Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Lord George Bentinck: A Political Biography
Author: Disraeli, Benjamin, Earl of Beaconsfield
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lord George Bentinck: A Political Biography" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



LORD GEORGE BENTINCK

A POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY

By Benjamin Disraeli



‘He left us the legacy of heroes: the memory of his great name and the
inspiration of his great example.’



TO

LORD HENRY BENTINCK,

IS INSCRIBED

This Political Biography

ONE FOR WHOM HE ENTERTAINED A DEEP AFFECTION,

AND WHOSE TALENTS AND VIRTUES

HE SHARES.



LORD GEORGE BENTINCK

A POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY

[Illustration: bentink-page009]



CHAPTER I.

     _The Man_

THE political career of Lord George Bentinck was peculiar. He had, to
use his own expression, ‘sate in eight Parliaments without having taken
part in any great debate,’ when remarkable events suddenly impelled him
to advance and occupy not only a considerable but a leading position
in our public affairs. During three years, under circumstances of great
difficulty, he displayed some of the highest qualities of political
life: courage and a lofty spirit; a mastery of details which experience
usually alone confers; a quick apprehension and a clear intelligence;
indomitable firmness; promptness, punctuality, and perseverance which
never failed; an energy seldom surpassed; and a capacity for labour
which was perhaps never equalled. At the very moment when he had
overcome many contrarieties and prejudices; when he had been most
successful in the House of Commons, and, sustained only by his own
resources, had considerably modified the legislation of the government
which he opposed on a measure of paramount importance; when the nation,
which had long watched him with interest, began to congratulate itself
on the devotion of such a man to the business of the country, he was in
an instant taken from us. Then it was that, the memory of the past and
the hope of the future blending together, all men seemed to mourn over
this untimely end, and there was that pang in the public heart which
accompanies the unexpected disappearance of a strong character.

What manner of man this was, who thus on a sudden in the middle term of
life relinquished all the ease and pleasure of a patrician existence to
work often eighteen hours daily, not for a vain and brilliant notoriety,
which was foreign alike both to his tastes and his turn of mind, but for
the advancement of principles, the advocacy of which in the chief scene
of his efforts was sure to obtain for him only contention and unkindly
feelings; what were his motives, purposes and opinions; how and why
did he labour; what were the whole scope and tendency of this original,
vigorous, and self-schooled intelligence; these would appear to be
subjects not unworthy of contemplation, and especially not uninteresting
to a free and political community.

The difficulty of treating cotemporary characters and events has been
ever acknowledged; but it may be doubted whether the difficulty is
diminished when we would commemorate the men and things that have
preceded us. The cloud of passion in the first instance, or in the
other the mist of time, may render it equally hard and perplexing to
discriminate.

It should not be forgotten that the most authentic and interesting
histories are those which have been composed by actors in the
transactions which they record. The cotemporary writer who is personally
familiar with his theme has unquestionably a great advantage; but it is
assumed that his pen can scarcely escape the bias of private friendship
or political connection. Yet truth, after all, is the sovereign passion
of mankind; nor is the writer of these pages prepared to relinquish his
conviction that it is possible to combine the accuracy of the present
with the impartiality of the future.

Lord George Bentinck had sat for eighteen years in Parliament, and,
before he entered it, had been for three years private secretary to Mr.
Canning, who had married the sister of the Duchess of Portland. Such a
post would seem a happy commencement of a public career; but whether
it were the untimely death of his distinguished relative, or a natural
indisposition, Lord George--though he retained the seat for King’s
Lynn, in which he had succeeded his uncle, the late governor-general of
India--directed his energies to other than parliamentary pursuits. For
some time he had followed his profession, which was that of arms, but
of late years he had become absorbed in the pastime and fortunes of the
turf, in which his whole being seemed engrossed, and which he pursued on
a scale that perhaps has never been equalled.

Lord George had withdrawn his support from the government of the Duke of
Wellington, when the friends of Mr. Canning quitted that administration;
and when in time they formed not the least considerable portion of the
cabinet of Lord Grey, he resumed his seat on the ministerial benches. On
that occasion an administrative post was offered him and declined; and
on subsequent occasions similar requests to him to take office were
equally in vain. Lord George, therefore, was an original and hearty
supporter of the Reform Bill, and he continued to uphold the Whigs in
all their policy until the secession of Lord Stanley, between whom and
himself there subsisted warm personal as well as political sympathies.
Although he was not only a friend to religious liberty, as we shall have
occasion afterwards to remark, but always viewed with great sympathy
the condition of the Roman Catholic portion of the Irish population, he
shrank from the taint of the ultra-montane intrigue. Accompanying
Lord Stanley, he became in due time a member of the great Conservative
opposition, and, as he never did anything by halves, became one of
the most earnest, as he certainly was one of the most enlightened,
supporters of Sir Robert Peel. His trust in that minister was indeed
absolute, and he has subsequently stated in conversation that when,
towards the end of the session of ‘45, a member of the Tory party
ventured to predict and denounce the impending defection of the
minister, there was no member of the Conservative party who more
violently condemned the unfounded attack, or more readily impugned the
motives of the assailant.

He was not a very frequent attendant in the House. He might be counted
on for a party division, and when, towards the termination of the
Melbourne ministry, the forces were very nearly balanced, and the
struggle became very close, he might have been observed, on more
than one occasion, entering the House at a late hour, clad in a
white great-coat, which softened, but did not conceal, the scarlet
hunting-coat.

Although he took no part in debate, and attended the House rather as a
club than as a senate, he possessed a great and peculiar influence in
it. He was viewed with interest, and often with extraordinary regard,
by every sporting man in the House. With almost all of these he was
acquainted; some of them, on either side, were his intimate companions
and confederates.

His eager and energetic disposition; his quick perception, clear
judgment, and prompt decision; the tenacity with which he clung to his
opinions; his frankness and love of truth; his daring and speculative
spirit; his lofty bearing, blended as it was with a simplicity of manner
very remarkable; the ardour of his friendships, even the fierceness
of his hates and prejudices--all combined to form one of those strong
characters who, whatever may be their pursuit, must always direct and
lead.

Nature had clothed this vehement spirit with a material form which was
in perfect harmony with its noble and commanding character. He was tall
and remarkable for his presence; his countenance almost a model of manly
beauty; the face oval, the complexion clear and mantling; the forehead
lofty and white; the nose aquiline and delicately moulded; the upper
lip short. But it was in the dark-brown eye, which flashed with piercing
scrutiny, that all the character of the man came forth: a brilliant
glance, not soft, but ardent, acute, imperious, incapable of deception
or of being deceived.

Although he had not much sustained his literary culture, and of late
years, at any rate, had not given his mind to political study, he had
in the course of his life seen and heard a great deal, and with profit.
Nothing escaped his observation; he forgot nothing and always thought.
So it was that on all the great political questions of the day he had
arrived at conclusions which guided him. He always took large views
and had no prejudices about things, whatever he might indulge in as
to persons. He was always singularly anxious to acquire the truth, and
would spare no pains for that purpose; but when once his mind was made
up, it was impossible to influence him.

In politics, he was a Whig of 1688, which became him, modified, however,
by all the experience of the present age. He wished to see our society
founded on a broad basis of civil and religious liberty. He retained
much of the old jealousy of the court, but had none of popular
franchises. He was for the Established Church, but for nothing more,
and was very repugnant to priestly domination. As for the industrial
question, he was sincerely opposed to the Manchester scheme, because
he thought that its full development would impair and might subvert our
territorial constitution, which he held to be the real security of our
freedom, and because he believed that it would greatly injure Ireland,
and certainly dissolve our colonial empire.

He had a great respect for merchants, though he looked with some
degree of jealousy on the development of our merely foreign trade. His
knowledge of character qualified him in a great degree to govern men.
and if some drawbacks from this influence might be experienced in his
too rigid tenacity of opinion, and in some quickness of temper, which,
however, always sprang from a too sensitive heart, great compensation
might be found in the fact that there probably never was a human being
so entirely devoid of conceit and so completely exempt from selfishness.
Nothing delighted him more than to assist and advance others. All the
fruits of his laborious investigations were always at the service of
his friends without reserve or self-consideration. He encouraged them
by making occasions for their exertions, and would relinquish his own
opportunity without a moment’s hesitation, if he thought the abandonment
might aid a better man.



CHAPTER II.

     _The Protection Problem_

THERE was at this time a metropolitan society for the protection of
agriculture, of which the Duke of Richmond was chairman, and which
had been established to counteract the proceedings of the Manchester
confederation. It was in communication with the local Protection
societies throughout the country; and although the adhesion to its
service by the parliamentary members of the old Conservative party had
been more limited than might have been expected, nevertheless many
county members were enrolled in its ranks, and a few of the most eminent
were actively engaged in its management. In this they were assisted by
an equal number of the most considerable tenant-farmers. In the present
state of affairs, the council of the Protection Society afforded the
earliest and readiest means to collect opinion and methodize action; and
it was therefore resolved among its managers to invite all members of
Parliament who sympathized with their purpose, though they might not be
members of their society, to attend their meeting and aid them at the
present crisis with their counsel.

A compliance with this request occasioned the first public appearance
of Lord George Bentinck, as one of the organizers of a political
party,--for he aspired to no more. The question was, whether a third
political party could be created and sustained,--a result at all times
and under any circumstances difficult to achieve, and which had failed
even under the auspices of accomplished and experienced statesmen. In
the present emergency, was there that degree of outraged public feeling
in the country, which would overcome all obstacles and submit to any
inconveniences, in order to ensure its representation in the House of
Commons? It was the opinion of Lord George Bentinck that such was the
case; that if for the moment that feeling was inert and latent, it was
an apathy which arose from the sudden shock of public confidence, and
the despair which under such circumstances takes possession of men;
that if it could be shown to the country, that the great bulk of the
Conservative party were true to their faith, and were not afraid, even
against the fearful odds which they would have to encounter, to proclaim
it, the confidence and the courage of the country would rally, and the
party in the House of Commons would find external sympathy and support.

With these views it became of paramount importance that the discussion
on the government measure should be sustained on the part of the
Protectionists with their utmost powers. They must prove to the country,
that they could represent their cause in debate, and to this end all
their energies must be directed. It would be fatal to them if the
discussion were confined to one or two nights, and they overborne by
the leading and habitual speakers. They must bring forward new men; they
must encourage the efforts of those now unrecognized and comparatively
unknown; they must overcome all reserve and false shame, and act as
became men called upon to a critical and leading part, not by their
arrogance or ambition, but by the desertion and treachery of those to
whose abilities they had bowed without impatience and reluctance. There
was a probability of several vacancies immediately taking place in
counties where the seats were filled by converts, but men of too
scrupulous an honour to retain the charge which they had sought and
accepted as the professors of opinions contrary to those which now
received their mournful adhesion. The result of these elections would
greatly depend upon the spirit and figure of the party in the House of
Commons, in their first encounter with the enemy.

These views, so just and so spirited, advanced with high-bred
earnestness by one rarely met in political turmoils, and enforced with a
freshness and an affable simplicity which were very winning, wonderfully
encouraged those to whom they were addressed. All seemed touched by the
flame which burned in the breast of that man, so lofty in his thoughts
but so humble in his ambition, who counselled ever the highest deeds,
and was himself ever prepared to undertake the humblest duties.

The business of this day was notable. Calculations were made of those
who might be fairly counted on to take a part in debate; some discussion
even ensued as to who should venture to reply late at night to the
minister; a committee was appointed to communicate with all members on
either side supposed to be favourable to the principle of Protection to
the labour of the country; a parliamentary staff was organized, not only
to secure the attendance of members, but to guard over the elections;
finally, the form of the amendment to the government measure was
discussed and settled, and it was agreed that, if possible, it should be
moved by Mr. Philip Miles, the member for the city of Bristol, and
who had the ear of the House not merely from the importance of his
constituency, and seconded by Sir William Heathcote, the member for the
county of Hampshire, a country gentleman of great accomplishments, and
so highly considered by both sides that he was very generally spoken of
as a probable successor to the chair.

All was furnished by this lately forlorn party except a leader, and even
then many eyes were turned and some hopeful murmurs addressed towards
Lord George Bentinck, who in the course of this morning had given such
various proofs of his fitness and such evidence of his resource. But he
shook his head with a sort of suppressed smile, a faint blush, and an
air of proud humility that was natural to him: ‘I think,’ he said, ‘we
have had enough of leaders; it is not in my way; I shall remain the last
of the rank and file.’

So little desirous, originally, was Lord George Bentinck to interfere
actively in that great controversy in which ultimately he took so
leading a part, that before the meeting of Parliament in 1846 he begged
a gentleman whom he greatly esteemed, a member of the legal profession,
and since raised to its highest honours, to call upon him at Harcourt
House, when he said that he had taken great pains to master the case
of the protective system; that he was convinced its abrogation would
ultimately be very injurious to this country; but although, both
in point of argument and materials, he feared no opponent, he felt
constitutionally so incapable of ever making a speech, that he wished
to induce some eminent lawyer to enter the House of Commons, and avail
himself of his views and materials, which he had, with that object,
reduced to writing. He begged, therefore, that his friend, although a
free-trader, would assist him, by suggesting a fitting person for this
office.

Accordingly, the name of a distinguished member of the bar, who had
already published a work of merit, impugning the principles of the new
commercial system, was mentioned, and this learned gentleman was applied
to, and was not indisposed to accept the task. A mere accident prevented
this arrangement being accomplished. Lord George then requested his
friend to make some other selection; but his adviser very sensibly
replied, that although the House of Commons would have listened with
respect to a gentleman who had given evidence of the sincerity of his
convictions by the publication of a work which had no reference to
Parliament, they would not endure the instance of a lawyer brought into
the House merely to speak from his brief; and that the attempt would be
utterly fruitless. He earnestly counselled Lord George himself to make
the effort; but Lord George, with characteristic tenacity, clung for
some time to his project, though his efforts to accomplish it were
fortunately not successful.

Some of the friends of Lord George Bentinck, remembering his
inexperience in debate, aware of the great length at which he must
necessarily treat the theme, and mindful that he was not physically
well-qualified for controlling popular assemblies, not having a strong
voice, or, naturally, a very fluent manner, were anxious that he should
not postpone his speech until an hour so late; that an audience, jaded
by twelve nights’ discussion, would be ill-attuned to statistical
arguments and economical details. But still clinging to the hope
that some accident might yet again postpone the division, so that
the Protectionists might gain the vote of Mr. Hildyard, who had been
returned that day for South Notts, having defeated a cabinet minister,
Lord George remained motionless until long past midnight. Mr. Cobden
having spoken on the part of the confederation, the closing of the
debate was felt to be inevitable. Even then, by inducing a Protectionist
to solicit the Speaker’s eye, Lord George attempted to avert the
division; but no supporter of the government measure, of any colour,
advancing to reply to this volunteer, Bentinck was obliged to rise.
He came out like a lion forced from his lair. And so it happened, that
after all his labours of body and mind, after all his research and
unwearied application and singular vigilance, after having been at his
post for a month, never leaving the House, even for refreshment, he
had to undertake the most difficult enterprise in which a man can well
embark, with a concurrence of every disadvantage which could ensure
failure and defeat. It would seem that the audience, the subject, and
the orator, must be equally exhausted; for the assembly had listened for
twelve nights to the controversy, and he who was about to address them
had, according to his strange habit, taken no sustenance the whole day;
it being his custom to dine after the House was up, which was very
often long after midnight, and this, with the exception of a slender
breakfast, rigidly restricted to dry toast, was his only meal in the
four-and-twenty hours.

He had been forced to this regimen, from food exercising a lethargic
influence over him; so that, in addition to some constitutional weakness
in his organ, he usually laboured, when he addressed the House, under
the disadvantage of general exhaustion. And this was, no doubt, a
principal cause of that over-excitement and apparently unnecessary
energy in his manner of speaking, of which he was himself perfectly,
and even painfully, conscious. He was wont to say, that before he could
speak he had to make a voice, and, as it were, to pump it from the very
core of his frame. One who took a great interest in his success once
impressed on him the expediency of trusting entirely to his natural
voice and the interest and gravity of his matter, which, combined
with his position as the recognized leader of a great party, would be
adequate to command the attention of his audience; and he subsequently
endeavoured very often to comply with this suggestion. He endeavoured
also very much to control his redundancy of action and gesture, when
that peculiarity was pointed out to him with the delicacy, but the
sincerity, of friendship. He entirely freed himself from a very awkward
feature of his first style of speaking, namely, the frequent repetition
of a sentence, which seemed at first a habit inveterate with him; but
such was his force of will, that when the necessity of ridding himself
of this drawback was properly pointed out to him, he achieved the
desired result. No one bore criticism more gently and kindly, so long as
it was confined to his personal and intellectual characteristics, for he
was a man absolutely without vanity or conceit, who thought very humbly
of himself, in respect of abilities, and deemed no labour too great to
achieve even a slight improvement. But though in these respects the very
child of simplicity, he was a man of almost unexampled pride, and chafed
under criticism, when his convictions or his conduct were questioned. He
was very tenacious of his opinion, almost inexorable; and it required
a courage nearly equal to his own, combined with a serene temper,
successfully to impugn his conclusions.

Not, therefore, excited by vanity, but sustained by self-respect, by
an overpowering feeling that he owed it to himself and the opinions he
held, to show to the world that they had not been lightly adopted and
should not be lightly laid aside, Bentinck rose, long past the noon of
night, at the end of this memorable debate, to undertake an office
from which the most successful and most experienced rhetoricians of
Parliament would have shrunk with intuitive discretion. But duty scorns
prudence, and criticism has few terrors for a man with a great purpose.
Unshaken by the adverse hour and circumstances, he proceeded to
accomplish the object which he had long meditated, and for which he was
fully prepared.

Reminding the House, while he appealed to their indulgence, that, though
he had had the honour of a seat for eight parliaments, he had never once
ventured to trespass on its time on any subject of great debate, he
at once took a clear and comprehensive ground of objection to the
government scheme. He opposed it not only because he objected to the
great change contemplated with respect to the agricultural interest,
but, on principle, to the entire measure, ‘a great commercial
revolution, which we are of opinion that the circumstances of the
country do not by any means require.’

Noticing the observation of the Secretary at War, that the agricultural
interest, in submitting to this great change, might now accept it with
honour, instead of its being eventually extorted by force, he happily
retorted, that vicious as he thought the measure, he should feel it
deprived of half its vice if it could be carried without loss of honour,
damage to reputation, and forfeiture of public character to a vast
number of gentlemen now present. And he proceeded to show among other
testimonies, by an appeal to the distinct language of the speech from
the throne on the dissolution of 1841, that ‘every member who occupied a
seat in this House was returned pledged either to oppose or maintain the
principle of protection to national industry.’

Adverting to the new position, that the experience of the last
three years justified the reversal of the system which the existing
administration had been summoned to office to uphold, he wisely
remarked, that ‘the country will not be satisfied with three years’
experience of any system. Three years’ experience is not sufficiently
extensive to afford a proper criterion by which we may decide the
failure or success of any description of policy whatsoever.’

Noticing that the minister had more especially founded ‘his present
belief in doctrines contrary to those which he had heretofore uniformly
maintained,’ by the assumption that the price of corn would not be more
reduced than the price of cattle and other commodities affected by the
tariff of 1842, and also by the results of previous experiments in the
instances of silk and wool, Lord George ‘accepted his challenge’
on these grounds, and proceeded in great detail to investigate these
examples.

The House listened with great attention for full two hours, during
which he treated these subjects. This attention no doubt was generally
accorded because it was felt due to the occasion, and, under the
circumstances, to the speaker; but those who, however contrary might
be the results at which they had arrived, had themselves deeply entered
into these investigations, recognized very soon that Bentinck was
master of his subject. Sir Robert Peel looked round very often with that
expression of appreciation which it was impossible for his nature to
refuse to parliamentary success, even when the ability displayed was
hostile to his projects. The minister, with reference to the wool trade,
had dwelt on the year 1842, when prices were much depressed, while they
had greatly rallied in 1844, when the importation of foreign wool had
risen from forty-five to sixty-five millions of pounds; and he had drawn
a triumphant inference that the increase of importation and the increase
of price were in consequence of the reduction of the duty. This instance
had produced a great effect; but Lord George showed the House, by a
reference to the tables of 1836, that the importation of foreign wool
had then risen to sixty-five millions of pounds, and that large foreign
importation was consistent with high prices to the domestic grower. Nor
was he less successful about the foreign cattle. He reminded his friends
on the Treasury bench how strenuously, previously to the introduction of
the tariff of 1842, they had urged upon their agricultural friends that
no foreign cattle could enter under their regulations, and that
the whole object of the change was to strengthen the hands of the
agricultural interest, as regarded more essential protection, by
removing the odium of a nominal protection: ‘Convinced by my right
honourable friends, in 1842, that their tariff would be as inoperative
as it has proved, I gave my cordial support to the measure.’

Perceiving that the House began to be wearied with the details of
the silk trade, which he had investigated with extraordinary zeal, he
postponed until the specific vote in committee his objections to the
reduction of the timber duties. The fact is, he had so thoroughly
mastered all these topics, that his observations on each of them would
have themselves formed a speech of sufficient length and interest. But
he successfully checked any interruption by what may be fairly styled
his dignified diffidence.

‘I trust the House will recollect that I am fighting the battle of a
party whose leaders have deserted them; and though I cannot wield my
weapons with the skill of the right honourable gentleman on the Treasury
bench, I trust the House will remember the emergency which has dragged
me out to intrude upon their indulgence.’

And again, when he announced that he was now about to investigate the
pretext of ‘famine in the land,’ and some impatience was exhibited, he
drew up and said, ‘I think, having sat eighteen years in this house, and
never once having trespassed on its time before in any one single
great debate, I may appeal to the past as a proof that I duly weigh the
measure of my abilities, and that I am painfully conscious of my proper
place in this house.’

It was impossible to resist such appeals from such a person, even at
three o’clock in the morning; and diffident, but determined, he then
entered into what was, perhaps, the most remarkable portion of his
speech--an investigation of what was the real position of the country
with respect to the supply of food in the past autumn and at the present
moment. Having shown from the trade circulars that, far from there being
at present ‘a wheat famine,’ the stocks in the granaries in bond were
more than double in amount to what they were in the year 1845, ‘a year
admitted by all to be a year of extraordinary abundance,’ he proceeded
to the Irish part of the question: ‘I beg leave to say, that though this
debate has now continued for three weeks, I am the first gentleman
who has at all entered into the real state of the case as regards the
allegation of a potato famine in Ireland, upon which, be it remembered,
is founded the sole case of her Majesty’s ministers for a repeal of the
corn laws.’

And this was very true. The fact is, though the Protectionist party had
made a most unexpected and gallant defence, no one was really prepared
for the contest except Bentinck. Between the end of November and the
meeting of Parliament, he had thrown all the energies of his passionate
mind into this question. He had sought information on all points
and always at the fountain-head. He had placed himself in immediate
communication with the ablest representatives of every considerable
interest attacked, and being ardent and indefatigable, gifted with
a tenacious memory and a very clear and searching spirit, there was
scarcely a detail or an argument connected with his subject which was
not immediately at his command. No speeches in favour of the protective
system have ever been made in the House of Commons compared with his in
depth and range of knowledge; and had there been any member not
connected with the government, who had been able to vindicate the merits
of British agriculture as he did when the final struggle occurred, the
impression which was made by the too-often unanswered speeches of the
Manchester confederation would never have been effected. But the great
Conservative party, exhausted by the labours of ten years of opposition,
thought that after the triumph of ‘41 it might claim a furlough. The
defence of their cause was left entirely to the ministers of their
choice; and ministers, distracted with detail and wearied with official
labour, are not always the most willing or the most efficient champions
of the organic principles of a party.

Sir Robert Peel, with respect to the disease in the Irish potato, had
largely referred to the statements of the inspectors of police. Lord
George wanted to know why the reports of the lieutenants of the Irish
counties were not given. Being well-informed upon this head, he asked
the government to produce the report of Lord Duncannon, the lord
lieutenant of Carlow; especially that of his noble father, the earl of
Bes-borough, lord lieutenant of Kilkenny. ‘Is there any man in England
or in Ireland whose opinion, from his business-like habits, his great
practical knowledge, and the warm and affectionate interest which for
a long period of years he has taken in everything which concerns the
interests of Ireland, especially of the Irish peasantry--is there
any man whose opinion would have greater weight? The opinion of Lord
Bes-borough on an Irish subject, the lieutenant of an Irish county, and
himself long a cabinet minister? Well, sir, I am assured that, having
taken the utmost pains to investigate this matter, Lord Besborough has
made an elaborate report to the Irish government. Well, then, I
desire to know why Lord Besborough’s report to the Irish government
is suppressed? Is it because that report would not assist the present
policy of her Majesty’s government?’

He alleged the names of many other individuals of high station who
had officially reported on the subject to the government: of Lord
Castlereagh, the lieutenant of Down, a member of the House; of Lord
de Vesci, whose son was sitting for the Queen’s County, over which his
father presided in the name of the queen. A murmur ran round the House,
that it would have been as well if these reports had been produced.

The last portion of this argumentative harangue referred to the most
important division of the subject. Bentinck met it boldly, without
evasion; nor was there any portion of his address more interesting, more
satisfactory, and more successful. ‘I now come,’ he said, ‘to the great
challenge, which is ever and anon put forth by the Anti-Corn Law League,
and now by their disciples, her Majesty’s ministers. How are we, they
ask, with our limited extent of territory, to feed a population annually
and rapidly increasing at the rate of three hundred thousand a-year,
as generally stated by the member for Stockport--a rate increased by my
noble friend, the member for the West Riding, to a thousand a day, or
three hundred and sixty-five thousand a year?’

He first proved in a complete manner that, from the year 1821 to the
year 1844, the population of the country had increased at the rate of
less than thirty-two per cent., while the growth of wheat during the
same period had increased no less than sixty-four per cent. He then
proceeded to inquire why, with such an increased produce, we were still,
as regards bread corn, to a certain extent, an importing nation? This he
accounted for by the universally improved condition of the people, and
the enlarged command of food by the working classes. He drew an animated
picture, founded entirely on the representations of writers and public
men adverse to the Protective System, of the superior condition of the
people of ‘England, happy England,’ to that of other countries: how they
consumed much more of the best food, and lived much longer. This was
under Protection, which Lord John Russell had stigmatized, in his
letter, ‘the bane of agriculture.’ ‘In the history of my noble friend’s
illustrious family,’ he continued, ‘I should have thought that he would
have found a remarkable refutation of such a notion.’ And then he drew a
lively sketch of the colossal and patriotic works of the Earls and
Dukes of Bedford, ‘whereby they had drained and reclaimed three
hundred thousand acres of land drowned in water, and brought them
into cultivation, and thus converted into fertile fields a vast morass
extending over seven counties in England.’ Could the system which had
inspired such enterprise be justly denounced as baneful?

To show the means of the country to sustain even a much-increasing
population, and that those means were in operation, he entered into one
of the most original and interesting calculations that was perhaps
ever offered to the House of Commons. Reminding the House that in the
preceding year (1845) the farmers of England, at a cost of two millions
sterling, had imported two hundred and eighty thousand tons of guano, he
proceeded to estimate what would be the effect on the productive powers
of the land of that novel application. Two hundred thousand tons, or, in
other words, four million hundred-weight, were expended on the land
in 1845. Half of these, he assumed, would be applied to the growth of
wheat, and the other half to the growth of turnips preparatory to the
wheat crop of the ensuing year. According to the experiments tried and
recorded in the Royal Agricultural Journal, it would seem that by the
application of two hundred-weight of guano to an acre of wheat land, the
produce would be increased by one quarter per acre. At this rate, one
hundred thousand tons, or two million hundred-weight of guano would add
one million quarters of wheat to the crop, or bread for one year for
one million of people. But as he was very careful never to over-state
a case, Lord George assumed, that it would require three hundred
hundredweight of guano to an acre to produce an extra quarter of wheat.
According to this estimate, one hundred thousand tons of guano, applied
to the land in 1845, must have added six hundred and sixty-six thousand
six hundred and sixty-six quarters of grain to the wheat crop, or, in
other words, bread for six hundred and sixty-six thousand six hundred
and sixty-six additional mouths. ‘And now for turnips,’ he continued.
The Norfolk authorities whom he quoted have in like manner proved that
two hundred-weight of guano will add ten tons per acre to the turnip
crop. But again, for fear of exaggeration, he supposed that three
hundred-weight would be requisite to create such increased fertility. In
this case, two million hundredweight of guano would add six million six
hundred and sixty-six thousand six hundred and sixty tons to the natural
unmanured produce of the crop. Now it is generally considered that one
ton of Swedes would last twenty sheep three weeks, and that each sheep
should gain half a pound of meat per week, or one pound and a half in
three weeks; thus twenty sheep feeding on one ton of turnips in three
weeks should in the aggregate make, as the graziers say, thirty pounds
of mutton. But to be safe in his estimate, he would assume that one ton
of turnips makes only half this quantity. ‘Multiply, then,’ exclaimed
Bentinck with the earnest air of a crusader, ‘six million six hundred
and sixty-six thousand six hundred and sixty by fifteen, and you have no
less than ninety-nine million nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand and
nine hundred pounds of mutton as the fruits of one hundred thousand tons
of guano; which, at ninety-two pounds per man--the average Englishman’s
allowance--affords meat for one million eight hundred and sixty thousand
nine hundred and fifty-five--nearly two million of her Majesty’s
subjects.’

This is a specimen of those original and startling calculations to
which the House was soon to become accustomed from his lips. They were
received at first with astonishment and incredulity; but they were never
impugned. The fact is, he was extremely cautious in his data, and no
man was more accustomed ever to impress upon his friends the extreme
expediency of not over-stating a case. It should also be remarked of
Lord George Bentinck, that in his most complicated calculations he never
sought aid from notes.

We have necessarily only noticed a few of the traits of this remarkable
performance. Its termination was impressive.

‘We have heard in the course of these discussions a good deal about an
ancient monarchy, a reformed House of Commons, and a proud aristocracy.
Sir, with regard to our ancient monarchy, I have no observation to make;
but, if so humble an individual as myself might be permitted to whisper,
a word in the ear of that illustrious and royal personage who, as
he stands nearest, so is he justly dearest, to her who sits upon the
throne, I would take leave to say, that I cannot but think he listened
to ill advice, when, on the first night of this great discussion, he
allowed himself to be seduced by the first minister of the crown to
come down to this House to usher in, to give _éclat_, and as it were
by reflection from the queen, to give the semblance of the personal
sanction of her Majesty to a measure which, be it for good or for evil,
a great majority at least of the landed aristocracy of England, of
Scotland, and of Ireland, imagine fraught with deep injury, if not ruin,
to them

--a measure which, not confined in its operation to this great class,
is calculated to grind down countless smaller interests engaged in the
domestic trades and, interests of the empire, transferring the profits
of all these interests--English, Scotch, Irish, and Colonial

--great and small alike, from Englishmen, from Scotchmen, and from
Irishmen, to Americans, to Frenchmen, to Russians, to Poles, to
Prussians, and to Germans. Sir, I come now to the reformed House of
Commons; and as one who was a party to that great measure, I cannot but
feel a deep interest in its success, and more especially in that
portion of it which extended the franchise to the largest and the most
respectable body in the kingdom--I mean the landed tenantry of England;
and deeply should I regret should any large proportion of those members
who have been sent to Parliament to represent them in this House,
prove to be the men to bring lasting dishonour upon themselves, their
constituencies, and this House, by an act of tergiversation so gross
as to be altogether unprecedented in the annals of any reformed
or unreformed House of Commons. Sir, lastly, I come to the “proud
aristocracy.” We are a proud aristocracy, but if we are proud, it is
that we are proud in the chastity of our honour. If we assisted in ‘41
in turning the Whigs out of office, because we did not consider a
fixed duty of eight shillings a quarter on foreign corn a sufficient
protection, it was with honesty of purpose and in single-mindedness we
did so; and as we were not before the fact, we will not be accomplices
after the fact in the fraud by which the Whig ministers were expelled
from power. If we are a proud aristocracy, we are proud of our honour,
inasmuch as we never have been guilty, and never can be guilty, of
double-dealing with the farmers of England--of swindling our opponents,
deceiving our friends, or betraying our constituents.’

The division was called. The West-India interest, notwithstanding
the amendment was moved by the member for Bristol, deserted the
Protectionists. Deaf to the appeals, and the remonstrances, and the
warnings of Lord George, one of their leading members replied, with
a smile of triumphant content, that ‘they had made a satisfactory
arrangement for themselves.’ How satisfactory did the West-Indians find
it four months subsequently? All the shipping interest deserted the
land. They were for everything free, except navigation; there was no
danger of that being interfered with; ‘it rested on quite distinct
grounds--national grounds.’ They were warned, but they smiled in
derisive self-complacency. Lord George Bentinck lived to have the
West-India interest and the shipping interest on their knees to him,
to defend their perilled or to restore their ruined fortunes; and with
characteristic generosity and proud consistency, he undertook the task,
and sacrificed his life in the attempt.

Notwithstanding these terrible defalcations, when the numbers were
announced, at nearly four o’clock in the morning, the majority had
not reached those three magical figures supposed necessary, under the
circumstances, to success. In a house of five hundred and eighty-one
members present, the amendment of the Protectionists was defeated only
by ninety-seven; and two hundred and forty-two gentlemen, in spite of
desertion, difficulty, and defeat, still maintained the ‘chastity of
their honour.’



CHAPTER III.

     _The Irish Question_

IN THE meantime, besides the prolonged and unforeseen resistance of the
Protectionists, there were other and unexpected causes at work which
equally, or perhaps even more powerfully tended to the fulfilment of the
scheme of delay, which Lord George Bentinck had recommended his friends
to adopt and encourage.

In the latter months of the year 1845, there broke out in some of the
counties of Ireland one of those series of outrages which have hitherto
periodically occurred in districts of that country. Assassination and
crimes of violence were rife: men on the queen’s highway were shot from
behind hedges, or suddenly torn from their horses and beaten to death
with clubs; houses were visited in the night by bodies of men, masked
and armed--their owners dragged from their beds, and, in the presence
of their wives and children, maimed and mutilated; the administration of
unlawful oaths, with circumstances of terror, indicated the existence of
secret confederations, whose fell intents, profusely and ostentatiously
announced by threatening letters, were frequently and savagely
perpetrated.

These barbarous distempers had their origin in the tenure of land in
Ireland, and in the modes of its occupation. A combination of causes,
political, social, and economical, had for more than a century unduly
stimulated the population of a country which had no considerable
resources except in the soil. That soil had become divided into minute
allotments, held by a pauper tenantry, at exorbitant rents, of a class
of middlemen, themselves necessitous, and who were mere traders in land.
A fierce competition raged amid the squalid multitude for these strips
of earth which were their sole means of existence. To regulate this
fatal rivalry, and restrain this emulation of despair, the peasantry,
enrolled in secret societies, found refuge in an inexorable code. He who
supplanted another in the occupation of the soil was doomed by an occult
tribunal, from which there was no appeal, to a terrible retribution. His
house was visited in the night by whitefeet and ribbonmen--his doom was
communicated to him, by the post, in letters, signed by Terry Alt, or
Molly M’Guire, or he was suddenly shot, like a dog, by the orders of
Captain Rock. Yet even these violent inflictions rather punished than
prevented the conduct against which they were directed. The Irish
peasant had to choose between starving and assassination. If, in
deference to an anonymous mandate, he relinquished his holding, he and
those who depended on him were outcasts and wanderers; if he retained or
accepted it, his life might be the forfeit, but subsistence was secured;
and in poor and lawless countries, the means of living are more valued
than life. Those who have treated of the agrarian crimes of Ireland
have remarked, that the facility with which these outrages have been
committed has only been equalled by the difficulty of punishing them. A
murder, perpetrated at noonday, in the sight of many persons, cannot be
proved in a court of justice. The spectators are never witnesses; and it
has been inferred from this, that the outrage is national, and that the
heart of the populace is with the criminal. But though a chief landlord,
or a stipendiary magistrate, may occasionally be sacrificed, the great
majority of victims are furnished by the humblest class. Not sympathy,
but terror, seals the lip and clouds the eye of the bystander. And this
is proved by the fact that while those who have suffered have almost
always publicly declared that they were unable to recognize their
assailants, and believed them to be strangers, they have frequently, in
confidence, furnished the police with the names of the guilty.

Thus, there is this remarkable characteristic of the agrarian anarchy
of Ireland which marks it out from all similar conditions of other
countries: it is a war of the poor against the poor.

Before the rapid increase of population had forced governments to study
political economy and to investigate the means of subsisting a people,
statesmen had contented themselves by attributing to political causes
these predial disturbances, and by recommending for them political
remedies. The course of time, which had aggravated the condition of the
Irish peasantry, had increased the numbers, the wealth, and the general
importance of those of the middle classes of Ireland who professed the
Roman Catholic faith. Shut out from the political privileges of the
constitution, these formed a party of discontent that was a valuable
ally to the modern Whigs, too long excluded from that periodical share
of power which is the life-blood of a parliamentary government and the
safeguard of a constitutional monarchy. The misgovernment of Ireland
became therefore a stock topic of the earlier Opposition of the present
century; and advocating the cause of their clients, who wished to become
mayors, and magistrates, and members of the legislature, they argued
that in the concession of those powers and dignities, and perhaps in
the discreet confiscation of the property of the Church, the only cures
could be found for threatening notices, robbery of arms, administering
of unlawful oaths, burglary, murder, and arson.

Yet if these acts of violence were attributable to defective political
institutions, why, as was usually the case, were they partial in their
occurrence? Why were they limited to particular districts? If political
grievances were the cause, the injustice would be as sharp in tranquil
Wexford as in turbulent Tipperary. Yet out of the thirty-two counties
of Ireland, the outrages prevailed usually in less than a third. These
outrages were never insurrectionary: they were not directed against
existing authorities; they were stimulated by no public cause or
clamour; it was the private individual who was attacked, and for a
private reason. This was their characteristic.

But as time elapsed, two considerable events occurred: the Roman
Catholic restrictions were repealed, and the Whigs became ministers.
Notwithstanding these great changes, the condition of the Irish
peasantry remained the same; the tenure of land was unchanged, the modes
of its occupation were unaltered, its possession was equally necessary
and equally perilous. The same circumstances produced the same
consequences. Notwithstanding even that the Irish Church had been
remodelled, and its revenues not only commuted but curtailed;
notwithstanding that Roman Catholics had not only become members of
Parliament but even Parliament had been reformed; Irish outrage became
more flagrant and more extensive than at any previous epoch--and the
Whigs were ministers.

Placed in this responsible position, forced to repress the evil, the
causes of which they had so often explained, and which with their
cooperation had apparently been so effectually removed, the Whig
government were obliged to have recourse to the very means which they
had so frequently denounced when recommended by their rivals, and that,
too, on a scale of unusual magnitude and severity. They proposed for
the adoption of Parliament one of those measures which would suspend the
constitution of Ireland, and which are generally known by the name of
Coercion Acts.

The main and customary provisions of these Coercion Acts were of
severe restraint, and scarcely less violent than the conduct they were
constructed to repress. They invested the lord lieutenant with power
to proclaim a district as disturbed, and then to place its inhabitants
without the pale of the established law; persons out of their dwellings
between sunset and sunrise were liable to transportation; and to secure
the due execution of the law, prisoners were tried before military
tribunals, and not by their peers, whose verdicts, from sympathy or
terror, were usually found to baffle justice.

These Coercion Acts were effectual; they invariably obtained their end,
and the proclaimed districts became tranquil. But they were an affair
of police, not of government; essentially temporary, their effect was
almost as transient as their sway, and as they were never accompanied
with any deep and sincere attempt to cope with the social circumstances
which produced disorder, the recurrence of the chronic anarchy was
merely an affair of time. Whether it were that they did not sufficiently
apprehend the causes, or that they shrank from a solution which must
bring them in contact with the millions of a surplus population, there
seems always to have been an understanding between the public men
of both parties, that the Irish difficulty should be deemed a purely
political, or at the utmost a religious one. And even so late as 1846,
no less a personage than the present chief secretary, put forward by
his party to oppose an Irish Coercion Bill which themselves had loudly
called for, declared that he could not sanction its penal enactments
unless they were accompanied by the remedial measures that were
necessary, to wit, an Irish Franchise Bill, and a Bill for the amendment
of municipal corporations!

When Sir Robert Peel, in 1841, after a memorable opposition of ten
years, acceded to office, sustained by all the sympathies of the
country, his Irish policy, not sufficiently noticed amid the vast and
urgent questions with which he had immediately to deal, was, however, to
the political observer significant and interesting. As a mere matter of
party tactics, it was not for him too much to impute Irish disturbances
to political and religious causes, even if the accumulated experience
of the last ten years were not developing a conviction in his mind, that
the methods hitherto adopted to ensure the tranquillity of that country
were superficial and fallacious. His cabinet immediately recognized
a distinction between political and predial sources of disorder.
The first, they resolved into a mere system of agitation, no longer
justifiable by the circumstances, and this they determined to put down.
The second, they sought in the conditions under which land was occupied,
and these they determined to investigate. Hence, on the one hand, the
O’Connell prosecution: on the other, the Devon commission.

This was the bold and prudent policy of a minister who felt he had
the confidence of the country and was sustained by great parliamentary
majorities; and when the summoner of monster meetings was convicted, and
the efficient though impartial manner in which the labours of the land
commission were simultaneously conducted came to be bruited about, there
seemed at last some prospect of the system of political quackery of
which Ireland had been so long the victim being at last subverted. But
there is nothing in which the power of circumstances is more evident
than in politics. They baffle the forethought of statesmen, and control
even the apparently inflexible laws of national development and decay.

Had the government of 1841 succeeded in its justifiable expectation of
terminating the trade of political agitation in Ireland, armed with all
the authority and all the information with which the labours of the land
commission would have furnished them, they would in all probability have
successfully grappled with the real causes of Irish misery and misrule.
They might have thoroughly reformed the modes by which land is holden
and occupied; have anticipated the spontaneous emigration that now rages
by an administrative enterprise scarcely more costly than the barren
loan of ‘47, and which would have wafted native energies to imperial
shores; have limited under these circumstances the evil of the potato
famine, even if the improved culture of the interval might not have
altogether prevented that visitation; while the laws which regulated the
competition between home and foreign industry in agricultural produce
might have been modified with so much prudence, or, if necessary,
ultimately repealed with so much precaution, that those rapid and
startling vicissitudes that have so shattered the social fabric of
Ireland might altogether have been avoided.

But it was decreed that it should be otherwise. Having achieved the
incredible conviction of O’Connell, by an Irish jury, the great culprit
baffled the vengeance of the law by a quirk which a lawyer only could
have devised. As regards his Irish policy, Sir Robert Peel never
recovered this blow, the severity of which was proportionably increased
by its occurrence at a moment of unprecedented success. Resolute not to
recur to his ancient Orangeism, yet desperate after his discomfiture of
rallying a moderate party around his ministry, his practical mind,
more clear-sighted than foreseeing, was alarmed at the absence of all
influences for the government of Ireland. The tranquillity which might
result from a reformed tenure of the soil, must, if attainable, be
a distant blessing, and at present he saw only the obstacles to its
fulfilment--prejudiced landlords, and the claims and necessities of
pauper millions. He shrank from a theory which might be an illusion. He
required a policy for the next post and the next division. There was
in his view only one course to take, to outbid his predecessors as
successfully in Irish politics as he was doing in taxes and tariffs. He
resolved to appropriate the liberal party of Ireland, and merge it into
the great Conservative confederation which was destined to destroy so
many things. He acted with promptitude and energy, for Sir Robert Peel
never hesitated when he had made up his mind. His real character was
very different from his public reputation. Far from being timid
and wary, he was audacious and even headstrong. It was his cold and
constrained demeanour that misled the public. There never was a man who
did such rash things in so circumspect a manner. He had been fortunate
in early disembarrassing himself of the Orange counsellors who had
conducted his Irish questions when in opposition; vacant judgeships
had opportunely satisfied the recognized and respectable claims of
Mr. Serjeant Jackson and Mr. Lefroy; and so Sir Robert Peel, without
a qualm, suddenly began to govern Ireland by sending it ‘messages of
peace.’

They took various forms; sometimes a Charitable Bequests Act virtually
placed the Roman Catholic hierarchy in friendly equality with the
prelates of the Established Church; sometimes a ‘godless college’
called forth a moan from alarmed and irritated Oxford; the endowment
of Maynooth struck wider and deeper, and the middle-classes of England,
roused from their religious lethargy, called in vain to the rescue of
a Protestantism betrayed. But the minister was unshaken. Successful
and self-sufficient, impressed with a conviction that his government
in duration would rival that of a Walpole or a Pitt, and exceed both
in lustre, he treated every remonstrance with imperious disdain. He had
even accustomed his mind to contemplate an ecclesiastical adjustment
of Ireland which would have allied in that country the Papacy with the
State, and have terminated the constitutional supremacy of the Anglican
Church, when suddenly, in the very heat of all this arrogant fortune,
the mighty fabric of delusion shivered and fell to the ground.

An abused and indignant soil repudiated the ungrateful race that had
exhausted and degraded its once exuberant bosom. The land refused
to hold those who would not hold the land on terms of justice and of
science. All the economical palliatives and political pretences of
long years seemed only to aggravate the suffering and confusion. The
poor-rate was levied upon a community of paupers, and the ‘godless
colleges’ were denounced by Rome as well as Oxford.

After a wild dream of famine and fever, imperial loans, rates in
aid, jobbing public works, confiscated estates, constituencies
self-disfranchised, and St. Peter’s bearding St. James’s in a spirit
becoming Christendom rather than Europe, time topped the climax of Irish
misgovernment; and by the publication of the census of 1851, proved that
the millions with whose evils no statesmen would sincerely deal,
but whose condition had been the pretext for so much empiricism, had
disappeared, and nature, more powerful than politicians, had settled the
‘great difficulty.’

Ere the publication of that document, the mortal career of Sir Robert
Peel had closed, and indeed several of the circumstances to which we
have just alluded did not occur in his administration; but the contrast
between his policy and its results was nevertheless scarcely less
striking. It was in ‘45 that he transmitted his most important ‘message
of peace’ to Ireland, to be followed by an autumnal visit of her Majesty
to that kingdom, painted in complacent and prophetic colours by her
prime minister. The visit was not made. In the course of that autumn,
ten counties of Ireland were in a state of anarchy; and, mainly in
that period, there were 136 homicides committed, 138 houses burned, 483
houses attacked, and 138 fired into; there were 544 cases of aggravated
assault, and 551 of robbery of arms; there were 89 cases of bands
appearing in arms; there were more than 200 cases of administering
unlawful oaths; and there were 1,944 cases of sending threatening
letters. By the end of the year, the general crime of Ireland had
doubled in amount and enormity compared with the preceding year.



CHAPTER IV.

     _The Cure for Irish Ills_

LORD GEORGE BENTINCK had large but defined views as to the policy which
should be pursued with respect to Ireland. He was a firm supporter of
the constitutional preponderance allotted to the land in our scheme of
government, not from any jealousy or depreciation of the other great
sources of public wealth, for his sympathy with the trading classes
was genuine, but because he believed that constitutional preponderance,
while not inconsistent with great commercial prosperity, to be the best
security for public liberty and the surest foundation of enduring power.
But as reality was the characteristic of his vigorous and sagacious
nature, he felt that a merely formal preponderance, one not sustained
and authorized by an equivalent material superiority, was a position not
calculated to endure in the present age, and one especially difficult to
maintain with our rapidly increasing population. For this reason he was
always very anxious to identify the policy of Great Britain with that
of Ireland, the latter being a country essentially agricultural; and he
always shrank from any proposition which admitted a difference in the
interests of the two kingdoms.

Liberal politicians, who some years ago were very loud for justice to
Ireland, and would maintain at all hazards the identity of the interests
of the two countries, have of late frequently found it convenient
to omit that kingdom from their statistical bulletins of national
prosperity. Lord George Bentinck, on the contrary, would impress on his
friends, that if they wished to maintain the territorial constitution of
their country, they must allow no sectarian considerations to narrow the
basis of sympathy on which it should rest; and in the acres and millions
of Ireland, in its soil and its people, equally neglected, he would have
sought the natural auxiliaries of our institutions. To secure for our
Irish fellow-subjects a regular market for their produce; to develop
the resources of their country by public works on a great scale; and
to obtain a decent provision for the Roman Catholic priesthood from the
land and not from the consolidated fund, were three measures which he
looked upon as in the highest degree conservative.

