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The Din of Diplomacy : William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.
The Din of Diplomacy

From ‘Political Speeches in Scotland, November and December 1879’, by William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898).

In a speech in Scotland in 1879, William Gladstone apologised for raising the subject of Foreign Policy, but explained that ordinary voters cannot afford to ignore such matters. Once Britain starts meddling in international affairs, the result will be war, and taxpayers foot the bill.

THERE was a saying of an ancient Greek orator, who, unfortunately, very much undervalued what we generally call the better portion of the community — namely, women; he made a very disrespectful observation, which I am going to quote, not for the purpose of concurring with it, but for the purpose of an illustration. Pericles, the great Athenian statesman, said with regard to women, Their greatest merit was to be never heard of.*

Now, what Pericles untruly said of women, I am very much disposed to say of foreign affairs — their great merit would be to be never heard of. Unfortunately, instead of being never heard of, they are always heard of, and you hear almost of nothing else; and I can’t promise you, gentlemen, that you will be relieved from this everlasting din, because the consequences of an unwise meddling with foreign affairs are consequences that will for some time necessarily continue to trouble you, and that will find their way to your pockets in the shape of increased taxation.

* On the roller-coaster career of Pericles, see our post Pericles and the Fickle Public of Athens.

From ‘Political Speeches in Scotland, November and December 1879’, by William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898).

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Picture: Photo by Elliott and Fry, via the National Portrait Gallery and Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
William Gladstone in March 1879. During the following November and December, Gladstone made a series of speeches in his constituency in Scotland, where he was MP for Midlothian. The speeches received widespread acclaim, and the following April, 1880, he became Prime Minister for the second time.
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By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)

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