William Ewart Gladstone was the fourth son of merchant Sir John Gladstone. Born in Liverpool, William was educated at Eton and 1828 to Christ College, Oxford[?] where he studies classics and mathematics. At first he intended to become a priest. At the Oxford Union Debating Society[?] Gladstone developed a reputation as a fine orator, a reputation that followed him into the House of Commons. At university Gladstone was a Tory and denounced Whig proposals for parliamentary reform.
He was first elected to Parliament in 1832 as Conservative MP for Newark. Initially he was extremely reactionary (High Toryism[?]), opposing the abolition of slavery and factory legislation. In 1838 he published a book The State in its Relations with the Church. In 1839 he married Catherine Glynne.
In 1840 Gladstone also begun his rescue and rehabiliation of London prostitutes. He would walk in London streets and try to convince prostitutes to change their ways.
Gladstone was re-elected 1841. In the second ministry of Robert Peel he served as President of the Board of Trade (1843-44). He resigned in 1845 on conscientious grounds on the Maynooth Seminary[?] issue but returned to a position of Colonial Secretary[?] in December.
As Chancellor he pushed to extend the Free Trade[?] liberalizations in the 1840s and worked to reduce public expenditure. He also took his moral and religious ideals into politics (he was a Nonconformist[?]), but in a progressive manner later called Gladstonian Liberalism. He was re-elected for the University of Oxford in 1847 and became a constant critic of Lord Palmerston.
In 1848 he also founded the Church Penitentiary Association for the Reclamation of Fallen Women. May 1849 he begun his most active “rescue work” with “fallen women” and met prostitutes late at night either on street, in his house or their house. He wrote their names in his notebook. He aided the House of Mercy at Clewer, by Windsor in London (with extreme in-house discipline) and spent much time to arrange employment for ex-prostitutes. His wife was aware of these activities.
Many biographers maintain that he gained some satisfaction with associating with prostitutes, especially when he was separated from his wife who usually remained in Hawarden. It appears he deliberately courted temptation with erotic literature and association with prostitutes. He apparently whipped himself afterwards. However, there is no evidence he ever actually used their services.
During his visit to Naples in 1850 he began to support Neapolitans. In 1852, when Lord Aberdeen became premier, at the head of a coalition of Whigs and Peelites, Gladstone became Chancellor of the Exchequer till 1855 and tried unsuccessfully to abolish the income tax. Instead he ended up rising it because of the Crimean War. Lord Derby[?] became a prime ministers in 1858 but Gladstone declined a position in his government because he did not want to work with Benjamin Disraeli, then chancellor and leader of the House of Commons. Palmerston's next mixed government with Radicals added in 1859 Gladstone joined again as a Chancellor of the Exchequer, left the Conservatives and joined the Liberal party. In 1864 he begun to support a Bill to lower the franchise qualification and angered both Lord Palmerston and Queen Victoria. Because of this, in the general election of 1865 he lost his seat for Oxford, but was narrowly elected for South Lancashire[?].
Lord Russell retired in 1867 and Gladstone became a leader of the Liberal party. In the next general election in 1868 he was defeated in Lancashire but elected as MP for Greenwich. He became prime minister for the first time until 1874.
A number of policies that were demonstrated in the 1860s and 70s to improve individual liberty compared to political and economic restraints characterized Gladstonian Liberalism. First was the minimization of public expenditure, on the basis that the economy and society were best helped by allowing people to spend as they saw fit; second was peace, it helped reduced expenditure and taxation as well as help trade; third was the reform of government institutions or laws that prevented people from acting freely to improve themselves.
Gladstone's first premiership instituted reforms in the Army, Civil Service and local government to cut restrictions on individual advancement. He instituted the abolition of the sale of commissions[?] in the army and court reorganization. In foreign affairs his over-riding aim was peace and understanding, characterized by his settlement of the Alabama Claims in 1872 in favour of the Americans.
