Mr. Gladstone paid my „American Four-in-Hand in Britain” quite a compliment when Mrs. Carnegie and I were his guests at Hawarden in April, 1892. He suggested one day that I should spend the morning with him in his new library, while he arranged his books (which no one except himself was ever allowed to touch), and we could converse. In prowling about the shelves I found a unique volume and called out to my host, then on top of a library ladder far from me handling heavy volumes:
„Mr. Gladstone, I find here a book ‚Dunfermline Worthies,’ by a friend of my father’s. I knew some of the worthies when a child.”
„Yes,” he replied, „and if you will pass your hand three or four books to the left I think you will find another book by a Dunfermline man.”
I did so and saw my book „An American Four-in-Hand in Britain.” Ere I had done so, however, I heard that organ voice orating in full swing from the top of the ladder:
„What Mecca is to the Mohammedan, Benares to the Hindoo, Jerusalem to the Christian, all that Dunfermline is to me.”
My ears heard the voice some moments before my brain realized that these were my own words called forth by the first glimpse caught of Dunfermline as we approached it from the south.
[Footnote 66: The whole paragraph is as follows: „How beautiful is Dunfermline seen from the Ferry Hills, its grand old Abbey towering over all, seeming to hallow the city, and to lend a charm and dignity to the lowliest tenement! Nor is there in all broad Scotland, nor in many places elsewhere that I know of, a more varied and delightful view than that obtained from the Park upon a fine day. What Benares is to the Hindoo, Mecca to the Mohammedan, Jerusalem to the Christian, all that Dunfermline is to me.” (An American Four-in-Hand in Britain, p. 282.)]
„How on earth did you come to get this book?” I asked. „I had not the honor of knowing you when it was written and could not have sent you a copy.”
„No!” he replied, „I had not then the pleasure of your acquaintance, but some one, I think Rosebery, told me of the book and I sent for it and read it with delight. That tribute to Dunfermline struck me as so extraordinary it lingered with me. I could never forget it.”
This incident occurred eight years after the „American Four-in-Hand” was written, and adds another to the many proofs of Mr. Gladstone’s wonderful memory. Perhaps as a vain author I may be pardoned for confessing my grateful appreciation of his no less wonderful judgment.
The politician who figures publicly as „reader of the lesson” on Sundays, is apt to be regarded suspiciously. I confess that until I had known Mr. Gladstone well, I had found the thought arising now and then that the wary old gentleman might feel at least that these appearances cost him no votes. But all this vanished as I learned his true character. He was devout and sincere if ever man was. Yes, even when he records in his diary (referred to by Morley in his „Life of Gladstone”) that, while addressing the House of Commons on the budget for several hours with great acceptance, he was „conscious of being sustained by the Divine Power above.” Try as one may, who can deny that to one of such abounding faith this belief in the support of the Unknown Power must really have proved a sustaining influence, although it may shock others to think that any mortal being could be so bold as to imagine that the Creator of the Universe would concern himself about Mr. Gladstone’s budget, prepared for a little speck of this little speck of earth? It seems almost sacrilegious, yet to Mr. Gladstone we know it was the reverse – a religious belief such as has no doubt often enabled men to accomplish wonders as direct agents of God and doing His work.
On the night of the Queen’s Jubilee in June, 1887, Mr. Blaine and I were to dine at Lord Wolverton’s in Piccadilly, to meet Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone – Mr. Blaine’s first introduction to him. We started in a cab from the Metropole Hotel in good time, but the crowds were so dense that the cab had to be abandoned in the middle of St. James’s Street. Reaching the pavement, Mr. Blaine following, I found a policeman and explained to him who my companion was, where we were going, and asked him if he could not undertake to get us there. He did so, pushing his way through the masses with all the authority of his office and we followed. But it was nine o’clock before we reached Lord Wolverton’s. We separated after eleven.
