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qualities. All my recollections of my relations with him record his uniform kindness. It cannot be long before I follow him. I should have rejoiced in paying him a last token of friendship and regard, and of testifying my strong sense of the devoted work which you have performed on his behalf, and which I sincerely hope has left your own health and strength unimpaired.
Most sincerely wishing for you these and all other blessings,
W. E. GLADSTONE.
From Sir William Windeyer
Judges' Chambers, Supreme Court, Sydney:
Dear Lady Sherbrooke,-The sad intelligence of your great husband's death came upon me as a shock when I took up the paper a few mornings ago. The memory of his life in Australia is associated with some of the happiest hours of my boyhood, when, as a visitor at my father's house, I often saw him, and when, after my father's death, I often stayed at Brontë from Saturday to Monday. Because, like most able men, he did not suffer fools gladly, some who did not know his real character thought he was cold and hard. I ever found him most kind and sympathetic. After my father's death, when my mother was left very badly off, he proved himself a most generous friend, and to his kindness it was owing that my interrupted education was continued. In it he always took the warmest interest, and to this day I feel the glow of boyish satisfaction that I felt at his praise after one of the examinations in my classics through which he put me. It was he who urged me to go to the Bar as soon as I was old enough; the Act which enables Australians to go to the Bar of the colony having been passed by him.
As I told him on the occasion of one of my visits to your house, I feel that I owe my present position on the Bench very greatly to his help and kind encouragement. To see him again was one of the things I looked forward to on going to England in 1887, and in my delightful visits to your house (among the happiest recollections of our English visit, both to me and my wife) I realised the opportunity that I had long wished for, of expressing my thanks to him personally for all that he had done for me and my widowed mother. To you, whose consolation it will be to think of your watchful care of him in the evening of his life, my wife and I would still express our deep sympathy in your great sorrow, and would fain let you
know that one far off in Australia has dropped a heartfelt tear of sorrow over the memory of his boyhood's friend, his benefactor, Robert Lowe, as he will always be to
13 Wetherby Gardens, London, S.W.: July 28, 1892
Dear Lady Sherbrooke,―The death of my old Chief and good friend, though not a surprise to me after the last time I saw him, yet comes, as such losses always do, a blow at last.
The memory of how much you have done for him cannot but be a great consolation to yourself, and will command the respect and admiration of his friends as long as any of them survive.
I had the honour and good fortune to serve, at different times and different offices during eight years in all, under him. Of course, in that time I had the opportunity of getting to know him well; and while it would be idle for me to attempt to confirm his universally accepted reputation for exceptional power of intellect and expression, I may speak, from somewhat special knowledge, of his deep devotion to the public interest, and of the constancy with which he brought sound general principles to bear on each particular question before him. In this latter characteristic he surpassed all public men, I might almost say all men, I have known. This is a corrective which the English character pre-eminently calls for in those who govern the country, and it is rarely forthcoming in the degree which marked his way of looking at things.
In private life, among those who knew him well, no one was kinder, and he retained the old-fashioned dignity rarer in these days than it used to be among statesmen.
Very truly yours,
APPENDIX TO THE SECOND VOLUME
MR. LOWE'S BUDGET SPEECHES
Financial Statements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1869 and 1870 (R. J. Bush, 1870)
THESE and Mr. Lowe's other Budget speeches were painfully read from official statistics and papers, which he deciphered with the greatest difficulty. There was necessarily no attempt in their delivery at oratorical effect; and many then fresh M.P.'s and rising journalists, who heard him for the first time, were at a loss to understand how he had made such a name as a parliamentary debater in 1866 and 1867. If we bear in mind that the young reporters and newly fledged legislators who heard Mr. Lowe in 1869-73 are now regarded as patriarchs and authorities by the new generation, it is easy to account for differences of opinion as to his oratorical powers. Mr. Lowe was never at his best, and rarely at his ease, when he had to rely on notes; their mere existence hampered him. When it came to the Budget, the marvel is how he managed to get through at all.
When Mr. Lowe measured himself in the Reform debates against the greatest orators and acutest intellects in the House of Commons, it was a wholly different affair. Then he relied mainly on himself, on his unequalled grasp of general principles, his inimitable powers of clear and forcible exposition and illustration, on his ready wit and contagious humour, and his astonishing quickness in detecting a fallacy in an opponent's argument. The late James Macdonell, an earnest and accomplished journalist on the staff of the Daily Telegraph and The Times, whose sympathies were altogether on the Radical side and, therefore, strongly against Mr. Lowe on Parliamentary Reform, puts this in unmistakable words (March 17, 1866) What do you think of Lowe's speech? I had the good fortune to hear a part both of it and of Gladstone's. Gladstone's was very poor; Lowe's, though not equal to his famous speech of last year, was a good effort. . . . Bright I regard as incomparably the greatest orator in the House, just as I think Lowe incomparably the greatest debater. After Mill, I hold him to be the acutest brain in the Assembly. Intellectually, he is developed till his arm has an athlete's strength; and I feel convinced that, in a fair stand-up fight between him and Gladstone, Gladstone would go down.' 1
Though Mr. Lowe's Budget speeches lost much in delivery, they read, perhaps, better than any financial statements, not excepting Mr. Gladstone's. They are so absolutely free from humdrum or mere verbiage. No Finance Minister of our time has ever attempted a greater administrative reform
James Macdonell, Journalist (W. R. Nicoll, M.A.), pp. 135–6.
than Mr. Lowe did in the matter of the time of the collection of taxes; but one understands that such a reform would be unpopular. It was his misfortune, as a parliamentary politician, not to think whether a particular policy would be popular or unpopular, but whether it would be beneficial to the community at large. This was the secret of his strength and his weakness as an English statesman. He always showed a firm adherence to principle, whether as Finance Minister or as a mere private Member of Parliament. He could not, as he said, play the part of Mr. Facing-both-Ways in the Pilgrim's Progress.
