time of the rebellions, he admitted in 1893 that he had "not yet attained to a full conception of the true colonial policy", but added that he "must have moved in the right direction", for Lord John Russell "passed an eulogium on my speeches with regard to that particular question". Writing to Sir Francis Doyle in 1880, he had been even more explicit: "I took to Colonial subjects principally, and in 1837 was commended for treating them liberally by Lord Russell." The reality was less impressive.  In a polite aside, Russell had referred to the member for Newark who "spoke with so much ability", and agreed with Gladstone that the American Revolution in 1775-6 and the Canadian rebellions of 1837 were "dissimilar in their origin, as he trusted they would be in their result".[39] This was a parliamentary courtesy which also represented sound tactics, since the weak Whig ministry was under fire from its Radical supporters and, so far as possible, sought to avoid confrontation with the opposition. In fact, there was nothing very liberal in Gladstone's insistence that Canadian grievances were imaginary, although his ambivalence towards the Imperial connection would have been heresy in the Conservative party in the era of Disraelian jingoism.

Far from offering him a Trojan horse on which to ride into the Liberal sunset, it was the Canada issue that ushered Gladstone "into the confidential consultations of the leaders of his party". In January 1838, to prepare for the new session of parliament, Peel summoned four meetings of trusted colleagues – nowadays we should call it a shadow cabinet – with Gladstone invited to three of them. He was by far the youngest participant and also – a clue to his inclusion – one of the few from the House of Commons. He was clearly awed to find himself in the presence of so many grandees, particularly the Duke of Wellington, who "sat with his hand to his ear, turning from one towards another round the circle as they took up the conversation in succession", saying nothing himself until pressed for his opinion. Yet, for all the ritual of consultation, Peel essentially laid down the party policy. The Whigs planned to suspend the constitution of Lower Canada and send out Lord Durham with dictatorial powers. Peel "thought that this rebellion had given a most convenient opportunity for settling the question of the Canadian constitution, which had long been a thorny one", adding, with tough cynicism, "that once you went into a measure of a despotic character, it was as well to err, if at all, on the side of sufficiency". In this, he was strongly seconded by Lord Ripon, who had briefly served as Prime Minister in 1827, and later as a Whig Colonial Secretary before crossing to the Conservatives in defence of the Irish Church. Gladstone was included in the gatherings not so much to help make policy as to be briefed on the line he should take in the Commons. Peel summed up the Conservative attitude to Lord Melbourne's embattled ministry: "don't do anything that is wrong for the sake of putting them out; don't avoid anything that is right for the sake of keeping them in".[40]

Gladstone addressed the House for seventy minutes on 23 January, but – yet again – he felt that his speech represented "a most defective execution of my idea". Once again, he mocked the notion that the colony had anything to complain about. Its population had increased tenfold since the Conquest; by contrast, the United States had grown only six times in numbers since independence, confounding "the advocates of the insurgents, who attempted to persuade the world that Canada had made no progress and had derived no benefits from its connexion with this country". If, indeed, there remained "anything deserving to be called a grievance in Canada.… he would proceed immediately to redress it". He lashed out at the Radicals, but evidently felt less comfortable attempting to deliver a partisan attack on the Whig ministry as part of an oration that was loftily dedicated to upholding the public interest in a moment of crisis. He alleged that had ministers acted decisively at an early stage, Parliament "might have been spared the painful task of delivering the people of Canada into the hands of arbitrary Government" sounded trite. There was something artificial about his claim that "it would have been easy to put a stop to the beginnings of that which subsequent eruptions rendered it much more difficult to smother; that much violence might have been spared; that effusion of blood might have been spared". He accepted that every sensible observer realised that the situation in Canada had become both complex and unstable, "[b]ut he did think that some share of the blame (he did not attempt to state the amount of it), but he did say, that some part of the blame of the present unfortunate situation of affairs rested on those who administered the Government of this country". It was hardly a ringing denunciation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Thomas Spring Rice, who followed, commented that it was "impossible to complain" about his criticisms "without bearing testimony, at the same time, to the ability which was displayed in other parts of that speech", and Gladstone himself seemed relieved to note in his diary that his contribution was "kindly rec[eive]d".[41]   

Perhaps he had not yet acquired the oratorical firepower necessary to fuel scorching denunciation, or it may be that the affairs of Canada simply did not excite Gladstone's sense of outrage. He delivered a more explicitly partisan speech on 7 March, apparently reluctant to take part in a censure motion directed against an individual minister, the Colonial Secretary, Lord Glenelg: "forced myself to the Canadian subject against a strange depression", he noted in his diary. Once again, he was followed by Spring Rice, who professed that he always felt "a great satisfaction in rising after the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), for however widely he might differ in opinion from the Government, not one word escaped from his lips calculated to give pain, or to infuse into the debate any needless asperity".[42] No doubt this was all very civilised, but sometimes parliamentary confrontation needs to be seasoned with a little asperity.

Although it would be two years before he next spoke on Canada, Gladstone kept himself informed on its challenges by reading official papers as well as controversial books and pamphlets, although usually from anti-reformist authors.[43] He also conducted fact-finding interviews, but again with 'establishment' figures: the former Governor-General, Sir James Kempt, in February 1838, and with Lord Seaton – who, as Sir John Colborne, had commanded the troops in Canada in 1837 – with whom he "he enjoyed 3 hours conversation … on Canadian matters" in late May 1840, a discussion pleasantly renewed at Peel's dinner-table two weeks later. Seaton warned against the Whig government's policy of uniting Upper and Lower Canada into a single province: Gladstone was evidently sympathetic to his view that "it will bring an unmanageable assembly, & accelerate the separation".[44] The proposal to unite the two colonies was a divisive issue for the Conservative opposition: Peel was not prepared to oppose the ministry outright; Wellington was equally firm in refusing to take upon himself the responsibility of endorsing a measure that he believed would lead to the loss of Canada.[45]

On 29 May, Gladstone spoke in the House, recording in his diary that he was trying to assist the passage of the government's Union bill. Although it was one of his shorter speeches – he estimated he was on his feet for 35 minutes – he packed in a wide range of comment. He frankly accepted that if MPs "were considering in private what measure would be most expedient for the settlement of the government of the Canadas, it might be susceptible of doubt whether the union of the two provinces was in the abstract the best measure that could be adopted". That, however, was not the issue before them, since the government had secured support for its proposal from various interest groups in Canada, although he hinted that he was sceptical about the methods used to secure their support. But Gladstone doubted whether the united legislature that Parliament was now creating would result in "any long period of harmonious action", and he roundly blamed the Durham Report for the mischief that would ensue. Before Durham's mission to Canada, 'responsible government' had been the slogan of "the party in the Canadas hostile to British institutions … and the British Government had always treated it as such". Durham's argument that responsible government was "not only compatible with British connexion, but that it was the best means of perpetuating it" had handed "the disaffected inhabitants of Canada" a strategy that would enable them to pretend that they were "seeking the best means of perpetuating British connexion" while using it to effect "their schemes for severing that connexion altogether". Durham had provided a "war-cry, in which the French Canadians, and the British Republicans in the upper province would cordially unite". The assumption – indeed, the slur – that all Anglophone reformers were "Republicans" was characteristic of the blinkered sources upon which Gladstone based his research.

"Responsible government meant nothing more than an independent legislature." This bold statement led him into a striking comparison with Ireland. He recalled a prominent Whig statesman opposing a motion for the repeal of the Union between Britain and Ireland by saying that "to talk of a permanent union between two countries each possessing an independent Legislature, was one of the most visionary ideas that ever entered the mind of man". He scorned the notion that "this self-same visionary idea" was the best means of perpetuating the link between Britain and Canada. Gladstone would be fortunate that Unionists failed to disinter that particular sally in 1886.

Thus far, Gladstone's comments followed Peel's strategy of grudging acceptance of the proposed union of the provinces, but towards the end of his speech, he launched into more general reflections which indicated his fundamental lack of confidence in the durability of any political relationship with Canada. Noting that "the problem of the relations between the North American provinces and this country was altogether one of the most difficult and delicate ever submitted to any Legislature", he cut through the myriad frictions that were likely to arise to define the question in its most fundamental terms: "in what manner, and how long, shall we maintain a connexion between societies which, though still politically one, yet are not socially one, but of which the original elements differ in many most important particulars?" The colonies were egalitarian communities, opposed to primogeniture, hostile to an established Church: "there are great differences, original and inherent, in the elements out of which society is composed, which must render exceedingly difficult the regulation and the maintenance of the union between a country essentially aristocratic in its feelings and principles, as he believed England to be, and countries in which some of the elements of society certainly seem to tend towards democracy as their final consummation and development." For Britain, "the maintenance of our connexion with the colonies was to be regarded rather as a matter of duty than one of advantage", for instance involving "a strict obligation to provide for those who left our shores at least what semblance we could of British institutions, and a home as nearly as might be like that which emigrants had left". However, "nothing could be more ridiculous, nothing could be more mistaken, than to suppose, that Great Britain had anything to gain by maintaining that union in opposition to the deliberate and permanent conviction of the people of the colonies themselves". Hence, not only should it "be a cardinal principle of our policy to regard the union between Great Britain and Canada, and her other American colonies, as dependent on the free will of both parties", but that it was necessarily "of great importance, that it should become thoroughly known and understood by the loyal people of those colonies, that we look to them as our fellow-labourers in the work of maintaining the present connexion". This formula allowed him to reconcile a longer-term acceptance of separation with an immediate need to impose a structure of government. Referring to the way the people of Upper Canada had "so gloriously" rallied to suppress the recent attempts at rebellion, he argued that "Parliament ought to grudge no efforts and no sacrifices for the purpose of maintaining the present relations". Particularly striking was his prediction that "[i]t would also be a great problem of statesmanship at a future period, when those growing societies should have attained to such a degree of maturity as to be truly fit for self-government, to fix upon the period when the connexion with the parent state should be severed." Parliament "would not consent to interpret the clamour of a minority into the expression of the permanent conviction of the well-affected part of the population", but certainty here depended upon "the loyal and well-affected people" asserting themselves on behalf of the Empire. In 1846 and again in 1869, Gladstone attempted to sound out Canadian opinion on attitudes to potential separation, an initiative undertaken by no other nineteenth-century Colonial Secretary or Prime Minister. However, for the time being, Parliament had a responsibility to uphold "with a firm hand, the supremacy of the British Legislature, and its right to assert that supremacy, as well as to determine the cases in which it should be asserted". This was the principle that led him in 1849 to challenge the Rebellion Losses bill.[46]

A few weeks after his Commons speech, in June 1840, Gladstone had a discussion which helped crystallise his views on the mismatch between North American colonial society and British pretensions to overlordship. John Inglis, the Anglican bishop of Nova Scotia, was in Britain on a long visit. Born in New York in colonial days, he was the son of an earlier bishop, Charles Inglis, who had established the diocese in 1787. Although he had received his education in the colony, John Inglis was known as "the most polished gentleman of his time", and was sometimes likened to the hardly edifying George IV. The younger Inglis used his seat in the colony's appointed Legislative Council to uphold the privileges of the Anglican Church and to resist reform generally.[47] Indeed, even the young high Tory Gladstone found the bishop's views on colonial government extreme. "He advocates the maintaining with a high hand the perpetuity of British connection, the general ascendancy of the party attached to it, & most of all, of a British will in the government of the Colonies; to form & controul the Colonial will." Gladstone demurred. The 1832 Reform Act had introduced "immense changes … into the principles & practice of home government" – in other words, the resolve needed to enforce deference upon distant colonies no longer existed. Then there was "the composition of society in the Colonies", which dictated the unfortunate preference for all forms of democracy among colonials. Next Gladstone specified "the want of concurrence with us among the loyal party in the most essential of all our principles: namely that of State religion", which he regarded as removing a vital foundation, "a basis wherein to build". This would have been a cruel hit at Inglis, who had done his best to force Anglican supremacy down Nova Scotian throats. He concluded that "we cannot mould colonial destinies against colonial will" and "we cannot save loyal Houses of Assembly from the consequences of their own erroneous desires", by which he presumably alluded to colonial acceptance of religious pluralism.  It might still be possible "to hold up our heads above water at home against the enemies of true British principles", but there was no prospect of offering anything more than vague goodwill to the "friends of British connection" overseas, if they were "greatly exceeded in numbers or weight or activity" by their enemies. All in all, it seemed best to make clear to foes of colonial reality like Inglis that "the issue of the contest must mainly and ultimately depend much more upon yourselves than upon us".[48] If it was a defeatist attitude, at least it had the merit of bleak realism.  The discussion was an example of the way in which Gladstone's commitment to the Church of England shaped his opinions in secular politics. If the colonies could not conform to his quasi-theocratic model of Church-State relations, then – in the last resort – the connection with them would have to be lopped off. A dozen years later, he had retreated to a position where the need to equip Church of England offshoots overseas with the power to run their own affairs would provide him with the formula for accepting colonial autonomy.

The union of the provinces was not the only Canadian issue that made the Conservatives uneasy in 1840. In 1791, parliament had reserved one-seventh of the unoccupied land in the two provinces for "the Maintenance and Support of a Protestant Clergy". Even by the lax standards of the eighteenth century, this was sloppy draftsmanship. The gentlemen of Westminster certainly assumed that they were endowing the Church of England, but it took decades of campaigning to secure some recognition of the fact that Scotland's Kirk also had a plausible claim since it was an established Church and arguably a good deal more uncompromisingly Protestant. The clergy reserves caused both practical problems and sectarian dissension in Upper Canada, where most of the land was located. In 1839, the Whig ministry appointed one of its cabinet ministers, Charles Poulett Thomson (later Lord Sydenham), as Governor-General, with a mandate to secure what passed for consent to the proposed Union. Thomson also managed to persuade the Upper Canadian legislature to divide the revenues from the reserves, half the income going to the two established churches and the remainder subject to allocation within the colony.

This was an ingenious solution, but it was thrown into doubt when the Law Officers advised that it was ultra vires: a colonial legislature lacked power to settle the matter along the lines agreed. This meant that its provisions could only take effect if endorsed by legislation at Westminster. Peel "expressed great disapproval & apprehension" at agreeing to this. In 1834, three prominent Whigs, Graham, Stanley and Ripon, had resigned from Lord Grey's cabinet over plans to reform the embattled Protestant Church of Ireland.  They had moved closer to Peel during the Canadian crisis, and all three would accept senior cabinet posts when he formed his Conservative government in 1841. Gladstone thought that Peel distrusted the Whigs' Canadian clergy reserves compromise because he "seemed to have in his eye its ready application to Ireland".[49] In fact, Peel had little reason to worry. Thirty bishops sat in the upper house,[50] and the Archbishop of Canterbury made it clear that the Lords Spiritual intended to help themselves to a larger share of the available colonial resources. The Colonial Secretary, Lord John Russell, consulted widely among self-professed friends of the Church – Gladstone among them[51] – to hammer out a bipartisan compromise settlement, which naturally increased the share awarded to the Church of England.

For some time past, Gladstone had been trying to organise "old and tumbled thoughts" on the partnership between Church and State. Late in 1838, this process had culminated in the publication of The State in its Relations with the Church, which had inflicted considerable damage upon his reputation for common sense.[52] The entrenched position that he had adopted on Church-State relations meant that the Canadian clergy reserves caused him some intellectual difficulty. On the one hand, they represented a commitment by the British State to the support of the Anglican Church but, on the other, in 1837 the Upper Canadian legislature had attempted to divide the endowment to include Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, even Roman Catholics.[53] In his book, he had carefully reviewed the provision made by the State to the support of religious practice across the whole of the Empire. He found it a sorry picture: "the universal characteristic of these extremely varied cases is the insufficiency in the assistance afforded to religion by the State". The obvious intellectual way out was to accept "that although the colonies are more spotted than the United Kingdom with the recognition of religious disunion in the ecclesiastical policy of the state; yet … we have not the same degree of responsibility to them which we have towards the people at home …. The power of the state to retain them in political connection with this country is much less, nay, the right is much more indeterminate, than those which it possesses over all persons residing within the natural limits of these realms." Colonies and colonials, then, were not to be regarded as permanent members of the body politic. Nonetheless, he did not find it pleasant to accept colonial reality. "If the democratic characteristics and tendencies of these colonies, taken together with the religious differences of the inhabitants, prevent their enjoying the benefit of the nationality of the church, these circumstances may be resistless", but "instead of hugging ourselves with a false theory, contrived to flatter our self-love, let us honestly recognise in the causes an evil, in the result a misfortune."[54]  

When he saw the terms of Russell's compromise surrender to the Archbishop, Gladstone decided to omit the lamentations and endorse the proposed terms, which asserted the right of the Imperial authority to intervene and assign part of the endowment of the two established Churches, while consigning the rest to the eccentricities of Canadian spiritual anarchy. It seemed to embody a principle that had "dwelt in my mind for many years past with a growing belief that it is the right guide for our colonial policy in the matter of religion". In slightly convoluted terms, he described this as restricting "the action, the influence, the example of the Home Government … to those principles which are acted upon in the mother country, and with reference to any thing which is beyond them, to make it purely permissive".[55] Yet when he spoke in the House that same evening, 15 June 1840, his remarks seemed to reflect some conflict between political pragmatism and a lingering attachment to Anglican supremacy. It was clearly a case in which he found it difficult to calibrate a position that spanned two conflicting principles. Understandably, Russell had employed the tactical argument in favour of closing the issue, rather than sending it back across the Atlantic to become (yet again) "a subject of angry discussion", a "general principle" in which Gladstone concurred. Unfortunately, that was not the only general principle that was buzzing in his brain. It would be worse, he insisted, to pass "a bill which involved a breach of faith, which, even if it did meet with the present sense of the colony, could not, in the end, conduce to its permanent good". If the Canadians were "determined to have such a bill, he agreed that we were not to force British notions upon such a colony; but he protested against being called upon in Parliament, where British principles were acted upon, to abandon those principles, and if the colony would not adopt our principles, to be required to adopt theirs". He voted for the legislation, with what must have seemed very bad grace.[56] Perhaps the most striking feature of the episode was the unquestioned assumption among British politicians that they could still impose their own settlement upon Canada. It was "a compact – not as between this country and the colony, but as between all the parties that influenced, and swayed, and governed the deliberations of the Parliament",[57] Gladstone admitted in 1853, when, in changed times, the British government decided to cede control over the reserves to the Canadian legislature. The 1840 settlement contained a further potential complication, an implied British financial guarantee of the imposed settlement. In 1853, when secularisation seemed the eventual fate of the reserves, the question of possible costs to the United Kingdom taxpayer would arise, challenging Gladstone in his revised political persona as an economical finance minister.

Gladstone's characteristic convolutions, and his sudden concern about breach of faith, almost certainly reflect the rearguard campaign of another transatlantic visitor, John Strachan, who had recently arrived in England to be consecrated as the first Bishop of Toronto. Strachan was one of Scotland's more impressive but least likeable exports. A classic lad o' pairts from a poor background, he had financed his university studies by working as a schoolteacher and tutor to wealthy families. In 1799, he decided to seek his fortune in Canada. His enemies, who were numerous, claimed he had discovered that Anglicanism embodied the true faith after his failure to secure the Call to a prominent Presbyterian church in Montreal, although it is more likely that his background in Aberdeenshire – where the Episcopal Church was strong – was more important. (His father, like Gladstone's mother, was an Episcopalian.) Ordained in 1804, he rose to the rank of Archdeacon – effectively heading the Church in Upper Canada – and his campaign to make the colony a separate diocese (with himself as its bishop) finally succeeded in 1838. Gladstone later described him as "the good and manful Bishop of Toronto", but "manful" was a polite synonym for "unnecessarily combative". Indeed, Strachan gave the impression of being more concerned with power and wealth than with doctrine, and stoutly resisted claims by the Kirk and other sects to a share in the clergy reserves. Despite marriage to a young widow who had "a great share of beauty" and an income of £300 a year, he struggled with money problems. In 1827, he had secured a charter and funding for the University of King's College, an Anglican institution to be based in Toronto. It was not entirely Strachan's fault that the institution had failed to admit a single student – it would later be relaunched as the secular University of Toronto – but some wondered why he collected a salary of £250 as President of what was effectively a non-existent institution. Poulett Thomson, who regarded him as "a regular swindler", forwarded details of the new Bishop's financial activities to London, and these were included among the published official papers.[58]

On 20 July 1840, as Russell's Clergy Reserves bill made its way through the committee stage of the House of Commons, Strachan's financial affairs were challenged by the Radical MP and Nonconformist spokesman, Benjamin Hawes. In addition to collecting a salary "for doing nothing", the new bishop had also borrowed £5,500 from the University's endowment funds in a series of apparently casual transactions.  Strachan's explanation that the loans were an investment designed to generate income for the endowment was an unwise defence, given that he was overdue in meeting interest payments. Equally embarrassing was the complication that nobody could produce any authorisation to explain how so large a sum of money came to be resting in Strachan's account. The Governor-General described "the employment of the funds of a public trust, by one of the trustees, for his own advantage" as "highly objectionable", and Hawes denounced it as "something very closely approaching peculation". The friends of the Church in the House of Commons were thrown on to the defensive by both the content and the ferocity of the attack. One praised Strachan for his "stubborn integrity", although there was rather more evidence for the adjective than the noun; another admitted that he had read the allegations "with the greatest surprise". Gladstone felt moved to intervene, and decided that counter-attack was the best strategy he could employ. He reproved Hawes for engaging in "taunts and sarcasms", and condemned as "most reprehensible and unjust" the failure of Poulett Thomson to give Strachan a chance to defend himself. This was a questionable allegation, since the bishop's own account of the transactions formed part of the basis for the charges against him. Notably, even Gladstone let slip that he "would not go so far as to call on the House for a sentence of acquittal". Hawes closed a series of testy exchanges by saying that since "no one single item of the statement he had made had been impugned", he could ignore Gladstone's "uncalled-for display of displeasure". (Nine years later, the two would confront one another again over the Rebellion Losses bill, this time with Gladstone wielding the rhetoric of outrage, facing Hawes as Under-Secretary for the Colonies.) The day after the Hawes allegations, Gladstone wrote to praise Strachan for his "zeal" and to assure him that the changes made to the clergy reserves settlement were "favourable to the Church".[59] In reality, it was a victory that left the issue unresolved, and would lead, in 1853-4, to the concession of control over the remaining reserves to the province of Canada, followed by their secularisation.

Although he was in opposition between 1837 and 1840, Gladstone was close to the heart of the old colonial system that he would later mock as "Downing Street rule". However, there are elements in his speeches which indicate that this subsequent pejorative portrayal was a caricature. The hostile phrase was a coded term for the Colonial Office, which was located at 14 Downing Street, in a building which one of its own inmates described as "less like a centre of State affairs than a decent lodging house".[60] The real issue in colonial relations was not the imposition of minute administrative control, but the larger question of asserting what Gladstone called "the supremacy of the British Legislature". In practice, this meant the right of Parliament to decide when it should intervene, as Westminster did on the clergy reserves in 1840, and he himself called upon it to block the Rebellion Losses bill in 1849. Far from wishing to run Canada from Downing Street, Gladstone asserted in January 1838 that if there were "any hardships in the working of the administration, they were manifestly such as the provincial assembly itself ought to remove". At a time when parliament was about to suspend the representative institutions of Lower Canada, this was no doubt an insensitive comment, but it reflected an assumption that colonial legislatures were something more than argumentative talking shops. He gave an even more explicit insight into the way he believed the Empire was run in a debate on a petition from J.A. Roebuck. The Radical politician who had acted as agent for the Lower Canada Assembly had lost his seat at the 1837 general election but, still claiming to speak on behalf of the colony, he asked to be allowed to deliver an address from the bar of the House. Gladstone sensibly pointed out if permission was granted, it would encourage "the lower House in any colony to appoint an agent", a privilege that "could not be refused to the Legislative Council, and then every dispute … would be settled at the Colonial-office here", forcing the Colonial Secretary to hear the arguments of both sides. "He did not say whether this was a good system of government or a bad one, but it was essentially different from that by which our colonies were regulated now."[61]

While Canada produced the major problems in British North America, between 1838 and 1841 Gladstone was also involved with the turbulent politics of the fishing colony of Newfoundland. Representative institutions had been introduced as recently as 1832, backed by a broad franchise.[62] The island's population, almost 74,000 in 1836, was drawn almost equally from the English West Country and the southern counties of Ireland. A riotous election in 1837 produced a Liberal majority in the 15-seat Assembly, composed mainly of Irish Catholics. Local politics degenerated into undignified squabbles between the elected lower house and the nominated upper chamber, the Legislative Council.[63] In 1838, the Assembly persuaded the Whig government to sack the island's Chief Justice, H.J. Boulton, who previously been dismissed from the post of Attorney-General of Upper Canada, an unenviable record. Boulton was an able lawyer, but his notable ability to make enemies masked the deeper problem that, in a community with few educated administrators, the senior judge was required to take an active part in running the colony.[64] The island's Protestant merchants now declared that the people of Newfoundland were not suited for any form of representative government, and demanded the outright abolition of the Assembly.[65]

Gladstone's interest in Newfoundland problems began early in 1838, probably as a by-product of his involvement in the Canadian crisis.[66] The following year, the St John's Chamber of Commerce petitioned for the Intervention of parliament in the island's affairs. In April 1839, Gladstone was involved in planning the Conservative response with Sir Robert Peel, another instance of his involvement in tactical planning. Lord Aberdeen presented the petition in the House of Lords, where it could not be challenged by the Radicals or the Irish; in the Commons, Gladstone moved for the publication of papers about the dispute between the two chambers of the colonial legislature.[67] The government played for time by offering to commission a detailed report on the island's affairs from the governor, Sir Henry Prescott. It is perhaps surprising that the Conservatives apparently accepted this ploy, since it might have been pointed out that Prescott's job was to report home all the time. Certainly, in June 1839 – as he was planning his wedding – Gladstone seems to have been preparing for some parliamentary effort on Newfoundland, studying the published papers and holding several meetings with two members of the merchant community who had retired to Britain.[68] However, Newfoundland was kept off the Westminster agenda. The Whig ministers had been pushed to the point of resignation the previous year when their attempt to suspend the Assembly of Jamaica had failed. The turbulent Newfoundland Irish might have seemed a more attractive target than the Caribbean planters, but not in the eyes of Daniel O'Connell, a champion of the island's constitutional experiment, whose support was now vital to the government's survival. The failure of the opposition to press them for action is perhaps to be explained by the dominant need to settle the structures of the province of Canada, a subject already complicated enough without opening a second British North American front.

It was not until March 1841 that Gladstone found himself once again planning Conservative party strategy towards Newfoundland, this time with Peel and Stanley. He understood that Sir Henry Prescott's report had been both frank and even-handed, which in turn meant that the government would resist its publication. However, Gladstone had reservations about using Newfoundland grievances as a weapon against the ministry: given what he called "the delicacy of the subject", it was "most desirable" to avoid arousing "the religious question". This was high-minded but hardly practical: sectarianism was endemic in Newfoundland affairs whether or not they were discussed at Westminster. The outcome was an opposition decision to press for a committee of enquiry. With any luck, this would allow Newfoundland witnesses to reveal the extent of the island's constitutional failure, and hence dig their own political grave. The government agreed, and Gladstone was nominated as one of its twelve members. Between April and June, he attended a number of meetings, and read widely in preparation. However, the 1841 general election intervened, and the committee never reported. Lord Stanley, who became Colonial Secretary in Peel's incoming ministry, decided to press ahead with his own preferred solution, the imposition of an 'amalgamated' legislature, fifteen members to be elected on a newly restricted franchise, sitting alongside, and (so it was hoped) moderated by, ten nominees.[69]

Newfoundland was a subject in which Gladstone invested time and intellectual study between 1838 and 1841, but which produced little for historians, no parliamentary speech or minutes of questioning in committee. This would be true of at least one other excursion into British North American affairs, the problems of Prince Edward Island in which he immersed himself in 1857. His engagement with the future of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1848 and 1857 left little more trace in the records, although it gave him a solid foundation for decision-making about the prairies in 1869-70. It is perhaps hardly surprising that Gladstone's research into Newfoundland matters was entirely partisan in character and content: no doubt he read the published documents submitted by the Assembly, but his interviews – apparently in-depth discussions – were conducted exclusively with officials and merchants who deplored the concession of representative government. The imposition of an amalgamated legislature seems to have been Stanley's personal decision. Gladstone was not a member of the cabinet in 1842 and so would not have been party to whatever ministerial discussion it might have aroused. He did vote in favour of Stanley's legislation in the one contested division, but it was hardly necessary for a whipped junior minister to know precisely what he was supporting. The amalgamated legislature did not last long.  Newfoundland's bicameral constitution was restored in 1848, and responsible government was conceded in 1855.[70] Following serious sectarian conflict in 1861, the community settled into a more consensual form of politics, which managed to contain an adversarial, Liberal versus Conservative, two-party system within a consociational format.[71] Gladstone's governments were sometimes obliged to consider disputes with France over fishing rights off the Newfoundland coast, but he seems to have had no further involvement with the island's internal affairs, and did not cite the colony as a model during the parliamentary debates on Home Rule in 1886. Perhaps he did not wish to draw attention to the island's occasionally turbulent political history: he could hardly have forgotten that it existed, since its disputed fisheries remained a problem in Britain's relations with France. Nonetheless, it remains a paradox that the prime minister so closely identified with the crusade to create a parliament for Ireland should have been involved in a campaign to curtail, and probably suppress, the activities of a Catholic Irish-dominated legislature across the Atlantic.[72]

Gladstone and Canada in the eighteen-forties When the Conservatives came into office in September 1841, Peel appointed Gladstone Vice-President of the Board of Trade, a junior but important office. In 1843, he was promoted to President, with a seat in the cabinet. This he abandoned early in 1845 for reasons that contemporaries found difficult to comprehend: Peel's proposal to increase the annual State grant to the Catholic seminary of Maynooth in Ireland clashed with Church-and-State principles which he had declared in 1838 – but no longer upheld. In December 1845, through a further series of political accidents, he returned to the Colonial Office, this time as Secretary of State, with the aim of supporting Peel's bid to repeal the Corn Laws.

Gladstone's three-and-a-quarter years in office at the Board of Trade, between 1841 and 1845, helped set the foundations for the shift to free trade in the second half of the decade, although neither the direction of travel nor the implications for Britain's relations with its colonies were entirely clear at the time. Although he held a commercial portfolio, Gladstone seems to have had little direct contact with British North American issues. In 1842, he was involved in preliminary discussions for what became the Canada Corn Act of 1843. A promise had been made to foster Canadian trade and agriculture by admitting the colony's grain and flour to the domestic market at a nominal duty. The obvious complication was the intertwining of the Canadian and American economies: what defence could be offered to the British farmer against the import of floods of produce from the United States sent through Canadian ports? Gladstone floated the idea that "provisions coming into Canada from the United States should be subject to a duty imposed by the authority of the Imperial Parliament". Even in 1842 (and, arguably, any time since 1773) this was wholly impracticable to suggest that Westminster might levy such an impost in a colony, and he quickly disavowed the suggestion. Rather, he tried to focus the attention of the House of Commons on the potential of purely Canadian resources: "Canada sent to this country considerable quantities of grain and flour, and he was happy to say, Canada showed indications of sending over still greater quantities, so soon as her natural capabilities were developed by the fostering influence of peace and of wise local legislation".[73] The hardly logical implication was that there was little risk of American wheat being passed off as colonial produce. Confusingly, he also claimed to be sympathetic to the dream of "making the St. Lawrence the great outlet of the north-western States of the American Union …. but he feared the time was hardly come when they could enter upon the discussion of that subject", which would only become feasible when the Canadian canal system was completed.[74] Gladstone also proposed to concede authority to colonial legislatures to levy import duties on British-manufactured goods, which he described as a gesture "of rendering to our colonial fellow-subjects another of those acts of goodwill to which alone he believed they were to look for cementing the connexion between the colonies and the mother country".[75] Although the proposal initially allowed tariffs of no more than five percent ad valorem, Gladstone's concession would open the way to the protectionist policies which complicated relations between Britain and Canada from the late eighteen-fifties – and would particularly arouse his ire against colonial fiscal heresy.

In the event, the 1843 Canada Corn bill was mainly steered through parliament by the Colonial Secretary, Lord Stanley. Given that Peel's government had revised the Corn Laws the previous year, it was tactically preferable to present the change as a priority dictated by colonial policy, and Stanley's rousing oratory certainly suggested that he believed in the measure. The Canadian legislature had imposed a duty of three shillings a quarter upon the import of American wheat, in expectation that parliament would agree to admit wheat exported from, or through, Canada at purely nominal duty of one shilling a quarter. Few historians have noticed that this made a major hole in the existing Corn Laws, which were based on a sliding scale that was intended to combine protection for British farmers while giving domestic consumers some mitigation in the cost of living.[76] Gladstone's prediction of 1840, that in a united legislature, the "British Republicans" would join forces with the French had come true, and the Governor-General, Sir Charles Bagot, had been forced to admit Reformers to the Executive Council. In the circumstances, it would be unwise to rebuff such a co-operative gesture: Canadians might not be loyal and friendly, but at least they recognised the advantage of shared economic interests. In his sole contribution to the Canada Corn bill debates, Gladstone stressed that the Canadian Assembly had passed the measure "with the utmost cordiality, and indeed, unanimity, which considering the agitated state of party spirit in that country, was a most remarkable circumstance. The fact was still more significant and gratifying when they recollected that on a great many subjects the Canadian Legislature was divided into contending parties."[77]

Although he had still not been admitted to the cabinet (that came a few weeks later), Gladstone was included in a ministerial meeting at Peel's house on 27 April 1843. It was agreed to confine the admission of colonial corn at a low fixed-rate tariff to Canada, since Canadians was the only colonists to have requested the boon. However, Gladstone pointed to the "probability" that other parts of the Empire would seek similar privileges, arguing that "the inconvenience of having to introduce new colonial Corn Bills in future sessions for particular colonies would it is likely be greater than that of grappling with the whole question at once". Consequently, he suggested passing framework legislation "which would include all cases as they may arise". Peel accepted the logic of Gladstone's argument, but feared "that there might be an union of parties against the Canadian Corn Bill" that could generate "a Ministerial crisis". In the circumstances, an open-ended provision had the potential to unsettle his already restive followers among the country gentlemen. Hence the concession had to be limited to Canada.[78] It was no surprise that it should have been the Prime Minister who was the arbiter of the government's tactics, but it was an indication of Gladstone's increasing confidence and stature that he made a much more forceful input than he had contributed to the Canada confabulations in opposition.

Winding up the debate on the Canada Corn bill in an hour-long speech on 19 May 1843, Gladstone replied to a wide range of objections. He contested the claim that the legislation opened a back-door route for American grain to enter the British market. "It was a measure of free trade in respect to the relations between Canada and England, and it was not a measure of free trade as regarded England and America." He offered a well-informed rebuttal of allegations that American wheat would be smuggled into Canada, either through the riverside town of Prescott – on a stretch of the St Lawrence which formed the international boundary – or at the ocean port of Montreal, with its well-established customs administration. As a bulk commodity, wheat was hard to disguise (tea, on the other hand, was freely smuggled into the province) and, in any case, the grain-growing areas of the United States lay much further to the west, in Ohio and Indiana. In a rare positive allusion to the people of Canada, he insisted that "a population favourable to the law and friendly to the duty … was the best security for any revenue law". To an MP who had asked "why should they reduce the duty on colonial corn without making sure that a reciprocal reduction would be made in the colony of the duty on our manufactures?", he replied that British good entering Canada faced only a five-percent tariff. Optimistically, he predicted that "whatever surplus was created in the colonial treasury by this measure would be applied in the reduction of duties on British manufactures". He did not foresee that when Canada discovered the allure, and the massive expense, of railways, it would need all the customs revenue it could raise. In his diary, Gladstone confessed the fear that that he spoke "without any effect". This was partly because the House of Commons was bored by the subject, but he felt that "though the material was not particularly bad of course the workmanship was". This seems to have been typical of his speeches on Canadian matters during his early years in politics: the colony simply did not arouse his interest. Stanley spoke of Britain's link with Canada with real enthusiasm, but Gladstone could only close his remarks with the tepid assertion that the legislation "could not but prove a bond of additional mutual attachment between that colony and the mother country".[79] The Canada Corn Act triggered a boom in Canada: between 1843 and 1846, wheat exported via the St Lawrence tripled in volume, and there was considerable investment in facilities for milling.[80] All of this was shattered by Britain's shift to free trade, an about-turn (and, arguably, a betrayal) which helps explain the violent anger of the Montreal merchant community in 1849: Gladstone had helped create the instability that he would seek to exploit in challenging the Rebellion Losses bill.

The Canada Corn Act was a gesture during a fraught phase in colonial relations. One of the first cabinet meetings that Gladstone attended, on 1 July 1843, was devoted entirely to Canadian issues. British politicians found it difficult to evaluate Sir Charles Bagot's decision to admit Reformers to his Executive Council the previous September. The arithmetic of the Assembly certainly seemed to justify the move: in a united province designed to subordinate them, the French Canadians, operating as a defensive bloc, were able to secure a majority by allying themselves with the Upper Canadian Reformers. Unfortunately, Bagot was in poor health at the time of the concession, and it soon became clear that he was suffering from a fatal illness. From the remote vantage point of London, it was tempting to assume that a stronger Governor-General might have outfaced, or out-manoeuvred, this hostile alliance. Bagot had been replaced by Sir Charles Metcalfe, a front-rank administrator who brought the masterful experience of India and Jamaica to his new Canadian assignment. In July 1843, when Peel summoned the special cabinet meeting, Metcalfe was engaged in watchful neutrality towards his ministers, whom he eventually evicted in November. Essentially, ministers determined that "Sir C. Metcalfe is the best judge of the means of carrying on the Government and must be trusted very largely". As Peel put it: "Who can manage it if this Governor cannot? He had boldness and honesty though the turn of his mind is to concession – he has the confidence of the [British] Government and Parliament and the prestige of past success."

Nonetheless, the special cabinet meeting specifically considered two Canadian questions that required solution by the British government. The capital of the united province had been established in the Loyalist city of Kingston, on the shores of Lake Ontario. French Canadian politicians regarded Kingston as inconvenient and uncongenial, and pressed for the removal of the seat of government (as it was locally styled) to the Lower Canadian metropolis of Montreal. Gladstone's memorandum records that ministers decided to approve the switch, although other sources indicate that the final decision was not taken at that time. The Duke of Wellington preferred Montreal on defence grounds: "we cannot expect to hold a permanent superiority on the lake".  Also on the agenda was the question of an amnesty for those who had taken part in the rebellions of 1837-8. The Lord Chancellor, Lyndhurst, saw no difficulty: "what harm can it do?" But the Home Secretary, Sir James Graham, objected. "It is easy as a colonial question: yet the precedent and inference for England and Ireland is [sic] most formidable." Although not spelt out by Gladstone, Chartists had attempted an insurrection in the Welsh town of Newport in 1839, and there was a threat of violence behind Daniel O'Connell's mass campaign for the Repeal of the Union in Ireland. Implying that rebellion against the Crown was a forgivable sin in Canada might risk encouraging similar outbreaks nearer home. Ministers discussed various formulae that might deal with the difficulty, but ultimately, "though with great reluctance", decided that, once again, the Canada amnesty question would have to be determined by Metcalfe on the spot.

Peel put it bluntly to his colleagues that the British government was "losing ground" in Canada, contemplating concessions that would permanently weaken its influence. Although there was no alternative, the implications of retreat needed to be faced: "we must keep the colony in peace, until we part from it – but the fact is that it is rapidly becoming ungovernable – and we are fast drifting down to the final issue of separation". By abandoning Canada, "we must lose all British North America, including the naval station of Halifax, yet if demand after demand is to be made upon us, each weakening the authority of the mother country, we must soon consider seriously of the propriety of acquainting the Province that we can no longer undertake to provide for its defence".[81] Six years later, Peel's refusal to support his challenge to the Rebellion Losses bill would be a major blow to Gladstone.

++ Colonial Secretary 1845-6 Stanley resigned in December 1845 in protest at Peel's decision to repeal the Corn Laws. Gladstone chose now to regard his exile from the cabinet over Maynooth as a form of discharged political penance. The vacancy at the Colonial Office seemed ideally matched to his previous ministerial experience, and he accepted Peel's invitation to take the office. Once again, the appointment was short-lived, just six months before Peel's ministry fell, but long enough to reaffirm Gladstone's ill-matched association with colonial issues. It was an unhappy time. As a newly appointed cabinet minister, he was required to contest a by-election, but did not feel entitled to return to his constituency at Newark because his patron there, the Duke of Newcastle, remained a Protectionist. "A Peelite … had little chance of an opening at a bye-election," he recalled in 1897; "and I remained without a seat until the dissolution in June 1847." To be "a Minister of the Crown without a seat in Parliament …. was a state of things not agreeable to the spirit of parliamentary government" or – in plain English – a humiliation.[82] He had accepted office to help his hero Peel fight for the repeal of the Corn Laws; deprived of a seat in the Commons, he could only watch the key debates from the gallery.[83]  In any case, there was no prospect of re-setting relations with the colonies until the outcome of the struggle against protection was known – and, even then, it was unlikely that a Conservative ministry would be at the helm to set the policy. The atmosphere within the Colonial Office was also cold. The Permanent Under-Secretary, James Stephen, never the sunniest of men, was burned-out and yearning to retire. An Evangelical and abolitionist who had drafted the legislation that ended slavery, he was unlikely to feel sympathy for the Puseyite son of a plantation owner. Within a month of Gladstone's appointment, he had written off his new master as "vastly & absurdly over valued".[84] (In 1869, ten years after Stephen's death, Gladstone took distasteful revenge in a speech that lampooned the haunting of the Colonial Office by the spirit of "Mr Mother-Country", the derisive nickname applied to the alleged bureaucratic evil genius of Downing Street.[85])

So far as Canada was concerned, Gladstone's brief period in office coincided with the threat of war with the United States over the Oregon territory, which effectively put most internal provincial issues on hold. Technically, his post was that of Secretary of State for War and Colonies, which – in theory – made him Britain's defence minister. In practice, control over the Army was divided among several government departments and boards, a complexity that had long been open to criticism and which would become a particular embarrassment during the Crimean War.[86] Although his job title was considerably more impressive than his practical effectiveness, Gladstone found himself advising on the defence of Canada, on 22 January 1846 producing a memorandum on priorities for discussion among a small group of senior ministers, plus the Duke of Wellington who – thirty years after Waterloo – still ran the British Army.[87] It should be stressed that although relations with the United States were particularly sensitive at that time, it did not follow that it made sense for Britain to engage in major projects for the defence of Canada. As was pointed out at the time, such initiatives might provoke the Americans, and they could not possibly be completed in time to be of any use in the current crisis. Nor would it be fair to claim that Gladstone pig-headedly refused to face the need to prepare for probable conflict. He urged the Admiralty to build steam-powered gunboats on the Great Lakes, stressing "the great importance of being in a condition to strike the first blow at the American harbours and shipping". Indeed, difficult now though it is to believe, for a time Britain actually established naval superiority on the Lakes, despite Wellington's fears to the contrary. He also advocated exploring with the Hudson's Bay Company the "expense of organising the excellent materials they appear to possess for the formation of a frontier force". The War Office agreed to send a detachment of British troops to the Red River (the future city of Winnipeg), although Gladstone made clear he resented the assumption that a chartered company should be treated as part of the Empire and hence deserving of metropolitan protection.[88]

Yet Gladstone's memorandum was also notable for a theme that would characterise his views in the eighteen-sixties: his insistence that Canadians must accept responsibility for their own defence through the organisation of an effective colonial militia. Despite the imminent danger of war, he felt that it was probable that "the time has arrived at which we must test the inclination of the Canadians to be defended" by issuing an ultimatum: Britain's willingness to fund defence projects in Canada "will depend upon the accounts we may receive … in the course of the next three months as to the proceedings of the local legislature in the organisation of a local force". From 1864 onwards, this attitude would harden into a principle that the primary responsibility for the defence of Canada lay with its own people. He gave a clear foretaste of this attitude in 1845: "I consider that we have already promised a vigorous cooperation from home if Canada likewise shall be found vigorously to bestir herself." Overall, the memorandum betrayed little awareness of the fundamental fact, the inescapable strategic consideration, that Canada was at risk of invasion merely through its connection with Britain.  Gladstone was also wary of attempts to trick the British taxpayer into paying for colonial infrastructure. The Admiralty pressed for the deepening of the St Lawrence canals to take gunboats drawing up to eight feet (2.44 metres) of water. Improvements of that kind would obviously produce long-term commercial benefits, and Gladstone insisted that the colony should help pay for them.[89]

There was little alternative to the appointment to the vacant office of Governor-General of Lord Cathcart, the commander of the British forces in Canada.[90] It fell to Gladstone to issue Cathcart with instructions on how to handle controversies that were, in reality, hardly likely to arise during what would probably be a brief term of office. When asked for guidance, Stephen was markedly unhelpful. "Canada appears to me to have shaken off or laid aside the Colonial relation to this Country and to have become, in everything but the name, a distinct State". While Britain still supplied the Governor-General, he regarded it as "almost superfluous and unmeaning" to lay down "any line of policy on any internal question whatever".[91] Although Gladstone wisely took refuge in vague generalities, nonetheless his instructions contained a hint of the position he would adopt towards Rebellion Losses three years later. The preceding administration of Sir Charles (now Lord) Metcalfe was held up as a model, even though Metcalfe's style of presidential governorship had revealed violent divisions in Canadian society and politics. Cathcart was to assent to all laws emanating from the legislature "which do not involve what is dishonourable or unjust" – as in 1849, the definition was not clear – and to give preference in appointments to "those who are eminent in attachment to the throne of Her Majesty", although this was accompanied by an enigmatically Gladstonian qualification in favour of those "standing aloof from political distinctions of a narrower or more questionable kind".[92] However, this generally anodyne document did contain one expression of opinion that Gladstone evidently regarded as important: Britain, he insisted, had no selfish interest in maintaining its connection with Canada. This ringing declaration was followed by a warning that was pure John Gladstone: if Canadians believed that threats of separation would secure concessions, they were seriously mistaken. But the essential sentiment was high-minded: "upon no other terms than those of free good will does Great Britain contemplate or desire the continuance of the subsisting relation". Equally, Britain would "sedulously avoid mistaking any temporary or partial movement of adverse opinion, for the expression of the sober wishes of a peaceful and loyal people".[93]

Much of this reflected the cold and blunt statements about the future of the British-Canadian relationship of his Commons speech on 29 May 1840: one suspects that Gladstone had Hansard at his elbow when he drafted his instructions to Cathcart. Brief though his term of office would prove, Gladstone had taken a further step toward the point that Peel had predicted in the June 1843 cabinet discussion, confrontation of the possibility that the issue of separation would eventually have to be faced. His instructions certainly offered little guidance on specific challenges. Metcalfe had presided over an election in 1844 in which the loyalty cry had produced a narrow anti-reform majority that could call upon few French Canadian supporters. In 1846, attempts were being made by the Governor-General's chief adviser, W.H. Draper – in effect, the premier of a ministry ostensibly opposed to responsible government – to divide and suborn the opposition. In a private letter in May, Gladstone worthily assured Cathcart that the government would "view with favour" any moves "towards uniting the French with the English race in the service of Her Majesty". This cumbrous formula evidently failed to appreciate that the French operated as a bloc and would only take office on their own terms – as they did in 1848. The following year, Gladstone would try, and fail, to challenge those terms.[94]

At the time, Gladstone's tentative invitation to the people of Canada to pack their Imperial bags does not seem to have spurred any response. However, in 1869, Gladstone drew the attention of his own Colonial Secretary, Lord Granville, to the passage, "in which it was distinctly enough laid down that we did not impose British connection upon the Colony, but regarded its goodwill and desire as an essential condition of the connection". As prime minister, Gladstone would no doubt have welcomed any move by the Dominion towards greater independence – the incoming Governor-General, Sir John Young, was confidentially urged to report on any incipient moves – but his Canadian counterpart, Sir John A. Macdonald, had no intention of abandoning the relationship that he saw as essential to the development and maintenance of a separate North American nation.[95]

Of course, there was a hard-nosed side to Gladstone's emphasis on the British-Canadian relationship as a union of hearts. A large part of his job as Colonial Secretary was to announce the dismantling of tariff protection, with the abolition of preferential rates on colonial wheat and timber causing considerable alarm among Canadian farmers and merchants. As in the eighteen-thirties, Gladstone fell back on the strategy of wordily assuring people who feared the loss of their livelihoods that they really had nothing to grumble about. "It would indeed be a source of the greatest pain to Her Majesty's Government if they could share in the impression that the connexion between this country and Canada derived its vitality from no other source than from the exchange of commercial preferences." During the economic dislocation of 1846, it suited the British government to assert its belief in the "longer duration" of the link with Canada, "founded upon a larger and firmer basis – upon protection rendered from the one side and allegiance freely and loyally returned from the other – upon common traditions of the past, and hopes of the future – upon resemblances in origin, in laws, and in manners".[96] The formula slyly used "protection" to describe the British defence umbrella, and thereby undermine colonial complaints about the loss of preferential tariff access to the home market.

Much of this might be forward-projected to Gladstone's idealistic endorsement of Irish Home Rule in 1886. Unfortunately, its lofty assumptions would come under severe pressure. In the medium term, important economic interests in Canada failed to take the hint that their protests risked upsetting the British government: Gladstone himself would attempt to ride the whirlwind of their anger in 1849. As the new regime of responsible government opened a steadily widening sphere of autonomy to Canada, he became increasingly restive at the fragmentation of the implied bargain between colonial allegiance and the British defence shield. However, during his brief tenure of the Colonial Office, Gladstone did authorise one necessary concession to colonial anger that would come to haunt him later. Not unreasonably, Canadians argued that if they were to lose their preferential access to British markets, they should receive diplomatic support in their search for favourable access to those of the United States. D.C. Masters, whose 1937 study of Reciprocity remains useful, noted that the Colonial Secretary granted their wish, even if "with a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders". The British Minister in Washington was duly instructed to raise the matter with the Americans "when a favourable opportunity should present itself". To the British elite, trained in the Classics, this might well have represented the unattainable date of the Greek Kalends, but Masters headed his sub-section "Gladstone to the Rescue". It was, indeed, Gladstone's own initiative. As he wrote apologetically to the Foreign Secretary, his former ministerial boss Lord Aberdeen, "I have been obliged to commit you in general terms, without taking your pleasure in the first instance" to instructing the Britain's diplomatic representative "to avail himself of any suitable opportunity of bringing under the notice of the U[nited] S[tates] Gov[ernmen]t the very high Customs duties in force on their frontier towards Canada, in the hope of leading to some relaxation". With a cheerful defensiveness, he hoped that Aberdeen would not be "scandalised" by his initiative, as it "does not, I hope, entail any practical difficulty".  The principle of sub-sections of the Empire seeking commercial relations with foreign countries on differential terms would arise in more controversial form in the early eighteen-seventies, when Gladstone, as Prime Minister, found himself responding to issues that had originated during his term of office.[97]

Gladstone's other brainwave demonstrates that it was probably for the best that he had only limited time to unleash his creativity upon the colonies. Faced with increasing resistance to transportation from the free settlers of Australia, he floated the idea that convicts might be sent to Nova Scotia instead. The Governor replied that the project would be "distasteful to every class of the Community", while Stephen advised that any such scheme would be "universally rejected" across British North America. Gladstone personally drafted a stiff response, in which he acknowledged that there would be "repugnance" to the acceptance of these "unhappy persons". He defended his initiative on the grounds that "excessive numbers" were sent to Australia and he had a duty to examine alternatives. In effect, his dispatch was an admission of defeat, although he waspishly added that the British government would have been prepared to spend money on Nova Scotian railway projects if the colony had agreed to accept felons as navvies. Fortunately, his suggestion had been made in confidence, and Stephen sagely advised that it would be unwise "to broach it publicly".[98] The episode is chiefly important in confirming Gladstone's innate belief that colonies were second-class societies and, in that, it forms a bizarre tailpiece to his solemn discussions with Bishop Inglis on the imperfections of settler society.

++  Gladstone, opposition and British North America, 1847-8  Although his time at the Colonial Office had been a frustrating experience, Gladstone remained trapped by the issues associated with the Empire. To remain at the centre of public life, he needed to speak in Parliament reasonably frequently and with authority, and his views on colonial questions constituted his most obvious claim for the attention the Commons. Yet Gladstone found it difficult to overcome the obstacle that he lacked empathy with colonial communities, and had to mobilise not only his formidable capacity for hard work but his terrifying sense of duty to concern himself in their problems. He no longer had cause even to keep a watching brief on issues relating to the West Indies, for his father had pocketed the compensation paid to slave-owners and sold his property in Demerara.[99] By the eighteen-forties, Gladstone saw himself through (at least) three overlapping self-images, as a Christian statesman, a classical scholar and a landed gentleman. None of these placed him on the wavelength of North American colonial societies. It is well established that he had entered politics in the belief that the State should serve the interests of the Church of England.[100] It was clear by 1840 that Canada could be no more than an outwork in that particular crusade, a colony in which the Anglican Church could at best be given a disproportionate share of the resources earmarked for religion, but would then have to be left to its own devices. As Gladstone had told Bishop Inglis of Nova Scotia, it was impossible to contemplate a permanent alliance with local Loyalist elites because they disavowed the notion of an established Church. In a rare personal initiative during his short period as Colonial Secretary, he had called for a report on the management of the clergy reserves. By the time it reached London, Peel's ministry was doomed, and no action followed. In any case, it is difficult to see – and even Gladstone may have appreciated this – how the intervention of the Colonial Office could have helped the Church of England in Canada at this time: the colonials were no longer discussing who should benefit from the endowment, but whether the individual denominations should be permitted to manage their own share of the land bank.[101] In fact, Gladstone was gradually facing the impossibility of his role as a sectarian enforcer on the domestic stage. Maynooth in 1845 had completed a cycle of withdrawal that had followed the general repudiation of his declaration of High Church principles in 1838. Gladstone would remain a politician of rigid principle, but his religion was increasingly secular: a commitment to free trade and responsible public finance. Unfortunately, Canada would too often manifest itself as a reproach to the first and an affront to the second.

With a First Class degree in Literae Humaniores from Oxford, Gladstone also saw himself as classical scholar, a delusion that would unfortunately lead him in 1858 to publish three volumes of idiosyncratic speculation on Homer.[102] Although he does not seem to have made the parallel explicit until his 1855 address on Our Colonies, it is likely that his views on British colonisation overseas were formed in the comparative context of an idealised Hellenic world. "Colonies were founded from Greece, not by the action of government, not by the meeting of cabinets or by the acts of ministers, but by the spontaneous energy of members of the community themselves". Thus Greek culture and values had been spread around the Mediterranean in "perfect freedom and perfect self-government". Unfortunately, "the Greek idea of  colonisation appears to have been lost with the Greeks themselves"[103] – although this elegiac conclusion did not prevent him from undertaking a quixotic mission to the British protectorate of the Ionian Islands four years later. Since Gladstone's complex intellect could be simultaneously holistic and compartmentalised, it is impossible to know to what degree he thought of British North America in terms of the classical world. Nonetheless, it was brutally clear that the fishing boats that sailed to Newfoundland from Poole and Waterford were not Athenian triremes, and that the island colony, with its helot franchise, was never going to become a Hellenic city state.

Gladstone also viewed colonial life with something of the uncomprehending distaste of a country squire for the pioneering world of frontier farming. There was a degree of smoke and mirrors about Gladstone's pretensions to membership of the landed gentry. In 1833, his father had moved the family to Fasque in the north-east of Scotland, where Gladstone became attracted to the hierarchical and squirearchal life. In 1844, in an initiative astonishingly bereft of self-examination, he suggested that his elder brother Tom should waive the claims of primogeniture so that Gladstone himself might inherit the estate. The proposal was not well received, but the financial problems of his unassertive brother-in-law, Sir Stephen Glynne, allowed Gladstone to install himself, cuckoo-like, in the Glynne family mansion at Hawarden in north Wales.[104] It is interesting to note that he was never an English country gentleman, unlike his rival Disraeli who implausibly managed to borrow enough cash to acquire Hughenden Manor in Buckinghamshire. Nonetheless, Gladstone enjoyed life at the apex of deferential rural society, and his travels around Britain were often little more than pilgrimages from one large country house to the next. This was obviously a very different world from the farming frontier of Upper Canada. In a note apparently dating from 1835, Gladstone regretted "the tendency of the colonial system towards republicanising the world". Colonists "see a government which has no hold on the imagination, a succession of delegates from a foreign land". They experienced "no associations of antiquity and fame, none of those attachments which grow around the permanent stock of a royal family …. No natural aristocracy: little refined education or love of the beautiful". As a result, colonial communities were catapulted into "an independent and self-controlled existence".[105] Many a nineteenth-century liberal might have welcomed such a society as the product of progress. But viewed from the windows of Fasque and (later) the drawing rooms of Hawarden, the prospect was not appealing.

Although the existing British territories overseas were entirely alien to Gladstone's visions of Homer and homeland, during the first two decades of his public career, fresh colonisation projects emerged with which he felt more comfortable. New settlements would be established, by the kind of spontaneous citizen initiative of the ancient Greeks, and peopled by surplus middle-class emigrants – landless younger sons, briefless barristers, unbeneficed clergy – who would transplant and replicate the stratified society of the old country. Inspired by the theories of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a dangerous fantasist and too-plausible scoundrel, these projects assumed that the territories to be occupied contained unlimited amounts of fertile land and were devoid of existing occupants.[106] Land would be sold at a carefully – indeed haughtily – undefined 'sufficient price' that would be high enough to fund the assisted migration of the farm labourers necessary to till the soil, but not so restrictive as to deprive them of the hope of eventually becoming freeholders themselves – just the kind of mystical device that would appeal to Gladstone's finely-balanced intellect. Wrapped in mumbo-jumbo, Wakefield's theories were in fact a massive Ponzi scheme, based on the defrauding of the indigenous occupants and – in most cases – the disappointment of the naively optimistic colonists. Gladstone took some interest in South Australia, founded in 1834-5 with the laudable aim of managing without convict labour, but soon in serious financial trouble. Unfortunately – from Gladstone's point of view – South Australia was a project of the Nonconformists, which had no room for an established Church. Lord Lyttelton, his Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office (and also his brother-in-law) was a champion of the more promising Canterbury Association, which aimed to create an Anglican settlement in New Zealand. Gladstone took an interest in the affairs of New Zealand, but he was hardly in the front rank of public supporters of the Canterbury Association. While he paid lip service to the notion of 'systematic colonization', he seems to have read very little of Wakefield's supposedly theoretical works on the subject.[107] Yet, even if he had only become a Wakefieldian at second hand, Gladstone's interest in the possibilities of New Zealand further underlined his lack of sympathy with British North America. Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were irrevocably organised into "republicanising" societies of independent small farmers. Newfoundland was an anarchic fishing station. Far from constituting a stratified rural idyll, Prince Edward Island, which had been granted to absentee landlords, was locked in the social and political conflict of a miniature but venomous snake-pit, as Gladstone presumably knew since its problems had crossed his Downing Street desk in 1846.[108]

If the eastern side of the continent seemed, in Gladstone's world view, a lost cause, an unexpected opportunity for a new start in colony-building opened on the Pacific seaboard. The Oregon Treaty, concluded just as he left the Colonial Office, assigned Vancouver Island to the British sphere. In the face of the vigorous activity of American traders and frontiersmen, the incoming Whig government decided that the island should receive at least token British occupation, and as quickly as possible. Since the island formed part of the trading empire of the Hudson's Bay Company, the only organisation in the region capable of undertaking the task, ministers proposed to commission them to establish a colony. Gladstone was not persuaded of the wisdom of this decision, and joined in a Commons attack on the plan, speaking for an hour and three-quarters. "Better act slowly and well, than rashly and mischievously. This was not a question of a day, or year, or a generation", he counselled. Vancouver Island was "a most valuable possession" which might become "a powerful State" capable of dominating the trade of the North Pacific.  It had a temperate climate, like that of Britain itself, much of its soil was "fertile, and a considerable portion was ready for immediate use". It also possessed mineral resources and fine harbours. Running a colony through a commercial company had proved a failure in South Australia, and it would be ten times more absurd to entrust such a project to an enterprise dedicated to the fur trade. The Hudson's Bay Company insisted that its domains "be kept like a desert". They might "cultivate a few spots in order to obtain corn for the support of their cattle and their agents – but as respected the country at large, their interest required that it should be kept just as nature had left it. … The Company would make the colonisation of Vancouver's Island subservient to their main object, the pursuit of the fur trade—the minor interest would be sacrificed to the major. The Company must be, as it had been, anti-colonising."

The Hellenistic Wakefieldian in him emerged to ask "what kind of settlers the Company were likely to send to Vancouver's Island". It hired young men from Orkney on five-year contracts, but paid them so badly that their employees were enmeshed in debt. By the end of their terms, they had generally become "attached or married to some Indian woman, or half-breed, and have children, on which account they find themselves unable to leave".[109] Gladstone implied that this was not the human stock that he wished to see found a new society overseas. "It was the men who made the colony. What was it that planted the colonies of New England, but the pith and stuff of which their founders were made? If men were sent out there [i.e. to Vancouver Island] with the feelings and habits of Englishmen – men who were accustomed to act in the light of day – it might be expected that something like a colony would be founded."[110] This Pacific island offered "a great and worthy opportunity of planting a society of Englishmen, which if it did not afford a precise copy of our institutions, might still present a reflex of that truth, integrity, and independence, which constituted at this moment the ornament and glory of this country".

Gladstone broadened his attack from Vancouver Island to launch a wide-ranging and scornful denunciation of the Hudson's Bay Company, and its claims to rule enormous areas of western North America. He mocked their founding charter, granted by Charles II in 1670, which had "conferred enormous powers upon them on condition that they should present two elks or beavers to the Sovereign of Great Britain whenever he thought proper to visit that portion of his dominions".[111] He doubted whether so tenuous a claim to so vast a territory could be defended in law. ("I never could believe", he wrote almost fifty years later, "… that it was legally in the power of Charles II to mark off a vast portion of a continent, and invest a handful of his subjects with power to exclude from those territories all other subjects of the Crown.") Worse still, its "monopoly of land and trade was aggravated by absolutism in politics covered by the cloak of impenetrable secrecy".  Only "angels and archangels … could be entrusted with such enormous powers".

