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William Ewart Gladstone
1868-74, 1880-85, 1886, 1892-94

Famous as Disraeli's rival and for their spirited debates, Gladstone had a long and distinguished career in public service which began in 1832 when he entered Parliament as a Tory. Serving there until 1895 except for a one year absence in 1846, he served in numerous governments beginning with Peel's ministry in junior capacities.

Gladstone's first real office was that of president of the board of trade in Peel's second ministry (1841-46). He was chancellor of the Exchequer in Aberdeen's government, cutting duties and even attempting to abolish the income tax. His efforts failed due to the need for funds to carry on the Crimean War. He served in Palmerston's second ministry in the same role (1859-65) again effecting tax reductions. When Palmerston died, Gladstone stayed on as chancellor of the Exchequer under Russell through 1866. In 1867, he followed Russell as leader of the Liberal Party.

Gladstone became prime minister in 1868 and was an active legislator and reformer. He was responsible for the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland (1869), an unsuccessful attempt to bring peace to Ireland. He also carried the Irish Land Act (1870) which provided for compensation for improvements to tenant farmers who were evicted by landowners. Gladstone reforming legislation included the army. Cardwell's Army reform (1868) made peacetime flogging illegal. In 1870, he was responsible for passage of Forester's Education Act, making elementary education available to Welsh and English children between the ages of five and 13. He passed the Ballot Act of 1872 which instituted secret ballots for local and general elections. In 1873 he passed laws restricting the high courts.

Gladstone was replaced by Disraeli in 1874, ending his first ministry. As Opposition leader, Gladstone was an active and vocal critic of Disraeli's policies. His re-election in 1879 for his second ministry was a personal triumph, but his land and agricultural reforms were eclipsed by wartime events. In 1881, the British suffered a stunning defeat in the first Boer War at the hands of the Afrikaners under Kruger. Then in 1884, General Gordon was killed by Muhammad Ahmad at the siege of Khartoum. Gordon had been sent to help evacuate Egyptian forces trapped in Khartoum by the "Mahdi's revolt" a jihad started in 1881 with the in the Sudan.

Gladstone's third ministry, a short one lasting on six months (February to July, 1886) was one that was overwhelmed by Irish affairs. Gladstone is converted to support home rule for Ireland. When the bill is defeated, he resigns.

Gladstone's last term as prime minister saw the passage of an Irish home rule bill (1892) in the Commons, which he first championed in his 1886 ministry, but the bill never made it through the Lords. Gladstone resigned as a result, leaving office in 1894. He died four years later from cancer.


1869 - The Suez Canal opens. Imprisonment for debt is abolished.
1870 - Home Rule Association is formed committed to the repeal of the Act of Union (1801) and home rule for Ireland. The rules of water polo are drawn up by the London Swimming Association.
1871 - Bank holidays introduced. Stanley meets Livingston in Africa at (you pronounce it) Ujiji.
1872 - Ulysses S. Grant is re-elected as US president.
1873 - Cable cars begin running in San Francisco.
1874 - Parliament meets. Disraeli becomes prime minister.

Second Ministry
1880 - Parliament meets. Gladstone becomes prime minister. James Garfield is elected as US president. Auguste Rodin sculpts "The Thinker" in bronze.
1881 - Disraeli dies. Chester A. Arthur becomes US president on assassination of James Garfield. The first Boer War breaks out. The first stereo system is patented in Germany by Clement Ader. London's Natural History Museum opens.
1882 - Italy, Austria and Germany form the triple alliance. Passage of The Married Women's Property Act grants British women the right to own their own property.
1883 - "Treasure Island" by R.L. Stevenson is published.
1884 - The first steam cable tramway starts running in Highgate, London.

Third Ministry
1885 - Death of General Gordon at Khartoum. Salisbury becomes prime minister. Gottlieb Daimler in Germany patents the first motor cycle. Louis Pasteur administers the first successful treatment for rabies. Grover Cleveland is elected as US president.
1886 - Parliament meets. Gladstone becomes prime minister. Home rule is defeated. Gladstone resigns. Salisbury becomes prime minister

Fourth Ministry
1892 - Parliament meets. Gladstone becomes prime minister. The first socialist, James Hardie standing for election in Holytown, Lanarkshire; wins election to the British Parliament. Grover Cleveland is re-elected as US president.
1893 - Lady Margaret Scott wins the first Women's Golf Championship held at Royal Lytham. The second home rule bill is defeated. Gladstone resigns. Rosebery becomes prime minister. In France, the first car registration plates are issued along with the first driving licenses and the first parking restrictions. A red letter day indeed.

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