When the project of the cabinet of 1846 had transpired, Lord George at
once declared, and was in the habit of reiterating his opinion, that ‘it
would ruin the 500,000 small farmers of Ireland,’ and he watched with
great interest and anxiety the conduct of their representatives in
the House of Commons. It was with great difficulty that he could bring
himself to believe, that political liberalism would induce the members
for the south and west of Ireland to support a policy in his opinion so
fatal to their countrymen as the unconditional repeal of the corn laws;
and, indeed, before they took that step, which almost all of them
have since publicly regretted and attempted to compensate for by their
subsequent votes in the House of Commons, the prospect of their conduct
frequently and considerably varied.

The Earl of St. Germans, the chief secretary of the Lord Lieutenant,
introduced the Coercion Bill to the House of Lords on the 24th of
February, and, considering the exigency, and the important reference
to it in the speech from the throne, this step on the part of the
government was certainly not precipitate. It was observed that the
strongest supporters of the measure in the House of Lords on this
occasion were the leaders of the Whig party. Lord Lansdowne, ‘so far
from complaining of the Government for bringing forward the measure at
so early a period of the session, was ready to admit, that after the
declaration of her Majesty, a declaration unhappily warranted by
facts known to many of their lordships, every day was lost in which an
effectual remedy was not at least attempted to put an end to a state
of society so horrible.’ Lord Clanricarde ‘gave his ready assent to the
bill;’ and even Lord Grey, ‘though he regretted the necessity for this
measure, was of opinion that the chief secretary had established a
sufficient case for arming the executive government with some additional
powers.’ When, therefore, at the end of the month of March, Lord George
Bentinck was invited to attend a meeting of his friends, held at the
house of Mr. Bankes, to consider the course which should be adopted
by the Protectionist party with respect to the Coercion Bill, it was
assumed, as a matter of course, that the coalition of the government
and the Whigs must secure the passing of the measure, even if the
Protectionists were disposed, for the chance of embarrassing the
ministry, to resist it; and of course there was no great tendency in
that direction. Men are apt to believe that crime and coercion are
inevitably associated. There was abundance of precedent for the course,
which seemed also a natural one.

In less than a century there had been seventeen coercive acts for
Ireland, a circumstance which might make some ponder whether
such legislation were as efficacious as it was violent. However,
assassination rife, Captain Rock and Molly M’Guire out at night, Whigs
and Tories all agreed, it was easy to catch at a glance the foregone
conclusion of the meeting. One advantage of having a recognized organ of
a political party is, that its members do not decide too precipitately.
They listen before they determine, and if they have a doubt, they
will grant the benefit of it to him whose general ability they have
acknowledged, and to whom they willingly give credit for having viewed
the question at issue in a more laborious and painful manner than
themselves. Without a leader, they commit themselves to opinions
carelessly and hastily adopted. This is fatal to a party in debate; but
it often entails very serious consequences when the mistakes have been
committed in a less public and responsible scene than the House of
Commons.

In the present case, there was only one individual who took any
considerable lead in the management of the party who ventured to suggest
the expediency of pausing before they pledged themselves to support an
unconstitutional measure, proposed by a government against which they
were arrayed under circumstances of urgent and unusual opposition. The
support of an unconstitutional measure may be expedient, but it cannot
be denied that it is the most indubitable evidence of confidence. This
suggestion, though received with kindness, elicited little sympathy, and
Lord George Bentinck, who had not yet spoken, and who always refrained
at these meetings from taking that directing part which he never wished
to assume, marking the general feeling of those present, and wishing to
guide it to a practical result advantageous to their policy, observed
that the support of the Coercion Bill by the Protectionists, ought to be
made conditional on the government proving the sincerity of their policy
by immediately proceeding with their measure; that if life were in
such danger in Ireland as was officially stated, and as he was bound
to believe, no Corn or Customs’ Bill could compete in urgency with the
necessity of pressing forward a bill, the object of which was to arrest
wholesale assassination. He was, therefore, for giving the government
a hearty support, provided they proved they were in earnest in their
determination to put down murder and outrage in Ireland, by giving a
priority in the conduct of public business to the measure in question.

This view of the situation, which was certainly adroit, for it combined
the vindication of order with an indefinite delay of the measures for
the repeal of the protective system, seemed to please every one; there
was a murmur of approbation, and when one of the most considerable of
the country gentlemen expressed the prevalent feeling, and added that
all that was now to be desired was that Lord George Bentinck would
kindly consent to be the organ of the party on the occasion, and state
their view to the House, the cheering was very hearty. It came from the
hearts of more than two hundred gentlemen, scarcely one of whom had a
personal object in this almost hopeless struggle beyond the maintenance
of a system which he deemed advantageous to his country; but they wished
to show their generous admiration of the man who, in the dark hour of
difficulty and desertion, had proved his courage and resource, had
saved them from public contempt, and taught them to have confidence in
themselves. And after all, there are few rewards in life which equal
such sympathy from such men. The favour of courts and the applause
of senates may have their moments of excitement and delight, but the
incident of deepest and most enduring gratification in public life is to
possess the cordial confidence of a high-spirited party, for it touches
the heart as well as the intellect, and combines all the softer feelings
of private life with the ennobling consciousness of public duty.

Lord George Bentinck, deeply moved, consented to become the organ of the
Protectionists in this matter; but he repeated in a marked manner his
previous declaration, that his duty must be limited to the occasion: he
would serve with them, but he could not pretend to be the leader of a
party. In that capacity, however, the government chose to recognize him,
and there occurred in consequence, very shortly after this meeting, a
scene in the House of Commons, which occasioned at the time a great deal
of surprise and scandal. The Secretary of the Treasury, in pursuance
of one of his principal duties, which is to facilitate by mutual
understanding the conduct of public business in the House of Commons,
applied to Lord George Bentinck, confessedly at the request of Sir
Robert Peel, to ‘enter into some arrangement’ as to the conduct of
public business before Easter. The arrangement suggested was, that if
the Protectionists supported the Coercion Bill, which it was the wish
of Sir Robert Peel should be read a first time before Easter, the third
reading of the Bill for the Repeal of the Corn Laws should be postponed
until after Easter. The interview by appointment took place in the Vote
Office, where the Secretary of the Treasury ‘called Lord George aside’
and made this proposition. Lord George stated in reply, ‘what he
believed to be the views of the party with whom he served,’ and they
were those we have already intimated. The ‘arrangement’ was concluded,
and it was at the same time agreed that certain questions, of which
notice had been given by Lord John Russell, relative to the progress
of these very measures, should be allowed by the Protectionists to pass
_sub silentio_. This ‘pledge,’ made by the noble lord for himself and
his friends, was ‘scrupulously observed.’ Nevertheless, after all this,
a letter arrived from the Secretary of the Treasury, addressed to the
noble lord, stating that the secretary ‘had not been authorized in
saying as much as he had said,’ and requesting that the conversation
which had taken place might be considered private. Upon this, Lord
George Bentinck drew up a statement, ‘setting forth all that had
passed,’ and forwarded it to the secretary as his reply. Subsequently,
he met that gentleman, who admitted that ‘every word in that statement,
as respected the conversation which had passed, was perfectly correct.’

This being the state of the case, on the second night of the debate
on Mr. Eliot Yorke’s amendment, which we have noticed, and after the
adjournment had been moved and carried, the government proceeded with
some motions of form, which indicated their intention to secure, if
possible, the third reading of the Corn Bill before Easter. Upon
this, Lord George Bentinck, after a hurried and apparently agitated
conversation with the Secretary of the Treasury and others connected
with the government, rose to move the adjournment of the House. He then
gave as his reason the circumstances which we have briefly conveyed. A
scene of considerable confusion occurred; the Secretary of the Treasury
admitted the correctness of the statement; the First Lord of the
Treasury rejected the alleged authority of the secretary. Mr. Tuffnell,
on the part of the Whigs, intimated that public business could not be
carried on if the recognized organs were repudiated by their chief. The
feeling of all parties coincided with Mr. Tuffnell; finally, an Irish
repealer rose and announced that the government were bartering their
Corn Bill to secure coercion to Ireland. Lord George Bentinck said the
Coercion Bill was ‘a second Curfew Act,’ that nothing but necessity
could justify it, and if it were necessary it must be immediate. Sir
Robert remained irritated and obstinate. He would not give up a stage
either of the Corn Bill or the Coercion Bill; he wanted to advance both
before Easter. The mere division of the House between Free-traders and
Protectionists had already ceased; there were breakers ahead, and it
was not difficult from this night to perceive that the course of the
government would not be so summary as they had once expected.

This strange interlude occurred after midnight on the 26th of March. On
Friday, the 27th, the House divided on the amendment of Mr. Eliot Yorke,
and the Corn Bill was read for the second time. On the reassembling of
the House on Monday, the 30th, an extraordinary scene took place.

It appears that the cabinet, after painful deliberation, had arrived at
the conclusion that, notwithstanding the importance of sending up
the Corn Bill to the House of Lords before Easter, it was absolutely
necessary to proceed at once with the Coercion Bill; and it was resolved
that the Secretary of State should on this evening lay before the House
the facts and reasons which ‘induce the Government to believe in the
necessity of the measure.’ Mr. O’Connell and his followers had already
announced their intention of opposing the first reading of the bill,
an allowable but very unusual course. It is competent to the House of
Commons to refuse a first reading to any bill sent down to it; but the
journals afford few examples of the exercise of such a privilege. A
member of the House of Lords may lay on the table, as a matter of pure
right, any bill which he thinks proper to introduce, and it is read a
first time as a matter of course; the orders of the House of Commons are
different, and a member must obtain permission before he introduces a
bill. This permission is occasionally refused; but when a bill comes
from the House of Lords, the almost invariable custom is to read it
for the first time without discussion. There are, however, as we have
observed, instances to the contrary, and the Irish Coercion Bill of ‘33
was one of them. So pregnant a precedent could not be forgotten on
the present occasion. The government therefore were prepared for an
opposition to the first reading of their bill; but trusting to the
strength of their case and the assumed support of the Whig party, they
believed that this opposition would not be stubborn, more especially
as there were numerous stages of the measure on which the views of its
opponents might be subsequently expressed, and as they themselves were
prepared to engage that they would not proceed further than this
first reading until the Corn Bill had passed the House of Commons. The
consternation, therefore, of the government could scarcely be
concealed, when they found on Monday night that they had to encounter a
well-organized party opposition, headed by Sir William Somerville, and
sanctioned and supported in debate by Lord John Russell and Sir George
Grey.

It would seem indeed a difficult and somewhat graceless office for the
Whigs to oppose the first reading of a government bill, concerning,
too, the highest duties of administration, which had received such
unqualified approval from all the leading members of their party in the
House of Lords, who had competed in declarations of its necessity and
acknowledgments of its moderation, while they only regretted the too
tardy progress of a measure so indispensable to the safety of
the country and the security of her Majesty’s subjects. A curious
circumstance, however, saved them from this dilemma, which yet in
the strange history of faction they had nevertheless in due time to
encounter.

As the Coercion Bill coming from the Lords appeared on the paper of
the day in the form of a notice of motion, the Secretary of State,
this being a day on which orders have precedence, had to move that such
orders of the day should be postponed, so that he might proceed with
the motion on the state of Ireland, of which notice had been given. The
strict rule of the House is, that on Mondays and Fridays, orders of
the day should have precedence of notices of motion, so that it was
impossible for the Secretary of State to make his motion, that a certain
bill (the Protection of Life--Ireland--Bill) should be read a first time
without permission of the House, a permission always granted as a matter
of course on such nights to the government, since the business which can
be brought forward, whether in the shape of orders or motions, is
purely government business, and thus the interests and privilege of no
independent member of Parliament can be affected by a relaxation of
the rules which the convenience of a ministry and the conduct of public
business occasionally require. However, on this night, no sooner had
the Secretary of State made, in a few formal words, this formal request,
than up sprang Sir William Somerville to move an amendment, that the
orders of the day should not be postponed, which he supported in a
spirited address, mainly on the ground of the great inconvenience that
must be suffered from the postponement of the Corn Bill. The motion of
the Secretary of State would produce a long, exciting, and exasperating
debate. Time would be lost--for what? To advance one stage of a measure
which it was avowedly not the intention of the government to press at
the present moment. Sir William concluded with a very earnest appeal
to Lord George Bentinck and his friends, who might at no very distant
period have the government of Ireland entrusted to them, not, for the
sake of a momentary postponement of the Corn Bill, to place themselves,
by voting for this measure of coercion, in collision with the Irish
nation.’ He called upon Lord George Bentinck to weigh the position in
which he was placed.

This amendment was seconded by Mr. Smith O’Brien, the member for the
county of Limerick, who warned the government that they ‘were entering
on a contest which would continue for months.’ He taunted the minister
with governing the country without a party. What chance was there of
reconciliation with his estranged friends? After the treatment of that
‘disavowed plenipotentiary,’ the Secretary of the Treasury, who would be
again found willing to undertake the mission of patching up a truce?
He was not present when the terms of the treaty were exposed: but he
understood, that if the government introduced this Coercion Bill before
Easter, then that Lord George Bentinck would deem it wise, proper, and
expedient; but if after Easter, then the complexion and character of the
bill were, in the noble lord’s judgment, utterly transformed, and it was
declared to be quite untenable and unconstitutional. Was that the kind
of support on which the government calculated for passing this measure?

The Secretary of State made a dexterous, conciliatory, almost humble
address, in reply to the taunts of Mr. Smith O’Brien. He said that he
was well aware of the fact of which he had been just reminded, that, in
the present state of parties, the declared adherents of the government
were a small minority; he even, while excusing the delay in the progress
of the Irish measure, reminded the House of the curious fact, that since
the meeting of Parliament, two successive Irish secretaries had lost
their seats in the House of Commons in consequence of supporting the
administration of which they were members.

The case of the government was really so good and clear, that for a
moment it seemed the opposition could hardly persist in their unusual
proceeding: but this was a night of misfortunes.

There had been for some time a smouldering feud between the secretary
and the Recorder of Dublin. The learned gentleman had seized the
occasion which the present state of parties afforded, and in the
course of the recent debate on the second reading of the Corn Bill, had
declared that the asserted famine in Ireland was, on the part of the
government, ‘a great exaggeration.’ The secretary had addressed himself
particularly to this observation in his speech on the 27th, the night
of the division, and had noticed it in a tone of acerbity. He had even
intimated that it might have been used by one who was a disappointed
solicitor for high office, and whom the government had declined to
assist in an unwarrantable arrangement of the duties and salary of
the judicial post he at present occupied. The learned Recorder, justly
indignant at this depreciating innuendo, resolved to make an opportunity
on the following Monday for his vindication and retort. He rose,
therefore, immediately after the skilful and winning appeal of the
secretary, and pronounced an invective against the right honourable
gentleman which was neither ill-conceived nor ill-delivered. It
revived the passions that for a moment seemed inclined to lull, and
the Protectionists, who on this occasion were going to support the
government, forgot the common point of union, while the secretary was
described as ‘the evil genius of the cabinet.’

After this, it was impossible to arrest the course of debate. Mr.
O’Connell, who appeared to be in a state of great debility, made one
of those acute points for which he was distinguished. He said the
government complained of the threat held out by those who opposed the
bill, that they would avail themselves of the forms of the House to
give it every opposition in their power. But what did the government do
themselves? Why, they were trying to trample upon one of the sessional
orders and to abrogate the forms of the House in order to coerce the
Irish people. Lord George Bentinck said, that ‘the chief minister had
told them, that this was a bill to put down murder and assassination; in
that case, if this bill were delayed, the blood of every man murdered
in Ireland was on the head of her Majesty’s ministers.’ Sir George Grey
followed, and avoiding any discussion of the state of Ireland, in
which Lord George had entered, supported the amendment of Sir William
Somerville, on the broad ground that the bill for the repeal of the corn
laws ought not to be for a moment delayed. ‘The debates on that
measure had continued several weeks; and all who had any lengthened
parliamentary experience must be convinced, that if the further progress
of the Corn Bill was postponed until after Easter, they would have much
longer and protracted debates in its future stages, than if the bill
were pushed _de die in diem_. As he had understood, the government had
intended that this bill should have gone up to the House of Lords before
Easter, when it would have been printed, and the second reading could
have taken place at an early day after the holidays; but if it were put
off until after Easter, he would defy any man to show any reasonable
expectation of its getting to a second reading in the other House before
June, or July, or even August.’ This was encouraging, and the plot
seemed to thicken. The Secretary at War was put up by the government to
neutralize the effect of the speech of Sir George Grey, and he said, ‘I
speak not only as a cabinet minister, but also as a considerable
Irish proprietor.’ He said, ‘that anything so horrible as the state of
demoralization and crime in which many parts of Ireland were plunged,
anything so perfect as the suspension of the law in those parts of the
country, anything, in short, so complete as the abrogation of liberty
that obtained there, was, perhaps never known.’ He thought that, ‘no man
and no minister could, under these circumstances, decline to admit that
every and any measure ought to be postponed until a division had been
taken, at least upon the principle of a measure which had for its object
the suppression of these horrors.’ After such a declaration it was clear
the government were in a false position when by the same organ it had to
state, ‘that in asking to read this bill to-night, they only intended to
postpone the Corn Bill for one night.’

Lord John Russell following, admitted, that ‘in voting for the motion of
Sir William Somerville it was not to be supposed, that if the Secretary
of State made out a case, he would not support the government bill;’
yet how the secretary was ever to find an opportunity of making out his
case, if the amendment of Sir William Somerville was carried, was
not very apparent. Sir Robert Peel, who was disquieted by the whole
proceedings connected with the Coercion Bill, irritated by the episode
of ‘the disavowed plenipotentiary,’ from which he did not for some
time recover, and really alarmed at the indefinite prospect of delay in
passing his all-important measures which now began to open, could not
conceal his vexation in the remarks which he offered, and speaking of
the amendment as one ‘of a frivolous character,’ indignant cries of ‘No,
no,’ from his usual admirers, obliged him to withdraw the expression.
His feelings were not soothed when, later in the evening, even Mr.
Cobden rose to deplore the conduct of that minister whom he otherwise so
much admired. ‘He certainly regarded it as a great calamity. Something
had actuated the government which he could not understand. He had a
perfect belief in the sincerity of the prime minister, but in all human
probability the Corn Bill would not now enter the House of Lords before
the beginning or middle of May; and when it would come out again, heaven
only knew!’

The House now divided, and being supported by all the Protectionists
present, the government had a majority of thirty-nine, so the standing
order was for that night rescinded; and, although the hour was late for
such a statement, the secretary proceeded with the official exposition.
Notwithstanding the depressing circumstances of the previous debate,
the speech of Sir James Graham was distinguished by all that lucid
arrangement of details and that comprehensive management of his subject
which distinguished him. The statement made a great impression upon the
House and the country; but, unfortunately for the government, the more
necessary they made the measure appear, the more unjustifiable was their
conduct in not immediately and vehemently pursuing it. They had, indeed,
in the speech from the throne at the commencement of this memorable
session, taken up a false position for their campaign; and we shall see,
as we pursue this narrative of these interesting events, that the fall
of Sir Robert Peel was perhaps occasioned not so much by his repeal
of the corn laws as by the mistake in tactics which this adroit and
experienced parliamentary commander so strangely committed.

On this night of the 30th the government made no advance; immediately
after the secretary had finished, the followers of Mr. O’Connell moved
the adjournment of the House, and persisted in this line notwithstanding
the almost querulous appeal of the first minister.



CHAPTER V.

     _The Passing of O’Connell._

LORD GEORGE wrote the next morning (Tuesday, March 31st) to a friend,
who had not been able to attend the debate: ‘I look upon last night as
the most awkward night the government have had yet; I believe they would
have given their ears to have been beaten. We have now fairly set
them and the tail at loggerheads, and I cannot see how they are to get
another stage of either the tariff or Corn Bill before next Tuesday at
any rate. I doubt if they will do anything before Easter.’

It was understood that the House would adjourn for the Easter recess
on the 8th instant. There were therefore only two nights remaining for
government business before the holidays. On the first of these (Friday,
April the 3rd), Mr. O’Connell had announced that he should state his
views at length on the condition of Ireland, and the causes of these
agrarian outrages. Accordingly, when the order of the day for resuming
the adjourned debate was read, he rose at once to propose an amendment
to the motion. He sat in an unusual place--in that generally occupied by
the leader of the opposition--and spoke from the red box, convenient
to him from the number of documents to which he had to refer. His
appearance was of great debility, and the tones of his voice were very
still. His words, indeed, only reached those who were immediately around
him and the ministers sitting on the other side of the green table, who
listened with that interest and respectful attention which became the
occasion.

It was a strange and touching spectacle to those who remembered the
form of colossal energy and the clear and thrilling tones that had once
startled, disturbed, and controlled senates. Mr. O’Connell was on his
legs for nearly two hours, assisted occasionally in the management of
his documents by some devoted aide-de-camp. To the House generally it
was a performance in dumb show, a feeble old man muttering before a
table; but respect for the great parliamentary personage kept all as
orderly as if the fortunes of a party hung upon his rhetoric; and though
not an accent reached the gallery, means were taken that next morning
the country should not lose the last and not the least interesting of
the speeches of one who had so long occupied and agitated the mind of
nations.

This remarkable address was an abnegation of the whole policy of Mr.
O’Connell’s career. It proved, by a mass of authentic evidence ranging
over a long term of years, that Irish outrage was the consequence of
physical misery, and that the social evils of that country could not be
successfully encountered by political remedies. To complete the picture,
it concluded with a panegyric of Ulster and a patriotic quotation from
Lord Clare.

Lord John Russell, who, as an experienced parliamentary leader, had
already made more than one effort to extricate the Whigs from the
consequences of the hearty support given to the government measures in
the other House by Lords Lansdowne and Clanricarde, and even by Lord
Grey, ventured to-night even to say that if he should agree that the
House would do well to assent to the first reading of this bill, he
thought he was bound to state also that in the future stages of it, he
should have ‘objections to offer, going to the foundations of some of
its principal provisions.’

His speech was curious, as perhaps the last considerable manifesto of
Whig delusion respecting Ireland. Coercion Bills might be occasionally
necessary; no doubt of it; Lord Grey had once a Coercion Bill, and Lord
John Russell had voted for it; but then remedial measures ought to be
introduced with coercive ones: the evil should be repressed, but also
cured. Thus, Lord Althorp, when the government introduced their great
Coercion Bill, introduced also a measure which, besides making a great
reform in the Protestant Church of Ireland, exempted the whole Catholic
community of Ireland from the payment of church cess, which had
previously been felt as a very great grievance. On another day Lord
Althorp declared his intention of pressing through Parliament a Jury
Bill, which had been brought into the House the previous session, but
which was allowed to drop in the House of Lords.

Again, there was another declaration which Lord Althorp had made, which,
somehow or other, seemed to have been forgotten; it was a declaration
with respect to the municipal corporations of Ireland. Lord Althorp said
it was exceedingly desirable that the institutions of the two countries
should be assimilated as much as possible; and that, as a general rule,
the corporate bodies of Ireland should be the same as England. Mr.
O’Connell had said on that occasion that there was no greater grievance
in Ireland than the existence of corporations in their then shape. Lord
John contrasted this language of Lord Althorp, ‘simple, plain, emphatic,
and decided,’ with the language of the government of Sir Robert Peel;
and held up to admiration the Whig policy of 1833, certainly coercive,
but with remedial measures--a measure for the abolition of church cess,
introduced ten days before the Coercion Bill, and a promise of municipal
reform made simultaneously with the proclamation of martial law. This
was real statesmanship and touching the root of the evil. Whereas
‘Sir Robert Peel had only consented to passing the Municipal Bill in a
crippled state, and only now (in 1846) promised, that the corporations
of Ireland should be placed on the same footing as the corporations of
England.’ Who could be surprised that such a policy-should end in famine
and pestilence?