Gladstone repeated a familiar charge that the Company had "slept on the shores" of Hudson's Bay for most of its existence. In particular, they had repudiated their duty to "the native inhabitants" of their vast domains, failing to ensure that "the benevolent purposes of Christianity should be carried out with respect to the roving Indian tribes". He had no doubt that the indigenous peoples "should be weaned from their erratic habits, comfortably clothed, located in fixed habitations, and made tillers of the soil", but the Company preferred that "the natives should be kept as closely as possible to the barbarous and savage state, because in that condition they were the best hunters". Unusually for a Victorian politician, he came close to implying that First Nations actually possessed sovereignty over their homelands: they were the people "whom nature and Providence had placed in possession of those wild districts". They were also the vital source of the raw materials in which the Company traded, but its monopoly prevented them from securing a fair return on the products that they supplied. (However, indigenous people had vanished from his consciousness when he sought his own grand strategy for the North West in 1870. In 1881, he explicitly stated that there were very few indigenous people in Canada.) Gladstone pulled no punches in denouncing the evil consequences the management dual standards permitted by such power: the Company "took great care of the fur-bearing animals, they were quite indifferent as to those upon which the roving Indians subsisted", a neglect that led to "such a scarcity of food, that cases of starvation were common, and that even sometimes the Indians were driven to cannibalism, not from habit, but from necessity".[112]

Gladstone's 1848 attack on the Hudson's Bay Company represented something of an outlier in his attitudes to British North America. (It is unlikely that he regarded Vancouver Island as a 'Canadian' issue. He did acknowledge that the Governor-General had been asked to report on the isolated and neglected settlement at the Red River, but his passing allusions suggested that he regarded Canada and the Hudson's Bay territories as entirely distinct countries.) Gladstone supported colonisation in New Zealand, but the Vancouver Island debate was the only occasion on which he spoke with enthusiasm about encouraging British settlement in the Americas. He was never deeply interested in the rights of indigenous peoples, and steered clear of their vocal supporters in the Aborigines' Protection Society: sympathetic scholars have resorted to 'must have' arguments to portray him as a humanitarian on race relations issues.[113] In this case, his indignant sympathy for the exploited First Nations formed a supporting argument in his denunciation of the organisation that exploited them, a classic example of an unjustified monopoly that had no place in the emerging era of enlightened free trade. He would repeat his criticisms as a member of a select committee considering the renewal of the Hudson's Bay Company charter in 1857, an examination that effectively pointed to the phased ending of its political authority. Two other features stand out about the 1848 oration: it was the first major speech on British North American affairs that Gladstone actually seems to have enjoyed delivering, and it displayed some of the moralistic ferocity that would characterise his later career, beginning with his denunciation of the Neapolitan tyranny in 1851-2. He was particularly outraged by reports of the extra-judicial imposition of capital punishment, indignantly asking the ministerial front bench:  "was it important that the Company should suddenly chop off a man's head or not?" Three days after the set-piece debate, a brief renewal of discussion, in the form of a parliamentary spat on the issue, gave him the opportunity to lay claim both to the foundations of fact and to the moral high ground that he had erected upon them. "The fundamental unfitness of the Hudson's Bay Company for the work of colonisation had been demonstrated; and … it would be as impossible to infuse the active powers necessary for colonisation into the Company as it would be into a corpse."[114] This was strong language, and one historian has concluded that "Gladstone's fervor dulled his critical faculties".[115] An alternative interpretation might conclude that he was substantially correct in his condemnation of the Hudson's Bay Company, but notably vague on proposing alternative ways of administering and developing its vast domains.

++ Rebellion Losses, 1849: a pivotal episode Gladstone's 1849 challenge to the Canadian Rebellion Losses bill proved to be both a defining moment in the evolution of colonial self-government and an important – and unsettling – experience that threw dramatic light upon his own political isolation. The violent controversy over the legislation in Canada and the role of the issue in British politics are examined in the accompanying essay, "Gladstone and the limits of Canadian self-government, 1849": here the emphasis is upon the arguments that he advanced as part of his attack on the legislation.[116] The Governor-General, Lord Elgin, appointed in succession to Cathcart, had presided over the explicit recognition of responsible government, which brought about a Reform cabinet, led by Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine. The new ministry decided to use public funds to provide compensation for damage incurred during the rebellions of 1837-8, an episode that remained a raw memory for Canada's Tories, so recently ousted from control of the province. The LaFontaine ministry's proposal followed the precedent set in similar legislation passed in 1845-6 for Upper Canada, the English-speaking colony where there had been only minor risings, which had ruled as ineligible for compensation anyone convicted of acts relating to the rebellion. However, in the confused conditions of 1837-8 in Lower Canada, where disaffection had been widespread and juries refused to convict, sentences of law courts offered no guide to rebel sympathisers. Thus there were two inter-related issues pressed by Gladstone in 1849: did LaFontaine's legislation exclude rebels from the receipt of public funds, and should Parliament intervene in an issue that was apparently internal to Canadian affairs? 

As the accompanying essay seeks to unravel, discussion of the Rebellion Losses bill in Britain became entangled in factional politics, underlining the weakness of Lord John Russell's Whig ministry, exposing the divisions of the Peelite Conservatives who kept them in office, and revealing the remarkable clumsiness of Gladstone's own tactics. His hopes of success were undermined by Peel's refusal to endorse his specific criticisms of the Canadian legislation, while an alliance with the maverick and unreliable Lord Brougham resulted in a failure to co-ordinate strategy between the two Houses. He also made the massive mistake of speaking for three hours without proposing any specific motion, an omission that the Protectionist Conservatives exploited with an initiative of their own, in the hope of forcing a wedge between Peelites and Whigs, factions who were sometimes rumoured to be moving towards coalition. Gladstone was badly bruised by the outcome. While he never repudiated the stance, his political humiliation seems to have subtly changed his attitude to the question of British supremacy over self-governing colonies. In effect, he continued to believe that Britain had the right to assert its supremacy over its overseas dependencies but he accepted that it was increasingly impossible to assert any form of control over colonies of settlement.

Consideration of the issue here focuses upon the arguments that Gladstone employed in that lengthy Commons speech.[117] He began by explaining that although "it may have appeared strange to many", he had refrained from proposing "some distinct Motion" in order to ensure "a calm, dispassionate, and impartial discussion", which he hoped would produce a cross-party consensus. (This has something of the quality of the hope that he expressed in 1885 that "a healthful, slow fermentation in many minds, working towards the final product" would produce a consensus solution on the challenge of Ireland, discussed below.) It was, he argued, "a sound principle, admitting of but rare exceptions, that if England is to interfere, with any rational prospect of advantage, with the legislative proceedings of a colonial Parliament, in order to secure that prospect of advantage, it must be united and not divided England that undertakes such interference". This laudable aim entirely failed, and Gladstone's pretence that he was leading some sort of intellectual seminar on colonial self-government was probably counter-productive. 

Not surprisingly, Gladstone was embarrassed by "the unhappy and disgraceful riots" in Montreal that had followed the passage of the bill, and this made him careful to avoid any hint of  personal criticism directed at the Governor-General, his Oxford contemporary Lord Elgin, who had given the royal assent to the controversial legislation: Gladstone described him as "standing alone and single-handed, as the representative of the Crown … called upon to do more than any man in that position, without the distinct aid and clear guidance of the Government at home, could properly discharge". He believed "that the Earl of Elgin has been virtually prohibited from referring home for instructions with regard to proceedings in the colonial legislature", even "when a question is before the local assembly not merely affecting local but imperial interests, and involving the honour and dignity of the Crown of Her Majesty". This he described as "a very grave and serious error" by the government, and "a fair subject of Parliamentary discussion". This brought him to crucial issue of the limits to responsible government: "the local legislature of the colony should be left free and unrestricted in its action upon questions purely and entirely having a bearing upon the local interests of the colony; but we ought to draw the broadest and most marked distinction between questions of a local and imperial character". Gladstone's formula highlighted the indefinable Goldilocks quality of his analysis. A "most marked distinction" would presumably require an exact point, a "just right" dividing line which could hardly be combined with breadth: his arbitrary calibration was not only precise and apparently also flexible – and, of course, carefully undefined.

Gladstone reiterated a theme from his speeches a decade earlier, arguing that the link with Canada should be consensual: "a coerced obedience I should not be willing to accept, either from Canada or from any other of our colonies". However, he did insist that, for their part, Canadians should recognise the boundaries of their autonomy: they "should pronounce their judgment on every question in which Canada is concerned, having the issue clearly before them, knowing what they are about, and keeping in view imperial interests and imperial honour".[118] The qualifications were important: at the very least, he implied that Canada's legislators did not realise that their Rebellion Losses bill would funnel public money into the pockets of men who had been the cause of their own misfortunes, thereby insulting the majesty of the Empire itself. (One theme of his speeches at the time of the 1837 rebellions, it will be recalled, was that Canadians had no serious grievances.) In criticising Canada's legislators, he had to tread a fine line, a task in which he evidently failed. "I am anxious to avoid identifying myself with any of the colonial parties, for nothing can be more opposed to the development of true liberty in the colony than that we should identify ourselves with parties there … but I cannot deny that my sympathies are with the men in Canada who think that those persons who took part in the rebellion ought not to be compensated." This was the uncrossable red line of "imperial honour" that was clear to Gladstone – but would it be indisputably clear to members of the Canadian legislature? It was certainly not obvious to their counterparts at Westminster.

Much of his speech was devoted to the discussion of controversial compensation claims, and there can be no doubt that he was very well informed – perhaps, for parliamentary purposes, too well informed – about the subject. But something was at stake that was much more important than the individual cases: "one of the first duties of a Government is that which appertains to the maintenance of public order, and which requires you to draw a clear line of distinction between those who rise up against the Government, and endeavour to overturn it by violence, and those who respect its laws, and who are ready to support it with their lives and substance. But if you obscure that line of demarcation – if you allow the loyal man and the rebel to be confounded – if you pervert the principles of mercy, which makes punishment lenient, and erect them into a law against the principle of justice, which determines between right and wrong, then you sin against the honour of the Crown, and abandon the most sacred duties of a Government." Gladstone did not use the term "sin" lightly. Nor did he underestimate the possible consequences of a British intervention that would reopen the Rebellion Losses controversy in the province, potentially pitting Upper and Lower Canada in irreconcilable confrontation. "It is possible that this measure and the struggles connected with it may lead to the entire dissolution of the Canadian union." He wasted no regrets on the collapse of the cobbled-together structure that he had so reluctantly endorsed nine years earlier. Its failure might even be a step in the right direction, towards "a general union of the North American provinces, into which the two divisions of Upper and Lower Canada would enter…. I should rejoice if these ill-omened beginnings should end in placing on a firmer footing the connexion between this country and the colonies, while it diminished the charges which this country has at present to bear, and secured and consolidated our colonial empire." This was a brief glimpse of a theme that would resurface in his mind when the provinces eventually began to discuss their own regional union in 1864, his determination to link Confederation with the reduction of British defence costs. The flaw in Gladstone's vision was he had no idea of any mechanism that might launch an intercolonial union project – his view of the limitations on colonial autonomy would presumably have frowned upon quasi-revolutionary constitution-making by the colonials themselves – nor did he suggest any reason why the smaller British North American provinces might wish to join the divorcing Canadians. As Prime Minister in 1868, this insensitivity caused him to ignore Nova Scotian protests against their inclusion in the new Dominion, thereby allowing the fragile Confederation to ride out its first major crisis.[119]

R.T. Shannon, a Gladstone biographer who refused to be overawed by his subject, concluded that, in the late eighteen-forties, he "was in a great muddle about colonies".[120] But was he? In relation to Rebellion Losses, his conceptual problem lay not an absence of precision but rather in an excess of rigidity. Winston Churchill also began his ministerial career as Under-Secretary for the Colonies, but he intruded a great deal into policy formation. In January 1906, he argued that there could be no intermediate solution for the recently conquered Transvaal between autocratic rule, which was no longer politically palatable, and full local self-government. "When one crest line is abandoned it is necessary to return to the next. Halting at a ' half-way house' mid-way in the valley is fatal."[121] Churchill mobilised the imagery familiar to a young Army officer to recommend a tactical retreat. Gladstone, although a man of peace, was determined to fight for every yard of ground. As Morley put it, in a remarkably prophetic image, he "was always for fighting out every position to the last trench".[122] In 1849, he perceived a boundary between Canadian autonomy and British supremacy that possessed that Goldilocks quality of being just right – or, indeed, just and right. It was arbitrary calibration in its most exact form, maintained in his most obstinate fashion. Some MPs, including – hurtfully to Gladstone – his former chief Sir Robert Peel, disputed his interpretation of the facts, contending that the Canadian legislature had not intended to reward enemies of the Crown. Others, in effect, shrugged and acted as if they did not care. Gladstone had also tried to impose his own parliamentary tactics, an inconclusive oration designed to wound but not strike, in support of a dividing line between the Canadian and British spheres of governmental responsibility of his dictation. He failed, notably and humiliatingly, in both.

Perhaps the most noteworthy moral to emerge from the 1849 Rebellion Losses episode was the one drawn by Gladstone himself, during a debate on a proposed constitutional settlement for the Australian colonies the following year. He came close to regretting that Westminster should still be operating on the assumption that Britain still possessed the ability to override colonial legislatures. "He felt that the cases in which it was most desirable that this country should interfere, were precisely the cases in which they would find it impossible to do so – cases in which the views of the colonies differed so much from theirs, that where they would be most tempted, and would most desire to interfere, but in which, by their interference, they would be most apt to wound the colonial dignity, and to hazard the colonial connexion." He cited the Rebellion Losses bill as an example where "it was a misfortune that we should have had the power to interfere in that case". He stood firm on his interpretation of the facts, asserting – with an implied allusion to Ireland – that no British government would "have ventured to propose to the Imperial Parliament that it should pass an Act which sought to compensate men who had borne arms against their sovereign for losses which they had suffered whilst bearing those arms". Yet, in relation to Canada, "they were told, that where the distinction of races and local accidents had introduced a new set of ideas into the colony, where the form and condition of society were very different from what they were in the mother country, it was very fit that they should pass such an Act, and that the Crown should not refuse its assent to it". If Rebellion Losses had indeed been "a matter of purely local concern, with which this country had nothing to do …. he could only say that he wished they had not contracted any stain by having been obliged to give their consent to it". Thus his complaint widened from the perceived iniquity of the Canadian legislation to the larger issue of Imperial supremacy. "Why should we have had a power reserved to the Crown to prevent an Act which no Minister of this country could ever have dared propose to the Imperial Legislature, and yet have been unable to exercise that power?"[123] Gladstone was not simply withdrawing to the next defensible ridge, he was preparing to evacuate the entire territory. It would be a short step to demanding that self-governing colonies, notably Canada, should accept primary responsibility for their own defence.

++ Colonial reform and the Church overseas, 1850-1853 In December 1849, the ferment of Empire-related issues produced a short-lived campaign organisation, the Colonial Reform Society.[124] It was cynically encouraged by Disraeli, although he took care to avoid formal association with the project. As a cross-party grouping that planned to confront Lord John Russell's government, it may have seemed more likely to mobilise the broad coalition that Gladstone had failed to create over Rebellion Losses and so defeat the Whig ministry. Unfortunately, the Colonial Reform Society mostly recruited second-rank, indeed in some cases, second-rate political figures, ranging from Sir William Molesworth, the free-thinking radical to C.B. Adderley, an Anglican enthusiast and a Tory Protectionist. There was no possibility of constructing an alternative ministry upon their diverse political opinions: Disraeli derisively referred to them as the Colonial Dilettante Society. Gladstone refused Adderley's offer of the presidency, although Sir James Graham suspected that he was "covertly" manipulating the initiative – a measure of the distrust among prominent Peelites which was, in part, the result of their disagreement over Rebellion Losses the previous year.[125] In February 1850, Catherine Gladstone cheered her husband with a morale-boosting letter, in which she pictured him with "a nice party assembled around you", united on colonial issues and with "numbers flocking in under y[ou]r standard!"[126] Gladstone's wife was not a very political spouse: multiple pregnancies and child-rearing made sufficient demands on her time and attention. It is possible that she was echoing speculative comments by Gladstone himself, but there was never very much likelihood that Gladstone would seek to lead a crusade for colonial reform. Indeed, he replied to her initiative in affectionate if patronising terms. "Indeed you do rise to very daring flights to-day and suggest many things that flow from your own deep affection which perhaps disguises from you some things that are nevertheless real."  The only path that he saw open to him was "the simple one of acting independently, without faction, and without subserviency, on all questions as they arise." There was no prospect of him forming a party, "or even of the nucleus of a party", least of all on the back of a disparate movement, which seemed innocently dedicated to open-ended Imperial disintegration, and was in any case the brainchild of the utterly disreputable Wakefield.[127]

However, Gladstone was not averse to harnessing the ragbag group of enthusiasts to his own interests. He pressed Adderley to help regularise the position of the Anglican Church around the Empire. It might be tempting to dismiss this as a retreat in to his comfort zone of ecclesiastical politics after his mauling over Rebellion Losses. In fact, he did have a point: the Anglican Church overseas was placed in an anomalous position by the developing system of colonial self-government, which tended "to deprive her of the advantages of civil establishment but to leave her under its disqualification". As with Rebellion Losses, Gladstone saw a need to strike a balance between autonomy and uniformity. On the one hand, the overseas branches of the Church of England "should be bound in substance at least to the Articles and Liturgy", while it was likely that most colonial bishops would continue to be appointed from Britain. On the other hand, each Church "should stand in the same relation as other bodies in the Colony to her Colonial Legislature", which meant the guaranteed power to run its own affairs. Unfortunately, overseas dioceses and provinces could not achieve this laudable aim by their own efforts: "this self-government must be started by some at least enabling procedure from hence". There were here the elements of typically Gladstonian complexity. As with Rebellion Losses, colonial branches of the Anglican Church were to be self-governing, but to recognise metropolitan unity in matters of liturgy and belief. And they were to exercise their local autonomy by order from the centre of the Empire.

The complication here was that the Church of England at home had no culture of synodical self-government. Clergy were ineligible for election to the House of Commons because, in theory, they were represented through the Convocations of Canterbury and York. These bodies solemnly assembled after each secular general election, but were promptly prorogued, a tradition that dated from an early Hanoverian policy designed to stamp out theological dissension. The revival of Convocation was demanded by Churchmen like Gladstone, who saw the need to regularise synodical government in the colonies as an opportunity for the Church at home to "widen the basis of her old Convocation instrument".[128] Gladstone raised the subject during the debates on the Whig government's proposed Australian constitutional legislation in 1850. Ostensibly, the core of his proposal was to ensure that "it should be lawful for the bishop, and clergy, and laymen, declared members of the Church, and in communion with it, to meet together on the footing of mutual assent, and adopt such measures for their government as they might consider desirable and expedient". But, once again, the question arose of identifying a dividing line between the Imperial and colonial spheres. He envisaged that the Archbishop of Canterbury would be given the power to veto any local declaration of independence, and sought to prevent synods from asserting the right to choose their own bishops without the permission of the British government. Particularly important was the insistence upon unity of dogma. Nobody could be ordained unless he "subscribed the Articles of the United Church of England and Ireland, and declared his unfeigned assent and consent to the Book of Common Prayer". In this case not unreasonably, Gladstone "saw no injustice in requiring that they should continue to conform to the general and fundamental conditions on which the religious system of this country rested, as long as they thought fit to continue in communion with it".[129]  He made a further attempt to resolve the issue through a private members bill in 1852.[130] By this time, he had been able to amass an impressive collection of supportive petitions from Anglican dioceses in Canada and Australia.

His extensive recitation of the Canadian and Australian petitions may have obscured one noteworthy omission in his characteristically broad argument. In large measure, he envisaged the colonial churches running their affairs on much the same basis as the Episcopal Church in Scotland. His failure to mention the Anglican Church's Scottish partner seems the more remarkable since he was its active supporter when north of the Border, and had taken a leading part in the foundation of Trinity College, Glenalmond, its clerical seminary and boarding school.[131] Gladstone may have refrained from citing the Episcopal Church as a model since he would have been aware that, unlike the colonial churches, it was not a derivative institution subordinate to Canterbury, but rather a parallel development from the Reformation with its own traditions and – in some instances – its own liturgical modifications. A more practical reason for ignoring Scotland was that it could prove a mistake to draw attention to the self-governing status of a small – and, some have felt, vanishing – communion that claimed to be part of the Apostolic succession. The question might have been asked: why should the much larger and wealthier Church of England not accept disestablishment and run its affairs too? If Gladstone could not appeal to the example of Scotland – not to mention that of the Episcopalian Church of the United States – he was obliged to build up his case on colonial grounds, diocese by diocese, petition by petition, thereby reinforcing his standing as an authority on Britain's overseas Empire. However, when the Aberdeen coalition was formed in December 1852, he nimbly evaded attempts to send him back to the Colonial Office, securing his prime objective, the Treasury, and so opening the way to a political rebirth that would mark him out as the fiercely upright guardian of the nation's finances.

Matthew discerned a link between Gladstone's concern for the overseas branches of the Church and the transition in his attitude to colonial self-government. If the colonial provinces and dioceses were to be autonomous, then "[c]olonies likewise must have responsible assemblies".[132] In fact, the connection was not so straightforward, as would become apparent during the affair of J.W. Colenso, appointed bishop of Natal in 1853 and deposed for heresy by the bishop of Cape Town ten years later. Subsequent court cases probed a hornets; nest of doubtful legality. Natal had only been split from Cape Colony three years after Colenso's appointment, by letters patent issued in Britain. Since neither colonial legislature had ever passed laws regulating the Anglican Church, it followed that the bishop of Cape Town had no authority to dismiss his heretical fellow prelate. Matthew's conclusion apparently assumed that colonies must be self-governing, but the Cape nor Natal had been granted responsible government.  More broadly, even if the two colonies had achieved the status of Canada, concession of the right to regulate offshoots of the Anglican Church did little to resolve the larger issue, the definition of the remaining boundaries between British supremacy and local autonomy.  It was not so much that Gladstone's views on colonial freedom had passed Through the Looking Glass but rather that he had used a Church question to slip around the side.

Gladstone did not press his colonial Churches bill to a vote, but he did use it as a vehicle to signal an about-face on the question of the Canadian clergy reserves. Seeking to distance himself from Anglican supremacists like his Tory colleague in the representation of Oxford University, Sir Robert Inglis, he insisted that "if any man offers me for the Church of England in the Colonies the boon of civil preference, I would reject that boon not necessarily as ill-intended or ill-minded, but undoubtedly as a fatal gift". Any form of privileged endowment "would be nothing but a source of weakness to the Church herself, and of discord and difficulty to the Colonial communities, in the soil of which I am anxious to see the Church of England take a free, strong, and healthy root".[133] This was a major repudiation of his earlier attitude to the Canadian clergy reserves, but it is important to note that his motivation remained the interests of the Church, not the advancement of colonial freedom. To the extent that Gladstone had indeed passed Through the Looking Glass, it was essentially the method of arming the Church to fight for souls that had changed.

The parliamentary session of 1853, Gladstone's first in his coveted role as Chancellor of the Exchequer, saw him deliver a remarkable debating speech on the Canadian clergy reserves, much of which cannot easily be fitted into either his previous or his future attitude to Britain's relations with its provinces in North America.[134] The Aberdeen coalition had decided to accede to pressure from the Canadian legislature to cede control of the reserves to colonial control.  The government initially portrayed their proposed legislation as a purely technical move to permit the transfer of responsibility, an illusion that they attempted to foster by entrusting it to a junior minister, the Under-Secretary for Colonies, who happened to be Sir Robert Peel's son. However, it was generally appreciated that Canada would put an end to the anomaly once it had acquired authority over the reserves, and MPs laughed when Gladstone expressed the "firm hope is that if you pass this Bill those endowments will be maintained".[135] However, the bulk of Gladstone's speech was a rip-roaring endorsement of colonial autonomy, in terms that seemed entirely to contradict his serious-minded attempt to impose restrictions in 1849. The principal Conservative opponent of the bill, Sir John Pakington – he had served as Colonial Secretary in Lord Derby's brief administration the previous year – briefly touched upon the Rebellion Losses controversy, obliquely indicating that Gladstone had "entertained the very strongest feelings on the subject", but he did not press home the debating point.[136] Indeed, Gladstone was fortunate that no MP threw back at him the entire contrast between his two orations.

Gladstone began by asserting – as he had so strongly denied four years earlier – that the votes of Canadian legislators represented the opinions of Canadian voters: "when you entrust them with the privilege of choosing representatives – when those representatives meet in the exercise of the privilege of free discussion … it is a safe and a sound principle of action that the deliberate expression of those representatives is to be taken as conclusive evidence of the sense of the colonial population". The alternative approach, "to gather shreds and rags of evidence" and  cite them against "the deliberate judgment expressed to you by the Legislatures which you yourselves have created, and invested with the authority and responsibility of legislation" was tantamount to striking "a deadly blow at the principle of free government". It would have been preferable never to have granted constitutions to the colonies than to "deny to them the fair exercise of those very privileges which you have given them". He threw in a tendentious appeal to the wisdom of William Pitt, pouring scorn on "the principle that the liberties granted to two or three villages in 1791, shall not be granted to cities that count their scores of thousand – to a population approaching 2,000,000, and that in the middle of the present century?" He evoked the language of Edmund Burke to insist that God himself wished the people of Canada to decide the issue: "it having pleased the Almighty to interpose 3,000 miles of ocean between you and them – having drawn that broad line of distinction which showed His will", he told MPs, "it is fitting that they, and not you, should take the management of their concerns, with which they are better acquainted than you possibly can be." There was a touch of Adam Smith in Gladstone's rhetoric as well. How had the clergy reserves become so valuable? "Was it from our skill, or from our labour, or from our capital? … No, they were originally in a state of natural wildness; it is the Canadian who has cultivated them, and it is his industry and skill which has given them value."  Parliament had no right to treat the reserves as "as if they were mere abstractions which we had sent out to Canada … the Canadian who alone ought to decide this question". This was not a matter of favour, but one of right. "It is not because they are Canadians that they shall have these privileges, but because it is not right, according to nature or justice, that you should take the management of their affairs into your hands. They are doing precisely what you would do if you were in their place. Were Canada England, and were England Canada, I do not believe there is one of you who will vote against this Bill who would not take the same attitude that has been taken by the Canadians."[137] The proposed legislation was "wise, politic, and prudent" but, above all, it was "righteous and just".

On the face of it, this sounded like a total endorsement of the new regime of responsible government, a remarkable turn-around from the view he had expressed four years earlier. The most obvious explanation for this would lie in his acceptance, his necessary acceptance, of the responsibilities of cabinet solidarity. The early months of the Aberdeen coalition – Gladstone disliked even that consensus term for the ministry – saw some bumpy accommodations among its jarring elements, at a time when he needed the unqualified support of his new colleagues for an ambitious budget strategy.[138] Yet his speech can also be seen as a shift in tactics in regard to his fundamental loyalty, to the interests of the Anglican Church, which just happened to be set against the backdrop of Canada. "I can conceive nothing more detrimental to the Church of England than that she should be found engaging in a struggle perfectly hopeless, and in my deep conviction as entirely devoid of justice as of any prospect of success." There is a sense that this was a logical evolution of the position he had adopted fourteen years, in his notoriously tendentious tract, The State in its Relations with the Church. Even then, it had been obvious that attempts to entrench Anglican supremacy around the Empire had long since collapsed, as the colonies insisted on treating all denominations alike. Hence, if Britain could not secure the primacy of the Church of England in its dependencies, it had a duty to ensure that Anglican communities could at least compete with rival denominations on equal terms. In Canada, the clergy reserves settlement imposed in 1840 had become a liability and, accordingly, it had to go.

One obvious riposte to such a line of argument was that it was the product of an over-sophisticated rejection of a simple alternative – Archbishop Howley's view in 1840 that if there were resources available, the Church of England should exploit its privileged position to grab the lion's share. Bishop Strachan almost certainly had Gladstone in mind when he complained in February 1852 that there were "no true Friends of the Church" in the Aberdeen cabinet, "for those, who think themselves Friends, are Theorists the most dangerous of all Politicians for having settled that their Theory is true, they become conscientious destructives".[139] This would be a complaint that would be made against Gladstone in many contexts and controversies over the next forty years. Gladstone could afford to ignore the Bishop of Toronto, but the complicated political balancing act of the newly minted Chancellor of the Exchequer required him to protect his support base in the heavily clerical constituency of Oxford University. His appointment had required confirmation through the usual ministerial by-election, and in January 1853 he had come alarmingly close to defeat: the dreaming spires were suddenly awake to the dangers inherent in Gladstone's accommodation with Canadian reality. His rousing speech of 4 March was quickly followed by a letter from ten prominent members of what might be called the moderately reactionary wing of his donnish supporters. They impressed upon him that "the abandonment of the Clergy Reserves to the Canadian Parliament" had to be accompanied "by that measure of Colonial Church liberty which the public have learned to associate with your name & principles". In July, Archbishop Sumner, Howley's successor, introduced a measure into the House of Lords which was designed to balance colonial autonomy with doctrinal conformity: Gladstone seems to have been too busy at the Treasury to have taken part in the planning. By the time the proposed legislation reached the Commons, on 29 July, it was obviously too late in the session for it to pass, and Gladstone's complaint that it was "a mismanaged & a bad business" was unreasonable. No doubt to appease his Oxford supporters, he mounted a token defence of the bill in the House of Commons. His answer to concern expressed by some MPs that synodical self-government would mean that "several colonial Churches would be created, and, possibly, a separate Church might be created in each colonial diocese" was to point out that the bill had been introduced by the Archbishop himself, and "agreed to by the whole bench of bishops".[140] Quite apart from the pressures of time that they all faced, Sumner himself was trying to lead an organisation that was racked by internal controversy over issues that could easily have exploded in surrogate form in an attempt to design a blueprint for dioceses overseas.[141] To have secured an episcopal consensus for a Colonial Church Regulation bill of any kind, and in so short a time, was an achievement.

As the 1853 Clergy Reserves legislation passed through parliament, a complication emerged. Beneficiaries of the 1840 settlement had received a promise that, in the last resort, their stipends would be paid by the British Treasury. Since, at that time, the reserves had been, in effect, money in the bank, and placed beyond the ambitions of local politicians, this seemed a safe gesture. In the initial version of the proposed legislation of 1853, this commitment was dropped. However, on 12 March – eight days after Gladstone's barn-storming speech – the cabinet decided to change tack, for fear of being accused of bad faith. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, fanatical in his commitment to the curbing of public expenditure, was forced to defend the new approach. His argument was a display of ingenuity – not to mention casuistry – which he would later apply to the similarly inconvenient obligation to defend Canada against the United States. Gladstone described the provision as "merely a guarantee on paper", a startlingly casual statement from so upright a financial expert. It would only arise as a practical issue if the Canadian legislature proceeded to secularise the reserves, which might not happen for fifteen or twenty years. (Gladstone could not have had the slightest evidence for this prediction – in fact, the reserves disappeared within two years.) By that time, he predicted (with a certain lack of sensitivity), most of the beneficiaries from 1840 would be dead. Should the Canadians take action at some time in the future, "it would be the duty of the Minister of the day to raise the question of this guarantee, and it would be the duty of Parliament to consider what course they should take with respect to it". The clear implication – indeed, it might be termed a menace – was that some future British government might refuse to be bound by the arrangements made in 1840 and that, even if the House of Commons was asked to provide compensation, MPs might refuse to vote the necessary funds. The latter point was certainly constitutionally correct, but the former hardly reflected well upon ministerial integrity or the concept of British honour.[142] One possible explanation of this apparent lapse from Gladstonian high-mindedness was that he assumed Canada would become effectively, perhaps even legally, independent of Britain within fifteen years, and that all preceding British obligations would be transferred to the successor state. (Presumably it did not occur to him that in 1868 and 1873, fifteen and twenty years ahead, he would be Prime Minister.) Certainly, from 1865, Gladstone would develop a similarly convoluted interpretation in regard to Canadian defence: if the people of Canada were prepared to fight for their country, they were entitled to call upon the resources of the Empire – but the British government and parliament would determine the nature and the extent of that support.

It is to be regretted that Gladstone's major biographers have largely passed over both his stance against Rebellion Losses and his role in the dismantling of the clergy reserves four years later.[143] On the face of it, the contrast between his two speeches could be cited as an indication of his conversion from controlling Toryism to tolerant Liberalism, although allowance should be made for the fact that in 1849 he spoke from the heart, while in 1853 he delivered a debating society speech motivated by the need to display ministerial solidarity. But the key issue of 1849, the limits of Canadian self-government, had neither been resolved nor abandoned. The boundary between British and colonial responsibilities had simply been flexibly reinterpreted in the global interests of the Church of England. The continued existence of a notional dividing line was revealed by Gladstone's challenge to the bill's critics in the House of Commons. "If you can show that this fairly belongs to the category of subjects of Imperial interest, of subjects which are for Imperial consideration, and that it is therefore necessary for the House to retain the control over it in our hands, then I grant this Bill should be rejected."[144] He had put the point in an even more opaque form while pleading the cause of the colonial Churches the previous year. "Every question in which you cannot show an Imperial interest, shall be left to be dealt with and managed by the Colonies themselves."[145] This principle certainly sounded like a harbinger of Commonwealth-style partnership, but the central questions that Gladstone had raised over Rebellion Losses remained unresolved: what was "an Imperial interest", who defined it, how was it to be enforced? Its formulation is also reminiscent of another ringing declaration that was also framed with a negative rider, Gladstone's explosive statement in 1864 that "every man who is not presumably incapacitated by some consideration of personal unfitness or of political danger is morally entitled to come within the pale of the Constitution".[146] Contemporaries and historians alike have probed these words to determine their significance. Perhaps the only secure conclusion is that they meant less than they seemed to say. It is also likely that, in 1853,  Gladstone's own motivation was not so much imperial as ecclesiastical: he argued for recognition of the autonomy of the Church in the overseas Empire as part of a wider campaign to reinvigorate the Anglican Communion at home. It did not follow that a principle proclaimed on behalf of the Church applied to colonial government more generally. A parallel element may also have been Gladstone's belief in the inevitable, if eventual, independence of the Empire's overseas territories – those of European settlement at least. In December 1855, Lord Stanley recorded that, in general, Gladstone was "favourable to entire abandonment of colonies, when able to stand alone".[147] In the mid-eighteen fifties, the province of Canada, with two million people, was the only British dependency which might have fallen into that category. The key question about the possible future independence of Canada, one that would greatly concern Gladstone in the following decade, was whether Canadians could – or would – defend their independence against the intimidating power of the United States.

++ Our Colonies (1855): philosophical overview or job application? In 1855, an accidental opportunity arose for grand theorising which suggested that Gladstone's ideas about the colonial relationship had not dramatically moved on at all.  As late as December 1852, it was highly possible that he might have found himself manoeuvred back into the Colonial Office.[148] In fact, he secured the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer, and began a formidable rebranding exercise as a financial expert. However, in 1855, the fall of the Aberdeen cabinet, and the rapid exodus of the Peelites from the government of his successor, Lord Palmerston – one of their last collective gestures, and of a kamikaze kind – introduced a new element of instability into the high politics of ministerial appointments. The office of Colonial Secretary seemed especially accident prone, with two resignations in the first six months of the new ministry. However, in July 1855, Palmerston appointed Sir William Molesworth, radical baronet and longtime campaigner for colonial reform, who, at 45, was relatively young for front-line politics and seemed well qualified to dominate the office for years ahead. Unfortunately, Molesworth's health collapsed and his death on 22 October reopened the vacancy, at a time when there were few obvious candidates still standing. Palmerston took a month in which he used the office as bait in failed attempts to strengthen his government, before making the uncontroversial choice of the Whig stalwart, Henry Labouchere.[149] It should be stressed that, at no time during those fraught days of late October and November, was Gladstone's name mentioned as a possible replacement. Once again, the context of the political issue is important. The Russian fortress city of Sevastopol (then called Sebastopol in English) had fallen to French and British forces in September, but the expensive and demoralising war continued. Gladstone was particularly distrusted for his resignation the previous February, an episode in which he had been vehement in his criticism of the new prime minister. Palmerston had come into office as a war leader, and needed to recruit appropriately bellicose cabinet colleagues at a time when Napoleon III was pressing for a compromise peace. Gladstone, who had spoken in May in favour of an accommodation with Russia, was the epitome of the peace party.[150] Even if he showed himself to be a walking encyclopedia on colonial matters, he was – at that stage – a total impossibility in a Palmerston cabinet. Nonetheless, whether by coincidence or design, Gladstone was in the process of polishing the Empire aspects of his curriculum vitae.

On 12 October 1855, ten days before Molesworth's unexpected death, Gladstone delivered a public lecture on "The Colonies". If he was planning to relaunch his ministerial ambitions (and, at that time, there was no vacancy), it seems unlikely that he would have chosen the schoolroom at Hawarden, at the gates of his country estate, as his come-back venue.[151] There is therefore no reason to suspect that the event was anything other than it was reported, a fund-raising effort for the local institute, a club for the villagers. Gladstone was engaged in research on Homer, and certainly devoted much less time in preparation of his lecture than would have been appropriate for a major political manifesto. Earlier in the day, he briefly put aside the Iliad, read a speech that he had delivered on New Zealand affairs in 1852 and "made notes of figures &c. for the evening", enough to enable him to speak for an hour and twenty minutes. In his address, he made few, mostly superficial, allusions to the Empire's most prominent colony, Canada. "In 1837 the Canadians were in open rebellion against the Government of England, and it was only after a serious sacrifice of blood and treasure that peace was obtained", he recounted, before pointing out that most of the demands made by the rebels had subsequently been conceded. "If these concessions had been made in time, the sacrifice of life might have been spared, and much disaffection prevented."[152] This was much the formula that he would use around 1886 in defence of Home Rule: a leap from short-sighted resistance against justifiable demands to the miracle solution of self-government, omitting any mention of disputes over jurisdictional boundaries in between. Of course, it turned on its head the regret he had expressed in 1838 that the Whig ministry had not resorted to repression at a much earlier stage: "it would have been easy to put a stop to the beginnings of that which subsequent eruptions rendered it much more difficult to smother; that much violence might have been spared; that effusion of blood might have been spared".[153]

On 23 October, as the political world began to speculate on the implications of Molesworth's death, Gladstone accepted an invitation to repeat his lecture at the Mechanics Institute in the nearby town of Chester. There was still no suggestion that his oration would double as a job application: the request was probably spontaneous, and by the time the event would take place – on 12 November – Palmerston might well have filled the vacancy. Nor did Gladstone spend the intervening three weeks in line-by-line crafting of his text. On the morning of the lecture, he finished reading a play by Euripides (in Greek, of course) and "luxuriated in Burke". He then took a stroll, returning home where "I threw my thoughts into order & made notes for the evening". There were guests in the house, and fourteen people sat down to an early dinner, their convivial company no doubt further distracting the host's attention. The party drove to Chester, where Gladstone spoke, this time for an hour and fifty minutes, which enabled him to cover some issues he had omitted at Hawarden, including the Rebellion Losses bill. The meeting was covered by a young Irish reporter, with superb shorthand skills and a tendency to hero-worship. Justin McCarthy, later a prominent Home Ruler, realised that Gladstone's address "was what might be called extemporaneous", that he had "nothing more than a few notes or headings to guide him".[154] "Much below what it sh[oul]d have been", was the speaker's own verdict on his performance.[155] 

It was McCarthy who pushed for the publication of the lecture in pamphlet form. "Mr Gladstone's address impressed me so much at the time that I thought it a great pity it should not have some more abiding record than that afforded by the columns of a provincial daily newspaper." He guessed that Gladstone could supply no written text, but hoped that his report in Liverpool's Northern Daily Times would provide a basis from which the speaker could reconstruct his oration. Gladstone, who had no intention of being distracted from the study of Homer, relied upon his flattery of McCarthy's skills as a reporter to induce the young admirer to do the bulk of the work. The project was apparently approved on 14 November, two days after the event at Chester, and Gladstone corrected proofs between 21 and 23 November, just as Labouchere was taking office.[156] Noblesse oblige to his neighbours at Hawarden combined with the hero-worship of a young Irish journalist to foster the image of Gladstone as an Olympian theorist of Empire, at just the moment when Palmerston's gimcrack ministry was appointing a colourless Whig politician to oversee its fortunes.

The published text[157] indicates that Gladstone at Chester made essentially the same point about Canada as at Hawarden: after the rebellions, "we made all the concessions that we might have made [before 1837] without bloodshed, or strife, or heartburning." But then he went on to discuss the Rebellion Losses bill, which he described as "understood … to give compensation at the public expense to some of those who had suffered losses in the rebellion in resisting the Queen's troops". This was in itself a tendentious statement, which ignored the provisions intended to exclude convicted rebels. Gladstone, however, sought to enlist the sympathies of his audience in a reaction of outrage. "You will admit that this was a very bad and dangerous precedent. What effect must it have upon the authority of the law – what effect must it have upon the discipline of the army, if, after rebels against the authority of the law have been put down, you introduce an Act of Parliament to compensate the rebels for their losses in and through rebelling?" (Chester was a garrison town: hence the appeal to the feelings of soldiers called upon to risk their lives for a cause that the politicians later repudiated.) Yet, in an assumed spirit of fairness, Gladstone noted that the rebels of 1837 were "entitled" to claim that subsequent British concessions meant that their cause had been a just one. Overall, Westminster legislators like himself had been placed in a "painful dilemma". Should they insist that former rebels must continue to suffer "for our stupidity or folly", or were they compelled "to set an abominable precedent" by allowing payment to the insurgents of "compensation for the losses which their conduct had brought upon them"? Gladstone recalled that he had recognised Rebellion Losses as "a difficult question … hardly one which, either way, admitted of any satisfactory solution". He had challenged the Canadian legislation, but "wiser men than I thought that, grievous as the evil was, the bill should pass; and it did pass, and we were obliged to put our dignity in our pockets upon that occasion".

Read in the pamphlet version, his conclusion seemed both tendentious and truculent. It was an exaggeration to claim that the bill's defenders regarded it as a grievous evil: Elgin, for instance, had accepted that it was "not indeed altogether free from objection", which was hardly the same thing, while Gladstone's admirer Arthur Gordon had reluctantly conceded that Russell's speech constituted "a much stronger case for the government policy in Canada than I had any idea could be made out". Gladstone seemed to be saying that he had been right to oppose the Rebellion Losses bill, while simultaneously signalling his subsequent accommodation with the new responsible government regime: as he hopefully put it, "no such occasion will recur, because … the conduct which brought it about will never be repeated".

Thus, one plausible reading of Gladstone's recollection of the Rebellion Losses bill would be as a coded bid for an eventual return to the Colonial Office, insisting on the correctness of his opposition in 1849, but indicating that he was prepared to move forward into a new imperial era. However, it seems that the impression that Gladstone had made a grudging concession to reality was actually the product of the editing process, perhaps a cleaning-up of the text by Justin McCarthy, or maybe the result of Gladstone's own intervention at proof stage. Newspaper reports suggest that his statement that "we were obliged to put our dignity in our pockets upon that occasion" was delivered with a defiant flippancy, a sarcastic gloss on the episode that produced, according to The Times, "Cheers and laughter".[158] Gladstone was at least one and a half hours into his delivery when he stirred his hearers to mocking mirth. As an orator, the Gladstone of Chester was hardly the barnstorming Gladstone of Midlothian twenty-four years later: some of his audience would surely have been anaesthetised by his detailed demolition of protective tariffs. To have roused even some of them to cheers and laughter suggests that he vented his feelings with a savage – and infectious – sarcasm.

Overall, then, it may be that it was merely coincidence that Gladstone should have held forth on imperial relations at just the moment when there was a vacancy in the Colonial Office. He could of course have arranged to be invited to address his village neighbours or the artisans of the nearby towns, but the Hawarden lecture was delivered a week before Molesworth's unexpected death, and the orator himself devoted little time to the preparation of his remarks, and generated no written text. In finding a new Colonial Secretary, Palmerston wished to gain support for his ministry and strengthen his own position within the cabinet. He did seek Peelite support, turning, not to Gladstone, but to Sidney Herbert, whom he tried to persuade to resume the office that he had reluctantly resigned nine months earlier. Herbert visited Broadlands, the premier's country house in Hampshire, but the two men "could not agree upon the subject of war and peace". An encyclopedic knowledge of Empire issues was no longer a qualification for the Colonial Office: Palmerston needed allies who would hold out for a victorious peace settlement.[159] Gladstone's motivations functioned in hermetically sealed layers: he may not have known himself whether he aimed to graduate from the Chester Mechanics Institute into the cabinet. But one point does stand out: six years after the Rebellion Losses episode, he still believed he had been right to challenge the legislation.[160]

++ Independent Opposition 1857-8 Gladstone remained in exile from ministerial office until he returned to the Treasury in 1859, finding a formula – Italy – that would enable him to serve under Palmerston. His enormous energies were unlikely to remain unharnessed for long, and during 1857-8 he engaged in four exercises connected with Britain's overseas dependencies, one involving plans for colonisation, a second related to his recently asserted concern for rectitude in financial administration, the third an echo of his brief infatuation with Wakefieldian colonisation schemes, while the fourth was just plain whimsical. The first three involved British North American issues.

In 1857, he was appointed to a parliamentary committee established to determine whether, and on what terms, the charter of the Hudson's Bay Company should be renewed. Members included both supporters and critics of its paternalist monopoly: Gladstone, firmly numbered among the latter, needed to ensure that he was well informed to fight his corner.[161] In 1848, he had argued that the Company's claims to sovereignty should be legally tested, and two years later had expressed outrage at the subsequent endorsement of its position by the Law Officers of the Crown: they had simply accepted its ex parte statement, and a protester from the Red River settlement had been advised that the Company's position could only be challenged by taking legal action – at his own cost, clearly an impossible option.  Gladstone had censured this one-sided protection of a powerful interest.[162] His denunciation of the Company in 1848 had focused upon Vancouver Island. In 1857, he not only renewed his attack on its legal position, but broadened his vision of future settlement to large areas of the continental interior, proposing a motion: "That the country capable of colonisation should be withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Hudson's Bay Company." His probing questions reflected his usual intensive preparation, for instance seeking information from witnesses on problems of travelling to the Red River from Lake Huron, and on facilities for the navigation of prairie rivers – the east-west axes of the North and South Saskatchewan evidently intrigued him as potential transportation arteries. One of his ideas sounded distinctly odd: "I suppose it is not to be doubted that when a large district or country becomes populous, there is then an influence upon climate?" If this was a harbinger of theories of global warming, it was left puzzlingly unexplained. Gladstone was probably trying to reassure himself that the extreme cold of the prairie winter need not constitute a permanent discouragement to settlement, but the statement still seems bizarre.

Only once did he censure the "dark side" of the Company's monopoly, the way it kept the indigenous inhabitants "in a position of the most helpless dependence … a system under which the return for their labour is totally insignificant, while the article which they sell to the Hudson's Bay Company is the medium of enormous profits". Like many another protagonist of colonisation, Gladstone had problems in simultaneously upholding the rights of Aboriginal peoples while advocating the transfer of their homelands to incomers.

In a relatively brief parliamentary speech on the subject in 1858, he again challenged the legal basis of the Company's authority, but emphasised that "the truth is beyond question, that a great part of this country is highly valuable for colonizing purposes, and it is impossible to state in too strong language the proposition, that the Hudson's Bay Company is, by its very existence and its character the enemy of colonization". He drove home his point with a striking image: "If it be necessary for a gentleman who makes a deer forest in Scotland to remove the sheep and the shepherd's hut from its range, still more necessary is it that from the whole of the Hudson's Bay territory which is to be used for the purposes of the fur trade, colonization should be excluded with the utmost and most unyielding rigour." For the first time, he hinted at the possibility that the development of these vast prairie and Pacific coast territories might be linked to the future of Canada. It was "an important and difficult" question, whether a programme of settlement "ought to be conducted by a direct agency from hence, or whether it would not be better to leave Canada to undertake the work". The key point was that "the rights of the British public and the necessity of opening new fields for the enterprise of British adventurers impose a duty upon us which we must not neglect".[163] An important element in the package of incentives that would point to Confederation had taken shape in his mind, although it would wilt under the pressure of financial rectitude in the early eighteen-sixties.

One sign of that developing determination to impose financial discipline upon self-governing colonies was Gladstone's brief immersion in the affairs of Prince Edward Island, which had been granted responsible government in 1853. With a population roughly equal to that of Flint, the Welsh county that was the location of Hawarden, this tiny colony was likely to find parliamentary government a challenge. Its politics were dominated by a major social and economic issue: in 1767, the island had been divided into lots and granted to landlords. The Reform administration led by George Coles promised to buy out their descendants, most of whom were absentees who lived in England, who saw no reason to terminate their profitable connection with the island.[164] Coles managed to purchase just one estate, at an inflated cost and through a very murky transaction.[165] In 1857, his ministry passed legislation authorising the raising of a loan of £100,000 for further purchases. They then requested  retrospective Imperial guarantee to underwrite the transaction, a device that would reassure investors and hence reduced the rate at which the Island could borrow. Gladstone studied the question in some detail, even drafting resolutions that he considered moving in the House of Commons. Eventually, however, he adopted the simpler strategy of putting a question about the government's intentions towards the Prince Edward Island request. He insisted that full debate would be required on two matters, "the principle of guaranteeing loans for colonial purposes; and the peculiar form in which the arrangement in the present instance was proposed, a colonial Act having actually been passed for raising the loan in anticipation of a guarantee being given by the Imperial Parliament".[166] Britain, he implied, should not be badgered into endorsing a dubious transaction by the importunities of such a minuscule community. The minority Conservative administration took the hint and refused the guarantee. Given the colony's low reputation for competence and probity, Prince Edward Island could not raise the funds on its own security. Gladstone's interest in this episode represents a transitional point in his political trajectory. It was his last outing as an independent authority on colonial matters, the role that Peel had bestowed upon him 23 years earlier. It also drew upon his more recently established role as the champion of upright public finances. The warning shot fired at the likely profligacy of one tiny colony indicated that his crusade would extend to Britain's overseas dependencies as a whole. It would not be long before it became clear that this firmness would apply, not merely to the smallest outpost of Empire, but to its prime transatlantic appendage, the great and growing province of Canada.  

In 1858, the Empire was obliged to add to its quiverful of colonies. The governor of the small colony of Vancouver Island unilaterally extended his authority to the mainland, where a gold rush brought an influx of miners to the Fraser Valley. A permanent structure was obviously required to avoid anarchy and the risks of American intervention. It fell to Sir Edward Lytton, the inexperienced Colonial Secretary in Derby's weak second ministry, to create the framework of a new colony, which was initially called New Caledonia. The adoption of the name of a south Pacific island claimed by the French was unfortunate in fostering a low opinion of Lytton's administrative grip, and it was quickly changed to British Columbia.[167] A decade earlier, Gladstone's interest in Vancouver Island had brought him into contact with a young Irish gentleman, James Edward FitzGerald who, as an official of the British Museum, had been well-placed to supply him with information as an unofficial research assistant. FitzGerald had hoped to emigrate to Vancouver Island himself, but failure to dislodge the dominance of the Hudson's Bay Company led him to turn his attention "to the next best Colony at present existing – New Zealand".[168] There, he became a prominent politician, but health concerns brought him back to England in 1857, to head the colony's London emigration office.[169] On 9 July 1858, Gladstone noted in his diary that he saw "Mr Fitzgerald (resp[ecting] New Caled[onia])". Unlike New Zealand, which Parliament had endowed with representative institutions, the new Pacific coast colony was to be administered entirely by officials, although Lytton envisaged that an elective element might be added, perhaps in as little as five years. Given the emergency circumstances, the lack of an elected Assembly was neither unwise nor surprising, but it spurred Gladstone into a theoretical statement on colonial government which he delivered during the committee stage. In 1837, he had insisted that colonies should "be regarded as the children of the parent country", subject to tutelage. Now he argued for instant maturity. "The opinion prevailed that as it was natural, or at least useful, for a child to be carried in the arms of a nurse for twelve months, so it was natural for a colony to be dandled for a term of years in the arms of the Imperial Government, in order that it might, by a process which was called education, be fitted for freedom; the fact being, on the contrary, that the longer you applied a government of that sort to a society of free men the more you unfitted them for freedom." He pronounced himself "sceptical" of the argument that "it would not be right that the colony should be founded with free institutions at the outset" simply because "we should have a mixed and promiscuous population, of irregular habits, uncertain objects, and various origin".  Rather, he demanded that the government should be required "to show for every year and every month during which free institutions were not established that there was an absolute necessity for postponing them strictly connected with the exceptional circumstances of the colony itself". Perhaps he was discharging a promise to FitzGerald that he would register a protest – Gladstone specifically referred to the New Zealand constitution of 1852 – but it is difficult to see what he hoped his intervention might achieve, since he offered no amendments and did not formally oppose the bill's passage.[170] Given that the legislation did indeed provide for the eventual introduction of an elective element, Gladstone's comments were both pettifogging and impractical. A House of Assembly had been tacked on to the constitution of nearby Vancouver Island two years earlier, but a highly restrictive franchise had produced an electorate of just over forty, who returned a legislature of seven representatives. The numbers involved in the new mainland colony were larger – at least 20,000 miners arrived in 1858 alone – but many were Americans or Chinese who would have been ineligible to vote, had a citizenship requirement for the franchise been enforced. A population so mixed, promiscuous, irregular, uncertain and various – to quote the Gladstonian adjectives – could hardly be regarded as constituting a stable community (on the Cariboo goldfield in 1863, the male-female gender ratio was an astronomical 220:1, hardly a promising formula for permanence), and the imposition of any kind of property qualification would have massively reduced the electorate.[171] The speech was an example of the Gladstonian trait, noted by Frederic Rogers (and discussed below) of pursuing a subject "hither and thither from one starting-point, not by walking round it". Gladstone's role as a godparent to the new colony amounted to little more than a mechanical recitation of the generalised mantra of the Colonial Reformers of 1850. Probably the most noteworthy aspect of his remarks about prairie settlement or of British Columbia governance is that they represent the last occasions on which he spoke about matters related to Canada as an independent politician. Thereafter he would respond to Canadian issues either as a minister or as an opposition leader – and usually backed by the authority of high office.  

During these directionless years, Gladstone also acquired his only personal experience of the administration of an overseas dependency, an exotic (or quixotic) mission to the British protectorate of the Ionian Islands in 1858-9. This excursion produced a characteristically detailed paper on proposed reforms, in which he made only a brief allusion to the problems of Canada in the eighteen-thirties. The comparison was neither clear nor illuminating, largely because it was in reality not very relevant. In any case, neither the question of the definition of imperial authority nor the possibility of its relaxation were likely to arise, the more so since Gladstone was firmly convinced that the stability of the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean generally required Britain to keep a firm grip on the "Septinsular State".[172] The Ionian Islanders fell short of Gladstone's ideal Homeric Greeks, and no more was heard from him about classical models for colonial expansion.

++ Gladstone: Canada's "great enemy"? 1861-1871 Gladstone's re-appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Palmerston in June 1859 enabled him to complete the political rebranding he had begun during the Aberdeen ministry in 1852-5, a transition from colonial expert to financial martinet.[173] Matthew argued that he "aggressively and consistently politicized the chancellorship", seeking to convert the Treasury from the government's housekeeping department to the potent determinant of its policies. He was particularly opposed to defence expenditure, and offered fierce resistance to Palmerston's plans to upgrade the fortifications of England's south coast. Twenty years later, Gladstone recalled that "in 1859-65 the Estimates were ordinarily settled at the sword's point; and the anti-economic host was led on by the Prime Minister". In 1897, he narrowed down the key phase of conflict to 1860 and 1861, which he described as "the most trying part of my whole political life".[174] Military and naval expenditure on the defence of colonies became a major target, which spilled over into a general lack of sympathy for Canadian aspirations. Soon after Gladstone's appointment, Canada's finance minister, Alexander Galt, visited Britain seeking to refinance the province's debt. It was a sign of future difficulties that he found Gladstone "not overly disposed to meet my views", even though his project required little support from the Exchequer.[175] Gladstone's next encounter with Canada, in 1861-2, came in the guise not of the upholder of the principle of imperial supremacy but rather as the defender of public finances from a more ambitious attempt to harness Britain's credit for colonial development.

++ The intercolonial railway project 1861-2 By the early eighteen sixties, Gladstone was dealing with a very different Canada from the unstable colonies of 1837 or the divided province of 1849. Russell's confident assertion that year that "No Canadian or Australian Lowell can be fostered for the sake of colonial protected manufactures" no longer applied. In 1856, Gladstone's Oxford contemporary, William Cayley, carried an explicitly protectionist tariff. Three years later, Galt, his successor as finance minister, roundly defended the province's rising level of customs duties against British critics. "Self-government would be utterly annihilated if the views of the Imperial Government were to be preferred to those of the people of Canada."[176] In any case, Galt insisted, the tariff was for revenue, not protection, since the income it generated enabled the provincial government to meet its obligations to British bondholders.[177] He even sweetly argued that by supporting the extension of Canada's railway network, it actually made British goods cheaper by reducing their internal transportation costs.[178] With no agreed line dividing the imperial and colonial spheres of responsibility, the British were once again forced to put their dignity in their pockets, but Gladstone, for one, was not pacified. "I cannot conceive a worse position than Canada has assumed towards this country by her protective tariff," he observed to a banker associate in November 1861.[179] When the Canadians seeking British support for an intercolonial railway, a trunk line that would connect the St Lawrence valley to the Atlantic seaboard, they found themselves dealing with a profoundly unsympathetic Chancellor of the Exchequer.[180]

Gladstone was not in London much during November and December 1861: Oxford University, Blenheim, Chatsworth and Windsor Castle drew him away. Indeed, he fitted in the reception of "B.N.A. Colonies Deput[atio]n" at his London home at Carlton House Terrace on a Saturday, not usually a working day for ministers. Representatives of the governments of the province of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were accompanied by the English railway entrepreneur Edward Watkin, who was not impressed to find that they had to wait their turn behind other supplicants. When they were eventually showed into Gladstone's "den", they were surprised by its untidiness, "as  if  the  window  had  been  left  open, and  the  contents  of  a  miscellaneous  newspaper,  book, and  parliamentary  paper  shop  had  been  blown  into  the apartment". Gladstone was "perfectly civil", but seemed "bored and worried" and definitely on his guard against importunate colonials – not to mention their minder, for Watkin, as President of Canada's Grand Trunk Railway, clearly had his own agenda. When the deputation argued that the intercolonial railway would save money on subsidies to transatlantic mail services, Gladstone cut them short: all government subsidies, he pronounced, were "helps to other people who might help themselves", and he was determined to axe them.  In vain, the delegates pleaded that they were not asking for money, but simply for a British guarantee that would enable them to borrow at manageable interest rates, an arrangement that would be "costless  to  England,  or,  at  the highest,  a  very  remote  risk,  and  not  in  any  sense  a subsidy". But Gladstone was immoveable. "He  struck  me  to  be  a  man  who  thought  spending  money, or  taking  risks,  however  slight,  a  kind  of  crime", was Watkin's acerbic summary of the encounter.[181] 

The railway loan negotiations of 1861-2 need to be set in a wider transatlantic context, one that would change very rapidly over the next two years. In December 1861, a war scare between Britain and the United States, the Trent affair, underlined the problems of communications within the British North American provinces. An epic mid-winter troop movement reinforced the British garrison in the provinces to over 17,000 men, and The Times rejoiced that "the sense of danger has strengthened the bond" between Britain and Canada.[182] Yet reflecting politicians in London realised that the episode proved that, in the longer term, Britain could not defend its North American provinces against the United States, and that some new dispensation must be sought if a balance of power was to be maintained on that continent. Canada's initial response was on the lines that Gladstone himself had specified during the Oregon crisis of 1846. The provincial ministry undertook to reform the province's ramshackle militia to provide a first line of resistance to any American attack. However, the Cartier-Macdonald coalition was weak and heading towards what was probably its inevitable collapse. Unfortunately, its death blow came with the defeat of its Militia Bill in May 1862, the legislation proving too ambitious (and potentially expensive) to carry through the Assembly. British opinion was outraged.[183] Paradoxically, once the danger passed, it was possible to entertain cautious hopes for Canada's prospects of survival as a distinct political identity. During the first two years of the American Civil War, the likeliest outcome seemed the successful breaking-away of the Southern States: as late as September and October 1862, the gene in Gladstone's own political make-up that rendered him indulgent to slave-owners brought him close to advocating recognition of the Confederacy as an independent state.[184] Yet if a separate British North American identity was to be preserved, Canadians themselves must obviously accept primary responsibility for their own survival. As The Times now caustically remarked, Canada seemed "in fact, two States entirely different from each other": when Britain wanted something, such as favourable tariff access to colonial markets, Canada was an independent entity, but when the colony needed help, it had an automatic claim upon Britain as part of the Empire.[185] Characteristically, Gladstone had elevated this practical conundrum into a moral principle. In September 1861, before the Trent crisis, he had criticised Britain's obligation to defend Canada for insidiously undermining the manhood of true citizenship: "as long as this system continues our colonists can never reach to the high standard of the character of freemen."[186]

Perhaps unwittingly, provincial politicians demonstrated Gladstone's point about the narrowness of their horizons, concentrating instead upon the practical issue of an intercolonial railway that would link the province of Canada to the Atlantic seaboard, thereby (so it was claimed) providing the vital route for British troops to reach the St Lawrence valley in time of international crisis.[187] Indeed, the Canadian ministry was already pressing for British support, specifically requesting that the two parliaments should join in guaranteeing a £3 million loan. Unimpressed, Gladstone savaged the proposal. He was reasonably well informed about the province's fiscal problems, having read "Galt on Canada Finance" in January 1860. This was a promotional statement by finance minister Alexander Galt, which acknowledged that both the Grand Trunk Railway and the mushrooming municipal debt charges were burdens on public funds. Canada, Galt insisted, neither could nor would broaden its revenue base, for instance by taxing land or incomes, to meet these burgeoning costs: "we neither possess the required machinery to do it, nor are the people satisfied that it is the more correct principle. Customs duties must therefore for a long time to come continue to be the principal source from which our revenue is derived."[188] Gladstone was outraged by what he regarded as unscrupulous complacency. He noted that Galt's Canadian railway proposal described the provincial deficit as "a cause of anxiety and regret", but "he offers no retrenchments; he imposes no taxes in order to meet it". From informants in the City of London, Gladstone learned that "as matters now stand, Canada is likely to have difficulty in borrowing, unless she is supported by the credit of the British Exchequer". Hence the proposal for a joint loan guarantee, which Gladstone saw as a device to shift the entire burden to the British taxpayer, should the Canadians "unhappily find themselves laboring under inability to disburse their share – a contingency which … cannot be regarded as improbable". Broadly hinting that the project would be riddled with corruption, he implied that its cost had been deliberately underestimated, with the intention of drawing the British taxpayer into an ever deeper commitment. Canada's financial problems were the result of "its own willfulness and recklessness". The province had "plenty of wealth and plenty of intelligence", but instead of treading the path of "honesty and thrift", she preferred "to put her hand into the purse of England".[189]

Thus far, the Gladstone of 1861 seemed to be a product of the new phase in his political identity, that of the defender of financial integrity.  In 1849, he had sought to proclaim an imperial sphere of authority in an attempt to prevent the provincial legislature from spending its own money; in 1861 he aimed to prevent Canadians from passing off a selfish scheme as an imperial project that would entitle them to pillage the British taxpayer. Yet his tersely hostile memorandum did contain one echo of 1849. In amongst the peppering of paragraphs condemning the Canadian proposal was the claim that "there has also been the utmost discontent in the Province among a large proportion of the British inhabitants, who denounce the existing system … as one of gross corruption".[190] Gladstone did not reveal the source of his information, and he did not seem entirely sure of its accuracy. Insofar as it was accurate, he was confusing sectional and communal responses. The intercolonial railway project, a line from the city of Quebec to the Atlantic seaboard, naturally aroused more enthusiasm in predominantly French-speaking Lower Canada than in overwhelmingly Anglophone Upper Canada, where George Brown, the powerful proprietor of the Toronto Globe, favoured the alternative project of developing communications westward to the Red River, the kernel of the future province of Manitoba.[191] Alexander Galt, the scheme's ministerial mouthpiece, was an Ayrshire Scot who had close links to Montreal railway interests, and represented the Lower Canadian town of Sherbrooke. In reality, this was far from being a straight English-French clash over issues of public integrity. The French-Canadian radicals, les Rouges, denounced, with Gladstonian fervour, the project as wasteful and corrupt: their leader, A.-A. Dorion, resigned from the provincial administration over the issue.[192] Perhaps Gladstone was using a scattergun approach, piling on as many arguments against the Canadian proposal as possible. Yet there does seem to be an echo here of the mindset of 1849, one that inherently emphasised Anglophone opinion over the views and desires of French Canadians.