Mr. Gladstone explained that he and Mrs. Gladstone had been able to reach the house by coming through Hyde Park and around the back way. They expected to get back to their residence, then in Carlton Terrace, in the same way. Mr. Blaine and I thought we should enjoy the streets and take our chances of getting back to the hotel by pushing through the crowds. We were doing this successfully and were moving slowly with the current past the Reform Club when I heard a word or two spoken by a voice close to the building on my right. I said to Mr. Blaine:
„That is Mr. Gladstone’s voice.”
He said: „It is impossible. We have just left him returning to his residence.”
„I don’t care; I recognize voices better than faces, and I am sure that is Gladstone’s.”
Finally I prevailed upon him to return a few steps. We got close to the side of the house and moved back. I came to a muffled figure and whispered:
„What does ‚Gravity’ out of its bed at midnight?”
Mr. Gladstone was discovered. I told him I recognized his voice whispering to his companion.
„And so,” I said, „the real ruler comes out to see the illuminations prepared for the nominal ruler!”
He replied: „Young man, I think it is time you were in bed.”
We remained a few minutes with him, he being careful not to remove from his head and face the cloak that covered them. It was then past midnight and he was eighty, but, boylike, after he got Mrs. Gladstone safely home he had determined to see the show.
The conversation at the dinner between Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Blaine turned upon the differences in Parliamentary procedure between Britain and America. During the evening Mr. Gladstone cross-examined Mr. Blaine very thoroughly upon the mode of procedure of the House of Representatives of which Mr. Blaine had been the Speaker. I saw the „previous question,” and summary rules with us for restricting needless debate made a deep impression upon Mr. Gladstone. At intervals the conversation took a wider range.
Mr. Gladstone was interested in more subjects than perhaps any other man in Britain. When I was last with him in Scotland, at Mr. Armistead’s, his mind was as clear and vigorous as ever, his interest in affairs equally strong. The topic which then interested him most, and about which he plied me with questions, was the tall steel buildings in our country, of which he had been reading. What puzzled him was how it could be that the masonry of a fifth floor or sixth story was often finished before the third or fourth. This I explained, much to his satisfaction. In getting to the bottom of things he was indefatigable.
Mr. Morley (although a lord he still remains as an author plain John Morley) became one of our British friends quite early as editor of the „Fortnightly Review,” which published my first contribution to a British periodical. The friendship has widened and deepened in our old age until we mutually confess we are very close friends to each other. We usually exchange short notes (sometimes long ones) on Sunday afternoons as the spirit moves us. We are not alike; far from it. We are drawn together because opposites are mutually beneficial to each other. I am optimistic; all my ducks being swans. He is pessimistic, looking out soberly, even darkly, upon the real dangers ahead, and sometimes imagining vain things. He is inclined to see „an officer in every bush.” The world seems bright to me, and earth is often a real heaven – so happy I am and so thankful to the kind fates. Morley is seldom if ever wild about anything; his judgment is always deliberate and his eyes are ever seeing the spots on the sun.
[Footnote 67: An American Four-in-Hand in Britain.]
[Footnote 68: „Mr. Carnegie had proved his originality, fullness of mind, and bold strength of character, as much or more in the distribution of wealth as he had shown skill and foresight in its acquisition. We had become known to one another more than twenty years before through Matthew Arnold. His extraordinary freshness of spirit easily carried Arnold, Herbert Spencer, myself, and afterwards many others, high over an occasional crudity or haste in judgment such as befalls the best of us in ardent hours. People with a genius for picking up pins made as much as they liked of this: it was wiser to do justice to his spacious feel for the great objects of the world – for knowledge and its spread, invention, light, improvement of social relations, equal chances to the talents, the passion for peace. These are glorious things; a touch of exaggeration in expression is easy to set right…. A man of high and wide and well-earned mark in his generation.” (John, Viscount Morley, in Recollections, vol. II, pp. 110, 112. New York, 1919.)]
I told him the story of the pessimist whom nothing ever pleased, and the optimist whom nothing ever displeased, being congratulated by the angels upon their having obtained entrance to heaven. The pessimist replied:
„Yes, very good place, but somehow or other this halo don’t fit my head exactly.”