The followers of Mr. O’Connell again succeeded in adjourning the debate
until Monday the 6th. On that day Sir Robert Peel made ‘an earnest
appeal’ to extricate himself from the almost perilous position in which
he found his administration suddenly involved. In case the division on
the first reading of the Irish Bill should not take place that night, he
endeavoured to prevail on those members who had notices on the paper
for the following night (Tuesday the 7th), the last night before the
holidays, to relinquish their right and to permit the Irish debate
to proceed and conclude. ‘He had no wish to interfere with the due
discussion of the measure; but he believed that the Irish members, if
they permitted the House to proceed with the Corn Bill, by concluding
the discussion on the Irish Bill, would be rendering an essential
service to their country.’

But this earnest appeal only influenced still more the fiery resolves
of Mr. Smith O’Brien and his friends. They threw the responsibility for
delay of the Corn Bill on the government. The inconvenience which
the country suffered was occasioned by the minister, not by the Irish
members. He ought, on Friday last, to have adjourned the discussion on
the Coercion Bill until after Easter. He and other members who were
on the paper for to-morrow would willingly relinquish their right of
priority in favour of the Corn Bill, or of any measure of a remedial
kind, but not in favour of a Coercion Bill. He did not wish to have any
concealment with the minister as to the course which the Irish members
would pursue. It was their bounden duty to take care that _pari passu_
with the discussion of the Coercion Bill there should be discussions
as to the misgovernment of Ireland; and that, in the absence of any
remedial measures of the government, they should have an opportunity of
suggesting such as they thought advisable for removing those evils which
they utterly denied that the measure now before the House would remove.

In vain Sir Robert, in his blandest tones and with that remarkable
command of a temper not naturally serene which distinguished him,
acknowledged to a certain degree the propriety of the course intimated
by Mr. Smith O’Brien; but suggested at the same time that it was
compatible with allowing the Irish bill to be now read for a first time,
since on its subsequent stages Mr. O’Brien and his friends would have
the full opportunity which they desired, of laying before the House the
whole condition of the country. All was useless. No less a personage
than Mr. John O’Connell treated the appeal with contempt, and lectured
the first minister on the ‘great mistake’ which he had made. Little
traits like these revealed the true parliamentary position of the once
omnipotent leader of the great Conservative party. With the legions
of the Protectionists watching their prey in grim silence, while
the liberal sections were united in hostile manouvres against the
government, it was recognised at once that the great minister had a
staff without an army; not a reconnoitring could take place without the
whole cabinet being under orders, and scarcely a sharpshooter sallied
from the opposite ranks without the prime minister returning his fire in
person.

Sir Robert Peel mournfully observed that he ‘did not wish to provoke
a recriminatory discussion,’ and he resigned himself to his fate.
Immediately the third night of the adjourned debate on the Irish bill
commenced, and was sustained principally by the Irish members until a
late hour. It had not been the intention of Lord George Bentinck to have
spoken on this occasion, though he had never been absent for a moment
from his seat, and watched all that occurred with that keen relish which
was usual with him when he thought things were going right; but having
been personally and not very courteously appealed to by the late Mr.
Dillon Browne, and deeming also the occasion, just before the holidays,
a not unhappy one, he rose and concluded the debate. His speech was not
long, it was not prepared, and it was very animated.

Recapitulating himself the main features of the disturbed district, he
said: ‘It is because of these things, sir, that I am prepared to support
at least the first reading of a bill, which I freely admit to be most
unconstitutional in itself.’

Noticing a speech made in the course of the evening by Lord Morpeth,
who had himself once been chief secretary of the Lord Lieutenant,
Lord George thought it discreet to remind the House of the unequivocal
support given to this bill by the Whig leaders in another place: ‘Sir, I
think when we see all the great leaders of the Whig party supporting the
measure elsewhere, we cannot be justly impugned for doing as they do.’
Lord Morpeth had referred to ‘remedial measures which he thinks
should be introduced for Ireland: to measures for the extension of the
municipal, and also of the parliamentary, franchise of that country; and
he expressed his desire to see those franchises put on the same footing
as the franchises of England.’ ‘For the life of me,’ exclaimed Lord
George, ‘I confess, I cannot see in what way the extension of political
franchises of any description in Ireland would afford a remedy for
the evils which this measure aims to suppress. I think, sir, it is
impossible not to perceive that there is a connection between agrarian
outrage and the poverty of the people.’

After noticing the inadequate poor-law which then existed in Ireland,
he added: ‘There is also another point immediately connected with
this subject to which I must refer. I allude, sir, to the system of
absenteeism. I cannot disguise from myself the conviction, that many
of the evils of Ireland arise from the system of receiving rents by
absentee landlords who spend them in other countries. I am well aware
that, in holding this doctrine, I am not subscribing to the creed of
political economists. I am well aware that Messrs. Senior and M’Culloch
hold that it makes no difference whether the Irish landlord spends his
rents in Dublin, on his Irish estates, in London, in Bath, or elsewhere.
I profess, sir, I cannot understand that theory. I believe that the
first ingredient in the happiness of a people is, that the gentry should
reside on their native soil, and spend their rents among those from whom
they receive them. I cannot help expressing a wish that some arrangement
may be made connected with the levying of the poor-rate in Ireland, by
which absentee landlords may be made to contribute in something like a
fair proportion to the wants of the poor in the district in which they
ought to reside. There is an arrangement in the hop-growing districts in
England in respect to tithe, which might, I think, afford a very useful
suggestion. There are two tithes: the one, the ordinary tithe; the
other, extraordinary; which is levied only so long as the land is
cultivated in hops. I think if there were two poor-rates introduced into
Ireland, the one applying to all occupiers of land, and the other to all
those who did not spend a certain portion of the year on some portion of
their estates in Ireland, it would prove useful. I think, that by thus
appealing to their interests, it might induce absentee landlords to
reside much more in Ireland, than is now unfortunately the case.

‘But, sir, I think there are other remedial measures. Some days ago, the
Secretary of State told the member for Stroud (Mr. Poulett Scrope),
when he suggested some such measure, that he was treading on dangerous
ground, and that the doctrines he was advocating might be written in
letters of blood in Ireland; but, notwithstanding all this, I still say
that I think measures might be introduced for improving the relations
between landlord and tenant in Ireland. I do not think that some
guarantee might and ought to be given to the tenantry of Ireland for the
improvements they make upon their farms.

‘Sir, the Secretary of State, in introducing this measure, maintained
a doctrine which, I think, much more likely to be written in letters of
blood, for he bound up the question of the corn laws with the present
one. He said, that unless he could, have prevailed on his colleagues
to accede to his free-trade measures as regards corn, he would not have
introduced this bill. Why, sir, far from giving food to the people of
Ireland, in my opinion the measures of her Majesty’s ministers will take
away from the people of Ireland their food, by destroying the profits
of their only manufacture--the manufacture of corn--and injuring their
agriculture; depriving them of employment; in fact, by taking away from
them the very means of procuring subsistence. Sir, I cannot see how the
repeal of those laws affecting corn can be In any way connected with the
suppression of outrage and the protection of life. What is this but to
say, that unless we have a free trade in corn, we must be prepared to
concede a free trade in agrarian outrage--a free trade in maiming and
houghing cattle--a free trade in incendiarism--a free trade in the
burning and sacking of houses--a free trade in midnight murder, and in
noon-day assassination? What is this but telling the people of
Ireland, that assassination, murder, incendiarism, are of such light
consideration in the eyes of the Secretary of State, that their sanction
or suppression by the minister of the crown hinges upon the condition of
the corn market and the difference in the price of potatoes?

‘Sir, what has the potato disease to do with the outrages in Ireland?
Some think a great deal. I have taken the trouble of looking into
the matter. I have examined into the state of crime in at least five
counties--Tipperary, Roscommon, Limerick, Leitrim, and Clare--and I
find, that during the three months prior to the first appearance of
the potato disease, and when in fact food was as cheap in Ireland as at
almost any former period--when plenty abounded in all quarters of the
empire, that the amount of crime exceeded that in the three months
immediately following. Now, those who doubt this statement will have an
opportunity of ascertaining the correctness of my figures, for I will
not deal in general assertions. Well then, sir, I find in the three
months, May, June, and July last, that the number of crimes committed in
the five counties I have mentioned amounted to no less than 1,180, while
in the three months immediately after the potato disease, or famine as
it is called, the amount of crime committed in the same three months was
not 1,180, but 870. I should like to know, therefore, what this agrarian
outrage has to do with the potato famine; and where is the justification
for a minister coming down to this House, and declaring that unless we
pass a free-trade measure, we are not to obey her Majesty’s commands
by passing a measure for the protection of life in Ireland. Why, sir, I
think when this language reaches the people of Ireland--coming, too, as
it does from the Treasury, above all, from the Secretary of State for
the Home Department--there is indeed danger to be apprehended that such
a doctrine may be written in letters of blood in that country. Why, sir,
if we are to hear such language as this from that minister of the crown
charged with the peace of the country, we may just as well have Captain
Rock established as lord lieutenant in the castle of Dublin, a Whitefoot
for chief secretary, and Molly M’Guire installed at Whitehall with the
seals of the home department.’

And afterwards he remarked, ‘I have been taunted that when I may be
entrusted with the government of Ireland, I should perhaps then learn
that Tyrone was an Orange county. Sir, in answer to that taunt, I must
take leave to ask what expression of mine, either in this house or out
of it, justifies any such remark? When or where can it be said that I
have ever permitted myself to know any distinction between an Orangeman
and a Catholic; when, in the whole course of my parliamentary career,
have I ever given a vote or uttered a sentiment hostile or unfriendly to
the Roman Catholics, either of England or Ireland?’ This speech, though
delivered generally in favour of the Irish bill, attracted very much
the attention, and, as it appeared afterwards, the approbation of those
Irish members, who, although sitting on the Liberal benches, did not
acknowledge the infallible authority of Mr. O’Connell, and was the
origin of a political connection between them and Lord George Bentinck,
which, on more than one subsequent occasion, promised to bring important
results.

Two successive motions were now made for the adjournment of the debate,
and Sir Robert Peel at length said, that he ‘saw it was useless to
persist.’ He agreed to the adjournment until the next day, with the
understanding that if it did come on, he would name the time to which it
should be postponed after the holidays.

Upon this, Sir William Somerville made one more appeal to the minister
to postpone the further discussion of the Irish bill altogether until
the Corn Bill had passed the Commons. He intimated that unless the
government at once adopted this resolution, they would find themselves
after Easter in the same perplexity which now paralyzed them. They would
not be permitted to bring on this measure except upon government nights,
and the discussion might then last weeks.

The minister, exceedingly embarrassed, would not, however, relent. On
the following day, when he moved the adjournment of the House for the
holidays, he reduced the vacation three days, in order to obtain Friday,
a government night, which otherwise would have been absorbed in the
holidays, and he announced the determination of the government again
to proceed on that night with the Irish bill in preference to the Corn
Bill. The Irish members glanced defiance, and the Protectionists could
scarcely conceal their satisfaction. The reputation of Sir Robert
Peel for parliamentary management seemed to be vanishing; never was a
government in a more tottering state; and the Whigs especially began to
renew their laments that the Edinburgh letter and its consequences had
prevented the settlement of the corn question from devolving to the
natural arbitrator in the great controversy, their somewhat rash but
still unrivalled leader, Lord John Russell.



CHAPTER VI.

     _A Third Party_

THE members of the Protectionist opposition returned to their
constituents with the sanguine feelings which success naturally
inspires. Their efforts had surprised, not displeased, the country;
the elections were in their favour; the government business halted; the
delay in the calculated arrival of the famine had taken the edge off the
necessity which it was supposed would have already carried the Corn Bill
through the Commons; while the twin measure which the throes of Ireland
had engendered had developed elements of opposition which even the
calmest observer thought might possibly end in overthrow. Above all,
that seemed to have happened which the most experienced in parliamentary
life had always deemed to be impracticable; namely, the formation of a
third party in the House of Commons.

How completely this latter and difficult result was owing to the
abilities and energies of one man, and how anomalous was the position
which he chose to occupy in not taking the formal lead of a party which
was entirely guided by his example, were convictions and considerations
that at this juncture much occupied men’s minds. And it was resolved
among the most considerable of the country gentlemen to make some
earnest and well-combined effort, during the recess, to induce Lord
George Bentinck to waive the unwillingness he had so often expressed of
becoming their avowed and responsible leader.

When Lord George Bentinck first threw himself into the breach, he was
influenced only by a feeling of indignation at the manner in which he
thought the Conservative party had been trifled with by the government
and Lord Stanley, his personal friend and political leader, deserted by
a majority of the cabinet. As affairs developed, and it became evident
that the bulk of the Conservative party throughout the country had
rallied round his standard, Lord George could not conceal from himself
the consequences of such an event, or believe that it was possible
that the party in the House of Commons, although Lord Stanley might
eventually think fit to guide it by his counsels, and become, if
necessary, personally responsible for its policy, could be long held
together unless it were conducted by a leader present in the same
assembly, and competent under all circumstances to represent its
opinions in debate. Lord George, although a very proud man, had no
vanity or self-conceit. He took a very humble view of his own powers,
and he had at the same time a very exalted one of those necessary to a
leader of the House of Commons. His illustrious connection, Mr. Canning,
was his standard. He had been the private secretary of that minister
in his youth, and the dazzling qualities of that eminent personage
had influenced the most susceptible time of life of one who was very
tenacious of his impressions. What Lord George Bentinck appreciated
most in a parliamentary speaker was brilliancy: quickness of perception,
promptness of repartee, clear and concise argument, a fresh and
felicitous quotation, wit and picture, and, if necessary, a passionate
appeal that should never pass the line of high-bred sentiment. Believing
himself not to be distinguished by these rhetorical qualities, he would
listen with no complacency to those who would urge in private that the
present period of parliamentary life was different from the days of Mr.
Canning, and that accumulated facts and well-digested reasoning on their
bearing, a command of all the materials of commercial controversy, and
a mastery of the laws that regulate the production and distribution of
public wealth, combined with habits of great diligence and application,
would ensure the attention of a popular assembly, especially when united
to a high character and great social position. This might be urged;
but he would only shake his head, with a ray of humour twinkling in his
piercing eyes, and say, in a half-drawling tone, ‘If Mr. Canning were
alive, he could do all this better than any of them, and be not a whit
less brilliant.’

There was also another reason why Lord George Bentinck was unwilling to
assume the post of leader of the Conservative party, and this very much
influenced him. Sprung from a great Whig house, and inheriting all the
principles and prejudices of that renowned political connection which
had expelled the Stuarts, he had accepted, in an unqualified sense, the
dogma of religious liberty. This principle was first introduced into
active politics in order to preserve the possessions of that portion
of the aristocracy which had established itself on the plunder of
the Church. It was to form the basis of a party which should prevent
reaction and restitution of church lands. Whether the principle be a
true one, and whether its unqualified application by any party in the
state be possible, are questions yet unsettled. It is not probable, for
example, that the worship of Juggernaut, which Lord Dalhousie permits
in Orissa, would be permitted even by Lord John Russell at Westminster.
Even a papist procession is forbidden, and wisely. The application of
the principle, however, in Lord George Bentinck’s mind, was among other
things associated with the public recognition of the Roman Catholic
hierarchy by the state, and a provision for its maintenance in Ireland
in accordance with the plan of Mr. Pitt. What had happened, with respect
to the vote on the endowment of Maynooth in 1845, had convinced him that
his opinions on this subject presented an insuperable barrier to his
ever becoming the leader of a party which had contributed three-fourths
of the memorable minority on that occasion. It was in vain that it
was impressed upon him by those most renowned for their Protestant
principles, and who were at the same time most anxious to see Lord
George Bentinck in his right position, that the question of Maynooth was
settled, and there was now no prospect of future measures of a similar
character. This was not the opinion of Lord George Bentinck. He nursed
in his secret soul a great scheme for the regeneration and settlement
of Ireland, which he thought ought to be one of the mainstays of a
Conservative party; and it was his opinion that the condition of the
Roman Catholic priesthood must be considered.

It was in vain, in order to assist in removing these scruples, that it
was represented to him by others that endowment of a priesthood by the
state was a notion somewhat old-fashioned, and opposed to the spirit
of the age which associated true religious freedom with the full
development of the voluntary principle. He listened to these suggestions
with distrust, and even with a little contempt. Mr. Canning had been in
favour of the endowment of the Irish priesthood--that was sufficient for
that particular; and as for the voluntary principle, he looked upon it
as priestcraft in disguise; his idea of religious liberty being that all
religions should be controlled by the state.

Besides these two prominent objections to accepting the offered post,
namely, his unaffected distrust in his parliamentary abilities and his
assumed want of concordance with his followers on a great principle
of modern politics, we must also remember that his compliance with
the request involved no ordinary sacrifice of much which renders life
delightful. He was to relinquish pursuits of noble excitement to which
he was passionately attached, and to withdraw in a great degree from
a circle of high-spirited friends, many of them of different political
connection from himself, by whom he was adored. With all his unrivalled
powers of application when under the influence of a great impulse, he
was constitutionally indolent and even lethargic. There was nothing,
therefore, in his position or his temperature to prick him on in ‘46;
it was nothing but his strong will acting upon his indignation which
sustained him. It is not, therefore, marvellous that he exhibited great
reluctance to commit irretrievably his future life. At a subsequent
period, indignation had become ambition, and circumstances of various
kinds had made him resolve to succeed or die.

On the adjournment, Lord George had gone down to Newmarket, which he
greatly enjoyed after his exhausting campaign. Here some letters on the
subject of the leadership passed, but nothing was definitely arranged
till some time after the re-assembling of Parliament. For convenience
we mention here the result. The wish of the party was repeatedly
and personally urged by the popular and much-esteemed member for
Dorsetshire, and at last Lord George consented to their wishes, on these
conditions: that he should relinquish his post the moment the right man
was discovered, who, according to his theory, would ultimately turn up;
and secondly, that his responsible post was not to restrict or embarrass
him on any questions in which a religious principle was involved.

Before, however, this negotiation was concluded, and while yet at
Newmarket, he wrote to a friend, the day before the House met (April
16th).

‘I think there is no doubt, but that the Irish will take care of Friday
(to-morrow) night. I have not much hope of their keeping up the debate
beyond Friday.

‘It is quite clear from O’Connell’s language at Dublin that we have no
hope from the Irish tail.

‘I still think myself, that delay affords a great chance of something
turning up in our favour; already the rejection of any reciprocity by
M. Guizot has provided us with a grand weapon, which, I trust, you drive
well home into * * * * ’s vitals; a very short delay would probably
bring over similar intelligence from the United States and their Congress.
I trust we shall have an important deputation over from Canada,
representing that the inevitable results of these free-trade measures
in corn and timber will be to alienate the feelings of our Canadian
colonists, and to induce them to follow their sordid interests, which
will now, undoubtedly, be best consulted and most promoted by annexation
to the United States.

‘Lord------‘s intended tergiversation has been, I believe, some time
known; he admits that all farmers without capital, in short, all little
men, must be sacrificed. What a barbarous and odious policy, that
goes upon the principle that none but capitalists are henceforth to
be allowed to live, as farmers at least. We must turn the tables upon
Lord------and all such heartless doctrinaires!

‘I fear the majority in the Lords will be greater than was expected;
I am told that we must endeavour to put ministers in a minority two or
three times before the bill gets to its second reading in the Lords,
no matter upon what question. I hear there are many peers whose votes
depend entirely upon their notions, whether or not Peel can, by hook or
by crook, carry on.’



CHAPTER VII.

     _Railroads for Ireland_

IF WE take a general view of the career of Lord George Bentinck during
the last year--from the time indeed when he was trying to find a lawyer
to convey his convictions to the House of Commons until the moment when
her Majesty prorogued her Parliament, the results will be found to be
very remarkable. So much was never done so unexpectedly by any public
man in the same space of time. He had rallied a great party which seemed
hopelessly routed; he had established a parliamentary discipline,
in their ranks which old political connections, led by experienced
statesmen, have seldom surpassed; he had brought forward from those
ranks, entirely through his discrimination and by his personal
encouragement, considerable talents in debate; he had himself proved a
master in detail and in argument of all the great questions arising
out of the reconstruction of our commercial system; he had made a
vindication of the results of the Protective principle as applied to
agriculture, which certainly, so far as the materials are concerned, is
the most efficient plea that ever was urged in the House of Commons
in favour of the abrogated law; he had exhibited similar instances of
investigation in considerable statements with respect to the silk trade
and other branches of our industry; he had asserted the claims of the
productive classes in Ireland, and in our timber and sugar producing
colonies, with the effect which results from a thorough acquaintance
with a subject; he had promulgated distinct principles with regard to
our financial as well as to our commercial system; he had maintained
the expediency cf relieving the consumer by the repeal of excise in
preference to customs’ duties, and of establishing fiscal reciprocity as
a condition of mercantile exchange. On subjects of a more occasional
but analogous nature he had shown promptitude and knowledge, as in the
instances of the urgent condition of Mexico and of our carrying trade
with the Spanish colonies, both of which he brought forward in the last
hours of the session, but the importance of which motions was recognized
by all parties. Finally, he had attracted the notice, and in many
instances obtained the confidence, of large bodies of men in the
country, who recognized in him a great capacity of labour combined with
firmness of character and honesty of purpose.

At the close of the session (August 28), Cord George visited Norfolk,
where he received an entertainment from his constituents at King’s Lynn,
proud of their member, and to whom he vindicated the course which he had
taken, and offered his views generally as to the relations which should
subsist between the legislation of the country and its industry.
From Norfolk he repaired to Belvoir Castle, on a visit to the Duke of
Rutland, and was present at a banquet given by the agriculturists of
Leicestershire to his friend and supporter the Marquis of Granby. After
this he returned to Welbeck, where he seems to have enjoyed a little
repose. Thus he writes to a friend from that place on the 22nd
September:

‘Thanks for your advice, which I am following, having got Lord
Malmesbury’s Diary; but I am relapsing into my natural dawdling, lazy,
and somnolent habits, and can with difficulty get through the leaders
even of the “Times.”

* * * * ‘The vehemence of the farmers is personal against Peel; it is
quite clear that the rising price of wheat has cured their alarm. The
railway expenditure must keep up prices and prosperity, both of which
would have been far greater without free trade; but in face of high
prices, railway prosperity, and potato famine, depend upon it we shall
have an uphill game to fight.

‘O’Connell talks of Parliament meeting in November, to mend the Irish
Labour-rate Act. Do you believe this?’

The Labour-rate Act, passed at the end of the session [‘46), was one by
which the Lord Lieutenant was enabled to require special barony
sessions to meet in order to make presentments for public works for the
employment of the people, the whole of the money requisite for their
construction to be supplied by the imperial treasury, though to
be afterwards repaid. The machinery of this act did not work
satisfactorily, but the government ultimately made the necessary
alterations on their own responsibility, and obtained an indemnity from
Parliament when it met in ‘47. The early session, therefore, talked
of by Mr. O’Connell, became unnecessary. As the only object of this
Labour-rate Act was to employ the people, and as it was supposed there
were no public works of a reproductive nature which could be undertaken
on a sufficient scale to ensure that employment, the Irish people were
occupied, towards the end of the autumn of ‘46, mainly in making roads,
which, as afterwards described by the first minister, ‘were not wanted.’
In the month of September more than thirty thousand persons were thus
employed; but when the harvest was over, and it was ascertained that its
terrible deficiency had converted pauperism into famine, the numbers
on the public works became greatly increased, so that at the end of
November the amount of persons engaged was four hundred thousand,
receiving wages at the rate of nearly five millions sterling per annum.
These immense amounts went on increasing every week, and when Parliament
met in February, 1847, five hundred thousand persons were employed on
these public works, which could bring no possible public advantage, at
an expense to the country of between £700,000 and £800,000 per month.
No Board of Works could efficiently superintend such a multitude, or
prevent flagrant imposition, though the dimensions of that
department appeared almost proportionably to have expanded. What
with commissioners, chief clerks, check clerks, and pay clerks, the
establishment of the Board of Works in Ireland, at the end of ‘46,
consisted of more than eleven thousand persons.