Gladstone's onslaught was powerful, but it was not conclusive.  The Colonial Secretary, the Duke of Newcastle – as Lord Lincoln, his ally in Peelite times – mounted a counter-campaign, stressing the defence issue and presenting the intercolonial railway as a precondition for "the eventual foundation of a powerful State out of the disjointed and feeble British North American Provinces." Newcastle conjured the vision of an independent Canadian nation.  "Upon this Railroad in my opinion depends in great measure her future destiny."[193] The Colonial Secretary's arguments were successful: on 10 April 1862, the cabinet decided that there was "sufficient cause" for the "interposition" of the British government in the project.  Brown, on a visit to London, met Newcastle and was reassured that "the members of the government (with the exception of Gladstone) are set upon the intercolonial road [i.e. railway] and a grand transit route across the continent!" However, cabinet support was to be limited to guaranteeing a loan and, as Gladstone ominously noted, "terms and conditions" would apply. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was not beaten yet.[194]

In traditional Canadian historiography, which celebrated the emergence of Confederation in the eighteen-sixties, Gladstone appeared as an unsympathetic onlooker. It is important to stress that he did have good reason to doubt both the creditworthiness of Canada and the integrity of its politicians. As he pointed out in his December 1861 memorandum, reckless borrowing by municipal authorities considerably increased the province's overall indebtedness. In 1852, the legislature had created two Municipal Loan Funds, for Upper and Lower Canada respectively, through which elected local authorities could raise money on overseas (mainly British) financial markets. Little or no effort had been made by colonial ministries to check the process by which borrowed money was thrown at unprofitable local railway projects. Gladstone estimated that these transactions added $7.5 million to Canada's total debt; in fact, the figure was closer to $9.5 million. By 1858, the provincial treasury was paying over a third of a million dollars annually to subsidise interest payments on non-performing municipal loans.[195] Despite Gladstone's condemnation of his alleged inactivity, Galt had imposed some control upon the municipalities, but he could not prevent a minor disaster at just the moment the Chancellor was drafting his acid memorandum. The Upper Canadian city of Hamilton decided to default on its debts outright, provoking fury in the British financial community. Canadians had borrowed the money "under the guise of fellow-subjects", but Canada's colonial status turned out to be "a licence for tricking Englishmen out of their money". Had any other small state behaved in such a manner, inter-governmental pressure would have been followed by gunboat diplomacy. Yet a British garrison, paid for by the British taxpayer, actually protected the dishonest citizens of Hamilton. The British government professed itself unable to intervene in an internal Canadian matter, political turbulence inhibited provincial ministries from taking action, and somebody abstracted the assessment roll of Hamilton local taxpayers so that it was impossible to impose a supplementary levy.

Resubmitting his December memorandum for the April 1862 cabinet discussion, Gladstone added a brief supplementary note, in which he drew attention to the default. The Canadian government, he complained, seemed likely to accede to internal pressure to bail out the municipalities, while simultaneously asking Britain "to apply for Canadian purposes a large sum of money, which would have to be raised from (among others) the plundered creditors of the city of Hamilton". Andrew Smith, one of the few historians to have examined the Hamilton default, noted that Canadian municipal bonds continued to sell in Britain, which suggested that investors regarded Hamilton as an isolated local difficulty.[196] Even so, it probably helped the Duke of Newcastle in his cabinet campaign against Gladstone that the ministerial decision on the loan guarantee was deferred until April 1862, rather than returning for discussion in February when outrage against the colony was at its height.[197]

The defeat of the Militia Bill in May 1862 caused a change of government in Canada. Encouraged by the prospect of a British loan guarantee, in September 1862 the new Reform ministry achieved a considerable success in negotiations with the Atlantic seaboard colonies of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on the division of construction costs for the intercolonial railway. However, the agreement was fragile: the two smaller provinces had almost certainly taken on a much larger burden than their relatively stagnant economies could sustain, while the Canadian ministry was far from united in enthusiasm for the scheme. Delegates from the three provinces then crossed to London, to work out the details of the guaranteed loan. There they encountered an unexpected obstacle, although erected by a now-familiar antagonist.

In overruling its Chancellor of the Exchequer, the cabinet had committed itself to following the procedure adopted with an earlier Canadian loan, which had been provided in 1841 as a dowry, or a sweetener, for the union of Upper and Lower Canada into a single province. Those terms had included a sinking fund, repayment of the capital through annual instalments, to be invested in rock-solid reliable British government securities until the entire sum could be liquidated. Accordingly, Gladstone insisted that the projected loan must also be accompanied by arrangements for its eventual repayment, making the deal the equivalent of a capital-and-interest repayment mortgage, not the interest-only loan that the provincial politicians had hoped for. The delegates tried to ward off the blow, for instance pleading for a ten-year delay in the creation of the sinking fund, in the hope that the railway might by then be completed and paying its way – the latter an exercise in sheer fantasy. New Brunswick argued that the sinking fund should be invested in colonial securities, which paid a higher rate of interest – for the very good reason that financial markets regarded them as risky.  Essentially, Gladstone's demand made the scheme politically impossible for the Canadians. (It was also probably economically unsupportable for the two smaller colonies.) Ironically, Canada's new Reform ministry was pledged to the retrenchment that he had censured Galt for failing to impose. The two Atlantic colonies reluctantly accepted the revised British terms, but Canada's delegates withdrew from the negotiations in disreputable circumstances.[198] The outcome was a measure not just of Gladstone's obstinacy, but of his ascendancy.  Compromise would probably have been possible on the points at issue – for instance, Gladstone was prepared to give ground on the securities chosen for investment – and the second Palmerston ministry, unlike the first, would have proved sufficiently broad-based to survive the resignation of its Chancellor had he been pressed by cabinet colleagues to give way. Unfortunately, in the circumstances, any successor would have had little choice but to have reiterated his terms.[199] No doubt, Gladstone was too great a spirit to engage in petty acts of revenge. All the same, his Rebellion Losses bill account might now be regarded as paid in full.

++ First moves towards Confederation 1864-5  The underlying problem remained: could Britain loosen its ties to its disparate but limpet-like provinces in North America? As part of the general disintegration of the Peelites, Gladstone's troublesome protégé Arthur Gordon (a son of Lord Aberdeen) had been shunted off to become governor of New Brunswick. From its tiny capital, Fredericton, in January 1864, he sent Gladstone a lengthy and critical description of the state of public life in the colony: "the system of what is called responsible government has not tended to promote the social happiness or material prosperity of the Colony itself". It was a hard-hitting analysis that gave Gladstone cause for reflection, even though he was "overwhelmed with a weight of legislative & other work". He shared Gordon's gloomy view of the shortcomings of colonial self-government, but his thoughts turned to the larger problem of finding a way out. "If I find a gap in your letter it is that it contains no suggestion as to escaping from the evil. Going backward is impossible: are we to go forward, & how?"[200] Four months later, Canada crossed his desk once again, this time with some prospect of a route towards that longed-for escape.

In 1864, the challenge of defending Canada returned to the British political agenda in continental circumstances that had massively changed since 1862. Then, it had seemed likely that the United States would break up, giving good prospects for the survival of British North America, whether as a single unit or a collection of separate colonies. In July 1864, Gladstone seemed still to have expected the American Civil War to end in the independence of the South, but there was no disguising the enormous shift in the continental balance of power towards the heavily militarised North. A British defence commission in 1862 had called for considerable expenditure on Canadian fortifications, infrastructure and a Great Lakes naval force, an overall package that Gladstone estimated would cost at least £8,000,000. These proposals were overtaken within two years following a mission to the provinces – Gladstone regarded it as a superficial lightning tour – by Lieutenant-Colonel William Jervois, who recommended the considerably cheaper strategy of turning Montreal and Quebec into fortress cities, effectively consigning the rest of Canada to the ravages of American invasion.[201]

Gladstone mocked the disagreement among experts and poured scorn on the idea that the two major cities could be held in isolation, especially given the achievement of the Northern States in establishing an effective navy. Reasonably enough, he pointed to the impossibility of persuading the Canadian parliament , "composed as it is of fractions jealous in the extreme on the point of local preferences", to abandon Upper Canada, "the finest, most populous, and most important part of the province". It was a powerful analysis but one that virtually concluded that Britain could do nothing to defend Canadians in their sinuous and invitingly open province. "Their long, and comparatively thin strip of territory extends for 2,000 miles between the States on one side, and the sterility of pinching winter on the other." Typically, Gladstone sought escape from the trap of his own invective by elevating his arguments to the moral plane. If Canadians really were about to face an American invasion – a contingency which, of course, he doubted – "then, I say, nothing can defend them except the desperate energy of a brave, self-relying population, which fights for hearth and home. … The question at issue really is, whether these Colonies are or are not to ascend to the condition of free communities. It is impossible permanently to separate the privileges of freedom from its duties; and the first among those duties is the duty of defence." The answer to the problem facing British policy towards Canada was not military, but political: "the true aim of all our measures at this important juncture should be to bring the people of the British North American Colonies, regarded in one mass, as nearly to a national sentiment and position as their relation to the British Crown will permit". Hence "efforts should be made, without delay, to ascertain whether it is practicable to establish a Federation or Political Union of these Colonies; and that, if it is practicable, we should encourage and assist it by every means in our power, and upon such terms as may be most agreeable to the people themselves."[202] For the patriotic Canadian historian Donald Creighton, Gladstone's equation between defence and political union supported his own belief that the emergence of a transcontinental Dominion was a matter of national destiny. However, the intellectual connection is susceptible of a more prosaic explanation. News of the formation of a broadly-based coalition ministry in Canada, committed to major constitutional change, had appeared in the British press on 11 July, the day that Gladstone began writing his memorandum.[203] In any case, as would quickly become clear, he saw the political solution of Confederation as an alternative to large-scale defence expenditure, rather than as part of a nation-building package.[204]

The British North American colonies made rapid progress in their union project. By the end of September, the British press could report outline agreement at the interprovincial meeting in the Prince Edward Island capital of Charlottetown. Through the winter of 1864-5, elite opinion in Britain was generally favourable to the movement: the Spectator would describe the general reaction as "a kind of rapture of applause".[205] Gladstone proved something of an exception. For him, the union of the provinces represented not an end in itself, but the opportunity to reset British-Canadian relations on more realistic – and ruthless – lines. In mid-October, he embarked on a speaking tour in Lancashire, testing the possibility of a new political base should he be defeated at Oxford. By this stage in the decline of Palmerston's ministry, he barely bothered with any façade of cabinet unity, but rather struck out with his own lines of policy. In seven speeches, he made no explicit allusion to Canada's Confederation movement, but he used one oration, delivered at a banquet in Liverpool, to deliver a thinly coded (and enthusiastically cheered) warning to its promoters. Presented as a general reflection on colonial policy, shrouded in generalisations and double negatives, it merits extensive quotation. The colonies had been granted "practical freedom" from British interference, but that was not the end of the matter. "I am not prepared to say that we have not something to rectify on the other side of the account." He took aim at "some colonies calling themselves our own" where "the mischiefs and obstructions of an exploded protective system" were directed "against the industry and productions of England". He implied that there was no longer any possibility of direct intervention: "With regard to the government of these dependencies in general, there is not much to be done." Nonetheless, the balance had to be redressed. "Slowly, perhaps, and cautiously, but firmly and resolutely, we may find it needful to rectify the distribution of burdens and benefits, in order to place the people of England not in the position of ascendancy and superiority, which they have in good faith surrendered, but in that position of justice and equality to which they have an indisputable claim."  The key issue was defence. "Our duty is to get rid as far as may be of interference with the affairs of our fellow-subjects abroad, to afford them the protection and shelter of the power of this great empire, but at the same time not to consent to be charged with the payment of vast sums of money for the sake of performing duties which belong to the colonists rather than to us, and the performance of which in every case is an inalienable part of the functions of freedom." Those last eight words formed the core of his argument. "There cannot be a grosser mistake in politics than to suppose that you can separate the benefits of freedom and its burdens." As with his memorandum three months earlier, Gladstone was side-stepping the practical (and almost certainly intractable) challenge of the defence of Canada by transmuting it into a moral issue, and one that placed the principal responsibility upon the Canadians themselves.[206]  Perhaps the warning was too opaque, for Canadian newspapers do not seem to have reported it.[207]

While Gladstone was touring Lancashire, the Quebec Conference built on the outline agreement at Charlottetown to draft a detailed scheme for the unification of the British North American provinces. In December, Canada's Grand Coalition sent one of its key members, George Brown, to London to brief British ministers, and initiate discussions on the process.[208]  Brown was a Scot, an intolerant Free Churchman, something of an insecure bully who was sensitive about his lack of formal education. On 6 December, he spent an hour and a half with Gladstone, a meeting which he described to his wife as "a most delightful talk, frank, able, clearheaded & most straightforward. I was glad to find that we agreed in almost everything. I was able to put him right on many points that he had not clearly understood about Canada. Do you know it is strange, but I did not feel him a tremendous length beyond me in intellect." Gladstone, who was "immensely civil", commented that they were discussing "the highest questions of statesmanship". Brown ironically acknowledged that he was "dreadfully conceited" to feel that he was not out of his depth. It was almost certainly this discussion that Brown referred to in the Canadian Assembly in February 1865: "no higher eulogy could ... be pronounced than that I heard a few weeks ago from the lips of one of the foremost of British statesmen, that the system of government we pronounced seemed to him a happy compound of the best features of the British and American Constitutions". Perhaps he was dazzled by finding himself at the centre of British government, and failed to perceive the rocks that lay ahead. Certainly Gladstone did not share George Brown's high opinion of his own political sagacity. "I told him this country would not like to double its National Debt for Canada: whereat he seemed surprized. I faintly glanced at the possibility of neutralization. On this he fired up, & said Canada could not endure to be left out of a war between us & the United States. At the very same moment, the demand of Canada was that, she supplying men for a large militia, England should undertake to bear the entire war charges!" Brown's surprise may have been astonishment that so notable a statesman should say something so obviously silly. The United Kingdom funded debt in 1864 was £781.7 million, its total liabilities £817.2 million. Gladstone had estimated the costs of additional Canadian defences at a minimum of £8 million: if all the recommended projects had been undertaken, which was unlikely, the cost would probably have been met by borrowing – the way Gladstone had paid for the Crimean War – and the burden shared between Britain and Canada. The total of loans that would be guaranteed to Canada between 1867 and 1872, mainly for railway construction, would be £6.6 million. Thus even in the unlikely event that the Dominion defaulted on its obligations, less than 2 percent would have been added to Britain's National Debt. Given the disparity of status between the two men, Gladstone does not come well out of this sally.[209] 

However, on the larger issues of British-Canadian relations, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had good reason to be suspicious of being lured into a trap. While Canada's politicians claimed that they were prepared to stand by Britain if war broke out with the United States, they did not offer to contribute much in return for their demands for naval and military support, and their assumption that Britain would pay for the bulk of defence projects. Brown had evidently pleaded that an American invasion would paralyse the economy, thereby causing a collapse in local tax revenues. Hence the provincial ministry insisted that "Canada can bear no portion of the war Expenditure – but can only supply men – whose services must be paid for by others". Gladstone was suspicious of the Canadian strategy to exploit their ambiguous position within the Empire, seeking British support for the union of the provinces while using a perceived continental crisis – which he dismissed – to secure the short-term reaffirmation of Britain's defence shield. Substantive questions about the British-Canadian relationship would be deferred for the consideration of a hypothetical British North American legislature. Gladstone preferred to invert the process, conceding support for Confederation as part of a package deal that would redefine responsibilities for defence. "Immense advantage to us of dealing with the 'Confederation' of B.N.A. as a whole", he noted in a memorandum organising his thoughts.[210]

Ten days after sitting up until one o'clock in the morning to determine his negotiating strategy with the Canadians, Gladstone read Suggestions on Colonial Reform, by Henry Thring. He already knew Thring as a skilled parliamentary draftsman, and it is likely that he found the pamphlet's contents refreshing. Thring welcomed the project for British North American union agreed at Quebec, but expressed "a feeling of disappointment at finding no intimation in the resolutions of readiness on the part of the united provinces to make up for the shortcomings of Canada, by an assertion of their intentions to put their newly-acquired frontiers in such a state of defence as befits a nation having on its borders a numerous, warlike, and aggressive population". Indeed, he went further, breathlessly wishing that the connection could be severed altogether: "what relief would every Englishman feel if he could but hear that Canada; were fairly started in the world on its own account, without discredit, and without heart-burning!" Gladstone certainly shared the first sentiment, and probably sympathised with the second, but he would have dismissed Thring's further step as politically unachievable. It was one thing to declare, in the language of John Bright, "that it would be better for Canada to be disentangled from the politics of England, and to assume the position of an independent state". However, few – and they did not include Gladstone – ever gave serious thought to the mechanisms or means through which separation might be achieved. Thring used his legislative skills to outline an act of parliament containing a procedure for formal decolonisation that might subsequently be invoked to avoid an angry parting. Following a two-thirds vote for separation in both houses of the local legislature, repeated after three months, the Crown was empowered to declare any colony "no part of the Dominions of her Majesty". Gladstone was evidently interested in Thring's ideas, since the two met twice within the next four days. As usual, his diary did not describe their discussion, but it is very likely that Gladstone wished to explore further the ideas in the pamphlet.[211] Nonetheless, his hopes centred on the practical option of regularising the existing British-Canadian connection. When he moved on, in 1869-70, to theorising about the possibility of steering Canada to the next stage if its national existence, he did not return to Thring.[212]

++ Looking at Canada through New Zealand spectacles, 1865?   Five months later, George Brown returned to London as part of a high-level delegation of the four leading Canadian ministers to press for expenditure on the defence of British North America.[213]  The Canadians were well aware that dealing with Gladstone would be difficult, but they could not have known that the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to have been viewing their demands through the unlikely prism of New Zealand. On the face of it, New Zealand was an unlikely comparator. In 1860, war had broken out between settlers and Maori, and in the years that followed the colony became deeply unpopular in Britain. In 1862, it drew the invective of Goldwin Smith, the Oxford professor and emerging critic of the Empire, who described its greed for British troops, British-endorsed loans and Maori land as "a system of sponging and cozening".[214] Gladstone, of course, was very busy at that period, but it is hard to acquit him of selectivity in moral outrage. A decade earlier, he had taken a close interest in the colonisation of New Zealand, and he might have felt some concern at the ethical implications of a settlers' war for indigenous land. Yet he read neither of the works that stirred British opinion, Archdeacon Octavius Hadfield's pamphlet of 1860, One of England's Little Wars, nor J.E. Gorst's sympathetic study of The Maori King four years later. However, he did keep in touch with his friend James Edward FitzGerald, who had returned to New Zealand and resumed his political career. In November 1864, another gentleman-emigrant, Frederick Weld, had formed a ministry based on the "self-reliant" policy: New Zealand would dispense with British troops and – literally – fight its own battles.[215] FitzGerald supported the initiative, and soon took office under Weld.

In April 1865, Gladstone welcomed FitzGerald's account of the self-reliant policy in a letter that was wholly different in tone from his dismissive attitude to Canadians like George Brown. "Even amongst the tumult of business, it is a pleasure to read you & to hear from you. I know of no person with whose ideas of colonial policy … I have more cordially concurred." Weld's policy marked "a new epoch in Col[onial] History…. the first occasion on which the true doctrine [of relations with Britain] has come to use in pure & undiluted condition has come to us from across the water". New Zealand could "become the model of true & sound relations between England and a colony of Englishmen". Yet the self-reliant policy was much less high-minded than he chose to believe. Although Britain had sent 10,000 troops to their aid, New Zealand settlers were critical of the Army's failure to suppress indigenous resistance.  Colonial critics failed to appreciate that their lack of success was not the result of military ineptitude, but reflected the remarkably innovative defensive tactics adopted by Maori.[216] More to the point, the British government insisted in 1864 that the colony should pay for the troops, in effect hiring British soldiers at £40 per head, per annum, rising to £55 for artillerymen.[217] Weld concluded that it would be a better bargain for New Zealand to spend the money on its own defence forces. Dispensing with the Army would also limit the scope for interference in local affairs on the part of the governor, the ambitious and untrustworthy Sir George Grey.

However manly it might sound, Weld's self-reliant policy simply could not work. If the British Army could not overcome them, the colony was unlikely to raise and train a force capable of fighting the Maori: indeed, some humanitarians in Britain supported self-reliance in the hope that it would force the covetous settlers into co-existence with their indigenous neighbours. With a European population of about 200,000 in the mid-eighteen sixties, New Zealand could not possibly match range of services supported by the British Army, in specialist military arms such as artillery and commissariat. Within weeks of taking office, Weld had been forced into retreat, his policy of sending the troops home reduced to a mere aspiration to dispense with British regulars whenever the colony might be ready to do without them. Self-reliance had collapsed as a practical option in New Zealand politics – if it had ever really existed – long before Weld's brief term of office ended in October 1865.[218] Furthermore, there were two ethical problems about Weld's policy which ought to have troubled the censorious conscience of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although New Zealand's settler population was too small to make tariff protection an attractive option, the colony did raise much of its revenue from customs duties. Since about half of New Zealand's imports came from the United Kingdom, free trade dogma would hold that the real cost fell upon the British manufacturer. Faced with the need to pay for the troops, Weld proposed to increase import duties. With Canada, that was a fiscal sin; but Gladstone apparently did not object in the case of New Zealand.[219] Far worse on moral compass was the problem that an integral part of Weld's strategy was the seizure of over a million acres or land, to generate revenue through sales that would pay for a local defence force, and – ostensibly – to reward friendly Maori and put pressure on the fighting tribes to make peace. It did not require much knowledge of settler covetousness anywhere around the Empire to foresee that the outcome would not be so straightforward.

Gladstone's uncharacteristic enthusiasm for a colony of settlement would have proved of little moment had it been confined to one of the watertight compartments of his cavernous intellects. Unfortunately, there was some indication that a highly optimistic interpretation of a fleeting development in New Zealand affairs came to form a template by which he planned to judge Canadian pleas for help in their defence. By modern standards, it was indiscreet of a minister to discuss upcoming negotiations with an outsider, but FitzGerald had not only previously worked with him on British North American issues – albeit on the western side of the continent – but he was a gentleman, who could be relied upon to respect private confidences. In any case, he was far away in time and space, and even if he could have leaked Gladstone's sentiments to the Canadian delegation heading for England, they would hardly have been surprised at their perennial adversary's disdain. Nonetheless, it is revealing that Gladstone should have discussed the elected leaders of a rising province and developing associated state as if they were unimpressive members of the servant class.  The question of British North American defence was "a very serious matter" on the political agenda, he reported. "Not that the difficulty lies in the thing, so much as in the ideas of men about it. Were those Colonies peopled by men of your stamp, the whole business would be easy enough." The problem was that Canadians had been "demoralised (according to a military phrase)" by their reliance upon British military protection. "I greatly doubt whether we can expect them to fight (the case arising) for British connection in the only manner which could be effectual, i.e. as men willing to stake all upon the issue."[220]

He was to use similar language in a letter to the Colonial Secretary, Edward Cardwell, a month later. By then it appeared that Canadians did indeed intend to resist any American attack, which imposed an uncomfortable obligation upon Britain to come to their support. This time, Gladstone would seek to escape from the trap by dismissing talk of war as unfounded. Meanwhile, it seems that he entered the all-important negotiations with Canada's leaders having persuaded himself that a transient development in New Zealand gave him the moral upper hand. The Canadians came to London believing that their exposed position as a limb of Empire on the flank of a vengeful American republic gave them some claim upon British goodwill. By contrast, Gladstone regarded New Zealand's self-reliant posture as validating his right to demand sacrifices from British North America. If such a perspective had indeed formed in his mind, it was absurdly distorted. Maori were courageous and ingenious combatants, but their tactics were necessarily defensive and it is doubtful whether they ever mobilised more than 4,000 lightly armed warriors: at Gate Pa, they had used tomahawks to savage the British assault party in hand-to-hand fighting.[221] An American invasion of Canada would potentially have unleashed tens of thousands of experienced veterans, backed by the industrial might of the North that had mass-produced rifles, heavy artillery and armoured gunboats. The moral contrast was glaring too, and certainly should have appeared so to a politician determinedly driven by higher values. Canadians were indeed prepared to fight for their homes and their farms. New Zealand's greedy settlers had launched a war to grab the homes and farms of their indigenous neighbours – and ingeniously ensured that somebody else would do most of the fighting for them. A short-lived and highly implausible initiative in New Zealand factional politics gave Gladstone a wholly inappropriate claim to sit in judgement upon the desperate pleas of Canada.

In assessing Gladstone's role in the negotiations on Canadian defence in 1865, it is worth remembering, first, that historical evidence rarely points in one undisputed direction (especially when it relates to somebody as complex as Gladstone) and, second, documents do not all emerge at the same time to present historians with, if not the full story, then at least the materials for attempting a reconstruction. Gladstone's comments to FitzGerald, quoted above, were excavated from a letter book in his British Library archive by the Australian Joint Copying Project, and made available online in 2018. No doubt those writing about Gladstone should have been aware of the item before aiming fingertips at keyboards, but the real-world truth is that few scholars can possibly know of every piece of evidence he left behind, let alone be competent to assess them all in the round. The FitzGerald letter compels a reassessment of his statements in relation to the Canadian mission of 1865 that have been available for many years, but which have tended to support an alternative narrative.

We may start with a letter to his protégé Arthur Gordon, the governor of New Brunswick, which outlined his attitude to Canadian problems in 1865, and which was published in 1961. With what seemed a characteristic adverb, Gladstone assured Gordon that he intended to negotiate with the Canadians as if the province stood "morally in the attitude of an independent Power endowed with liberty of action in the business of defence".[222] On the face of it, this was a landmark statement. The evanescent boundary between the Imperial and colonial spheres, the line that had oscillated so mysteriously between Rebellion Losses in 1849 and the Clergy Reserves four years, now seemed to have disappeared altogether, and historians might give Gladstone the credit of recognising Canada's enhanced status. However, read in the light of his letter to FitzGerald, a more ruthless manoeuvre was in progress. The gentlemanly colonists of New Zealand had led the way, or so it briefly seemed, in nobly determining to rely on their own resources. The Canadians, a lesser breed "demoralised" by decades of sheltering behind British tars and redcoats, were going to have self-reliance forced upon them. If Canada was "morally" independent of Britain, then it followed that Britain was equally free to decide whether and how far the interests of its own island nation were served by involvement in transatlantic quarrels. Paradoxically, the point was subtly made through the elaborate mobilisation of the social rituals that the British elite perform so well. Previously, colonial politicians visiting Britain were made to feel their inferior status by being ignored. By contrast, the Canadian delegates of 1865 were showered with quaint ceremonial, ushered into fashionable drawing rooms, dined by the Prince of Wales and even presented to Queen Victoria herself. George Brown, the insecure provincial, lapped it up, but Alexander Galt uneasily perceived the underlying message. "I do not quite like the very marked attention we have received. They have treated us too much as ambassadors and on an equality, and I think it bodes no good, however flattering it may be."[223] Here, then, a document published in 1961 that seems to show Gladstone adopting a flexible and favourable attitude to Canada requires modification, and perhaps complete re-evaluation, in the light of the subsequent discovery in 2018.

The point may be further explored in the light of another document published as far back as 1927. On 23 May 1865, at the time of the negotiations on "this formidable Canadian question", Gladstone set down his thoughts in a letter to the Colonial Secretary, Edward Cardwell. Read in isolation, it would appear that Gladstone was forced to accept that he was caught in a trap of that double Canadian identity deplored by The Times two years earlier. "If Canada desires to be British, and to fight for British connection as men fight for their country, I do not think we can shrink from the duty of helping her."[224] However, read through the filter of the very similar language that he had used to FitzGerald a month earlier, it is far from certain that he now implied that Canadians would indeed actively commit themselves to defend their membership of the Empire. Then he had doubted whether they would "fight (the case arising) for British connection in the only manner which could be effectual, i.e. as men willing to stake all upon the issue". He had given some ground. Earlier in the year, he had firmly resisted the conversion of Quebec into a North American Gibraltar, his own prime minister, Palmerston, complaining that he was "troublesome and wrongheaded" on the issue, "as he often is upon subjects discussed in Cabinet".[225] Finding himself isolated within the government, Gladstone was now prepared "[t]o prosecute the works at Quebec with all dispatch". But this was a holding operation, until the "United Legislature, when formed" of the planned Confederation could "express on behalf of the people of British North America their desires for continued union with England, and their disposition to contend for it in arms in the manner described by the Ministers deputed from Canada". This was a retreat from his hopes of January, that a general agreement on the allocation responsibility for defending Canada might be built into the Confederation settlement, trading British support for colonial concession. Gladstone had argued in favour of encouraging the provinces to develop "a national sentiment and position … by every means within our power" in the hope of easing Canada towards greater – and, preferably, total – independence. But if Canadians mobilised their inherent manhood to fight for their right to be British, he was cornered by his own pledges of support. His only way out was to hint at disbelief in the protestations of the Canadian delegation, and demand a second opinion, from the future legislature of a united British North America.[226]

Ironically, it was the British offer of a guaranteed loan for the intercolonial railway project, subject to Gladstone's own terms of 1862, that now constituted precisely the "means" of British support vital to the achievement of the Confederation project, for it had never been formally withdrawn. The terms were thrashed out at a summit meeting between key ministers and the Canadian delegates in the Colonial Office on 25 May 1865, the day Gladstone had defined his position in his letter to Cardwell.[227] Regarding Gladstone as "our great enemy", the Reformer George Brown probed the British position in opaque language, seeking reassurance that there was no hidden veto power lurking in the corridors of Whitehall, ready to repeat the sabotage of 1862. At first, Gladstone did not realise that he was the target but, later that day, he wrote to Brown, ostensibly to extend an invitation to one of his celebrated breakfasts. "At our meeting today, I did not at first perceive that in putting your question as to admissibility, you had me in your eye – or I should at once have stated, what I stated at the close, that the question belongs to a sphere higher than the merely departmental one."[228] He had no intention of blocking Confederation, but he remained equally determined to ensure that it would not become a means of drawing Britain deeper into the confrontation with the United States.

Gladstone admitted to Arthur Gordon that the negotiations with the Canadians were "long and rather wearying". He claimed he had found it difficult "to distinguish between the really essential or deeper parts of their views & that part which was derivative or factitious".[229] This may sound like the lofty Gladstone of 1837, who had lectured complaining colonials that their proclaimed grievances were imaginary. However, although he did not make the point, he was the sole cabinet minister who had held office and taken part in defence planning during the Oregon crisis two decades earlier. In 1846, the Admiralty had been capable of establishing naval superiority on Lake Ontario; now Gladstone rightly doubted whether America's fleet of ironclad gunboats would allow Britain even control of the St Lawrence, and secure access to the fortress of Quebec. Indeed, he was reassured to deduce that the leading politicians of the province of Canada favoured "measures of pacific extension & consolidation": no doubt he had in mind the opportunity Confederation would provide for putting an end to the anomaly of Hudson's Bay Company rule over the prairies. Peaceful expansion was preferable to "undertaking plans of defence without a clear view of their basis & of our selective [?respective] responsibilities".[230]  To his cabinet ally, the Duke of Argyll, Gladstone reported that "the Canadian Ministers have at length been led to place Confederation in the foreground of the whole affair, which is very much what I had wished".[231] To some extent, this was an example of a combatant declaring victory and then hastily quitting the battleground. Of necessity, the achievement of Confederation was the key aim of the Canadian delegates – that was what their coalition and their campaign was all about. Therefore, their acceptance of the centrality of the intercolonial union project hardly represented a Gladstonian triumph. On questions of defence in particular, placing Confederation at the centre of the negotiations had certainly not conferred the "[i]mmense advantage" that he had predicted in January.

In May-June 1865, the Canadians could afford to give ground – grudgingly and complainingly – over defence because the American Civil War was finally coming to an end. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox on 9 April, and the remaining Confederate forces laid down their arms in the weeks that followed. The delegates remained fearful of an invasion in 1866, although Gladstone could plausibly argue that "for some time the South will give the United States enough to think of and to do".[232] But there was a more specific reason why British ministers could not negotiate from the position of strength Gladstone had asserted in January. Then he had assumed that they would be facing three provinces, Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, who were agreed in seeking British support for their wish to unite, and hence susceptible to pressure to accept primary responsibility for the burden of their own defence. But in a snap election in New Brunswick that terminated early in March, every member of the Assembly who had taken part in the Quebec Conference went down to defeat, and voters elected a legislature whose members were opposed to the scheme by 29 to 12. It is true that the implications of the result were complex: New Brunswick politics were rarely straightforward. The popular vote had been closer than the first-past-the-post system seemed to indicate, while the victors – significantly, they were collectively known by the negative term "Antis" – were far from united on possible alternative ways forward for a small colony threatened by Fenian raiders. In a further election a year later, New Brunswick was prevailed upon to fall into line, and the race was then on to clinch the Confederation settlement before Nova Scotians were due to go to the polls in 1867, and replicate the imbroglio.[233] But in May and June 1865, the situation was too sensitive for the imposition of Gladstone's hoped-for strategy of imposing terms and conditions in exchange for supporting Confederation. Privately, he could write to Arthur Gordon in menacing terms. "If New Brunswick is disinclined, I hope … she will reflect well on the great effect which her course may produce in regard to our responsibilities for her defence". Publicly, it would have been unthinkable to make the union of the provinces any more unattractive to the sullen New Brunswickers. Gladstone could only agree that Confederation was "a great measure: and one which I think it the right and duty of England to press forward in a special manner".[234] Against his personal preference, the larger question of Canada's relations with Britain remained unresolved.

In a note headed "Work for 1866" compiled the previous summer, Gladstone included "Confederation" in a list of eight substantial issues that the Liberal government would need to tackle in the next session of parliament. In the event, the project was delayed by the setback in New Brunswick, and his seven-year marathon in charge of Britain's finances came to an end in June 1866 when the Lord Russell's government collapsed after failing to carry a new measure of parliamentary reform.[235] He retreated to Rome for the autumn months, where he secured an audience with the Pope, with whom he had a wide-ranging discussion.

Pius IX spoke admiringly of Britain's global empire; Gladstone deprecatingly replied that it was too big and, as a result, not well administered. His Holiness commented that "he understood we had representative governments in our colonies". Gladstone confirmed that this was so, adding that "it was not in their internal government that serious difficulty arose; but in the false position into which they might bring us with foreign powers". Elaborating the point, he made clear that he was referring to Canada: it was not an issue with Australia, presumably because other European powers were not then much interested in the south Pacific.  British North America was "in contact with a most powerful and energetic people, and ill able, not at all used, to defend itself, while for us its defence while incumbent by honour would be a most difficult and critical operation". The Pope, who was evidently better informed about Canadian issues than he chose to reveal, "hoped that Fenianism was not formidable". Gladstone assured him (perhaps over-optimistically) that it was not a problem in Ireland "but mixed with the colonial question it might be so in America". This brought him back to his original point: while conceding that Britain's problems in Ireland "might be due to our own fault", he reiterated that in Canada they stemmed from "a false position". For once dropping his third-person reporting, he recorded that he had told the Pope: "I looked on Ireland and British North America as involving our greatest difficulties for the future".[236] We should probably not attempt to make too much of the exchange, which formed part of the polite conversational ranging shots that passed between the two before they settled to the engrossing topic of Italy. However, it is noteworthy that the view that the internal politics of the self-governing colonies caused few difficulties marked a further move away from his attempt to intervene in the Rebellion Losses bill in 1849. It is also striking that he apparently made no explicit mention of the movement for Confederation, although his specific allusion to British North America may have implied an assumption that regional political union might constitute a step towards British disengagement from its impossible defence obligations.

Out of office until he became Prime Minister in December 1868, Gladstone took no official role in carrying through the final stages of Confederation in 1866-7, although when parliament reconvened in February 1867, he baldly welcomed "the announcement of a measure for the union of the North American Provinces".[237] However, he was soon identified as a key to the successful passage of the necessary legislation. Incapable of surmounting their own internal divisions, the Liberals were temporarily content to allow a minority Conservative administration to hold office on sufferance. Headed by the Earl of Derby, with the flamboyant Benjamin Disraeli as its leader in the House of Commons, the Tory cabinet made its own attempts to wrestle with arcane franchise qualifications, while also accepting responsibility for carrying through legislation for the new Canadian constitution and the accompanying loan guarantee. Historians have not always appreciated that the first issue, the overwhelming priority for British politicians and the public alike, came close to wrecking the second.[238] Should the Conservatives advance some definite scheme for parliamentary reform and suffer defeat in the Commons, a general election would have been the likely outcome. This would have compelled the reintroduction of the Canada legislation in a new parliament, where it would have to begin its passage through the various legislative stages all over again. With a provincial election due within months in Nova Scotia, which was likely to vote resoundingly against the scheme, the entire Confederation project faced the risk of collapse, entire and permanent.

By the middle of February 1867, some of the Canadian delegates in London wished to make a direct appeal to Gladstone to fast-track the Confederation legislation so that it might be safeguarded against a possible crisis in domestic politics. John A. Macdonald, informally accepted as their leader, thought this a bad idea, and insisted that any approach should be subject to the approval of the Conservative Colonial Secretary, Lord Carnarvon. Carnarvon did not forbid the initiative, but managed to convey the impression that his competence to handle the issue had been called into doubt. He grudgingly conceded that if any of the delegates had "a personal acquaintance" with Gladstone or Edward Cardwell, whom Carnarvon had succeeded at the Colonial Office, they might indeed "personally communicate to them the importance of not allowing the measure to be delayed". However, since the Opposition was formally committed to the passage of the legislation, "I hardly think that this is likely to be very much use".[239] So far as Gladstone was concerned, the stipulation of "personal acquaintance" effectively constituted a veto: he was capable of treating colonial politicians with icy courtesy, but in no sense would he have allowed them to claim any kind of amicable relationship. However, on 2 March, Carnarvon himself resigned over Reform, making the collapse of the government and the risk of a general election real and immediate threats to the completion of Confederation. Two days later, Gladstone noted in his diary a visit from "Mr Galt (Canada)".[240] It was probably Galt who had pressed for an approach to the opposition leaders. In contrast to the more cautious Macdonald, he was temperamentally inclined to rush into action, and he probably felt that Carnarvon's resignation had created a void that he might attempt to fill. Gladstone's diary entries were usually staccato, and it is impossible to know whether the parentheses were intended to identify the caller or the subject of discussion. Their fraught negotiations over the abortive railway loan in 1861 perhaps constituted the "personal acquaintance" that Carnarvon had grudgingly conceded might justify a personal approach, but Galt could hardly capitalise upon any Gladstonian  goodwill.

Nonetheless, later that day, Gladstone made the first of two interventions that were arguably crucial in ensuring that the necessary legislation was neither overwhelmed in a domestic political crisis nor ambushed by critics of the accompanying loan guarantees. Carnarvon had been one of three ministers who had resigned on 2 March in protest against Disraeli's latest franchise proposals. Badly shaken, the minority government temporarily lost whatever control it had tacitly exercised over the House of Commons at precisely the moment, 4 March, when the British North America bill was due to enter its committee stage.  A veteran Liberal MP, Bernal Osborne, attempted to prevent the House from going into committee, demanding instead a statement from the government that would define its policy on parliamentary reform. Disaster was avoided by the intervention of Gladstone, speaking from the opposition benches. He attacked ministerial ineptitude with "an undercurrent of bitterness", but urged Osborne not to interfere with the passing of the Canadian legislation: Confederation was "a matter which appertains – I will not say to the security, but to the dignity of the Empire". Of course, it is possible to argue that Disraeli and Gladstone had a shared interest in wishing to avoid forcing the government to define its position on franchise reform at that moment. Paradoxically, the loss of the three ministers, two of them unusually competent by the Conservative party's low standards, actually pointed what was left of the cabinet towards the adoption of a simplified but seemingly radical extension of the franchise. Premature revelation of their direction of travel might alienate some of their own supporters, but be welcomed by the more progressive Liberals. Gladstone's own claims to leadership were still contested. The less adventurous Whig fringe of the Liberal party distrusted him: "they dislike his religious opinions, his impulsiveness, his vehemence and the absence in him of the habits and feelings of what is called a man of the world.… He certainly has few personal friends among his colleagues." Thus it is tempting to conclude that Gladstone had chosen to lay stress on the Imperial obligation to launch a new Canadian nation simply as a ploy to postpone a damaging confrontation over parliamentary reform.

However, a few weeks later, he also made a successful  appeal for non-intervention to another Liberal MP, R.S. Aytoun, who had planned to move the deletion of the loan guarantee from the draft Confederation bill, a legislative grenade which would have effectively destroyed the intercolonial compact behind the project. There was perhaps some irony in the fact that Gladstone was asking Aytoun to desist from the same single-handed act of sabotage that he had himself perpetrated in 1862, but the tone of his appeal suggest that his support for "the great work of Confederation" was genuine.[241] The project, he declared, was "vitally important and beneficial to the relations of this country with our North-American Colonies".  In this statement of March 1867, he made explicit his reasons for endorsing Confederation, which seemed to discount the possibility of British military and naval support altogether: "we have been for a long time, to a great extent, in a false position with respect to the condition of colonial defence, and nowhere has it been so seriously exhibited as on the Canadian frontier. If Canada is to be defended, the main element and power in the defence must always be the energy of a free people fighting for their own liberties. That is the centre around which alone the elements of defence can be gathered, and the real responsibility for the defence must lie with the people themselves." Essentially, Gladstone argued that this was a matter of working through the implications of responsible government. "We have for a full quarter of a century acknowledged absolutely the right of self-government in the colonies. But while we have made great advance in that sense, we have made very little advance with regard to many of the legitimate consequences of that position." In seeking to shift the burden of Canada's protection to the people themselves, Gladstone characteristically chose to adopt a moral stance to achieve a practical end. "The best way to do it is to raise their political position to the very highest point we can possibly bring it, in order that [in that] elevated position their sense of responsibility may likewise grow. It cannot be too distinctly stated that it is in this light that we look upon the plan for uniting the Provinces of British North America."[242] Aytoun desisted from moving his amendment, and the loan guarantee was approved. Gladstone had performed a small but vital service to the future of Canada. But he had made it clear that he expected Confederation to mark the beginning of a new relationship with Britain.

By 1867, Gladstone saw the union of the provinces as a transitional answer to the problem of Britain's relations with Canada, one which he hoped would evolve further towards complete separation. As he stated in March 1867, "if it were the well-ascertained desire of the colonies to have the appointment of their own Governor, the Imperial Parliament would at once make over to them that power".[243] But if Confederation did not in itself resolve the question, neither did it guarantee an urgent solution: Canada's leaders were content to shelter under the ambiguity of their dependent but autonomous status. Yet Gladstone could not view the problem as either remote or peripheral. In December 1867, he confided to a political ally his belief that "this Empire has but one danger. It is the danger expressed by the combination of the three names[,] Ireland, United States and Canada" – an elaboration of his comment to the Pope the previous year that he "looked on Ireland and British North America as involving our greatest difficulties for the future". On a train journey at about the same time, he encountered C.B. Adderley, the one-time colonial reformer and now Under-Secretary for Colonies in the Conservative administration. Adderley found his companion in censorious good humour: "he told me I ought to be hung for some of my colonial shortcomings – e.g. having so many troops in Colonies, especially in what he called the weak point in England's fortunes – North America".[244] Adderley passed on the warnings to the Governor-General, Lord Monck, in Ottawa. "Gladstone said to me the other day Canada is Englands [sic] weakness, till the last British soldier is brought away & Canada left on her own legs we cannot hold our own with the United States – but must put up with constant insolence & plotting – as they know they have the first trick in war." Monck would certainly have alerted his Dominion ministers to the challenge they would soon face. "Gladstone says the possession of Canada is a great weakness to England."[245] The statesman who had expressed incomprehension at the "feverish impatience" of the Canadians to improve their defences had become the politician obsessed with the imminent threat to transatlantic British garrisons.

++ Canada and Gladstone's first ministry Gladstone's first ministry, from 1868 to 1874, would be dominated by attempts to pacify the Irish and negotiate with the Americans. The question of Britain's future relationship with Canada was to some extent masked by a surrogate policy, the withdrawal of Imperial garrisons from most of the colonies. By November 1871, the sole British military presence in Canada was in Halifax, which was classed as an Imperial naval base.[246]

Gladstone's self-defined "mission", in his first ministry from 1868 to 1874, was to "pacify Ireland".[247] Obviously, the two major issues – the privileges of its Protestant Church and the grievances of Irish tenants – were debated and resolved overwhelmingly in Irish terms, with British North American experience only occasionally appealed to for precedents. Thus Gladstone did not cite any Canadian parallel in his major Commons speech announcing his support for the disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1867, although he praised the method Canada had used to unravel its clergy reserves when he discussed disendowment in more detail two years later.[248] Prince Edward Island's still-unresolved problem of absentee landlords was not of much use in 1870 as a possible model for legislation on behalf of Irish tenants. Five years later, it became a model to be avoided, when the Dominion of Canada authorised compulsory purchase of estates on the Island, part of the deal to secure its adhesion to Confederation in 1873.[249]  There is no specific evidence that Gladstone took an interest in the Prince Edward Island problem in the eighteen-seventies, although he had helped to block an earlier initiative to ease out its landlords in 1858. Overall, Canada generated few specific problems during Gladstone's first ministry, and consequently attracted little of his attention.[250] He dismissed continuing Nova Scotian discontent at the province's inclusion in the Dominion, clinging to the legalistic position that the colony's legislature had consented to Confederation. "If ever there was just & adequate evidence of a legitimate popular consent it was in this case." He also invoked one of his favourite devices, that flexible but undefined boundary between the Imperial and colonial spheres of responsibility. Indeed, he refused to accept the argument that "if the Colonies were united in asking [for] the repeal of the Act, we must therefore repeal it …. the people of the United Kingdom are parties concerned in the Repeal, and must be heard if the case arose".[251]

Even if specific Canadian problems were now less likely to detonate on the floor of the House of Commons, the fundamental issue of the relations between Britain and Canada still called for resolution. Perhaps paradoxically, the most effective way of encouraging the Dominion to become self-reliant was to assist it to borrow money. On several occasions, Gladstone defended this strategy against parliamentary critics. In 1869, he described the loan guarantee to help Canada take over the Hudson's Bay territories was "not to be a beginning, but an end". Similarly, aiding the Dominion in securing funds for the fortification of Quebec was a step towards terminating "that demoralizing system, the burden of supporting troops in our Colonies". In 1870, he coined what D.M.L. Farr called a "notable aphorism": "When you are involved in a bad system you cannot pass even to a better without feeling some inconvenience in the transition".[252] His emphasis upon a process of transition left the final destination carefully undefined.

When Gladstone became Prime Minister, a new colonial organisation was taking shape in London. The impulse behind the formation of the Colonial Society came from men of the gentlemanly and professional backgrounds who had made money in Australia and wished to maintain their overseas contacts. Indeed, their primary aim was the establishment of a social centre, a Pall Mall-style Club, for visitors from the colonies, but the organisation had the potential to develop, or perhaps degenerate, into a next-generation version of the campaigning Colonial Reform Society of two decades earlier. Gladstone thought it worth attending the inaugural banquet in March 1869, where he spoke in general terms about "the great and noble tradition of the unity of the British race". By happy coincidence, Canada's defence minister, George-Étienne Cartier, was in Britain negotiating the transfer of the Hudson's Bay Company territories to the new Dominion. Recently embellished with a baronetcy, and in good humour, he made an ideal guest speaker, if only to dilute the Antipodean quality of the principal organisers.  "Cartier striking" was Gladstone's comment, a typically bald assessment for his diary but regrettably unspecific. The Times provided only a brief summary, Cartier was cheered when he "claimed community with the Saxon race on the ground that though a French Canadian he was merely an Englishman speaking French" before citing Canada "as an instance of the success which had attended the establishment of representative institutions in our dependencies". A longer report indicates that Cartier spoke of an admixture of Saxon and Norman blood, one of the themes of the medieval romances of Sir Walter Scott, Gladstone's favourite author in the English language, and this there may well have appealed to him. In an audience with the Queen the following day, he specifically praised the speech. "She likes C[artier], & will ask him to Windsor."[253]

It is tempting to see Cartier's warm oration as the inspiration of the theme of a "loyal and friendly" Canada that Gladstone would deploy in support of Irish Home Rule in 1886. At the time, however, Canada loomed large as a complication in the fraught subject of relations with the hostile United States. Unlike 1864-5, when he had been largely isolated in Palmerston's ministry, Gladstone, as Prime Minister, could count on the support of his own cabinet team. In May 1869, one of them, the Earl of Kimberley, recorded "a gloomy discussion" in cabinet "on the relations between this country & the United States. Nearly all the Ministers were of the opinion that it would be impossible to defend Canada successfully against the Americans, and it is much to be desired that Canada should become independent.… There is no reason why an independent Canada should be on equally good terms with both nations."[254] Gladstone had a particularly easy relationship with Earl Granville, his Colonial Secretary until June 1870, when he transferred to the Foreign Office.[255] A few weeks after the pessimistic cabinet discussion on Canada, the Prime Minister sent his colleague a brief note, recalling his own dispatch to Lord Cathcart in 1846, "in which it was distinctly enough laid down that we did not impose British connection upon the Colony, but regarded its goodwill and desire as an essential condition of the connection". It was a sentiment, he recalled, that had received "rather a decided expression of approval" from the Prince Consort. Gladstone and Granville apparently discussed the subject, and the Colonial Secretary ordered a search of official files. This established that no similar declaration had been made since Gladstone's tentative initiative.[256] In mid-June 1869, his officials drafted a confidential dispatch to the Governor-General, Sir John Young, reiterating the voluntary nature of the imperial link, and insisting that Britain would prefer to have Canada as "an ancient, prosperous and cordial friend, than as a half-hearted Dependency". In his own handwriting, Granville added a sentence asking Young "to bring to my notice any line of policy, or any measures which without implying on the part of H.M. Government any wish to change abruptly our relations, would gradually prepare both countries for a friendly relaxation of them".[257]

The addendum managed to be both bold and cautious: the Governor-General was invited tackle a previously taboo subject, but it was not wholly clear what he was being asked to do, or how he should go about his task. Was he to report on occasional newspaper debates about Canada's future, or should he raise some irreconcilable problem that might dramatise the unsatisfactory nature of the relationship, and so force a decision upon its future? Since "the statesmen and people of the Dominion" (the former an exaggeratedly polite term) were held to be "the proper judges" of Canada's membership of the Empire, it is hard to understand what "policy" and "measures" might be adopted by the British government. Nor was there any obvious procedure that entitled a Governor-General to stimulate a process of consultation and debate.[258] In a self-governing Canada, the Crown's representative was expected to confine his public utterances to what John Buchan would later call governor-generalities. Young did his best, delivering a speech in which he assured Canadians of their right to decide "to continue the present connection or in due time . . . to exchange it for some other form of alliance". Some journalists interpreted the vague term "alliance" as an invitation to join the United States. Young was forced to explain away his remarks, and eventually confessed to Granville that Canadians were "averse to any change" and "simply anxious to remain as they are".[259]

One Canadian politician who would have been very relieved had he known of the Gladstone-Granville line of thought in May and June of 1869 was Alexander Galt, the former finance minister whose protectionist policies had been so roundly condemned at the beginning of the decade. Although he had resigned from the Dominion cabinet in 1867, his services in securing the assent of Lower Canada's Anglophone Protestant minority to Confederation were deemed sufficient to merit the offer of a knighthood, which he was very keen to accept. However, he felt bound to confess to an even more shocking heresy than his belief in tariffs. "I regard the Confederation of the British North American provinces as a measure which must ultimately lead to their separation from Great Britain." Annexation to the United States was both undesirable and unpopular, but Galt believed that "the best and only way to prevent this is to teach the Canadian people to look forward to an independent existence as a nation in the future as being desirable and possible". Unknowingly, he was espousing precisely the argument that the British cabinet would have welcomed, and his offer to forego, or (later) to resign his knighthood was an unnecessary sacrifice. Granville responded in a somewhat patronising manner, praising Galt's manly candour, the honour was duly conferred, and Sir Alexander Galt KCMG ceased to speculate on Canada's eventual severance from the British Empire.[260]

With Granville's tentative approach having failed to produce any enthusiasm for independence among Canadians, Gladstone decided, in mid-January 1870, to attempt his own restatement of Britain's relationship with its principal colony. He circulated a five-point memorandum to an unknown number of senior ministers, but difficulties inherent in such a redefinition quickly became apparent and the document never became the basis for a formal cabinet discussion. Gladstone began by laying down the principle that "Canada & every person in Canada shall have, as far as we are concerned, perfect liberty of thought & speech, in regard to her future political destiny". Perhaps this noble sentiment stemmed from a recollection of the response in 1849 of Elgin and his Reform ministers to the Annexation Manifesto, a soberly argued call for union with the United States.  Signatories who were justices of the peace or militia office had been summarily dismissed from office, a show of strength that was really a confession of weakness. The problem with Gladstone's maxim was not so much theoretical as practical: if promulgated from London, it would constitute an infraction of Canada's autonomy, while it would also inevitably be interpreted as an Imperial hint to end the connection. Of course, that was the end that Gladstone wanted, but the only possible means of launching the debate ruled it out of order. The next three clauses reiterated his insistence that "as a part of her political freedom", Canada must accept "the ordinary and primary charge of the great question of her own defence". In doing so, Canadians would not stand alone: "the proper place and office of Great Britain is to assist Canada in defending herself". However, as with the 1862 railway loan, terms and conditions would apply. "Great Britain must ever be the judge of the manner & measure of that assistance", although Gladstone offered the reassurance that "where this country was satisfied as to the cause whether Canada were independent of us or not, such assistance would be freely accorded & would only be limited by our means".  Since Britain was in the process of withdrawing its overseas garrisons, these reservations would hardly have made comfortable reading in Canada. Gladstone may well have realised this, for his fifth point virtually conceded the futility of his own implied campaign: "if and so long as Canada shall continue to desire as we believe she now does a political connection with this country upon the free and honourable footing which has been described, that connection should be upheld with the whole power of the Empire".[261] It would not be difficult to guess the reaction of most Canadians had they been offered the choice between half-hearted suggestions of conditional support in some murky future crisis and a firm guarantee of continuing and unrestricted British protection. As a trusted correspondent, Granville responded to Gladstone's enthusiasms with sympathetic caution, but on this occasion he demurred, confessing himself "not sure of the prudence of pledging ourselves" to defend an independent Canada. He also highlighted the essential weakness of Gladstone's fifth clause, which he thought "appears to leave too much in the exclusive power of the Dominion, the question of separation". Circumstances might arise which could justify Britain in saying "you are now so rich and strong, that we must take the initiative and ask you to agree to a friendly separation".[262] The severance of increasingly tenuous links with a dependency of four million people was certainly a plausible contingency. The prospect that the break might be "friendly" was perhaps more optimistic.

More to the point, Gladstone no longer had the public space in which to engage in speculative hypotheses about Canada's future. The perceived anti-imperialism of his ministry had triggered a backlash: in 1870, even so minor an adjustment as the exchange of the Gambia for territory on the Ivory Coast, a scheme under discussion with France for four years, collapsed in the face of a clamour staged by a small group of vested interests.[263] The government found itself on the defensive when assailed by Empire enthusiasts in the Commons in April 1870.  Gladstone boldly restated his fundamental belief in colonial responsibility for colonial defence: "Unless men are taught to rely upon themselves they can never be truly worthy of the name of freemen." However, he felt compelled to deny that his policy involved "a surreptitious or clandestine means of working out the foregone purpose of casting off the Colonies".  Rather, self-government gave "the best chance of an indefinitely long continuance of a free and voluntary connection", although it also ensured "the greatest likelihood of a perfectly peaceable separation, whenever separation may arrive". On the wider question of the future relationship with overseas territories such as Canada, he would go no further than expressing the hope that British policy would be placed "on such a footing, not for the purpose of bringing about a separation, but of providing a guarantee that, if separation should occur, it should be in a friendly way".[264]

++ The founding of Manitoba  As Matthew noted, despite a persistent tradition that he was sometimes a "one idea at a time" politician, "the first ministry shows Gladstone at the height of political awareness, sensitive to the implications of every phrase in every letter on a vast range of topics".[265] Thus it is perhaps not surprising that, in 1870, when his first ministry was undertaking major reforms in education and Irish land, he concerned himself with the transfer of the Hudson's Bay Company territories to the Dominion of Canada. It was a subject which had his support, but hardly one that required  his involvement: he had approved when briefed by Adderley two years earlier about ambitions of the Canadians to expand westward, "which he thought showed more vitality & spirit than they had credit for".[266] Unfortunately, Ottawa had proved ludicrously unprepared to take on what was in effect a colonial responsibility. Nobody had appreciated the extent of the collapse in the Company's practical authority over the prairies: in effect, there was no existing structure of government that could be transferred. At the Red River, the Metis community – a population of about 10,000 people of mixed indigenous and European descent – took control of the settlement, and the British government could only urge Canada's Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, to adopt a conciliatory approach in dealing with them.[267] Unfortunately, it proved impossible to ignore a vacuum of power on what was still British territory. At a cabinet meeting on 5 March 1870, the Colonial Secretary, Lord Granville, reported that the government had agreed to send a military detachment to the Red River. Gladstone would naturally have had doubts about this course of action. There is good reason to believe that he resented the way the Hudson's Bay Company had manoeuvred him into sending an earlier British detachment to the settlement during the 1846 Oregon crisis, thereby securing an armed force that incidentally shored up their shaky authority. His informed questioning at the 1857 parliamentary enquiry showed that he was well aware that the problem of communications between the Great Lakes and the Red River would make the expedition an arduous and potentially risky enterprise.[268] At a time when he planned to extricate British garrisons from the colonies, this gesture of support for Canada was an embarrassment.

The 5 March cabinet meeting dealt with a heavy agenda and lasted for four hours: it is unlikely that the Red River generated much discussion. However, the following day, Gladstone's famous conscience swung into action, expressing itself in a "Private & Confidential" challenge to Granville. "Has not an error been committed – now too far back to be recalled – in handing over the Red River people to the Dominion of Canada without their consent?" The Colonial Secretary might well have questioned the utility of recriminations over decisions that the Prime Minister himself accepted could not be reversed. Granville was certainly startled by Gladstone's suggestion – at this stage it was more of a trial balloon than a formal proposal – that the people of the Red River should be invited to determine their future through a referendum (he preferred the term plebiscite). "The Plebiscite is not according to our fashion, but it is because we have something better in the vote of representative bodies." Unfortunately, there was no colonial legislature representing the Metis that might be consulted, so Gladstone wondered whether it would be "safe – order being first re-established – to try the plebiscite in Red River?"

In a follow-up letter, he indicated that his aim ("as far as may be possible") was less dramatic than it might appear. He wanted "to isolate the Red R[iver] settlement, & deal with it as a separate plot of ground, not recognizing it as representing the vast territory on which it is a speck, nor to extend to the savages, or the dispersed groups of the [Hudson's Bay] company's servants, throughout the territory, any similar recognition". This would be the best way to "shut out effectually the title of the Red River people to claim in the name of the country beyond their own limits, & especially to the zone between them and the United States which seems to be of great importance. To that zone they have no claim whatever beyond a right of way." Thus, while he accepted that the Metis possessed some rights over their homeland, he envisaged their claims as confined to a very small area, one that did not even extend southward to the United States boundary. These two aspects were interconnected. "To acknowledge their rights would be to limit them ipso facto." There was something here that echoed his 1864 statement acknowledging the right of the masses to be brought "within the pale of the constitution", which was quickly followed by qualifications that would ensure that only a small proportion of them would ever get through the gates. The Metis, he accepted "are independent settlers. But they are settlers on their own ground only." In any case, it was a restriction that would not have been accepted by the Metis themselves, who, twelve days after Gladstone's letter, not only established their own provisional government but went so far as to declare it sovereign over the entire North West.[269]  Nor did he explain why a limited concession of rights to the Metis in a severely circumscribed area should not also be accorded to the indigenous people ("savages") for whom "the vast territory" of the North-West provided vital hunting grounds – and whose sovereignty he had come close to recognising in 1848.

