Tuesday, December 29, 2009

William Ewart Gladstone born 200 years ago today

On 29th December 1809 a baby was born who was to become one of the UK’s greatest ever prime ministers, William Ewart Gladstone. He entered the world at 62 Rodney Street, Liverpool, and served as an MP for more than half a century. He was four times Liberal prime minister between 1868 and 1894 and, as iron sharpens iron, was pivotal in the honing of the greater greatness of Benjamin Disraeli. William Gladstone was responsible for numerous reforms and innovations including the modern budget, the secret ballot, legislation regulating Victorian railways, school attendance and the provision of universal education. He founded the Church Penitentiary Association for the Reclamation of Fallen Women, along with Bishops Wilberforce and Bloomfield. His personal devotion to High Church Anglicanism undoubtedly contributed to the survival of the Church of England through a tumultuous era (arguably moreso than the present), and he was cited by Winston Churchill as one of his greatest inspirations.

Gladstone believed that Christianity was the crucial issue of the age, the political problem being how to make the Church of Laud survive in an age of universal suffrage. He opened the gate to democracy, and his liberalism was an attempt to retain moral control by abandoning what he perceived to be an untenable political religion. In the gap left by Newman’s destruction of the national regeneration which Oxford Anglicanism had promised in his youth, Gladstone came to see the parliamentary process rather than the Established Church as the agent of moral unity.

And how are we commemorating the bicentenary of the birth of this colossus of nineteenth-century politics?

How are we remembering the achievements for justice?

How are we honouring his political greatness?

How are we celebrating his learning?

How are we revering his memory and commitment to God?

How are we respecting his aspiration and vision for the dignity of all human beings?

How are we valuing his contribution to public life in seeking to relieve poverty and misery through education?

We are establishing a £500,000 Islamic Reading Room, the aim of which is ‘primarily to inform non-Muslims about Islam’.

St Deiniol’s in Hawarden, North Wales, is the unique library founded by Mr Gladstone for the pursuit of ‘divine learning’. They say that the move to create a dedicated space for Islamic study, and increase the stock of Islamic material, is ‘faithful to Gladstone’s spirit’.

Gladstone’s spirit?

Was that not dedicated to Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

Yet an ‘Islamic Reading Room’ is to be the living monument to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of one the Church of England’s greatest.

When this project was announced earlier this year, stones were thrown through the chapel windows.

Cranmer does not advocate damage to private property or any such act of violence.

And he applauds all educative programmes for Muslims as for all peoples everywhere.

But he has damned if he can understand why one of the greatest thinking Anglicans since the Reformation should be commemorated by the library he founded with the establishment of a room dedicated to the cause of Islam.

But doubtless such incredulity is ‘Islamophobic’.

Yet raising such a monument is rather like commemorating the quatercentenary of the death of William Shakespeare (in 2016) with a bowdlerised performance of Tamburlaine.

God forbid.

YHWH, that is.

Anglicanism in England is presently far more vulnerable than Islam: it is in far greater need of ‘reading rooms’ dedicated to educating the masses of its origin, reason and purpose. Rather than educating Christians in a deeper understanding of Islam, Gladstone would have been more urgently concerned to educate Muslims in a deeper understanding of Christianity in the hope that they might find salvation.

But that is now considered an unacceptable imposition, an insensitive pursuit; indeed, ‘racist’.

Gladstone’s devotion to Christianity quickened his spirit to preach the gospel in season and out. His love of the Lord inspired him to great reforms to alleviate poverty and ameliorate the plight of the poor. He was acutely concerned with the rescuing and rehabilitation of prostitutes. And he was uncompromising in his criticism of the Qur’an, of which he once said in the House of Commons: “So long as there is this book, there will be no peace in the world”. To him, as to many Victorian Christians, it was an ‘accursed book’.

But the expression of such sentiment is now a crime; indeed, it doubtless constitutes ‘religious hatred’.

William Ewart Gladstone was not merely a politician of conviction; he was an eminent scholar and a gifted theologian who was unafraid to speak his mind in an era of religio-political revolution.