The optimist retorted by telling the story of a man being carried down to purgatory and the Devil laying his victim up against a bank while he got a drink at a spring – temperature very high. An old friend accosted him:
„Well, Jim, how’s this? No remedy possible; you’re a gone coon sure.”
The reply came: „Hush, it might be worse.”
„How’s that, when you are being carried down to the bottomless pit?”
„Hush” – pointing to his Satanic Majesty – „he might take a notion to make me carry him.”
Morley, like myself, was very fond of music and reveled in the morning hour during which the organ was being played at Skibo. He was attracted by the oratorios as also Arthur Balfour. I remember they got tickets together for an oratorio at the Crystal Palace. Both are sane but philosophic, and not very far apart as philosophers, I understand; but some recent productions of Balfour send him far afield speculatively – a field which Morley never attempts. He keeps his foot on the firm ground and only treads where the way is cleared. No danger of his being „lost in the woods” while searching for the path.
Morley’s most astonishing announcement of recent days was in his address to the editors of the world, assembled in London. He informed them in effect that a few lines from Burns had done more to form and maintain the present improved political and social conditions of the people than all the millions of editorials ever written. This followed a remark that there were now and then a few written or spoken words which were in themselves events; they accomplished what they described. Tom Paine’s „Rights of Man” was mentioned as such.
Upon his arrival at Skibo after this address we talked it over. I referred to his tribute to Burns and his six lines, and he replied that he didn’t need to tell me what lines these were.
„No,” I said, „I know them by heart.”
In a subsequent address, unveiling a statue of Burns in the park at Montrose, I repeated the lines I supposed he referred to, and he approved them. He and I, strange to say, had received the Freedom of Montrose together years before, so we are fellow-freemen.
At last I induced Morley to visit us in America, and he made a tour through a great part of our country in 1904. We tried to have him meet distinguished men like himself. One day Senator Elihu Root called at my request and Morley had a long interview with him. After the Senator left Morley remarked to me that he had enjoyed his companion greatly, as being the most satisfactory American statesman he had yet met. He was not mistaken. For sound judgment and wide knowledge of our public affairs Elihu Root has no superior.
Morley left us to pay a visit to President Roosevelt at the White House, and spent several fruitful days in company with that extraordinary man. Later, Morley’s remark was:
„Well, I’ve seen two wonders in America, Roosevelt and Niagara.”
That was clever and true to life – a great pair of roaring, tumbling, dashing and splashing wonders, knowing no rest, but both doing their appointed work, such as it is.
Morley was the best person to have the Acton library and my gift of it to him came about in this way. When Mr. Gladstone told me the position Lord Acton was in, I agreed, at his suggestion, to buy Acton’s library and allow it to remain for his use during life. Unfortunately, he did not live long to enjoy it – only a few years – and then I had the library upon my hands. I decided that Morley could make the best use of it for himself and would certainly leave it eventually to the proper institution. I began to tell him that I owned it when he interrupted me, saying:
„Well, I must tell you I have known this from the day you bought it. Mr. Gladstone couldn’t keep the secret, being so overjoyed that Lord Acton had it secure for life.”
Here were he and I in close intimacy, and yet never had one mentioned the situation to the other; but it was a surprise to me that Morley was not surprised. This incident proved the closeness of the bond between Gladstone and Morley – the only man he could not resist sharing his happiness with regarding earthly affairs. Yet on theological subjects they were far apart where Acton and Gladstone were akin.
The year after I gave the fund for the Scottish universities Morley went to Balmoral as minister in attendance upon His Majesty, and wired that he must see me before we sailed. We met and he informed me His Majesty was deeply impressed with the gift to the universities and the others I had made to my native land, and wished him to ascertain whether there was anything in his power to bestow which I would appreciate.
I asked: „What did you say?”
Morley replied: „I do not think so.”
I said: „You are quite right, except that if His Majesty would write me a note expressing his satisfaction with what I had done, as he has to you, this would be deeply appreciated and handed down to my descendants as something they would all be proud of.”
This was done. The King’s autograph note I have already transcribed elsewhere in these pages.