While Gladstone's concern for the Metis may well have been driven by his legendary, if selectively applied, sympathy for small nations, he was also well aware that instability at the Red River could complicate Britain's already fraught relations with the United States. The American-based Fenians were thought to be a threat to the settlement (and did indeed attempt an incursion in 1871). A few months earlier, he had been unsettled by the assertion of the American Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish, that the Red River depended upon the United States as an outlet for its produce. Shortly afterwards, when Fish seemed to be shifting his ground in the controversy over the Alabama claims, Gladstone commented that he was "really ... not ill pleased. ... This may give us a little fund of strength & credit to spend upon the Red River question in encouraging them [the Americans] to be strict against Fenian Sympathisers." It was probably the American dimension that had encouraged Gladstone to consider an appeal to a popular vote. "What I wish is that the American Filibuster should not when he crosses the dividing line be entitled to say, now I am upon the land of the people for whom I am going to fight." Unfortunately, it was unlikely that any American Irish faction would show such constitutional discernment. Nor was there any reason to assume that American political culture would respect any plebiscite, even assuming that a popular vote produced the 'right' result. The device had never been used either to validate American expansion or to empower Southern secession: popular referendums did not enter United States political culture until the year of Gladstone's death.

Gladstone's suggestion was potentially so radical that it is hard to believe he had thought through its implications. The term 'plebiscite' itself was a recent addition to English political vocabulary, thanks to its use in 1852 by Napoleon III to legitimise his proclamation of himself as Emperor. He had also employed the device by using it to give a fig-leaf of respectability to cover the annexation of Nice and Savoy in 1860: French soldiers had guarded the polling stations, just as British regulars would presumably have been required to supervise a Red River ballot. As Gladstone himself recognised, direct legislative action by mass popular vote was "not according to our fashion". In May 1870, the influential Saturday Review disapprovingly defined the parallel term, referendum, as a proposition that "is submitted to a body which is not an assembly and which cannot discuss". As a classicist, Gladstone must have known that the Latin term 'plebs' referred to Rome's lower classes, freemen indeed, but lacking senatorial or knightly status – conveying much the same pejorative meaning as its borrowed form in modern English.[270] As Granville deftly hinted in attempting to puncture Gladstone's trial balloon, holding a plebiscite implied universal manhood suffrage, the very solution that Westminster had torn itself asunder in 1866-7 to avoid. The Colonial Secretary doubted whether "the Red Riverites" had any right to be consulted about their future, "but they undoubtedly ought to have been managed, which probably would have been easy at first". Unfortunately, neither the Canadians nor the Hudson's Bay Company, "who knew so much more than we did", had anticipated any problems in carrying out the transfer. Rather more bluntly, he told Gladstone that it "would be difficult and a farce to collect the votes by universal suffrage of a few hundred Europeans and ten thousand half savages scattered over this vast territory. (Not to mention the Indians.)"  Since Ottawa now seemed optimistic about striking a deal with the inhabitants, "this would be the best way of getting the assent of the people. ... I see no alternative to our standing by the Canadians, and if so the prompt assertion of authority is probably the safest."

Granville was right to stress the massive practical obstacles to Gladstone's suggestion of a plebiscite. Who would have the right to vote? How and where would they vote: male Metis were semi-nomadic buffalo hunters in the summer, while the prairie winter was less than ideal for holding any kind of election? The twenty-first century would no doubt add other concerns: governments are well advised to avoid holding referendums unless they are sure they can win. At the very least, they need some form of Plan B should their preferred proposition be rejected. In reality, there was very little prospect that the Metis would freely vote themselves under the rule of a distant government that was pledged to flood their homeland with newcomers. In 1896, Gladstone dismissed the Bonapartist plebiscite as "a mere imposture, an enemy to liberty". The 97 percent approval of the French Empire in 1852 was morally valueless, since no alternative was offered: "those who voted for the Empire were choosing between it and anarchy".[271] These were the reflections of deep retirement, but there is no reason to assume that he had ever regarded the French Emperor's chicanery in any more favourable light. His suggestion of a plebiscite at the Red River in 1870 forms a curious, if short-lived, excursion into the byways of his thinking. It is difficult even to assimilate it into the hagiographical view of Gladstone as the champion of small nations struggling to be free, since he evidently expected that the Metis would obediently vote themselves into the Dominion of Canada. Since they already lived in a Kropotkin-like state of almost pure anarchy, the lack of choice that had constrained French voters in 1852 would hardly have troubled them. 

In fact, Gladstone did have a Plan B, as he outlined in his letter to Granville of 6 March 1870. "If we cannot have a Plebiscite, can we found ourselves upon the document to which I referred as a covenant on the part of the Red River people, conditional of course according to the matter set out in it?" During the cabinet's brief consideration of Canadian matters, the Prime Minister had apparently mentioned some statement from the Red River – but what was the document to which he referred? Granville, notorious for his light grip on detail, has to ask his officials for suggestions. Furthermore, Gladstone's use of the term 'covenant' was an unhelpful intrusion of a spiritual concept into secular discussion. The opaque final clause was also typically Gladstonian combination of the sweeping pronouncement of principle modified by an obscurely-worded escape clause. In normal usage, a 'covenant' would seem to imply absolute and mutually binding rights and obligations, but in this case the terms were to be interpreted as "conditional ... according to the matter set out". The document to which Gladstone referred was most probably the 'Declaration of the People of Rupert's Land, and the North-West', accompanied by a 'List of Rights', proclaimed on 4 December 1869 by a revolutionary leadership on behalf of "the Representatives of the people in Council". A combination of the spirit of the American Declaration of Independence with a grab-bag of grievances, it was most likely intended as an agenda for negotiations with Ottawa: Gladstone would have warmed to its denunciation of the Hudson's Bay Company. Unfortunately, its potential to form the basis of an enduring charter of rights was swept away shortly afterwards when it was rewritten by Louis Riel, emerging as the mercurial and messianic leader of the Metis. As so often with Gladstone, it is difficult to know what precisely his choice of terminology was he meant to convey: parliamentary systems do not easily co-exist with immutable charters.

These intellectual convolutions were swept aside when news arrived, early in April, that Louis Riel had asserted the authority of his provisional government by the execution of an obstreperous critic, a young Ulster Protestant called Thomas Scott. Gladstone grasped at the positive side of the disaster. "The murder of Scott, if it be a murder, gives great advantage to the Canadian Gov[ernmen]t, and enables them to move not by way of political invasion but as punishers of crime." There was now a definite purpose to the military expedition and – better still – a reasonable prospect of getting the troops out after they had completed their task. Matters were helped by Riel's decision to decamp shortly before the arrival of the slow-moving expeditionary force, expertly guided by its efficient commander, Colonel Garnet Wolseley. Overall, Gladstone's role in the founding of Manitoba is hard to assess (and even to comprehend), partly because his ideas did not translate into action, but also because they simply do not seem to relate to wider aspects of his thinking. Why, for instance, should he accord such respect to the small and loosely defined Metis community when he had set his face so firmly against bowing to the aspirations of the people of the Ionian Islands, who claimed to draw upon millennia of Hellenic culture? The future of the Red River in 1870 represents one of the mysterious side-alleys of Gladstonian thought that occasionally complicate the attempts of historians and biographers to fit his mental processes into predictable patterns.

++ Tariff issues: Australia and Canada 1871-3  When even Gladstone was unable to mobilise his mighty intellectual power to provide a precise definition of Britain's relations with its overseas dependencies, let alone to identify ways of getting rid of them, the process was more likely to take the form of piecemeal colonial encroachment upon assumed spheres of Imperial supremacy. The Australian colonies were still thirty years from forming a federation, but in the early eighteen-seventies they pushed for the right to create their own regional customs union. New Zealand actually anticipated the concession, passing tariff legislation designed to favour Australian goods and thereby discriminate against imports from Britain.[272] Gladstone was taken aback, finding it hard to credit that New Zealand "may admit free [of import duty] shoes made in Sydney & tax at any rate she pleases shoes made in Northampton?" This, he felt, "brings us near the reductio ad absurdum of colonial connection, & the people of this country should have an opportunity of passing an opinion upon it."[273] In fact, the Australians aimed to go further. Charles Gavan Duffy, the premier of Victoria, demanded the right to opt out of British trade treaties, and even – so Gladstone interpreted their demands – intended to negotiate directly with foreign countries.[274] In the circumstances, Duffy's insistence that Australians aimed "to maintain closest and most affectionate relations with the Mother Country" drew a sardonic response from Gladstone: "So does the Boa Constrictor with the rabbit, but they are one-sided." He was particularly offended by Duffy's "insolence", finding it hard to understand "upon what foundation any duty of military & naval protection on our part is to rest, if the foreign relations of Colonies are to pass out of our hands into theirs. Would Mr Duffy be kind enough to give us a definition of the Colonial relation, as to rights & duties, on the one side & on the other, as he would have it. What will be the remaining duties of the Colony towards the mother State?"[275]

As so often in such disputes, the British government eventually gave substantial ground to colonial demands. The concession was accidentally triggered by the Canadian parliament, which in 1872 imposed discriminatory duties upon tea and coffee imported from the United States, thereby creating a differential tariff. The Colonial Office woke up to the implications of this apparently minor measure too late to block it, and the failure to control the Canadians effectively made it necessary to make concessions to the Australians. Gladstone gloomily concluded that the larger colonies" would "sooner or later, & rather soon than late" establish their absolute right to create differential tariff structures within the Empire. No doubt mindful of Granville's point that Britain might one day need to take the initiative in cutting the colonial tie, he lamented that their success would deprive the Imperial power of any "articulus of separation".[276] In the early eighteen-seventies, Gladstone's thinking saw the connection with Canada and Australia moving in one direction, and one direction only.[277] Fifteen years later, he would hail the insolent Duffy, whose aphorism summed up the case for Irish Home Rule: "Canada did not get Home Rule because she was loyal and friendly, but she has become loyal and friendly because she has got Home Rule."[278] In the necessary process of filtering Gladstone's life into manageable monographs, biographers have generally passed lightly over a seemingly minor Australian dispute. Hence few have perceived his inconsistency in appealing to Duffy and Duffy's simplified slogan in 1886.[279]   

Although, the Australians were attempting to break new ground in tariff autonomy, it suited Duffy to pretend that they were simply asking for parity with Canada: "we are unable to comprehend any peculiar claim the North American Colonies have to exercise powers which cannot be safely entrusted, or indeed can be legitimately denied, to the Colonies of Australia."[280] Gladstone was not persuaded. "I do not understand that British N[orth] America either is or has claimed to be supreme in the matter of Customs' duties. Certain concessions were made, the Imperial Power remaining otherwise intact." He appears to have been referring, not to the contentious subject of Canada's tendency towards protectionism, but to the authority given to the new Dominion to adopt internal free trade, an obvious concomitant of political union, broadened only to include their trade relations with "the minor members of the same group" – he had in mind the peripheral colonies of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland – in the hope that "these also would come in".  Gladstone could not accept that "[a] limited power given to the already coalesced principal members of the body [i.e. the Dominion of Canada] with regard to the outstanding fragments" implied the grant of unlimited tariff autonomy to "six different [Australian] Colonies with reference not only to one another, but to all other Colonies, & not only to these, but to all Foreign Countries".[281] The Australians clearly aimed to go much further than Canada in challenging ultimate Imperial control over commercial matters.

It is worth asking why the jurisdictional clash of 1871-3 occurred with the Australian colonies, when it was Canada that had earlier incurred British disapproval for its protectionist tendencies? The most obvious explanation lies in the fact that there was really only one non-Empire market to which Canadian wished to secure preferential access: that of their American neighbours. In 1871, the United States took 48 percent of Canada's exports, as against 39 percent that went to Britain. Of the remaining 12 percent that went elsewhere, around half was directed to other British colonies, such as Newfoundland and the West Indies.[282] With little more than one-sixteenth of their external trade going outside the Empire and beyond the United States, no single national market would have justified Canadians in challenging Britain's monopoly over the negotiation of international trade treaties.  And for the single target that did matter, British diplomatic support was vital even to persuade the Americans to talk. As noted above, in 1846 Gladstone himself first mobilised the British Legation in Washington to seek openings for trade talks on behalf of the provinces. In 1854, a Reciprocity Treaty was successfully negotiated by the outgoing Governor-General, Lord Elgin, who acted as a specially commissioned British envoy. He was unofficially advised by Francis Hincks for Canada, whose ability the British elite had noted when he represented the Canadian ministry in London in 1849, and by E.B. Chandler of New Brunswick, in Elgin's estimation "a very excellent man".[283] The resulting Treaty covered natural products – such as farm produce and timber – leaving both sides free to encourage the development of manufacturing through the adoption of protectionist policies. Unfortunately, the Treaty did not survive the animosities of the Civil War years: it was abrogated by the Americans and came to an end in 1866.

The negotiation of the Reciprocity Treaty was thus a positive example of British-colonial collaboration, a practical exercise which did not call for the definition of spheres of responsibility. The process was extended in 1857, although still without any overall statement of rights and responsibilities. Building upon their Crimean War amity, Britain and France negotiated a convention guaranteeing the disputed and ambiguous rights of French fishermen on the coasts of Newfoundland. The island colony, which had been granted responsible government two years earlier, vigorously objected to the concessions that it was called upon to make, to such effect that the British government accepted that the agreement could not be ratified. The Colonial Office accepted that "the consent of the community of Newfoundland is regarded … as the essential preliminary to any modification of their territorial or maritime rights".[284] This was a substantial concession, and all the more so in that it was made, not to the province of Canada, which was widely seen as on the high road to independence, but to one of the smallest and probably the poorest of Britain's North American dependencies. In the great British tradition of pragmatism, no over-arching principles were promulgated and, indeed, subsequent Franco-British discussions in 1860 created suspicions that London sought to evade any obligation to consult the Newfoundlanders.[285] At most, there was a realistic recognition that an unpopular agreement could not be forced upon a resistant population. The issue of the right to initiate commercial negotiations with foreign countries was left unresolved, not least because their trade patterns made it unlikely to arise in the British North American context.

In 1865, the British North American provinces took a cautious step towards asserting control over external trade relations by the establishment of a consultative body, the Confederate Council of Trade, which aimed to open new markets, especially in the Caribbean and Latin America.[286]  An intercolonial delegation pursued a trade mission that lasted for several months, with the cautious blessing of the Foreign Office: "as regards foreign countries, the Agents who may be sent from the British North American Colonies will not assume any independent character, or attempt to negotiate or conclude arrangements with the Governments of Foreign Countries ... authorized to confer with the British Minister in each Foreign Country, and to afford him information  with  respect to the interests of the British North American Provinces". In reality, it was difficult to maintain such hermetically sealed functions in countries where British diplomatic representation was small and not necessarily high-powered. The authoritative study of the Confederate Council – published almost a century ago, and largely forgotten – observed that the travelling delegates "did in fact carry on preliminary conversations with the governments of Brazil and Cuba with a view to the subsequent negotiation of commercial treaties. This marked distinct progress beyond the point of consultation, and was not far removed from direct participation in the actual negotiations".[287] As with the Newfoundland episode, there was no attempt to advance the theoretical pretensions that Duffy would articulate on behalf of the Australians. In March 1870, the newly minted Sir Alexander Galt proposed that the Dominion should acquire independent treaty-making powers, particularly in relation to commercial matters. In the Ottawa House of Commons, the Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, successfully rebuffed the demand, pointing to Canada's weakness on the world stage. "Why should we throw away the great advantage we now have of the assistance of England in negotiating treaties?"[288] Macdonald did not foresee that events were about to place that assumption under severe strain.

++ The Treaty of Washington, 1871 The Northern victory in the American Civil War had left several unsolved diplomatic issues across the Atlantic world. The United States had a valid grievance against Britain for allowing the rebel South to build a commerce raider, the Alabama, in a shipyard at Birkenhead. The Americans also sought continuation of the right to fish in Canada's inshore waters, although here their demands were a little inconsistent, since their fishing fleet had lost preferential access through their own cancellation of the Reciprocity Treaty. For their part, Canadians hoped for renewal of some form of trade deal. They also claimed compensation for Fenian raids, bizarre attempts to liberate Ireland by attacking British North America from United States territory.[289] Gladstone cherished an idealistic and no doubt admirable belief in international harmony, while the fraught circumstances of the collapse of France and the proclamation of the German Empire in 1871 added to the pressures to seek an accommodation with the Americans.[290] It was all-too-easy to perceive the outlines of a deal: Britain would pay its American debts in Canadian currency. The Colonial Secretary, Lord Kimberley, assured the Dominion that Canada's exclusive right to control its fisheries within the three-mile limit of territorial water was "beyond dispute". However, enforcing that right the length of Canada's extensive Atlantic seaboard was another matter, since the Dominion had no navy.[291] From the British point of view, it would make sense to pacify the Americans with a Canadian concession.[292] Once again, this would raise the unresolved question of the boundaries between Imperial supremacy and Canadian self-government.

When the United States agreed to the establishment of a bargaining forum in Washington – grandiosely termed the Joint High Commission – the Gladstone government also saw an opportunity to turn Canada's awkward dual status inside out, by appointing the Prime Minister of the Dominion, Sir John A. Macdonald, as one of the five British commissioners.[293] Ostensibly, the appointment would recognise Canada's enhanced status, but Macdonald would be a minority voice and ultimately subject to instructions from the Foreign Office. He saw the trap, but could not evade it: it was unthinkable that an emerging country of almost four million people should formally abdicate its interests to a protecting power. The head of the British delegation was a member of Gladstone's cabinet, Earl de Grey. Born in Number Ten Downing Street when his father, Lord Goderich, briefly held office as Prime Minister, de Grey was the embodiment of Britain's aristocratic establishment. His reward for his efforts in Washington (which largely consisted of acceding to American demands) was his further elevation in the peerage and, as Marquess of Ripon, he would sit, apparently by right, in every Liberal cabinet down to 1908. Naturally, he also served a term as Viceroy of India. His exercises in consultation with Macdonald mainly took the form of lectures reminding Canada's Prime Minister that he was a British appointee. Essentially, Macdonald was treated like a butler temporarily promoted to dinner guest to fill a vacancy at some ceremonial banquet. From the outset, he was a suspect figure among his fellow British commissioners. The Washington negotiations proved to be a fraught three-way struggle, in which Macdonald was obliged to play a weak hand in a politely ruthless fashion. Gladstone, however, felt that it was his colleague de Grey who was under siege, sympathising with him in his struggle "with the skinflints on your front & flank". He quickly regretted the phrase: Gladstone was magnificent at moral denunciation but he rarely engaged in petty opprobrium. A second letter was quickly dispatched to de Grey, apologising for having "included by implication Sir J. Macdonald in the general & irreverent phrase of Skin-flints".[294]

Gentlemanly abuse behind his back was the least of Macdonald's problems. The Americans were not interested in trade talks. They also flatly refused to discuss Canada's Fenian claims: Gladstone agreed with de Grey that "their connection with the present subjects [i.e. the Alabama and the fisheries] is not so close as to warrant our pushing à l'outrance the demand for their admission into the Treaty".[295] However, on this issue, even Gladstone saw the need to provide "some means of smoothing any difficulties which may arise": Britain might compensate Canada for the costs of the Fenian attacks, which everybody agreed had been incurred simply because the provinces were unoffending members of the Empire. "In money questions I am most commonly against the Colony," he reflected, with some understatement, "but the claim seems to me to be equitable". Yet even this generous gesture was kept in abeyance, for fear that "by a premature concession, i.e. one while matters were still unsettled with America, we should give these vagabonds positive inducement to repeat their marauding expeditions".[296]

Macdonald's admiring biographer, Donald Creighton, portrayed him as also blind-sided by a combined American-British proposal to hand over the fisheries in exchange for a cash payment. More recently, Barbara J. Messamore has pointed out that the idea had been informally discussed for several months past, and Macdonald's concerns related less to the principle of sale and rather more to the amount likely to be offered.[297] "Macdonald seems to have more to say for himself than his brother Comm[issione]rs admit," Granville conceded, although he also thought "he asks more than he has a right to expect". Commenting from Hawarden, Gladstone was reluctant "to concuss (as the Scotch say) Canada into an arrangement about the fisheries". He feared that de Grey and his colleagues, "in their anxiety to settle all disputes", might seem to make the surrender of the fisheries "a British claim upon Canada. We ought most studiously to leave to Canada her own free-agency, only pointing out that the British people will of course exercise an equally free judgment on an acceptance or refusal in respect to all consequences which concern them". This was very similar to his attitude in 1865, that Canada should be treated as "morally in the attitude of an independent Power endowed with liberty of action". But Gladstone was also motivated by a more practical desire for a quiet life. "If we place a burden or an apparent burden upon Canada, we shall pay for it dearly, shall never hear the last of it" – and perhaps even encourage a resentful Dominion to align itself with the United States.[298]

One success achieved by Macdonald in his triangular combat was recognition by Britain of the right of the Canadian parliament to a final say on treaty provisions relating to the Dominion – the Newfoundland principle of 1857. But even that victory came at a heavy price. In 1857, it would have been convenient to Britain and France to eliminate a minor transatlantic dispute, and no great national interests were placed at risk when the agreement broke down. In 1871, the Canadian parliament would carry a serious responsibility if it torpedoed a major settlement between the two countries upon which, in different ways, its own security and prosperity depended. Indeed, thanks to the undefined boundaries of responsible government, it was not even clear that Ottawa legally possessed any overall power of veto. "U.S. Treaty. Void, if Canadian Parl[iamen]t refuse? Apparently not," ran Gladstone's staccato note of a cabinet discussion in May 1871.[299] However, the legal status of a contested Treaty was less important than the political ramifications of a clash over its terms.  A revolt by Canada's parliament might provoke the United States Senate to refuse the two-thirds vote required for ratification. Alternatively, conflict might simply leave the Dominion isolated, nursing the quarrel that the two principal powers had agreed should be resolved. Moreover, the conferring of some form of final verdict upon Ottawa only underlined the straitjacket surrounding the Dominion's Prime Minister in Washington. As a British delegate, outvoted by his four colleagues and under obligation to accept instructions from the Foreign Office, Macdonald had no choice but to sign the Treaty, complete with its objectionable bartering of Canada's fisheries. The butler had been accorded his moment at the top table. He was now sent below stairs to clean up the mess.

"I see no reason why if the negotiations succeed Macdonald should not be made a Privy Councillor," Gladstone had written as the Washington talks got under way.[300] The prestigious but empty tag "Right Honourable" was hardly the equivalent of de Grey's Marquessate, but it was perceived as an appropriate reward – one that had never been granted to a colonial politician before. In one of his discussions with Macdonald, alternately hectoring and patronising, de Grey sardonically confessed that the term 'Privy Councillor' had "somehow escaped my lips as a distant vision that individually I should like to see realized in the person of an eminent colonial minister … I have committed no one and yet I think done what I wanted".[301] But when the ribbons were distributed after the Treaty was signed, Gladstone insisted that any acknowledgement of Macdonald's contribution "might & ought to stand over till his part of the business is completed. … An immediate honour to Macdonald seems out of the question."[302] Forced into a corner, Macdonald certainly contemplated a course of action that was remote from concepts that had inspired the orders of chivalry. In a letter to Francis Hincks, now an elder statesman, he argued that Canada should threaten to refuse to endorse the Treaty, in the hope that the Britain's desire to settle matters with the United States would "induce her to make a liberal offer" – yet another guaranteed loan, this time to enable Macdonald to subsidise the projected transcontinental railway to the Pacific coast. Unfortunately, the letter came to the notice of the British cabinet, where the generally easygoing Colonial Secretary Lord Kimberley exploded at the Canadian Prime Minister's "knavery". The equally furious Gladstone expressed the hope that the "liberal offer" Macdonald hoped to extort would be precisely "nil".[303] However, at the end of 1871, ministers agreed to a concession designed to help him win through in Ottawa. The Canadian government was authorised to announce that Britain would provide compensation for losses caused by the Fenians "independently of the acceptance of [the] Treaty by [the] Canadian Parl[iamen]t". Even this small step was only carried by a cabinet vote of 8 to 7. Gladstone noted the names for and against, listing eight colleagues in support but only six against. The obvious inference is that he had been the seventh opponent of the gesture. In 1862, he had been defeated by the same narrow margin in a cabinet vote supporting the Intercolonial railway loan guarantee. Then he had been an embattled Chancellor of the Exchequer facing largely hostile colleague. Now he was Prime Minister, unable to carry his point of view in a generally supportive cabinet of his own choosing.[304]

In the event, terms were agreed for a British-guaranteed loan to underwrite railways and canals, and the Ottawa parliament ratified the Treaty in May 1872. By any standards, the Treaty of Washington was an unpleasant episode, and one that strained but did not clarify the relationship between Canada and Britain. Gladstone's government set out to turn Canada's dual status – simultaneously an independent country and a demanding dependency – in Britain's favour, first by trapping Macdonald into a negotiating process that he could not control, and then by placing upon him the burden of securing Canadian consent. In large measure, the strategy worked, if only because the Imperial power once again signed up in support of a major loan package, but it was a sour victory. Notwithstanding their success, British politicians became if anything more than ever distrustful of the Empire's anomalous Dominion, which, according to Kimberley, worked on the principle of "heads you lose, tails I win".[305] Fifteen years later, Gladstone would hail Canada as a model for Irish Home Rule. But in 1871, it was hard to regard its politicians as either enthusiastically loyal or markedly friendly.[306]

A mysterious diary entry provides a clue to Gladstone's assumptions about the future of Canada in the aftermath of the Treaty of Washington. "Read Howe's Address", he noted on 13 April 1872 (during a visit to Windsor Castle). His editor, Colin Matthew, was puzzled, and tentatively suggested that the entry referred to an eighteenth-century sermon: this is an example that indicates that Gladstone was more aware of Canadian issues than have been his modern biographers. It seems likely that he had read a gloomy speech by the veteran Nova Scotian enthusiast for Empire, Joseph Howe, who feared that Canada's relationship with Britain was nearing its end. Although Howe had campaigned to keep Nova Scotia out of Confederation between 1866 and 1868, he had made terms with Sir John A. Macdonald and entered the Dominion cabinet in 1869. He was depressed by the Treaty of Washington, and especially its surrender of the Atlantic fisheries. In a public lecture delivered in Ottawa on 27 February 1872, he condemned "England's recent diplomatic efforts to win her own peace at the sacrifice of our interests" and predicted that "the time is rapidly approaching when Canadians and Englishmen must have a clear and distinct understanding as to the hopes and obligations of the future". Macdonald was furious, and insisted on suppression of the speech. However, Howe had already widely circulated a pamphlet version and, with well-developed talents for self-promotion, he would very likely have included Gladstone among the recipients.[307] Sir John Rose, a former Canadian politician and now a London banker, acted informally as the Dominion's link with the British government: Macdonald bluntly advised him to blame Howe's remarks on "senility".[308] Gladstone recorded no comment, but – if the identification is correct – he was presumably pleased that Canadians were getting the message, and almost certainly would have read more into Howe's despondency than was warranted. Congratulating Lord Dufferin on his appointment as Governor-General in an undated letter of 1872, he wrote: "Much has been done by the policy of late years toward rectifying our relations with our Colonial dependencies. With none of them are these relations more satisfactory than with the Dominion, and I am confident that its people will feel the ennobling sense of manhood grow within them from year to year, and will never think of craving for the fleshpots of the old and semi-servile system." The terms "rectifying" and "ennobling sense of manhood" are quintessentially Gladstonian.[309] Howe's diatribe presumably reinforced Gladstone's view of the trajectory of the Empire's chief colonial dependency. That same year, he commented to Kimberley that "the gradual education of Canada into something like a real nation" was "one of the most interesting political processes in the present administration of the Empire".[310] Turning this view on its head in 1886, but without specifically reinterpreting his opinions on the future framework of the Empire, would represent a remarkable inversion of his longer-term perspective.

Gladstone, Britain and Canada, 1873-1885 In August 1873, Gladstone was obliged to confront an unexpected tailpiece to the Treaty of Washington, in a brief parliamentary exchange in which he adopted a position that almost entirely inverted the stand he had taken over the Rebellion Losses bill twenty-four years earlier. The brief episode would close a quarter-century of theorising and agonising over the boundaries of the British-Canadian relationship.

In 1870, Britain had guaranteed a £1.1 million loan to construct fortifications in Canada, especially for the defence of Montreal. September 1872, the Dominion government requested permission to transfer the funds to help subsidise its priority project, the construction of a transcontinental railway to cement the recently concluded union with British Columbia. Since the Canadians sweetly argued that major investment in defence projects had been rendered unnecessary by the Treaty of Washington, it was difficult for British ministers to refuse. Gladstone agreed that the construction of defence works at Montreal "would be a direct challenge to the Americans", but he insisted on emphasising that it was Canada that proposed to vary the terms of the loan. "It should also … be left very clear that we have & give no opinion upon the pecuniary success of the Railroad, & incur no moral or other responsibility with regard to it."[311]

For once, Gladstone was right to insist upon a morality escape clause. In Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald came under pressure from unsavoury revelations that would be known as the Pacific Scandal. By later standards – including Macdonald's own descent into sleaze during his second term of office after 1878 – the episode was relatively innocent. Canada was a moderately prosperous country, but it had produced few plutocrats. The Montreal shipowner, Sir Hugh Allan – a Scot, like Macdonald himself – was one of the few businessmen capable of funding a large-scale election campaign. He was also one of the few tycoons with the resources to put together a syndicate that might finance the building of the railway to the Pacific Ocean. In the summer of 1872, Macdonald had fought the Dominion's second general election – an opportunity for Canadians to pronounce a verdict on the Confederation project. He encountered a hard struggle: many voters were disappointed in their hopes, and the terms of the Treaty of Washington were widely resented. Late in the campaign, Macdonald desperately appealed to Allan for more money. It was forthcoming, and there is no evidence that Allan imposed any conditions with his cash. Narrowly re-elected, Macdonald then granted the charter for the construction of the transcontinental railway to Allan's syndicate, but upon his own terms.  Throughout 1873, his opponents dribbled out revelations, some gleaned from stolen documents, which seemed to imply a corrupt bargain. In November of that year, facing the disintegration of his narrow majority, Macdonald would be forced to resign.[312]

As the British House of Commons coasted towards its summer recess, Gladstone was challenged to comment on Canada's developing scandal by Sir Charles Dilke, a young Radical MP. Dilke (he was Sir Charles because he had inherited a baronetcy) had undertaken a world tour on leaving Cambridge in 1866, which had resulted in a two-volume politico-travelogue, Greater Britain. He was dazzled by the global outreach of the English-speaking peoples, but this did not make him an enthusiast for Canada's formal connection with Britain. Canadian professions of 'loyalty' he dismissed as consisting "merely of hatred for the Americans. … That the Canadians hate the Americans can be no reason why we should spend blood and treasure in protecting them against the consequences of their hate." When "loyal colonists" imposed protectionist tariffs upon their goods, the British were entitled to "insist that the connexion should cease, unless Canada will entirely remove her duties". Dilke argued that Canadian independence would end American hostility towards its smaller neighbour, pave the way towards harmonious relations between Britain and the United States and hence accelerate the development of the prairie West. In short, "no one gained by the retention of our hold on Canada."[313] In 1872, he had queried the connection between the Treaty of Washington and the government's decision to guarantee amended loan terms to Canada, which would require parliamentary approval. Gladstone had been forced to concede "that the liberty of the House is not in the least degree affected by the guarantee the Government intend to propose".[314] Dilke was certainly not one of the Dominion's friends at Westminster.

The practice of questioning ministers flourished in the mid-Victorian House of Commons, although there was as yet no formal Question Time.[315] Members exercised the ad hoc right to seek information and launch confrontations: in 1849, Gladstone had attempted to combine the two approaches when he challenged the Rebellion Losses bill, formally asking a question but using it as cover to deliver a detailed speech. By contrast, Dilke's approach was brief, but blunt, asking Gladstone: "Whether any steps are being taken by Government to ascertain the truth or falsehood of the charges of corruption alleged against the leading Members of the Government of Canada in reference to the Pacific Railroad; and, whether the Treasury will refrain from guaranteeing any portion of the Pacific Railway Loan, under the Canada Loan Act of the present Session, until the charges have been disproved?"

In reply, Gladstone mildly grumbled that the Member for Chelsea should have singled him out, rather than putting his question to a Colonial Office minister. This was perhaps a device to counter any suggestion of collusion in the raising of the issue: in addition to his colonial heresies, Dilke also held republican views which would have made him a controversial collaborator. However, Gladstone graciously stated that "having made myself acquainted with the particulars of the case – which would not regularly have come under my notice – I am prepared to answer it". This, in turn, may have been a warning to Macdonald: Gladstone was guarded in his response, but he was on the case should further comment be required. Nonetheless, he insisted that the matter was "very decidedly within the power of the Legislature of the Dominion. The Canadian Ministers are responsible to their Parliament, and are not in any way responsible to us for their conduct." He added that the accusations were denied, and that the Canadian House of Commons had launched an investigation. This enquiry had been frustrated by an "untoward accident", the decision by Britain's Law Officers, when appealed to, that Canada's parliament lacked the power to take evidence on oath. "It is now for the Canadian Parliament to consider what course they will take, and I imagine they will act upon the principles of public conduct by which I believe they are usually prompted, and will do everything that is right in the matter." On the face of it, this was an unqualified endorsement of the Dominion's right to manage its own affairs. But Gladstone did not take refuge in the technicalities of process, adding that he was "unwilling to be silent when silence might have led to a suspicion of something wrong; but I do not think this is a matter in which it is competent or desirable for us to interfere". As for Dilke's second point, Gladstone pointed out that the loan had been "granted to the Dominion of Canada" on conditions that were not "in any measure dependent upon the proceedings of any railway company in Canada, or upon any particular Ministers in the Canadian Legislature".[316] Having flagged his concerns in a very public manner, Dilke did not attempt to press the matter.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Gladstone had undergone a reversal of roles between 1849 and 1873. In essence, Dilke advanced the same case that Gladstone had made against the Rebellion Losses bill: even under responsible government, Britain retained an authority, even a responsibility, to intervene in Canadian affairs, in the first case to prevent payment of rebels, in the second to oppose corruption in railway contracting. Both implicitly echoed a key phrase in Gladstone's own instructions to Lord Cathcart in 1846, that he should refuse his assent to measures that were "dishonourable or unjust". In 1849, the Whigs had argued that the allegations were factually incorrect, while insisting that the question came entirely within the remit of the Canadian legislature. In 1873, Gladstone quoted the denials of the accused, and claimed that the issue "very decidedly" fell under the control of the Ottawa parliament. How can this apparent volte-face be explained? Of course, allowance should be made for the constraints of office: a Prime Minister may be obliged to voice conventional platitudes that an uninhibited opposition politician was free to savage. Gladstone in 1865 had resolved to treat Canada as "morally" an independent State: perhaps, eight years later, he was ready to shrug his shoulders, scrap the italicised adverb and maintain his own detachment? His first ministry had proved one of the most energetic in the pursuit of major reforms in nineteenth-century British history, but it was running out of energy and had no need to search for fresh complications. Perhaps Britain's Prime Minister simply felt that he owed his Canadian counterpart a favour, although few assessments of Gladstone, either high-minded or hostile, would see professional cronyism as part of his make-up. Perhaps of more concern was that fact that Gladstone's government had agreed to the admission of Macdonald to the Privy Council. Rumours of the honour already circulated in Canada, although they do not seem to have been current in Britain. It would undoubtedly be embarrassing if the first colonial politician to be designated as "Right Honourable" were convicted of corruption, the more so as a privy councillorship – although in practice granted on ministerial advice – was seen as a special mark of royal approval, bestowed at "the Queen's pleasure". Macdonald's resignation later in the year – officially because his majority had evaporated – caused Gladstone and Kimberley some embarrassment. The privy councillorship could hardly be revoked, but the delinquent colonial statesman was privately warned not to present himself in Britain to be sworn in.[317]

Gladstone's exchange with Dilke would prove to be the last occasion that a Canadian issue would cross his path for almost a decade.[318] The Liberals' defeat at the polls early in 1874 was followed by Gladstone's withdrawal from front-line politics, or – more accurately – the diversion of his energies into religious-cum-political controversy over the power of the Papacy.[319] Gladstone's gradual return to public life between 1876 and 1879 came by way of campaigns on a series of external issues, from Bulgaria to Zululand and Afghanistan: it was almost as if he had turned his back on the American continent. In his Midlothian speeches in 1879, he held forth on imperial issues but barely mentioned the overarching phenomenon of the Empire itself, beyond stating that there was "no precedent in human history" for such a global structure, while insisting that, even so, "the strength of Great Britain and Ireland is within the United Kingdom".[320]

Against earlier expectations, Gladstone formed his second ministry in 1880, and found himself grappling both with renewed challenges from Ireland, as well as crises at both ends of Africa. Deryck Schreuder portrayed his handling of the problem of the Transvaal as a search for a form of Home Rule that failed to accommodate an intractable Afrikaner incarnation of Parnell in the form of Paul Kruger. In the early eighteen-eighties, there was little direct reference to Canada. Gladstone initially subscribed to the aim of creating a confederation of white-minority colonies and republics, a mirage that the historian C.F. Goodfellow memorably described as "more of a hope than a policy" when pursued by the previous Tory government. In May 1880, Gladstone not only described "the question of Confederation in South Africa" as "all-important", but identified it as "quite a different case from the sister measure of Confederation in British North America". The establishment of the Dominion of Canada had been "a great advance made in a country where already Colonial relations had attained something like a normal state, and we could contemplate with satisfaction and pleasure the manner in which they were conducted. That is not the case at the Cape."[321] This was perhaps a rosy recollection. However, in 1881, the Boer sharp-shooters at Majuba Hill put an end to the fantasy of a South African dominion reconciled to the Empire.

The retreat of Gladstone's government from the Transvaal in 1881 was covered by the imposition of "suzerainty", an entirely novel concept in British external relations. The Prime Minister explained that Britain would retain "the whole care of the foreign relations of the Boers" along with "sufficient power to make provision for the interests of the Natives". Since white minority politics overwhelmingly involved institutionalised injustice towards the African majority, it was unlikely that the latter could be enforced, but Gladstone insisted that "our power of interference on the part of the Natives would be infinitely greater than if the Government in the Transvaal were like that of Canada". This led him into an unexpected – it might even be said, an inappropriate – comment on Britain's relationship with the Dominion. "In what respect do the Canadians fall short of the absolute management of their own internal concerns?", he asked.  "Supposing there were a great body – which, happily, there is not – of Natives in Canada, what power should we have of securing the interests of those Natives?" His mind ranged back to the Rebellion Losses bill "more than 30 years ago", when the Canadian legislature "compensated the losses of rebels as well as those of loyalists", an episode of which he assumed most MPs were unaware. He challenged his government's critics: "what sort of power of interference do they think we should have had on the part of the Natives, or for any other purpose, if we had established such a system in the Transvaal?"  It was true that Britain retained a veto over Canada's legislation, "but you know that that veto never has been, and never will be, exercised in a matter of the slightest consequence. You never can go into collision with the feeling of the people of your Colonies when once you have granted them free government."[322] It was a remarkable statement from the head of the British government, but his outburst appears to have passed unnoticed in Canada.[323] Nor, it seems, did anyone quote his words against him during the 1886 debates on Irish Home Rule. The claim to suzerainty was omitted from the subsequent convention of 1884 with the Transvaal Boers, although its substance would be revived in the eighteen-nineties, contributing to the confrontation that led to the 1899-1902 Boer War. Whatever might have been the superficial parallels between the two colonial situations, Canada and the Canadian analogy would play little or no part in southern Africa.[324] So far as Gladstone was concerned, Canada had quietly moved into the independent status that he had hoped for between 1865 and 1872.[325]

Prologue to Irish Home Rule, 1871-1882: Canadian parallels? Speaking in Aberdeen in 1871, Gladstone had launched an attack on the nascent demand for Irish Home Rule that would later become notorious. With the disestablishment of the Irish Church and a Land Act behind him, he felt entitled to be bullish, even sardonic: "What is it that Ireland has demanded from the Imperial Parliament and that the Imperial Parliament has refused?" He confessed himself puzzled to understand "what is meant in Ireland by the cry of Home Rule", a formula of convenient incomprehension that he would repeat on various occasions over the next fourteen years.[326] Claiming to welcome the recent success of the movement's leader, Isaac Butt, at a by-election in Limerick, Gladstone broadly hinted that his presence in the Commons would lead to the discrediting of the campaign in parliamentary debate: "If there are wild ideas abroad [i.e. in circulation], depend upon it the place where they can most safely be promulgated is within the walls of the House of Commons". The only practical argument for Irish Home Rule Gladstone had come across was that "there is a vast quantity of fish in the seas that surround Ireland, and that if they had Home Rule they would catch a great deal of these fish". This was the kind of knockabout gibe that produced roars of laughter from an independent-minded audience in one of Scotland's largest fishing ports.[327] Was there perhaps some subliminal connection in Gladstone's mind with Canada, where, at the very same time, self-governing status was proving insufficient to defend the Dominion's fisheries from predator and protector alike? It seems unlikely: the Canadian parallel barely figured in arguments about Irish devolution throughout the eighteen-seventies.

Indeed, a few months earlier, the politician who could fairly claim to be the practical authority on the workings of the British North America Act had firmly ruled out the application of any aspect of the new Dominion constitution to Ireland. Macdonald had discussed the emerging Home Government movement with Sir John Young at the Governor-General's Quebec City residence in September 1870. An Irish landlord himself, Young was about to be raised to the peerage (as Lord Lisgar), and perhaps contemplated enlightening the House of Lords with his Canadian experience. The following year, while recovering from his exertions in Washington, Macdonald committed his ideas to paper for Lisgar's further consideration. A firm believer in the United Kingdom, Macdonald ruled out the repeal of the Union, and hence did not even consider conferring the powers of the Ottawa parliament upon an Irish legislature on College Green. A Dublin parliament "with limited powers, such, for instance, as those conferred on the provincial legislatures of Canada, would, if possible, be still more objectionable". Even within the four years since the achievement of Confederation, the Dominion government had "found great difficulty in keeping the subordinate legislatures in Canada from exceeding their powers, and our difficulty is as nothing compared with the trouble that would be given to the Imperial Government by the Irish Legislature". Macdonald predicted that Dublin law-makers would seek "to overstep their jurisdiction by Bills so ingeniously drawn as to leave a doubt whether they were ultra vires or not. ... What they could not do by Bill, they would endeavour to do by resolution, petition, address, remonstrance, etc, etc".[328] Thus Canada's Prime Minister rejected wholesale the thought of applying any aspect of the Dominion's constitution to Ireland. Rather, he suggested that the Irish members elected to Westminster should form four Grand Committees, one for each province, on the model of the existing body that enabled Scottish MPs to manage their country's affairs "in a committee-room at Westminster". The four provincial bodies would report on proposed local legislation, their recommendations being subject to the supervision of the two Houses of Parliament. There were practical objections to Macdonald's proposal, but – from the point of view of the longer-term Home Rule debate – its significance lies principally in the fact that he definitely did not see Canada's system of colonial self-government as a model for Irish devolution. At a more mundane level, his project was intended to give Irish MPs something useful to do. Hence it would be "a mistake to elect men to sit in these local Legislatures only. ... The men so elected would be inferior in every way, and, being elected for local purposes, would represent only local interests and prejudices". While elected provincial legislatures in Ireland would "take pride" in challenging central government, Macdonald somewhat optimistically believed that MPs elected to the House of Commons would adopt a broader view: "any provincialism in their politics and undue subservience to local prejudice would be cured by their chief responsibility being as members of the Imperial Parliament". This might have been true of the predominantly gentlemanly contingent that Irish voters, on a limited franchise, still elected to represent them – MPs like Sir John Young himself, a former member for County Cavan. Such high-minded disinterest would be less characteristic of the Parnellites who replaced them a decade later.[329]

For the next fourteen years, Gladstone's occasional allusions to Home Rule usually posed the same question: what, precisely, did its proponents demand? In his 1870 pamphlet, Irish Federalism: its Meaning, its Objects, and its Hopes, Isaac Butt made a handful of references to Canada, enough to make clear that he envisaged that Ireland would be governed by its own cabinet of ministers who "would stand in the same relation to the [Irish] Parliament as the ministers in Canada or in the great Australian Colony stand to the Colonial Parliament". He also sketched the 'loyal and friendly' argument that Duffy would later embrace, and the Gladstone of 1886 cite with approval: "Why should not the self-government which has made Canada contented and loyal be equally successful in Ireland in attaining the same results?"[330] Yet during his parliamentary campaign – if that term may be applied to four speeches delivered over three years – Butt was remarkably unspecific about his aims. Motions were framed in general terms, seeking a committee "to inquire into and report upon the nature, the extent, and the grounds of the demand made by a large proportion of the Irish people for the restoration to Ireland of an Irish Parliament, with power to control the internal affairs of that country".[331] Such vague proposals were intended to attract support from open-minded English MPs (the strategy largely failed), but they conveyed the unfortunate impression that the Buttite Home Rulers wanted a predominantly hostile House of Commons to frame with a policy for them. Butt himself referred in passing to Canada in three of his four orations, for instance asserting in March 1874 that there was "no reason why an Irish Parliament could not manage exclusively Irish affairs without endangering the stability of the Empire. Had the grant of Parliaments to Canada, Australia, and other Colonies endangered the stability of the Empire?"[332] In 1876, Butt demanded parity with the self-governing colonies: "there should be a Parliament in Ireland exercising over Irish affairs the same dominant control that had been exercised by the Parliament of Canada over Canadian affairs, and the Parliament of Australia over Australian affairs, and as was exercised in every colony by colonial Parliaments."[333] Yet this uncompromising demand was accompanied by very little detail. The following year, he reiterated the argument of his 1870 pamphlet, claiming that the concession of self-government to Canada had "converted a most disloyal province into one of the most loyal portions of Her Majesty's dominions. Let them give Ireland the same control over Irish matters that Canada possessed over her affairs, and the Irish people would ask no more."[334] If Butt's allusions to Canada lacked depth, his followers' use of the analogy equally lacked breadth, probably an unavoidable by-product of his light-touch approach to leadership, which led the 1876 debate to degenerate into something close to chaos.[335] Richard Power, the MP for Waterford who would soon transfer his allegiance to Parnell, was one of the few Irish members to elaborate the point. "Self-government has not made Canada, Australia, the Isle of Man, or Hungary, seek for separation. Why should Ireland be an exception? If Ireland were like Canada or Australia, some thousand miles from British shores, you would doubtless allow her a Parliament of her own, and she would be as prosperous and as contented with British rule as Canada now is; and if Canada were only a few hours sail from England, and were denied Home Rule, she would be as Ireland now is – determined on having it."[336] Of course, Power was right: it was not that analogy pointed to an Irish parliament, but rather that proximity ruled it out.  

Opponents were not much better informed. W.E. Forster argued that Canada "was not a parallel case; because, at present, at any rate, every Canadian Act must receive assent in England, and therefore there was an appeal to authority at home".[337] This was technically correct, but, in reality, as Gladstone would explicitly accept in 1881, the era when Whitehall could override Ottawa at will had passed. Since Confederation, a handful of Canadian laws had been overruled on technical grounds, but even that scope for intervention was reduced by the 1876 redrawing of the Letters Patent, the Governor-General's job description, at the insistence of the Liberal government's Justice Minister, Edward Blake – later to become a Home Rule MP at Westminster.[338] The most cogent English critic of Home Rule appeals to Canada was Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Disraeli's Chief Secretary for Ireland. In 1876, he pointed out that by acquiring the status of Canada, Ireland would necessarily lose its representation at Westminster: "She would have no influence on the general affairs of the Empire, and would practically sink into the position of a Province." As for remodelling the United Kingdom to give Ireland the status of Ontario or New Brunswick within Canada's federal system, Hicks-Beach dismissed the provinces as "little more than county assemblies, and in power of taxation have little more than municipal rights". To establish an Irish provincial legislature "on the Canadian system" would "do nothing that would really satisfy those who make this demand". Yet it would utterly change the British system of government, "because we must substitute a written compact for the unwritten Constitution, which has been the pride and boast of this country. We must define every right of the Federal Parliament and the provincial Parliament. We must institute a Supreme Court, if we can, to decide disputes between the two Parliaments; and all for what?"[339]  Hicks-Beach returned to the charge the following year, dismissing the analogy between Canada and Ireland, by pointing out that Confederation had involved "an union of separate Colonies for the purposes of a closer union, and not a separation of an existing union". Not only had the British North America Act conferred all the most important government powers upon the Dominion, but legislation passed by the provinces even within their own spheres was "subject to confirmation or veto by the Dominion Government". Was that, he challenged Butt, "a state of things which he would like to see established in Ireland?"[340]

Under Charles Stewart Parnell, who became leader in 1880, the Irish party was effectively converted into the political wing of an agrarian uprising. For several years, Parnell kept Home Rule in reserve: there were no more Commons motions of humble entreaty for some concession of local autonomy.[341] In January 1885, to counter plans among British politicians for some form of devolved local government in Ireland, he dramatically raised the political stakes by demanding the return of Grattan's parliament – or, at least, some legislature of similar standing. Parnell had not only reinvigorated the campaign for a legislature on College Green, his appeal to reverse the injustice of 1800 took the debate far beyond any colonial analogy. In any case, the Dominion of Canada to which Butt had appealed had considerably mutated by 1885.

In 1879, following Macdonald's re-election as Canada's Prime Minister, the Dominion raised its import duties to new heights as part of his National Policy (the adjective was revealing) that aimed to foster Canadian industry and promote the transcontinental railway project. Gladstone reflected the unpopularity of the new Canadian tariff in Britain when he sent his good wishes on the appointment of the new Governor-General, Lord Lorne, in March 1879. At this stage in his career, he was technically a private citizen and could afford to affect a whimsical attitude. "Every one here I think feels that it is a hard case upon this Mother Country, poor old lady, to have her products taxed by her offspring." He consoled himself with the reflection that Canadian protectionism was "a retribution ... upon us for having taxed their infant labours".[342]  Impotent indignation in the face of the National Policy very largely exploded Forster's theoretical assumption that Canadian legislation might be subject to a British veto. Hence, the argument that a self-governing Ireland would replicate the relationship of Canada with Britain was now tantamount to a recognition that Home Rule equalled separation. Certainly Parnell wanted a parliament that would have the power to protect Irish industries against British competition, but little purpose would have been served had he highlighted the devolution issue by an appeal to a Canadian model that mainstream British politicians now associated with a heretical rejection of free trade dogma. The increasing relaxation of the relationship between Ottawa and London was no doubt to be expected. Perhaps more dramatic was the revolutionary, if almost unnoticed, change that redefined the internal structure of the Dominion, as decisions by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council began to push the bounds of provincial authority from 1883. But first, a clumsy initiative by Canada's elected representatives complicated relations with British politicians, provoking Gladstone himself to cold anger.

++ Towards Irish Home Rule: the Costigan Resolutions, 1882 In April 1882, members of the Dominion parliament decided to apply their wisdom to Irish problems in an initiative that did nothing to encourage the idea that Canada was either loyal or friendly. In fairness to what proved to be crass intervention, their address to the Queen, expressed in six resolutions and passed unanimously on 20 April 1882, should be set in a dual context. In Ireland, Parnell and his associates had been interned in Kilmainham Gaol for six months, with no prospect of release: given that politicians are programmed to offer opinions, it was pardonable that the legislators of Ottawa should have felt moved to contribute a Canadian solution to the stand-off. They could not foresee that events in Ireland would unfold dramatically over the next two weeks: Parnell was released under the terms of the so-called Kilmainham Treaty, the Chief Secretary, W.E. Forster, resigned in protest and then – in a grisly but unforeseeable tailpiece – his successor, Lord Frederick Cavendish was hacked to death in the Phoenix Park, as he attempted without success to defend Ireland's senior civil servant, T.H. Burke, from assassins. It was unfortunate that a substantial section of British opinion responded to the resolutions through the prism of the Irish situation at the time they became aware of them, rather than viewing them as a comment upon the impasse of a fortnight earlier. Unfortunately, there was also a Canadian context which no apologetics could portray in any elevated light. The Dominion was approaching a general election. To the contestants, every election is the most vital contest of a generation, but to Macdonald in 1882, victory was especially important. Since his return to office in 1878, he had launched his National Policy, setting in place its high tariff wall, and he had finally found a syndicate that could commence construction of the transcontinental railway. Fortunately, the economy was in a buoyant state, but neither the tariff nor the railway project could yet demonstrate obvious returns, and both were anathema to his Liberal opponents. It promised to be a close-fought election, with the two parties offering Canadians an unusually stark choice of futures.

The Irish vote was influential across the Dominion, but nowhere more than in the province of New Brunswick, where Macdonald's Conservative supporter John Costigan was pitted against his Liberal rival, Timothy Warren Anglin.[343] A cross-party caucus of Irish Catholic MPs chose Costigan to move the package of resolutions calling for reform in Ireland. Dangling an offer of a cabinet post (Costigan became a minister a month later), Macdonald persuaded his ally to water down the original proposals into what the Prime Minister regarded as "perfectly harmless" generalities. These were introduced under a parliamentary procedure that was not susceptible of amendment, thereby circumventing the danger that Anglin would outbid Costigan by proposing some fiery alternative. The key changes forced by Macdonald were made to the fifth resolution, which reminded Her Majesty "that Canada and its inhabitants have prospered exceedingly under a Federal system, allowing to each Province of the Dominion considerable powers of self-government", a declaration which implied that some similar but undefined equivalent might make Ireland "a source of strength to Your Majesty's Empire" by enabling Irish people to feel "the same devotion to, and affection for, our common flag, as are now felt by all classes of Your Majesty's loyal subjects in this Dominion". To this hardly revolutionary formula, Macdonald succeeded in inserting a saving clause that any such solution should preserve "the integrity and well-being of the Empire and the rights and status of the minority", qualifications that the next decade would demonstrate practically rendered impossible any generally acceptable form of Home Rule. As part of the deal with Costigan, Macdonald not only facilitated the resolutions, but also spoke in their support. As he explained to the Governor-General, Lord Lorne, not only was it "doubtful whether the passing of the address could have been prevented", but the rejection of the resolutions "would have greatly irritated the majority of our Irish Catholic population" and perhaps even triggered a renewal of cross-border Fenian raids, "from which we have already suffered so much. On these occasions Canada expended much money and had its trade and credit paralyzed for the time, not to speak of the loss of some valuable lives." Macdonald's allusion to the unassuaged grievance of the Treaty of Washington was presumably intended to imply that Canada was entitled to comment on Irish problems. Unfortunately, that was not the ground upon which the address to the Queen was based.[344]

Canadian politicians had recently concerned themselves with the question of immigration from Ireland: despite the obvious pressures to leave a depressed and turbulent country, the Dominion seemed to attract relatively few of its economic refugees. Loyal, friendly but perennially cynical, Macdonald saw an opportunity to squeeze cash from the British parliament – he talked of a million pounds – to fund large-scale assisted migration to the Canadian West: "Gladstone and Forster must now in desperation look to emigration as a remedy".[345] Hence, the Costigan resolutions chose to use Canada's failure to attract Irish migrants as the justification for the Dominion parliament's address to the Queen, attributing the fact that so many Irish headed for the United States "to their feeling of estrangement towards the Imperial Government". This was both tendentious and provocative: chain migration – following, and being supported by, those who had left already – would naturally carry most Irish migrants south of the border, where the economy was in any case more buoyant: New York, with almost two million people, and Philadelphia, approaching one million, were better prospects for immediate employment than Canada, home to a mere 4.3 million people spread out from ocean to ocean.[346] Nor did the British flag deter the Irish from making the far longer journey to Australia. Compared with the opaque reference to self-government – already anodyne even before Macdonald's emasculating intervention – this aspect of the resolutions seemed crafted to provoke the maximum amount of resentment.

The debate in the Canadian House of Commons was stilted, even trite. Costigan sought to navigate uncontroversial territory. Canadians had "rights and liberties not enjoyed by the people of Ireland" and, having experienced "a wise system of government, will readily extend their sympathies to those less fortunate in that respect". He attempted to interweave an appeal to the provincial model as a blueprint for devolution with the larger argument about the nature of Canadian loyalty.  Just as Ottawa could not possibly legislate for all the provinces, so Westminster would benefit from devolving some of its responsibilities. "Nothing has tended more to strengthen that feeling of loyalty and attachment to the Mother Country now prevailing than the fact that she was willing to extend to this country those liberties that every free man has a right to expect. The same result would follow concessions in Ireland." Give the Irish "a measure of self-government" and "you will find them, like Canadians, loyal and true, ready and willing to support the Empire which would shelter and not crush them". At the conclusion of Costigan's platitudes, no MP seemed anxious to speak. Eventually, the opposition leader, Edward Blake, felt the need to get to his feet. An Irish Protestant and a ponderous lawyer, Blake had been born in a log cabin during Upper Canada's pioneering days, but he came from an Irish gentry family and exuded an aloof superiority. Something of a loose cannon in Canadian politics, in 1892 he transferred to Westminster as the anti-Parnellite MP for South Longford, where his "model of Irish nationalism, which was set within a federalist, imperial framework, lacked broad appeal".[347] Predictably, his comments on the Costigan resolutions took the form of a lengthy lecture on Irish history, although Macdonald, who followed him, accused him of the shocking offence of attempting to make "political capital". There was a contribution from the former Liberal finance minister, Sir Richard Cartwright, who had studied at Trinity College Dublin in the aftermath of the Famine. T.W. Anglin observed that there was no need for him to make a speech, and resumed his seat an hour later. A French Canadian politician, J.C. Coursol, whose Montreal constituency included a large Irish population, took the opportunity to praise "the qualities of that noble race". None of the principal speakers ventured beyond generalities.

The most cogent contributions came from two prominent Orangemen who doubted the wisdom of the resolutions. "Why should we interfere and petition the Home Government as to how to govern Ireland? Do they not know better than we [sic]?", asked the Donegal-born John White. A similar homily from Westminster on the evils of the Dominion's  tariff policy, he pointed out, would produce a sharp Canadian response "to mind their own business". Criticising the proposed address as an election stunt "to pull the wool over the eyes of the Catholic Irishmen of this country", he added the telling point that the resolutions omitted any reference to one subject where Canadian experience might have made a positive contribution. "If we petitioned the Home Government to purchase the lands from the landlords and give them to the poor, afterwards Home Rule would come, when the people would manage their own affairs well." Nathaniel Clarke Wallace, Canadian-born of Sligo parentage, criticised the other speakers for failing to define what they meant by Home Rule (a term that, in fact, did not appear in the resolutions). "Are powers to be granted similar to those given to the Provinces of the Dominion?" Since, in his view, Ireland needed to adopt a protective tariff (a view that Parnell shared), the acquisition of merely "local powers" would be of little value. However, White and Wallace appreciated that they lacked the support to divide the House, and Costigan's resolutions passed unanimously.[348] Macdonald felt that he had successfully disposed of "this troublesome matter": "the subject, instead of remaining a cause of agitation and annoyance, is now fairly dead and buried ... much to the disappointment of the Fenian element in our midst".[349] Unfortunately, on the other side of the Atlantic, its repercussions were only just commencing.   

The Parnellites were quick to exploit the propaganda windfall. Both the Irish caucus at Westminster and the executive of the Home Rule League in Dublin passed appreciative resolutions. The principal Nationalist newspaper, the Freeman's Journal, ran the story over several days, emphasising the moral that Gladstone would recite four years later: "While Ireland struggles fiercely in the British grasp, peace and contentment reign in the far away Dominion of Canada." Denouncing the resolutions to the readers of The Times as a cynical bid for Irish votes at the upcoming general election, Goldwin Smith, the veteran critic of the colonial connection, drew a devastating moral: "You see the real value of the loyalty of colonial politicians." One British journalist called the resolutions "a blunder which has already created a very angry feeling on this side of the Atlantic".[350] That anger extended to the highest in the land. On 1 May, Philip Callan, an outspoken Home Rule MP, challenged Gladstone to table the Canadian resolutions in the British House of Commons. The Prime Minister's response was terse: "We are cognizant of the Resolution having been passed and of its contents, but only by telegraphic report. We cannot present it to the House, because we are not in possession of the document." However, he made his response brutally clear: "no doubt, the Assembly of Canada desired to assist our deliberations, [but] the question referred to in the Address appertains exclusively to the Imperial Parliament and the Imperial Government". Furthermore, the problems of Ireland "had our close and constant attention before the intimation of the wish expressed in the Address, either from that quarter or any other quarter, had reached us in the shape of any suggestion".[351] Macdonald's biographer, Joseph Pope, called the reprimand "a polite invitation to the [Canadian] House of Commons from Mr Gladstone to mind its own business".[352]

Canada's meddlesome politicians were fortunate that Gladstone had squashed their impertinence some days before the murders of Burke and Cavendish shocked all civilised opinion.[353] The Costigan resolutions had closed with a call for clemency for political prisoners. The amnesty movement, which called for the release of Fenians imprisoned for their part in the failed uprising of 1867, functioned as a kind of front organisation for the Home Rulers, enabling them to reach out to a wider range of potential sympathisers. The argument was that the Fenians, although misguided, had been sincere in their devotion to Ireland. Since they were no longer a threat, their release would be both an act of clemency and a gesture of strength.[354] Viewed from Parliament Hill in Ottawa on 20 April 1882, the call for the release of political prisoners was a harmless humanitarian gesture. Seen through the bloody prism of the Phoenix Park murders two weeks later, it looked like naive meddling in a problem that Canadian politicians did not understand. "The people of this country", an angry Kimberley wrote to Lorne, "... are not in a temper to be trifled with by anglers for Irish votes at elections for colonial legislatures".[355] Soon after his return from Ottawa the following year, Lorne published an article on "Canadian Home Rule" as an exemplar for Ireland, an exercise designed to "show the difficulty of comparing the circumstances of any two countries". He praised Canada's Irish settlers but gently mocked the way they jumped "with characteristic Celtic ardour to the conclusion that if Ireland could only imitate Canada her lot would be equally happy".[356] In a private letter to Gladstone, he had angrily described the Costigan resolutions as "a piece of folly".[357] In the context of 1882, the episode certainly offered no encouragement for any British politician to cite Canadian precedents in support of Home Rule for Ireland.[358] Yet, in a sequel four years later, Gladstone would hail the statesmanlike quality of Duffy's milder version of the same declaration.  