Take him for all in all, we shall not look upon his like again.

At least not in Downing Street.

34 Comments:

Blogger Gnostic said...

If only Cameron was half the man the likes of Gladstone and Disraeli were. Shame the Boy Blunder can only claim a pinky fingernail on every second Tuesday - if he's lucky...

29 December 2009 at 08:16  
Blogger Willie said...

Unfortunately St Deiniol's sups at the fount of the National Lottery and the Heritage National Lottery. It is a small step to understand therefore the "appropriateness" of an Islamic Reading Room.

29 December 2009 at 08:45  
Blogger DDIM 'n HOFFI said...

Gladstone was a man of steel Your Grace. His name seems to have a quality that Charles Dickens would have set as his character truly was, rather like he did with characters such as Gradgrind in Hard Times.

I often walk up to the summit of Snowdon along the Watkin Path, which is, in my opinion, the best route for scenery; it is almost a spiritual experience. Someway up the early reaches is a memorial (The Gladstone Rock) to Gladstone where it says he addressed the men of Eryri. If you ever go up there you will see that the journey is quite steep, and gladstone was 83 when he made the visit to the quarry men. It is an isolated and bleak location but such was the nature of the man. Where are such people today? Nowhere to be seen or heard me thinks.

Some pics on flickr which give an idea about the location. The memorial is the 4th down in the left column.

29 December 2009 at 09:27  
Anonymous philip walling said...

He was a statesman and we aren't allowed any of them any more.
The infiltration of the 'political class' by the scum in power has ensured that it will be next to impossible ever again to have such a man lead us out of our decline.
He was driven by Christian faith, as YG says, and spoke truths that the elite don't want to hear, but the people do.
I believe that if such a man were to arise in England now the people would drink up his words to slake their thirst for truth and he would be carried shoulder high through the streets of London.

29 December 2009 at 09:41  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

St Deiniol's has been like that for some time - very pc, pro-gay etc. Christian roots have grwon pretty thin.

29 December 2009 at 09:42  
Anonymous non mouse said...

Great post, and responses too.

"We are establishing a £500,000 Islamic Reading Room, the aim of which is ‘primarily to inform non-Muslims about Islam’."

They don't, presumably, expect any of us to go there? Or do they plan to hijack us at a knife's edge and force us to it?

29 December 2009 at 09:53  
Blogger DDIM 'n HOFFI said...

I am sorry to hear about people throwing stones through the windows Your Grace. I have this image in my mind's eye of Lord Carey and the Bishop of St Asaph setting off on a mission of civil disobedience, filled with red wine and a bag of gladstones (or not so gladstones as the case may be).

29 December 2009 at 10:00  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Methinks the room would be better named "Dhimmitude Studies"

29 December 2009 at 11:01  
Blogger English Pensioner said...

Two points that you make stand out in my mind; "Gladstone came to see the parliamentary process rather than the Established Church as the agent of moral unity". Unfortunately, recent parliaments, or more importantly parliamentarians have demonstrated the exact opposite, and in no way could parliament now be seen to have any moral authority whatsoever. I wonder what Gladstone claimed in expenses?
Your second point, his view that “So long as there is this book, there will be no peace in the world” is as true now as it was then, and he must get full marks for his perspicacity.

Incidentally, did he die very rich as Tony Blair undoubtedly will; I don't know the answer, but I very much doubt is as he was totally dedicated to the country's service

29 December 2009 at 11:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent if somewhat disheartening post, Your Grace. I think present day politicians- our so-called leaders- have little interest in remembering titans like Gladstone as it throws into sharp relief their utter feebleness in comparison. The bi-centenary of the death of another titan, Pitt the Younger, a few years back passed with barely a mention. Oh for a Pitt and Gladstone for a thousand of Blair and Brown. Edward Sutherland.

29 December 2009 at 12:52  
Anonymous pedant said...

The BBC has in its archives a wax recording of Mr Gladstone; I heard it maybe 40 years ago, and do not know that it has been played on air since. How agreeable if this bientenary could be marked by hearing, once again, the actual voice of the great man!

