The writings of F. S. Oliver arouse as little interest today as the causes he espoused: tariff reform, the rights of Ulster, military preparedness, Imperial unity are issues abandoned by Politics but unclaimed by History. Booksellers indifferently expose his works to the elements. It is true that a brief account of his career is to be found in the Dictionary of National Biography; but the third volume of the Cambridge History of the British Empire does not mention his name. Yet to his contemporaries Oliver was a figure of great significance and the decline of his reputation has been swift and startling. Reasons can be put forward to account for the change: his political tracts are no longer relevant, his historical works were the efforts of an amateur in a discipline which has become increasingly professional, and his influence was always based primarily upon the force of his personality and the charm of his correspondence. Oliver's singular position in public affairs both helped and hindered his influence. Business preoccupations and indifferent health excluded him from an active part in politics, or so it is said. Doubt on this point is perhaps permissible, since the decade before 1914 saw him active in discussion and prolific as an author. It seems more likely that these were excuses offered to conceal his inability to accept the conventions of democracy. Walpole and Hamilton, Oliver's two heroes, marked the bounds of his political beliefs: the wider world of manhood suffrage was not for him.
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