++ The changing balance in the Canadian constitution A year after the Costigan resolutions episode, a little-known decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council confirmed that the balance of authority within the Canadian system of government was shifting from the Dominion towards the provinces. It took time for the full significance of the case of Hodge versus the Queen, decided in 1883, to be recognised, even in Canada itself. The opaque uncertainty meant that British politicians were about to embark on schemes for Irish devolution in which they occasionally appealed to a Canadian model that they did not fully comprehend.

The British North America Act had been deliberately based upon theoretical ambiguity. Hicks-Beach had exaggerated when he called the provinces "little more than county assemblies" in 1876, although such was undoubtedly Sir John A. Macdonald's long-term ideal. Provincial assemblies had been retained in deference to local particularism in the Maritimes, and a majority Francophone legislature had been created for Quebec to assure French Canadians that they exercised some measure of control over their own destiny. This incomprehension was unfortunate, since the Canadian constitution represented the only model within the Westminster parliamentary tradition of an attempt to distinguish between central and provincial functions within a quasi-federal structure.[359] But the division of powers in Sections 91 and 92 of the British North America Act was not the fruit of experience, it had not emerged from two decades of dual-level government – as it was sometimes portrayed – but rather it resulted from an attempt by colonial leaders between 1864 and 1867 to design a compromise blueprint, before it came into operation.[360] It was a political document, not a scientific treatise. Moreover, even if the texts of the two Sections might look like tablets of stone, the underlying tectonic plates of judicial review were grinding the provisions into new shapes.

Canadian Confederation was based upon an explicit rejection of the American constitutional model which assigned all unenumerated powers to the States.[361] By contrast, the Dominion parliament was authorised to "make Laws for the Peace, Order, and good Government of Canada, in relation to all Matters not coming within the Classes of Subjects by this Act assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces". Lest that ringing statement did not seem sufficiently clear, Section 91 also enumerated 29 specific areas of Dominion supremacy, "for greater Certainty, but not so as to restrict the Generality of the foregoing Terms of this Section". "When the framers of the Constitution provided that all powers not specifically delegated to the Provinces should remain with the Dominion," wrote the British legal academic J.E.C. Munro in 1889, "it was thought that all danger of conflict between the central authority and the province had been removed."[362] Unfortunately this belt-and-braces approach of enumerating the powers of the Dominion government tended to highlight areas of overlap, and therefore of potential friction, with the sixteen areas of competence which Section 92 assigned to the provinces. For instance, to protect Quebec's predominantly Catholic culture, "The Solemnization of Marriage" was made a local responsibility, while "Marriage and Divorce" fell under the remit of the Dominion. Similarly, the large area of "Property and Civil Rights" fell under provincial control, reflecting the fact that Quebec had inherited its own system of French civil law. However, "Bankruptcy and Insolvency" were regulated by Ottawa, and the potential conflict here was the subject of a case before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as early as 1874.[363]

These were areas of potential friction that might have been foreseen. However, the time-bomb that exploded in 1883 came from a clash between two provisions that had probably seemed entirely unrelated. Not surprisingly, "The Regulation of Trade and Commerce" formed one of the major powers of the Dominion parliament: it was probably this provision that Gladstone had in mind when he rebutted Duffy's arguments by saying that Canada had merely been granted the authority to establish an internal customs union. Buried among the provincial powers in Section 92 was an apparently innocuous article, giving the second tier of government authority to issue "Shop, Saloon, Tavern, Auctioneer, and other Licences in order to the raising of a Revenue for Provincial, Local, or Municipal Purposes".[364] By the eighteen-seventies, alcohol had emerged – in Canada as elsewhere – as a fraught political issue, with Liberals in particular determined to tackle its associated evils. The power to impose licences obviously implied the capacity to define the nature of the business, as well as the authority to refuse or to withdraw permission to operate. Thus a right to raise revenue carried with it the power of regulation, and hence the potential for conflict with Dominion control over trade and commerce. The battle would be fought out over the billiard tables in a Toronto tavern.

Given that Upper Canada, renamed Ontario in 1867, had been the powerhouse of the movement for Confederation, it may seem surprising that the province became the spearhead for the assertion of provincial rights. Nonetheless, it was Ontario – rather than Quebec – that led the campaign, particularly after the lawyer and political theorist Oliver Mowat became its Liberal premier in 1872.[365] The Mowat government fought a number of cases aimed at curbing the power of the Dominion government. Although Canada had created its own Supreme Court in 1875, ultimate appeal still lay to the sovereign. Such appeals were referred to the Privy Council, an amorphous body which further devolved responsibility to a handful of specialist lawyers – in the Canadian history textbooks, the notorious Judicial Committee (JCPC). Little purpose is now served in debating whether or not these British jurists misunderstood Canada and its constitution. The key fact is that their judgments tended to favour the provinces over the central government.

Their most notable decision came in the prosaically titled case, Hodge vs The Queen, which concerned a scarcely uplifting dispute over regulation of the billiard tables in Archibald Hodge's tavern. In 1883, the JCPC not only found in favour of the Ontario government, but pronounced that the provinces were, in effect, "supreme" within the spheres of authority granted to them by Section 92 of the British North America Act. In a single judgment, the JCPC had gone a long way towards converting a system of glorified subordinate municipalities into the outline of a federation.[366] Although The Times stressed the importance of the judgment for Canada's system of government,[367] it is unlikely that many politicians or commentators in Britain followed the case. However, Colonial Office ministers and lawyers associated with the JCPC would have been aware of it: Sir Robert Phillimore, one of Gladstone's oldest and closest friends, was one of the judges, although he did not sit in the Hodge case. Hicks-Beach had predicted that Home Rule would require Britain to acquire a written constitution and "a Supreme Court ... to decide disputes between the two Parliaments". Hodge vs The Queen demonstrated that such a judicial umpire might all too easily subvert any carefully crafted balance, such as Gladstone sought to define in 1886, between London and Dublin. Given the unpredictably fluid nature of Canadian federalism, it was better not to appeal to the analogy as a model for British-Irish relations. Hartington's refusal to accept the Canadian model for devolution in Ireland as a basis for possible Liberal reunion in 1887, discussed below, apparently stemmed from some knowledge of the judicial campaign waged by the provinces against the dominance of Ottawa.[368] In 1886, Hartington voiced his concern about the intrusion of a judicial umpire between London and Dublin, but he did not mention developments in Canada.[369]

++ Canada and the Sudan, 1885 Curiously, it was Britain's Egyptian imbroglio that brought Canada's position within the Empire briefly, if marginally, back on to Gladstone's agenda. Ironically, the pacific statesman who had so roundly denounced the expansion of imperial frontiers in India and South Africa became the Prime Minister who occupied the nominally Turkish tributary state of Egypt in 1882. (Gladstone's many critics preferred to see hypocrisy rather than irony.) The acquisition of responsibility for the government of Egypt involved Britain in yet another ill-defined dependency relationship. Technically, British forces were administering Egypt on behalf of its Khedive, whose authority was also claimed to extend deep into the Sudan, where it was already under challenge from the religious-cum-national rebellion of the Mahdi. Gladstone's ministers clung to the hope that they could constrict their new and unexpected responsibilities and, and as one of them wrote in 1883, they "had no interest in keeping up the dependency of the Sudan on Egypt".[370]  A British army officer, national hero and mystical eccentric, General Charles Gordon, was sent to Khartoum to evacuate the city and abandon the surrounding region. Gordon creatively reinterpreted his instructions and soon became encircled in a siege which electrified British public opinion and eventually forced Gladstone's government to authorise a relief expedition. It reached the city two days after its gallant but disobedient defender had been killed.[371]

Command of the relief expedition had been entrusted to Lord Wolseley, a general noted for his meticulous planning. Wolseley would obviously rely on the Nile as his main supply route, but its mighty flow was interrupted by cataracts. He recalled that in 1869-70 he had taken part in the comical expedition to the Red River, which had been made possible by the skills of Canadian boatmen, voyageurs, in navigating the multiple rapids on the complex river networks of the Laurentian Shield, and decided that a corps of voyageurs was required to liberate the Sudan.[372] The Canadian government was happy to accede to his request for the recruitment of a whitewater task force, especially as it was to be organised and paid for entirely by the British taxpayer.[373] At a time when Britain lacked friends in Europe, the Canadian gesture loomed large with (and was magnified by) public opinion. The humorous magazine, Punch, devoted its weekly feature cartoon to an encounter between a motherly Britannia and the personification of her chief colony. Attractive young Canada was dressed like a Principal Boy in a pantomime, wearing boots, tights and a mini-jerkin, crowned by an identifying headdress of feathers. "If I can be of any assistance, command me", she says, to which Punch added "And so say Victoria and New South Wales."[374] The public mind was being unconsciously prepared for the Home Rulers' "loyal and friendly" slogan. As Lord Randolph Churchill later put it, the expedition to Khartoum "could hardly have been carried on with so much celerity if it had not been for the Canadian boatmen; and the Canadian Government afforded all possible facilities for giving the British Government the assistance of those boatmen.... they came to our assistance at a time when their services were really wanted and were really useful, and … we should hardly have got the work done without their aid".[375]

However, there were sharp limits to Canadian generosity. Macdonald privately deplored the bellicose enthusiasm of some of the Dominion's militia officers in their anxiety "for excitement or notoriety", and blamed them for arousing "unreasonable expectations in England". His government politely invited the War Office to recruit troops in the Dominion, but there was no suggestion of authorising any Canadian volunteer force. Yet even this restrained gesture helped trigger a wave of jingoistic patriotism on the other side of the world. Since 1872, the Australian colonies had been linked to Europe by submarine cables, but – even for pooled news agencies – international telegrams were expensive to send: breaking news reached the Antipodes in little more than headline form. Staccato reports conveyed the impression that Canada had decided to send its own troops to the Sudan. New South Wales quickly followed what it believed was Canada's lead, and secured the approval of the British government to raise and dispatch its own contingent, at its own cost.[376]

These expressions of colonial loyalty caused some embarrassment in British official circles. The Mahdi's forces had slaughtered two British-officered columns of Egyptian troops, one of 10,000 men, the other of 3,500, and their violent fanaticism had overrun Khartoum. While the Canadian boatmen played a specific role in Wolseley's campaign, mostly well away from any fighting, a few hundred hastily assembled and poorly trained Australian volunteers contending with an unfamiliar environment were unlikely to be of much value. (The effect on British-Australian relations of another desert massacre would not have been pleasant to contemplate.) The New South Wales offer was accepted, partly because the Governor privately warned that "refusal will be deeply felt in the colony", but also because the British Colonial Secretary, the Earl of Derby, hoped that it might spur Canada into offering more direct help. But when the other Australian colonies made similar offers (Victoria's was criticised in the Colonial Office as "bombastic"), they were politely declined on the grounds that their troops would arrive too late to be of practical use.[377]

Macdonald had no intention of taking part in an intercolonial competition to help the mother country. He weighed the situation with clear, cold cynicism. The violent regime in the Sudan threatened instability in Egypt, which could impact upon the security of the Suez Canal, Australia's lifeline to Europe. The Australian colonies had protested against French and German colonial incursions into the Pacific region, clamouring for British support on a matter which Whitehall saw as marginal and exaggerated.[378] Macdonald felt that the offer of troops by the Australians was "a good move on their part", which he compared to Count Cavour's decision to send soldiers from the Kingdom of Sardinia to the Crimean War, a gesture that earned British and French goodwill, which he exploited during the Risorgimento. But Canada had no such interest in the region, and would risk weakening itself against possible renewal of Fenian attacks from the United States if it diverted its small defence forces overseas. "Why should we waste money and men in this wretched business? … Our men and money would … be sacrificed to get Gladstone and Co[mpany] out of the hole they have plunged themselves into by their own imbecility."[379]

In fact, Gladstone and Company could hardly be expected to share the public enthusiasm for Imperial solidarity. Ministers regretted their involvement in Egypt, and they were certainly divided over the merits, let alone the purpose, of an expedition to Khartoum. During a long cabinet meeting on 9 February 1885, discussion seems to have been desultory and to some extent at cross-purposes. Derby believed ministers had "agreed that any offers of Canadian assistance, of which there have been several, should be welcomed". Welcomed, of course, was not the same as accepted, and Derby must have known that the Canadian government had not endorsed any of the patriotic projects voiced across the Dominion. Joseph Chamberlain apparently suggested asking Canada to send a force to the Red Sea port of Suakin. Gladstone noted that the cabinet agreed that acceptance of an offer of help from the Italians, who had gained a foothold further down the Red Sea in Eritrea, would imply "military weakness", adding: "Case of Canada Volunteers (if,) different."  A week later, his note of a further cabinet decision on 18 February was brief and distinctly cool: "Canada not to be absolutely refused."[380]

Two days later, he addressed an unsympathetic House of Commons on Egypt. Derby was surprised that he "ignored the sending of the Australian troops", one of the few bright spots in a dismal political landscape. It was left to Northcote, now the Conservative leader in the House of Commons, to offer "a word of congratulation" for "the gallant and spirited overtures which have been made to us on the part of many of the British Dependencies to rally round the flag of the Empire and bear their part in our burdens".[381] As an incident in British-Canadian relations, the Sudan drama of 1885 was both complicated and misleading. Superficially, it seemed that Canada had rallied to Britain's side in a disinterested gesture of Imperial loyalty. In reality, both governments had sought to avoid the formal involvement of the Dominion. In the wider political and public world, the episode generated a degree of sentimental misunderstanding that formed an unhelpful backdrop to the Irish Home Rule crisis that erupted as the year drew to a close. 

++  Friction on the eve of the Home Rule crisis  The blunt truth was that Gladstone had reached a stage of his career where the colonies of settlement had ceased to form any important element in a world view increasingly dominated by Ireland, democracy and an unfriendly European continent.[382] The point may be illustrated by two minor episodes early in 1886, at the time when Gladstone was fully occupied trying to construct his fragile third ministry. With his energies focused on confronting the Home Rule issue, he was irritated to find himself responding to yet another Canadian demand for money. The Canadian Pacific Railway had completed its transcontinental track and was preparing to launch services from Montreal to the Pacific seaboard. Macdonald liked to portray the project as a link in an Imperial highway from Liverpool to Hong Kong, and the Company wanted to run a line of steamers to China, subsidised as a mail service – a device that justified an application for funds from Britain. As in his negotiations with the Canadian delegates on defence in 1865, Gladstone could not see why the application for British funding was urgent: "I should have thought quite the reverse." He regarded the Canadian Pacific Railway company as "weak" and "propped" by the Canadian government: this was undoubtedly correct, which was why Ottawa wanted the cash. He was opposed on principle: "It might open the door to a new course of subsidies." Even the classic Whitehall delaying device, reference to a committee, risked seeming to accept the legitimacy of that principle. Granville, temporarily returned to the Colonial Office, was more sympathetic, but a working party of officials predictably turned the proposal down.[383]  The second incident was an indirect by-product of Britain's occupation of Egypt in 1882, which had soured relations with the French, thereby rendering highly inconvenient another flare-up in the long-running Newfoundland fisheries dispute. One of the island's newspapers appealed to the "bag and baggage" slogan in which Gladstone had characterised his demand for the cleansing of the Balkans: "We want the whole of Newfoundland for Newfoundlanders, nothing more, nothing less." The Anglophile French ambassador in London urged the "speedy closing" of the issue as a step towards "good international feeling", going so far as to suggest "that some compliment or honour to some little great man in the Colony might oil the wheels". Gladstone agreed. His private cynicism would contrast with his portrayal, almost immediately afterwards, of the self-governing colonies as Britain's generously disinterested supporters, models for Home Rule who were ready to sacrifice their own interests for the good of the Empire.[384]   


++ Gladstone, Canada and Ireland, 1885-1887 In the early eighteen-eighties, Gladstone, Prime Minister for a second time, once again turned his attention to Ireland, with – as discussed above – Canada providing no more than a couple of minor intrusions upon his agenda. He had won the 1880 general election despite Disraeli's tactics of stirring fear with "dark allusions to the repeal of the Union and the abandonment of the Colonies". In his election address to the voters of Midlothian, Gladstone dismissed the "baseless insinuations" of the latter charge, pointing out that Liberal administrations had granted the colonies free trade and responsible government. Furthermore, in an obvious allusion to the Palmerston-Russell ministry of the mid-sixties, they had undertaken "to defend Canada with the whole strength of the Empire" and had set the foundations for "the great scheme for uniting the several settlements of British North America into one Dominion".[385] This was an appropriate point in stress in Scotland, with its close links to Canada, but there was no indication that Gladstone was thinking of any parallel with Ireland, a subject barely mentioned in the address. He was indeed considering some advance in Irish local government, and the dread term "devolution" had entered his vocabulary.[386] Like Macdonald nine years earlier, he thought in terms of Grand Committees "for particular portions of the three Kingdoms", hoping in December 1882, to see them "founded upon the four Provinces".[387] Although he used the Canadian example in preparing an outline scheme of 1880 ("See the rule for assemblies in Canada"),[388] he was definitely not thinking of applying the Canadian precedent of self-government. When Queen Victoria expressed alarm at the apparent trend of his thinking, he assured her that he was "far from intending to imply that such Home Rule as prevails in Canada could be safely or properly extended to Ireland".[389]

Gladstone's detractors so often accused the "Grand Old Spider" of manipulating the world of politics that it may come something of a surprise to realise that he entirely lost control over Irish issues for ten months in 1885-6. Between 9 June 1885, when his divided cabinet made way for a minority Conservative government, and 8 April 1886, when, once again in office, he unveiled his Home Rule proposals, his attitude to self-government in Ireland remained both private and fluid.[390] In opposition, he recognised that the initiative had passed to Parnell, who was obviously going to emerge from the forthcoming general election, fought on a new and broader franchise, controlling an increased number of seats. On 17 July 1885, Gladstone gloomily noted reports that some sort of Irish parliament would be demanded. "This I suppose may mean the repeal of the Act of Union or may mean an Austro-Hungarian scheme or may mean that Ireland is to be like a great Colony such as Canada." None of these prospects was appealing, and any one of them would "constitute an entirely new point of departure".[391] Early in September, he caused Hartington "the greatest uneasiness" by talking of the need for a "reconsideration of the whole position" of Irish government, citing "the prolonged experience of Norway", backed by passing references to Finland (which had limited autonomy within the Russian empire) and "the altogether new experience of Austria-Hungary". Perhaps Gladstone assumed that citing the Canadian model might panic the wary Hartington altogether.[392] "I am very anxious to know in detail of your views about Ireland, in connection with your Canadian experience," he wrote to Lord Lorne a week later. Since this formed a postscript to a long letter on domestic politics, perhaps politeness rather than urgency prompted his wish to consult the former Governor-General. Lorne responded with detailed suggestions on the operation of a system of "Irish provincial government", but opposed a "national parliament".[393] He promptly ceased to be an advisor, and Gladstone thereby deprived himself of access to perhaps the sole member of the British political elite who might have commented on the conventions and values that animated the dry text of the Canadian constitution. In October, Gladstone asked the Liberal Chief Whip, Lord Richard Grosvenor, to send him copies of the Canada Act of 1840 and the British North America Act of 1867. Lord Richard obliged, but it seems clear that Gladstone used the Canadian model purely as a structure on which to construct his later drafts, since "it had the merit of simplicity and precedence".[394]

In office, Gladstone's colleagues had been unable to agree on the reform of Irish government, and there was no constitutional expectation that they would follow any common line of policy on the subject in opposition.[395] One of the first to embrace some form of Home Rule was the outgoing Chancellor of the Exchequer, H.C.E. Childers. As a young man, Childers had emigrated to Australia, and taken part in the public life of the politics of Victoria at the time of the concession of responsible government.[396] As a British parliamentarian, his concern from the late eighteen-seventies was the congestion in law-making associated with a unicameral system, "the hopelessness of getting through the work of the United Kingdom with one legislative body sitting at Westminster". An energetic traveller across Europe and North America, he was struck by the fact that there were over forty legislatures, national, state and provincial, in the United States and Canada, "while we imagine that we can transact the business of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Imperial affairs of the whole Empire, with one Parliament only". He was also impressed by the multiplicity of assemblies and diets in the German Empire, although he may not have taken full account of the circumstances in which the minor kingdoms had accepted Prussian supremacy. Overall, he drew upon a range of precedents to satisfy himself that the Union might be "stoutly maintained" as the means of governing the Empire, but that it would be "reasonable, feasible, and highly expedient ... that Ireland should be placed in the same relation to the United Kingdom as Massachusetts to the United States, Nova Scotia to the Dominion of Canada, or Bavaria to the German Empire".[397] Others too roamed among multiple precedents. Labouchere urged the Parnellites to "take the United States, or the Dominion, or Austro-Hungary as a basis" and design their own project for Ireland.[398] To most readers of The Times, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt probably supplied further evidence of his harmless eccentricity in his refusal, "with the examples of Canada, Hungary, and especially of Austrian Poland before me, to believe in the doctrine of Ireland's irreconcilable hatred".[399] The Canadian precedent was not only one of many on offer, but it was not necessarily the most prominent transatlantic model. "I wish some one would start the idea of a Federal Constitution like the United States", wrote Joseph Chamberlain, who believed the United Kingdom could only survive if transformed into a full-blown federation.[400] "The United States alone, of all the nations of the earth, must in this matter be our great exemplar", announced the Duke of Argyll, who took the opposite point of view and believed that federation would be a disaster.[401] 

As late as December 1885, Gladstone confidently hoped for "a healthful, slow fermentation in many minds, working towards the final product".[402] "Quiet calm consideration will untangle every knot" – W.S. Gilbert's advice in The Gondoliers – may have been appropriate for the kingdom of Barataria, but in relation to Britain's articulate and highly political press, it was a non-starter. With parliament in recess and Gladstone and Parnell each maintaining strategic silence about their intentions, and Lord Salisbury having nothing to offer, the debate turned to the newspapers. Indeed, Gladstone's son Herbert gave the process a powerful shove by hinting, in the "Hawarden Kite" of 17 December, at his father's conversion to some form of Home Rule.[403] Three weeks later, Lord Derby noted "as a novelty that the parliamentary discussion has been and is being anticipated not only by journalists but by public men", with "members of both houses" writing extensive letters to the press. The Times would later publish a compilation of its articles, editorials and letters from mid-December to mid-January in a 500-page handbook.[404] The result of this cacophony of megaphone monologues was almost certainly the destruction of any possibility that Home Rule might be rendered acceptable to mainstream British opinion well before Gladstone was able to unveil his proposed legislation.

The contributions to The Times were overwhelmingly hostile. Notably, they rarely if ever referred to Canada. Derby was particularly struck by two letters from the eminent jurist, Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, both for their cogency and because it was unprecedented for a serving judge to enter the political arena. The son of the James Stephen who had allegedly governed the colonies from his desk in Downing Street, the civil servant who had proved so coldly unwelcoming to Gladstone in 1846, Fitzjames Stephen accepted that Irish devolution might be presented in the rosy context of the success of self-government in Canada and Australia. Indeed, he entered in to the line of argument. "The proper security against separation is in removing the will to use the power to separate." Canadians could easily have declared their independence, but had showed no wish to break away. Stephen had not been taken in by the Sudan episode, but he appreciated how it might be cited in support of miraculous devolution in Ireland.  Canadians, and Australians too, had sometimes been "more loyal than could be wished.... Would not this be much more true of the Irish? ... Refuse to Ireland what you concede to Canada, to South Africa, and Australia, and Ireland will ever be an ulcer, never fully healing, but always more or less violent and capable of utterly destroying the Empire." He accepted that it was a seductive argument, "the strongest way in which the case for an Irish Parliament can be put", and one that would appeal to many moderate Liberals. Brutally, Fitzjames Stephen dismissed this fragile structure of sentiment posing as logical argument: it was "an utterly mistaken view, founded on principles radically false".[405] Editorially, The Times had already made its own position clear. On 19 December, T.P. O'Connor had suggested that a version of Home Rule might be based upon "the model of Canada", by which he referred to its relations with Britain, not its internal constitution. A typically "Tay-Pay" production of wordy imprecision, it nonetheless drew a devastating rebuttal from the accompanying leading article. "We cannot make Ireland like Canada, first, because Canadians are our friends, while the majority of Irishmen are our enemies; and, second, because Canada is three thousand miles away and Ireland is at our doors."[406]

It is therefore something of a mystery that, during the parliamentary debates on his Home Rule bill, Gladstone should have expressed benign sentiments about Canadian loyalty that, first, seemed to conflict with decades of previous mistrust and, second, apparently conveyed little conviction among the suspicious audience that he needed to win over.[407] His allusions to Canada were so few that the analogy can hardly be argued to have formed any serious part in shaping his thinking about Ireland. In this context, their interest is twofold. First, after regarding Canada for twenty-five years as a quasi-independent state heading, with his acerbic blessing, towards complete separation from Britain, he now chose to hail the Dominion as a loyal, and presumably enduring, member of the Empire. Second, although he roamed, briefly but mirthfully, over the bad old days of Downing Street rule over the colonies, he pointedly stopped short of disavowing his own stand against the Rebellion Losses bill in 1849. Gladstone played the elder statesman card, while omitting to acknowledge that he personally had been among the wrong-headed on colonial questions in the early decades of his public life.[408]

"The problem of responsible Government has been solved for us in our Colonies", he announced, during his three-and-a-half hour outline of his Home Rule proposals on 8 April 1886. He admitted, with faux embarrassment, that he had served as Under-Secretary for the Colonies half a century before. "At that time the Colonies were governed from Downing Street. It is true that some of them had Legislative Assemblies; but with these we were always in conflict. We were always fed with information by what was termed the British Party in those Colonies. A clique of gentlemen constituted themselves the British Party; and the non-British Party, which was sometimes called the 'Disloyal Party', was composed of the enormous majority of the population. … England tried to pass good laws for the Colonies at that period; but the Colonies said – 'We do not want your good laws; we want our own'."[409] By 1835, when he had first held office, the British North American colonies all had representative assemblies, and the notion that there was endemic conflict between them and the Imperial power was a considerable exaggeration. Nor did he acknowledge that, as Colonial Secretary in 1846, he had urged the Governor-General, Lord Cathcart, to give preference in making appointments to "those who are eminent in attachment to the throne of Her Majesty". A brief tribute to the foresight of Lord John Russell, as Colonial Secretary from 1839 to 1841, completed Gladstone's references to the Empire – very little in a speech of almost 20,000 words, and none of it specifically linked to Canada.

By the time he spoke on the second reading of the Home Rule bill, on 10 May, Gladstone was not only specific in citing Canada, but even lyrical.  "When it was determined to confer Home Rule on Canada, Canada was in the precise temper attributed to Ireland. … I am, on this subject, able to speak as a witness. I sat in Parliament during the whole of the Canadian controversy, and I even took, what was for me, as a young Member, an active part in the discussions upon the subject." Canadian self-government was resisted with "the cry with which we are now becoming familiar—the cry of the unity of the Empire. … the relation with Canada was one of very great danger to the unity of the Empire at that time; but it was the remedy for the mischief and not the mischief itself which was regarded as dangerous to the unity of the Empire". He even quoted Daniel O'Connell's joke about his opposite number, the rebel leader Louis-Joseph Papineau: the only difference between their two countries was that "in Canada the agitator had got the 'O' at the end of his name instead of at the beginning". Even the small uprisings in Upper Canada, where half a century earlier Gladstone had denied that any grievances existed, now became a convenient debating point. "The French rebelled. Was that because they were of French extraction and because they were Roman Catholics?" An unidentified MP fell for the trap of the rhetorical question, and shouted "Yes". "No, Sir", Gladstone crushingly retorted, "for the English of Upper Canada did exactly the same thing." Although the 1837-8 rebellions were suppressed, military victory had proved an empty triumph. "The victors were the vanquished, for if we were victors in the field we were vanquished in the arena of reason. We acknowledged that we were vanquished, and within two years we gave complete autonomy to Canada."[410] This was rousing propaganda, but – at the very least – it included some considerable simplifications. It was highly misleading to conflate reformers with rebels: Canada's transition to self-government through the eighteen-forties owed a great deal to political leaders like Louis LaFontaine, Robert Baldwin and Francis Hincks who had stood aloof from violence. Gladstone's chronology was also distorted. Lord John Russell had taken an important step in 1839 in authorising governors to dismiss senior officials, a necessary step towards cabinet government but not its immediate achievement. Indeed, it could be – and certainly has been – argued that responsible government was only finally achieved ten years later, when Gladstone himself had failed to overturn the Rebellion Losses bill in the House of Commons.

It was a returned colonial from Australia who helped pitchfork Canada back into Gladstone's favour. As discussed earlier, Charles Gavan Duffy had retired from Australia to spend most of his time in France. Although the sad truth was that the Parnellite world had bypassed the ageing Young Irelander, Duffy set out in 1885 to brief the Conservative Lord Lieutenant, Carnarvon, and in particular to convert him to the cause of Home Rule.[411] In August 1885, he published his ideas in pamphlet form, The Price of Peace in Ireland, addressed to Carnarvon. Naturally, he appealed to the colonies – and to Canada in particular – as examples of self-government in action, but he went further, insisting that Home Rule in Ireland was an essentially Conservative project, one that could and should be embraced by the leaders of the Tory party.[412] When Gladstone read it two months later, early in October 1885, the pamphlet seems to have caused an explosion in his brain. The political liberalism of the Anglican squire of Hawarden was matched by deep reserves of social conservatism, and Duffy's argument touched a profound chord in his thinking. Perhaps there were questions here that a more cautious reader might have posed: for instance, how was it that a commentator who had mostly lived  abroad for the previous thirty years could have perceived the underlying conservatism of Irish society, an element obvious to few other observers? Was a former premier of Victoria qualified to pronounce upon the recent history of Canada? But Gladstone was swept away by Duffy's argument, perhaps because it met a need in his own intellectual construct of the Irish problem. It helped that Duffy, who would title his autobiography My Life in Two Hemispheres, had a conveniently multiple personality: in 1886, he could be portrayed as a former Irish rebel converted into a wise and contented Imperial loyalist.  Annoyance at the Duffy's "insolence" which had fired Gladstone fifteen years later was now replaced by admiration for Duffy's insight. The pamphlet was "worth reading", Gladstone assured Lord Richard Grosvenor as he requested him to secure a copy of the British North America Act. To the trusty Granville, he was even more enthusiastic. "I think you, and all, should read Gavan Duffy's letter to Carnarvon." It was not that reading Duffy had converted Gladstone to the cause of Home Rule, but rather that it jolted him into crystallising his own ideas. A detailed speech quickly formed in his mind ("if I dare speak it"). On the eve of a general election, in which he still formally led colleagues who had failed to agree even on a mild measure of local government for Ireland, this was highly inconvenient timing.[413] But the circle-squaring theory of Conservative Home Rule (with or without the capital C) had undoubtedly made Charles Gavan Duffy a respectable authority in Gladstone's eyes, and Duffy was about to coin an iconic phrase about Canada.[414]

In support of Gladstone's Home Rule bill, Duffy contributed an article to the Contemporary Review, offering a number of arguments, including a rehearsal of the history of Canada. The moral was summed up in a sparkling aphorism: "She did not get Home Rule because she was loyal and friendly, but she is loyal and friendly because she got Home Rule." In his 10 May speech, Gladstone twice appealed to "this great lesson of history", polishing the quotation to improve its rhythm and make the identification specific. "Canada did not get Home Rule because she was loyal and friendly, but she has become loyal and friendly because she has got Home Rule."[415] As Shannon emphasised, in 1886, he opted "quite illogically and inconsistently, [to] cite the self-governing colonies as instances wholly relevant to and supportive of his Irish cause", even specifically citing the previously despised Duffy as his authority.[416]

Just as his 10 May speech demonstrated that Gladstone had forgiven Duffy for the "insolence" of his views on colonial tariff autonomy, so too he reversed his condemnation of the impertinence of the Canadian parliament that he had so curtly snubbed when it expressed an opinion on Home Rule four years earlier. On 6 May 1886, the Ottawa House of Commons returned to the subject.[417] Elections were once again looming not only for the Dominion parliament, but also in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The legislature of Quebec had passed a motion in support of Gladstone's Home Rule Bill, to which the Grand Old Man replied that he was "deeply grateful".[418] By contrast, in Ontario, the entrenched government of Oliver Mowat proved reluctant to move a similar resolution. The province was a Protestant stronghold, with Presbyterians like the Premier himself forming the backbone of the Liberal party. Their political support for Home Rule was qualified by their fear of risking the alienation of Ontario's powerful Orange lodges. To complicate matters further, Mowat's attempts to broaden his support by establishing an entente with the Catholic archbishop of Toronto had triggered a No-Popery cry ("Mowat may reign, but Lynch governs"). From Ottawa, the national leader of the Conservative party, Sir John A. Macdonald, tried to restrain the anti-Catholic impulses of his Ontario allies. Hence, in the Dominion House of Commons, the Liberals needed an opportunity to parade their pro-Home Rule qualifications to win votes from Ontario's Irish Catholic minority, while – as in 1882 – Macdonald's priority was damage limitation, especially in regard to Canada's image among British politicians.  The leader of the opposition, Edward Blake, wished the House to state that it "hails with joy" Gladstone's Home Rule bill, a statement that might well have produced ribaldry in London. Macdonald's successful amended version referred in more general terms to some unspecified measure accompanied by safeguards.[419]

As with the Costigan resolutions in 1882, the debate largely consisted of a parade of set speeches by legislators seeking the goodwill of Irish Catholic voters, many of them stressing their own associations with the Emerald Isle. However, in contrast to the generalities of 1882, on this occasion, the very idea of Home Rule was attacked. The Dominion House of Commons eventually degenerated into ill-tempered exchanges and scrappy procedural disputes, before concluding its deliberations at 4.30 in the morning. The resolution, adopted by 117 votes to 60, spoke of the need for any Irish constitution to ensure "the integrity and well-being of the Empire and the rights and status of the minority, be satisfactory to the people of Ireland, and permanently remove the discontent so long unhappily prevailing in that country". Four years earlier, Gladstone had responded to a similarly worded Address by inviting the Canadian parliament to mind its own business. Now, at Westminster on 10 May, he expressed himself willing to defer his own criteria for an ideal Irish settlement in favour of the conditions laid down by the statesmanship of Ottawa, in what he called "one of the most remarkable and significant utterances which have passed across the Atlantic to us on this grave political question". "In their view there are three vital points [in fact, there were four] which they hope will be obtained, and which they believe to be paramount". The implication was that the Canadian parliament regarded the Home Rule bill as actually providing the required safeguards, an endorsement that Macdonald had taken care to avoid. There was no doubt a further insinuation that the Canadians were not only loyal and friendly, they were also diverse in religion and language. Since they successfully operated their own federal system, it could be claimed that their allegedly favourable opinion of Gladstone's bill was entitled to respect.[420]

Gladstone had now spoken twice in scornful terms of the dark ages of British colonial policy, each time identifying himself as a ringside spectator, but on neither occasion admitting that he, too, had endorsed assumptions of interventionist supremacy over the Empire's settler communities. Most elder statesmen projected the acquired wisdom of accumulated levels of experience; Gladstone's variant on this was to proclaim his rejection of exploded shibboleths and repudiation of proven error. Yet, in this instance, he did neither. The closest he approached to outright disavowal of his demand for intervention against the Rebellion Losses bill in 1849 came on 7 June 1886, the final night of the prolonged second reading of his Home Rule legislation.[421] Critics had demanded to know how Westminster might restrain an Irish parliament if "compelled by obligations of Imperial interest and honour to interfere" in some area of policy not foreseen by the legislative allocation of responsibilities. Gladstone replied "that this question has received a far better solution from practical politics, and from the experience of the last 40 or 50 years, than could ever have been given to it by the definition of lawyers, however eminent they may be".  His account was uncertainly worded. "When the Legislature of Canada was founded" [he presumably meant when it was granted responsible government], a "difficulty arose" regarding "the Canadian Rebellion". He had felt, "and Lord Brougham was also of opinion – I know not now whether rightly or wrongly – that the honour of the Crown had been invaded by the proposition to grant compensation for losses in the Rebellion to those who had been rebels, and who had incurred those losses as rebels. I say nothing now about our being right or wrong", but he admitted that they had challenged the legislation in their respective chambers. The "important part" of the ensuing debate, so it seemed to Gladstone 37 years later, was the insistence by the Prime Minister, Lord John Russell who denied that the Governor-General, Lord Elgin had received instructions "by which he is debarred from asking the advice and direction of the Crown upon questions which affect Imperial policy and the national honour". Gladstone appeared to be saying that in "cases where the honour of the Crown and the safety of this country are concerned", the British-appointed Lord Lieutenant in Dublin could be relied upon to negotiate the avoidance of a breakdown in relations. This would be "the practical mode by which this question, difficult in the abstract, will be settled now as it has been settled before, and we shall find that as it has been perfectly easy to reconcile the rights of Canada with the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, it will not be less easy in practice to reconcile the rights and the autonomy of Ireland with the same supremacy". The statement was both opaque and optimistic, surely a thin hope on which to pin the future of British-Irish relations. As an explanation of the position he had adopted in 1849, it was remarkably uninformative, the more so since he neither formally accepted that he had been mistaken – (" I say nothing now about our being right or wrong") – nor did he acknowledge that, even six years later in his lecture on "Our Colonies", he had still seemingly not accepted Russell's argument.

In summary, we may note that, in each of his three major parliamentary speeches on the 1886 Home Rule bill, Gladstone mentioned the self-governing colonies, although none of his discussions was extensive. In two of them, he specified Canada, pouring scorn upon short-sighted attempts at control which he implied he had witnessed as a young MP. Only in the final oration did he come close to admitting that he had been wrong in 1849, and even then, he evaded any formal confession of error. Is it possible at this point to discern some underlying intellectual consistency – or even some natural line of evolution in his thinking? There had been two major phases in Gladstone's attitude to Canada. In the first, from 1835 until at least 1849, he had insisted that Britain retained an independent sphere of control over its British North American provinces, involving at least the right of ultimate intervention to repress disloyalty or bad government. During the decade after 1861, he had switched towards an alternative extreme. Canada was now regarded as a quasi-independent associated state, heading towards complete separation – although, during the Treaty of Washington episode, he had bleakly demonstrated that exploitation of the ambiguity of the relationship was a game that both sides could play.

In colonial matters, Gladstone had clearly moved on from the first phase of his career, however much he avoided the formal repudiation of error. The irony here was that his conception of Home Rule for Ireland was in reality much closer to the pre-responsible government status of the distant colonies, which he now affected to ridicule: hence Shannon's complaint that his appeal to Canada and Australia was illogical and inconsistent.[422] It might be possible to argue that the contrast with the second phase of his attitude to Canada was more apparent than real.   In 1872, Kimberley had regarded the Prime Minister's evident wish "to get rid of the colonies as soon as possible" as exaggerated, as well as undesirable.[423] Moreover, it encapsulated its own contradiction, as Gladstone had unwittingly revealed in  his memorandum of January 1870: a document intended to outline a procedure by which Canada could become formally independent of Britain had to close by recognising that, if Canadians wished to keep the link, "that connection should be upheld by the whole power of the Empire". In his 1880 election address to the voters of Midlothian, he had gone further, praising the earlier Liberal ministry for its determination "to defend Canada with the whole strength of the Empire".

Gladstone had been irritated by the intrusion of the Canadian parliament in 1882, and had hardly radiated enthusiasm towards transatlantic offers of support during the Sudan crisis three years later. But all of this would have been compatible with a growing acceptance that the partnership with the Dominion did at least work. In 1892, as his lieutenants began to discuss the terms of a renewed bid for Home Rule, the issue arose of defining the scope of the proposed British veto over Irish affairs. Gladstone preferred to dodge any formal statement. "The Canadian system has been at work for a quarter of a century, and has proved itself compatible with perfect autonomy."[424] Perhaps he would have reached that conclusion by 1886, even without the flowery imagery of Gavan Duffy.[425] Of course, there was some difference between a realistic appraisal that the relationship with Canada was a success, and the sentimentalisation of the Dominion as Britain's dutiful daughter.[426] Certainly, it might be felt to be a very large emotional structure to erect upon a contingent of 386 Canadian Nile boatmen, requested, recruited and remunerated by Britain itself. (Nonetheless, it may be worth recalling that, during the half century after Gladstone's death, Canadians three times did indeed rally to fight in Britain's wars.)

If attempts at apology for Gladstone's sudden conversion to the merits of the Canadian experiment are less than totally persuasive, does it follow that we are left with a verdict of blatant hypocrisy, the charge so often levelled by his detractors? "He can persuade most people of most things, and, above all, he can persuade himself of almost anything", complained W.E. Forster, one of the victims of Gladstone's serpentine intellect.[427] In March 1886, Goldwin Smith assured Canada's Governor-General, Lord Lansdowne, that "there are no tricks that his casuistry cannot play with his conscience".[428] If Gladstone believed that, as a public man, he was doing God's work, posterity is hardly entitled to mock: would we have preferred him to follow a satanic agenda?[429] However, his sense of divine agency may help us to understand why he sometimes seemed to speak in parables. "That Gladstone prays to be guided right I have no doubt", his admirer Canon Malcolm MacColl commented in 1893. "That the precipitation of his own impatience constantly leads him to misunderstand God's teaching, I have no doubt either."[430]

Early in his political career, Gladstone was commissioned to reply to a debate in the Commons. He asked the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, whether he should be short and concise, for – although he is indelibly associated with interminable verbosity – Gladstone could pack a considerable amount of venom into a few words, as he demonstrated in his squashing of the Costigan resolutions. Peel advised him to "be long and diffuse". It was "all important in the House of Commons to state your case in many different ways, so as to produce an effect on men of many ways of thinking".[431] Gladstone's speech on the second reading of the 1886 Home Rule bill may be taken as an example of this advice in action, since an affirmative vote was presented as an indication of support in principle, subject to revision – and probably extensive revision – of detail. On the evening of the division, Gladstone's whips still hoped to secure a majority, even though it would hardly be large enough to carry the legislation into law.[432] Hence Gladstone's speech that night touched upon every example that might prove persuasive, either individually or as part of a cumulative barrage – Canada, Australia, Norway, Galicia, Hungary, Finland, and even the island of Samos and the Ottoman province of the Lebanon. Edmund Burke, Henry Grattan and Daniel O'Connell were summoned from the past, before Gladstone wound up with a final defiant appeal to the future: "Think, I beseech you, think well, think wisely, think, not for the moment, but for the years that are to come, before you reject this Bill."[433]

Thus Gladstone's speeches may be usefully interpreted as not necessarily explaining his own thought processes but rather as mobilising arguments that might persuade others. Of course, this in itself cannot acquit him of hypocrisy, in this case of appealing to the precedent of Canada that ran counter to the decades of suspicion that had characterised his attitudes to Britain's senior colony. In fact, in citing his Canadian examples, he sought to draw a distinction between parallels, identical situations in which successful solutions could be found, and analogies, episodes with similar features which might stimulate useful comparative reflections. "The case of Canada is not parallel to the case of Ireland. It does not agree in every particular, and the Bill which we offer to Ireland is different in many important particulars from the Acts which have disposed of the case of Canada. But although it is not parallel it is analogous. It is strictly and substantially analogous."[434] The Home Rule debate touched upon two aspects of that Canadian analogy, one the relationship between Britain and the Dominion, the other the federal interaction between the Dominion and it provinces. Closing the debate on 7 June 1886, Gladstone managed to throw in a third element as part of his desperate trawl for arguments in favour of decoupling the legislative union between Britain and Ireland.

Gladstone referred to the united province of Canada, which had been imposed by Westminster in 1840 but unstitched in 1867 to create separate local legislatures for Ontario and Quebec. "Recollect that these Provinces were united Provinces with one Legislature. Discord arose between them. What was the mode adopted of curing that discord? The mode which we now propose of the severance of the Legislatures – the establishment of an extended Union under which, at this moment, with the multiplied Legislatures of those Provinces, a substantial and perfect political harmony exists." This was a breathtakingly insecure comparison. Upper and Lower Canada had been yoked together in a union based on equal representation in the Assembly, irrespective of population, and in the face of a demographic shift towards Upper Canada. Ireland, in contrast, returned fewer than one-sixth of the Westminster parliament, although the long-term post-Famine decline in its population meant that it was over-represented in the House of Commons. Since the legislatures of Ontario and Quebec were co-equal and responsible for different regions of Canada, there was every reason for why there should be "a substantial and perfect political harmony" between them, although, by 1886, they had still not agreed on the division of the common debt they had amassed before Confederation. Had either legislature been subordinate to the other, relations would surely have proved more complex. It was brazen of Gladstone to follow his Ontario / Quebec analogy with a pre-emptive oratorical strike, his scornful claim that he could "understand … the disinclination which hon. Gentlemen opposite have to go into history as to these cases", but even he implicitly conceded that, in this case, Canada provided an analogy rather than a parallel: "notwithstanding the multitude of circumstantial differences between Canada and Great Britain, yet still the resemblances in principle are so profound and so significant".[435]

Gladstone's use of Canadian analogies in 1886 may be seen less as evidence that he had entirely abandoned his previous suspicions of the Dominion's unwelcome persistence within the Imperial fold, but rather more as one of the many weapons that he used to challenge his opponents – a moral drawn from a self-governing colony had the potential to undermine their calls to reject Home Rule in  the name of Imperial unity – and, incidentally, to project his own durability and omniscience ("in the early years of my Parliamentary life I took great interest in it, and some part in the great discussions on the disposal of Canada some 50 years ago").  Unfortunately, he apparently lacked any grasp of more recent developments in Canada's federal system. Clause 25 of the 1886 Home Rule bill empowered the Lord-Lieutenant to challenge the constitutionality of any legislation passed by the Irish legislature by referring it to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which, as Dicey put it, would acquire "a very peculiar authority", since it would act as "both an administrative and a judicial body". In considering such cases, the JCPC was also to be reinforced by Irish judges, presumably added in the naïve belief that they would be politically neutral. In drafting this clause, Gladstone probably assumed that such referrals, arising from inter-governmental disputes, would be rare. However, parties to legal proceedings in Ireland would also have the right to challenge the validity of devolved legislation, which potentially opened the floodgates to hosts of disgruntled litigants. (The Hodge case, it should be recalled, had arisen from a dispute over the regulation of billiard tables.) Specifically invoking recent Canadian experience, Dicey pointed to the danger. "The statesmen who drafted the Act constituting the Canadian Dominion fancied they could in effect avoid the necessity for judicial interpretation, but a long series of reports proves the futility of their expectation. Each day increases the mass, and it must be added the importance, of the judgments by which the Privy Council determines questions of constitutional law for the Colonies."[436] Hartington highlighted the dangers of this venture into uncharted legal and constitutional territory.  Opposing the Home Rule bill in the Commons in May 1886, he drew attention to the fact that "for the first time, a judicial authority is set up which will have power to take cognizance of, and pronounce an opinion on, the limits of Parliamentary authority. Constitutional questions are to be referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. … The Privy Council is to decide whether such a question is or is not within the competence of the Irish Legislative Body; and if it decides that it is so competent it will by the same decision decide that it is not constitutionally within the competence of the Imperial Parliament." Hartington made the simple point that "these are enormous changes of principle, and changes of principle which may have a more far-reaching effect than even is contemplated by them as they are presented to us in this Bill". Inter-factional talks the following year would demonstrate that he knew of Canadian developments, and accordingly was wary of signing up to Canadian precedents.[437] Yet Gladstone showed no awareness of the seismic change that he proposed to graft on to the British system of government.[438] His close friend, Sir Robert Phillimore, a judge of the JCPC, might have briefed him about the shifting balance of power within the Canadian constitution, but Phillimore had died the previous year. Even so, the death of a well-informed friend could hardly excuse Gladstone for his apparent failure to enquire into the workings of the JCPC appeals system before proposing to insert it into British-Irish relations.[439] It looks suspiciously as if Gladstone did not wish Canadian reality to intrude into his reconstruction of the United Kingdom. Perhaps, we should heed the verdict of Philip Magnus, a traditional biographer inclined to be indulgent towards his subject: "Gladstone manifested his power of simple, honest self-deception more frequently towards the end of his life than he had done at the beginning."[440]

++ The Round Table Conference of 1887 and after Over the New Year weekend of 1886-7, preliminary negotiations were opened between by Sir William Harcourt and Joseph Chamberlain for a series of meetings aimed at overcoming Liberal disagreement over Home Rule, thereby making it possible for the party to reunite.[441] On the Unionist side, Hartington remained aloof – the heir to a dukedom, he was usually aloof. The party leader also kept his distance, leading to suspicions that he might repudiate any concessions. "Gladstone saw the negotiations as a means of allowing heretics to rehabilitate themselves and abjure their heresy."[442] Even so, it seemed promising that two of the toughest operators in British politics had not only undertaken to talk, but agreed on a format for discussion. "It was thought convenient to discuss the matter with the Canadian Constitution as a text," Harcourt reported to Gladstone. "There seemed no difficulty upon any side in adopting the powers of the Provincial Legislatures in Canada as an analogue for Irish Home Rule." There, and duly italicised, was that crucial term that – as Gladstone's own definition had indicated – could so easily indicate a moving target. Yet historians might choose to emphasise another term – the word "text". A printed list of provincial powers in a constitution enacted in 1867 revealed nothing about the way in which relations with the Dominion government functioned in practice or had modified throughout the two decades of its operation. One problem in 1887 was the lack of authoritative accounts of the working of the Canadian constitution. Ottawa's Parliamentary Librarian, Alpheus Todd, had published his massive Parliamentary Government in the British Colonies in 1880, which contained a dense, maybe over-informative, section on Dominion-provincial relations in Canada. Todd had been much concerned with the role of lieutenant-governors in the provinces, a hot topic when he wrote because of the dismissal of Letellier in Quebec the previous year. The JCPC appeared as an occasional umpire: Todd obviously could not foresee the judicial activism of the Hodge case. The first political-science study, J.G. Bourinot's massive Federal Government in Canada, appeared two years after the Round Table negotiations, and even Bourinot could only conclude: "Sometimes it is difficult, while the constitution is working itself out, to decide where the jurisdiction rightly lies."[443] Nor is there any sign that the Round Tablers attempted to consult any Canadian about the way the Dominion was governed. Canada's High Commissioner in London, the opinionated Sir Charles Tupper, would certainly have advised, if hardly with neutrality, but he had been recalled to Ottawa to help Macdonald plan a snap general election.

In the opening gambits of the Round Table talks, Chamberlain had appeared explicitly to accept that Ireland should be regarded as the equivalent of a Canadian province, which implied that he conceded that some form of devolved legislature must be created in Dublin. It necessarily followed that, in return, Harcourt had committed himself to the retention of Irish MPs at Westminster, since the local autonomy of Canada's provinces did not disqualify them from sending MPs to Ottawa. Thus, on the face of it, the Canadian formula offered the basis for a massive breakthrough that could reunite the Liberal party. More to the point for this essay, Michael Hurst's study of the 1887 Round Table Conference may be seen as one of the few monographs in modern British history that places Canadian constitutional issues in the Westminster arena.[444] Unfortunately, no British scholar has dug deeper into contemporary understanding of that Canadian context. To add to the complications, Gladstone himself soon blundered in without thinking.

"Ireland was a Province – as Nova Scotia was a province of Canada", Chamberlain insisted, defining as his key disagreement with Gladstone "that he had treated the question from the point of view of the separate Nationality of Ireland, while I had regarded it from the point of view of a State or Province".[445] In reality, Chamberlain's formula represented not so much the offer of an olive branch as a gauntlet thrown down in challenge. Although Nova Scotia had been a founding province of the Dominion, it had joined Confederation reluctantly. Propriety had been followed, and the consent of the local legislature obtained, but at the first Dominion general election in 1867 eighteen of the nineteen MPs from the province were opponents of the new system. The Repeal movement was bought off, but discontent remained.[446] Nova Scotians felt that government in distant Ottawa hampered their ability to respond to economic change, while both the Mackenzie Liberal government of the eighteen-seventies, and its Conservative successor under Macdonald refused to revise the "Better Terms" of 1869. At the provincial general election of June 1886, the Liberal administration led by W.S. Fielding campaigned on a policy of secession from Canada and carried 29 out of the Assembly's 38 seats.[447] When parliament reconvened at Westminster after the 1886 general election, an Irish Nationalist MP, Sir Thomas Esmonde, challenged the incoming Unionist government to take a stance: was it true that the Nova Scotians had "expressed their desire for Legislative independence" and the British government grant their request? Edward Stanhope, briefly holding office as Colonial Secretary, endeavoured to parry the question: the British government could not "alter the terms of the British North America Act, 1867" and "we have every confidence that the Dominion Parliament will desire to redress, as far as possible, any reasonable grievances of which a Province may complain".[448] In fact, it was hardly in the interests of the Home Rulers to draw attention to a situation where a second-tier legislature was being used as a springboard for a secessionist movement. However, an article in the December issue of the influential monthly magazine, Nineteenth Century, offered strong support for "Nova Scotia's Cry for Home Rule", an approach echoed soon after by a correspondent of The Times.[449] Chamberlain's decision to compare Ireland to Nova Scotia was no harbinger of compromise and harmony.     

In fact, the Nova Scotian Repealers were faltering as they faced a new test at the polls, a closely contested Dominion general election called for 21 February 1887. Although their hopes would be dashed, Liberals across Canada naturally hoped for victory, and this encouraged their Nova Scotian wing to back-pedal on the confrontational policy of secession: in only four of the 21 Ottawa constituencies did their candidates pledge themselves to an attempt to leave Canada altogether. The organisation of the Macdonald government's campaign in the province fell largely upon Charles Hibbert Tupper, son of Canada's High Commissioner in London (who also came home to take part). In his early thirties, ambitious and utterly lacking in reticence – qualities that he inherited from his father – the younger Tupper decided to neutralise any possible threat of an intervention from Gladstone by sending him a detailed account of Nova Scotia's progress and prosperity since 1867. His missive reached its recipient at Hawarden on New Year's Eve 1886.

One of Gladstone's more attractive idiosyncrasies was his obsessive courtesy in replying to correspondents. In office between 1880 and 1885, he had kept three private secretaries in overdrive, but in opposition he was thrown mostly upon his own resources, and his country home could provide only the most basic of office facilities. In the first three days of 1887, an estimated 1,300 items of mail were delivered, creating a "chaos of books[,] papers & objects".[450] It was no doubt in anticipation of the deluge that Gladstone spent 31 December trying to clear the decks: a month later, when he attempted to complete the list of outgoing letters, he could not remember to whom he had written.[451] No doubt he identified Charles Hibbert Tupper as the High Commissioner's son, adjudged him worthy of a response and accordingly dashed off some approving comments. As somebody who had supported responsible government and had "actively joined in the endeavors made since to maintain the measure of confederation", Gladstone acknowledged that he had read the glowing report "with great interest and satisfaction". He welcomed Tupper's "very conclusive evidence … both as the condition and progress of Nova Scotia, and as to the solidity of the large and important measure that has done so much for British North America, and for the solidity and harmony of the empire".[452] At the time the letter was written, Gladstone could hardly have known that the previous day Chamberlain had cited Nova Scotia as an example of problematic devolution. Nor, it seems, did he foresee that his ringing endorsement of Confederation – necessarily seen as a success for the purposes of Irish Home Rule – would cause offence among the province's Repealers. Fielding's angry protest duly reached Gladstone through William Annand, Nova Scotia's agent-general in London, himself a veteran of the resistance of two decades earlier. Both the ferocity of the backlash and its timing were embarrassing. With the Dominion election just one week away, Gladstone did not wish to appear to interfere in Canadian affairs, and doubtless he had no interest in offering inadvertent support for Macdonald and his protectionist Conservatives. His problem was that he had neither a copy of his reply to young Tupper nor any memory of what he had written, and was forced to hedge his comments. "I am not aware of having expressed at any time a final judgement as to the state of public opinion in Nova Scotia on the subject of its incorporation in the Dominion."[453] It was perhaps fortunate that, on polling day, most Nova Scotian voters agreed with his benign assessment of the effects of their membership of the Dominion, sending fourteen Conservative MPs to Ottawa and only seven Liberals.[454] In his dealings with Harcourt, Chamberlain had singled out Nova Scotia not as a bridge but as a battleground, and Gladstone had unthinkingly blundered into their combat.

Meanwhile, the Chamberlain-Harcourt seminar on the British North America Act was running into multiple misunderstandings. Although on 14 February 1887, the participants did agree "that Harcourt should prepare draft of Home Rule scheme on Canadian basis", even this document was to leave blank "the points on which no agreement had been as yet arrived at".[455] Although Harcourt later mocked him for having allegedly swallowed the allocation of a wide range of Section 92 Canadian powers to an Irish legislature, Chamberlain insisted that he had never gone further than discussion of the creation of provincial councils.[456] Even more remarkable was a disagreement between Harcourt and Morley, both of them Home Rulers. Within days of the first meeting of the Round Table, Morley – who was very close to Gladstone – protested that he hoped nobody thought he had "agreed to copy exactly the limitations of the Canadian provincial legislatures". Harcourt sought to smooth over the spat. "I do not understand that anyone was supposed to be bound to the precise limitations of powers in the Canadian Constitution, either more or less, but only that this might be taken as a sort of analogue of the relation of the subordinate Legislature."[457] Goldwin Smith might have been eavesdropping on their correspondence when he criticised Home Rulers a month later for "pointing to the success of Canadian confederation as an auspicious precedent for their schemes". Although proponents of Irish devolution recognised that Canada and Ireland had little in common, they seemed "still to fancy that the analogy, though not real, must be good for something. An analogy which is not real … is of all false lights about the most misleading."[458] In the event, Morley shed no tears over the failure of the Round Table, regarding it as "moonshine" that the opposed factions could have rallied around "[a] settlement on a foolscap sheet, independent of facts of local circumstance and feeling, and will and passion and finance, and other appurtenances of human nature".[459] Although Hartington was not party to the talks, he helped bring the process to an end early in March by effectively dismissing its ostensible basis. "I doubt the applicability of the precedent of the constitution of the Dominion of Canada", he wrote to Chamberlain, mainly because it "provides no sufficient guarantees for the maintenance of the power of the Dominion over the Provincial Governments except the desire of the Provinces for Union". Even given its implicit assumption of reliance upon mere goodwill, the Canadian constitution offered opportunities for "legal, constitutional, parliamentary resistance to the superior authority which it seems to me would be fatal, if made use of, as they probably would be in Ireland".[460] Canada might or might not be loyal and friendly, but the more it was examined as a template for devolution, the less appealing it became.[461]  

++ The Canadian analogy in retreat, 1888-1893 The Round Table Conference, in which Gladstone was primarily an interested spectator, marked the effective end of half a century of his intermittent engagement with Canadian issues. This is not to fall into the trap of regarding the final years of his political career as a mere postscript: notably, he struggled, especially after 1891, to maintain the focus of the Liberal party upon Ireland when activists sought to plunge into the thickets of domestic social reform. Rather, the parallels with Canada appeared ever less persuasive: in a major contribution to the Contemporary Review in 1888, Gladstone reviewed in some detail the provisions for regional devolution across the continent of Europe, but omitted the Empire altogether.[462] From his exile in Toronto, Home Rule was consistently attacked in the British press and periodicals by Goldwin Smith, who morosely denigrated his adopted country. In 1891, Smith published his acerbic Canada and the Canadian Question, in which he reiterated what The Times called "his well-known views on the political future of the Canadian Confederation" – which were that it was destined to fail, and Canada would become part of the United States. With the advantage of a major British publisher, Macmillan, and in the virtual absence of any overall alternative assessment of the Dominion's first quarter-century, the book was widely and respectfully reviewed in Britain. It contained only a brief allusion to Home Rule, in which he described as "almost incredible that either the relation of a Canadian province to the Dominion, or that of the Dominion to the Imperial country, should have been seriously cited as a precedent" for co-existence between Westminster and what Smith called Gladstone's "vassal Parliament of Ireland". "Break the whole of the United Kingdom to pieces, give each piece the rights of a Canadian Province, put a federal government like that of the Dominion over them all, and you will have a counterpart of the Canadian polity." The only Canadian analogy that Smith regarded as applicable to Home Rule "is the relation between the Roman Catholic majority and the Protestant minority in Quebec, and this is not in favour of leaving the Protestant minority in Ireland to the tender mercies of a Roman Catholic Parliament there". Reviewers seem to have ignored the sally, but it was a further sign that the Canadian analogy had become less and less useful.[463] Even so, it was still worth fobbing off the Queen, as Gladstone did in 1892, with the argument that Home Rule would be "the most conservative of all measures", and that it had worked in Canada and Australia.[464]

"Your comparison of Ireland with Canada is wholly misleading", the Belfast Chamber of Commerce told him in a hostile address in 1893, as it listed the differences between Dominion and Home Rule powers, and echoed Smith in warning against the clerical influence that allegedly dominated in the Catholic-majority province of Quebec.[465]  In the House of Commons, Gladstone repeated the claim that colonial self-government ("Canadian Home Rule") had converted the colonies from "a cause of weakness and discredit [to] one of the chief glories of Great Britain, and one of the main sources of our moral strength".[466] But when the 1893 Home Rule bill came up for debate, he accepted that "the case of the Colonies is not identical with that of Ireland, and does not resemble it; that the fact of the Legislative Union prevents it; the nearness of Ireland compared with the remoteness of the Colonies prevents it". John Bright had suggested that "if Ireland could be towed out 2,000 miles towards America", it might be treated like Canada. "It is not so, and in consequence identical treatment is not proposed."[467] However, the other aspect of the Canadian analogy, drawn from Dominion-provincial relations, briefly flickered back into life in 1892-3, as it became clear that a Home Rule bill would have to make the gesture to Imperial [i.e. British-Irish] unity by retaining at least a token delegation of Irish MPs at Westminster.[468] This represented a retreat from one of the few advantages of the 1886 bill in the eyes of many exasperated British politicians, that it would get rid of the troublesome Irish altogether. As Kimberley noted, retaining Irish MPs in the House of Commons meant that Gladstone's fourth ministry would face "the unpopularity of leaving our domestic affairs open to Irish interference whilst we are shut out from all control over similar Irish affairs". Even the "humblest voter" [in Great Britain] would grasp that English and Scottish members would be "placed on a footing of inequality with Irishmen". Kimberley suggested that the way to avoid the problem was to follow the Canadian example and "delegate specific powers to the Irish Legislature and reserve everything not so delegated to the Imperial Parliament". The Speaker of the House of Commons could "determine whether on a given matter the Irish members would take part". By way of illustration, Kimberley suggested that Irish MPs would be barred from voting on education issues in England and Scotland, while taking a full part in debates on defence, foreign affairs, trade and the Empire – and in votes of confidence in the ministry. Gladstone replied that Kimberley's scheme would be "inefficacious". Not only would it allow an Irish vote "on the very points where there would be the greatest objection to it", but the division would not work: an opposition might not be able to defeat the government on a specific question regarding education, but could simply move a want of confidence motion and summon the Irish to their aid: "you would close the wicket and leave open the great gate".[469] This sounded like an authoritative rejection, but when Gladstone introduced his second Home Rule bill in February 1893, Kimberley's plan was incorporated in a provision that was quickly labelled the "in-and-out" clause. Heavily criticised, the proposal was soon dropped, leaving Irish MPs free – if Ireland gained its autonomy – to intervene in any English or Scottish subject as they chose.

