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Posts Tagged ‘Prime Minister’

Sir Robert Walpole, First Earl of Oxford (1676-1745)

He has the honor of being the first Prime Minister, Primus Pares, first among equals, who served under George I and George II. Kind and a good financier he was picked out by the King George I to clean up the mess caused by the South Sea Bubble in 1720. His handling of the scandal pleased the king, who created the position to keep him as his  counselor. England weakened by war and poor accounting of finances required an able administrator and the king’s trust was amply proved right. He reformed the tarrif system and put aside one million pounds aside a year to clear the Government debts. In foreign policies he steered clear of war which was wasteful. In 1739 he had to go to war against Spain which did not go well at first. In the ensuing clamor for a scapegoat the King created Sir Robert an earl and he was forced to retire.

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Anecdote: when he was dismissed from office he retired to Houghton one day he walked into his library. He picked out a book, opening it looked at the pages and silently closed it and took another. After subjecting a few books in this strange manner he burst into tears.’ I’ve lived a life of business for so long,’ said he,’ that I have lost taste for reading, and now-what shall I do?'(ack: the Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes-ed.James Sutherland/Pocketbooks,1975)

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Robert Gascoyne-Cecil(1830-1903) was a descendent of Sir Robert Cecil of the Elizabethan fame. He was three times Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, from 1885 to 1886, 1886 to 1892 and 1895 and 1902 and also served four times as Foreign Secretary. His time as Prime Minister coincided with a great expansion of the British Empire. Lord Salisbury is also remembered as an adherent of the policy of “splendid isolation”, the desire to keep Great Britain out of European affairs and alliances. He was also the last British Prime Minister to serve from the Lords.
He was notoriously myopic and mistook people in his own cabinet and also his son. He once looked at the photograph of Edward VII and mistook him for Sir.Redvers Buller. Intemperate in speech( of Disraeli-‘the grain of dirt that clogged the political machine’) he was not above granting one of his nephews an out of turn favor. In 1887 he made Arthur Balfour from obscurity to front-line post of Chief Secretary for Ireland, a vital post that gave rise to the expression,’Bob’s your uncle.’ Subject to nervous storms, pessimistic, shambling he on a ceremonial occasion induced near apoplexy on his sovereign by appearing in a mixture of two uniforms.
A representative of the landed aristocracy, he held the reactionary credo, “Whatever happens will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible.” Instead of seeing his party’s victory in 1886 as a harbinger of a new and more popular Conservatism, he longed to return to the stability of the past, when his party’s main function was to restrain demagogic liberalism and democratic excess.
(ack: wikipedia, eminent Edwardians/Piers Brendon-Penguin-1979)

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William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1897) served as Prime Minister of Great Britain four times.
Here I shall concern myself with Gladstone the Man.

It would hardly be conceivable in British Parliamentary history that two personalities so diametrically opposed to one another as Disraeli and Gladstone were at the forefront of politics. In 1834 Gladstone was appointed as a junior Lord of the Treasure by Sir Robert Peel who had just formed his first ministry. Two weeks later Disraeli and Gladstone met for the first time: Gladstone was appalled by Disraeli’s “foppish” attire. Gladstone who changed opinions whenever it suited him came to represent the highest political morality while Disraeli who after he had found his party stuck to it all his life, was regarded as a man of few scruples. Gladstone returned to Hawarden, his country seat where he cut down trees for relaxation while Disrael planted trees around his estate. There was no friendship between them throughout their long political lives. When Disraeli died not surprisingly, he chose not attend the funeral.
As an extension of their antipathies to one another we see them representing two opposing ideologies: William Ewart Gladstone was the leader of opposition when Disraeli represented the Tories.
To Disraeli politics was a question of expedience whereas with Gladstone was a matter of morality and he could delude himself his was the voice of justice and truth. He played the politics as a demagogue combined with a missionary zeal that Dizzy thought he was mad; while his opponent thought Dizzy was a devil.
Gladstone carried common qualities on such a vast scale and without imagination and humor, the public saw in him a political prophet of his times. He was a humbug and not above stooping to underhand methods if it helped. As Henry Labouchere, M.P remarked, “I don’t object to (him) always having the ace of trumps up his sleeve but merely to his belief that God Almighty put it there.”
His political fortunes were tied to the moral compass that he referred with the gusto of a miser to his gold. How well he read it may be guessed from his pet project on redeeming fallen angels.* Did he also as rumors had their field day,enjoy birching on the side? It is quite ironic a man of such rectitude should invite doubt and gossip from the public in the name of social service?
In 1844 Peel was attempting to pursue a policy of conciliation in Ireland. A perpetual grievance of the Catholic Church in Ireland was the disparity in finances between the wealth of the Anglican establishment that ministered to about a twelfth of the people and the poverty of the Catholic Church, that ministered to the vast majority of the population. In February 1845 Peel proposed to increase — and make permanent — the Maynooth grant from £9,000 to £30,000 p.a. He tendered his resignation rather than compromise his integrity. Peel’s reaction was, ‘I really have great difficulty sometimes in comprehending what Gladstone means’.
As an Anglican he was zealous to the point of missing the core value of his faith: charity. In 1846 Gladstone’s sister Helen had been restrained by the Lunacy Commission; she had a long history of instability and opium addiction; she also had had a series of lovers but the final straw for Gladstone was her conversion to Roman Catholicism. He could tolerate her other failings but not her apostasy.
While Dizzy endeared himself to the Queen he upset the Queen with his high moralizing tone. It was in his official capacity(as VP of the Board of Trade) that he first dined with Queen Victoria at Buckingham palace and was appalled to find that there was no chaplain present and that grace was not said prior to the meal.
Gladstone formed his second ministry even though Queen Victoria attempted to appoint Lord Hartington instead. The queen was widely reported to have commented that, ‘He speaks to me as if I were a public meeting’. Just before she appointed Gladstone, Victoria wrote to Sir Henry Ponsonby that she would ‘sooner abdicate than send for or have anything to do with that half-mad fire-brand…’
Gladstone was known affectionately by his supporters as “The People’s William” or the “G.O.M.” (“Grand Old Man”, or, according to Disraeli, “God’s Only Mistake” Disraeli’s assessment of Gladstone was that he ‘had not one single redeeming defect’.

Gladstone and Fallen Angels
*In 1848 he founded the Church Penitentiary Association for the Reclamation of Fallen Women. In May 1849 he began his most active “rescue work” with “fallen women” and met prostitutes late at night on the street, in his house or in their houses, and spent much time arranging employment for them. In a ‘Declaration’ signed on 7 December 1896 and only to be opened after his death by his son Stephen, Gladstone wrote:
With reference to rumours which I believe were at one time afloat, though I know not with what degree of currency: and also with reference to the times when I shall not be here to answer for myself, I desire to record my solemn declaration and assurance, as in the sight of God and before His Judgment Seat, that at no period of my life have I been guilty of the act which is known as that of infidelity to the marriage bed.
In 1927, during a court case over published claims that he had had improper relationships with some of these women, the jury unanimously found that the evidence “completely vindicated the high moral character of the late Mr. W. E. Gladstone”.
wikipedia

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