Morley, 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn was a British Liberal statesman,
writer and newspaper editor.
A prominent Gladstonian Liberal, Morley was educated at Cheltenham
College, University College School and Lincoln College, Oxford.
He was called to the bar before deciding to pursue a career in
journalism. He was the editor of the Fortnightly Review from 1867
to 1882 and of the Pall Mall Gazette from 1880-83 before being
elected as a Liberal MP for Newcastle. In 1885 he was made Chief
Secretary for Ireland, only to be turned out when Gladstone's
government fell over Home Rule and Lord Salisbury became Prime
the severe defeat of the Gladstonian party at the general election
of 1886, Morley divided his life between politics and letters
until Gladstone's return to power in 1892, when he resumed his
former office. In the election of 1895 he lost his seat, but soon
found another in Scotland, for the Montrose Burghs. He had during
the interval taken a leading part in parliament, but his tenure
of the chief secretaryship of Ireland was hardly a success.
Irish gentry made things as difficult for him as possible, and
the path of an avowed Home Ruler installed in office at Dublin
Castle was beset with pitfalls. In the intestine disputes which
agitated the Liberal party during Lord Rosebery's administration,
and afterwards, Morley sided with Sir William Harcourt, and was
the recipient and practically co-signatory of his letter resigning
the Liberal leadership in December 1898.
Morley's activities again turned to literature, his anti-Imperial
views being practically swamped by the overwhelming predominance
of Unionism and Imperialism. His occasional speeches, however,
denouncing the Government policy towards the Boers and towards
the war, though not representing the popular side, always elicited
a respectful hearing, if only for the eloquence of their language.
a man of letters his work was practically concluded at this period,
and may briefly be characterized. His position as a leading English
writer had early been determined by his monographs on Voltaire
(1872), Rousseau (1873), Diderot and the Encyclopaedists (1878),
Burke (1879), and Walpole (1889). Burke as the champion of sound
policy in America and of justice in India, Walpole as the pacific
minister understanding the true interests of his country, fired
Life of Oliver Cromwell (1900) revises Gardiner as Gardiner revised
Carlyle. The Life of Cobden (1881) is an able defence of that
statesman's views rather than a critical biography or a real picture
of the period. Morley's contributions to political journalism
and to literary, ethical and philosophical criticism were numerous
and valuable. They show great individuality of character, and
recall the personality of John Stuart Mill, with whose mode of
thought he had many affinities.
great speech at Manchester, in 1899 raises him to a special level
amongst masters of English rhetoric: "You may make thousands
of women widows and thousands of children fatherless. It will
be wrong. You may add a new province to your empire. It will still
be wrong. You may increase the shares of Mr Rhodes and his Chartereds
beyond the dreams of avarice. Yea, and it will still be wrong!"
the death of Gladstone Morley was principally engaged upon his
biography, until it was published in 1903. Representing as it
does so competent a writers sifting of a mass of material, the
Life of Gladstone was a masterly account of the career of the
great Liberal statesman; traces of Liberal bias were inevitable
but are rarely manifest; and in spite of the a priori unlikelihood
of a full appreciation of Gladstone's powerful religious interests
from such a quarter (Morley was an agnostic), the whole treatment
is characterized by sympathy and judgment. Among the coronation
honors of 1902, Morley was nominated an original member of the
new Order of Merit; and in July 1902 he was presented by Carnegie
with the late Lord Acton's valuable library, which, on the 20th
of October, he in turn gave to the university of Cambridge.
When Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman formed his cabinet at the end
of 1905 Morley was made Secretary of State for India. In this
position he was conspicuous in May 1907 and afterwards for his
firmness in sanctioning extreme measures for dealing with the
outbreak in India of alarming symptoms of sedition.
he was strongly opposed by some of the more extreme members of
the Radical party, on the ground of belying his democratic principles
in dealing with India, his action was generally recognized as
combining statesmanship with patience; and, though uncompromising
in his attitude towards revolutionary propaganda, he showed his
popular sympathies by appointing two distinguished native Indians
to the council, and taking steps for a decentralization of the
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman resigned in 1908 and Asquith became
prime minister, Morley retained his post in the new cabinet; but
it was thought advisable to relieve him of the burden imposed
by a seat in the House of Commons, and he was transferred to the
upper house, being created a peer with the title of Viscount Morley
a member of the House of Lords Lord Morley helped assure the passage
of the Parliament Act of 1911, which eliminated the Lords's power
to veto bills. From 1910 until the outbreak of the First World
War Morley was Lord President of the Council. Upon Britain's declaration
of war on Germany, Morley resigned along with Charles Trevelyan
and John Burns.
A philosophical Radical of a somewhat mid-19th century type, and
highly suspicious of the later opportunistic reaction (in all
its forms) against Cobdenite principles, he yet retained the respect
of the majority whom it was his usual fate to find against him
in English politics by the indomitable consistency of his principles
and by sheer force of character and honesty of conviction and
utterance. His legacy was a purely moral one; having not married
and having neither brothers nor children, his title became extinct
upon his death in 1923.
estate was probated at 59,765 pounds sterling, a surprising sum
for a self made man who devoted his life to writing and politics.