Chamberlain drew a logical conclusion from this: any Irish legislature should be "a wholly subordinate body – something like an enlarged version of the London County Council".[470]  The creation of a metropolis-wide system of local government in 1889, rapidly followed by the establishment of an efficient and proactive committee system, had added a new and appealing analogy to the debate on devolution, but one that severely restricted the scope for conceding effective autonomy in an Irish legislature. Yet when Chamberlain appealed to the Canadian constitution in a manoeuvre designed to limit Irish autonomy under Home Rule, he was sharply rebuked by a rising Liberal barrister, R.B. Haldane, who had pleaded in Canadian cases before the JCPC. Chamberlain argued that Gladstone's second Home Rule bill should state "what powers the new Parliament is to have, and not what powers it is not to have". He pointed out that because the Dominion Parliament had been intended to be the supreme authority, "the powers reserved for the Provincial Parliaments were all specially delegated to them; whereas all the rest, unnamed or unforeseen, were retained in the hands of the Central Authority. The Dominion Act not only declared the powers to be given to the Provincial Parliaments, but also declared the powers to be reserved to the Dominion Parliament, but with a provision that that was not in any way to lessen the authority of the Dominion Parliament to deal with all such matters not specially reserved to Provincial Parliaments." Haldane savaged this as a recipe for "constant friction between the two countries", asking Chamberlain if he was aware of "the amount of friction which had taken place between the Dominion Parliament in Canada and the Provincial Parliaments? Did he know that almost constantly questions which had caused the greatest friction and bitterness came before the Privy Council in consequence of the obscurity of the form of delegation?" One consequence of Canada's confused system "was that they had the Dominion Government making one set of laws for, say, Ontario, and the Ontario Legislature making an exactly similar set of laws for itself".[471] The notion that the Canadian constitution provided a successfully tested blueprint for Home Rule was at last authoritatively challenged in Westminster debate. In any case, the issue of Irish Home Rule was by now so central to British politics that there was no longer much scope for what Goldwin Smith called "the false, and the most part absurd, analogies which have been adduced to lure the British people into dismemberment. … These analogies have not much figured in recent debates," he wrote in 1894.[472]

++ Gladstone in retirement: Ishbel and Sir Wilfrid  By the eighteen-nineties, there were no major issues between Britain and Canada that might require Gladstonian philosophical commentary. Relations with the United States had been tense, over fisheries, tariffs, the Alaska boundary and the Behring Sea, but, unlike the fraught and mistrustful episode of the Treaty of Washington, Britain had no interest in appeasing the Americans by sacrificing Canadian interests. When Sir John Thompson arrived in London late in 1894 – the first quasi-official visit by a Canadian Prime Minister in nine years – his agenda included such mundane matters as copyright legislation, undersea cable communications and the representation of Canadian concerns through British diplomatic missions, problems that mostly could be solved, or rebuffed, at departmental level.[473]

However, upon forming his fourth government in 1892, Gladstone had encountered one specific set of British North American problems, but these were supplied, in generous quantities by Newfoundland. The self-governing island colony had resisted absorption into the Dominion of Canada: relations with its larger neighbour were particularly bad in the early eighteen-nineties because Ottawa had successfully lobbied Britain to veto an outline trade agreement between the island and the United States. [474]At the same time, Salisbury's government had been brought to the point of considering the imposition of a Foreign Office agreement with France in the long-running fisheries dispute over vociferous Newfoundland objections. Fishing, the colony's basic economy, was close to collapse. The attempt to construct a railway across the island had quadrupled the public debt without noticeably unlocking the largely mythical resources of the interior. (Nor, indeed, had the railway been completed.) Newfoundland's political culture fell notably short of high-minded wisdom: the governor (whose name was O'Brien) complained that he was marooned in "a Trans Atlantic Ireland of a lower type". It would have been difficult to imagine how matters could have got worse, but in July 1892, St John's, the capital (and Newfoundland's only major urban centre) was almost entirely destroyed by fire.

In October of that year, Gladstone was sympathetic to the need "to make some immediate provision if it be necessary for the coming winter", even encouraging his Colonial Secretary, Lord Ripon (the de Grey of the Treaty of Washington negotiations) to bypass the cabinet and reach a direct deal with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir William Harcourt. However, relief for "winter distress" was about as far as Gladstone's generosity would stretch. To finance its recovery, the Newfoundland government had requested an interest-free loan, which he dismissed as "a rather novel and a very awkward precedent", although the proposal provided an opportunity to send a Treasury official to investigate the colony's finances. Gladstone believed that Britain's underlying aim must be to encourage Newfoundland to join the Dominion, a process that might be pressed forward by bringing home to the colonists the weakness of their financial position. Yet once again there surfaced the Gladstone of 1865, who had insisted that Canada was "morally" independent: "it seems to me important that we should let the two parties be, and especially, feel themselves to be the real independent agents. Were we to assume ostensibly a primary part, and to enable them or either of them to say 'we did it to please you', we should be in danger of a false position." Britain should of course stand ready to offer "a warm assistance to the promotion of their common desire". No such desire emanated from Newfoundland's collective leadership. Indeed, the colony's political culture managed to decline even further in the years after 1892, but Gladstone had retired before its public finances hit rock bottom in 1895.[475]

In 1893, Gladstone had made one of his last major patronage appointments, a new Governor-General for Canada. He chose the Earl of Aberdeen, grandson of his mentor at the Colonial Office in 1835. The mild-mannered Aberdeen was overshadowed by his wife, the hyperactive, well-intentioned but insensitively meddlesome Ishbel, who happened to be a favourite with the Gladstones. On a return visit to Britain in 1894, she caught up with him at Pitlochry, in the Highlands. Gladstone had only recently retired from office, and had a great deal to say about politics and personalities. He also complained at some length about Arthur Gordon, the former governor of New Brunswick. More than thirty years earlier, Gordon's father, the earlier Lord Aberdeen, had asked him to keep an eye on his wayward son, and – for some reason – although Gordon was now in his mid-sixties and a peer of the realm, Gladstone still felt some obligation to act as a kind of honorary godfather. Despite the many grievances that excited him, he found some time to quiz Ishbel on her new life. "He asked much about Canada – population – feeling – about R[oman] C[atholics] and Protestants – French and English and immigrants – in what estimation different Governors were held, etc."[476]

Although Lady Aberdeen was inappropriately partisan towards Canada's Liberal opposition, she took a liking to the Conservative Sir John Thompson, who emerged as the eventual successor to Macdonald a year after the latter's death in 1891. When Thompson, who was barely half Gladstone's age, let slip that he would like to meet Britain's recently retired leader during his transatlantic visit, Ishbel characteristically busied herself to bring them together. The Grand Old Man was now retired from active politics, but he had formed a positive impression of Thompson through Canada's dealings with Lord Ripon at the Colonial Office. it was arranged that Thompson might close his mission to Britain by dropping into lunch at Hawarden on his way to embarkation at Liverpool. Gladstone's invitation hinted at some element of social constraint, since it was extended "even though my age, close upon 85, is now withdrawing me from all general society".[477] But Thompson never kept his engagement at Hawarden. Overweight and overworked, he died of a heart attack while lunching with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle.

It was Ishbel who made the final attempt to draw Gladstone into Canadian affairs, and one suspects that only Ishbel could have tried. The legislature of Manitoba had abolished public funding for its Catholic schools, which mainly served the province's French-speaking minority. After tortoise-like legal proceedings extending over six years, the JCPC had ruled that the Catholics had a legitimate grievance that fell under Section 93 of the British North America Act. This provision, which Chamberlain had been happy to accept as a basis for discussion in 1887, assigned responsibility for education to the provinces, but added that "the Parliament of Canada may make remedial laws" in support of the rights of minorities, in clearly defined circumstances. By July 1895, Canadian politics was in meltdown, with the Conservative cabinet in Ottawa on the point of collapse as they disagreed over whether and how they should act, and the politicians of Manitoba threatening to defy the imposition of any corrective intervention. It was at this point that Lady Aberdeen decided to seek the involvement of Lord Rosebery, Gladstone's successor as Prime Minister, who was in the process of losing a general election, and to the Grand Old Man himself. Ishbel's appeal for some tactful intervention by "our leading men at home" would have been doubtfully appropriate even if addressed by a Governor-General to a British cabinet minister. As the initiative of a viceregal spouse, who held no official appointment, it was wholly bizarre: in particular, it is hard to imagine what contribution Gladstone might have made, at the age of 85 and in poor health. Released from the burden of office by the voters, Rosebery replied facetiously that he was "gloriously happy" to be out of politics. Gladstone more seriously pronounced that "the dilemma that has arisen is one strictly belonging to the Dominion and not to the Imperial authorities".[478] Fittingly, his final comment on Canadian affairs revolved around that perennial theme in his career, the limits of local self-government.

On a visit to Britain in 1897, Ishbel Aberdeen called on Gladstone at Hawarden. She found him in fragile health, lying on a sofa, but – as in 1894 – "quite keen to know everything about Canada". As usual, so it seems, it was Gladstone who did much of the talking, holding forth on "Tupper & Laurier", the rival party leaders in the previous year's Dominion general election. The colonial Premiers were visiting Britain for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and Gladstone was looking forward to welcoming the victor – newly rebranded as Sir Wilfrid Laurier – to his country home the following week, along with George Reid of New South Wales and Richard John Seddon ("King Dick") of New Zealand. The host had recovered by the time the delegation called. "The Premiers were much impressed with Mr Gladstone's mental alertness and physical vigor, and also with his magnetism and charm of manner." Welsh newspapers captured a cameo of Victorian Britain on a summer day. "Afternoon tea was served on the lawn in front of the castle, Mr. Gladstone engaging in animated conversation with Sir Wilfrid Laurier and appearing to be in excellent spirits. … the retired leader, who was in a most vivacious mood, entertained his guests with memories dating back more than half a century, and he especially dwelt on the progress and development of the Colonies."[479] In fact, it was sixty years since he had first held forth on Canadian affairs in the era of disaffection and outright rebellion.  Now, as he enthusiastically monopolised the Prime Minister of the Dominion, Canada's first francophone leader, gilded with an Imperial knighthood, it would have seemed that Canada was indeed loyal and friendly.[480]

"Gladstone and Canada" continues and concludes with "Gladstone Through the Looking Glass", which offers contexts and suggestions towards a possible understanding of his thought processes:

For a list of material relating to W.E. Gladstone on this website, see "Gladstone on" (


 [1]  Ged Martin, "The Canadian Rebellion Losses Bill of 1849 in British Politics", Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vi (1977), 3-22, reconsidered with introduction and afterword as "Gladstone and the limits of Canadian self-government, 1849”:

[2] I value the comments of Dr Andrew Jones on this point, and his informed advice generally.        

[3] I plan to add to martinalia a note on the relations between British and Canadian political elites.   

[4] J. Brooke and M. Sorensen, eds, The Prime Ministers Papers: W. E. Gladstone, i: Autobiographica  (London, 1974), 43. Brooke and Sorensen edited a series of 4 volumes between 1974 and 1981. The first comprises recollections dating from between 1892 and 1897, drafts for possible memoirs. They are retrospective, sometimes written 60 years after the events described, and some contain minor errors of in dating and identification. Volumes ii-iv, subtitled Autobiographical Memoranda, contain documents generally written close to the time of the events described. They cover: ii, 1832-1845; iii, 1845-1866; iv, 1868-1894. They are cited below as PMP:WEG and by volume number.

[5] One possible explanation for his lack of empathy is explored later in this essay, in what must be confessed to be uninformed psychological speculation. It suggests that his detachment towards Canada and Canadians formed part of his own complicated relationship with a Scottish identity inherited from his parents, but which his upbringing and education in England made it hard for him to accommodate, let alone assimilate. Had his father's mercantile career failed (as many such careers did fail) he too might have been raised as a needy and ambitious colonial Scot.

[6] But John Vincent may have been too severe when, in a 1977 lecture, he declared that "Gladstone steered clear of Ireland until he was 57":

[7] Of course, Gladstone had dealt with issues relating to Ireland before 1867, such as the ending of its exemption from income tax in 1853, but few were of major importance. A. Warren, "Gladstone, Finance and the Problems of Ireland, 1853-66", R. Quinault, R. Swift, R.C. Windscheffel, eds, William Gladstone: New Studies and Perspectives (Abingdon, 2016 ed., cf. 1st ed. London 2012), 199-218.

[8] In 1872, he summed up his wishes for Britain's connection with India, in a letter to the Governor-General Lord Northbrook: "that nothing may bring about a sudden, violent, or discreditable severance; that we may labour steadily to promote the political training of our fellow-subjects; & that when we go, if we are to go, we may leave a clean bill of accounts behind us". Although on the same day he welcomed "the gradual education of Canada into something like a real nation", there is no indication that he drew comparisons between Canada and India. Nine years later, he made clear the difference in context. "We have undertaken a most arduous and a most noble duty. We are pledged to India ... for its performance and we have no choice but to apply ourselves to the accomplishment of the work, the redemption of the pledge, with every faculty we possess."  GD, viii, 224 (15 October 1872); x, 166 (to the Viceroy, Lord Ripon, 24 November 1881).  C.B. Faught argues that Gladstone was more interested in India than his biographers have acknowledged, emphasising his appointment of an energetic Viceroy (Ripon) and his support for the controversial Ilbert Bill, which extended the authority of 'Native' (Indian) magistrates over Europeans. I am not persuaded by Faught's argument (Gladstone's sentiments seem conventionally worthy), but he does establish that (as with Canada) there may be more to be said about Gladstone and India. C.B. Faught, "An Imperial Prime Minister? W.E. Gladstone and India, 1880–1885",  Journal of The Historical Society, vi (2006), 555-78.

[9] P. Magnus, Gladstone: a Biography (London, 1963 ed., cf. 1st ed., 1953), 443: "he seldom thought about India". Of his son Henry (Harry), Gladstone wrote in 1887: "His chief reward for nine years in Calcutta has been a great Education." This presumably related to Harry's business training: there is no evidence that the two ever discussed the future of the Raj. GD, xii, 44 (15 June 1887), but cf. GD, xi, 121 (4 March 1884), where Gladstone quoted Harry's opinion on the Ilbert Bill controversy.

[10] Gladstone met Kotaro Mochizuki (whose name he could not spell) while Mochizuki was studying at the Middle Temple in 1891. Matthew stated that he had translated a biography of Gladstone into Japanese: a biographical note by the National Diet Library indicates that Mochizuki aimed to improve relations between Japan and the West, but I cannot trace a biography of Gladstone. The meeting probably encouraged Gladstone to read a long essay on the country by a Japanese author in Nineteenth Century, xxix (February 1891); GD, xii, 380-1;

[11] The development of a central administrative staff, an unexciting subject but a necessary underpinning of a State structure, is highlighted in Porter, ed., The Oxford History of the British Empire, iii, 538-9. This process was accompanied by the emergence of a cadre of semi-professional (career) politicians, capable of dealing with the demands of administrative office, without which responsible government could not have operated. In 1842, the province of Canada employed 95 civil servants at the seat of government; by 1857, it was clear that the 'perambulating' system, which moved the capital between Toronto and Quebec at five-year intervals, had become impossibly cumbersome. Governors made the transition from being administrators (sometimes, even their own chief clerks) to the role of constitutional monarchs, albeit also active guardians of British interests.

[12] The striking phrase of the Earl of Clarendon, H. Maxwell, The Life and Letters of George William Frederick, fourth Earl of Clarendon (2 vols, London, 1913), ii, 138 (2 February 1857).

[13] J. Morley, The Life of William Ewart Gladstone (3 vols, London, 1903), iii, 474-5 [cited as Morley, Gladstone]. I plan to add a note on the evolution of Gladstone biography to martinalia.

[14] D. Southgate, The Passing of the Whigs 1832-1886 (London, 1962), 326.

[15] Morley, Gladstone, i, 212.

[16] I have also simplified some colonial titles, e.g. Governor-General (for Canada) and, usually, Governor instead of Lieutenant-Governor for the smaller colonies. For simplicity, I have used the adjective "colonial" (mainly in apposition to "British"), although of course I recognise that Canada's status steadily evolved far beyond that of a mere dependency.

[17] Morley, Gladstone, iii, 476.

[18] H. Nicolson, Helen's Tower (London, 1937), 149

[19] Morley, Gladstone, i, 21-2; A.F. Robbins, The Early Public Life of William Ewart Gladstone… (London, 1894), 55. The 1894 quotation is from PMP:WEG, i, 145.

[20] O. MacDonagh, A Pattern of Government Growth 1800-60... (London, 1961), 39.

[21] See his 1871 comment quoted later: "In money questions I am most commonly against the Colony".

[22] S.G. Checkland, The Gladstones... (Cambridge, 1971), 149, and generally for the family's business interests; H.C.G. Matthew, "Gladstone [Gladstones], Sir John, first baronet (1764–1851)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. It is difficult to over-estimate the effect John Gladstone had upon his famous son: H.C.G. Matthew, Gladstone, 1809-1874 (Oxford, 1988), 100.  James Hope(-Scott), a close friend in his early years, thought Gladstone "derived much of his back [i.e. backbone, determination]" from his father. R. Ornsby, Memoirs of James Robert Hope-Scott of Abbotsford ... (2 vols, 2nd ed., London, 1884, cf. 1st ed. 1873). Ii. 176. Another friend from Oxford days, and a visitor to Fasque, Francis Hastings Doyle, was also impressed by "the remarkable acuteness and great natural powers" of John Gladstone, and his influence over his son. F.H. Doyle, Reminiscences and Opinions ... (New York, 1887), 138, and cf. C. Wordsworth, Annals of My Early Life, 1806-1846 ... (London, 1891), 94. (As a beneficiary of John Gladstone's munificence, Wordsworth's testimony may be suspect.)

[23] GD, i, 178 (6 May 1828). He was sight-seeing in Edinburgh at the time.

[24] "We were not liberals or tories in those days", he told A.C. Benson in 1897. "We were Canning or non-Canning."  D. Newsome, On the Edge of Paradise... (London, 1980), 96. But Gladstone asked an American journalist to remove the claim that Canning "would sit by the hour at Seaforth [the family home near Liverpool] meditating on the policy of the country, while the boy sat at his feet". Gladstone commented that "Mr. Canning took very marked notice of an elder brother of mine, but none whatever of me." He was 13 when Canning last visited Liverpool. W. H. Rideing, At Hawarden with Mr Gladstone ... (New York, 1896), 14. A letter from Huskisson to John Gladstone, sympathising at his losses during the 1823 Demerara slave rebellion was accidentally published: Morning Post, 26 April 1824.

[25] Hansard, xix, 2 May 1828, 300-44; H.T. Manning, The Revolt of French Canada 1800-1835 ... (Toronto, 1960), 283-7. Gladstone's brother Robertson visited his father's plantations in Guyana in 1828-9. Checkland states that he visited Canada on his return journey. It is unlikely that he would have acquired much insight into colonial life, and no indication from Gladstone's diary that they shared any profound discussions. Checkland, The Gladstones, 199.

[26] Morley, Gladstone, i, 123, quoting Gladstone's account of the interview. Even the distinguished Norwegian-American scholar, Paul Knaplund, an admirer of Gladstone and early explorer of his archive, noted that, from 1833 to 1839, he was "the spokesman for the Liverpool planters". Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 24. While abolition, with generous compensation, had been carried in 1833, former slaves were bound to a system of "apprenticeship", a transitional form of serfdom, until 1838. Hence the planters retained an interest in the appointment of a sympathetic ally in the Colonial Office.

[27] In 1833, John Gladstone had established himself as a laird in Angus. This perhaps explains why the Earl of Aberdeen, also a major landowner in the north-east of Scotland, requested his son's appointment as his junior minister although the two had never met.

[28] For obvious reasons, there was virtually no carry-over from West Indian to British North American issues. One slight attempt at a linkage was made by Gladstone's father in his 1830 pamphlet defending slavery. John Gladstone argued that Blacks could not cope with freedom, citing various examples from the Caribbean. "In Nova Scotia lands were assigned, a village created, and such arrangements made as were expected to lead to habits of industry and exertion in that more northern climate, but without effect . I have learned, and from authority such as I cannot doubt, that they are in a state of indolent idleness, and reduced to penury and distress." A modern study argues that Blacks were allocated poor quality land and subjected to discrimination. Two villages were established for Nova Scotia Blacks, not one as Gladstone believed. Both suffered severe social and economic disruption from emigration of the most energetic community leaders to Sierra Leone, a process that was encouraged, oddly enough, by antislavery philanthropists from Britain: John Clarkson visited Nova Scotia in 1791-2 to recruit for the Sierra Leone project. J. Gladstone, A Statement of Facts Connected with the Present State of Slavery in the British Sugar and Coffee Colonies ... Contained in a Letter Addressed to Sir Robert Peel (London, 1830), 13n.; J.W. St G. Walker, The Black Loyalists... (Toronto, 1992), 22-7, 115-44, 384-92.

[29] GD, ii, 151-2.

[30] Hansard, xxvi, 9 March, 660-715; xxvii, 6 April, 836-7. He also made a statement about the disputed boundary between New Brunswick and Maine, which involved relations with the United States, xxvi, 3 March 1835, 494-5. In 1858, Gladstone handsomely praised Roebuck's views on Canadian matters: "he has frequently been the expositor of truths at an early date, which although not at once acknowledged have subsequently obtained complete recognition". Hansard, cli, 20 July 1858, 1802.

[31] Hansard, xxvi, 16 March, 1015; xxvii, 2 April 1835, 654.

[32] Hansard, xxvi, 19 March, 1235-9; MacDonagh, A Pattern of Government Growth 1800-60, 84-90.

[33] T.L. Crosby, The Two Mr Gladstones ... (New Haven, Conn., 1997), 26-7.

[34] P.A. Buckner, The Transition to Responsible Government ... (Westport, Conn., 1985), 221-4.

[35] Morley, Gladstone, i, 139. It would be tempting to interpret Peel's remark as indicating that Ireland was always an underlying factor in issues relating to Canada. In reality, it is striking how rarely the two seem to have interconnected.

[36] GD, ii, 283.

[37] Hansard, xxxvii, 8 March 1837, 95-102.

[38] GD, ii, 330; Hansard, xxxix, 22 December 1837, 1453-4; Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 31-4. Unguarded entries in his diaries at this time indicate that Gladstone thought of Canada as part of continental North America rather than in terms of Empire. In December 1837, he consulted a tutor "for Am[erica]n history with a view to Canada", and studied the life of Benjamin Franklin in some detail.  February 1839, he noted having read "Lord Durham's Am[erica]n Report". GD, ii, 331-4; 580.

[39] PMP:WEG , i,  42; GD, ix, 520 (letter to Doyle, 10 May 1880); Hansard, xxxix, 22 December 1837, 1499.

[40] Morley, Gladstone, i, 144, 641-2. The meetings that he attended were on 20, 22 and 25 January. Each lasted for over two hours: Peel evidently liked to draw out the opinions of his colleagues, and it is likely that Gladstone spoke, even if his opinion was of marginal importance. GD, ii, 337-8. N. Gash, Sir Robert Peel ... (London, 1972), 201 lists the attendance at the 20 January meeting, which seems to have been broader-based than the follow-ups. Lord Ripon had briefly served as Prime Minister in 1827 as Lord Goderich. His son, Earl de Grey, led the British-Canadian delegation that negotiated the Treaty of Washington in 1871.

[41]  Hansard, xl, 23 January 1838, 428-40; GD, ii, 327. Spring Rice had briefly held office as Colonial Secretary in 1834. The current incumbent, Lord Glenelg, sat in the upper house.

[42] GD, ii, 353; Hansard, xli, 7 March 1838, 626-34.

[43] He read Sir Francis Bond's Head's Narrative, a lively defence of his eccentric governorship of Upper Canada, over several days between 25 February and 2 March 1839, some of it aloud to his father. GD, ii, 583-4. Speaking in the House on 29 May, Gladstone praised "the zeal, faithfulness, and ability, with which [Head] had administered the government of Upper Canada, under circumstances of great difficulty". This opinion was not universally shared, and Gladstone privately recorded his doubts about Head's judgement (he "looks at matters keenly but solely from his own point of view" – a criticism that some levelled at Gladstone himself): P. Knaplund, "Extracts from Gladstone's Private Diaries…", Canadian Historical Review, xx (1939), 196.

[44] GD, ii, 342; iii, 32, 37.

[45] G. Kitson Clark, Peel and the Conservative Party ... (London, 1929), 455-8. The duke was prevailed upon to relax his opposition.

[46] Hansard, liv, 29 May 1840, 725-32; GD, iii, 32. Gladstone had recently read de Tocqueville's De la démocratie en Amérique. As problems with the united Assembly developed in 1842, Peel similarly threatened that "if there is not a British party in the Canadas sufficient to put down these attempts at renewed conflict", he would be "very much disposed to hold high language .... if the people are not cordially with us, why should we contract the enormous obligation of having to defend, upon a point of honour, their territory against American aggression?" Peel to Aberdeen, 16 May 1842, C.S. Parker, ed., Sir Robert Peel... (3 vols, London, 1899 ed.), iii, 389. In 1885, Gladstone sought a copy of the Union Act of 1840 to help him frame his ideas on Home Rule. It is not clear how the Act could have been useful.

[47] J. Fingard,“Inglis, John", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vii: John Inglis did not immediately succeed his father, but became bishop in 1825 after an absentee interim appointment. He had arrived in Britain in 1837. His father, Charles Inglis, came from Donegal in Ireland. The diocese of Nova Scotia covered adjoining colonies, including New Brunswick. This was detached in 1847 to become the diocese of Fredericton, and Gladstone was thought to have influenced the appointment of the first bishop, the Tractarian, John Medley. M. Ross, "Medley, John", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xii:  In 1874, he praised "the excellent Bishop Medley" who had "quietly and with general satisfaction" persuaded the Anglican Church in New Brunswick to adopt "a method for trying all complaints and causes against clergymen", and had "even added provisions for repelling from the Holy Communion lay-people of notoriously evil life". W.E. Gladstone, Gleanings of Past Years, 1843-1878, ii (London, 1879), 245n. For another positive allusion to Medley, in 1897, PMP:WEG, ii, 71.

[48] GD, iii, 35 (9 June 1840). Gladstone made clear that he was talking about the "class of colonies, formed of free settlers". As the son of a planter, he was not prepared to allow Caribbean societies to shape their own communal destinies.

[49] A. Wilson, The Clergy Reserves of Upper Canada ... (Toronto, 1968), 16, 152-60; GD, iii, 18 (24 March 1840).

[50] There were 26 English and Welsh bishops and 4 from the Church of Ireland.

[51] Wilson, The Clergy Reserves of Upper Canada, 158. 

[52] Shannon, Gladstone, i: 1809-1865, 69-74, 76ff.  

[53] "This is a formidable state of things, is it not?", he wrote to Manning in April 1837. "If the Government is to be merely the exponent of the will of these various sections of the people, then it is well." However,m there were problems in societies where "the very idea of Government be debased by supposing that it is only to be actuated by and not also to actuate the people ….  Are we to support all forms of religion? No, one will say, but all forms of Christianity." Would this include Unitarianism? How would the State come to terms with sectarian controversy: "

shall the Government pay the priest on this side of the road to denounce and anathematize its own faith, still its own predominating faith, taught on the other?" Gladstone was becoming dimly aware of the conflict between his ideals and colonial reality. Gladstone to Henry Manning, 2 April 1837, D.C. Lathbury, ed., Correspondence on Church and Religion of William Ewart Gladstone (2 vols, London, 1910), i, 29-30.

[54] W.E. Gladstone, The State in its Relations with the Church (3rd ed., London, 1839, cf. 1st ed. 1838), 257-78. In 1837, he supported a missionary society that aimed to send clergy to the Canadian frontier, the project of his friends James Hope and Roundell Palmer. "In its brief life the society supplied more pamphlets to London than parsons to Upper Canada." Gladstone gently criticised the florid style of its effusions. T.W. Reid, ed., The Life of William Ewart Gladstone (London, 1899), 209, and cf. Lord Selborne (R. Palmer), Memorials: Part 1 - Family and Personal 1766-1865 (London, 1896), 215-21. In 1873, Gladstone recalled his 1837 correspondence with James Hope (later Hope-Scott) on the need for "a missionary organization for the province of Upper Canada", G.W.E Russell, William Ewart Gladstone (London, 1910), 94.

[55] GD, iii, 38 (14 [recte 15] June 1840). GD omits part of Gladstone's account of the meeting at Peel's house on 15 June to discuss the clergy reserves. For a fuller transcription, P. Knaplund, "Extracts from Gladstone's Private Diaries…", Canadian Historical Review, xx (1939), 195-8. Although this was, in effect, a meeting of the Conservative shadow cabinet, the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Howley, also attended and argued his case. Peel favoured delaying the clergy reserves settlement until 1841 to give time for consultation with the Church of Scotland, an impractical suggestion given the need for a Canada package solution. At a further meeting on 24 June, the precise share of the reserves to be allocated to the two national churches was still undecided. The concision of the account of the 15 June meeting is all the more curious, given the insistence of the first editor of the Gladstone Diaries, M.R.D. Foot, that, although the material is frequently tedious and obscure, they should be published in full since "almost every word in it is likely to be of some use to somebody" (GD, i, xxxvi). While the omitted material deals with the despised subject of Canada, it also illustrates Peel's skill in leading a discussion among colleagues. Gladstone noted that the Prime Minister "seemed much more than Stanley to make a point of leaving to the Colonial Assembly the disposal of any portion of the lands which might not be appropriated to or retained by the two Establishments". Knaplund also published Gladstone's note on a meeting dated 22 June (apparently the gathering baldly noted in GD, iii, 39 as 20 June) at which details of the Conservative position on the Canadian clergy reserves, with Stanley insisting that "the present actual receipts of the Churches of England & Scotland should be guaranteed to them respectively as a minimum". Sincew the amounts raised by sales varied markedly from year to year, the provision was worthless. 

[56] Hansard, liv, 15 June 1840, 1198-1200. M. Partridge, Gladstone (London, 2003), 47, recognised that the future of the Canadian clergy reserves constituted "a more important question than it appears" because it involved the general question of support for religion in the colonies. D. Bebbington, The Mind of Gladstone... (Oxford, 2004), 106 noted the significance of his reluctant vote. 

[57] Hansard, lxxv, 18 March 1853, 493.

[58] J.L.H. Henderson, John Strachan (Toronto, 1969), esp. 83; G. M. Craig, "Strachan, John", Dictionary of Canadian Biography,ix:; P. Knaplund, ed., Letters from Lord Sydenham … (Clifton, NJ, 1973, cf. 1st ed., London, 1931), 63 (letter to Russell, 5 May 1840). The surname can be pronounced to rhyme either with bracken or brawn: the latter version seems to predominate among Canadian scholars, and may reflect the oral tradition. He had studied at King's College, Aberdeen and the University of St Andrews.

[59] Hansard, lv, 20 July 1840, 844-8; Wilson, The Clergy Reserves of Upper Canada, 159. It is not clear whether Strachan had lobbied Gladstone in person or (as his letter of 21 July implied) in writing. Gladstone did not always record all his many contacts in his diaries. Thus on 16 March 1840, he noted his attendance at a meeting of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to discuss the Canadian clergy reserves, but not that he had met the Chief Justice of Upper Canada, John Beverley Robinson, who thought him "an intelligent and interesting-looking person". C.W. Robinson, Life of Sir John Beverley Robinson ... (Edinburgh, 1904), 299. Robinson dated the meeting to 15 March: Gladstone's contemporary record should be regarded as the more accurate.

[60] [H. Taylor], Autobiography of Henry Taylor, 1800-1875 (2 vols, London, 1885), ii, 34. The building was not only unimpressive but structurally dangerous: it was demolished in 1876.

[61] Hansard, xl, 23 January, 428-9; 22 January 1838, 257-8. For Gladstone and Canada generally in this period, Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 31-4.

[62] "It seems to have been decided that an adequate franchise could only be secured by making no stipulation whatever about property valuation, annual rent, annual income or literacy." G.E. Gunn, The Political History of Newfoundland 1832-1864 (Toronto, 1966), 11.

[63] Gunn, The Political History of Newfoundland 1832-1864, 33-88 for a detailed account of British / Newfoundland politics between 1837 and 1842. S.T. Cadigan, Newfoundland and Labrador: a History (Toronto, 2009), 107-188 usefully explores the island community's complex social interactions, demonstrating that the conflicts were not simply sectarian. Nonetheless, there were elements that would parallel episodes in Irish affairs half a century later. An unpopular newspaper editor was waylaid by a gang armed with knives: he escaped with his life, but not his ears. The British government made informal diplomatic approaches to the Vatican to rein in turbulent priests. Another predictive theme was the insistence of the upper house that tax and spending measures should be submitted to them as distinct items of legislation, within which they asserted the right to pick and choose. Gladstone's campaign to repeal the paper duties in 1860-1 involved a similar clash with the Lords.

[64] H. and E. Senior, "Boulton, Henry John",  Dictionary of Canadian Biography,ix:

[65] The Assembly's Liberal majority advanced extravagant pretensions in regard to privilege ("mild outbreaks of legislative insanity" in the words of one Newfoundland historian), which culminated in ordering the arrest of a judge, who had ordered the release of one of their critics. He was dragged to jail through the streets of St John's.  D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland … (Belleville, Ont., 1972, cf. 1st ed., 1895), 447.

[66] Gladstone had a one-hour conversation on Newfoundland with another Conservative MP, John Colquhoun, on 12 February 1838, read papers and speeches about the colony on 14 and 15 February, and held a 2-hour interview with Boulton on 20 February. Boulton was accompanied by "Captain Spearman", apparently J.M. Spearman, the colony's Collector of Customs who was also under attack. GD, ii, 3424. Colquhoun was MP for Kilmarnock district, a constituency which included several towns on the lower Clyde. He was a Protestant activist, and may have had interests in the Newfoundland trade. In June, Gladstone discussed Newfoundland affairs with Sir Thomas Cochrane, who had been the colony's governor when the Assembly was established in 1832. Further meetings with Boulton took place in June 1838. GD, ii, 380, 388.

[67] GD, ii, 59; Gunn, The Political History of Newfoundland 1832-1864, 56-61.

[68] GD, ii, 604-13. The diary refers to meetings with Brooking and Robinson. These were presumably T.H. Brooking, and George Robinson, partners in a Newfoundland trading firm who had both retired to England. Robinson, who had been MP for Worcester until 1837, was consulted by the Colonial Office on Newfoundland affairs; Brooking gave evidence to the 1841 parliamentary committee.  Both had campaigned for the introduction of representative government, but now regarded it as a mistake. Gunn, The Political History of Newfoundland 1832-1864, 11, 36, 79-80.

[69] GD, iii, 95-113; Gunn, The Political History of Newfoundland 1832-1864, 78-88, 226. The 12-member committee included several prominent political figures: in addition to Gladstone, Sir George Grey, Sir James Graham, Lord Howick, "Mr O'Connell" (either father or son) and Lord John Russell. Dr Gunn located the evidence presented in the Colonial Office library: by June, all the witnesses had been hostile to the Assembly. Stanley's explanation of his scheme to the House of Commons produced a revealing note in Hansard: "Although it might not excite much interest, he could assure the House that this was a subject of considerable importance. [Interruption caused by Members leaving.]" Hansard, lxiii, 26 May 1842, 873.

[70] The first Premier, Philip Little, retired to Ireland, where he supported the young Parnell in the 1874 County Dublin by-election, speaking about Newfoundland self-government as a model for Home Rule. The model was rarely cited.

[71] Posts in the 12-member Executive Council (cabinet) were allocated four apiece to Catholics, Methodists and Anglicans. This benign system was less beneficial when extended to government patronage and the award of contracts. Nonetheless, it represented a remarkable achievement for a community that only passed 200,000 people around 1890.  Gunn, The Political History of Newfoundland 1832-1864, 176-80. Had provincial councils been conceded to Ireland in the 1880s, it is possible that a similar consensual culture might have developed in Leinster and even in the 9-county Ulster.

[72] Perhaps there are faint echoes of Newfoundland's amalgamated legislature in Gladstone's 1886 plan for an Irish parliament composed of two 'orders', one composed of peers and members elected on a restricted franchise, sitting together but with provision to vote separately. Given the short-lived nature of the Newfoundland experiment, it is likely that the similarities were coincidental.

[73] Hansard, lx, 8 February 1842, 156. Gladstone drew back from this suggestion on 14 February, 332-3.

[74] Hansard, lxii, 15 April 1842, 547.

[75] Hansard, lx, 8 February 1842, 154.

[76] W.G. Easterbrook and H.G.J. Aitken, Canadian Economic History (Toronto, 1956) 289-90; B. Holland, The Fall of Protection 1840-1850 (Philadelphia, 1980 ed., cf. 1st ed., London, 1913), 116-30.

[77] On 16 November 1842, he discussed "Canada proceedings" with an unidentified person named Shaw. This probably referred to Sir Charles Bagot's recent decision to admit Reformers to the provincial Executive Council. Shaw was perhaps Frederick Shaw, Conservative MP for Dublin University. GD, iii, 239.

[78] PMP:WEG, ii, 192-3, documents 121-2. Document 122 is misdated to 1841, but see GD, iii, 275-6, memorandum of meeting on 28 April, written 30 April 1843, which is identical in substance but with some small changes in wording and punctuation. A few weeks later, Gladstone had to parry a question in the House of Commons about a reported attempt by the legislature of Prince Edward Island to secure a similar privilege: Hansard, lxix, 22 May 1843, 688. Some attempts were made to extend the Canadian tariff privilege to South Australia, the only Australian colony with much potential for grain-growing. When the Radical MP William Hutt raised the matter in the Commons in 1845, he claimed that Gladstone had said to him: "For Heaven's sake don't you go and disturb that great settled question, the Corn Laws!" In fact, South Australia's small settler population produced only a limited surplus, and insurance costs ruled out its export to Britain. D. Pike, Paradise of Dissent … (2nd ed., Carlton, Vic., 1967, cf. 1st ed., London, 1957), 218-20; Hansard, lxxx, 8 May 1845, 296.

[79] Hansard, lxix, 19 May 1843, 651-63; GD, iii, 282. It could have been on this occasion that Peel advised him to "be long and diffuse" in order to appeal to all shades of opinion. A speech winding up a debate cannot be assumed to reflect strongly held personal opinions. Morley, Gladstone, i, 192.

[80] J.M.S. Careless, The Union of the Canadas… (Toronto, 1968), 104-6. In 1846, Canada exported (mostly to the Britain) 3.312 million bushels of wheat. This equals about 200 million pounds, or 8 lbs of grain per head of population in the United Kingdom. A pound of wheat could be ground into one pound of wheaten (brown) flour, the standard ingredient for an average loaf. A family of six able to afford bread and consuming one wheaten loaf a day would thus have been eating North American wheat for about 7 weeks of the year. Since British agriculture seemed able to accommodate this competition, the Corn Laws were irrelevant. (A poor harvest in Britain would probably be accompanied by low yields across Europe, which meant that it was North American competition, not imports from countries nearby, that might represent the threat to British farming.)

[81] PMP:WEG, ii, 210-11. The editors give "the propriety of acquainting the Premier", which I have emended to "Province". The British were refusing to accept that the Canadian Executive Council constituted a ministry. It is a measure of the pace of events in Canada that the date of the gloomy cabinet discussion of 1843, 1 July, would 24 years later mark the inauguration of Confederation.

[82]  PMP:WEG, i, 63-4. Gladstone would have been of more use to Peel had he declined office and contributed his debating firepower from the back benches: as a privy councillor ("Right Honourable"), he would have had a claim on the ear of the House. I have been unable to consult A. Shaw, Gladstone at the Colonial Office, 1846, a 1986 working paper of the Australian Studies Centre, London. The Australian colonies provided a more open field for administrative decision-making. Gladstone's major initiative, the recall of Sir John Eardley‐Wilmot from Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania),allegedly on grounds of immorality, proved to be a disaster. K. Fitzpatrick, "Mr. Gladstone and the Governor...", Historical Studies Australia and New Zealand, i (1940).

[83] It should be noted that in the mid-century period, established politicians (especially of cabinet rank) delivered few speeches outside Parliament, and those mainly to their constituents. The Gladstone of the 1860s, and certainly of 1879, would have orated from public platforms, seeking to whip up waves of popular support. This strategy was not acceptable in 1846.

[84] Cambridge University Library, Add, MS 7511, Diary of James Stephen, 12 January 1846.

[85] Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 97. "In the days when I was accustomed to wear out with my footsteps the stairs of the Colonial-office[,] that office was haunted by a disembodied spirit that received a painful distinction under the title of 'Mr Mother Country'." The Times, 11 March 1869.

[86] This did not mean that Crimean War 'reforms' solved the problems: O. Anderson, A Liberal State at War... (London, 1967), 31-69.

[87] British Library, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS44735, memorandum [22 January 1846]; K. Bourne, Britain and the Balance of Power in North America 1815-1908 (London, 1967), 156-69.

[88] J.S. Galbraith, The Hudson's Bay Company as an Imperial Factor 1821-1869 (New York, 1977 ed., cf. 1st ed. Berkeley, Calif., 1957), 316. In effect, the Company secured an armed police force to help it impose a control that was increasingly beyond its own power.

[89] Bourne, Britain and the Balance of Power in North America 1815-1908, 156. Although the St Lawrence was a fine natural waterway, short stretches of canals were needed to bypass rapids.

[90] Even so, Cathcart was Gladstone's 5th choice. He tried to get Lord Elgin, who did become Governor-General of Canada the following year, but could not then leave his existing post in Jamaica. He then tried a fellow Peelite minister, Lord Canning (son of the Prime Minister and later Governor-General of India), who refused. Lord Fitzroy Somerset (the Lord Raglan of the Crimean War) also declined. A 4th possibility, Sir Henry Pottinger, who had annexed Hong Kong, was ruled out after doubts about him were expressed by the recently returned Governor-General of Canada, Lord Metcalfe. British Library, Gladstone Papers, Add. Ms 44735, fo. 280.

[91] K.N. Bell and W.P. Morrell, eds, Select Documents on British Colonial Policy 1830-1860 (Oxford, 1928), 87. (UK National Archives, CO 42/531, 12 January 1846, fos 406-12).

[92] W.P. Morrell, British Colonial Policy in the Age of Peel and Russell (Oxford, 1930, facsimile ed., 1966), 68-9; Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 46-7.

[93] I quote from a copy / extract in Library and Archives Canada, Newcastle Papers, microfilm A-308: its removal indicates that a later Colonial Secretary was interested in Gladstone's statement. There are a number of parallels with the language used with the Downing Street declaration of 15 December 1993, which acknowledged that Britain had "no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland", while the Irish government recognised the need for broad (but undefined) consent in favour of any constitutional change in the province.

[94] Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 46n; G. Metcalf, "Draper, William Henry", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, x:

[95] A. Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1868-1876 (2 vols, London, 1952), i, documents 59, 195.

[96] Gladstone's dispatch to Cathcart, 3 June 1846, in Bell and Morrell, eds, Select Documents on British Colonial Policy 1830-1860, 339-45, esp. 345 (punctuation simplified). John M. Ward mildly termed Gladstone's comments "slightly tendentious". J.M. Ward, Colonial Self-Government … (London, 1976), 240.

[97] D.C. Masters, The Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Toronto, 1963 ed., cf 1st ed., London, 1937), 15-17; British Library, Aberdeen MSS, Add MSS 43070, Gladstone to Aberdeen, 3 June 1846, fos 181-2.

[98] UK National Archives, CO 217/192, Falkland to Gladstone, confidential, 1 May; minute by Stephen, 16 May; draft dispatch by Gladstone, 18 May, fos 96, 262-5.

[99] Checkland, The Gladstones, 320-6, 416. Morley (Gladstone, i, 23) estimated that John Gladstone received about £75,000 in compensation for his slaves, worth about £10 million in 2022 prices. Checkland suggests that, if partnerships are taken into account, he netted closer to £93,000. Matthew estimated it at £109,000 ("Gladstone [Gladstones], Sir John, first baronet (1764–1851)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).  By 1848, he had made gifts to each of his sons of about £75,000. The Gladstone family claims may be traced through

[100] Gladstone: God and Politics (London, 2007) is a recent exploration of this theme. Still valuable is Schreuder, "Gladstone and the Conscience of the State", Marsh, ed., The Conscience of the Victorian State, 73-134. Schreuder traced the course of Gladstone's original Church-and-State principles turning into a Peelite "High-Minded Pragmatism".

[101] Wilson, The Clergy Reserves of Upper Canada, 190.

[102] Shannon, Gladstone, i: 1809-1865, 350-1.

[103] Gladstone's 1855 lecture at Chester, Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 203-7. His audience of working men would have been poorly equipped to challenge his assumptions.

[104] Shannon, Gladstone, i: 1809-1865, 158-9, 248-9. H.C.G. Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898 (Oxford, 1995), 6-7 points out that Gladstone did not claim to be the owner of Hawarden, for instance never accepting any role as a local magistrate. But he did own much of the surrounding estate, and he treated the Castle as his home. Hawarden passed from the bachelor Stephen Glynne through Gladstone's wife Catherine to their eldest son Willie. The property was twice vested in Gladstone, formally and briefly.

[105] Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 183-4. As discussed later, Gladstone had some difficulty in fitting the United States into his world view. Fifty years later, he paid lip service to the emerging concept of the 'English-speaking peoples', but with no specific reference to Canada or Australia. Francis H. Herrick, "Gladstone and the Concept of the 'English-Speaking Peoples'", Journal of British Studies, xii (1972), 150-6.

[106] My 1997 study, Edward Gibbon Wakefield: Abductor and Mystagogue, argued caustically that Wakefield should not be taken seriously as a colonisation theorist:

[107] His diary does not report that Gladstone read Wakefield's 1829 Letter from Sydney nor his 1833 England and America at all. As Colonial Secretary, he wrote to Wakefield about an unidentified manuscript document, but did not get around to looking at his alleged magnum opus, The Art of Colonization, until 1851, 2 years after its publication. Gladstone also carefully avoided direct contact with Wakefield, who had served a 3-year sentence in Newgate for abduction.

[108] H. T. Holman, "Pope, Joseph", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xii:

[109] Gladstone probably did not know that he had a namesake who joined the Hudson's Bay Company service that year. William James Shanks Gladstone had been born in Montreal in 1832, and died in Alberta in 1911. His parents, William Gladston and Eleanor Shanks, had arrived in Canada shortly before his birth from Berwick-upon-Tweed: their son, known as Billy Gladstone and later as "Old Glad", added the final –e. It is not clear whether they were related, although Old Glad's descendants believed the British Prime Minister was a distant cousin.  William Shanks Gladstone worked as a boatbuilder and carpenter. He also played an important role as an interpreter when visiting Ottawa politicians wished to communicate with First Nations leaders. He married Harriet Leblanc, a Métisse, of Cree and Sioux heritage, and died in Alberta in 1911. Although predominantly European in descent, their grandson, James Gladstone (Akay-na-muka), was reared as a status Indian and was a member of the Blood (Kainai) First Nation. In 1958, he was appointed to the Senate, the first Aboriginal representative in Canada's national parliament: at the time, 'Indians' were still not entitled to vote in federal elections. Senator Gladstone does not appear to have claimed kinship. (An earlier prominent 'Indian' personality, Grey Owl, was revealed after his death to have been Archibald Bellany from Eastbourne in Sussex, and James Gladstone had no motive for drawing attention to the fact that his own heritage was not fully Aboriginal.) for William Gladston's Hudson's Bay Company contracts; for a photograph of Old Glad. For Senator Gladstone's background, H. Dempsey, The Gentle Persuader (Saskatoon, 1986), 1-7.  I owe thanks to Dr Donald A. Wright for information about the Canadian Gladstones.

[110] This was accompanied by a specific reference to Wakefield: "What had become of Mr. Wakefield and his plan of selling land at a sufficient price, and importing emigrants with the produce of the sales?" Gladstone's insistence upon delay was unrealistic. As the Colonial Secretary, Lord Grey, pointed out the following year, if settlement was postponed, "in a short time the island would be irregularly occupied by persons whom it would not be possible to dislodge". The Colonial Office insisted on the sale of land in the new colony, on Wakefield principles. Critics claimed that this retarded the development of settlement, even though its provisions were widely evaded. R. Mackie, "The Colonization of Vancouver Island, 1849-1858", BC Studies, lxxxxvi, 2002-3, 3-40.

[111] The Hudson's Bay Company continued to trade after losing its role as an agency of government and operates department stores to this day. The elk and beaver tribute was presented to the future Edward VIII in 1927 (Gladstone misquoted the charter, which referred to the monarch's "heires and successors"), to George VI in 1939 and twice to Elizabeth II. In 1970, presumably in deference to the concerns of animal lovers, the Queen was offered a pair of live beavers in a tank. Unaware of the solemnity of the situation, the animals began to copulate, causing embarrassment among the welcoming party when a distinguished royal visitor asked what they were doing. P.C. Newman, Company of Adventurers (Markham, Ont. 1986 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1985), 118-19.

[112] Hansard, ci, 18 August 1848, 268-89; GD, iv, 62, Gladstone's final entry for 18 August 1848 ("Worked on V.I. & Hudson's Bay books & papers for speech") is an example of the way he recorded the events of each day by category, and not according to chronology. Purists may be shocked to learn that Gladstone split an infinitive ("to speedily occupy") in his speech. For his recollection of 8 September 1897, PMP:WEG , i, 67. His 1881 comment is in Hansard, cclxiii, 25 July 1881, 1861. One of its earliest critics, Joseph Robson had alleged in 1752 that "The Company have for eighty years slept at the edge of a frozen sea": the image became part of the indictment of its monopoly.

[113] Knaplund referred to his membership of a parliamentary committee on aboriginal rights in the 1830s, where the evidence was "of a nature that must have left a strong impression on the mind of the earnest young statesman". Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 29, and cf. Morley, Gladstone, i, 358 for similar sleight of hand.

[114] Hansard, ci, 21 August 1848, 315.

[115] Galbraith, The Hudson's Bay Company as an Imperial Factor 1821-1869, 323.

[116] "Gladstone and the limits of Canadian self-government, 1849" , developed from my article "The Canadian Rebellion Losses Bill of 1849 in British Politics", Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vi (1977), 3-22:

[117] Hansard, cvi, 14 June 1849, 188-195. Extracts from his 1849 speech may perhaps be considered alongside his statement in 1839 that, while Westminster was "supreme" throughout the Empire, "Parliament should leave the ordinary business of legislation to the colonial legislatures, and … should not permit itself to interfere or to meddle with affairs of every day occurrence, but should rather reserve itself for great and worthy occasions". Superficially, his position on Rebellion Losses was virtually identical. However, this pronouncement was delivered in opposition to the Whig ministry's proposal to suspend the constitution of Jamaica altogether, as the result of a conflict with an Assembly representing the European minority which had no claim to full local self-government. Hansard, xlviii, 119 (10 June 1839). 

[118] This sentiment was very close to his attitude in 1871, when he took for granted that the Dominion of Canada should make sacrifices to the United States to appease American anger against Britain.

[119] I repeat here my opinion that "it was the events of 1849 which seem to have clinched the wider British endorsement of regional union". Ged Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-1867 (Vancouver, 1995), 91-4.

[120] R. T. Shannon, Gladstone: God and Politics (London, 2007), 55.

[121] R.S. Churchill, Winston S. Churchill, ii ... (London, 1967), 148. The overwhelming logic of local self-government to which Churchill appealed applied only to white settlers.

[122] Morley, Gladstone, iii, 198.

[123] Hansard, cx, 13 May 1850, 1391. 

[124] Strictly, the Society for the Reform of Colonial Government, prospectus in British Library, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44368, fo. 309. "The general object of the Society is to aid in obtaining for every dependency, which is a true colony of England, the real and sole management of all local affairs by the Colony itself, including the disposal of the Waste Lands, and the right to frame and alter its local constitution at pleasure." Gladstone could not possibly have endorsed such a policy, even without the thinly coded reference to Wakefield's colonisation theories.

[125] British Library, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44368, Adderley to Gladstone, 24 November [1849], fos 278-81; Peel Papers, Add. MS 40452, Graham to Peel, private, 16 December 1849. Adderley's description of its planned activities hardly aroused confidence. The Society's aim was "to upset the whole system, and introduce a new one. It does not, however, contemplate much permanence, as it must carry its point at once – or its chance will be lost for ever. Its plan of action is to be so free & elastic that open questions will be rather the rule than the exception, yet when it does act it will be so nearly unanimous that no party manoeuvres can be foisted on it." Under Gladstone's leadership, Adderley felt that the Society it might have limited its membership to "friends" but without him, it "must now be more promiscuous". It would be hard to envisage a political movement more effectively programmed for disaster.

[126]  W.F. Monypenny and G.E. Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli …, iii (London, 1914), 233-7; Crosby, The Two Mr Gladstones, 98. Morrell, British Colonial Policy in the Age of Peel and Russell, 487-90 gave a useful but overly sympathetic account of the Colonial Reform Society.

[127] A.T. Bassett, ed., Gladstone to his Wife (London, 1936), 80 (letter of 22 February 1850, evidently in reply to Catherine's letter quoted by Crosby and dated 21 February). J.L. Hammond and M.R.D. Foot offered a curiously garbled account of this episode: "Gladstone with some friends supported the plan of separation.… These proposals came to nothing, owing to opposition within the Colonial Office, but the principle was revived a generation later in Gladstone's Home Rule Bills." J.L Hammond and M.R.D. Foot, Gladstone and Liberalism (London, 1959), 58.

[128] Letter to Adderley, late 1849, in W.S. Childe-Pemberton, Life of Lord Norton … (London, 1909), 82-3.

[129] Hansard, cx, 6 May 1850, 1195-1206. I have been unable to consult H.M. Carey, "Gladstone, the Colonial Church, and Imperial State", Church and State in Old and New Worlds, li (2011), 155-82.

[130] Hansard, cxx, 28 April 1852, 1260-78.

[131] Glenalmond's website names him as its sole founder.

[132] GD, iii, xxxv.  

[133] Hansard, cxx, 28 April 1852, 1266.

[134] Hansard, cxxiv, 4 March 1853, 1138-52.

[135] Wilson, The Clergy Reserves of Upper Canada, 198-211; J.B. Conacher, The Aberdeen Coalition 1852-1855… (Cambridge, 1968), 99-103.

[136] Hansard, cxxiv, 4 March 1853, 1086.

[137] Hansard, cxxiv, 4 March 1853, 1138-52.

[138] Conacher, The Aberdeen Coalition 1852-1855, 58-78; Shannon, Gladstone, i: 1809-1865, 265-9. In his celebrated speech on conciliation with America in 1775, Burke had rejected suggestions for the admission of colonial MPs to Parliament: "Opposuit natura—I cannot remove the eternal barriers of the creation."

[139] Letter of 26 February 1853, J.S. Moir, Church and State in Canada West... (Toronto, 1959), 70.

[140] Conacher, The Aberdeen Coalition 1852-1855,102-3; GD, iv, 546; Hansard, cxxix, 2 August 1853, 1212. Gladstone replied to his uneasy Oxford supporters on 16 March 1853, pleading that the question of colonial Church government "had in great measure passed out of my hands". He did not mention the clergy reserves. Lathbury, ed., Correspondence on Church and Religion of William Ewart Gladstone, i, 124-6.

[141] The Church was rocked by a now-forgotten controversy, Gorham's case. Henry Philpotts, the bishop of Exeter refused to institute the Reverend George Gorham to a Devon parish because he regarded his views on baptism as heretical. The highest ecclesiastical court in the Province of Canterbury supported the bishop, but Gorham further appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which would later become important in the interpretation of the Canadian constitution. In 1850, the JCPC found for Gorham, which meant that a secular court had overruled not only a diocesan bishop but the entire judicial structure of the Anglican Church. The decision was followed by several high-profile secessions to the Church of Rome, including that of Gladstone's friend Henry Manning. There was also a notable and public falling-out between Philpotts and Sumner. The Gorham controversy followed a controversy over the alleged lack of orthodoxy of Dr Hampden, the bishop of Hereford, and came on top of the campaign to revive Convocation, and was immediately followed by a comic but venomous episode known as "papal aggression". The Archbishop had worked wonders to produce a draft colonial constitution. O. Chadwick, The Victorian Church, i (3rd ed., London, 1971, cf. 1st ed. 1966), 237-324. Despite the matter coming close to resolution in 1853, the legal basis of the colonial Churches remained unresolved for some years, a lacuna which became a problem after 1861 when John Colenso, the bishop of Natal, decided that he did not believe in eternal punishment. However, by 1857, the Church of England in Canada had achieved synodical self-government and looked very much like the American Episcopal Church over the border, for instance electing its own bishops. "In Canada the clergy and people now virtually appoint their own Bishop", Gladstone noted In 1861.  Clergy and laity clearly enjoyed the new opportunities which autonomy permitted: it took 9 ballots to elect a successor to Strachan in 1866, with the eventual winner running 3rd in the first 8 rounds.  Lathbury, ed., Correspondence on Church and Religion of William Ewart Gladstone, ii, 172;  A.N. Thompson, "Bethune, Alexander Neil", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, x:

[142] Conacher, The Aberdeen Coalition 1852-1855, 100-1; Hansard, cxxv, 18 March 1853, 493-4. In the event, no claim was made on the British taxpayer. In 1854, the rising Conservative politician John A. Macdonald took charge of the secularisation process and ran rings around his anti-State Church opponents. Everyone agreed that the life interest of existing beneficiaries of the clergy reserves should be safeguarded. It made sense for these payments to be rolled into lump sums. Regarding the ministers as employees of their Churches, Macdonald insisted on negotiating these commutations on an institutional basis, which in turn enabled the various denominations to pressure their incumbents to hand over their cash, which was added to the long-term institutional capital reserves. The Church of England was a major beneficiary (a bonus that Strachan hardly merited), increasing its share of the income originating in the reserves from 42% to 64%. Unveiling his plans for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of Ireland in 1869, Gladstone jovially (and, of course, wordily) appealed to this Canadian precedent: "although, as a rule, it is for parents to set examples to children, yet, in the vicissitudes of human affairs, it sometimes happens that children may set a good example to parents. It has happened so in this instance, for the Legislature of Canada, having to deal with a case undoubtedly far more simple, far less difficult and complicated than ours, yet notwithstanding, in this one central and vital subject – the manner of dealing with the vested interests of the clergy upon whose incomes it was legislating, and the permanent source of whose incomes it was entirely cutting off – has undoubtedly proceeded upon principles which appear to balance, or rather to maintain very fairly the balance established between, the separate interests of the clergy and the general interests of the Church to which they belong, and the congregations to which they minister.... we think the basis afforded by the Canadian measure supplies us with no unsuitable pattern after which to shape our own proceedings." Wilson, The Clergy Reserves of Upper Canada, 214-17; Hansard, clxxxxiv, 1 March 1869, 428.

[143] As explained earlier, by major biographers I refer to such scholars as Feuchtwanger, Jenkins, Magnus, Matthew, Morley and Shannon, to whom the earnest student naturally makes reference. 

[144] Hansard, cxxiv, 4 March 1853, 1140.

[145] Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 71-2. Gladstone's proposals were taken up by the Aberdeen ministry in 1853, but for various reasons failed to pass into law. Conacher, The Aberdeen Coalition 1852-1855, 99-103.

[146] Hansard, clxxv, 11 May 1864, 324. Every Gladstone biographer confronts this startling statement, e.g. Shannon, Gladstone, i: 1809-1865, 507-12. Even the admiring Morley, Gladstone, ii, 126 referred to "words that covered much ground, though when closely scrutinised they left large loopholes".

[147] J. Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby … between 1878 and 1893… (Oxford, 2003), 879 (a retrospective appendix recording conversations in December 1855).

[148] Shannon, Gladstone, i: 1809-1865, 264-5; Conacher, The Aberdeen Coalition 1852-1855, 21. Russell and J.T. Delane of The Times sought to block Gladstone from the Exchequer, Victoria and Albert supported him, and the more senior Peelite, Sir James Graham, refused the offer because of the workload.

[149] Remarkably, Palmerston offered the Colonial Office to the 29 year-old Lord Stanley, an Opposition MP who had never held office. Stanley was the son of the Conservative leader, the Earl of Derby (the Lord Stanley of 1849). The younger Stanley was known to hold progressive views, and he did ultimately join Gladstone's second government, in 1882 (by which time, he had inherited the earldom). Despite Palmerston's request for confidentiality, the offer leaked out, and throughout the first week of November, newspapers speculated on the outcome, some even reporting that Stanley had accepted. In fact, he had declined after consultation with his father. It may be doubted whether Palmerston seriously expected so unlikely a proposal to be accepted, or even to be feasible in practice, but the unexpected move certainly shook up the already factionalised political world. "I don't know which is greatest," Disraeli curtly commented to Stanley, "the compliment to yourself, or the insult to y[ou]r father." M.G. Wiebe, et al., eds, Benjamin Disraeli Letters, vi… (Toronto, 1997), 445. Stanley's extensive account of the episode is in Vincent, ed., Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party: Journals … of Edward Henry, Lord Stanley 1849-1869, 136-40.