Always intent upon Ireland, this condition of affairs early and
earnestly attracted the attention of Lord George Bentinck. So vast an
expenditure in unproductive labour dismayed him. He would not
easily assent to the conclusion that profitable enterprise under the
circumstances was impossible. Such a conclusion seemed to him unnatural,
and that an occasion where we commenced with despair justified a bold
and venturesome course. The field is legitimately open to speculation
where all agree that all is hopeless. The construction of harbours, the
development of fisheries, the redemption of waste lands, were resources
which had been often canvassed, and whatever their recommendations, with
the exception of the last, they were necessarily very limited; and the
last, though it might afford prompt, could hardly secure profitable,
employment. Prompt and profitable employment was the object which Lord
George wished to accomplish. Where millions were to be expended by the
state, something more advantageous to the community should accrue than
the temporary subsistence of the multitude.

Lord George had always been a great supporter of railway enterprise in
England, on the ground that, irrespective of all the peculiar advantages
of those undertakings, the money was spent in the country; and that if
our surplus capital were not directed to such channels, it would go, as
it had gone before, to foreign mines and foreign loans, from which in a
great degree no return would arrive. When millions were avowedly to be
laid out in useless and unprofitable undertakings, it became a question
whether it were not wiser even somewhat to anticipate the time when the
necessities of Ireland would require railways on a considerable scale;
and whether by embarking in such enterprises, we might not only find
prompt and profitable employment for the people, but by giving a new
character to the country and increasing its social relations and the
combinations of its industry, might not greatly advance the period when
such modes of communication would be absolutely requisite.

Full of these views, Lord George, in the course of the autumn, consulted
in confidence some gentlemen very competent to assist him in such an
inquiry, and especially Mr. Robert Stephenson, Mr. Hudson, and Mr.
Laing. With their advice and at their suggestion, two engineers of
great ability, Mr. Bidder and Mr. Smith, were despatched to Ireland,
personally to investigate the whole question of railroads in that
country.

Meditating over the condition of Ireland, a subject very frequently
in his thoughts, and of the means to combat its vast and inveterate
pauperism, Lord George was frequently in the habit of reverting to
the years ‘41-42 in England, when there were fifteen hundred thousand
persons on the parish rates; eighty-three thousand able-bodied men,
actually confined within the walls of the workhouse, and more than four
hundred thousand able-bodied men receiving out-door relief. What changed
all this and restored England in a very brief space to a condition
of affluence hardly before known in her annals? Not certainly the
alterations in the tariff which were made by Sir Robert Peel at the
commencement of his government, prudent and salutary as they were. No
one would pretend that the abolition of the slight duty (five-sixteenths
of a penny) on the raw material of the cotton manufacturer, or the free
introduction of some twenty-seven thousand head of foreign cattle,
or even the admission of foreign timber at reduced duties, could have
effected this. Unquestionably it was the railway enterprise which
then began to prevail that was the cause of this national renovation.
Suddenly, and for several years, an additional sum of thirteen millions
of pounds sterling a year was spent in the wages of our native industry;
two hundred thousand able-bodied labourers received each upon an average
twenty-two shillings a week, stimulating the revenue both in excise and
customs by their enormous consumption of malt and spirits, tobacco and
tea. This was the main cause of the contrast between the England of ‘41
and the England of ‘45.

Was there any reason why a proportionate application of the same remedy
to Ireland should not proportionately produce a similar result? Was
there anything wild or unauthorized in the suggestion? On the contrary:
ten years before (1836), the subject had engaged the attention of her
Majesty’s government, and a royal commission had been issued to inquire
into the expediency of establishing railway communication in Ireland.
The commissioners, men of great eminence, recommended that a system
of railways should be established in Ireland, and by the pecuniary
assistance of government. They rested their recommendation mainly on the
abundant evidence existing of the vast benefits which easy communication
had accomplished in Ireland, and of the complete success which had
attended every Parliamentary grant for improving roads in that country.

The weakness of the government, arising from the balanced state of
parties, rendered it impossible at that time for them to prosecute the
measures recommended by the royal commissioners, though they made an
ineffectual attempt in that direction. Could it be suspected that the
recommendation of the commissioners had been biassed by any political
consideration? Was it a Whig commission attempting to fulfil a Whig
object? Another commission, more memorable, at the head of which was the
Earl of Devon, was appointed by a Tory government some years afterwards,
virtually to consider the condition of the people of Ireland, and the
best means for their amelioration. The report of the Devon commission
confirmed all the recommendations of the railway commissioners of ‘36,
and pointed to these new methods of communication, by the assistance of
loans from the government, as the best means of providing employment for
the people.

When Mr. Smith of Deanston was examined by a Parliamentary committee,
and asked what measure of all others would be the one most calculated to
improve the agriculture and condition of Ireland, he did not reply, as
some might have anticipated, that the most efficient measure would be
to drain the bogs; but his answer was, ‘advance the construction of
railways, and then agricultural improvement will speedily follow.’

To illustrate the value of railways to an agricultural population, Mr.
Smith, of Deanston, said, ‘that the improvement of the land for one mile
only on each side of the railway so constructed would be so great, that
it would pay the cost of the whole construction.’ He added, that there
were few districts’ in Ireland, in which railway communication could
be introduced, where the value of the country through which the railway
passed would not be raised to an extent equal to the whole cost of the
railway.

Arguing on an area of six hundred and forty acres for every square mile,
after deducting the land occupied by fences, roads, and buildings, Mr.
Smith, of Deanston, entered into a calculation of the gain deliverable
from the mere carriage of the produce of the land, and the back carriage
of manure, coals, tiles, bricks, and other materials, and estimated the
saving through those means on every square mile to more than £300, or
something above £600 on 1,280 acres abutting each mile of railway,
this being the difference of the cost of carriage under the old mode of
conveyance as compared with the new. Following up this calculation,
he showed that fifteen hundred miles of railway would improve the land
through which it passed to the extent of nearly two million acres at the
rate of a mile on each side; and, taken at twenty-five years’ purchase,
would equal twenty-four millions sterling in the permanent improvement
of the land.

The ground, therefore, was sound on which Lord George cautiously, and
after due reflection, ventured to place his foot.

And now, after the reports of these two royal commissions, what was the
state of railway enterprise in Ireland in the autumn of ‘46, when a vast
multitude could only subsist by being employed by the government, and
when the government had avowedly no reproductive or even useful work
whereon to place them; but allotted them to operations which were
described by Colonel Douglas, the inspector of the government himself,
‘as works which would answer no other purpose than that of obstructing
the public conveyances?’

In ‘46, acts of Parliament were in existence authorizing the
construction of more than fifteen hundred miles of railway in Ireland,
and some of these acts had passed so long as eleven years previously,
yet at the end of ‘46 only one hundred and twenty-three miles of railway
had been completed, and only one hundred and sixty-four were in the
course of completion, though arrested in their progress from want of
funds. Almost in the same period, two thousand six hundred miles of
railway had been completed in England, and acts of Parliament had passed
for constructing five thousand four hundred miles in addition: in the
whole, eight thousand miles.

What then was the reason of this debility in Ireland in prosecuting
these undertakings? Were they really not required; were the elements
of success wanting? The first element of success in railway enterprise,
according to the highest authorities, is population; property is only
the second consideration. Now, Ireland in ‘46 was more densely inhabited
than England. A want of population could not therefore be the cause.
But a population so impoverished as the Irish could not perhaps avail
themselves of the means of locomotion; and yet it appeared from research
that the rate of passengers on the two Irish railways that were open
greatly exceeded in number that of the passengers upon English and
Scotch railways. The average number of passengers on English and Scotch
railways was not twelve thousand per mile per annum, while on the Ulster
railway the number was nearly twenty-two thousand, and on the Dublin and
Drogheda line the number exceeded eighteen thousand.

The cause of the weakness in Ireland to prosecute these undertakings
was the total want of domestic capital for the purpose, and the
unwillingness of English capitalists to embark their funds in a country
whose social and political condition they viewed with distrust, however
promising and even profitable the investment might otherwise appear.
This was remarkably illustrated by the instance of the Great Southern
and Western Railway of Ireland, one of the undertakings of which the
completion was arrested by want of funds, yet partially open. Compared
with a well-known railway in Great Britain, the Irish railway had cost
in its construction £15,000 per mile, and the British upwards of £26,000
per mile; the weekly traffic on the two railways, allowing for some
difference in their extent, was about the same on both, in amount
varying from £1,000 to £1,300 per week; yet the unfinished British
railway was at £40 premium in the market, and the incomplete Irish
railway at £2 discount. It was clear, therefore, that the commercial
principle, omnipotent in England, was not competent to cope with the
peculiar circumstances of Ireland.

Brooding over the suggestions afforded by the details which we have
slightly indicated, Lord George Bentinck, taking into consideration
not merely the advantage that would accrue to the country from the
establishment of a system of railroads, but also remembering the
peculiar circumstances of the times, the absolute necessity of employing
the people, and the inevitable advance of public money for that purpose,
framed a scheme with reference to all these considerations, and which
he believed would meet all the conditions of the case. He spared no
thought, or time, or labour, for his purpose. He availed himself of the
advice of the most experienced, and prosecuted his researches ardently
and thoroughly. When he had matured his scheme, he had it thrown into
the form of a parliamentary bill by the ablest hands, and then submitted
the whole to the judgment and criticism of those who shared his
confidence and counsels. Towards the end of November he was at Knowsley,
from whence he communicated with the writer of these pages. ‘I am here
hatching secret plans for the next session; and now, if you have not
quite abjured politics, as you threatened for the next three months to
do, devoting yourself to poetry and romance, I think I ought to have a
quiet day with you, in order that we may hold council together and talk
over all our policy. I shall be at Harcourt House on the 30th. I shall
stay there till the 3rd of December, for a meeting on that day of the
Norfolk Estuary Company, of which I am chairman. Would that evening
suit you--or Friday--or Wednesday? I am not well acquainted with the
geography of Buckinghamshire, but presume you are accessible either by
rail or road in less than twelve hours.

‘The activity in the dockyard must be in preparation to interfere in
Portugal, to keep King Leopold upon the Portuguese throne: it cannot be
for Mexico, for our friend the “Times” formally abandoned Mexico in his
leader some days ago.

‘* * * * has been entertaining Lord * * * * in Ireland, and writes: “How
Peel must chuckle at the Whig difficulties.” I dare say he does, but
in Ireland it seems to me Lord Besborough is putting the fate Irish
government to shame, whilst the rupture of the _entente cordiale_, the
conquest of California and New Mexico, and the complications in the
river Plata,--are complete inheritances from Lord Aberdeen.

‘Eaton has come to life again: else there was a prospect of George
Manners quietly succeeding him in Cambridgeshire. I fear we shall do no
good in Lincolnshire, notwithstanding the industry of our dear friend
the “Morning Post,” in getting hold of Lord Ebrington’s and Lord Rich’s
letters to Lord Yarborough. I suppose there is no mistake in Lord
Dalhousie (“the large trout”) going out to Bombay with the reversion of
Bengal.

‘The duchy of Lancaster is to be put in commission, Lord * * * * to
be one of the commissioners, _but unpaid_. He has begun, I presume, to
overcome the false delicacy which prevented his acceptance of office
under the Whigs in July. S * * * * thought G * * * * was to be another
of the Board, but that turns out a mistake, but Lord H * * * * is to be.

‘The manufacturers are working short time, and reducing wages in
all directions, John Bright and Sons at Rochdale among the rest. The
Zollverein increasing their import duties on cotton and linen yarn, and
putting export duties of 25 per cent. (some of the states at least) on
grain.’

We must not omit to record, that in the autumn of this year, at Goodwood
races, the sporting world was astounded by hearing that Lord George
Bentinck had parted with his racing stud at an almost nominal price.
Lord George was present, as was his custom, at this meeting, held in the
demesne of one who was among his dearest friends. Lord George was not
only present but apparently absorbed in the sport, and his horses
were very successful. The world has hardly done justice to the great
sacrifice which he made on this occasion to a high sense of duty. He not
only parted with the finest racing stud in England, but he parted with
it at a moment when its prospects were never so brilliant; and he knew
this well. We may have hereafter to notice on this head an interesting
passage in his life.

He could scarcely have quitted the turf that day without a pang. He had
become the lord paramount of that strange world, so difficult to sway,
and which requires for its government both a stern resolve and a courtly
breeding. He had them both; and though the blackleg might quail before
the awful scrutiny of his piercing eye, there never was a man so
scrupulously polite to his inferiors as Lord George Bentinck. The
turf, too, was not merely the scene of the triumphs of his stud and
his betting-book. He had purified its practice and had elevated its
character, and he was prouder of this achievement than of any other
connected with his sporting life. Notwithstanding his mighty stakes and
the keenness with which he backed his opinion, no one perhaps ever cared
less for money. His habits were severely simple, and he was the most
generous of men. He valued the acquisition of money on the turf, because
there it was the test of success. He counted his thousands after a great
race as a victorious general counts his cannon and his prisoners.



CHAPTER VIII.

     _The Versatility of Lord George Bentinck_

THOSE who throw their eye over the debates of the session of ‘47,
cannot fail to be struck by the variety of important questions in the
discussion of which Lord George Bentinck took a leading or prominent
part. And it must be borne in mind that he never offered his opinion on
any subject which he had not diligently investigated and attempted
to comprehend in all its bearings. His opponents might object to his
principles or challenge his conclusions, but no one could deny that
his conclusions were drawn from extensive information and that his
principles were clear and distinct. He spared no pains to acquire by
reading, correspondence, and personal research, the most authentic
intelligence on every subject in debate. He never chattered. He never
uttered a sentence in the House of Commons which did not convey a
conviction or a fact. He was too profuse indeed with his facts: he had
not the art of condensation. But those who have occasion to refer to his
speeches and calmly to examine them, will be struck by the amplitude
and the freshness of his knowledge, the clearness of his views, the
coherence in all his efforts, and often--a point for which he never had
sufficient credit--by his graphic idiom.

The best speech on the affairs of Cracow, for example, the most
vigorous and the best informed, touching all the points with a thorough
acquaintance, was that of Lord George Bentinck. The discussion on
Cracow, which lasted several nights and followed very shortly after
the defeat of his Irish bill, appeared to relate to a class of subjects
which would not have engaged his attention; but on the contrary, he had
given days and nights to this theme, had critically examined all the
documents, and conferred with those qualified to supply him with any
supplementary information requisite. He spoke several times this session
on questions connected with our foreign affairs, and always impressed
the House with a conviction that he was addressing it after a due study
of his subject: as for example, his speech against our interference in
Portugal, and the statement in which he brought forward the claims of
the holders of Spanish bonds on the government of Spain before the House
of Commons. In the instance of Portugal, a motion of censure on
the conduct of ministers had been introduced by Mr. Hume, and the
government were only saved from a minority by the friendly interposition
of Mr. Duncombe, who proposed an amendment to the motion of Mr. Hume
which broke the line of the liberal force. Lord George Bentinck in this
case followed Mr. Macaulay, whose speech, as was his wont, had been rich
in historical illustration. ‘The right honourable and learned member for
Edinburgh,’ Lord George replied, ‘had entered into a very interesting
history of various interferences which had taken place in the affairs
of Portugal; but in making that statement he forgot to mention one
circumstance which had occurred in that history, and it was this

--that when Philip II. of Spain sought to conquer Portugal, the method
he had recourse to for that purpose was one which he thought her
Majesty’s ministers had successfully practised on the present occasion

--he persuaded the leaders in Portugal to mix sand with the powder of
their troops. And so, on this occasion, her Majesty’s ministers had
prevailed on the member for Finsbury, and those other members who were
so ready to profess a love of liberty, to mix sand with their powder.’

In a previous chapter we have treated at some length of the means
proposed or adopted by the Parliament for the sustenance and relief
of the people of Ireland. The new poor law for that country also much
engaged the attention of both Houses this session. Lord George Bentinck
took a very active part in these transactions, and moved the most
important of all the amendments to the government measure, namely, an
attempt to assimilate the poor law of Ireland as much as possible to
that of England, and make the entire rates be paid by the occupying
tenant. His object, he said, was to ‘prevent lavish expenditure and
encourage profitable employment to the people.’ This amendment was only
lost by a majority of four.

On the 26th of March, on the government bringing forward their bill on
the rum duties, Lord George Bentinck brought before the House the
case of the British and Irish distillers, not with any preference
or partiality towards English, Scotch, or Irish distillers over the
colonial producer. ‘I am no advocate of any monopoly whatever. I desire
only equal and exact justice between both parties; and the only way in
which that end can, in my opinion, be properly attained, is in a select
committee upstairs, consisting of impartial members of this house.’

He often used to say that no subject ever gave him more trouble
thoroughly to master than the spirit duties; and he noticed the
character of the theme at the beginning of his speech. He said he
required, not only the most especial indulgence, but even the toleration
of the House, ‘for of all the dry and dull subjects which could possibly
be introduced, the question which it is now my misfortune to bring under
the consideration of the House is the driest and the dullest. If this
question had been one merely of pounds, shillings, and pence, it would
have been dull and complicated enough; but this is a question in which
are concerned not pounds and shillings, but pence, and halfpence, and
farthings.’

The Whitsuntide holidays occurred at the end of May. It had originally
been the intention of Lord George Bentinck, at the request of leading
merchants and manufacturers of all parties and opinions, to have brought
forward the question of the Bank Act after these holidays, and to move a
resolution that some discretionary power should be established as to the
issue of notes. He thus alludes to this point in a letter to Mr. Wright,
of the 24th of May:--

‘I return you No. 1019, of the “Bankers’ Circular,” with many thanks.

‘This delightful and timely change in the weather will do wonders for
the country, and by producing an abundant and seasonable harvest, will
save the country, and _may save the Bank Charter Act_; but it is pretty
well settled that I am to give notice immediately after the holidays,
of a resolution very much in the spirit of the memorial contained in the
paper I am returning to you.

‘Things are better in the City and at Liverpool, and with this weather
will continue to improve; but it seems to me any reverse in the weather,
such as would occasion a late and deficient harvest, could not fail to
bring the commerce of the country to a dead lock.

‘The opinion is gaining ground, that in the present state not only
of Ireland, but of many districts in England, the government will not
venture upon a general election till after the harvest, and not then,
unless the harvest should prove favourable.

‘I am glad to read your opinion in opposition to Lord Ashburton’s, that
railways keep the gold in the country, and do not send it out. Glyn gave
strong evidence last year to this effect before the railway committee.’

Neither of the prospects in this letter was realised. The commercial and
manufacturing interest, after the Whitsun recess, thought it advisable
for reasons of great weight that Lord George Bentinck should postpone
for a month or six weeks his intended motion on the Bank Charter, and
the ministers resolved to dissolve Parliament before the harvest: thus
it happened that the merchants and manufacturers lost their chance of
relief from the yoke, and experienced the reign of terror in the autumn,
the terrible events of which ultimately occasioned the assembling of the
new Parliament in November.

Anticipating the immediate dissolution of Parliament, Sir Robert Peel
had issued an address to the electors of Tamworth, justifying his
commercial policy. In the opinion of Lord George Bentinck it set forth
a statement as to the effect and operation of those financial measures
which had taken place in the course of the last six years, which, if
left altogether unrefuted, might have a dangerous tendency at the
coming elections. The general effect of that statement was, that by the
reduction of duties to a large extent, it was possible to relieve the
people of this country of burdens amounting to more than seven millions
and a half sterling with little or no loss whatever to the revenue. But
the truth was, Sir Robert Peel in his reductions had dealt only with
little more than ten millions sterling of the revenue of the country,
and had left the remaining thirty-seven millions untouched. Now on
that portion of the revenue with which alone he had dealt, there was
a deficiency, through his changes, to the amount of five millions
sterling, which loss was compensated by the increase on those very
articles which Sir Robert had left untouched. It was the opinion of Lord
George Bentinck that the conclusion which Sir Robert Peel had drawn
from the comparatively barren results of the increased duties on imports
carried by the Whigs in 1840, viz., that indirect taxation had reached
its limit, and which was indeed the basis of his new system, was a
fallacy, and that the anticipated increase of import duties had not
accrued in 1840 in consequence of our having had three successive bad
harvests, ‘and a bad cotton crop to boot,’ all of which had checked the
consuming power of the community. Sir Robert Peel had been favoured by
three successive good harvests and nearly £100,000,000 invested in six
years in domestic enterprise. ‘The interposition of Providence,’ said
Lord George, ‘is never a part of our debates.’

Under these circumstances, Lord George took occasion to review the
commercial policy of Sir Robert Peel, on the 20th July, in the House of
Commons, only three days before the prorogation, and in one of his most
successful speeches. He was much assisted by the fact that the exports
of all our staple manufactures had then greatly diminished, and of
course he urged this point triumphantly. ‘If we had been indemnified for
the dead loss of £650,000 on cotton wool by any great impulse given
to our manufacturers, it would be a consolation which unfortunately we
could not enjoy.’ He traced all the consumption to railway enterprise,
and showed that it alone had compensated for the fruitless loss of
revenue which we had incurred in vainly stimulating the exports of our
manufactures, which had actually diminished. He was so impressed with
the importance that, ‘on the eve of a dissolution, such a statement
as that of Sir Robert Peel should not go forth to the country
uncontroverted, as in that case the necessary result would be that
the people would come to the opinion that they might abolish taxes
altogether and yet maintain the revenue,’ that he sat up all night
writing an address to his constituents, the electors of King’s Lynn,
which took up nearly two columns of the newspapers, in which he
presented his refutation to the public of the commercial manifesto of
Tamworth, illustrated by the necessary tables and documents.

There is a sentence in this speech which, as a distinct expression of
policy, should perhaps be quoted:

‘Sir, I am one of those who seek for the repeal of the malt tax and the
hop duties. I am one of those who think that the excise duties ought to
be taken off. But, sir, I do not pretend that you can repeal the malt
tax or the hop duties, or remove the soap tax without commutation for
other taxes. I will not delude the people by pretending that I could
take off more than seven millions and a half of taxes without replacing
them by others, and not leave the nation bankrupt. But I think these
reforms of Sir Robert Peel have been in a mistaken direction; I think
that revenue duties on all foreign imports ought to be maintained, and
that a revenue equal to those excise duties which I have mentioned can
be levied upon the produce of foreign countries and foreign industry,
without imposing any greater tax than one which shall fall far short of
Mr. Walker’s “perfect revenue standard of 20 per cent.” I say that by
imposing a tax far less than 20 per cent. upon all articles of foreign
import, a revenue might be derived far less burdensome to this country
than that of excise, a revenue of which the burden would be largely
shared in by foreign countries, and in many cases paid altogether by
foreign countries.’

Lord George at this time watched with great interest a novel feature
in our commercial transactions. He wrote on the 29th May (1847), to Mr.
Burn, the editor of the ‘Commercial Glance,’ and an individual of whose
intelligence, accuracy, and zeal he had a high and just opinion, ‘Can
you inform me how the raw cotton purchased for exportation stands in
the first three weeks of the present month of May, as compared with the
corresponding periods of ‘46--5--4--3?

‘I observe from a cotton circular sent to me the other day, that seven
thousand five hundred bags of cotton had been purchased for exportation
between the 1st and 21st of May. If with reduced stocks of raw cotton
we are commencing a career of increased exportation, it appears to me to
involve very serious consequences for our cotton manufactures as growing
out of the existing monetary difficulties of the manufacturers.

‘If you could answer me these queries within the next three or four
days, I should feel greatly obliged to you.’

Again, on the 22d of July, on the point of going down to his
constituents, he was still pursuing his inquiries in the same quarter.’
I want particularly to compare,’ he says to Mr. Burn, ‘the export of the
last ten weeks of raw cotton with the corresponding ten weeks of ‘46
and ‘45, and at the same time to compare the importations and deliveries
into the hands of the manufacturers during these same periods.

‘Pray address me, Lynn, Norfolk, where I go on Saturday, and shall
remain till after my election on Thursday.’

He writes again from Lynn, with great thanks for the information which
had been accordingly forwarded to him there. ‘Might I ask you to give me
an account of the cotton wool imported weekly into Liverpool, and also
the quantity sold to dealers, exporters, and speculators, in the three
corresponding weeks of ‘45-46.

‘This information by return of post would greatly oblige me.’