That Skibo has proved the best of all health resorts for Morley is indeed fortunate, for he comes to us several times each summer and is one of the family, Lady Morley accompanying him. He is as fond of the yacht as I am myself, and, fortunately again, it is the best medicine for both of us. Morley is, and must always remain, „Honest John.” No prevarication with him, no nonsense, firm as a rock upon all questions and in all emergencies; yet always looking around, fore and aft, right and left, with a big heart not often revealed in all its tenderness, but at rare intervals and upon fit occasion leaving no doubt of its presence and power. And after that silence.
Chamberlain and Morley were fast friends as advanced radicals, and I often met and conferred with them when in Britain. When the Home Rule issue was raised, much interest was aroused in Britain over our American Federal system. I was appealed to freely and delivered public addresses in several cities, explaining and extolling our union, many in one, the freest government of the parts producing the strongest government of the whole. I sent Mr. Chamberlain Miss Anna L. Dawes’s „How We Are Governed,” at his request for information, and had conversations with Morley, Gladstone, and many others upon the subject.
I had to write Mr. Morley that I did not approve of the first Home Rule Bill for reasons which I gave. When I met Mr. Gladstone he expressed his regret at this and a full talk ensued. I objected to the exclusion of the Irish members from Parliament as being a practical separation. I said we should never have allowed the Southern States to cease sending representatives to Washington.
„What would you have done if they refused?” he asked.
„Employed all the resources of civilization – first, stopped the mails,” I replied.
He paused and repeated:
„Stop the mails.” He felt the paralysis this involved and was silent, and changed the subject.
In answer to questions as to what I should do, I always pointed out that America had many legislatures, but only one Congress. Britain should follow her example, one Parliament and local legislatures (not parliaments) for Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These should be made states like New York and Virginia. But as Britain has no Supreme Court, as we have, to decide upon laws passed, not only by state legislatures but by Congress, the judicial being the final authority and not the political, Britain should have Parliament as the one national final authority over Irish measures. Therefore, the acts of the local legislature of Ireland should lie for three months’ continuous session upon the table of the House of Commons, subject to adverse action of the House, but becoming operative unless disapproved. The provision would be a dead letter unless improper legislation were enacted, but if there were improper legislation, then it would be salutary. The clause, I said, was needed to assure timid people that no secession could arise.
Urging this view upon Mr. Morley afterwards, he told me this had been proposed to Parnell, but rejected. Mr. Gladstone might then have said: „Very well, this provision is not needed for myself and others who think with me, but it is needed to enable us to carry Britain with us. I am now unable to take up the question. The responsibility is yours.”
One morning at Hawarden Mrs. Gladstone said:
„William tells me he has such extraordinary conversations with you.”
These he had, no doubt. He had not often, if ever, heard the breezy talk of a genuine republican and did not understand my inability to conceive of different hereditary ranks. It seemed strange to me that men should deliberately abandon the name given them by their parents, and that name the parents’ name. Especially amusing were the new titles which required the old hereditary nobles much effort to refrain from smiling at as they greeted the newly made peer who had perhaps bought his title for ten thousand pounds, more or less, given to the party fund.
Mr. Blaine was with us in London and I told Mr. Gladstone he had expressed to me his wonder and pain at seeing him in his old age hat in hand, cold day as it was, at a garden party doing homage to titled nobodies. Union of Church and State was touched upon, and also my „Look Ahead,” which foretells the reunion of our race owing to the inability of the British Islands to expand. I had held that the disestablishment of the English Church was inevitable, because among other reasons it was an anomaly. No other part of the race had it. All religions were fostered, none favored, in every other English-speaking state. Mr. Gladstone asked:
„How long do you give our Established Church to live?”
My reply was I could not fix a date; he had had more experience than I in disestablishing churches. He nodded and smiled.
When I had enlarged upon a certain relative decrease of population in Britain that must come as compared with other countries of larger area, he asked:
„What future do you forecast for her?”