[150] Shannon, Gladstone, i: 1809-1865, 304-5, 314-15.

[151] But in 1871, concerned at the growth of republican sentiment in Britain, he thought of having "a sort of talk to neighbours at Hawarden in the village schoolroom which might be reported". This would allow him to show his support for the Queen without making "a political splash of it". Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1868-1876, ii, document 617.

[152] Morning Chronicle, 18 October 1855. Admission cost one shilling or 6d: the well-to-do got their Gladstone on the cheap, the poor paid a high price. For Gladstone's two lectures, GD, v, 80-5.

[153] Hansard, xl, 23 January 1838, 428-40.

[154] J. McCarthy, Reminiscences (2 vols, London, 1899), ii, 444-6. Gladstone misdated the Rebellion Losses Bill by 12 months.

[155] GD, v, 85.

[156] McCarthy, Reminiscences, ii, 444-6; GD, v, 85-7. Gladstone's handling of the Rebellion Losses bill was slightly longer in the pamphlet version than the report in The Times, 14 November 1855. I have not consulted the Northern Daily Times, which may not be extant. Hence it is impossible to know whether Gladstone subsequently modified his comments for publication.

[157] The text of Our Colonies … (London, 1855) was reprinted in Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 185-227, esp. 221-2. Cf. also It may be worth noting that Gladstone made only passing allusion to the West Indies, and did not mention slavery at all.

[158] The Times, 14 November. The Liverpool Daily Post, 13 November 1855, also reported laughter.

[159] H. Reeve, ed., The Greville Memoirs (Third Part) … from 1851 to 1860 (2 vols, London, 1887), i, 295. It may be doubted whether the addition of Gladstone to the cabinet would have added to its popularity. The Liverpool Mercury (16 November 1855) remarked of his Chester address, "the public have long since despaired of even comprehending the aberrations of a mind which seems to be always losing itself in a fog of its own making".

[160] As part of Gladstone's opposition to Palmerston's ministry, in July 1856 he supported a motion critical of the government's handling of relations with the United States. In December 1854, the Aberdeen coalition had passed a Foreign Enlistment Act in response to the need for manpower in the Crimea. The Act was based on the assumption that most German states imposed compulsory military service, which meant that they could provide a ready-trained reserve of potential mercenaries. Many had emigrated to the United States, and were thought susceptible to the offer of a free passage back to Europe. The problem was that American neutrality laws banned recruitment for foreign armies, and United States opinion was strongly pro-Russian. The hyperactive Nova Scotian politician, Joseph Howe, undertook a clandestine mission to organise underground recruitment, ostensibly for railway construction in his home province. As he had to acknowledge, Howe placed his trust in recruiters in New York and Philadelphia who were either agents provocateurs, or simply out to defraud the British government. His cover was quickly blown and he was fortunate to escape from US jurisdiction. As part of the fall-out, in May 1856 President Franklin Pierce dismissed the British minister in Washington, J.F. Crampton (the timing being connected to the forthcoming Democratic Party convention, where Pierce hoped to secure renomination: he failed). Gladstone condemned Howe's activities, but excused the British government: "Mr. Howe was not diplomatically employed by the British Government in the United States. There were, in fact, no means of getting hold of this gentleman – as one of the newspapers said of him, he was too slippery." In this, he unfairly implied that 'difficult to catch' meant 'morally questionable'. Never one to take criticism silently, Howe addressed a lengthy public letter to his accuser. Describing himself as "a British American gentleman, whose only offence was obedience to his Sovereign and zeal  for the honour of his country", Howe censured Gladstone for using his "fine talents and elevated station … to take  unwarrantable liberties with a stranger's name and reputation ... in terms of  sarcasm and reproach" that were unworthy of the MP for Oxford University. Howe never did invective by half-measures, and took the argument directly to his antagonist. "That you were responsible for all the disasters and misery which made Englishmen in every part of the empire hang their heads with shame, during the first year of that war, you will not venture to deny." The Foreign Enlistment Act had been passed while Gladstone was a cabinet minister: if the policy on which it was based was likely to cause a clash with the United States, he should have prevented it.  Gladstone did not read Howe's criticisms until January 1857, but promptly replied in a letter that combined courtesy with a tough-minded rebuttal. He regretted the delay in writing, and explained: "I thought that I had been careful to say and to repeat that the entire responsibility of the proceedings lay with Her Majesty's Government, for I have always held  that it is most unjust to lay blame upon the remote or secondary agents of a policy when their acts have been  adopted in full by the ministers of the Crown." He also expressed "my regret at finding in your publication no citation from my speech, or reference to it, which in any degree enables me to judge whether I have given you  just  cause of complaint or not", and invited (or challenged) Howe to cite "any words or passages in my speech of which you complain" for his further consideration. Howe, who had lost the newspaper report of the debate, opted to regard the explanation as honourable to Gladstone and acceptable to himself. Perhaps Gladstone's memory was at fault, or it may be that he was unable to consult Hansard as he was visiting a country house in Wiltshire when he wrote: in fact, he had condemned Howe's conduct and denied that he was a government agent. Conacher, Aberdeen Coalition, 512-15; J.M. Beck, Joseph Howe: ii... 1848-1873 (Kingston and Montreal, 1983),79-93, 106; Hansard, cxxxxiii, 1 July 1846, 141-70, esp.159; J.A. Chisholm, ed., The Speeches and Public Letters of Joseph Howe… (2 vols, Halifax, 1909), ii, 329-46 for Howe's public letter, and Gladstone to Howe, 25 January, Howe to Gladstone, 8 April 1857, 346-7.

[161] Galbraith, The Hudson's Bay Company as an Imperial Factor 1821-1869, 341-2.

[162] Hansard, cxiii, 1 August 1850, 638; Galbraith, The Hudson's Bay Company as an Imperial Factor 1821-1869, 324-6.

[163] British Parliamentary Papers, 1857 (ii), xv; Hansard, cli, 20 July 1858, 1802-9. In 1897, Gladstone recalled that the Company's Governor, Sir George Simpson, was "bothered" by the cross-examination, "for he had to maintain worthlessness of the territory except for Hudson's Bay [Company] purposes and in answering our questions had to call in the aid of incessant coughing". PMP:WEG, i, 66-7. In this recollection, Gladstone confused 1848 with 1857-8, apparently believing that the campaign over Vancouver Island had forced the parliamentary enquiry.

[164] I.R. Robertson, "Coles, George", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, x: The most notable of the absentee proprietors was Lady Georgiana Fane, probably (for a time) mistress of the Duke of Wellington, who later pursued him in the hope of marriage.

[165] W.H. Pope, a Prince Edward Island lawyer, acted as agent for several of the absentee proprietors. Aware that one of his clients, the octogenarian Charles Worrell, was in financial difficulties, Pope and his father-in-law, Theophilus DesBrisay, persuaded Worrell to sell his property for £14,000 (from which DesBrisay deducted a fee of £1,700). Knowing that Premier Coles desperately needed a purchase to vindicate his policy, Pope threatened to enforce the collection of rent arrears, which would have caused social disorder, and dictated a price of £24,100 for sale to the colonial government (£3,000 of which was eventually withheld in a dispute over transfer). M.B. Taylor called the transaction a "swindle": to add to the general stench of the episode, there are indications that Worrell was no longer capable of handling his affairs.  I.R. Robertson,"Pope, William Henry", Dictionary of Canadian Biography,x:; M.B. Taylor, "Worrell, Charles", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, viii:

[166] Hansard, cl, 11 June 1858, 1948; GD, v, 292, 304; British Parliamentary Papers, 1857-8, xli. As Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in 1864, Kimberley asked for finance to improve the drainage of rivers in the Irish Midlands, apologetically adding: "I know how repulsive to English ears is a proposal to spend more money on the Shannon". But Gladstone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, thought there would be "little difficulty in the matter as long as we deal with loans for I do not think Great Britain would grudge to Ireland the benefit of low rates of interest". Thus loans would "have the effect and advantages of gifts without the dangers". The obvious inference here is that Gladstone was concerned not with the identity of those who borrowed the money, but the trustworthiness of those who spent it.  J. Powell, ed., Liberal by Principle... (London, 1996), 101-2.

[167] Ged Martin, "The Naming of British Columbia", Albion, x (1979), 257-263.

[168] British Library, Gladstone Papers, Add, MS 44368, FitzGerald to Gladstone, 3 October 1849, 256-7. A further reason for deciding not to emigrate to Vancouver Island was the disruption to the local labour supply caused by the rival attractions of gold-rush California. "If there had been a Colony there before the Californian gold was found, it is possible that personal influence might have done much to retain the settlers – by personal influence I mean the mutual attachment of settlers to one another and to a government of which they were experiencing the wisdom and excellence." The sentence is a good example of the fantasy of social stratification and paternalist administration that underlay Wakefieldian ideas of colonisation, and it is striking that Gladstone apparently never saw through it. There are 7 more letters from FitzGerald on colonial matters in Add, MS 44368, dating from 1848-9.

[169] W.D. McIntyre, "FitzGerald, James Edward", Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, i, 126-8.

[170] GD, v, 311; Hansard, cli, 19 July 1858, 1762-70, compared with xxxvii, 8 March 1837, 95-102. FitzGerald seems to have been involved in lobbying in connection with the new colony (Hertfordshire Record Office, Lytton Papers, D/EK 05, printed paper of 19 July 1858).

[171]M.A. Ormsby, British Columbia: a History (Toronto, 1958), 122; J.D. Belshaw, Becoming British Columbia… (Vancouver, 2009), 36-7. In 1872, the new province of the Dominion that included both the mainland and Vancouver Island sent a ridiculously inflated contingent of six MPs to Ottawa: in the three contested constituencies, 956 votes were cast. That was fourteen years later, when some form of stability had started to emerge:  J.M. Beck, Pendulum of Power … (Scarborough, Ont., 1968), 21.

[172] Gladstone's memorandum of 28 December 1858, in GD, v, 351-8, esp. 353 ("Canada at that period was much nearer to political freedom than the Ionian Island now are".). There is a recent study by C.B. Faught, "Gladstone and the Ionian Islands", Quinault et al., eds, William Gladstone: New Studies and Perspectives, 219-235.

[173] Soon after his appointment to the Exchequer, Gladstone was asked to advise on a personnel matter in the Colonial Office, the appointment of a new Chief Clerk. He replied by suggesting the abolition of the post. "This is not merely the keen nose of a Chancellor of the Exchequer sniffing slaughter like a raven from afar, but it is founded on my own views and recollections", he jovially explained. The post was retained. Autobiography of Henry Taylor, 1800-1875 (2 vols, London, 1885), ii, 155-6.

[174] Matthew, Gladstone, 1809-1874, 112-13; GD, xi, 262 (21 December 1884); PMP: WEG, i, 83 (31 August / 1 September 1897). During his first two terms as Prime Minister, Gladstone was careful to appoint Chancellors who would not challenge his authority. His 1884 reminiscence was intended to cheer H.C.E. Childers. 

[175] Library and Archives Canada, Galt Fonds, MG27 ID8, ii, Galt [?to Anne Galt], 17 December 1859.

[176] Egerton and W.L. Grant, eds, Canadian Constitutional Development, 348-51. In effect, Gladstone had conceded this point during his brief term as Colonial Secretary. In March 1846, he had assured the Governor-General, Cathcart, that the British government wished that "the Trade of Canada may in all respects approach as nearly to perfect freedom as the disposition of its Inhabitants and the exigencies of the public Revenue there may permit". Quoted, P. Knaplund, "Gladstone’s Views on British Colonial Policy", Canadian Historical Review, iv (1924), 304-15, esp. 308n.

[177] Lacking the administrative structure to impose direct taxes, Canada was heavily reliant upon customs and excise duties for revenue, including the imperative servicing of the provincial debt. Many politicians concluded that it made sense to impose the highest import duties on products that Canada might manufacture for itself, a policy described as "incidental protection". For a partial defence of Galt's 1859 tariff, A.A. den Otter, "Alexander Galt, the 1859 Tariff, and Canadian Economic Nationalism", Canadian Historical Review, lxiii (1982), 151-78.

[178] Following the formation of the Palmerston ministry in June 1859, there was a rumour in the political world that the controversial radical John Bright was offended by his omission, that Russell suggested appointing him as Governor-General of Canada, and that Gladstone thought it "not a bad scheme". The story is obviously implausible, not least because Bright was the apostle of free trade and Canada had embraced tariff protection. It cannot be traced in the works of the two studies of Bright that could be relied upon to have picked it up, John Bright and the Empire (1969) by the Canadian, J.L. Sturgis, and The Life of John Bright (1913), by G.M. Trevelyan, who was himself later considered for appointment as Governor-General. Morley, Gladstone, i, 626-7n.

[179] Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 84n. Canada's finance minister, Alexander Galt, ingeniously (and, no doubt, provocatively) dismissed the accusation that he was "the author and promoter of a protective policy in Canada", claiming that "the commercial policy of Canada, so far from being opposed to that of the mother-country, has been in accord with it, so far as differing circumstances would permit". In Britain, revenue raised from income tax, reintroduced in 1842, had helped make up the shortfall from reduced income from tariffs. Canada had not evolved a bureaucracy capable of collecting a similar tax. A.T. Galt, Canada: 1849 to 1859 (Quebec, 1860), 31.

[180] Gladstone was also engaged in removing the last traces of the Protection, differential tariffs in favour of British North American timber. He was assailed in the House of Commons by the Nova Scotian, Thomas Chandler Haliburton, one of the few transatlantic figures to gain a seat in the Commons throughout Gladstone's career. Haliburton was well known in Britain as a popular writer, and MPs expected that the election (for Launceston in 1859) of 'Sam Slick' (as his most popular character was called) would lighten proceedings. Instead, they were treated to diatribes of outdated colonial toryism. In House of Commons terms, Gladstone certainly benefited from Haliburton's denunciations, which focused on the Chancellor's alleged haughty discourtesy to colonial deputations. Arguably, however, Haliburton scored a hit when in 1861 he denounced Gladstone by invoking Pope's couplet to describe his manner: "Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer / And, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer". (Hansard misreported "assent" as "assail".) R.A. Davies, Inventing Sam Slick... (Toronto, 2005), 192-202, esp. 200.

[181] GD, vi, 75 (23 November 1861): Gladstone was able to get away by 3 pm to enjoy the Duke of Marlborough's hospitality at Blenheim Palace; E.W. Watkin, Canada and the States: Recollections, 1851 to 1886 (London, 1887), 83-5. In his later years, Gladstone unwisely accepted hospitality from wealthy men who frequently had some agenda of their own: Watkin sponsored his visit to Paris in 1889 in the hope of securing support for his plan to construct a Channel Tunnel. Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 360, was mildly disapproving. The British North American delegates further irritated Gladstone by making speeches in provincial towns, hoping to build up support in manufacturing districts: "I have not yet heard that they have succeeded in procuring any such movement", he bleakly commented on 14 December: GD, vi, 82.

[182] The Times, 11 February 1862.

[183] G.W. Martin, "Britain and the Future of British North America" (PhD thesis, Cambridge, 1972), 246-52. 

[184] Morley, Gladstone, ii, 69-86. In 1904, Goldwin Smith claimed that Gladstone had written to him, presumably early in the Civil War, "suggesting that, if the North thought fit to let the South go, it might in time be indemnified by the union of Canada with the Northern States". Smith was writing over 40 years after the event. He was not always accurate, and his memory may have been distorted by his own solitary campaign for continental union: indeed, Smith also claimed that he had subsequently destroyed the letter in case it might cause its writer embarrassment. Knaplund pointed out in 1927 that no copy of any such letter could be found in Gladstone's own papers. The Gladstone diaries mention a letter from Gladstone to Smith on 17 June 1861, but the diaries also indicate that there was no direct contact between the two in the 10 years between 1857 and 1867. In 1896, Gladstone recorded: "I was not one of those who on the ground of British interests desired a division of the American Union. My view was distinctly opposite. I thought that while the Union continued it never could exercise any dangerous pressure upon Canada to estrange it from the Empire …. But, were the Union split, the North no longer checked by the jealousies of slave-power, would seek a partial compensation for its loss in annexing or trying to annex British North America." The similarity in language (indemnified / compensation) suggests that Gladstone's opinions might have been reported to Smith through an intermediary, and that the wrong conclusions were drawn. G. Smith, My Memory of Gladstone (London, 1904), 43-4; Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 91-2; PMP:WEG, i, 133 (quoted in Morley, Gladstone, ii, 81-2).

[185] The Times, 1 October 1862.

[186] Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 91 (24 September 1861). In June 1861, Gladstone had given evidence before a parliamentary committee on colonial military expenditure (the Mills Committee). He concentrated on detailed examples of the cost of overseas garrisons: no prominent politician would make policy to an audience of MPs. In regard to Canada, Gladstone was on his best behaviour, for instance refusing "to be responsible for the assertion that the manufacturers of England are shut out of Canada", but he did make clear that self-governing colonies should accept more responsibility for their defence. Asked if there were any historical analogies for the emerging system of colonial self-government, he replied that it was "a novel invention, of which up to the present time we are the patentees, and no one has shown a disposition to invade our patent". British Parliamentary Papers, 1861, xiii, 423, 255-70.

[187] The defence argument was absurd, since any intercolonial railway route would have to pass close to the United States border, where it would undoubtedly be sabotaged: J.M.S. Careless, Brown of the Globe, ii: … (Toronto, 1963), 58-9.

[188] Galt, Canada: 1849 to 1859, 39, which Gladstone read on 17 January 1860: GD, v, 457.

[189] GD, vi, 80-3 (14 December 1861). Gladstone was strongly supported in his opposition by the veteran free-trader, Richard Cobden: "It is a job, & you ought to resist it." In 1867, Gladstone defended the intercolonial railway project against the charge that it was "tainted by a spirit of jobbery … it is not a device and contrivance of certain gentlemen meeting together on their own private responsibility, and trusting to their own wits for the purpose of taking in the public". In any case, the British loan guarantee was simply "a financial transaction in respect to which we have no cognizance of railway companies, or anybody connected with them, but we deal simply with the exchequer of the State about to be created in British North America". The problem, which would become clear in the 1873 Pacific Scandal, was that Canada was a relatively small society, with few major entrepreneurs, whose relationship with the politicians was unhealthily close. British Library, Gladstone Papers, 44136, Cobden to Gladstone [24 February 1862], 176-7; Hansard, clxxxvi (28 March 1867), 750-1.

[190] GD, vi, 81. The sentence began: "Unless I am much mistaken...."

[191] Careless, Brown of the Globe, ii, 58-9.

[192] J.-C. Soulard, "Dorion, Sir Antoine-Aimé", in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xii:

[193] Newcastle's memorandum is in University of Nottingham, Newcastle Papers, NeC 11260. The document was rescued from the fire that destroyed Clumber, Newcastle's country mansion, in 1879 (15 years after his death), but much disarranged. It was reconstructed in Ged Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-67 (Vancouver, 1995), 110-13, 332. The Duke, formerly Lord Lincoln, was the son of Gladstone's patron at Newark. During the Trent crisis, he had begged Gladstone to be flexible in responding to British North American requests for financial support. "I confess I look almost with terror to a refusal by the Government of this appeal at this juncture. These noble Colonies are ready to fight with us, and for us to a man, but if they see that the only plan by which they can be made independent of the United States [i.e. the intercolonial railway] is hopeless, I fear they will enter upon the war with that faint heart that is produced by a feeling that their exertions and sacrifices will be in vain and they will in future be at the mercy of – no longer a neighbour of doubtful friendship but – an enemy." Library and Archives Canada, Newcastle Papers, microfilm A-307, Newcastle to Gladstone (copy), 5 December 1861. Gladstone was unmoved by this appeal. In 1865, he inverted Newcastle's formula: Britain would only assist Canada if Canadians were willing to fight.

[194] Careless, Brown of the Globe, ii, 74; GD, vi, 114; 83n. Gladstone's diary curiously refers to "the Intercontinental Railway". The cabinet decision was taken on a head count, of 8 to 7. Internal cabinet proceedings were often mysterious: it is not clear whether Gladstone's list represented a vote or a less formal head count. Sir Ivor Jennings regarded cabinet votes as "exceptional" and dated the practice to Gladstone's second cabinet of 1880-5. John P. Macintosh offered a more nuanced view: a consensus approach to decision-making allowed more weight to ministers with substantial portfolios. The curious aspect of the 1862 decision is that, while the majority included the Prime Minister, Palmerston, and (of course) the Colonial Secretary, it was opposed by both the present and former Chancellors of the Exchequer (Gladstone and Lewis) and by the Foreign Secretary (Russell). Gladstone recorded a later 8-7 vote in favour of concessions to Canada in his own first cabinet, in 1871. I. Jennings, Cabinet Government (3rd ed., Cambridge, 1965) 261-2; J.P. Macintosh, The British Cabinet (2nd ed., London, 1968), 317-20.

[195] GD, vi, 80; O.D. Skelton, Life and Times of Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt (Toronto, 1920), 259-62.

[196] GD, vi, 81, 83n.; A. Smith, British Businessmen and Canadian Confederation … (Montreal & Kingston, 2008), 34-5.  The treatment of the Hamilton bondholders was outlined in British Parliamentary Papers, 1863, xxxviii, 301, 103-16.

[197] Although Newcastle (the former Lord Lincoln) had been Gladstone's earliest friend in politics, relations between them became strained in the two years before his death in 1864. Newcastle objected both to the obstructive nature of Treasury control over Colonial Office matters ("all my applications are treated so offensively that I wish to avoid as much as I can the rude refusals I generally get"), and to the impression that Gladstone appears to have projected that the job was no longer important: "the difficulties of a Secretary of State for the Colonies though greatly changed in the last ten years are not diminished". Library and Archives Canada, Newcastle Papers, A-307, Newcastle to Palmerston (Copy), 17 February; Newcastle to Gladstone (copy), private, 30 January 1862, 156-7, 142-8.

[198] One of Canada's most distinguished historians, W.L. Morton, accepted that Gladstone "did not renege on the original terms". W.L. Morton, The Critical Years ... 1857-1873 (Toronto, 1964), 122-5; Beck, Joseph Howe: ii... 1848-1873, 162-4. The Canadian delegates intermitted negotiations so they could make a tourist visit to Paris. From there, they sent a written rejection of Gladstone's terms, and returned direct to Canada. Morton concluded that "while their behaviour seems to have been distinctly reprehensible, their position under the circumstances appears at least defensible and probably inevitable".

[199] Edward Watkin was already dreaming of communications to the Pacific. In 1862, he was backing a project for a transcontinental telegraph line, which would be a step towards a system of roads linking rivers and lakes through 2,000 miles of territory. At a late-night meeting in a London hotel on 10 December 1862, the Duke of Newcastle assured him that Gladstone approved of the project, called it "one of the grandest affairs ever conceived" and promised "his hearty support". Although Watkin claimed this evidence came from his diary at the time, it is difficult to know what to make of it, since it does not square with Gladstone's overwhelming opposition to involvement with such schemes. Possibly it owed something to his opposition to the Hudson's Bay Company and was connected to his insistence in 1857-8 that prairie land should be prised from its monopoly and opened to settlement. In the event, in February 1863, Newcastle asked Gladstone to back the scheme of a transcontinental telegraph since it would "give so invaluable a communication with China[,] Australia &c. &c", but Gladstone refused even to subsidise the section from Canada to the Red River, bluntly asserting that the House of Commons would not approve such a proposal. He also blocked Edward Watkin's scheme to buy out the Hudson's Bay Company with a British-guaranteed loan of £1.5 million. Watkin's project included the establishment of a British colony in southern Rupert's Land, to be called Hysperia. This seems to have derived from 'Hesperia' [western land], a term used by Greek poets for Italy.  If the name was intended to appeal to Gladstone's enthusiasm for the classics, it failed. Watkin, Canada and the States, 103-4; University of Nottingham Newcastle Papers, NeC 10891, Newcastle to Gladstone, 2 February 1863 [apparently an original letter, not a copy]; Galbraith, The Hudson's Bay Company as an Imperial Factor 1821-1869, 382-5.

[200] Gordon to Gladstone, private, January; Gladstone to Gordon, 15 March 1864, in P. Knaplund, ed., Gladstone-Gordon Correspondence (Philadelphia, 1961), 41-4.

[201]  Bourne, Britain and the Balance of Power in North America 1815-1908, 258-66.

[202] Gladstone's confidential memorandum, "Defence of Canada", 12 July 1864, Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 228-42.

[203] D. Creighton, The Road to Confederation … 1864-1867 (Toronto, 1964), 88; Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-67, 62-3, 318-19.  Gladstone also consulted Arthur Gordon, his protégé and Governor of New Brunswick, about the feasibility of a federal union.

[204] Gladstone was at the top of his game as Chancellor of the Exchequer at this time. In December 1864, the literary figure (and Colonial Office administrator) Henry Taylor asked him whether he was ever tempted to quit the pressured world of politics. Gladstone replied "for nine or ten months of the year I am always willing to go, but in the two or three which precede the budget I begin to feel an itch to have the handling of it". Autobiography of Henry Taylor, ii, 319. It is possible to read this as an admission that the budget was an end in itself, not a tool for the pursuit of national aims.

[205] The Times, 27 September 1864, quoting Toronto Globe; Spectator, 15 April 1865, 402; Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-67, 242-65.

[206] Transfer of moral responsibility to the victim was a device Gladstone had used early in his career to obfuscate the question of abolishing slavery. As discussed later, at Newark in 1831, he had put forward an ingenious scheme for the abolition of slavery, by which responsibility was placed upon the slaves themselves to qualify for freedom.

He applied a similar intellectual sleight of hand to the question of Canadian defence: it was irrelevant to consider whether Britain had a duty to defend its colonies, since the primary responsibility fell upon the Canadians themselves. Robbins, The Early Public Life of William Ewart Gladstone, 126.

[207] The Times, 13 October 1864. I cannot find any report of the speech in the Toronto Globe, which is searchable and functioned as something of a paper of record in Canada.

[208] George Brown, proprietor of the powerful Toronto Globe, had been ambivalent towards the union of the provinces, preferring some form of federation between Upper and Lower Canada, and wishing to prioritise the development of transportation links to the prairies over a railway to the Maritimes. Sending him to London as their spokesman helped reinforce Brown's commitment to Confederation. In joining the Great Coalition of 1864, he had also been forced to set aside his virulent hatred of John A. Macdonald, whose sheer efficiency made him the effective leader of the cabinet. The London mission not only kept the two on opposite sides of the ocean, but bolstered Brown's personal status.

[209] Library and Archives Canada, Fonds Brown, G. Brown to Anne Brown, 6 December 1864, 20 May 1865; Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North American Provinces ... (Quebec, 1865), 85; British Library, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44136, Gladstone to Cobden (copy), 22 February 1865, fos 272-4; B.R. Mitchell with P. Deane, eds, Abstract of British Historical Statistics (Cambridge, 1962), 403. In his diary, Gladstone seems to have listed the principal letters written throughout each day at the start of each entry. Thus his entry for 25 May gives the misleading impression that he wrote to Brown before the Colonial Office meeting. As Chancellor during the Crimean War, Gladstone had talked taxation and acted deficit funding: Anderson, A Liberal State at War, 194-7.

[210] GD, vi, 327-8 (19 / 20 January 1865). The memorandum, compiled in note form, was evidently not intended for circulation.

[211] GD, vi, 331-2 (31 January, 1, 4 February 1865); H. Thring, Suggestions for Colonial Reform (London, 1865), 32, 12, 46-7; J.E. Thorold Rogers, Speeches … by … John Bright, M.P. (London, 1898 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1868), 79 (23 March 1865). Thring's ideas were an updated version of a scheme designed for the Colonial Reform Society in 1850-1. The participation of a colony in the independence process would be deemed to include acceptance of previously negotiated contracts, and of an obligation to extend most-favoured-nation status to Britain in regard to tariffs and the rights of aliens. In a letter to Gladstone on 24 February 1865, the Duke of Argyll pointed to the practical objections to breaking the colonial link: "all men are now getting anxious that Canada sh[oul]d stand by itself. But it don't seem that Canada takes the same view – Are we to kick them off? Would Cobden recommend Cardwell [the Colonial Secretary] to go down to Parl[iamen]t and introduce this policy and write out ditto to Monck [the Governor-General]?" B. Jenkins, Britain & the War for the Union, (2 vols, Montreal, 1974-80), ii, 377.

[212] Gladstone took no interest in another proposal for a decolonisation mechanism, suggested by Lord Bury, one of the last Englishmen to hold a senior public office in Canada: he had been Superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1854 to 1856. He was also son-in-law of Sir Allan MacNab, the Loyalist politician of 1849. In The Exodus of the Western Nations (2 vols, London, 1865), ii, 456-63, Bury elaborated Thring's ideas to propose a 'sleeping' treaty between Britain and "The New Nation", which either side might invoke, through addresses from their respective legislatures, to give 12 months' notice of separation. Bury used the title "Articles of Separation, to be agreed to between Great Britain and British North America". A similar formula would be employed in 1921 for the settlement usually known as the Anglo-Irish Treaty, but actually called "Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland", i.e. it indicated what would be in a formal agreement between the two countries had Ireland been a recognised independent state. Gladstone's diary does not mention Bury's book. He was under exceptional cabinet and constituency pressure throughout 1865, and his general reading was curtailed. A long review in The Times, 14 June 1865, treated Bury's work primarily as a general history of the Americas, a subject probably of little interest to Gladstone, devoting only a sentence to his discussion of separation, and making no mention of the Treaty proposal. 

[213] Brown was accompanied by George-Étienne Cartier, John A. Macdonald and Alexander Tilloch Galt: 3 of the 4 delegates had been born in Scotland. The radical Morning Star (11 October 1864) called the protectionist finance minister Galt "the Gladstone of America". Gladstone dined with the Canadian delegates at Edward Cardwell's house on 9 June. (GD, vi, 354). Brown and Galt he had met already, but not Macdonald. His encounter with Cartier seems to have been the first occasion on which he met a French Canadian; they met again in 1869. He would later receive a visit from Henri Joly in 1879 and he entertained Wilfrid Laurier in 1897. Given that the existence of a Francophone community in Canada formed part of the basis of the country's separate existence from the United States, Gladstone's lack of personal acquaintance with its leaders must be regarded as a major element in his overall lack of sympathetic comprehension of Canadian questions.

[214] Ged Martin, "'A System of Sponging and Cozening': Goldwin Smith on New Zealand, 1862", British Review Of New Zealand Studies, xiii (2001/2), 39-57.

[215] J. Graham, "Weld, Frederick Aloysius", Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, i, 579-80; W.P. Morrell, British Colonial Policy in the Mid-Victorian Age (Oxford, 1969), 315-37. Weld came from a long-established Catholic landowning family in Dorset, where he eventually retired.

[216] The most notable British setback was the failed attack on Gate Pa (Pukehinahina), which James Belich argued Maori had converted into a prototype anti-artillery bunker. After preliminary shelling, estimated by Belich to have been as much as 20 times heavier than the barrage at the Somme, a British assault party suffered heavy casualties in storming the position. J. Belich, The New Zealand Wars ...  (Auckland, 1986), 178-88, 295.

[217] Morrell, British Colonial Policy in the Mid-Victorian Age, 302-2.

[218] New Zealand ministries were short-lived since they were based on unstable coalitions of regional interests: Weld was the 6th premier since the introduction of responsible government in 1856. His one long-term success was the removal of the colony's capital from Auckland, in the far north, to its modern location of Wellington, which was more accessible for South Island politicians like himself (and FitzGerald). Auckland's representatives turned against the ministry, and the cost of the removal added to financial pressures on the colonial government, further reducing the scope of local defence expenditure.

[219] Between 1861 and 1867, the percentage of recorded imports into New Zealand from the United Kingdom varied between 36 and 52%, but some of the recorded imports from Australia were probably re-exports via Sydney. Nonetheless, in the early 1870s, New Zealand supported the idea of an Antipodean tariff zone, much to Gladstone's fury (below). M.F. Lloyd Prichard, An Economic History of New Zealand to 1939 (Auckland, 1970), 80-3, 116.

[220] National Library of Australia, Gladstone to FitzGerald, copy, 19 April 1865, microfilmed by the Australian Joint Copying Project from British Library, Gladstone Papers, Add MS  44535 (letter book):; The Times, 25 January 1865, had published a long letter from FitzGerald, in which he had argued that the British government should either take complete control of the disturbed North Island or "let the colony manage its own affairs, which I have the most perfect confidence it can do perfectly well".

[221] Belich, The New Zealand Wars, 129-30, 185.

[222] Gladstone to Gordon, 11 July 1865, in Knaplund, ed., Gladstone-Gordon Correspondence, 46.

[223] Careless, Brown of the Globe, ii, 195-8; Skelton, Life and Times of Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, 382.

[224] Gladstone to Cardwell, private, 23 May 1865, Knaplund, ed., Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 243-6.

[225] Palmerston to the Queen, 20 January 1865, G.E. Buckle, ed., The Letters of Queen Victoria: Second Series  ... between the Years 1862 and 1878 (2 vols, London, 1926), i, 248-9.

[226] In his assumption that the future British North American legislature would find it simple to express a collective identity, Gladstone adopted an approach to Canadian opinion that Russell had condemned in 1848. "People argue ... as if a million and a half of people were like one man, who wished for British rule, or were against it": in fact, opinion among the colonists was divided, and supporters of the British connection were liable to be "discouraged by the apathy, coldness, and indifference of the Home Government". Morrell, British Colonial Policy in the Age of Peel and Russell, 476. The addition of New Brunswick and Nova Scotian opinion was more likely to strengthen the Canadian desire for a continuing relationship with Britain. Nonetheless, during his first ministry, Gladstone certainly sought to use apathy, coldness and indifference to encourage the new Dominion to go its own way.

[227] The British-Canadian conference was held on the afternoon of Ascension Day, probably to allow Gladstone to attend church in the morning. GD, vi, 357-8.

[228] Library and Archives Canada, Fonds Brown, Gladstone to Brown, 25 May 1865.

[229] This is one of the points in Gladstonian analysis where he sounds very like Rousseau (a thinker whose ideas never appealed to him), in asserting his right to distinguish between the general will, which pointed to the right answer for a community, a solution which, by definition, it should espouse, and the will of all, an accidental consensus of wrong ideas which people falsely believed constituted their collective point of view.   Morley, himself author of a study of an Rousseau, commented that "one of the strangest things in Mr. Gladstone’s growth and career is this unconscious raising of a partially Rousseauite structure on the foundations laid by Burke". Morley, Gladstone, i, 203. I plan to pursue this theme in a separate Note. 

[230] Gladstone to Gordon, 11 July 1865, in Knaplund, ed., Gladstone-Gordon Correspondence, 46.

[231] Jenkins, Britain & the War for the Union, ii, 391. "All is well that ends well!", his diary comment on 2 June, apparently referred to this outcome. GD, vi, 359.

[232] Gladstone to Cardwell, private, 23 May 1865, Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 243; Creighton, The Road to Confederation … 1864-1867, 277-83.

[233] Older accounts of New Brunswick politics in 1865-6 were mostly written by English-Canadian nationalist historians, who portrayed the Confederation issue as one fought between the good and the bad. W.M. Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin ... 1822-1896 (Toronto, 1977), 57-118 is the most nuanced account.

[234] Gladstone to Gordon, 11 July 1865, in Knaplund, ed., Gladstone-Gordon Correspondence, 46.

[235] GD, vi, 381 (August 1865). Matthew accepted that "Confederation" referred to Canada: the term was becoming a shorthand term for the project. It was listed last of the 8 subjects, which included the franchise and reform of the bankruptcy laws, and of the universities and public schools. The placing reflected the fact that ratification of a widely supported project was unlikely to provoke much debate. The intensive (and intense) debates of 1866 on parliamentary reform made remarkably little reference to franchise provisions in the self-governing colonies, although Australian democracy was denounced by Robert Lowe, a returned colonist from New South Wales. Gladstone claimed to feel "grief" at Lowe's insistence "that what he called anarchy must be arrested in the colonies by the paramount power of Parliamentary interference from this country for the purpose of taking away from our fellow-countrymen at the antipodes the powers of self-government which they enjoy". Hansard, clxxxiii, 27 April 1866, 123.

[236] PMP:WEG, iii, 247-8 (22 October 1866). Gladstone spoke Italian fluently.

[237] Hansard, clxxxv, 5 February 1867, 67.

[238] Gladstone probably had the Canadian close call of 1867 in mind when he was informed, during the 1884 crisis over the passage of the Third Reform Act, that a movement for closer union among the Australian colonies would require enabling legislation at Westminster. "Clearly we cannot bring an Australian Confederation Bill into the House of Commons at this moment", he wrote to the Colonial Secretary, Lord Derby. It might be introduced into the House of Lords "with full & explicit notice that it could not, so far as Ministers are concerned, be allowed to delay or entangle in any way, & in either House, the movement of the Franchise Bill". Since Gladstone could not control the domestic political agenda, this stipulation could hardly have been enforced. In the event, legislation to establish a federal council for the Australian colonies (including Fiji and New Zealand) was passed without difficulty and became law in August 1885. GD, xi, 228 (23 October 1884).

[239] UK National Archives, Carnarvon Papers, PRO 30/6/149, Macdonald to Carnarvon, private, 21 February, 41; Library and Archives Canada, John A. Macdonald Fonds, 51B, Carnarvon to Macdonald, private, 21 February 1867.

[240] GD, vi, 504 (4 March 1867).

[241] Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-67, 287-8. For Gladstone's unpopularity, and his "bitterness", Vincent, ed., Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party: Journals … of Edward Henry, Lord Stanley 1849-1869, 292-3, comments by the (then) Tory Foreign Secretary, who was not necessarily an objective observer. For the instability of parliamentary politics in early March 1867, M. Cowling, 1867 ... (Cambridge, 1967), 152 ff. Bernal Osborne probably did not care about any damage he might inflict upon Canada. In 1865, he had written "it would only be inviting defeat to attempt a prolonged defence in that country against America; our better plan would be to lend Canada a million or so, and let her set up for herself. I am sure this would be cheaper and wiser for England in the long run." P.H. Bagenal, The Life of Ralph Bernal Osborne... (London, 1884), 216.

[242] Gladstone's ambiguity regarding the extent of the British defence commitment to Canada was not wholly resolved by this speech, despite his assertion that there were "no bounds to the efforts which this country would make for the purpose of aiding and supporting the North-American Provinces in their willing and energetic efforts to maintain their connection with this country. But that is a totally different thing from saying that this connection is to be maintained by the expenditure of large sums of money from the British Treasury, either by way of pomp and display in the colony or by way of attracting favour there by a lavish charge."  Hansard, clxxxvi, 28 March 1867, 752-5:

[243] Hansard, clxxxvi, 28 March 1867, 753.

[244] GD, v, liii (Gladstone to Fortescue, 11 December 1867) discussed in E.D. Steele, Irish Land and British Politics... 1865-1870 (Cambridge, 1974), 67; Childe-Pemberton, Life of Lord Norton, 204.

[245] Library and Archives Canada, Monck Fonds, A-755, Adderley to Monck, 10 January and same to same, private, 29 February 1868.

[246] C. P. Stacey, "Britain’s Withdrawal from North America 1864–1871", Canadian Historical Review, xxxvi (1955), 185-198. Mention may be made here of the theory advanced by Freda Harcourt, that Gladstone's resistance to imperial adventures and the pressure that he placed on the Queen to resume her public duties laid the foundation for inter-related sentiments of monarchism and "imperialism" to emerge as a unifying national ideology after 1874. Harcourt's article does not refer to Canada, but it could be argued that the self-governing colonies were embraced by the posited combination in the era of royal celebrations from the Jubilee of 1887 to the 1902 Coronation, F. Harcourt, "Gladstone, Monarchism and the 'New' Imperialism, 1868-74", Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, xiv (1985), 20-51.

[247]  R. Shannon, Gladstone: Heroic Minister 1865-1898 (London, 2000 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1999), 57.

[248] Hansard, clxxxvii, 7 May 1867, 121-31; clxxxxiv, 1 March 1869, 428. Granville's allusion to Canadian use of commutation to settle compensation payments suggests that the parallels were discussed among ministers. Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1868-1876, i, document 67. In 1869, members of the Liberal opposition moved resolutions in the Canadian House of Commons welcoming the proposed disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of Ireland, adding that a Canadian act "bearing a close resemblance in its essential features to the measure now before the Imperial Parliament" had "finally and happily terminated" a similar controversy (i.e. the clergy reserves issue) in the province. Sir John A. Macdonald denounced the resolutions "with considerable warmth" ("it was not of supreme importance to the Empire what our opinions on such a question might be"), and secured their rejection by 89 votes to 49. Debates of the House of Commons of Canada, 31 May 1869, 529-48:

[249] In the House of Commons, Sir Graham Montgomery, a Scottish MP and landowner, condemned the legislation  as "extraordinary" and warned that "there are tenants in an island nearer home than Prince Edward's Island who would not object to similar legislation in their case, and would like well enough to purchase out by compulsion their landlords". The Act was challenged in the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that failure to settle the vexed landlord issue "would be likely to affect the peace as well as the prosperity of the province". Hansard, ccxxv, 23 July 1875, 1954-5; R. Bittermann, Rural Protest on Prince Edward Island ... (Toronto, 2006), 275-6.

[250] His ministry carried the British North America Act, 1871, enabling legislation to allow the Dominion to create new provinces, but this does not seem to have involved the Prime Minister. A junior minister expressed the government's "cordial approval" of British Columbia's accession to Confederation. The transfers to Canada of British Columbia, in 1871, and Prince Edward Island, in 1873, were made by Orders in Council, promulgated at formal meetings of the Privy Council in the presence and with the approval of the Queen. House of Commons business prevented Gladstone from travelling to Windsor Castle to attend the meeting of 16 May 1871 which made British Columbia the Dominion's 6th province, but he was present at the meeting of 26 June 1873, also at Windsor, which .approved Prince Edward Island becoming Canada's 7th province. Hansard, cciv, 13 February 1871, 164; British North America Acts (Ottawa, 1913), 75, 87.

[251] Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1868-1876, i, document 15 (8 January 1869). The inclusion of John Bright in Gladstone's cabinet neutralised the most likely British advocate of Nova Scotian secession.

[252] D.M.L. Farr, The Colonial Office and Canada, 1867-1887 (Toronto, 1955), 75, 79, 86, 287.

[253] GD, vii, 38 (10 March 1869); The Times, 11 March 1869; Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1868-1876, i, documents 37-40. Gladstone secured the Queen's permission for the new organisation to become the Royal Colonial Institute, the first of 3 name-changes in its history. T.R. Reese, The History of the Royal Commonwealth Society 1868-1968 (London, 1968), 13-18. The extended report of the banquet in Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, i, 1869, 33-5 shows that Cartier spoke mainly about Confederation, as an example of successful self-government.  R. C. Windscheffel, "Gladstone and Scott: Family, Identity and Nation", Scottish Historical Review, lxxxvi (2007) discusses the importance of Walter Scott's novels in Gladstone's value system. Cartier had been offended when his political partner, John A. Macdonald, was knighted in 1867, and he had been passed over. He was appeased by the grant of a baronetcy in 1868, the hereditary knighthood outranking Macdonald's KCB. Cartier had 2 daughters and an irregular private life which made it unlikely that he would ever father a legitimate son. Therefore the honorific would die with him, as it did in 1873. The Queen's enthusiasm for Cartier briefly threatened potential embarrassment. Cartier was accompanied in the Hudson's Bay negotiations by an Ontario politician, William McDougall, whom Granville described as "very huffy, and imperious" and likely to be offended if he was not also invited to Windsor. "Mr McDougall is very quiet in his manner, and not likely to do anything which would be annoying to the Queen." The Colonial Secretary carried his point, and he was able to escort both delegates to dine at the Castle: The Times, 26 March 1869.

[254] Kimberley recorded two versions of this cabinet discussion. The extract quoted comes from C.C. Eldridge, England's Mission ... 1868-1880 (London, 1973), 73 (8 May 1869). It differs slightly from the version in A. Hawkins and J. Powell, eds, The Journal of John Wodehouse First Earl of Kimberley for 1862-1902 (London, 1997), 234: "All agree that we could not defend Canada, & that our aim must be her independence." There is a difference between an outcome that was "much to be desired" and a specific aim.

[255] "Pussy" Granville was a popular figure. Like Gladstone, he occupied an anomalous position on the fringe of the fashionable world. Where Gladstone possessed much wealth but no lineage, Granville was an aristocrat whose Staffordshire acres mainly produced mineral wealth: M. E. Chamberlain, "Gower, Granville George Leveson-, second Earl Granville (1815–1891)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. In 1870, he was transferred to the Foreign Office, and succeeded as Colonial Secretary by the Earl of Kimberley. Granville's reassuring claim in July 1870 that "he had never known so great a lull in foreign affairs" was promptly followed by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War.

[256] Farr believed that Young had written privately to Granville, reporting opinions among Canadian politicians regarding the future status of the Dominion, a letter that has disappeared. Granville consulted Gladstone before responding, and it was out of this discussion that the decision was made to send a confidential despatch authorising the Governor-General to probe the independence question. Farr, The Colonial Office and Canada, 1867-1887, 282.

[257] The British government insisted that it prized the connection with the Dominion "while it is valued by the Canadians, and while it is useful to the Canadians. They have no desire to maintain it for a single year after it has become injurious or distasteful to them." The avoidance of the conditional in that sentence seems to imply a sense of certainty that the formal link would become irksome to Canada. Farr, The Colonial Office and Canada, 1867-1887, 283.

[258] Sir John Young had been replaced (some thought, supplanted) by Gladstone as Lord High Commissioner (i.e. governor) of the Ionian Islands in 1858-9. As a loyal official, he obeyed instructions as far as he could, but arguably had no reason to go out of his way to incur unpopularity for the Liberal government. But E. I. Carlyle and H. C. G. Matthew take a milder view in "Young, John, Baron Lisgar (1807–1876)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[259] Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1868-1876, i, documents 59, 195; Eldridge, England's Mission ... 1868-1880, 66-8; C. A. Thompson, "Young, Sir John, Baron Lisgar", Dictionary of Canadian Biography,  x: For the weakness of the independence argument in Canada at the time, C. Berger, The Sense of Power... (Toronto, 1970), 60-6; G.T. Denison, The Struggle for Imperial Unity... (London, 1909), 62-8. From her reading of Kimberley's diaries, Ethel Drus doubted whether Gladstone knew of Young's despatch until later, but there can be little doubt that he triggered the initiative. E. Drus, ed., "A Journal of Events during the Gladstone Ministry, 1868-1874", Camden Miscellany, 3rd series, xxi, 1958, xvii [bound with Camden Miscellany, 3rd series, xc, and often identified through the companion piece, R. Vaughan, ed., "The Chronicle Attributed to John of Wallingford"]. In July 1870, Kimberley noted that he shared the opinion of Alexander Campbell, the Canadian cabinet minister in Britain on official business "that the Dominion must exist for another five & twenty years before it can hope to stand alone as an independent State". Nonetheless, Kimberley resented Britain's anomalous relations with Canada. "What an absurdity it is that a colony containing between three and four millions of white people should throw the burden of its defence on the people of the United Kingdom, who are man for man less able to bear the cost than they are, not to mention that Canada obtains the whole advantage of our navy, and of the diplomatic & consular services for nothing. A connexion based on such grossly unequal terms cannot last." Kimberley doubted whether Britain could defend Canada against the Americans. He regarded it as "a complete mistake to keep any Queen's troops in the Dominion except at Halifax which may be regarded as an Imperial naval arsenal. … A handful of troops in Canada could be of no avail against an invasion from the United States, and merely serves to prevent the Canadians from raising a force for their own defence." Drus, ed., "A Journal of Events during the Gladstone Ministry, 1868-1874", 17-18 (22 July 1870).

[260] O.D. Skelton, Life and Times of Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt (Toronto, 1920), 451-6. The matter was raised in the House of Commons: Hansard, cc, 24 March 1870, 574-5.

[261] GD, vii, 223. Gladstone deleted the adverb "politically" from the adjective "independent". The phrase "which has been described" in the fifth clause may suggest that the memorandum was intended as a conclusion to a more discursive document. If so, this does not seem to have survived.

[262]GD, vii, 223n. Granville is here quoted as having referred to "reparation", which seems a mistake. I have emended the usage to "separation". "We are laying the foundation of a great State – perhaps one which at a future day may even overshadow this country", the Earl of Carnarvon had said in moving the Confederation legislation in 1867. Hansard, House of Lords, 19 February 1867, clxxxv, 576.

[263] Eldridge, England's Mission ... 1868-1880,  92-133, 144-8. The Gambia proposal failed at that time partly because the point of decision coincided with the Franco-Prussian War. When Sir Henry Parkes of New South Wales told Gladstone in 1894 that Australians regarded him as "indifferent, if not inimical, to the preservation of the connection between the colonies and England", Gladstone was "visibly surprised" – surely an example of his remarkable skills as an actor. H. Parkes, Fifty Years in the Making of Australian History (2 vols, facsimile ed., Freeport, NY, 1971, cf. 1st ed., 1892), ii, 103.

[264] Hansard, clxxxv, 19 February 1867, 1900-3. Russell had said much the same thing in 1850: F. Madden with D. Fieldhouse, eds, Settler Self-Government 1840-1900 ... (Westport, Conn., 1990), 9.

[265] Matthew, Gladstone, 1809-1874, 231.

[266] Library and Archives Canada, Monck Fonds, A-755, Adderley to Monck, 10 January 1868. In January 1866, he baldly noted that he had read about "Hudsons Bay case". This was probably the prosecution in 1863 of an Anglican clergyman, G.O. Corbett, for procuring an abortion. Corbett was sentenced to 6 months' imprisonment, but freed by a mob. The case raised jurisdictional and public order issues, but probably concerned Gladstone both for its moral aspect and because he was a trustee of the Colonial Bishoprics Fund. GD, vi, 411; T.G. Boreski, "Corbett, Griffith Owen", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xiii.

[267] For a useful overview, G. Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: a History (Toronto, 1964), 108-28. The section that follows is based on Part II of Ged Martin, "The British Government and the Red River, 1869-71 (Manitoba DoJ Report)",  especially Section B, ii:

[268] Sir John Michel, outgoing British commander in Canada, warned in April 1870 "that at Fort Garry [the military base in the Red River settlement] you are in a trap, from whence in case of any difficulty on the part of the United States you can only escape by Hudson Bay, of which the waters are only open six weeks in the year". G.F.G. Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada… (Toronto, 1960 ed., cf. 1st ed., London, 1936), 131.

[269] Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada, 121-2.

[270] The more respectable Latin word for the collectivity of the people was 'populus', from which we derive the English 'populace'.

[271] A. Briggs, ed., Gladstone's Boswell... (Brighton, 1994), 49.

[272] Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 103-21; Eldridge, England's Mission ... 1868-1880, 84-6.

[273] Gladstone to Kimberley, 16 May 1871, in GD, vii, 496. Northampton was Britain's principal centre of boot and shoe manufacture: a local toast hoped its trade would be trodden underfoot all over the world.

[274] Duffy's memorandum to the Colonial Office followed an intercolonial conference of representatives of New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.

[275] Gladstone to Kimberley, private, 29 December 1871, in GD, viii, 86-8.

[276] Gladstone to Kimberley, 14 October 1872, Knaplund, ed., Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 118-20. "Gladstone, Lowe, & Cardwell make no secret of their colonial policy," Kimberley had written seven months earlier, "namely to get rid of the colonies as soon as possible…. I am quite persuaded that the Australian colonies & Canada will become independent States; but to drive them into independence seems to me to be the utmost folly. Let it come of itself if it must, but I for one will be no party to any step which shall make them separate in anger." Although as a member of the House of Lords, Kimberley was to some extent removed from electoral politics, it is still noteworthy that his diary entry did not express concern at possible political unpopularity of such a confrontation. Hawkins and Powell, eds, The Journal of John Wodehouse First Earl of Kimberley for 1862-1902, 266 (2 March 1872).

[277] In June 1874, Henry Parkes of New South Wales, wrote to Gladstone (by then in opposition) to suggest that a customs union of the Australian colonies should be associated with political federation, arguing that "[a]ny new national importance that could be given to these young States would tend to bind them more firmly to Great Britain". Gladstone replied with his habitual courtesy to say that the subject was "very large and comprehensive" but "also one that by no means is new to my thoughts". He assured Parkes that there was no wish in Britain "to limit in any respect by pressure upon the colonies their powers of self-government". However, he insisted: "All that can be fairly asked, and that must in justice be desired, is that the responsibility of England shall be relaxed or contracted in proportion to the limitation of her power." In reply, Parkes strongly agreed that "England should be relieved of responsibility in proportion as her power is withdrawn from these outlying parts of the Empire." He added that, as far back as 1858, he had argued that "this colony should provide for its own military defence".  Nothing came of this move towards Australian federation. Gladstone to Parkes, 30 July; Parkes to Gladstone, 5 June, 26 September 1874, in Parkes, Fifty Years in the Making of Australian History, i, 325-7.

[278] Hansard, cccv, 10 May 1886, 587. Gladstone quoted the key sentence twice, in slightly different versions.

[279] The major exception is the New Zealand-born Richard Shannon, Gladstone: Heroic Minister 1865-1898, 103-4, 371. 

[280] Knaplund, ed., Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy, 109. Duffy extravagantly insisted that it was impossible to "understand how any treaty obligations with foreign countries can now or hereafter pretend to regulate the relations of two British Colonies any more than the relations between two Countries of the United Kingdom". This reckless claim ought to have undermined any claim to be subsequently regarded as an authority on Home Rule.  Eldridge, England's Mission ... 1868-1880, 85.

[281] GD, viii, 87.

[282] The Canada Year Book, 1905 (Ottawa, 1906), 155. The figures have been rounded, and hence do not total 100%.

[283] Masters, The Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, 39-50; University of Nottingham, Newcastle MSS, NeC 96326, Elgin to Newcastle, 29 May 1854. Failure of communication explained the failure of Nova Scotia to send an unofficial delegate to Washington, an omission that left Elgin "a good deal perplexed".

[284] F.F. Thompson, The French Shore Problem in Newfoundland ... (Toronto, 1961), 35-8.

[285] The French overplayed their demands, and the talks collapsed.

[286] Elsewhere I have offered the mischievous suggestion that the importance of this body has been under-estimated, because it did not suit patriotic Canadian historians to accept that the provinces might have been capable of cooperating in pursuit of common aims without forming the political alliance of Confederation. Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-67, 58, 317.

[287] N.McL. Rogers, "The Confederate Council of Trade", Canadian Historical Review, vii (1926), 277-86. Rogers was a Canadian graduate student at Oxford. In 1935, he became a cabinet minister under Mackenzie King, allowing his name to go on the title page of an adulatory biography essentially written by King himself. Rogers was killed in an air crash in 1940.

[288] Skelton, Life and Times of Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, 456-7.

[289] Gladstone had cogently condemned "that most wicked outrage – hardly, I think, to be paralleled in the annals of piracy itself – the Fenian invasion of Canada", highlighting the absurdity of the raids in a December 1867 speech: "Canada has inflicted no wrongs on Ireland; Ireland has wrongs; Canada has no power to remedy them." Hansard, clxxxvi (28 March 1867), 755; J.L. Hammond, Gladstone and the Irish Nation (London, 1964 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1938), 80.

[290] In October 1871, the cabinet noted a rumour that the humiliated French were prepared to sell St Pierre and Miquelon to the United States. There were occasional problems with small numbers of French fishermen with disputed rights along the Newfoundland coast. The Americans, on the other hand, would have been uncomfortable and probably intrusive neighbours. Ministers considered making private diplomatic enquiries about the matter, but eventually (and, as the outcome would indicate, rightly) decided not to get involved. GD, viii, 49.

[291] In 1871, the Dominion had "seven Marine Police Schooners employed in protecting the sea coast fisheries", with access to 6 police steamers, only one of which was based on the Atlantic seaboard, at Halifax. In 1871, just 3 American fishing vessels were seized for violating Canadian territorial waters. In practical terms, the Canadian inshore fisheries were defenceless. "In conformity with the expressed wish of Her Majesty's Government, fishing vessels belonging to United States' citizens were subjected to molestation or seizure solely for the flagrant offence of fishing within the three-miles limit": Annual Report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries, for the Year Ending 30th June, 1871 (Ottawa, 1872), 2-5, 64 and passim. (

[292] D. Creighton, John A. Macdonald: the Old Chieftain (Toronto, 1955), 79-188, esp. 81; B.J. Messamore, "Diplomacy or Duplicity? Lord Lisgar, John A. Macdonald, and the Treaty of Washington, 1871",  Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, xxxii (2004), 29–53.

[293] It has never been explained why so many commissioners were needed, since Earl de Grey insisted that they were all mandated and must vote as a block. De Grey headed them as a member of Gladstone's cabinet, and was  joined the British Minister in Washington, Sir Edward Thornton. The Conservative Sir Stafford Northcote, a popular figure across the political spectrum, provided a bipartisan element. (It was bluntly pointed out to Macdonald that this meant that Canada would not have defenders at Westminster if the Dominion refused to accept the terms of any agreement.) Northcote had also briefly headed the Hudson's Bay Company: his one personal intervention in the negotiations was to persuade the Americans to concede free navigation of the Stikine and Yukon Rivers. The professor of international law at Oxford, Mountague Bernard, provided technical advice: by coincidence, he was a cousin of Macdonald's recently-married second wife, who accompanied him to Washington to keep him sober. Hierarchy was demonstrated in a formal photograph of the British commissioners: de Grey, Thornton and Northcote were seated, with the academic Bernard and the colonial Macdonald standing behind them. 

[294] Gladstone to de Grey, private and confidential, 3 April; same to same, 4 April 1871, GD, vii, 472, 475.  Granville put the point in more neutral terms over disagreements about the Canadian fisheries: "it is awkward that one of our own Commissioners who I presume sees all our instructions should have an interest different from ours". Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1868-1876, i, document 498.

[295] Gladstone to Granville, copy, 1 May 1871, Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1868-1876, i, document 522.

[296] Gladstone to Granville, 20 February 1871, Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1868-1876, i, document 475. Gladstone continued to insist that the Fenian claims had neither been abandoned nor resolved, "but ... will stand for such separate consideration as they may deserve". Gladstone to Disraeli, 9 May 1871, GD, vii, 493. But here Gladstone was obviously attempting to blunt a possible opposition attack on the terms. He remained doubtful about the definition of the claims, GD, viii, 19 (10 August 1871).

[297] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: the Old Chieftain, 84-8; Messamore, "Diplomacy or Duplicity? Lord Lisgar, John A. Macdonald, and the Treaty of Washington, 1871", 35-43.

[298] Granville to Gladstone (copy), private, 4 April 1871; Gladstone to Granville, 12 April 1871, Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1868-1876, i, documents 496, 506. "Concuss" as a verb had been used by John Robertson, The Church History of Scotland … (1859), but there is no record in Gladstone's diaries that he ever read the book. In August 1871, he reiterated that the Canadian parliament should make its own decision regarding the Treaty of Washington, although with unenthusiastic saving clauses. "It seems right that in some way they should keep their own free agency if possible." GD, viii, 19 (letter to Kimberley, 10 August 1871).

[299] GD, vii, 497 (20 May 1871).

[300] Gladstone to Granville, 30 March 1871, Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1868-1876, i, document 492.

[301] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: the Old Chieftain, 94.

[302] Macdonald was informed that he would be made a Privy Councillor in November 1872, but was not sworn of as a member (a ceremony that could only be conducted by the Queen herself) until 1879. Addressing his constituents at Kingston in 1872, he implied that he might have had a peerage had he wished. At his death in 1891, his body lay in state clad in his Privy Councillor's uniform. Ged Martin, Favourite Son ... 1841-1891 (Kingston, Ont.), 169:

[303] Messamore, "Diplomacy or Duplicity? Lord Lisgar, John A. Macdonald, and the Treaty of Washington, 1871", 47.

[304] GD, viii, 79 and n. (18 December 1871).

[305] Messamore, "Diplomacy or Duplicity? Lord Lisgar, John A. Macdonald, and the Treaty of Washington, 1871", 47. Gladstone's explosion happened on 11 May 1871.

[306] The Washington experience did not improve Sir John A. Macdonald's opinion of Gladstone:

[307] Beck, Joseph Howe, ii, 275-6; Chisholm, ed., The Speeches and Public Letters of Joseph Howe, ii, 631-41; GD, viii, 137.  In 1865, Howe delivered a thundering oration at a convention in Detroit called to support the Reciprocity Treaty which was under threat from protectionists in Congress. His speech was published as a pamphlet: Gladstone read "Howe's Speech at Detroit" on 6 September. As with the 1872 entry, identification defied his editor. GD, vi, 382; Beck, Joseph Howe, ii, 189-91. Gladstone and Howe had clashed in public letters in 1856-7.

[308] Howe's address was ramblingly wide-ranging, and included a praiseworthy call to plant more trees in Ottawa. Macdonald to Rose, private, 5 March 1872, J. Pope, ed., Correspondence of Sir John Macdonald (Garden City, NY, 1921), 164-6.

[309] A. Lyall, The Life of  the Marquis of Dufferin And Ava (2 vols, London, 1905), i, 217. GD does not mention any letter to Dufferin in 1872. He had been appointed to Canada in March, some weeks before Gladstone read Howe's speech.

[310] Gladstone to Kimberley, 15 October 1872, in GD, viii, 224.

[311] Farr, The Colonial Office and Canada, 1867-1887, 88-91; GD, viii, 224 (15 October 1872).

[312] Although there is no evidence that Macdonald entered into any corrupt bargain in securing election funds, there were strong suspicions that his colleague, Sir George Cartier, might have given Allan written assurances of subsequent favours. (Cartier died in 1873.) In granting the Pacific charter, Macdonald compelled Allan to drop the American partners in his syndicate. Furious at the double-dealing, they supplied the opposition with embarrassing documentation. Despite Macdonald's claims of a comfortable victory at the polls in 1872 – in most Commons divisions, he could count upon the support of various opposition elements seeking regional advantages – his formal majority was very small: 104 nominal Conservatives against 96 nominal Liberals. In the four founding provinces, the result was a dead-heat, 95 seats each. The two new provinces (Manitoba added in 1870 with 4 MPs, British Columbia in 1871 with 6) were massively over-represented, in effect constituting rotten boroughs dependent upon central government generosity. Creighton, John A. Macdonald: the Old Chieftain, 118-78; Beck, Pendulum of Power, 13-21; Ged Martin, John A. Macdonald: Canada's First Prime Minister (Toronto, 2013), 132-3.