On the 23d of July, 1847, the last day of the second Parliament of Queen
Victoria, Lord George went down to the House of Commons early, and took
the opportunity of making a statement respecting the condition of our
sugar-producing colonies, which were now experiencing the consequences
of the unjustifiable legislation of the preceding year. He said there
were appearances in the political horizon which betokened that he should
not be able to obtain a select committee in the present session, and
therefore, if he had the honour of a seat in the next Parliament, he
begged to announce that he would take the earliest occasion to move for
a committee to inquire into the present power of our colonies to compete
with those countries which have still the advantage of the enforced
labour of slaves. The returns just laid upon the table of the House
could leave no doubt, he thought, on any man’s mind on that point. Since
the emancipation, the produce of sugar by the colonies, from ‘31 to ‘46,
had been reduced one half, and of rum and coffee had been reduced to one
fourth. When the act of last year which admitted slave-grown sugar was
introduced, the allegation of the English colonies, that they could
not compete with the labour of slaves, was denied. The proof of that
allegation was, that they were already overwhelmed.

When one recalls all to which this speech led, the most memorable effort
of that ardent, energetic life to which it was perhaps fatal, one can
scarcely observe the origin of such vast exertions without emotion.

The Under Secretary of State replied to Lord George, making a cry of
cheap sugar for the hustings which were before everybody’s eyes, but
making also this remarkable declaration, that ‘the Island of Mauritius
was in a state of the greatest prosperity.’ While Lord George was
speaking, the cannon were heard that announced the departure of her
majesty from the palace.

Then followed a motion of Mr. Bankes about the sale of bread, which led
to some discussion. Mr. Bankes threatened a division. Lord Palmerston,
who on this occasion was leading the House, said it would be acting like
a set of schoolboys, if when Black Rod appeared they should be in the
lobby instead of attending the Speaker to the other House. But as the
members seemed very much inclined to act like schoolboys, the Secretary
of State had to speak against time on the subject of baking. He analyzed
the petition, which he said he would not read through, but the last
paragraph was of great importance.

At these words, Black Rod knocked at the door, and duly making his
appearance, summoned the House to attend the Queen in the House of
Lords, and Mr. Speaker, followed by a crowd of members, duly obeyed the
summons.

In about a quarter of an hour, Mr. Speaker returned without the mace,
and standing at the table read her Majesty’s speech to the members
around, after which they retired, the Parliament being prorogued. In the
course of the afternoon, the Parliament was dissolved by proclamation.



CHAPTER IX.

     _The Great Panic_

THE general election of 1847 did not materially alter the position of
parties in the House of Commons. The high prices of agricultural produce
which then prevailed naturally rendered the agricultural interest
apathetic, and although the rural constituencies, from a feeling of
esteem, again returned those members who had been faithful to the
protective principle, the farmers did not exert themselves to increase
the number of their supporters. The necessity of doing so was earnestly
impressed upon them by Lord George Bentinck, who warned them then that
the pinching hour was inevitable; but the caution was disregarded, and
many of those individuals who are now the loudest in their imprecations
on the memory of Sir Robert Peel, and who are the least content with the
temperate course which is now recommended to them by those who have the
extremely difficult office of upholding their interests in the House of
Commons, entirely kept aloof, or would smile when they were asked for
their support with sarcastic self-complacency, saying, ‘Well, Sir, do
you think after all that free trade has done us so much harm?’ Perhaps
they think now, that if they had taken the advice of Lord George
Bentinck and exerted themselves to return a majority to the House of
Commons, it would have profited them more than useless execrations and
barren discontent. But it is observable, that no individuals now grumble
so much as the farmers who voted for free trader in 1847, unless indeed
it be the shipowners, every one of whom for years, both in and out of
Parliament, supported the repeal of the corn laws.

The Protectionists maintained their numbers, though they did not
increase them, in the new Parliament. Lord George Bentinck however
gained an invaluable coadjutor by the re-appearance of Mr. Herries
in public life, a gentleman whose official as well as parliamentary
experience, fine judgment, and fertile resource, have been of
inestimable service to the Protectionist party. The political connection
which gained most were the Whigs; they were much more numerous and
compact, but it was in a great measure at the expense of the general
liberal element, and partly at the cost of the following of Sir Robert
Peel. The triumphant Conservative majority of 1841 had disappeared;
but the government, with all shades of supporters, had not an absolute
majority.

Had the general election been postponed until the autumn, the results
might have been very different. That storm--which had been long
gathering in the commercial atmosphere--then burst like a typhoon. The
annals of our trade afford no parallel for the widespread disaster and
the terrible calamities. In the month of September, fifteen of the most
considerable houses in the city of London stopped payment for between
five and six millions sterling. The governor of the Bank of England
was himself a partner in one of these firms; a gentleman who had lately
filled that office, was another victim; two other Bank directors were
included in the list. The failures were not limited to the metropolis,
but were accompanied by others of great extent in the provinces. At
Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow large firms were obliged to suspend
payments. This shock of credit arrested all the usual accommodation,
and the pressure in the money-market, so terrible in the spring, was
revived. The excitement and the alarm in the city of London were so
great that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer hurried up to town on
the 1st of October, he found that the interest of money was at the rate
of 60 per cent. per annum. The Bank Charter produced the same injurious
effect as it had done in April; it aggravated the evil by forcing men
to hoard. In vain the commercial world deplored the refusal of the
government to comply with the suggestion made by Lord George Bentinck
and Mr. Thomas Baring in the spring; in vain they entreated them at
least now to adopt it, and to authorize the Bank of England to enlarge
the amount of their discounts and advances on approved security, without
reference to the stringent clause of the charter. The government,
acting, it is believed, with the encouragement and sanction of Sir
Robert Peel, were obstinate, and three weeks then occurred during
which the commercial credit of this country was threatened with total
destruction. Nine more considerable mercantile houses stopped payment
in the metropolis, the disasters in the provinces were still more
extensive. The Royal Bank of Liverpool failed; among several principal
establishments in that town, one alone stopped payment for upwards of a
million sterling. The havoc at Manchester was also great. The Newcastle
bank and the North and South Wales bank stopped. Consols fell to 79 1/4,
and exchequer bills were at last at 35 per cent, discount. The ordinary
rate of discount at the Bank of England was between 8 and 9 per cent.,
but out of doors accommodation was not to be obtained. In such a state
of affairs, the small houses of course gave way. From their rising in
the morning until their hour of retirement at night, the First Lord of
the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were employed in
seeing persons of all descriptions, who entreated them to interfere and
preserve the community from universal bankruptcy. ‘Perish the world,
sooner than violate a principle,’ was the philosophical exclamation of
her Majesty’s ministers, sustained by the sympathy and the sanction of
Sir Robert Peel. At last, the governor and the deputy-governor of the
Bank of England waited on Downing Street, and said it could go on no
more. The Scotch banks had applied to them for assistance. The
whole demand for discount was thrown upon the Bank of England. Two
bill-brokers had stopped; two others were paralyzed. The Bank of England
could discount no longer. Thanks to the Bank Charter, they were safe and
their treasury full of bullion, but it appeared that everybody else
must fall, for in four-and-twenty hours the machinery of credit would
be entirely stopped. The position was frightful, and the government gave
way. They did that on the 25th of October, after houses had fallen to
the amount of fifteen millions sterling, which they had been counselled
to do by Lord George Bentinck on the 25th of April. It turned out
exactly as Mr. Thomas Baring had foretold. It was not want of capital or
deficiency of circulation which had occasioned these awful consequences.
It was sheer panic, occasioned by an unwisely stringent law. No sooner
had the government freed the Bank of England from that stringency,
than the panic ceased. The very morning the letter of license from
the government to the Bank of England appeared, thousands and tens of
thousands of pounds sterling were taken from the hoards, some from boxes
deposited with bankers, although the depositors would not leave the
notes in their bankers’ hands. Large parcels of notes were returned to
the Bank of England cut into halves, as they had been sent down into the
country, and so small was the real demand for an additional quantity of
currency, that the whole amount taken from the Bank, when the unlimited
power of issue was given, was under £400,000, and the Bank consequently
never availed itself of the privilege which the government had accorded
it. The restoration of confidence produced an ample currency, and
that confidence had solely been withdrawn from the apprehension of the
stringent clauses of the Bank Charter Act of 1844.

These extraordinary events had not occurred unnoticed by Lord George
Bentinck. The two subjects that mostly engaged his attention after the
general election were the action of the Bank Charter and the state of
our sugar colonies. Perhaps it would be best to give some extracts from
his correspondence at this period. He was a good letter-writer, easy and
clear. His characteristic love of details also rendered this style
of communication interesting. It is not possible to give more than
extracts, and it is necessary to omit all those circumstances which
generally in letter-reading are most acceptable. His comments on men and
things were naturally free and full, and he always endeavoured, for the
amusement of his correspondents, to communicate the social gossip of the
hour. But although all this must necessarily be omitted, his letters may
afford some illustrations of his earnestness and energy, the constancy
of his aim, and the untiring vigilance with which he pursued his
object--especially those which are addressed to gentlemen engaged in
commercial pursuits who cooperated with him in his investigations.


TO A FRIEND.

Harcourt House, August 30, 1847.

An answer is come out to my address to my constituents at King’s Lynn,
and to my speech in answer to Peel’s manifesto. Pray read it. At first
I thought I could swear to its being * * * *, I now think I can swear
to its being * * * *; the servility to Peel, and the official red-tape
style would equally do for either; but the no-popery page, I think,
fixes it on * * * *.

I think it wretchedly weak, and have written some notes on the margin,
showing up the principal points. The nine months’ famine of 1846-47, as
contrasted with Peel’s famine, shows a difference of between £6,000,000
and £7,000,000; that is to say, on the balance in the nine months
1845-46, Ireland exported about three millions’ worth of breadstuffs,
and not a soul died of famine. In the nine months 1846-47, she imported
three millions’ sterling worth of bread-stuffs, which insufficed to
prevent one million--or say half a million--of the people from dying of
starvation.

At present I have seen no notice of the pamphlet in any of the
newspapers: if it is either * * * *’s, or * * * *’s, or * * * *’s we
shall see it reviewed in ‘Times,’ ‘Chronicle,’ and ‘Spectator.’

The Bank of England has raised the interest on * * * *’s mortgage
one-third per cent., making an additional annual charge of £1,500 a year
to him. I am very sorry for him, but I know nothing so likely to rouse
the landed aristocracy from their apathy, and to weaken their idolatry
of Peel so much as this warning note of the joint operation of his free
trade and restrictive currency laws.


TO A FRIEND.

Harcourt House, September 2, 1847.

I think it is * * * *. The trickster, I observe, has carefully reduced
the pounds of cotton to cwts., in the hopes of concealing a great fraud
to which he has condescended; taking, in the Whig year of 1841, the home
consumption of cotton, whilst in Peel’s year he gives entire importation
as the home consumption, representing both as home consumption.

In Peel’s year, 1846, officially we have only the gross importation; but
in the Whig year, 1841, the entire importation and the home consumption
are given separately: the importation exceeding the home consumption by
fifty million pounds. Burn’s ‘Glance,’ however, gives the importation
and home consumption for both years; unfortunately, however, not in
lbs. or cwts., but in bags. * * * *’s fraud, however, is not the less
apparent.

He selects a Whig year when the home consumption was 220,-000 bags under
the importation, and a year for Peel when the importation exceeded the
home consumption by 280,000 bags, and claps down the figures as alike
describing the home consumption.

None of the Peel papers have taken up the subject: if they should, the
‘Morning Post’ will answer the pamphlet; but I should like to have mine
back again, in order that I may furnish them with the notes.

* * * * was with me this morning, and called my attention to the
circumstance that the author starts with ‘We,’ but drops into the
singular number; * * * * fancies it is Peel himself, but the page on
endowment fixes it on * * * *.

Lord L * * * * means, I presume, that Peel’s savage hatred is applied
to the Protectionist portion of his old party, not of course to the
janissaries and renegade portion.


The following letter was in reply to one of a friend who had sent him
information, several days before they occurred, of the great failures
that were about to happen in the city of London. The list was
unfortunately quite accurate, with the exception indeed of the
particular house respecting which Lord George quotes the opinion of
Baron Rothschild.


TO A FRIEND.

Welbeck, September 17, 1847.

A thousand thanks for your letter, the intelligence in which created a
great sensation at Doncaster.

As yet none of the houses appear to have failed except S * * * *. Baron
Rothschild was at Doncaster. I talked with him on the subject; he seemed
not to doubt the probable failure of any of the houses you named, except
* * * *. He declared very emphatically ‘that * * * * house was as sound
as any house in London.’

Lord Fitzwilliam declares ‘it is no free trade without free trade in
money.’

Lord Clanricarde is here--laughs at the idea of Parliament meeting in
October; but talks much of the difficulties of Ireland--says he does not
see how the rates are to be paid.

Messrs. Drummond are calling in their mortgages. I expect to hear that
this practice will be general; money dear, corn cheap, incumbrances
enhanced, and rents depressed. What will become of the apathetic country
gentlemen? I judge from * * * * ‘s language, that Lord John Russell
will stand or fall by the Bank Charter Act-but that he feels very
apprehensive of being unable to maintain it.

I agree with Bonham, in thinking that the Protectionist party is
smashed for the present Parliament; but I must say I think Protectionist
principles and policy are likely to come into repute again far sooner
than was expected; and though Peel’s party be a compact body, and
formidable in the House of Commons, I cannot think that there appears
that in the working of his measures to make it likely that he should be
soon again carried into power on the shoulders of the people. I think
his political reputation must ebb further before it can rise again,
if it should ever rise again. * * * * thought him ‘broken and in low
spirits,’ when he met him at Longshaw; but Lord * * * *, who was there
at the same time, came away more Peelite than ever, and told them at
Bretby that Sir Robert said, ‘That he was quite surprised at the number
of letters he got every day from members returned to Parliament, saying
they meant to vote with him.’

You may rely upon it the Peelites are very sanguine that they will be in
power again almost directly. We must keep them out.


TO MR. BURN, EDITOR OF THE ‘COMMERCIAL GLANCE.’

Welbeck, September 38, 1847. To the many courtesies you have already
bestowed upon me, I will sincerely thank you to add that of informing me
what have been the estimated cotton crops in the United States in
each of the last four years. I would also thank you to inform me the
comparative importation, home consumption, re-exportation, and stocks
on hand of cotton of the first seven months of the current and three
preceding years.


TO MR. BURN.

Welbeck, October 4, 1847.

Your statistics have reached me in the very nick of time, and are
invaluable. I care nothing about ‘outsides,’ it is ‘insides’ I look to;
give me a good ‘heart,’ and I don’t care how rough the ‘bark’ is.

Anything so good I fear to spoil by suggesting the most trivial
addition, else I should say it would be an interesting feature to
classify the exports of cotton goods, etc., etc., under three heads:--

1st. To the British colonies and British possessions abroad.

2nd. To the northern states of Europe, France, Spain, Germany, Italy,
etc., etc., the United States of America, and other countries having
high tariffs.

3rd. To China, Turkey, Africa, and the Southern States of America, and
countries with low tariffs.

I fear these failures of East and West India houses must entail great
distress upon Manchester, and the manufacturing interests generally. You
have given an account of the bankruptcies in the cotton trade during a
long series of years till last year inclusive; are you able to say how
the first nine months of the current year stands in comparison with its
predecessors?

I so highly prize your new work, that I must ask for a dozen copies to
distribute among my friends.

P. S. I have already parted with the copy you sent me; may I, therefore,
beg another without waiting for any other binding?


TO A FRIEND.

Welbeck, October 5, 1847.

I shall go up to town on Friday evening, in my way to Newmarket,
and shall be at Harcourt House all Saturday and Sunday, and shall be
delighted to see you, and have a thorough good talk with you. Free trade
seems working mischief faster than the most fearful of us predicted,
and Manchester houses, as I am told, ‘failing in rows,’ ashamed to
do penance in public, are secretly weeping in sackcloth and ashes, and
heartily praying that Peel and Cobden had been hanged before they were
allowed to ruin the country.

Money at Manchester is quoted one and a quarter per cent, for ten days:
£45 12s. 6d. per cent. per annum!


TO A FRIEND.

Harcourt House, October 22, 1847. I have this moment got a note from
Stuart, telling me that ‘the Chancellor has this afternoon sent out his
notice of the business to be taken in his own court during Michaelmas
term, that is, from the 2nd of November till the 26th, and below it
there is this notice--_except those days on which the Lord Chancellor
may sit in the House of Lords_!!!’

Surely this must portend a November session.


TO A FRIEND.

Harcourt House, October 23, 1847. The fat banker’s gossip is all stuff.
Peel goes to Windsor today, I believe on an invitation of some standing.
* * * * who had been dining at Palmerston’s last night, tells me that he
does not think that ministers mean calling Parliament together, and is
confident they mean to maintain the Bank Charter Act. There have been
some first-rate articles and letters in the ‘Morning Chronicle’ lately
on this subject.


TO A FRIEND.

Harcourt House, November 6, 1847.

I will stay over Tuesday, that I may have the pleasure of a thorough
talk with you.

I am told things are gradually getting better. I expect, however, a
fresh reverse about six weeks or two months hence, when the returned
lists of the stoppages in the East and West Indies, consequent upon the
late failures here, come home. The Western Bank of Scotland is whispered
about. If that were to fail, it might bring the canny Scots to their
senses; but they are a headstrong race.

A committee on commercial distress having been appointed, the principal
reason for the summoning of the new Parliament in the autumn had been
satisfied, and an adjournment until a month after Christmas was in
prospect. Before, however, this took place, a new and interesting
question arose, which led to considerable discussion, and which
ultimately influenced in no immaterial manner the parliamentary position
of Lord George Bentinck.

The city of London at the general election had sent to the House of
Commons, as a colleague of the first minister, a member who found a
difficulty in taking one of the oaths appointed by the House to be
sworn preliminarily to any member exercising his right of voting. The
difficulty arose from this member being not only of the Jewish race, but
unfortunately believing only in the first part of the Jewish religion.



CHAPTER X.

     _The Jews_

THE relations that subsist between the Bedoueen race that, under the
name of Jews, is found in every country of Europe, and the Teutonic,
Sclavonian, and Celtic races which have appropriated that division of
the globe, will form hereafter one of the most remarkable chapters in
a philosophical history of man. The Saxon, the Sclav, and the Celt
have adopted most of the laws and many of the customs of these Arabian
tribes, all their literature and all their religion. They are therefore
indebted to them for much that regulates, much that charms, and much
that solaces existence. The toiling multitude rest every seventh day
by virtue of a Jewish law; they are perpetually reading, ‘for their
example,’ the records of Jewish history, and singing the odes and
elegies of Jewish poets; and they daily acknowledge on their knees, with
reverent gratitude, that the only medium of communication between the
Creator and themselves is the Jewish race. Yet they treat that race as
the vilest of generations; and instead of logically looking upon them
as the human family that has contributed most to human happiness, they
extend to them every term of obloquy and every form of persecution.

Let us endeavour to penetrate this social anomaly that has harassed and
perplexed centuries.

It is alleged that the dispersion of the Jewish race is a penalty
incurred for the commission of a great crime: namely, the crucifixion
of our blessed Lord in the form of a Jewish prince, by the Romans, at
Jerusalem, and at the instigation of some Jews, in the reign of Tiberius
Augustus Caesar. Upon this, it may be observed, that the allegation is
neither historically true nor dogmatically sound.

I. _Not historically true_. It is not historically true, because at the
time of the advent of our Lord, the Jewish race was as much dispersed
throughout the world as at this present time, and had been so for many
centuries. Europe, with the exception of those shores which are bathed
by the midland sea, was then a primeval forest, but in every city of the
great Eastern monarchies and in every province of the Roman empire, the
Jews had been long settled. We have not precise authority for saying
that at the advent there were more Jews established in Egypt than in
Palestine, but it may unquestionably be asserted that at that period
there were more Jews living, and that too in great prosperity and
honour, at Alexandria than at Jerusalem. It is evident from various
Roman authors, that the Jewish race formed no inconsiderable portion
of the multitude that filled Rome itself, and that the Mosaic religion,
undisturbed by the state, even made proselytes. But it is unnecessary to
enter into any curious researches on this head, though the authorities
are neither scant nor uninteresting. We are furnished with evidence
the most complete and unanswerable of the pre-dispersion by the sacred
writings themselves. Not two months after the crucifixion, when the
Third Person of the Holy Trinity first descended on Jerusalem, it being
the time of the great festivals, when the Jews, according to the custom
of the Arabian tribes pursued to this day in the pilgrimage to Mecca,
repaired from all quarters to the central sacred place, the holy
writings inform us that there were gathered together in Jerusalem ‘Jews,
devout men, out of every nation under heaven.’ And that this expression,
so general but so precise, should not be mistaken, we are shortly
afterwards, though incidentally, informed, that there were Parthians,
Medes, and Persians at Jerusalem, professing the Mosaic faith; Jews from
Mesopotamia and Syria, from the countries of the lesser and the greater
Asia; Egyptian, Libyan, Greek, and Arabian Jews; and, especially, Jews
from Rome itself, some of which latter are particularly mentioned as
Roman proselytes. Nor is it indeed historically true that the small
section of the Jewish race which dwelt in Palestine rejected Christ.
The reverse is the truth. Had it not been for the Jews of Palestine,
the good tidings of our Lord would have been unknown for ever to the
northern and western races. The first preachers of the gospel were Jews,
and none else; the historians of the gospel were Jews, and none else. No
one has ever been permitted to write under the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit, except a Jew. For nearly a century no one believed in the good
tidings except Jews. They nursed the sacred flame of which they were the
consecrated and hereditary depositaries. And when the time was ripe to
diffuse the truth among the ethnics, it was not a senator of Rome or a
philosopher of Athens who was personally appointed by our Lord for that
office, but a Jew of Tarsus, who founded the seven churches of Asia. And
that greater church, great even amid its terrible corruptions, that has
avenged the victory of Titus by subjugating the capital of the Caesars,
and has changed every one of the Olympian temples into altars of the God
of Sinai and of Calvary, was founded by another Jew, a Jew of Galilee.

From all which it appears that the dispersion of the Jewish race,
preceding as it did for countless ages the advent of our Lord, could not
be for conduct which occurred subsequently to the advent, and that they
are also guiltless of that subsequent conduct which has been imputed to
them as a crime, since for Him and His blessed name, they preached, and
wrote, and shed their blood ‘as witnesses.’

But, is it possible that that which is not historically true can be
dogmatically sound? Such a conclusion would impugn the foundations of
all faith. The followers of Jesus, of whatever race, need not however be
alarmed. The belief that the present condition of the Jewish race is a
penal infliction for the part which some Jews took at the crucifixion is
not dogmatically sound.

2. _Not dogmatically sound_. There is no passage in the sacred writings
that in the slightest degree warrants the penal assumption. The
imprecation of the mob at the crucifixion is sometimes strangely quoted
as a divine decree. It is not a principle of jurisprudence, human or
inspired, to permit the criminal to ordain his own punishment. Why, too,
should they transfer any portion of the infliction to their posterity?
What evidence have we that the wild suggestion was sanctioned by
Omnipotence? On the contrary, amid the expiating agony, a Divine Voice
at the same time solicited and secured forgiveness. And if unforgiven,
could the cry of a rabble at such a scene bind a nation?

But, dogmatically considered, the subject of the crucifixion must be
viewed in a deeper spirit. We must pause with awe to remember what was
the principal office to be fulfilled by the advent. When the ineffable
mystery of the Incarnation was consummated, a Divine Person moved on the
face of the earth in the shape of a child of Israel, not to teach but to
expiate. True it is that no word could fall from such lips, whether in
the form of profound parable, or witty retort, or preceptive lore, but
to guide and enlighten; but they who, in those somewhat lax effusions
which in these days are honoured with the holy name of theology, speak
of the morality of the Gospel as a thing apart and of novel revelation,
would do well to remember that in promulgating such doctrines they are
treading on very perilous ground. There cannot be two moralities; and to
hold that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity could teach a different
morality from that which had been already revealed by the First Person
of the Holy Trinity, is a dogma so full of terror that it may perhaps
be looked upon as the ineffable sin against the Holy Spirit. When the
lawyer tempted our Lord, and inquired how he was to inherit eternal
life, the great Master of Galilee referred him to the writings of Moses.
There he would find recorded ‘the whole duty of man;’ to love God with
all his heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, and his neighbour as
himself. These two principles are embalmed in the writings of Moses, and
are the essence of Christian morals.*

     * ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.’
     --Leviticus xix.  18.