These Budget speeches are by no means lacking in true Lowian touches. In the Budget speech of 1870 there was an amusing hit at his old friends, the brewers and publicans :
'Before the committee of which I had the honour of being a member, one publican complained that his landlord and brewer sold him beer at the price at which he was expected to retail it. I asked him, "How do you retail it?" 'Why, sir," he replied with a very solemn look, "we dash it." I said, "What do you mean by dashing it'?" He answered, “We turns the New River into it!"'
Mr. Lowe's theory of the principle of taxation and the function of a Chancellor of the Exchequer is eminently his own:
'In Dr. Carpenter's account of his recent researches in the Arctic Ocean he tells us that the results of dredging were to show the existence of little animals at the bottom of the ocean, under a pressure of three tons to the square inch. How do they contrive to live under such conditions? Because the pressure is equalised; and that should be the principle of taxation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a man whose duties make him more or less of a taxing machine. He is entrusted with a certain amount of misery, which it is his duty to distribute as fairly as he can. Now, suppose, instead of pecuniary misery, it was physical pain which he had to distribute. How would he distribute it? According to the advocates of these different schools, he would pick out a certain number of persons, drive them raving mad with tic-douloureux or gout, and exempt all the rest of the community. That is not just. He should contrive to make everybody a little uneasy, so that life, if not enjoyable, should be at any rate tolerable.'
Mr. Lowe had very little sympathy with any form of personal display or vanity. His remarks on the tax on armorial bearings amused the House very much. After admitting that it was a stupid tax, which he would be glad to get rid of altogether, he suddenly looked up and said: But as I cannot get rid of it, the best thing, it appears to me, which I can do is to increase it a little.' His eyesight (and, perhaps, his great love of all living things) made him averse to sports which entail the destruction of life; and his gusto in proposing a tax on firearms was eminently characteristic. He pointed to the amazing precision attained by the mechanical improvements in these deadly weapons, and declared that there was a retrograde practice and tone of feeling with regard to the carrying of them. The Athenians were the first of the Greeks who laid aside their
weapons and went unarmed among each other. We are,' he said, 'reversing the process, and from having been an unarmed people are arming ourselves with weapons compared with which those of the ancients were mere children's toys.' So he proposed a firearms' licence, both as a financial expedient and a moral check.
Mr. Lowe's remarks on direct and indirect taxation show that, with all his gift of generalisation, his mind was essentially practical :
'People argue between direct and indirect taxation until the advocates of each seem to forget the nature of taxation altogether. At the best, taxation is a great misery; but some persons become so enamoured of the particular side they take in this controversy that they argue as though what is a positive evil may become a positive good. One set of economists say all taxation should be direct. Another says all taxation should be indirect. I can agree with neither. There is good and evil in almost any tax. Direct taxation is an immense advantage, for it takes less out of the pockets of the ratepayers than indirect taxation takes; but it has a dreadful disadvantage, for it is compulsory; and although it is more economical, you force a man to pay at a time when payment may be ruin. Indirect taxation, again, is more extravagant than direct taxation, giving less money to the Exchequer in proportion to that which is taken from the tax-payer. On the other hand, it is optional, and with a little self-denial a man may, in this country, absolutely exempt himself from the payment of indirect taxes. I cannot, therefore, go with either party in this matter. It seems to me that the worst tax in the world is better than none at all when there is money which must be raised; and good sense should teach us not to be too theoretical, but try to bear with the taxes we have, rather than narrow too much the basis of taxation.'
If Mr. Lowe be judged as Finance Minister-not by a mere electioneering standard, but by the opinion of experts and by his own favourite test of results'-he need fear comparison with no Chancellor of the Exchequer of our time. Mr. Lowe may not have possessed either the special training or the unsurpassed departmental knowledge of Mr. Gladstone, but he had quite as lofty a conception of the duties of the office, and a firmer hold on abstract principle. If less careful and experienced in mere details, he had more mental power and originality than Sir Stafford Northcote; and if less brilliant and daring than Mr. Disraeli, he displayed far more technical knowledge, as well as a greater grasp of the problems of economic science. As the guardian of the public purse, Mr. Lowe stands without a peer in the undeviating rigour and honest regard shown by him as a trustee of other people's (i.e. the nation's) money; while his activity and ingenuity, not only as a tax-gatherer, but whenever possible, as a tax-remitter, have never been surpassed. If Mr. Lowe is to be regarded as a failure as Chancellor of the Exchequer, it may be as well to remember that the failure was caused by his steady refusal to consider the national finances as a subordinate branch of popular electioneering.