I referred to Greece among ancient nations and said that it was, perhaps, not accident that Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, Burns, Scott, Stevenson, Bacon, Cromwell, Wallace, Bruce, Hume, Watt, Spencer, Darwin, and other celebrities had arisen here. Genius did not depend upon material resources. Long after Britain could not figure prominently as an industrial nation, not by her decline, but through the greater growth of others, she might in my opinion become the modern Greece and achieve among nations moral ascendancy.
He caught at the words, repeating them musingly:
„Moral ascendancy, moral ascendancy, I like that, I like that.”
I had never before so thoroughly enjoyed a conference with a man. I visited him again at Hawarden, but my last visit to him was at Lord Randall’s at Cannes the winter of 1897 when he was suffering keenly. He had still the old charm and was especially attentive to my sister-in-law, Lucy, who saw him then for the first time and was deeply impressed. As we drove off, she murmured, „A sick eagle! A sick eagle!” Nothing could better describe this wan and worn leader of men as he appeared to me that day. He was not only a great, but a truly good man, stirred by the purest impulses, a high, imperious soul always looking upward. He had, indeed, earned the title: „Foremost Citizen of the World.”
In Britain, in 1881, I had entered into business relations with Samuel Storey, M.P., a very able man, a stern radical, and a genuine republican. We purchased several British newspapers and began a campaign of political progress upon radical lines. Passmore Edwards and some others joined us, but the result was not encouraging. Harmony did not prevail among my British friends and finally I decided to withdraw, which I was fortunately able to do without loss.
[Footnote 69: Mr. Carnegie acquired no less than eighteen British newspapers with the idea of promoting radical views. The political results were disappointing, but with his genius for making money the pecuniary results were more than satisfactory.]
My third literary venture, „Triumphant Democracy,” had its origin in realizing how little the best-informed foreigner, or even Briton, knew of America, and how distorted that little was. It was prodigious what these eminent Englishmen did not then know about the Republic. My first talk with Mr. Gladstone in 1882 can never be forgotten. When I had occasion to say that the majority of the English-speaking race was now republican and it was a minority of monarchists who were upon the defensive, he said:
„Why, how is that?”
„Well, Mr. Gladstone,” I said, „the Republic holds sway over a larger number of English-speaking people than the population of Great Britain and all her colonies even if the English-speaking colonies were numbered twice over.”
„Ah! how is that? What is your population?”
„Sixty-six millions, and yours is not much more than half.”
„Ah, yes, surprising!”
[Footnote 70: Triumphant Democracy, or Fifty Years’ March of the Republic. London, 1886; New York, 1888.]
With regard to the wealth of the nations, it was equally surprising for him to learn that the census of 1880 proved the hundred-year-old Republic could purchase Great Britain and Ireland and all their realized capital and investments and then pay off Britain’s debt, and yet not exhaust her fortune. But the most startling statement of all was that which I was able to make when the question of Free Trade was touched upon. I pointed out that America was now the greatest manufacturing nation in the world. [At a later date I remember Lord Chancellor Haldane fell into the same error, calling Britain the greatest manufacturing country in the world, and thanked me for putting him right.] I quoted Mulhall’s figures: British manufactures in 1880, eight hundred and sixteen millions sterling; American manufactures eleven hundred and twenty-six millions sterling. His one word was:
[Footnote 71: The estimated value of manufactures in Great Britain in 1900 was five billions of dollars as compared to thirteen billions for the United States. In 1914 the United States had gone to over twenty-four billions.]
Other startling statements followed and he asked:
„Why does not some writer take up this subject and present the facts in a simple and direct form to the world?”
I was then, as a matter of fact, gathering material for „Triumphant Democracy,” in which I intended to perform the very service which he indicated, as I informed him.
„Round the World” and the „American Four-in-Hand” gave me not the slightest effort but the preparation of „Triumphant Democracy,” which I began in 1882, was altogether another matter. It required steady, laborious work. Figures had to be examined and arranged, but as I went forward the study became fascinating. For some months I seemed to have my head filled with statistics. The hours passed away unheeded. It was evening when I supposed it was midday. The second serious illness of my life dates from the strain brought upon me by this work, for I had to attend to business as well. I shall think twice before I trust myself again with anything so fascinating as figures.