He transformed the Liberal party during his first premiership (following the enlarged electorate created by the Reform Act of 1867[?]). The 1867 Reform Act[?] gave the vote to every male adult householder living in a borough constituency. Male lodgers paying £10 for (unfurnished) rooms also received the vote. This gave the vote to about 1,500,000 men. The Reform Act also changed the electoral map; constituencies and boroughs with less than 10,000 inhabitants lost one of their MPs. The forty-five seats left available through the re-organization were distributed by: (1) giving fifteen to towns which had never had an MP; (2) giving one extra seat to some larger towns - Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds; (3) creating a seat for the University of London; (4) giving twenty-five seats to counties whose population had increased since 1832. The later 1884 Reform Ac[?] gave the counties the same franchise as the boroughs - adult male householders and £10 lodgers - and added about six million to the total number who could vote in parliamentary elections.
In 1869 he arranged the dis-establishment of the Church of Ireland in an attempt to bring peace. That meant that Irish catholics did not need to pay their tithes to the Anglican Church of England. He also instituted Cardwell's Army reform that made peacetime flogging illegal in 1869 and the Irish Land Act[?] and Forester's Education Act[?] in 1870. In 1871 he instituted University Test Act[?]. In 1872 he instituted the Ballot Act[?] for secret voting ballots. In 1873 he passed laws restructuring the High Courts. He failed to precent Franco-German War[?].
In 1874 Liberal lost the election. After the success of Benjamin Disraeli he temporarily retired from the political scene and the leadership of the Liberal party, although he retained his seat in the House. In 1876 he published a pamphlet, Bulgarian Horrors and the Questions of the East where he attacked the Disraeli government for its indifference to the violent repression of the Bulgarian rebellion in Ottoman Empire. During his election campaign (called Midlothian campaign) in 1879 he spoke against Disraeli's foreign policies during the ongoing Anglo-Afghan War[?] in Afghanistan. (See Great Game[?]). He saw the war as “great dishonor”. He also criticized British conduct in the Zulu War.
In 1880 Liberals won again and the new Liberal leader Lord Hartington retired in Gladstone's favour. Gladstone's two sons were also elected as MPs. Queen Victoria asked Lord Hartington[?] to form a ministry but he persuaded her to send for Gladstone. His second administration – both for PM and again as Chancellor of the Exchequer till 1882 - lasted from June 1880 to June 1885. He saw the end of Anglo-Afghan War[?], first Boer War and British war against Mahdi in Sudan. He also extended the franchise to agricultural labourers and others. In 1881 he also established the Irish Coercion Act[?] that let he Viceroy detain people for as "long as was thought necessary”. Parliamentary reform continued and in 1884 Gladstone instituted The Redistribution of Seats Act[?].
Fall of General Gordon's troops in Khartoum in 1885 decreased the popularity of Gladstone. He resigned in 1885 and declined Victoria's offer of Earldom. In 1886 his party was allied with Irish Nationalists to defeat Lord Salisbury's government and regained his position as PM and combined the office with that of Lord Privy Seal.
In 1886 he introduced his Home Rule Bill[?] for Ireland for the first time. The issue split the Liberal Party and the bill was thrown out on the second reading. Result was the end of his government after few months and the next government headed by Lord Salisbury.
In 1892 Gladstone was re-elected a prime minister the fourth time. In February 1893 he re-introduced a Home Rule Bill[?]. It was essentially to form a parliament for Ireland, or in modern terminology, a regional assembly of the type Northern Ireland gained from the Good Friday Agreement. The Home Rule Bill did not offer Ireland independence, something which was in any case was not the demand of the Irish Parliamentary Party[?]. It was passed by the House Of Commons and then rejected by the House Of Lords[?], on the grounds that it went too far. In March 1 1894 in his last speech in the House of Commons he requested his allies to destroy the veto of the House of Lords. He resigned two days later although he again retained his seat.
In 1896 he appeared to speak in public in Liverpool to denunciate Armenian massacres by Ottomans.