It was for something deeper than this, higher and holier than even Moses
could fulfil, that angels announced the Coming. It was to accomplish an
event pre-ordained by the Creator of the world for countless ages.
Born from the chosen house of the chosen people, yet blending in his
inexplicable nature the Divine essence with the human elements, a
sacrificial Mediator was to appear, appointed before all time, to purify
with his atoning blood the myriads that had preceded and the myriads
that will follow him. The doctrine embraces all space and time--nay,
chaos and eternity; Divine persons are the agents, and the redemption of
the whole family of man the result. If the Jews had not prevailed upon
the Romans to crucify our Lord, what would have become of the Atonement?
But the human mind cannot contemplate the idea that the most important
deed of time could depend upon human will. The immolators were
preordained like the victim, and the holy race supplied both. Could that
be a crime which secured for all mankind eternal joy--which vanquished
Satan, and opened the gates of Paradise? Such a tenet would sully and
impugn the doctrine that is the corner-stone of our faith and hope. Men
must not presume to sit in judgment on such an act. They must bow their
heads in awe and astonishment and trembling gratitude.

But, though the opinion that the dispersion of the Jewish race must be
deemed a penalty incurred for their connection with the crucifixion
has neither historical nor doctrinal sanction, it is possible that its
degrading influence upon its victims may have been as efficacious as if
their present condition were indeed a judicial infliction. Persecution,
in a word, although unjust, may have reduced the modern Jews to a state
almost justifying malignant vengeance. They may have become so odious
and so hostile to mankind, as to merit for their present conduct, no
matter how occasioned, the obloquy and ill-treatment of the communities
in which they dwell and with which they are scarcely permitted to
mingle.

Let us examine this branch of the subject, which, though of more limited
interest, is not without instruction.

In all the great cities of Europe, and in some of the great cities of
Asia, among the infamous classes therein existing, there will always be
found Jews. They are not the only people who are usurers, gladiators,
and followers of mean and scandalous occupations, nor are they anywhere
a majority of such, but considering their general numbers, they
contribute perhaps more than their proportion to the aggregate of the
vile. In this they obey the law which regulates the destiny of all
persecuted races: the infamous is the business of the dishonoured; and
as infamous pursuits are generally illegal pursuits, the persecuted race
which has most ability will be most successful in combating the law.
The Jews have never been so degraded as the Greeks were throughout the
Levant before the emancipation, and the degradation of the Greeks was
produced by a period of persecution which, both in amount and suffering,
cannot compare with that which has been endured by the children of
Israel. This peculiarity, however, attends the Jews under the most
unfavourable circumstances; the other degraded races wear out and
disappear; the Jew remains, as determined, as expert, as persevering,
as full of resource and resolution as ever. Viewed in this light, the
degradation of the Jewish race is alone a striking evidence of its
excellence, for none but one of the great races could have survived the
trials which it has endured.

But, though a material organization of the highest class may account for
so strange a consequence, the persecuted Hebrew is supported by other
means. He is sustained by a sublime religion. Obdurate, malignant,
odious, and revolting as the lowest Jew appears to us, he is rarely
demoralized. Beneath his own roof his heart opens to the influence of
his beautiful Arabian traditions. All his ceremonies, his customs, and
his festivals are still to celebrate the bounty of nature and the favour
of Jehovah. The patriarchal feeling lingers about his hearth. A man,
however fallen, who loves his home is not wholly lost. The trumpet of
Sinai still sounds in the Hebrew ear, and a Jew is never seen upon the
scaffold, unless it be at an _auto da fè_.

But, having made this full admission of the partial degradation of the
Jewish race, we are not prepared to agree that this limited degeneracy
is any justification of the prejudices and persecution which originated
in barbarous or mediæval superstitions. On the contrary, viewing the
influence of the Jewish race upon the modern communities, without
any reference to the past history or the future promises of Israel;
dismissing from our minds and memories, if indeed that be possible, all
that the Hebrews have done in the olden time for man and all which it
may be their destiny yet to fulfil, we hold that instead of being an
object of aversion, they should receive all that honour and favour from
the northern and western races, which, in civilized and refined nations,
should be the lot of those who charm the public taste and elevate the
public feeling. We hesitate not to say that there is no race at this
present, and following in this only the example of a long period, that
so much delights, and fascinates, and elevates, and ennobles Europe, as
the Jewish.

We dwell not on the fact, that the most admirable artists of the drama
have been and still are of the Hebrew race: or, that the most entrancing
singers, graceful dancers, and exquisite musicians, are sons and
daughters of Israel: though this were much. But these brilliant
accessories are forgotten in the sublimer claim.

It seems that the only means by which in these modern times we
are permitted to develop the beautiful is music. It would appear
definitively settled that excellence in the plastic arts is the
privilege of the earlier ages of the world. All that is now produced
in this respect is mimetic, and, at the best, the skilful adaptation
of traditional methods. The creative faculty of modern man seems by an
irresistible law at work on the virgin soil of science, daily increasing
by its inventions our command over nature, and multiplying the material
happiness of man. But the happiness of man is not merely material. Were
it not for music, we might in these days say, the beautiful is dead.
Music seems to be the only means of creating the beautiful, in which we
not only equal, but in all probability greatly excel, the ancients. The
music of modern Europe ranks with the transcendent creations of human
genius; the poetry, the statues, the temples, of Greece. It produces and
represents as they did whatever is most beautiful in the spirit of
man and often expresses what is most profound. And who are the great
composers, who hereafter will rank with Homer, with Sophocles, with
Praxiteles, or with Phidias? They are the descendants of those Arabian
tribes who conquered Canaan, and who by favour of the Most High have
done more with less means even than the Athenians.

Forty years ago--not a longer period than the children of Israel were
wandering in the desert--the two most dishonoured races in Europe were
the Attic and the Hebrew, and they were the two races that had done most
for mankind. Their fortunes had some similarity: their countries were
the two smallest in the world, equally barren and equally famous; they
both divided themselves into tribes: both built a most famous temple on
an acropolis; and both produced a literature which all European nations
have accepted with reverence and admiration. Athens has been sacked
oftener than Jerusalem, and oftener razed to the ground; but the
Athenians have escaped expatriation, which is purely an Oriental custom.
The sufferings of the Jews, however, have been infinitely more prolonged
and varied than those of the Athenians. The Greek nevertheless appears
exhausted. The creative genius of Israel, on the contrary, never shone
so bright; and when the Russian, the Frenchman, and the Anglo-Saxon,
amid applauding theatres or the choral voices of solemn temples, yield
themselves to the full spell of a Mozart or a Mendelssohn, it seems
difficult to comprehend how these races can reconcile it to their hearts
to persecute a Jew.

We have shown that the theological prejudice against the Jews has no
foundation, historical or doctrinal; we have shown that the social
prejudice, originating in the theological but sustained by superficial
observations, irrespective of religious prejudice, is still more
unjust, and that no existing race is so much entitled to the esteem
and gratitude of society as the Hebrew. It remains for us to notice the
injurious consequences to European society of the course pursued by
the communities to this race; and this view of the subject leads us to
considerations which it would become existing statesmen to ponder.

The world has by this time discovered that it is impossible to destroy
the Jews. The attempt to extirpate them has been made under the most
favourable auspices and on the largest scale; the most considerable
means that man could command have been pertinaciously applied to this
object for the longest period of recorded time. Egyptian Pharaohs,
Assyrian kings, Roman emperors, Scandinavian crusaders, Gothic princes,
and holy inquisitors have alike devoted their energies to the fulfilment
of this common purpose. Expatriation, exile, captivity, confiscation,
torture on the most ingenious, and massacre on the most extensive,
scale, with a curious system of degrading customs and debasing laws
which would have broken the heart of any other people, have been tried,
and in vain. The Jews, after all this havoc, are probably more numerous
at this date than they were during the reign of Solomon the Wise, are
found in all lands, and, unfortunately, prospering in most. All of which
proves that it is in vain for man to attempt to battle the inexorable
law of nature, which has decreed that a superior race shall never be
destroyed or absorbed by an inferior.

But the influence of a great race will be felt; its greatness does not
depend upon its numbers, otherwise the English would not have vanquished
the Chinese, nor would the Aztecs have been overthrown by Cortez and
a handful of Goths. That greatness results from its organization, the
consequences of which are shown in its energy and enterprise, in the
strength of its will and the fertility of its brain. Let us observe
what should be the influence of the Jews, and then ascertain how it
is exercised. The Jewish race connects the modern populations with the
early ages of the world, when the relations of the Creator with the
created were more intimate than in these days, when angels visited
the earth, and God himself even spoke with man. The Jews represent the
Semitic principle; all that is spiritual in our nature. They are the
trustees of tradition and the conservators of the religious element.
They are a living and the most striking evidence of the falsity of that
pernicious doctrine of modern times--the natural equality of man.
The political equality of a particular race is a matter of municipal
arrangement, and depends entirely on political considerations and
circumstances; but the natural equality of man now in vogue, and taking
the form of cosmopolitan fraternity, is a principle which, were it
possible to act on it, would deteriorate the great races and destroy
all the genius of the world. What would be the consequence on the great
Anglo-Saxon republic, for example, were its citizens to secede from
their sound principle of reserve, and mingle with their negro and
coloured populations? In the course of time they would become so
deteriorated that their states would probably be reconquered and
regained by the aborigines whom they have expelled, and who would then
be their superiors. But though nature will never ultimately permit this
theory of natural equality to be practised, the preaching of this dogma
has already caused much mischief, and may occasion much more. The native
tendency of the Jewish race, who are justly proud of their blood, is
against the doctrine of the equality of man. They have also another
characteristic, the faculty of acquisition. Although the European
laws have endeavoured to prevent their obtaining property, they have
nevertheless become remarkable for their accumulated wealth. Thus
it will be seen that all the tendencies of the Jewish race are
conservative. Their bias is to religion, property, and natural
aristocracy: and it should be the interest of statesmen that this bias
of a great race should be encouraged, and their energies and creative
powers enlisted in the cause of existing society.

But existing society has chosen to persecute this race which should
furnish its choice allies, and what have been the consequences?

They may be traced in the last outbreak of the destructive principle in
Europe. An insurrection takes place against tradition and aristocracy,
against religion and property. Destruction of the Semitic principle,
extirpation of the Jewish religion, whether in the Mosaic or in the
Christian form, the natural equality of man, and the abrogation of
property, are proclaimed by the secret societies who form provisional
governments, and men of Jewish race are found at the head of every one
of them. The people of God coöperate with atheists; the most skilful
accumulators of property ally themselves with communists; the peculiar
and chosen race touch the hand of all the scum and low castes of Europe!
And all this because they wish to destroy that ungrateful Christendom
which owes to them even its name, and whose tyranny they can no longer
endure.

When the secret societies, in February, 1848, surprised Europe, they
were themselves surprised by the unexpected opportunity, and so little
capable were they of seizing the occasion, that had it not been for the
Jews, who of late years unfortunately have been connecting themselves
with these unhallowed associations, imbecile as were the governments,
the uncalled-for outbreak would not have ravaged Europe. But the fiery
energy and the teeming resources of the children of Israel maintained
for a long time the unnecessary and useless struggle. If the reader
throw his eye over the provisional governments of Germany and Italy, and
even of France, formed at that period, he will recognize everywhere the
Jewish element. Even the insurrection, and defence, and administration
of Venice, which, from the resource and statesmanlike moderation
displayed, commanded almost the respect and sympathy of Europe, were
accomplished by a Jew--Manini--who, by the bye, is a Jew who professes
the whole of the Jewish religion, and believes in Calvary as well as
Sinai,--‘a converted Jew,’ as the Lombards styled him, quite forgetting,
in the confusion of their ideas, that it is the Lombards who are the
converts--not Manini.

Thus it will be seen, that the persecution of the Jewish race has
deprived European society of an important conservative element, and
added to the destructive party an influential ally. Prince Metternich,
the most enlightened of modern statesmen, not to say the most
intellectual of men, was, though himself a victim of the secret
societies, fully aware of these premises. It was always his custom,
great as were the difficulties which in so doing he had to encounter,
to employ as much as possible the Hebrew race in the public service. He
could never forget that Napoleon, in his noontide hour, had been checked
by the pen of the greatest of political writers; he had found that
illustrious author as great in the cabinet as in the study; he knew that
no one had more contributed to the deliverance of Europe. It was not
as a patron, but as an appreciating and devoted friend, that the
High Chancellor of Austria appointed Frederick Gentz secretary to the
Congress of Vienna--and Frederick Gentz was a child of Israel.

It is no doubt to be deplored that several millions of the Jewish race
should persist in believing in only a part of their religion; but this
is a circumstance which does not affect Europe, and time, with different
treatment, may remove the anomaly which perhaps may be accounted for. It
should be recollected, that the existing Jews are perhaps altogether the
descendants of those various colonies and emigrations which, voluntary
or forced, long preceded the advent. Between the vast carnage of the
Roman wars, from Titus to Hadrian, and the profession of Christ by his
countrymen, which must have been very prevalent, since the Christian
religion was solely sustained by the Jews of Palestine during the
greater part of its first century, it is improbable that any descendants
of the Jews of Palestine exist who disbelieve in Christ. After the fall
of Jerusalem and the failure of Barchochebas, no doubt some portion of
the Jews found refuge in the desert, returning to their original land
after such long and strange vicissitudes. This natural movement would
account for those Arabian tribes, of whose resistance to Mohammed we
have ample and authentic details, and who, if we are to credit the
accounts which perplex modern travellers, are to this day governed by
the Pentateuch instead of the Koran.

When Christianity was presented to the ancestors of the present Jews,
it came from a very suspicious quarter, and was offered in a very
questionable shape. Centuries must have passed in many instances before
the Jewish colonies heard of the advent, the crucifixion, and the
atonement; the latter, however, a doctrine in perfect harmony with
Jewish ideas. When they first heard of Christianity, it appeared to be a
Gentile religion, accompanied by idolatrous practices, from which severe
monotheists, like the Arabians, always recoil, and holding the Jewish
race up to public scorn and hatred. This is not the way to make
converts.

There have been two great colonies of the Jewish race in Europe; in
Spain and in Sarmatia. The origin of the Jews in Spain is lost in
the night of time. That it was of great antiquity we have proof. The
tradition, once derided, that the Iberian Jews were a Phoenician colony
has been favoured by the researches of modern antiquaries, who have
traced the Hebrew language in the ancient names of the localities.
It may be observed, however, that the languages of the Jews and the
Philistines, or Phoenicians, were probably too similar to sanction any
positive induction from such phenomena; while on the other hand, in
reply to those who have urged the improbability of the Jews, who had no
seaports, colonizing Spain, it may be remarked that the colony may
have been an expatriation by the Philistines in the course of the long
struggle which occurred between them and the invading tribes previous
to the foundation of the Hebrew monarchy. We know that in the time of
Cicero the Jews had been settled immemorially in Spain. When the Romans,
converted to Christianity and acted on by the priesthood, began to
trouble the Spanish Jews, it appears by a decree of Constantine that
they were owners and cultivators of the soil, a circumstance which
alone proves the antiquity and the nobility of their settlement, for
the possession of the land is never conceded to a degraded race.
The conquest of Spain by the Goths in the fifth and sixth centuries
threatened the Spanish Jews, however, with more serious adversaries than
the Romans. The Gothic tribes, very recently converted to their Syrian
faith, were full of barbaric zeal against those whom they looked upon as
the enemies of Jesus. But the Spanish Jews sought assistance from
their kinsmen the Saracens on the opposite coast; Spain was invaded and
subdued by the Moors, and for several centuries the Jew and the Saracen
lived under the same benignant laws and shared the same brilliant
prosperity. In the history of Spain during the Saracenic supremacy any
distinction of religion or race is no longer traced. And so it came
to pass that when at the end of the fourteenth century, after the fell
triumph of the Dominicans over the Albigenses, the holy inquisition was
introduced into Spain, it was reported to Torquemada that two-thirds of
the nobility of Arragon, that is to say of the proprietors of the land,
were Jews.

All that these men knew of Christianity was, that it was a religion
of fire and sword, and that one of its first duties was to avenge some
mysterious and inexplicable crime which had been committed ages ago by
some unheard of ancestors of theirs in an unknown land. The inquisitors
addressed themselves to the Spanish Jews in the same abrupt and
ferocious manner in which the monks saluted the Mexicans and the
Peruvians. All those of the Spanish Jews, who did not conform after
the fall of the Mohammedan kingdoms, were expatriated by the victorious
Goths, and these refugees were the main source of the Italian Jews, and
of the most respectable portion of the Jews of Holland. These exiles
found refuge in two republics; Venice and the United Provinces. The
Portuguese Jews, it is well known, came from Spain, and their ultimate
expulsion from Portugal was attended by the same results as the Spanish
expatriation.

The other great division of Jews in Europe are the Sarmatian Jews, and
they are very numerous. They amount to nearly three millions. These
unquestionably entered Europe with the other Sarmatian nations,
descending the Borysthenes and ascending the Danube, and are according
to all probability the progeny of the expatriations of the times of
Tiglath-Pileser and Nebuchadnezzar. They are the posterity of those
‘devout men,’ Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, who were attending the
festivals at Jerusalem at the time of the descent of the Holy Spirit.
Living among barbarous pagans, who never molested them, these people
went on very well, until suddenly the barbarous pagans, under the
influence of an Italian priesthood, were converted to the Jewish
religion, and then as a necessary consequence the converts began to
harass, persecute, and massacre the Jews.

These people had never heard of Christ. Had the Romans not destroyed
Jerusalem, these Sarmatian Jews would have had a fair chance of
obtaining from civilized beings some clear and coherent account of the
great events which had occurred. They and their fathers before them
would have gone up in customary pilgrimage to the central sacred place,
both for purposes of devotion and purposes of trade, and they might have
heard from Semitic lips that there were good tidings for Israel. What
they heard from their savage companions, and the Italian priesthood
which acted on them, was, that there were good tidings for all the world
except Israel, and that Israel, for the commission of a great crime
of which they had never heard and could not comprehend, was to be
plundered, massacred, hewn to pieces, and burnt alive in the name of
Christ and for the sake of Christianity.

The Eastern Jews, who are very numerous, are in general the descendants
of those who in the course of repeated captivities settled in the great
Eastern monarchies, and which they never quitted. They live in the same
cities and follow the same customs as they did in the days of Cyrus.
They are to be found in Persia, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor; at Bagdad,
at Hamadan, at Smyrna. We know from the Jewish books how very scant was
the following which accompanied Esdras and Nehemiah back to Jerusalem.
A fortress city, built on a ravine, surrounded by stony mountains and
watered by a scanty stream, had no temptations after the gardens of
Babylon and the broad waters of the Euphrates. But Babylon has vanished
and Jerusalem remains, and what are the waters of Euphrates to the brook
of Kedron! It is another name than that of Jesus of Nazareth with which
these Jews have been placed in collision, and the Ishmaelites have not
forgotten the wrongs of Hagar in their conduct to the descendants of
Sarah.

Is it therefore wonderful that a great portion of the Jewish race should
not believe in the most important portion of the Jewish religion? As,
however, the converted races become more humane in their behaviour to
the Jews, and the latter have opportunity fully to comprehend and deeply
to ponder over true Christianity, it is difficult to suppose that the
result will not be very different. Whether presented by a Roman or
Anglo-Catholic or Genevese divine, by pope, bishop, or presbyter, there
is nothing, one would suppose, very repugnant to the feelings of a Jew
when he learns that the redemption of the human race has been effected
by the mediatorial agency of a child of Israel: if the ineffable mystery
of the Incarnation be developed to him, he will remember that the
blood of Jacob is a chosen and peculiar blood; and if so transcendent a
consummation is to occur, he will scarcely deny that only one race could
be deemed worthy of accomplishing it. There may be points of doctrine
on which the northern and western races may perhaps never agree. The
Jew like them may follow that path in those respects which reason and
feeling alike dictate; but nevertheless it can hardly be maintained that
there is anything revolting to a Jew to learn that a Jewess is the queen
of heaven, or that the flower of the Jewish race are even now sitting on
the right hand of the Lord God of Sabaoth.

Perhaps, too, in this enlightened age, as his mind expands, and he takes
a comprehensive view of this period of progress, the pupil of Moses may
ask himself, whether all the princes of the house of David have done so
much for the Jews as that prince who was crucified on Calvary. Had it
not been for Him, the Jews would have been comparatively unknown, or
known only as a high Oriental caste which had lost its country. Has not
He made their history the most famous in the world? Has not He hung up
their laws in every temple? Has not He vindicated all their wrongs?
Has not He avenged the victory of Titus and conquered the Caesars? What
successes did they anticipate from their Messiah? The wildest dreams of
their rabbis have been far exceeded. Has not Jesus conquered Europe and
changed its name into Christendom? All countries that refuse the cross
wither, while the whole of the new world is devoted to the Semitic
principle and its most glorious offspring the Jewish faith, and the time
will come when the vast communities and countless myriads of America
and Australia, looking upon Europe as Europe now looks upon Greece, and
wondering how so small a space could have achieved such great deeds,
will still find music in the songs of Sion and still seek solace in the
parables of Galilee.

These may be dreams, but there is one fact which none can contest.
Christians may continue to persecute Jews, and Jews may persist in
disbelieving Christians, but who can deny that Jesus of Nazareth, the
Incarnate Son of the Most High God, is the eternal glory of the Jewish
race?



CHAPTER XI.

     _Jewish Disabilities_

IT WOULD seem to follow from the views expressed in the preceding
chaptet, that in communities professing a belief in our Lord, the
Jewish race ought not to be subject to any legislative dishonour or
disqualification. These views, however, were not those which influenced
Lord George Bentinck in forming his opinion that the civil disabilities
of those subjects of her Majesty who profess that limited belief in
divine revelation which is commonly called the Jewish religion should
be removed. He had supported a measure to this effect in the year
1833, guided in that conduct by his devoted attachment to the equivocal
principle of religious liberty, the unqualified application of which
principle seems hardly consistent with that recognition of religious
truth by the state to which we yet adhere, and without which it is
highly probable that the northern and western races, after a disturbing
and rapidly degrading period of atheistic anarchy, may fatally recur
to their old national idolatries, modified and mythically dressed up
according to the spirit of the age. It may be observed that the decline
and disasters of modern communities have generally been relative to
their degree of sedition against the Semitic principle. Since the great
revolt of the Celts against the first and second testament, at the close
of the last century, France has been alternately in a state of collapse
or convulsion. Throughout the awful trials of the last sixty years,
England, notwithstanding her deficient and meagre theology, has always
remembered Sion. The great Transatlantic republic is intensely
Semitic, and has prospered accordingly. This sacred principle alone has
consolidated the mighty empire of all the Russias. How omnipotent it
is cannot be more clearly shown than by the instance of Rome, where it
appears in its most corrupt form. An old man on a Semitic throne baffles
the modern Attilas, and the recent invasion of the barbarians, under the
form of red republicans, socialists, communists, all different phases
which describe the relapse of the once converted races into their
primitive condition of savagery. Austria would long ago have dissolved
but for the Semitic principle, and if the north of Germany has never
succeeded in attaining that imperial position which seemed its natural
destiny, it is that the north of Germany has never at any time been
thoroughly converted. Some perhaps may point to Spain as a remarkable
instance of decline in a country where the Semitic principle has
exercised great influence. But the fall of Spain was occasioned by the
expulsion of her Semitic population: a million families of Jews and
Saracens, the most distinguished of her citizens for their industry and
their intelligence, their learning and their wealth.

It appears that Lord George Bentinck had offended some of his followers
by an opinion expressed in his address to his constituency in ‘47, that
in accordance with the suggestion of Mr. Pitt, some provision should
be made for the Roman Catholic priesthood of Ireland out of the land.
Although this opinion might offend the religious sentiments of some,
and might be justly looked upon by others as a scheme ill-suited to the
character of an age adverse to any further religious endowments, it must
be acknowledged that no member of the Protectionist party had any just
cause of complaint against Lord George for the expression of an opinion
which he had always upheld, and of his constancy to which he had fairly
given his friends notice. This was so generally felt that the repining
died away. The Jewish question, as it was called, revived these
religious emotions. These feelings, as springing from the highest
sentiment of our nature, and founded, however mistaken in their
application, on religious truth, are entitled to deep respect and
tenderness; but no one can indulge them by the compromise of the highest
principles, or by sanctioning a course which he really believes to be
destructive of the very object which their votaries wish to cherish.

