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William Ewart Gladstone

1809-1898. British prime minister. Son of a Liverpool merchant, he was educated at Eton and Oxford, distinguished himself in classics and mathematics, and would have entered the ministry had not his father, himself a member of Parliament, planned a political career for his son. He entered Parliament in 1832 and continued a member (with one brief interruption) until 1895. He was throughout a man of principle and humanity: his first speech was mainly an attack on slavery, and on many occasions he championed oppressed minorities, always aiming at a decision on moral grounds. He supported Catholic Emancipation, not because of religious indifference, but from principle. The Oxford Movement* greatly influenced him, and he opposed Archbishop Tait,* who wanted to abolish ritual. Gladstone nevertheless opposed the claims of Roman Catholicism. He knew his Bible and called one of his books The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture.