Gateway to the Classics: Life of Gladstone by M. B. Synge
Life of Gladstone by  M. B. Synge

Extracts from Speeches

"I only speak right on;

I tell you that which you yourself do know."


"WHAT, sir, ought a Foreign Secretary to be? Is he to be like some gallant knight at a tournament of old. pricking forth into the lists, armed at all points, confiding in his sinews and his skill, challenging all-comers for the sake of honour, and having no other duty than to lay as many as possible of his adversaries sprawling in the dust? I do not understand the duty of a Secretary for Foreign Affairs to be of such a character. I understand it to be his duty to conciliate peace with dignity. I think it to be the very first of all his duties studiously to observe, and to exalt in honour among mankind, that great code of principles which is termed the law of nations in which I find a great and noble monument of human wisdom, founded on the combined dictates of reason and experience, a precious inheritance bequeathed to us by the generations that have gone before us, and a firm foundation on which we must take care to build whatever it may be our part to add to their acquisitions, if, indeed, we wish to maintain and to consolidate the brotherhood of nations, and to promote the peace and welfare of the world."

"If there be one duty more than another incumbent upon the public men of England, it is to establish and maintain harmony between the past of our glorious history and the future which is still in store for her. I am, if possible, more firmly attached to the institutions of my country than I was when, a boy, I wandered among the sandhills of Seaforth . . . But experience has brought with it its lessons. I have learned that there is wisdom in a policy of trust, and folly in a policy of mistrust."

"I shall endeavour—I shall make it my hope—to show that gratitude less by words of idle compliment or hollow flattery than by a manful endeavour, according to the measure of my gifts, humble as they may be, to render service to a Queen who lives in the hearts of the people, and to a nation, with respect to which I will say that through all posterity, whether it be praised or whether it be blamed, whether it be acquitted or whether it be condemned, it will be acquitted or condemned upon this issue—of having made a good or bad use of the most splendid opportunities; of having turned to proper account, or failed to turn to account, the powers, the energies, the faculties which rank the people of this little island as among the few great nations that have stamped their name and secured their fame among the greatest nations of the world."

"Get knowledge all you can; and the more you get, the more you breathe upon the nearer heights their invigorating air and enjoy the widening prospect, the more you will know and feel how small is the elevation you have reached in comparison with the immeasurable altitudes that yet remain unsealed. Be thorough in all you do; and remember that, though ignorance often may be innocent, pretension is always despicable. 'Quit you like men,' be strong; and the exercise of your strength to-day will give you more strength to-morrow. Work onwards and work upwards. And may the blessing of the Most High soothe your cares, clear your vision, and crown your labours with reward!"

"I have spoken, and I must speak, in very strong terms indeed of the acts done by my opponents; but I will never ascribe those acts to base motives. I will never say they do them from vindictiveness; I will never say they do them from passion; I will never say they do them from a sordid love of office. I have no right to use such words; I have no right to entertain such sentiments; I repudiate and abjure them. I give them credit for patriotic motives; I give them credit for those patriotic motives which are so incessantly and gratuitously denied to us. I believe that we are all united—indeed, it would be most unnatural if we were not—in a fond attachment, perhaps in something of a proud attachment, to the great country to which we belong—to this great empire, which has committed to it a trust and a function given from Providence as special and as remarkable as ever was entrusted to any portion of the family of man. Gentlemen, when I speak of that trust and that function, I feel that words fail me. I cannot tell you what I think of the nobleness of the inheritance that has descended upon us, of the sacredness of the duty of maintaining it. I will not condescend to make it a part of controversial politics. It is a part of my being, of my flesh and blood, of my heart and soul. For these ends I have laboured through my youth and manhood till my hairs are grey. In that faith and practice I have lived; in that faith and practice I will die."

"When I look at the inscription which faces me on yonder gallery, I see the words 'Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform.' All of these words are connected with the promotion of human happiness; and what some would call the desert of this world, and of the political world in particular, would be an arid desert indeed if we could not hope that our labours are addressed to the increase of human happiness—that we try to diminish the sin and sorrow in the world, to do something to reduce its grievous and overwhelming mass, to alleviate a little the burden of life for some, to take out of the way of struggling excellence those impediments at least which the folly or the graver offence of man has offered as obstacles in his progress. These are the hopes that cheer, that ought to cheer, the human heart amidst the labours and struggles of public life."

"We are comrades in a common undertaking; we are fellow-soldiers in a common warfare; we have a very serious labour to perform. The people of this country, and you among them in your place, have to consider what is the system upon which such an empire ought to be governed. It is a subject on which I for one have a strong opinion known to you. We should endeavour to bring about a great and fundamental change in regard to those dangerous novelties which have of late been introduced into the policy of this country, which have disturbed the world at large, and which have certainly aggravated the distress of the nation at home. I believe that in our efforts to do away with that system and to return to the sound Liberal and just principles that have commonly distinguished in our time British administration, we have in our charge a cause which is the cause of peace, which is the cause of justice, which is the cause of liberty, which is the cause of honour, and which, in the hands of the people of this country, by the blessing of God, will not fail."

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