[313] Dilke's belief that Canada's Prime Minister was "Sir James Macdonald" [emphasis added] confirms that his tourist visit had allowed only superficial observation. C.W. Dilke, Greater Britain…. (2 vols, London, 1868), i, 77-80. Greater Britain had been published at about the time Gladstone formed his first ministry, but his diaries show that he read (or consulted) it 4 times between 1868 and 1871.

[314] Hansard, ccvii (22 July 1872), 1514.

[315] During Gladstone's second ministry, questions to the Prime Minister were grouped together, to spare him unnecessary attendance in the House.

[316] Hansard, ccxvii (1 August 1873), 1430-2. With the Colonial Secretary, Kimberley, in the House of Lords, Dilke's alternative would have been to challenge the Under-Secretary, Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen, who wrote children's fairy stories and was regarded as a political lightweight.

[317] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: the Old Chieftain, 272. Macdonald was sworn of the Privy Council at Osborne in 1879, it being assumed that his election victory the previous year had exonerated him. Although the journey to the Isle of Wight was inconvenient, Queen Victoria did not invite him to stay.

[318] One of his 'rescue' cases, Mrs Fitzroy, emigrated in 1874, probably with his financial support, "to her friends & a good life beyond the Ocean" in "BNA", presumably shorthand for Canada. GD, viii, 466-7. Despite his support for colonisation projects c. 1850, he seems to have taken little interest in the subsequent emigration of individuals.

[319] His opposition to Ultramontane assertiveness caused him to take some interest in Quebec, where Sir Alexander Galt led a similar campaign against the unhealthy political influence of the Archbishop of Montreal, Ignace Bourget. Gladstone and Galt, so divided by the issue of Protectionism, briefly united in defence of Protestantism. Gladstone congratulated Galt in playing "a manful part" against the "formidable power" of Ultramontanism, expressing his regret that it should have selected Canada "for one of its present points of attack upon human liberty". Gladstone perhaps expected that his letter would be published, but Galt seems never to have used it. When the former Quebec premier Henri Joly called to see him in 1879, Gladstone showed considerable interest in the position of Protestants in the province. Gladstone to Galt, 23 March 1876, in Skelton, Life and Times of Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, 488; A. Joly de Lotbinière, "Mr Joly's Mission to London [1879]", Canadian Historical Review, xxxi (1950), 401-5.

[320] Speech at Edinburgh, 25 November 1879, W.E. Gladstone, Midlothian Speeches 1879 (ed. M.R.D. Foot, Leicester, 1971, facsimile of London, 1879), 46. At West Calder on 27 November, he mentioned the challenge to British farmers from American imports, adding that there would soon "be added an enormous corn production from Manitoba, the great province which forms now a part of the Canada Dominion." Ibid., 99.

[321] D.M. Schreuder, Gladstone and Kruger: Liberal Government and Colonial 'Home Rule' 1880-1885 (London, 1969); Hansard, cclii (25 May 1880), 460; C.F. Goodfellow, Great Britain and South African Confederation 1870-1881 (Cape Town, 1966), 47. As with Gladstone's 1886 Home Rule bill, the British North America Act of 1867  was used for the drafting of Carnarvon's permissive federal legislation. Ibid., 120.

[322] Hansard, cclxiii, 25 July 1881, 1859-60.

[323] The passage was reported by the Toronto Globe on 9 August 1881, but had obviously not featured in the earlier summaries of the Transvaal debate sent by telegraph.

[324] The two situations were hardly comparable. The European-descended population of the Transvaal was about 50,000 in the early 1880s. At the 1881 census, the Dominion of Canada was home to 4.3 million people.

[325] In September 1881, Gladstone read J.G. Bourinot's The Intellectual Development of the Canadian People: an Historical Review (Toronto, 1881), an upbeat review of progress in Canadian education, journalism and literature. The fact that he chose to peruse the volume confirms Gladstone's continued awareness of the Dominion, but it should be noted that Bourinot faced stiff competition: on the same day, he was reading the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and Don Quixote by Cervantes. GD, x, 134.

[326] In 1882, Gladstone challenged the Home Rulers: "they cannot take the first, the most preliminary step, until they have produced a plan and set forth the machinery by which they mean to decide between Imperial and local questions, and so to give satisfaction to Members of this House upon the first and most paramount duty – namely, to maintain the supremacy of the Imperial authority for every practical purpose relating to the interests of this great Empire." Hansard, ccxxvi, 9 February 1882, 226.

[327] The Times, 27 February 1871,

[328] In the early years of Confederation, most provincial governments were mildly friendly to Ottawa, and Macdonald mostly managed disagreements over the boundaries of areas of responsibility through informal counselling and pressure. By 1871, only 5 pieces of provincial legislation had been disallowed by Ottawa. Dominion-provincial relations became much more hostile after the Liberal opposition captured control of Ontario in December 1871. B.W. Hodgins, John Sandfield Macdonald 1812-1872 (Toronto, 1971), 99-100; G. Stevenson, Ex Uno Plures: Federal-Provincial Relations in Canada, 1867-1896 (Montreal and Kingston, 1993), 233-7. In 1883, Lisgar's widow owned 8,924 acres (12.96 square miles) of land in County Cavan, with a rental of £7,007. J. Bateman, The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland... (London, 1883), 272.

[329] Macdonald to Lisgar, 11 May 1871, Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, ii, 222-6. Lisgar spoke only occasionally in the House of Lords, drawing in more detail on his experience as Governor of New South Wales before his appointment to Canada. There is no evidence that he forwarded Macdonald's scheme to any influential person in Britain. The preface to Isaac Butt's pamphlet on Home Government (quoted below) is dated 15 August 1870 in Dublin. Young's conversation with Macdonald in September may be linked to news of his opinions. Some of Macdonald's suggestions, such as his proposal to establish similar Grand Committees for the North and South of England, would have been treated with derision. His plan to use the House of Lords to supervise proposals from the Irish Grand Committees was probably impractical: few peers would have welcomed undertaking such detailed scrutiny. Macdonald's plan to grant the Irish Grand Committees limited powers of taxation would have been inequitable: Connaught (Connacht) in the poverty-stricken west, which needed public investment, would have been placed at a disadvantage in comparison with relatively prosperous Ulster in the north. 

[330] Isaac Butt, Irish Federalism: its Meaning, its Objects, and its Hopes (Dublin, 1870), 61,87.

[331] Hansard, ccxxx (30 June 1876), 738.

[332] Hansard, ccxviii (20 March 1874), 112. Speaking on Home Rule on 30 June 1874, he made no mention of Canada.

[333] Hansard, ccxxx (30 June 1876), 740. Butt was not very well informed about Australia.

[334] Hansard, ccxxxiii (24 April 1877), 1819-20.

[335] D. Thornley, Isaac Butt and Home Rule (London, 1964), 280-5. It was on this occasion that the novice MP for County Meath, C.S. Parnell, attracted attention by denying that the death of Sergeant Brett at Manchester in 1868, for which three Fenians were hanged, was a case of murder.

[336] Hansard, ccxxx (30 June 1876), 793.

[337] Hansard, ccxxxiii (24 April 1877), 1757. Forster had visited Canada in 1874.

[338] B.J. Messamore, Canada's Governors General 1847-1878 ... (Toronto, 2006), 208-13.

[339] Hansard, ccxxx (30 June 1876), 804-6.

[340] Hansard, ccxxxiii (24 April 1877), 1828-9.

[341] P.J. Smyth, a Young Ireland veteran who had broken with the Parnellites, moved a Home Rule amendment to the Address in 1882. "Look to the Colonies – England's grandest achievement", he appealed. "They are virtually independent countries; yet on the wings of every wind that beats upon our shores are borne the strains of the National Anthem." Hansard, ccxxvi, 8 February 1882, 203.

[342] Gladstone to Lorne, 7 March 1879, W.S. MacNutt, Days of Lorne ... (Fredericton, New Brunswick, 1955), 231. Gladstone had recognised in 1867 that the battle over Canadian tariffs had been lost: "if there is any one thing which we are entitled to insist upon as a limit to that self-government, it is that British merchandise should enter into these provinces upon certain terms; but instead of that, the assent of the Queen has been given to Acts imposing duties of 10, 15, 20, and 25 per cent upon products of English industry entering Canada". Hansard, clxxxvi (28 March 1867), 753.

[343] D. Shanahan, "Costigan, John", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xiv:; Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin ... 1822-1896, esp. 222-6. Costigan was born in Canada, the son of an immigrant from Kilkenny. Anglin came from Clonakilty in County Cork. His decision to emigrate in 1849 was almost certainly made for economic reasons but his departure date encouraged his detractors to claim that, like D'Arcy McGee, he had fled the country after taking part in Ireland's 1848 rebellion.

[344] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: the Old Chieftain, 333-4; Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, ii, 228-32; Macdonald to Lord Lorne, private, 2 May 1883, Pope, ed., Correspondence of Sir John Macdonald, 287-9.

[345] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: the Old Chieftain, 331-2 (28 February 1882); Pope, ed., Correspondence of Sir John Macdonald, 286.

[346] For the Costigan resolutions, Debates of the House of Commons of Canada, 20 April 1882, 1033-4. For the debate, ibid., 1030-66:

[347] B. Forster and J.  Swainger, "Blake, Edward", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xiv: There is a brief but useful note by D. Murphy in the Dictionary of Irish Biography. One of the first MA graduates of the University of Toronto, Blake gave the impression of looking down on lesser mortals. He entered Westminster as MP for South Longford in 1892. He spoke several times during the 1893 Home Rule debates, citing Canadian parallels. Perhaps his most penetrating observation was: "Canada … occupying rather an obscure corner of the world, had settled its own difficulties without troubling England, and therefore had not given this country an opportunity of learning much about it." Hansard, 14 April 1893, xi, 409-10.

[348] The resolutions were subsequently endorsed by the Senate on 3 May 1882, by a vote of 36 to 6, after a very long debate over two nights. A vocal minority insisted that the grievances of Ireland were exaggerated, while one Senator criticised the initiative as "most injudicious". Anyone planning to plough through the debate should heed the comment of another member:  "It requires native Irish eloquence to do justice to such a subject as this." Debates of the Senate of Canada, 2-3 May 1882, 492-578.

[349] Pope, ed., Correspondence of Sir John Macdonald, 289.

[350] Freeman's Journal, 25, 26 April, Lloyd's Illustrated News, 29 April, The Times, 2, 6 May 1882.

[351] Hansard, 1 May 1882, cclxviii, 1832-3. Gladstone's allusion to "the Assembly of Canada" no doubt reflected his irritation, since he would have been well aware the lower chamber of the Ottawa parliament had been designated as the House of Commons in 1867, to mark the Dominion's enhanced status within the Empire. A hostile Conservative MP asked whether Macdonald's part in the affair was compatible with his role as an Imperial Privy Councillor. This was unfair, since most Conservative front-benchers were Right Honourables but felt free to criticise government policy.

[352] Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, ii, 229. The Colonial Secretary, Lord Kimberley, eventually responded to the transmission of the official address on 12 June 1882. "Her Majesty will always gladly receive the advice of the Parliament of Canada on all matters relating to the Dominion, and the administration of its affairs". However, in relation to the matters raised the address, the Queen would abide by "the Constitution of this country" and follow "the advice of the Imperial Parliament and Ministers, to whom all matters exclusively relating to the affairs of the United Kingdom exclusively appertain". Ibid., 229n.

[353] Parnell was so horrified that he offered to resign his seat in parliament if Gladstone wished it: the Prime Minister rejected the offer (acceptance must have been a temptation) but praised "the honourable motives by which it was prompted". The writer and Parnellite supporter, Katharine Tynan, recalled the impact of the news of the Phoenix Park murders: "the most anti-English of us had a sick sense of guilt in those first hours". F.S.L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell (London, 1978 ed., cf 1st ed. 1977), 208-9; K.  Tynan, Twenty-Five Years: Reminiscences (London, 1913), 92.

[354] The amnesty movement also provided a convenient organisational cover for the Fenians themselves. In fact, over 30 Fenian convicts had been released in January 1871. R.V. Comerford, The Fenians in Context ... (Dublin, 1998 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1985), 184-5.

[355] Kimberley to Lorne, 11 May 1882, Creighton, John A. Macdonald: the Old Chieftain, 334. Kimberley's use of "anglers" was probably a sardonic allusion to the distrusted T.W. Anglin. The Phoenix Park killers were members of a breakaway group from the Fenians, but it is unlikely that the British (or Canadian) public would have appreciated the distinction.

[356] Marquis of Lorne, "Canadian Home Rule", Contemporary Review, November 1883, 637-43.

[357] R.M. Stamp, Royal Rebels... (Toronto, 1988), 184. Macdonald learned his lesson. In 1886, he blocked an absurdly worded resolution proposed by Blake inviting the Dominion House of Commons to "hail with joy" the introduction of Gladstone's Home Rule Bill: a mild restatement of the sentiments of 1882 was hailed by Gladstone as an example of transatlantic wisdom.  An 1887 attempt by Ottawa legislators to express "profound regret" at the imposition of Coercion in Ireland became a milder expression of "regret that it is considered necessary to pass a coercive measure for Ireland." Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, ii, 230-1.

[358] In a press interview in February 1883, Michael Davitt urged that, once the land issue was resolved, it would "require very little sagacity on the part of English statesmenship [sic] to see the necessity of doing for Ireland what has contented Canada, and what would enable Irishmen to devote to the national good of our country those energies and that time which are now given to political agitation". Davitt was a person of great ability, but there could hardly have been a less acceptable advocate for the Canadian precedent in the eyes of most British readers than this ex-Fenian prisoner and land-reform campaigner. The Times, 8 February 1883.

[359] New Zealand had abolished its relatively weak provincial system in 1876.

[360] A.B. Keith, Responsible Government in the Dominions (2 vols, rev. ed., Oxford, 1928, cf. 1st ed., 3 vols, 1912), i, 517-22 remains useful on Dominion-provincial relations and was less tiresomely opinionated than most of his writings. Keith pointed out that integral to the division of powers were Sections 93 (on education, discussed below in relation to the 1887 Round Table Conference) and 95, which gave both Ottawa and the provinces the right to legislate in regard to agriculture and immigration. A clear statement here of Dominion supremacy ensured the avoidance of serious conflict in these fields.

[361] This was made explicit by the Tenth Amendment of 1791: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

[362] J.E.C. Munro, The Constitution of Canada (Cambridge, 1889), 13. Munro was Professor of Law at Owens College, Manchester. Gladstone's diary records that he consulted Munro's book on 12 October 1889 (GD, xii, 237).

[363] In 1870, a mutual benefit society in Montreal found itself short of funds, and persuaded the Quebec provincial legislature to permit a reduction in the level of pensions it paid to its beneficiaries. One widow took legal action, arguing that the province had no jurisdiction. The JCPC ultimately decided that this was not a Dominion problem, since the mutual benefit society was neither bankrupt nor insolvent, but simply short of money. The frontier between the two zones thus remained undefined. Stevenson, Ex Uno Plures, 284.

[364] More generally, J.E.C. Munro concluded: "The power of the Dominion Parliament to legislate on trade or commerce is limited by the implied or incidental power the Provinces have of passing laws necessary to give effect to the express powers of legislation committed to them." Munro, The Constitution of Canada, 255. By the 1880s, it was becoming clear that "implied or incidental power" was difficult both to define and, arguably, to restrict.

[365] P.B. Waite, Canada 1874-1896: Arduous Destiny (Toronto, 1971), 175-7; A.M. Evans, Sir Oliver Mowat (Toronto, 1992), 141-81. In 1867, Ontario was the only province to opt for a unicameral legislature. In the first 4 years of Confederation, the Ontario ministry led by John Sandfield Macdonald worked closely with his Ottawa namesake.

[366] As so often with legal terminology, "supreme" did not necessarily mean what it seemed. Ontario's legislative supremacy functioned within the limits set by the British North America Act, some subjects fell under both central and local control, and the Dominion's unfettered power to disallow provincial legislation remained unchecked. However, in some respects, a hard-and-fast 'federal' division might have been preferable to the "double-aspect" doctrine which emerged: "subjects which in one aspect and for one purpose fall within section 92, may in another aspect and for another purpose fall within section 91". A.V. Dicey claimed Gladstone's 1886 Home Rule bill contained "blunders in draughtsmanship" and "confusion of ideas" which were "from a legal point of view open to severe criticism". Had it become law, it would surely have introduced a wholly new and much disputed quality of judicial review into the British constitution, and the recent Canadian cases would have offered the most likely basis for the evolution of a new jurisprudence. It was perhaps ironic that the judgment in Hodge was written by an Irish judge, Lord Fitzgerald. Stevenson, Ex Uno Plures, 289-90; J.T. Saywell, The Lawmakers: Judicial Power and the Shaping of Canadian Federalism (Toronto, 2002), 98; Dicey, England's Case against Home Rule (ed. E.J. Feuchtwanger), 224n.  In Britain, 'Hodge' was a nickname for the illiterate farm labourer.

[367] The Times, 17 December 1883.

[368] Parnell's apparent lack of interest in the Canadian model is noteworthy. See Ged Martin, "Why did Parnell avoid Ottawa in 1880?":  

[369] Hansard, 10 May 1886, 615.

[370] R. Robinson and J. Gallagher, with A. Denny, Africa and the Victorians … (London, 1965), 132, and 76-209 for the Gladstone government's "Egyptian bondage" generally. I have followed the contemporary usage and included a direct article, "the Sudan", since the region was not then considered an independent sovereign entity.

[371] Shannon, Gladstone: Heroic Minister 1865-1898, 327-33, 347-51.

[372] "Wolseley made a great exploit on a small scale at the Red River and will probably now do the same for Dongola," Gladstone wrote to Rosebery: GD, xi, 197 (23 August 1884).  It is curious that Gladstone, so often suspicious of grandiose schemes, did not question the assumption that the voyageurs would adjust to African conditions (there were no crocodiles in Canada). The scheme also passed over the obvious fact that Nile boatmen could draw upon several millennia of communal experience of working the river. The Sudanese town of Dongola (Dunqulā) was not on a Cataract, but was regarded as the key to Khartoum.

[373] C.P. Stacey, Canada and the Age of Conflict, i  (Toronto, 1979 ed., cf 1st ed. 1977), 41-2. The voyageur contingent consisted of six militia officer and 380 non-combatants, all civilians: 16 lost their lives. Unusually, Matthew lacked clarity when he stated that the Nile route "was chosen chiefly by Wolseley on the basis of his Red River experience in Canada a generation earlier, (when he had suppressed a much smaller rebellion, partly by moving soldiers up-river at speed using whaling boats)". The Nile was chosen because it offered the simplest means of transporting an army to Khartoum, not to mention supplying large numbers of troops with drinking water. In 1883, William Hicks, a British officer commanding troops for the (subordinate) Egyptian government, had led a force of 7,000 men, plus camp followers, into the desert, where they were massacred. Subsequent problems in moving New South Wales from Dongala on the Red Sea in a pincer movement to support Wolseley's main column confirmed the challenges of using desert routes. In the Red River campaign, Wolseley did not move his troops "up-river at speed", but followed the intricate network of waterways that drained the Canadian Shield. Equipment, supplies and – of course – boats were dragged across the connecting watersheds ("portages"), using temporarily constructed roadways on which tree trunks were placed to act as rollers. There were 47 portages. Wolseley arrived at the head of Lake Superior on 25 May 1870; he entered Fort Garry, the Hudson's Bay Company post at the Red River, on 24 August. By then, the insurgency had been resolved by political negotiations. The expedition helped establish Wolseley's reputation for efficiency, but he was fortunate that First Nations did not interfere with his transit, and that Metis did not use their superior knowledge of terrain to harass his expedition. Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 147; Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada, 126-41.

[374] Punch, 21 February 1885, 87:

[375] Hansard, cccii (25 February 1886), 1255.

[376] K.S. Inglis, The Rehearsal ... (Dee Why, NSW, 1985), 7-61. The New South Wales contingent was intended to comprise 634 men and 196 horses; it sailed with 700 men and 218 horses. When its troopship called at Adelaide, two members of the South Australian militia plus one small boy attempted to stow away. The force included an artillery battery: in Canada, Macdonald insisted that the artillery men of the Dominion's small Permanent Force could not be ordered overseas. Macdonald also sardonically predicted that the likely pay for any volunteer soldiers, sevenpence (3p) a day "will cool most men's warlike ardour". New South Wales paid its soldiers a generous five shillings (25p) a day, plus allowances e.g. for married men. This was five times the nominal daily pay rate (before deductions) in the British Army, a disparity that caused some tensions.

[377] Inglis, The Rehearsal, 22, 25. The Earl of Derby was the Lord Stanley to whom Palmerston had offered the Colonial Office in 1855. 27 years later, he had finally escaped from his hereditary captivity in the Conservative party and joined Gladstone's Liberal cabinet.

[378] "I tried a little mild sarcasm," Derby noted of an interview with the Australian agents-general, the colonies' quasi-diplomatic representatives in London, "asking whether they did not want a whole planet to themselves … but I found the matter too serious for joking; they could not think themselves safe in a country as big as Europe, if Italy or Germany had a harbour within three or four days' steaming of their shores". Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby … between 1878 and 1893, 561 (28 June 1883). There was no prospect of any Italian presence in the Pacific region.

[379] Macdonald to Tupper, 13 March 1885, Pope, ed., Correspondence of Sir John Macdonald, 337-8. Partial quotation by Stacey indicates that Pope emended Macdonald's spelling: Canada and the Age of Conflict ..., i, 41-2.

[380] Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby … between 1878 and 1893, 750; A.B. Cooke and J. Vincent, The Governing Passion … 1885-86 (Brighton, 1974), 193; GD, xi, 293, 298 (9, 18 February 1885).

[381] Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby … between 1878 and 1893, 755-6 (22 February 1885); Hansard, cclxxxxiv (19 February 1885), 879. Edward Grey, then a recently elected Liberal backbencher, thought Gladstone's performance revealed "one of the great flaws of his character .... His great eloquence has generated a certain egotism in him and this has become a sore point. With all his enthusiasm for a principle and a cause, he has come to identify himself with that cause. He is angry with the cause or principle if it fails, because he can’t bear to allow himself to fail. ... the result was a sullen and embarrassed refusal to apologise for himself or even to give credit to the merits of Gordon, our Army and the Colonies. ... [He] left all the eulogy of Gordon, troops and Colonies, one bright spot amid the awful gloom, to be set forth by Sir Stafford Northcote, his opponent." In fairness to Gladstone, dealing with the death of Gordon was one of his most searing political experiences, and it is hardly fair to assess his overall parliamentary strategy against such an extreme episode. In May 1882, he spoke under great emotion about Lord Frederick Cavendish, but was sustained by the profound sympathy of the House of Commons. No such indulgence was offered over the loss of Gordon. G.M. Trevelyan, Grey of Fallodon... (London, 1937), 29-30.

[382] There was a curious tailpiece to Canada's gesture of support in 1885. Later that year, the Dominion used its own troops (mostly volunteers) to suppress a rebellion among the Metis in the West led to Louis Riel, whose messianic beliefs made him something of a Canadian equivalent of the Mahdi. The Canadian government wished to issue commemorative medals to its volunteers, but military etiquette required that soldiers of the Queen could only receive decorations approved by the Queen herself. Somehow, this became transmuted into a proposal that Britain should pay for them. In a debate on supplementary estimates on 25 February 1886, members queried the £1,200 cost. "What have the Canadians done to entitle them to medals to be paid for by the taxpayers of this country?", demanded the pacifist MP Randal Cremer, who believed that the Metis had been "goaded into rebellion by the injustice with which they were treated by the Canadian Government". T.M. Healy joined in, condemning the Canadian government for the subsequent execution of Riel, "who appears to have been a confirmed lunatic, and ought to have been confined in an asylum": he also deplored the hanging of Aboriginal people involved in the rebellion. In a further complication, the supplementary estimates were moved by the Gladstone government, which had only been in office for less than a month, but felt bound to carry through expenditure agreed by its predecessor. The Conservative frontbencher W.H. Smith had not been Colonial Secretary at the time, but he assumed that Salisbury's cabinet had "deemed it advisable to accede to the request of the Canadian Government" since "this country had received much aid and comfort from our Colonial forces in an enterprize which this country lately conducted on the Nile". This, of course, did not explain why the British taxpayer should bear the cost. Healy's motion to reduce the vote by £1,195 compelled the intervention of Gladstone himself. The Prime Minister evidently could not understand how the obligation to pay for the medals had arisen, but he pointed out that rejection of the item "would be open to misconstruction in Canada; and, on the whole, I am not willing to incur the risk of that misconstruction". Healy's amendment was rejected by 209 votes to 66. Hansard, cccii (25 February 1886), 1244-57.  

[383] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: the Old Chieftain, 441-2; H. Gilbert, Awakening Continent: the Life of Lord Mount Stephen, i, 1829-91 (2nd ed., Aberdeen, 1976, cf. 1st ed., 1965), 191-207; A. Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1876-1886 (2 vols, Oxford, 1962), ii, 429 (letter of 11 February 1886). Ironically, the settlement on Burrard Inlet which was to become the transcontinental railway's Pacific terminus had been named Granville in 1871 to commemorate his earlier term at the Colonial Office. It was renamed Vancouver when chartered as a city in April 1886.  In January 1887, Gladstone read a Quarterly Review article (clxiv, 119 ff.), which praised the newly completed CPR, and included a plug for the Pacific mail service.

[384] Thompson, The French Shore Problem in Newfoundland, 70-3; Gladstone to Granville, 15 March 1886, Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1876-1886, ii, 433. Born of British parents and a graduate of Cambridge, the French ambassador, W.H. Waddington, had opted to claim French citizenship and had served as his country's Prime Minister. Dr James Hiller informs me that no honours were granted to Newfoundland politicians by the third Gladstone ministry. In May 1887, the Gladstones held a garden party in honour of the delegates to the 1887 Colonial Conference. This was held at Dollis Hill, a house at Willesden ("Willy's Den" as Punch renamed it) near London which they borrowed from Lord Aberdeen. Few of the delegates came, but the most prominent was Sir Ambrose Shea, a prominent Newfoundland politician who was seeking an Imperial appointment. Sir Sandford Fleming of Canada also turned up. The Times, 16 May 1887.

[385] Gladstone, Midlothian Speeches 1879 (ed. Foot), 357-8, address of 11 March 1880.

[386] Gladstone's definition of "devolution" was given in his memorandum of 23 October 1880, Hammond, Gladstone and the Irish Nation, 199. See also GD, x, 348 (to Katharine O'Shea, private, 10 October 1882).

[387] Hammond, Gladstone and the Irish Nation, 198-204; Gladstone to G.O. Trevelyan, 30 December 1882, GD, x, 388.

[388] In 1880, he evidently drew upon Section 92 of the British North America Act in proposing to ban the proposed Grand Committees from considering a wide range of potentially controversial subjects, in a list that closely resembled the exclusions he would propose in the Home Rule Bill of 1886. Hammond, Gladstone and the Irish Nation, 198-204.

[389] P. Guedalla [ed.], The Queen and Mr Gladstone 1880-1898 (London, 1953), 178.

[390] Notwithstanding his status as Britain's pre-eminent statesman, he insisted on his right to silence. "No one has a right to ask me my opinion on a question which has not actually arisen, though it may be about to arise", he told his cabinet colleague Lord Spencer on 9 May 1885. "Of what I may propose on Irish Gov[ernmen]t you know little but shreds and patches", he reproved Chamberlain on 15 March 1886. GD, xi, 337; Cooke and Vincent, The Governing Passion, 385. Two years later, Gilbert and Sullivan would forever associate the phrase "shreds and patches" with the wandering minstrel of Yeomen of the Guard. Gladstone was giving no such signal.

[391] Gladstone to Derby, 17 July 1885, GD, xi, 372. Shannon, Gladstone: God and Politics, 363-4 suggests that Gladstone was deliberately raising the stakes to prepare the way for a formal declaration of his conversion to Home Rule. But the statement may equally be read as a reservation of his position and a determination to wait upon events. 

[392] Gladstone to Hartington, 8 September; Hartington to Gladstone, 10 September 1885, B. Holland, The Life of Spencer Compton, Eighth Duke of Devonshire (2 vols, London, 1911), ii, 81-5.

[393] GD, xi, 402 and n. (17 / 20 September 1885).

[394] Simplicity is perhaps not the most obvious element in the British North America Act. Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 216, 250. Matthew noted that it was unusual to ask the Chief Whip to provide documents, and suspected that the request was "intended as a hint". However, Gladstone was at Hawarden, Grosvenor was in London, and there were good reasons to rely upon the confidential help of a trusted ally and so avoid encouraging speculation about the direction of Gladstone's thinking. The Grosvenor family mansion, Eaton Hall in Cheshire, was 6 miles from Hawarden, and it is possible that Lord Richard had access to some private courier service. He would oppose Home Rule in 1886. As he began to draft possible Home Rule schemes in November, Gladstone recognised that, in a Dublin legislature, "Irish Officers of State will be under the sole control of the Chamber and advise the Crown for Irish purposes (as e.g. in Canada Canadian Officers of State)". But the British North America Act made no mention of the office of prime minister, nor of a cabinet, nor indeed of any form of parliamentary government. It was simply assumed that the existing system of responsible government would animate the new structure. GD, xi, 430 (14 November 1885). 

[395] "A cabinet does not exist out of office", Gladstone wrote in December 1885, adding that "no one in his senses" would attempt to reconvene the one he had headed that had resigned (or disintegrated) 6 months earlier. Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1876-1886, ii, 419 (letter of 28 December 1885). In fact, Gladstone had consulted his ex-colleagues on several occasions during the summer of 1885.

[396] Speaking in support of the Home Rule bill, Childers gave an absurdly tendentious account of Australian constitutional development around the time of the concession of responsible government in 1856. "I was a resident in Australia 30 years ago, and I was a witness of the great struggle which was constantly going on there between the Australian Colonies and the Crown when the English Government refused them control over their own financial affairs, and also refused to give them responsible government. By responsible government we all know what is meant. I saw some years of that controversy, and I also saw the victory that was gained by the Colonies. And at the end of that struggle I was myself one of the elected Members in the Legislature of the Colony of Victoria, and a Member of the first responsible Cabinet. I can say, without exaggeration, that from the time those powers were given to the Colony all the old feelings of distrust towards the Mother Country, and of hostility to her action which had sprung up in later years, and had led to considerable mischief, passed away. And at the present time the 3,000,000 of people in the Australian Colonies are probably as loyal and contented subjects of the Queen as are to be found in her Dominions. This, Sir, is due to the concession of responsible government, and entire control over their own affairs, which was so stoutly resisted by the Government of this country, 40 years ago, and the difficulty has been ended by the establishment of most satisfactory relations between us and these Colonies." Hansard, 21 May 1886, 1749-50. A Cambridge graduate with influence "at Home", Childers had been appointed Collector of Customs in the colony of Victoria, at the age of 26, and a salary of £2,000 a year. In 1855, the Governor, Sir Charles Hotham, asked the Colonial Office to dismiss him for incompetence, but Childers mobilised support in London, and Hotham was censured. Thus the only notable metropolitan intervention in Australian affairs experienced  by Childers was the result of his own self-interested campaign. British governments in the 1850s showed no reluctance in conceding responsible government to the larger Australian colonies, and to New Zealand, where its introduction there was arguably premature. The misleading and exaggerated account given by Childers shows how easily colonial precedents could be manipulated to an audience, even the British House of Commons, which lacked first-hand knowledge. H.L. Hall, "Childers, Hugh Culling Eardley (1827–1896)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, iii:

[397] In this subsequent but undated account, Childers perhaps rationalised the development of his ideas. S. Childers, The Life and Correspondence of the Right Hon. Hugh C.E. Childers 1827-1896 (2 vols, London, 1901), ii, 230-3.

[398] Labouchere to Herbert Gladstone, 6 October 1885, P. Fraser, Joseph Chamberlain … (London, 1966), 71.

[399] The Times, 1 January 1886. Few would have shared his belief that 30 years of autonomy had made Galicia "enthusiastically loyal to the Austrian Crown" Local self-government had been conceded in 1873: Blunt's arithmetic was inaccurate too. Dicey acerbically noted that there was "something slightly ridiculous in the zeal with which the advocates of Home Rule, using at least as much industry as discrimination, have scraped together every instance they can lay their hands upon of constitutions under which something which can be called Home Rule exists without producing palpable injury to the State". A.V. Dicey, England's Case against Home Rule (ed. E.J. Feuchtwanger, Richmond, 1973 ed., cf 1st ed. London, 1886), 51.

[400] Chamberlain to Labouchere, 27 December 1885, A. L. Thorold, The Life of Henry Labouchere (London, 1913), 273.

[401] The Times, 29 December 1885. In the aftermath of the Hawarden kite, the Duke of Argyll's son, Lord Lorne, was ambushed by an ambitious journalist from the London Daily News seeking an authoritative opinion from the former Governor-General. Lorne was unhelpful, dismissing the idea "that Canadian and American experience may help to solve the Irish question. There is hardly anything to be learnt from such experience in favour of what Mr Gladstone speaks of as 'devolution'." Globe (Toronto), 7 January 1886.

[402] Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1876-1886, ii, 414 (letter of 9 December 1885).

[403] Gladstone repudiated the speculation, but a lengthy report of his plans issued by the National Press Agency carried conviction. The Times, 18 December 1886. Eighteen years earlier, he had been able to control the emergence of the Irish Church issue through a similar strategy of Delphic silence, and almost within the framework of the same dates. His Southport speech of 19 December 1867 had raised the Irish land and Church questions (cf. the Hawarden Kite on 17 December 1885). He offered no solutions, telling his audience "you must face these obligations: you must deal with them and discharge them". (A charmingly risible fantasy might picture the residents of Southport huddled on the seafront some winter day, trying to solve the challenges of Ireland.) His own views were revealed in stages during March and April 1868. By the time he unveiled his Home Rule proposals in April 1886, the debate in Great Britain was virtually over. GD, v, xliii. There is an extensive and accessible extract from the Southport speech in Sydney Morning Herald, 18 February 1868 (via National Library of Australia's Trove online newspaper collection).

[404] Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby … between 1878 and 1893, 825 (7 January 1886); Home Rule ... Recent Articles and Letters (London, 1888).

[405] The Times, 4 January 1886.

[406] The Times, 19 December 1886. In February 1886, Gladstone read articles on Canada in the January issue of the North American Review ("Canadian Prospects and Politics", cxlii, 36-49). The feature discussed the future status of Canada, and made no reference to Irish Home Rule. It was notable for a brief refusal to contribute from Sir John A. Macdonald: "I scarcely think that a discussion as to the advisability of the severance by agreement of the connection which now exists between the mother-country and Canada can lead to any practical result. A very large proportion of the people of Canada believe that their future prosperity depends upon the continuance of that connection, and that feeling is so strong that I think any attempt at a separation would lead to civil war." (49).

[407] Shannon, Gladstone: Heroic Minister 1865-1898, 370 noted the paradox.

[408] Perhaps the closest he came to disavowing his 1849 stance was the argument he advanced in 1887 that internal (i.e. Ulster) opposition to Home Rule would collapse once Ireland became self-governing. "In Canada, until self-government was conceded by the 'Separatists' of that day, there was always a small 'British' party contending against the mass of the colonial population. But, when the concession had been made, this party was lost in the general community, and all were British. So Nationalism, the political creed which has defined itself by the demand for a Statutory Parliament, cannot, under the new conditions, form a bond of party union. Anti-Nationalists will melt, as the 'British' party melted, into the new system". "Notes and Queries on the Irish Demands" (1887), in W.E. Gladstone, Special Aspects of the Irish Question... (London, 1892), 80.

[409] Hansard, 8 April 1886, ccciv, 8 April 1886, 1061, 1081.

[410] Hansard, 10 May 1886, cccv, 585-6.

[411]; P. Maume, "Duffy, Sir Charles Gavan", Dictionary of Irish Biography.

[412] C.G. Duffy, The Price of Peace in Ireland: a Letter to His Excellency, the Earl of Carnarvon (Dublin, 1885).

[413] Gladstone to Grosvenor, 9 October, GD, xi, 411; Gladstone to Granville, secret, 10 October 1885, Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville 1876-1886, ii, 408.

[414] There were limits to Duffy's intellectual authority. He was also an enthusiast for Imperial Federation. Gladstone did not follow him there.

[415] Hansard, 10 May 1886, cccv, 585-6. Duffy's Contemporary Review article appeared in late April 1886: "Mr Gladstone's Irish Constitution", xlix, 609-20, esp. 610. It was reprinted in Advocate (Melbourne), 19 June 1886 (via National Library of Australia's Trove online newspaper collection).

[416] Shannon, Gladstone: Heroic Minister 1865-1898, 103-4, 371. Gladstone had touched upon the 'loyal and friendly' argument when calling for the removal of British overseas garrisons in 1867: "Has our connection with Australia been in the slightest degree weakened by the almost total withdrawal of British troops from the colony? The connection between this country and her colonies is not a selfish and sordid connection, and ought not to be so on one side or the other. No; it is at once a connection of interest, of honour, feeling, and duty. That feeling is never more recognised than at the present moment; and the more it is understood that there we are to look for the basis of the connection the more secure that connection is likely to be." That generous attitude to Australia was seriously dented by the 1871 dispute over differential tariffs. Hansard, clxxxvi, 28 March 1867, 755-6.

[417] Debates of the Canadian House of Commons, 6 May 1886, 1096-1143:

[418] Quoted, Debates of the Canadian House of Commons, 6 May 1886, 1099, 1102-3. The reported letter from Gladstone contained the sentiment that "the people of England, who have partial responsibility for the old misdeeds of the British Government, and the people of Scotland who really have none, will concur in the wise and liberal view entertained by the Quebec Assembly". If accurately quoted, this was a letter from Gladstone's own hand, and not a formal acknowledgement from a private secretary. Gladstone wrote to the "Speaker of Quebec Assembly" on 19 April, GD, xi, 532. The letter was widely (and promptly) reported in Ireland, e.g. Freeman's Journal, 21 April 1886. A subsequent letter to the Speakers of both houses of the Quebec legislature on 1 June 1887 seems to have gone unreported, and I have not traced the occasion for it. GD, xii, 38.

[419] Evans, Sir Oliver Mowat, 224-40; Pope, ed., Correspondence of Sir John Macdonald, 380.

[420] Hansard, 10 May 1886,cccv,  587-8. Gladstone's praise for Canadian wisdom was obviously intended as a repudiation of Irish-American agitation. It produced some heckling in the Commons.

[421] Hansard, 7 June 1886, cccvi, 1222-3. 

[422] Shannon, Gladstone: Heroic Minister 1865-1898, 103-4, 371.

[423] Hawkins and Powell, eds, The Journal of John Wodehouse First Earl of Kimberley for 1862-1902, 266 (2 March 1872).

[424] GD, xiii, 158 (memorandum of 1 December 1892).

[425] In 1884, Gladstone owned Canadian railway stocks, but it is not clear that he retained these by 1891. If he invested in the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, completed from coast to coast in 1885 and operational in 1886, he could well have made a considerable profit, but the suspicion he voiced of the CPR's finances in 1886 makes this unlikely. GD, xi, 414 (19 October 1885) records a letter to "Sec[retary][ G[rand] Trunk Co[mpany]". Since the Grand Trunk Canal in England was a route belonging to several companies, this probably refers to Canada's Grand Trunk   railway, a company hostile to the transcontinental railway. Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 137n., 374-5.

[426] Kipling's 1897 invocation of the Dominion's position in the Empire, "Daughter am I in my mother's house / But mistress in my own", dashed off in Torquay, was massively and enduringly unpopular across Canada: Ged Martin, "'Our Lady of the Snows': the Canadian context and reactions to Kipling's poem of 1897":

[427] Hansard, 13 May 1884, cclxxxviii, 216. Even Philip Magnus, a traditional biographer inclined to be indulgent towards his subject, could write: "Gladstone manifested his power of simple, honest self-deception more frequently towards the end of his life than he had done at the beginning." Magnus, Gladstone: a Biography, 315.

[428] G. Smith to Lansdowne, P. B. Waite, The Man from Halifax ... (Toronto, 1985), 181. A curiously cold-blooded and unattractive personality, Goldwin Smith delivered himself of caustic dismissals of Gladstone. "There was nothing in that man.... I never once remember him saying a striking or brilliant thing.... He was not a statesman. His actions were prompted by impulse.... His personality and the unmistakeable generosity of his sentiments had a great effect. But literary grace they had not.... A powerful mind. Strange, most strange. It was like a huge and intricate machine burying itself in the ground." These sayings are quoted to place in context Goldwin Smith's accusation of "casuistry". A. Haultain, Goldwin Smith: his Life and Opinions (Toronto, n.d.), 33-4, 94, 185.

[429] Matthew, Gladstone, 1875-1898, 79-81. Matthew defended Gladstone against Labouchere's jibe that he not only always had the ace of trumps up his sleeve, but implied that God had put it there.

[430] G.W.E. Russell, ed., Malcolm MacColl ... (London, 1914), 331.  MacColl believed the launching of Home Rule in 1885-6 had been "premature": Gladstone's determination was explained by his sense that he, and he alone, was the chosen instrument of the divine purpose.

[431] Morley, Gladstone, i, 192. This episode does not seem to belong to 1834-5, when Gladstone first held ministerial office, and it would seem strange that Peel thought he needed coaching in or after 1841. Gladstone quoted Peel's advice to Kimberley in 1883 as "don't be short". GD, x, 443.

[432] Cooke and Vincent, The Governing Passion … 1885-86, 431.

[433] Hansard, 7 June 1886, cccvi, 1240. "Much was made of foreign and colonial analogies", commented Morley "... All this carried little conviction. Most members of parliament like to think with pretty large blinkers on, and though it may make for narrowness, this is consistent with much practical wisdom. Historical parallels in the actual politics of the day are usually rather decorative than substantial." Morley, Gladstone, iii, 353. John Redmond's speech on the 1886 Home Rule bill included an extended appeal to the 'loyal and friendly' argument, but he also "utterly denied that this Bill would put Ireland in the position of Canada". Hansard, 13 May 1886, 966-9.

[434] Hansard, 10 May 1886,cccv, 585. In decoding this piece of Gladstonese, it is useful to remember that he was an enthusiast for the works of Bishop Butler, even producing an edition of his 1736 Analogy of Religion. Butler argued that Christianity could be proved through parallels in the natural world. But Butler recognised that human fallibility meant that specific arguments from analogy could be misleading, leading him to stress the overall impressions deducible from the study of nature. Arguably, Canada alone offered less breadth for judgement.

[435] Hansard, 7 June 1886, cccvi, 1229-30; Stevenson, Ex Uno Plures, 89-90, 104. It seems unlikely that the Canadian analogy featured much in platform speeches during the general election that followed. H.H. Fowler, who used the "loyal and friendly" argument at Wolverhampton, was unusual in having a Canadian relative, a half-brother who had emigrated as a Methodist minister. E.H. Fowler, The Life of Henry Hartley Fowler First Viscount Wolverhampton... (London, 1912), 207-8.

[436] Dicey (ed. Feuchtwanger), England's Case against Home Rule, 185-6, 230-1, 304-5 (for the Home Rule Bill). Dicey doubted whether JCPC decisions could be enforced against a devolved legislature backed by majority Nationalist opinion.

[437] Hansard, 10 May 1886, 615. J. Kendle, Ireland and the Federal Solution... (Kingston and Montreal, 1989), 54 states that Chamberlain's flirtation with full-scale federalism in May 1886 was criticised "for not really understanding federalism or being aware of recent Canadian court decisions which had upheld provincial as opposed to federal jurisdiction". I am unable to identify the source.

[438] In 1888, in a discussion with Parnell on the relationship between Westminster and possible provincial assemblies in Ireland, he insisted that "a Court would fix the lines of the respective provinces better than Parliamentary action". GD, xii, 105 (8/10 March 1888).

[439] In 1880, Canada had been permitted to establish a quasi-ambassadorial diplomatic officer in London, grandiloquently styled the High Commissioner. The office was held in 1894-5, and for many years after, by the Nova Scotian Conservative, Sir Charles Tupper. It is unlikely that Gladstone would have trusted Tupper to respect confidentiality, but he could surely have located a lawyer who had argued before the JCPC and could have advised in confidence. In June 1886 (when Home Rule was no longer a likely outcome), John Morley asked Tupper for his opinion on Ireland. After a show of reluctance to discuss an internal British political question, Tupper suggested that "it might be practicable to give each of the four provinces of Ireland a local constitution such as Ontario or Quebec enjoys, under which they could deal with all the local questions; while all national questions could be dealt with at St. Stephen's, where Ireland might retain a reduced representation". Morley replied that "the provinces would be quite incapable of working out such a system". E.M. Saunders, ed., The Life and Letters of the Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Tupper… (2 vols, London, 1916), ii, 73-4.

[440] Magnus, Gladstone: a Biography, 315.

[441] Harcourt was joined by John Morley, perhaps the most fervent Home Ruler in Liberal ranks after Gladstone himself, and the lawyer Lord Herschell. Chamberlain was seconded by Sir George Trevelyan.

[442] Shannon, Gladstone: Heroic Minister 1865-1898, 461. During the confrontation with the Conservatives over parliamentary reform in 1884, Gladstone regretted Harrington's use of "the word compromise, a word which has never passed my lips". He saw inter-party negotiation as a search for "anything which, though surrendering nothing substantial, would build a bridge for honourable and moderate men to retreat by". Morley, Gladstone, iii, 149. In March 1888, he suggested to Parnell that the United States constitution might "afford a practical point of departure", since "the opponents [i.e. the Liberal Unionists] never so far as I know have condemned the American system as a possible basis of a plan of Home Rule… it might in case of need supply at least a phrase to cover them in point of consistency". This effectively repeated the attitude he had adopted in 1884: "if men want a bridge for retreat in argument, they are not always fastidious as to logic". In that sense, the very vagueness of the Canadian analogies could be a bonus. Gladstone's attitude has some parallels with that of Eamon de Valera, who regarded negotiation as a process by which he repeatedly explained that his adversaries were wrong until they gave in. In this instance, Gladstone had to admit that he "had not been able to obtain sufficient information" on "the practical working" of the United States constitution. GD, xii, 104-5 (8 /10 March 1888), xi, 195 (20 August 1884). passed m

[443] A. Todd, Parliamentary Government in the British Colonies (London, 1880), 325-428; J.G. Bourinot, Federal Government in Canada, (Baltimore, 1889), 509. Gladstone consulted Bourinot in 1893, at the time of the second Home Rule bill, but never recorded reading Todd. GD, xiii, 225 (14 April 1893).  On 1 January 1886, John Morley wrote to Joseph Chamberlain arguing that the key aim of Home Rule was to get the obstructive Irish MPs out of the House of Commons: "why is it not possible? A book worth your reading is Todd's Parl[iamentar]y Government in the British Colonies". Chamberlain disagreed, and their political partnership soon fractured. J. [Viscount] Morley, Recollections (2 vols, London, 1917), i, 208.

[444] M. Hurst, Joseph Chamberlain and Liberal Reunion: the Round Table Conference of 1887 (Newton Abbey, 1970 ed., cf. 1st ed., London, 1967), esp. 207, 145.

[445] Memorandum of 30 December 1886, J. Chamberlain (ed. C.H.D. Howard), A Political Memoir 1880-92 (London, 1953), 238.

[446] K.G. Pryke, Nova Scotia and Confederation 1864-1874 (Toronto, 1979), 46-188.

[447] C.D. Howell, C. D. "W.S. Fielding and the Repeal Elections of 1886 and 1887 in Nova Scotia", Acadiensis,viii (1979); The Times, 17 June 1886.

[448] Hansard, 9 September 1886, cccviii, 1723-41723

[449] [Mrs] E.C. Fellows, "Nova Scotia's Cry for Home Rule", Nineteenth Century, December 1886, 785-93; The Times, 5 January 1887. Goldwin Smith cited Nova Scotian discontent as a reason why Canada was not a good model for Home Rule: The Times, 14 February 1887.

[450] GD, xii, 1. Aspiring authors sent their works to Gladstone. This probably explains an enigmatic diary entry on 14 September 1888, listing among his reading "the Canada poet" (GD, xi, 147). A loosely linked group known as the Confederation Poets were engaged in establishing a distinctively Canadian literature in English. The only one to publish a volume of verse in 1888 was Archibald Lampman. If it was indeed the "Canadian Keats" whose work Gladstone sampled, he evidently made little impact.

[451] GD, xi, 649.

[452] Gladstone to C.H. Tupper, 31 December 1886, widely published in Canada, e.g. Daily Colonist (Victoria, BC), 29 January 1887. I have not traced Tupper's original letter. Gladstone did not mention either Tupper in his diaries, but Sir Charles had a long conversation with him about Canada at Downing Street reception in June 1884: E.M. Saunders, ed., The Life and Letters of the Rt Hon. Sir Charles Tupper … (2 vols, London, 1916), ii, 33.

[453] Gladstone to W. Annand, 14 February 1887, Globe (Toronto), 18 February 1887.

[454] But the popular vote (49.7% to 47.2%) was much closer: Beck, Pendulum of Power, 56. Nova Scotia's Repeal movement faded away. Fielding switched to Ottawa politics in 1896, and served as Canada's finance minister for 19 years, coming close to appointment as prime minister in 1908.

[455] J.L. Garvin, The Life of Joseph Chamberlain, ii… (London, 1933), 287.

[456] Harcourt's 1889 speech is in Hurst, Joseph Chamberlain and Liberal Reunion, 390-1; Chamberlain (ed. Howard), A Political Memoir 1880-92, 239-50. Chamberlain had perhaps been unduly trusting in suggesting the adoption of the Canadian provisions on education. Section 4 of Gladstone's Home Rule bill had placed strict limitations on the ability of the Irish legislature to interfere with denominational schools. Section 93 of the British North America assigned education to provincial control, but gave aggrieved minorities rights under certain circumstances to appeal for the intervention of the Dominion parliament. In his 1883 Contemporary Review article, Lorne had explained how this safeguard had failed on a technicality when invoked by the Catholics of New Brunswick. It would collapse even more spectacularly in the Manitoba Schools dispute of 1895-6.

[457] Morley to Harcourt, 17 January, Harcourt to Morley, 18 January 1887, Hurst, Joseph Chamberlain and Liberal Reunion, 226, 228.

[458] The Times, 14 February 1887. Goldwin Smith was repeating points he had argued in "The Political History of Canada", Nineteenth Century, July 1886, 14-32, a forceful rebuttal of the use of the Canadian analogy for Irish Home Rule. It was published too late to affect either the parliamentary debate or the subsequent election campaign: Gladstone read it on 14 July: GD, xi, 587. I note here that Lord Monck, Governor-General of Canada at the time of Confederation, published a lengthy letter in The Times on 20 October 1886, outlining a compromise scheme for Irish local government, but making no attempt to vaunt his own standing by referring to the Dominion.

[459] J. Morley, Recollections (2 vols, London, 1917), i, 297.

[460] Hartington to Chamberlain, 6 March 1887, Chamberlain (ed. Howard), A Political Memoir 1880-92, 260 (also Holland, The Life of Spencer Compton, Eighth Duke of Devonshire, ii, 188).  Hartington was echoing a point made by Goldwin Smith in July 1886: " For the decision of questions between the Imperial Parliament and the proposed Parliament at Dublin, what tribunal would there be? There would be no arbiter but the bayonet." Nineteenth Century, July 1886, 24. As noted, one problem in 1887 was the lack of authoritative accounts of the working of the Canadian constitution.

[461] David A. Wilson notes that "the Canadian example had little or no impact on Irish politics" when the Home Rule issue revived around 1912.  The Articles of Agreement for an Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 used the Canadian parallel to define the status of the Irish Free State precisely because it was opaque. It was also made clear that the new Irish dominion was Canada-minus, subject to considerable restrictions by Britain. Wilson, Thomas D'Arcy McGee: ii, 402.

[462] W.E. Gladstone, "Further Notes and Queries on the Irish Demand", Contemporary Review, March 1888, 321-39. In a general review of pro-Home Rule arguments addressed to Conservative voters in 1890, Gladstone appealed to the general example of the self-governing colonies. "We gave them Home Rule… with this result in particular, that what was denounced here beforehand as separation has produced an Union of hearts between us and the Colonies such as had never been known before." Canada was not specifically mentioned. The phrase "Union of hearts" had been applied to the Liberal-Irish alliance of 1886-90 but was discredited by the Parnell divorce case. Home Rule for Ireland: an Appeal to the Tory Householder (1890) in Gladstone, Special Aspects of the Irish Question, 367.

[463] G. Smith, Canada and the Canadian Question (ed. C. Berger, Toronto, 1971, cf. 1st ed., London, 1891), 148; The Times, 26 March 1891. I have noted reviews in Leeds Mercury, 31 March, 3 April; Pall Mall Gazette, 2 April; Glasgow Herald, 16 April; Morning Post, 4 May; Freeman's Journal (Dublin), 9 May 1891. Gladstone read the book on 7 May: GD, xii, 384.

[464] Guedalla, ed., The Queen and Mr Gladstone, 1880-1898, 456 (18 November 1892).

[465] Belfast Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Gladstone, 8. In 1888, the Canadian example became tarnished when the Quebec legislature passed the Jesuits' Estates Act, which divided up lands that had defaulted to the Crown after the dissolution of the original Society of Jesus (the Order was suppressed by the Pope in 1773, but its Canadian estates only passed to the Crown in 1800). Both Catholic and Protestant churches benefited from the allocation. The Act was a move by the Liberal premier, Honoré Mercier, a noted political adventurer, to overcome Catholic Church distrust of his party. To provoke Protestants to blazing fury, he wrote in a role for Pope Leo XIII in the division of the Catholic share of the proceeds. This worked very effectively, and the so-called Equal Rights campaign pressed the Dominion government to disallow the Act. The Gladstone of 1849 might well have coalesced with the Gladstone of 1875 to attack the legislation, while Goldwin Smith did adduce it as a warning of the treatment Ulster would face from an Irish parliament. In fact, income from the estates continued to finance education, as before. Gladstone's 1886 Home Rule bill would have banned any similar move in Dublin. However, the Jesuits' Estates question undoubtedly undermined the utility of the Canadian example in the case for Home Rule. "The true Canadian analogy with an Ireland under Home Rule is to be found in the Province of Quebec, with its population of 1,000,000 French Catholics and 400,000 Protestants", warned the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, describing the province as "ruled by a clergy whose pretensions have not been exceeded since the days of Thomas à Becket". J.R. Miller, Equal Rights… (Montreal, 1979); Belfast Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Gladstone: a Convincing Rejoinder (Dublin, 1893), 8. "I am told that Quebec is not that perfect Garden of Eden which some would induce us to imagine, but that the minority is being crowded out by the majority, and will very soon disappear altogether," Salisbury warned the House of Lords during debates on the Second Home Rule Bill. Hansard, xvii, 8 September 1893, 628.

[466] Hansard, viii, 31 January 1893, 110.

[467] Hansard, 6 April 1893, x, 1611.

[468] Early in 1892, Gladstone received a gift from a Canadian admirer (an exiled Scot), a walking stick carved from the Canadian hardwood, hickory, and bearing the inscription: "May it aid you, Mr Gladstone, in slashing Goschen and Balfour out of the House of Commons." Cardiff Evening Express, 17 November 1892.

[469] Kimberley to Gladstone, private, 5 April; Gladstone to Kimberley, copy, private, 6 April 1892, Powell, Liberal by Principle, 198-200.

[470] J. Kendle, Ireland and the Federal Solution... (Kingston and Montreal, 1989), 74-9.

[471] Hansard, xii, 15 May 1893, 934-5, 951. Haldane was an admirer of Lord Watson, the judge on the Judicial Committee who was credited with shaping decisions in Canadian cases that favoured the provinces. From 1912 he was himself a judge on the JCPC. His decisions in favour of the provinces led one Canadian academic to describe him as "the wicked step-father of the Canadian constitution". D.B. Swinfen, Imperial Appeal… (Manchester, 1987), 47; F. Vaughan, Viscount Haldane… (Toronto, 2010).  Saywell, The Lawmakers: Judicial Power and the Shaping of Canadian Federalism, 114-31 shows that several contentious Dominion-provincial cases came before the JCPC in the few years before 1893.

[472] G. Smith, Essays on Questions of the Day ... (New York, 1894), 327. Thomas Sexton, the orator of the Irish Party, had briefly appealed to it in 1893: "Clearly the only lesson to be drawn from Canada is a lesson on our side. Canada was disloyal and bred rebellion. You granted her Home Rule. When you had done so her disloyalty became loyalty, and her convulsion became content." Hansard, viii, 13 February 1892, 1314. In the same debate, Leonard Darwin, son of the famous naturalist, said that any British veto over the Dominion was "a dead letter" and "we had in fact parted with our sovereign power over Canada" (1311). Asquith, a barrister skilled at glossing over weak arguments, simply claimed that "Canada, large in extent, but occupying rather an obscure corner of the world, had settled its own difficulties without troubling England, and therefore had not given this country an opportunity of learning much about it." Hansard, 14 April 1893, 492. Smith was right: Home Rule was no longer a battle that could be fought by analogy.

[473] Waite, The Man from Halifax, 418-19.

[474] The Premier of Newfoundland, Sir William Whiteway, had led a delegation to London in 1891 to protest against British attempts to force the island to accept concessions to the French on the fishery. The dispute centred upon the issue that had been central to Gladstone's dealings with Canada, the boundary between British and colonial authority. He had been sufficiently interested to ask a parliamentary question on 23 March designed to force Salisbury's government to clarify its position. "Much interesting conversation with the Delegates from Newfoundland," he noted on 2 May: he also read a recent book about the island. Thompson, The French Shore Problem in Newfoundland, 120-49; Hansard, 23 March 1891, 1673; GD, xii, 382-3.

[475] Remarkably, only 3 people died in the Great Fire of 1892, but much of the property destroyed was not covered by insurance. It was probably fortunate that the disaster occurred in what passed for summer in Newfoundland but, even so, there was massive destitution. Following a general election in 1893, most of the members of the victorious Liberal caucus were successfully indicted for electoral corruption. The incoming Conservative premier was accused of taking time "from his political duties to prowl about lonely roads at night and make himself highly objectionable to unprotected pedestriennes" (shades of Gladstone's mission to redeem prostitutes?), while the Speaker of the Assembly was accused of breaking into the Customs House to liberate a parcel addressed to him, assaulting the police who attempted to intervene. Negotiations between Canada and Newfoundland on the possibility of Confederation in 1895 were largely pro forma. GD, xiii, 109 (to Ripon, 12 October 1892). St J. Chadwick, Newfoundland: Island into Province (Cambridge, 1967), 43-82 managed to provide a light-hearted and affectionate account of the colony's politics in the early 1890s. For more serious accounts, J.K. Hiller, "Whiteway, Sir William Vallance" and his "O'Brien, Sir John Terence Nicholls", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xiii: and

[476] J.B. Conacher, "A Visit to the Gladstones in 1894", Victorian Studies, ii, 1958, 155-160. The visit took place on 3 July 1894, 4 months after Gladstone's resignation as Prime Minister. Gladstone's rapid-fire questioning did not necessarily indicate a deep interest in Canada. In 1890, W.G. Black, a Scottish writer who had taken an interest in Heligoland, called on him to protest against the Salisbury government's intention to cede the island to Germany, and was similarly cross-questioned. His account, in Glasgow Herald, 21 May 1898, provides a useful example of Gladstone's interview technique.

[477] Waite, The Man from Halifax, 421.

[478]  D. French, Ishbel and the Empire... (Toronto, 1988), 192; P. Crunican, Priests and Politicians... (Toronto, 1974), 7-136. A small settlement in Manitoba, originally called Palestine, was formally renamed Gladstone in 1882, but the name had been in use since at least 1877: Le Métis (Winnipeg), 6 September 1877; Globe (Toronto), 7 October 1879. It is now also known by the nickname Happy Rock.

[479] J.T. Saywell, ed., The Canadian Journal of Lady Aberdeen 1893-1898 (Toronto, 1960), 404n; Globe (Toronto), 13 July; Evening Express (Cardiff), 12 July; Cardiff Times, 17 July 1897. Moving the formal condolences of the Canadian House of Commons at Gladstone's death the following year, Laurier referred to "that courtesy, made up of dignity and grace, which was famous all over the world, but of which no one could have an appropriate opinion unless he had been the recipient of it." Debates of the Canadian House of Commons, 26 May 1898, 6118: In a landmark speech in June 1877, Laurier had defined himself as an English Liberal, a claim that naturally made him more acceptable in Ontario. However, his main aim was to neutralise the opposition of the Catholic Church in Quebec, which was under Ultramontane influence. The 1864 Syllabus of Errors had condemned liberalism, but Laurier identified this as the dangerous anticlericalism of continental revolutionaries, not the separation of Church and State that prevailed in Britain. He hailed Charles James Fox, Grey, Russell, Brougham and Daniel O'Connell (Laurier's definition of Englishness was loose): "Liberals of the province of Quebec, there are our models, there are our principles, there is our party!" Although he referred to the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland (likely to play well with the bishops), he did not mention Gladstone by name, since the attack on the Vatican Decrees was too raw and recent. Twenty years later, Laurier naturally wished to associate himself with the Grand Old Man. On his return to Canada from Europe in 1897, he told journalists that the 3 people who had most impressed him were the Queen, the Pope and Gladstone.  O.D. Skelton (ed. D.M.L. Farr), Life and Letters of Sir Wilfrid Laurier (2 vols, Toronto, 1965 ed., cf 1st ed. 1921), i, 44.

[480] In conversation with his admirer Lionel Tollemache in January 1896, Gladstone responded to a reference to Australia by saying: "I have always maintained that we are bound by ties of honour and conscience to our colonies. But the idea that the colonies add to the strength of the mother country appears to me to be as dark a superstition as any that existed in the Middle Ages." Briggs, ed., Gladstone's Boswell, 135-6.