29 December 2009 at 13:33  
Anonymous John Malcolmson said...

Wake up and smell the coffee you lot! Why on earth should people like Gladstone & Disraeli be commemmorated in New Labour Britain?

You obviously weren't paying attention in 1997, the year that was re-designated AB(annus Blairi) 1.

Officially, before that, all we had was slavery, an evil empire, a brandy-soaked braggart who used to smoke cigars in air raid bunkers, and an evil, immaculately coiffeured blonde woman with a strident voice who enjoyed dancing on the graves of coal miners. Is it any wonder NL wanted to obliterate from memory the dreadful, wicked history of this awful country and start again in an attempt to persuade the rest of the world to forgive us?

(Yes, this IS tongue in cheek)!

29 December 2009 at 13:40  
Blogger Gnostic said...

JM, surely you mean anus Blairi since all that has ever come out of that man is pure shite...

29 December 2009 at 14:28  
Blogger dutchlionfrans1953 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

29 December 2009 at 15:15  
Blogger dutchlionfrans1953 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

29 December 2009 at 15:36  
Blogger dutchlionfrans1953 said...

Ah..you really do not want people to know the truth, do you?

Your removal of my excellent contributions is louder than words:
Censorship, instead of debating


God holds you accontable. You do realise this, do you not?

But God and the Truth have a way that in the end people WILL know!

29 December 2009 at 16:03  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Mr Dutchlionfrans,

His Grace has asked you politely, on numerous occasion, to post on the matter to hand. Your contributions were irrelevant.

His Grace thanks you for reminding him that God holds him accountable. If you care to dispense the Truth from your own blog, His Grace would have absolutely no objection.

29 December 2009 at 16:09  
Anonymous Sandy Jamieson said...

I have reflected further on this matter and interesting is it not that while Disraeli perceieved Russia as a threat to Europe, Gladston saw the threat in the Ottoman Enpire. It is somewhat ironic to celebrate Gladstone's anniversary by establishing a Library for the understanding of Islam

29 December 2009 at 16:13  
Anonymous John Malcolmson said...

Gnostic - I think in that case it should be ex ano Blairi.

29 December 2009 at 16:35  
Anonymous Ginro said...

@ Pedant. To hear Gladstone again then go here -

Rare Gladstone Recording

29 December 2009 at 16:53  
Blogger dutchlionfrans1953 said...

@AC: I will consider this. Have had no time so far to learn to build up my own website and weblog.

And I have not been motivated enough because of blogs like yours who in general are doing such a good job.

Why do double work? Invent the wheel twice? But it's in my considerations. Because certain information appears too daring/ too controversial for people/ blogs like yours.

I do not think it helps people to censor such information, unless it would be obvious fraudulous, or immoral or rude. Which my information/ contributions never are. I also have to answer to God for what I submit. But I also have to answer to Him for whatever information I choose to ommit. Especially since this information usually can not be found in the regular media.

29 December 2009 at 18:11  
Blogger Christian Carving said...

Thankyou so much for reminding me of this great man...i shall now do some rooting through for an old history book

29 December 2009 at 19:27  
Anonymous Bag Lady said...

"Because certain information appears too daring/ too controversial for people/ blogs like yours. "

Well dutchlionfrancs1953, all the more reason to post on your own blog about the too daring/too controversial for people issues you wish to share with the world .

29 December 2009 at 21:09  
Blogger Gnostic said...

JM - It's a long time since I studied Latin but it sounds right so I'll take your word for it. :D

29 December 2009 at 21:17  
Blogger Chrysippus said...

And also the anniversary (1170) of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. This afternoon off to Canterbury Cathedral for the annual commemoration. Rowan there but no sign of any lunatic woman dragging him to the ground A la pontiff. A magical service nevertheless.

29 December 2009 at 21:51  
Blogger Preacher said...

Your Grace.
Gladstone & the others were great men but they are gone to their rewards. We should be searching for their like in todays society. Men who will not fear the wrath of the whey faced politicos who grovel & try to appease those who rage & threaten & demand their own way.
Gladstone stood for what & Who he believed in, He displayed it in thought, word & deed as did the Lord when He cleansed the temple.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today & forever, He hasn't changed, we have. We must stop living in the past, we owe it to our future generations to seek out the men of courage who are prepared to face adversity & speak out, we need to support & encourage one another that the game is not lost. I believe that they still exist.
"Cometh the hour, cometh the man".

