chapter  9
20 Pages

Gladstone, Finance and the Problems of Ireland, 1853–66

ByAllen Warren

If Gladstone had died in 1866, he would still justify consideration as a significant Victorian politician and intellectual. Necessarily, the political focus would centre on his career as the longest serving Chancellor of the Exchequer of the reign and as a reformer of the institutions of the state. Of course, the most dramatic elements in Gladstone’s career came in the 30 years after 1866, and not surprisingly historical attention has been devoted to that second half of his career, much of which was dominated by the problems of Ireland. Consequently, Gladstone’s career as a Treasury minister remains one of the less explored aspects of his life, which is paradoxical because it could be argued to frame much of his later administrative politics. For the purposes of this chapter, it was Gladstone’s experience as Chancellor in Aberdeen’s coalition and throughout the later Palmerston and Russell ministries that was to be his introduction to the conditions of Ireland and the challenges of its government within the framework of the Union. Rather than seeing it as a preliminary to the main engagement, it will be argued that it provided the context and some of the critical operating parameters for his later attitudes and policies. Gladstone’s financial principles were, in fact, the footprint on which the later ‘mission to pacify Ireland’ was built.2