29 December 2009 at 22:08  
Blogger DDIM 'n HOFFI said...

"Cometh the hour, cometh the man"

The hour in America chimed and in cometh Obama; I dread to think what the hour will chime in here. Unless some mad scientist has secretly invented one of those rapid cloning machines, I fail to see anything else on the hour's horizon except mere pollution.

Jesus Holy Christ save us!

29 December 2009 at 22:42  
Anonymous len said...

Regarding the 'Islamic reading 'room.
It might be enlightening for people of all religions including Muslims to read the Koran.In fact, many Muslims are simply unaware of the Qur'an's near absence of verses that preach universal non-violence. This is because their understanding of Islam comes from what they are taught by others. In the West, it is typical for Muslims to come to believe that their religion must be like Christianity - preaching the New Testament virtues of peace, love, and tolerance - because Muslims are taught that Islam is supposed to be superior in every way. They are somewhat surprised and embarrassed to learn that the evidence of the Qur'an and the bloody history of Islam are very much in contradiction to this.

29 December 2009 at 23:40  
Anonymous Raffael said...

http://my.telegraph.co.uk/thomashogg/blog/2009/12/29/attacking_the_privileged_the_hypocracy_is_sickening.

30 December 2009 at 00:13  
Blogger OldSouth said...

Once again, a wonderful post, and many thanks for your thoughtful work.

1809 was a very good year, that saw the births of Gladstone, Mendelssohn, Lincoln, and Tennyson.
There is much to learn and appreciate from each of those admirable lives.

Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.

And to the rest of us: Let's keep referring people to Cranmer's corner of the world. He says what needs saying, much better than poor mutterers like myself.

30 December 2009 at 00:51  
Anonymous not a machine said...

It is painfull article to read your grace , I pondered Peter Hitchens image of a boy with grandparent walking past a cathedral "grandpa what was that building for".

But this is only part of it for there are also the confidences in those deep in the gospel of Dawkins and its proud conclusions that fill minds no longer capable of discerning for themselves , they no longer believe there is even the possibility of a doorway to somthing greater than themselves.

There have been many slights and decpetions put upon the church , alas some of them from within its own body ,in some cases warping its own behaviour into poor reflections of why we try to love and pray .

There are many who live in philosphie , long dialogues of structure and collages of human and animal behaviour , which is a formidable obstacle to overcome for our more educated society .
The srtictures of the law once so much of the judgements of the likes of lord Denning and other great minds in the legal and penal systems.

We are asked to appologise for our strictness and discipline in the light of social advances , yet when you enquire what people believe today , you encounter the echo of traditions , but perhaps more disturbing is when you ask ,or try to define what modern beliefs are based upon . You then find a loose popularist internal mental dialogue , subtley different from the more artfull/elaborate internal morals of our once more christian society.

The likes of Gladstone would have hated celebrity , for him the work was always at hand and ongoing in making a living faith . Praise from the great and good for showing the way in helping others to live a christ like life, would be more meaningful to him than a text vote.

we seem to have invented somthing lesser that we do not know how to deal with and more worryingly the words of those alive are becomming less adept to tell if anything may be wrong with it .

30 December 2009 at 01:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so what you lot gonna do about it? Have a winge and moan on here or campaign against it, why not pray?

30 December 2009 at 03:11  
Blogger Colin Maxwell said...

When I was growing up back in the 1960's, my mother used to sing a ballad while dusting the house:

"Gladstone, you must drop your bill and try some other plan."

It was from the ballad "Ulster must have liberty" and referred to the Home Rule crisis.

30 December 2009 at 12:09  
Anonymous non mouse said...

I agree - we desperately need to 'campaign against it' and find a leader. Prayer for inspiration and support to those ends is also essential!

30 December 2009 at 21:22  

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