As there are very few Englishmen of what is commonly called the Jewish
faith, and as therefore it was supposed that political considerations
could not enter into the question, it was hoped by many of the followers
of Lord George Bentinck that he would not separate himself from his
party on this subject, and very earnest requests and representations
were made to him with that view. He was not insensible to them; he gave
them prolonged and painful consideration; they greatly disquieted him.
In his confidential correspondence he often recurs to the distress
and anxiety which this question and its consequences as regarded his
position with those friends to whom he was much attached occasioned him.
It must not, therefore, be supposed that, in the line he ultimately
took with reference to this question, he was influenced, as some have
unkindly and unwarrantably fancied, by a self-willed, inexorable, and
imperious spirit. He was no doubt, by nature, a proud man, inclined even
to arrogance, and naturally impatient of contradiction; but two
severe campaigns in the House of Commons had already mitigated these
characteristics: he understood human nature, he was fond of his party,
and, irrespective of other considerations, it pained his ardent and
generous heart to mortify his comrades. It was therefore not in any
degree from temper, but from principle,--from as pure, as high, and as
noble a sense of duty as ever actuated a man in public life,--that Lord
George Bentinck ultimately resolved that it was impossible for him
to refuse to vote for the removal of what are commonly called Jewish
disabilities. He had voted in this particular cause shortly after
his entrance into public life; it was in accordance with that general
principle of religious liberty to which he was an uncompromising
adherent; it was in complete agreement with the understanding which
subsisted between himself and the Protectionist party, when at their
urgent request he unwillingly assumed the helm. He was entreated not to
vote at all; to stay away, which the severe indisposition under which
he was then labouring warranted. He did not rudely repulse these latter
representations, as has been circulated. On the contrary, he listened
to them with kindness, and was not uninfluenced by them. Enfeebled by
illness, he had nearly brought himself to a compliance with a request
urged with affectionate importunity, but from which his reason and sense
of duty held him aloof. After long and deep and painful pondering, when
the hour arrived, he rose from his bed of sickness, walked into the
House of Commons, and not only voted, but spoke in favour of his
convictions. His speech remains, one of the best ever delivered on the
subject, not only full of weighty argument, but touched with a high and
even tender vein of sentiment.

This vote and speech of Lord George Bentinck no doubt mortified at the
moment a considerable portion of his followers, and occasioned great
dissatisfaction among a very respectable though limited section of
them. This latter body must either have forgotten or they must have been
strangely unacquainted with the distinct understanding on which Lord
George had undertaken the lead of the party, or otherwise they could
not have felt authorized in conveying to him their keen sense of
disapprobation. Unfortunately he received this when the House had
adjourned for the holidays, and when Mr. Bankes, who had been the organ
of communication with him in ‘46, was in the country, and when the party
was of course generally dispersed. Lord George did not take any pains to
ascertain whether the representation which was made to him was that of
the general feeling of a large party, or that only of a sincere, highly
estimable, but limited section. He was enfeebled and exhausted by
indisposition; he often felt, even when in health, that the toil of his
life was beyond both his physical and moral energies; and though he was
of that ardent and tenacious nature that he never would have complained,
but have died at his post, the opportunity of release coming to him at
a moment when he was physically prostrate was rather eagerly seized, and
the world suddenly learnt at Christmas, with great astonishment, that
the renowned leader of the Protectionist party had relinquished his
trust.

The numerous communications which he received must have convinced
him that the assumed circumstances under which he acted had not been
accurately appreciated by him. He was implored to reconsider his course,
as one very detrimental to the cause to which he was devoted, and
which would probably tend to the triumph of those whose policy he
had attempted to defeat, and whose personal conduct he had at least
succeeded in punishing.

‘The prophesied time has come,’ he wrote to his friend Mr. Bankes, on
the 23rd of December, 1847, ‘when I have ceased to be able to serve
the party, the great cause of Protection, or my country, by any longer
retaining the commission bestowed on me in the spring of 1846. You will
remember, however, that when unfeignedly and honestly, but in vain,
trying to escape from being raised to a position which I foresaw I must
fail to maintain with advantage to you or honour to myself, I at last
gave my consent, I only did so on the express understanding that my
advancement should be held to be merely a pro tempore appointment,
waiting till the country should have the opportunity of sending to
Parliament other men better fitted to lead the country gentlemen of
England. I have recalled these circumstances to your mind with no other
purpose than that the party may feel how entirely free they are, without
even the suspicion of doing an injustice to me or of showing me in
this any disrespect, to remodel their arrangements, and to supersede my
lieutenancy by the appointment of a superior and permanent commander.’

And again on Christmas-day, to the same gentleman, in reply to an
acknowledgment of the preceding, he says, while thanking Mr. Bankes
‘for his warm-hearted letter as very grateful to his feelings,’--’
Confidentially I tell you, that far from feeling in the least annoyed,
I shall feel greatly relieved by a restoration to privacy and freedom. I
worked upon my spirit in ‘46 and ‘47; but I have learnt now that I have
shaken my constitution to the foundation, and I seriously doubt my being
able to work on much longer.’

He wrote on the 24th of December to one of his most intimate friends and
warmest supporters, Mr. Christopher, the member for Lincolnshire, who
had remonstrated with him as to his decision: ‘It is not in my nature to
retain a station one moment after I get a hint even that any portion
of those who raised me to it are wearied of seeing me there. The old
members of the party will all recollect how clearly I foresaw and
foretold that I should be found a very inconvenient as well as a very
inefficient leader, so soon as the great Protection battle was brought
to a close. I predicted all that has since occurred; and no one more
cordially agrees than I do in the wisdom of the present decision, the
spirit I presume of which is that no great party or large body of men
can be successfully, or to any good purpose, led except by a man
who heart and soul sympathizes with them in all their feelings,
partialities, and prejudices. Cold reason has a poor chance against such
influences. There can be no _esprit de corps_ and no zeal where there
is not a union of prejudices as well as of commercial opinions. The
election of a leader united with the great body of the party in these
respects, will tend greatly to reunite its scattered particles, even on
those questions where I shall be able to give my aid with all my wonted
zeal, which will not be the less spirited because it will be free and
independent.’

At a later period, acknowledging an address signed by the great body
of the Protectionist party, and presented to him by the present Earl
Talbot, then a member of the House of Commons, Lord George wrote, ‘The
considerations which obliged me to surrender a post of honour which
every independent and high-minded English gentleman has at all times
prized above the highest rewards in the gift of the crown, “the
leadership of the country gentlemen of England,” will never influence
me to swerve from any endeavours of which my poor abilities and bodily
energies are capable in the promotion of the prosperity of all classes
in the British empire at home and in the colonies, any more than
they can ever make me forget the attachment, the friendship, and the
enthusiastic support of those who stood by me to the end of the death
struggle for British interests and for English good faith and political
honour, and to whose continued friendship and constancy I know I am
indebted for this graceful and grateful compliment.’

If Lord George Bentinck was inexorable to the entreaties of his friends,
it must not be supposed that he was influenced in the course which he
pursued, as was presumed by many at the time not acquainted with the
circumstances, by any feeling of pique or brooding sullenness. No
high-spirited man under vexatious and distressing circumstances ever
behaved with more magnanimity. In this he was actuated in a great degree
by a sense of duty, but still more by that peculiar want of selfishness
which was one of the most beautiful traits of his character. The moment
he had at all recovered from the severe attack by which, to use his own
language, he had been ‘struck down in the first week of the session,’
and from the effects of which it may be doubted whether he ever entirely
recovered, he laboured zealously to induce some competent person to
undertake the office which he had thought it expedient to resign,
offering in several instances to serve in the ranks, and to assist with
his utmost energies, both in and out of the House, the individual who
would undertake the responsible direction in the Commons.

These efforts, though indefatigable, were not successful, for those who
were competent to the office cared not to serve under any one except
himself. About this time, a personage of great station, and who very
much admired Lord George Bentinck, wrote to him, and recommended him
not to trouble himself about the general discipline of the party, but
to follow his own course, and lead that body of friends who under all
circumstances would adhere to him, instancing the case of Mr. Canning,
under circumstances not altogether dissimilar. Lord George replied: ‘As
for my rallying a personal party round myself, as Mr. Canning did, I
have no pretension to anything of the kind; when Mr. Canning did that,
the House of Commons, and England too, acknowledged him to be the
greatest orator who had survived Pitt and Fox; he had been Secretary of
State for foreign affairs, and had taken a conspicuous part in rousing
the country to carry on the war against France.’

The nature of the subject, dealing as it necessarily does with so
many personal details, renders it impossible to make public the
correspondence in which Lord George Bentinck was engaged at this time in
his attempts to place the Protectionist party under the guidance of one
who would unite all sympathies; but were that publication possible, it
would place Lord George Bentinck in a very noble and amiable light, and
prove a gentleness and softness in his nature for which those who were
not very intimate with him did not give him credit. Not that it must be
for a moment supposed that he was insensible to what was occurring. He
was the most sensitive as well as the proudest of men. When the writer
called at Harcourt House, to bid him farewell, before the Christmas
holidays, and, conversing very frankly on the course which he was then
pursuing, inquired as to his future proceedings, Lord George said with
emotion: ‘In this cause I have shaken my constitution and shortened
my days, and I will succeed or die.’ In the course of the year 1848,
walking home, talking together, from the House of Commons, he twice
recurred to this terrible alternative.

But all considerations were merged at this moment in the predominant one
which was to keep the party together. He wrote to a friend at the end of
January, who urged him, as the hour of work approached and the injurious
inconveniences of his abdication would be more felt, to confer with his
former followers and reconsider his position, that no personal feeling
prevented his taking that course, but that he felt any resumption of
responsibility on his part would not be pleasing to a section of those
who formerly served with him, and that there would be a ‘split’ in the
ranks. ‘As far as I am personally concerned,’ he added, ‘I could submit
to anything short of having my ears cut off and appearing as a “Croppy,”
 to be free again. My pride cannot stand leading an unwilling party; I
would just as soon thrust myself into a dinner-room where I was at once
an uninvited and an unwelcome guest.’

In the meantime, according to his custom, the moment that he had
sufficiently recovered from his illness, he prepared with the utmost
zeal for the coming struggle respecting the fate of our sugar colonies,
in which subject he was soon absorbed.

Parliament reassembled on the 3rd of February, and on that night Lord
George Bentinck brought forward his motion for ‘a select committee
to inquire into the present condition and prospects of the interests
connected with and dependent on sugar and coffee planting in her
Majesty’s East and West Indian possessions and the Mauritius, and to
consider whether any and what measures can be adopted by Parliament for
their relief.’ When he entered the House, Lord George walked up to the
head of the second bench below the gangway, on the opposition side,
and thus significantly announced that he was no longer the responsible
leader of the Protectionist party. It was the wish of the writer of
these pages, who had resolved to stand or fall by him, to have followed
his example and to have abdicated the prominent seat in which the writer
had been unwillingly and fortuitously placed; but by the advice, or
rather at the earnest request, of Lord George Bentinck, this course was
relinquished as indicative of schism, which he wished to discourage; and
the circumstance is only mentioned as showing that Lord George was not
less considerate at this moment of the interests of the Protectionist
party than when he led them with so much confidence and authority.
The session, however, was to commence without a leader, without any
recognized organ of communication between parties, or any responsible
representative of opinion in debate. All again was chaos. There is,
however, something so vital in the Conservative party that it seems
always to rally under every disadvantage.

Lord George spoke well to his resolution: the House soon recognized
he was master of his case, and though few foresaw at the moment the
important consequences to which this motion would lead, the House was
interested from the first; and though there was no division, the debate
lasted two days, and was sustained on both sides with great animation.

The mover vindicated himself very successfully for only proposing a
committee of inquiry. ‘It has been represented to me,’ he said, ‘by the
colonies and by persons in this country who are interested in them, that
the course which I am proposing is not consistent with the necessities
of the case; that there is something pusillanimous in the motion which
I am going to make; that in point of fact the interests connected with
sugar and coffee planting are in extremis; and that while the question
of their redress is being discussed in a committee above-stairs, these
great interests will perish. They say to me that a committee of inquiry
will be to them of the nature of that comfort which,

     “Like cordials after death, come late; ”

and that before the committee shall have reported, the West-Indian
interest will be altogether past recovery. But, sir, it is for me to
consider what my power is to obtain any substantial relief by a direct
vote of this House; and when I remember that in July, 1846, I moved a
resolution the purport of which was, to maintain the protection for
the West-Indian and the East-Indian free-labour colonies which they now
seek, and that I had but one hundred and thirty gentlemen to support me,
while two hundred and sixty-five votes were recorded in favour of the
measure of the Government admitting slave-labour sugar, I feel that it
is hopeless for me to endeavour in this House, where I have no reason
to suppose any addition has been made to the members acquiescing in my
views, to convert that minority into a majority; and more especially
when I recollect that on that occasion but five gentlemen connected with
the West-Indian and East-Indian interests recorded their votes with me,
I think the West-Indian interest has not a good case against me when
they blame me for not taking a more resolute step on this occasion.’

He was not, however, without hope from the course which he had decided
to pursue. ‘Looking, as I have done, at the deplorable state of the
West Indies, the East Indies, and the Mauritius, and holding, as I do,
in my hand a list of forty-eight great houses in England--twenty-six
of the first commercial houses in London, sixteen in Liverpool, and six
elsewhere--which have failed, and whose liabilities amount in the whole
to £6,300,000 and upwards, none of which I believe would have fallen had
it not been for the ruin brought upon them by the change in the sugar
duties and the consequent reduction in the price of their produce,--I
do hope, through the intervention of a committee of this House, I may be
able to prevail upon the House to change its policy with regard to this
great question.’

Lord George was supported in this debate by Mr. Thomas Baring, in one
of the best speeches ever made in the House of Commons. Few more combine
mastery of the case with parliamentary point than this gentleman. It is
not impossible to find a man capable of addressing the House of Commons
who understands the subject; it is not impossible to find a man who
can convey his impressions on any subject to the House in a lively and
captivating manner, though both instances are rarer than the world would
imagine; but a man who at the same time understands a question and can
handle it before a popular assembly in a popular style, who teaches
without being pedantic, can convey an argument in an epigram, and
instruct as the Mexicans did by picture, possesses a talent for the
exercise of which he is responsible to his sovereign and his country.

Mr. Baring said that he could not perfectly agree either with Lord John
Russell or Lord George Bentinck, that Protection or Free Trade must be
in what they called a circle, round which in their legislation they must
always move; that they must either give protection to everything or
free trade to everything. He could not say that because sugar claimed
protection, coals must have protection also. Neither would he, on the
other hand, apply free trade to every article. He acknowledged the
advantage of competition as a stimulus: he thought that, placing things
on equal grounds, competition was undoubtedly a great advantage. He
could understand a competition to try the mutual speed of race-horses;
but there could be no competition between a race-horse and a
steam-engine, for the power of the animal could bear no comparison with
that of the machine!

Mr. Baring could look back to no legislation more humiliating than the
legislation regarding our colonies. No great interest was ever so much
trifled with, so much sacrificed to the cry of the day; at one moment to
no slavery and another to cheap sugar.

The committee was granted, and it was generally felt that the question
was consequently quieted for the session.



CHAPTER XII.

     _Leader Perforce_

DURING the first six weeks of this famous committee the attendance
of its members was not very regular, and its labours attracted little
attention. The evidence on the East-India part of the question was
closed and reported to the House by the end of February; after that
period the evidence was reported to the House every week or ten
days. Towards the end of March, rumours began to circulate of the
extraordinary vigour and ability with which this investigation was
pursued, and of the novel, authentic, and striking evidence that had
been elicited. The proceedings were talked of in the House of Commons
and on the Royal Exchange; the City men who were examined went back
to their companions with wondrous tales of the energy and acuteness
of Harcourt House, and the order, method, and discipline of the
committee-room at Westminster. As time elapsed, the hopes of the
colonial interest again revived. It was generally felt that Lord George
had succeeded in establishing an irresistible case. It was rumoured that
the government could not withstand it. Those who had originally murmured
at the course which he had adopted of moving for a committee of inquiry,
instead of proposing a specific measure of relief, and had treated an
investigation as a mere means of securing inaction, now recanted their
rash criticism, and did justice to his prescience and superior judgment,
as well as to his vast information and indefatigable exertions. The week
during which the committee sat on their report was a very anxious
one; the divisions were known every day in the House of Commons; the
alternations of success and discomfiture, and the balanced numbers that
so often called for the interposition of the chairman, were calculated
to sustain the excitement; and when, on the 29th of May, it was known
that the report was at length agreed to, and that a committee of free
traders had absolutely recommended a differential duty of 10s. in favour
of our own produce, one might have fancied from the effect visibly
produced, that a government was changed.

A few days before--it was the day after the Derby, May 25th--the writer
met Lord George Ben-tinck in the library of the House of Commons. He
was standing before the book-shelves, with a volume in his hand, and
his countenance was greatly disturbed. His resolutions in favour of
the colonial interest after all his labours had been negatived by the
committee on the 22nd, and on the 24th, his horse Surplice, whom he
had parted with among the rest of his stud, solely that he might pursue
without distraction his labours on behalf of the great interests of the
country, had won that paramount and Olympian stake, to gain which had
been the object of his life. He had nothing to console him, and nothing
to sustain him except his pride. Even that deserted him before a heart
which he knew at least could yield him sympathy. He gave a sort of
superb groan:--

‘All my life I have been trying for this, and for what have I sacrificed
it!’ he murmured.

It was in vain to offer solace.

‘You do not know what the Derby is,’ he moaned out.

‘Yes, I do; it is the blue ribbon of the turf.’

‘It is the blue ribbon of the turf,’ he slowly repeated to himself, and
sitting down at the table, he buried himself in a folio of statistics.

But on Monday, the 29th, when the resolution in favour of a 10s.
differential duty for the colonies had at the last moment been carried,
and carried by his casting vote, ‘the blue ribbons of the turf were all
forgotten. Not for all the honours and successes of all the meetings,
spring or autumn, Newmarket, Epsom, Goodwood, Doncaster, would he have
exchanged that hour of rapture. His eye sparkled with fire, his nostril
dilated with triumph, his brow was elate like a conqueror, his sanguine
spirit saw a future of continued and illimitable success.

‘We have saved the colonies,’ he said,--‘saved the colonies. I knew it
must be so. It is the knell of free trade.’

Notwithstanding the formal renunciation of the leadership of the
Protectionist party by Lord George Bentinck, it was soon evident to the
House and the country that that renunciation was merely formal. In these
days of labour, the leader of a party must be the man who does the work,
and that work cannot now be accomplished without the devotion of a life.
Whenever a great question arose, the people out of doors went to Lord
George Bentinck, and when the discussion commenced, he was always found
to be the man armed with the authority of knowledge. There was, however,
no organized debate and no party discipline. No one was requested to
take a part, and no attendance was ever summoned. The vast majority
sitting on the Protectionist benches always followed Bentinck, who,
whatever might be his numbers in the lobby, always made a redoubtable
stand in the House. The situation however, it cannot be denied, was a
dangerous one for a great party to persevere in, but no permanent damage
accrued, because almost every one hoped that before the session was
over, the difficulty would find a natural solution in the virtual chief
resuming his formal and responsible post. Notwithstanding his labours on
the two great committees of the year--those on colonial and commercial
distress,--Lord George Bentinck found time to master the case of the
shipping interest when the navigation laws were attacked, to impugn in
a formal motion the whole of the commercial policy of Sir Robert Peel,
even while the sugar and coffee planting committee was still sitting,
and to produce, early in March, a rival budget. It was mainly through
the prolonged resistance which he organized against the repeal of the
navigation laws, that the government, in 1848, was forced to abandon
their project. The resistance was led with great ability by Mr. Herries,
and the whole party put forward their utmost strength to support him.
But it is very difficult to convey a complete picture of the laborious
life of Lord George Bentinck during the sitting of Parliament.
At half-past nine o’clock there called upon him the commercial
representatives of the question of the day; after these conferences came
his elaborate and methodical correspondence, all of which he carried
on himself in a handwriting clear as print, and never employing a
secretary; at twelve or one o’clock he was at a committee, and he only
left the committee-room to take his seat in the House of Commons, which
he never quitted till the House adjourned, always long past midnight,
and often at two o’clock in the morning. Here he was ready for all
comers, never omitting an opportunity to vindicate his opinions, or
watching with lynx-like vigilance the conduct of a public office. What
was not his least remarkable trait is, that although he only breakfasted
on dry toast, he took no sustenance all this time, dining at White’s
at half-past two o’clock in the morning. After his severe attack of
the influenza he broke through this habit a little during the last
few months of his life, moved by the advice of his physician and the
instance of his friends. The writer of these observations prevailed
upon him a little the last year to fall into the easy habit of dining
at Bellamy’s, which saves much time, and permits the transaction of
business in conversation with a congenial friend. But he grudged it:
he always thought that something would be said or done in his absence,
which would not have occurred had he been there; some motion whisked
through, or some return altered. His principle was that a member should
never be absent from his seat.

The session of ‘48 had been one of unexampled length, having lasted ten
months, and, as usual under such circumstances, the obstacles to the
transaction of public business were sought everywhere except in the
real quarter. The forms of the House and the propensity to unnecessary
discussion among its members were chiefly denounced. Lord George
Bentinck did not agree in the justness of these criminations; they were
eagerly caught by the thoughtless and the superficial, but it was his
habit to investigate and analyze everything, and he found that these
charges had no basis. The forms of the House of Commons are the
result of accumulated experience and have rarely been tampered with
successfully, while on the other hand a parliamentary government is by
name and nature essentially a government of discussion. It is not at all
difficult to conceive a mode of governing a country more expeditious
than by a parliament; but where truth as well as strength is held to
be an essential element of legislation, opinion must be secured an
unrestricted organ. Superfluity of debate may often be inconvenient to
a minister, and sometimes perhaps even distasteful to the community;
but criticizing such a security for justice and liberty as a free-spoken
parliament is like quarrelling with the weather because there is too
much rain or too much sunshine. The casual inconvenience should be
forgotten in the permanent blessing. Acting upon these false imputations
a committee was even appointed, two years ago, of the most eminent
members of the House of Commons, to investigate the subject and suggest
remedies, and some votaries of the Transatlantic type recommended the
adoption of the rules of Congress where each speaker is limited to
an hour. But an hour from an uninteresting speaker would be a great
infliction. The good sense and the good taste of the House of Commons
will be found on the whole to be the best regulators of the duration of
a debate.

The truth is that the delay in the conduct of parliamentary business
which has been much complained of during the last few years, murmurs of
which were especially rife in 1848, is attributable to the fact that the
ministry, though formed of men inferior in point of ability to none who
could be reasonably intrusted with administration, had not
sufficient parliamentary strength. After all their deliberations and
foresight,--after all their observations of the times and study of the
public interest, their measures when launched from the cabinet into the
House were not received by a confiding majority, firm in their faith
in the statesmanlike qualities of the authors of these measures and in
their sympathy with the general political system of which the ministry
was the representative. On the contrary, the success of the measures
depended on a* variety of sections who in their aggregate exceeded in
number and influence the party of the ministers. These became critics
and took the ministerial measures in hand; the measures became, the
measures, not of the cabinet, but of the House of Commons; and a purely
legislative assembly became, in consequence of the weakness of the
government, yearly more administrative. This was undoubtedly a great
evil, and occasioned, besides great delay, many crude enactments, as
will be the case where all are constructors and none are responsible,
but the evil was not occasioned by the forms of the House or the
length of the speeches. Sir Robert Peel was unquestionably a very able
administrator, but if he had not had a majority of ninety he would
have fallen in as ill repute as has been too often the lot of Lord John
Russell.

Lord George Bentinck was very anxious that there should be a
parliamentary summary of this enormous and eventful session of ‘48, that
the conduct of business by the ministry should be traced and criticized
and the character of the House of Commons vindicated, and he appealed to
the writer of these observations to undertake the task. But the writer
was unwilling to accede to this suggestion, not only because at the end
of August he shrank from a laborious effort, but principally because he
did not hold that his position in the House of Commons warranted on his
part such an interference, since, after all, he was only the comrade in
arms of one who chose to be only an independent member of the House. He
therefore unaffectedly stated that he thought the office was somewhat
above his measure. But Lord George Bentinck would not listen to these
representations. ‘I don’t pretend to know much,’ he said, ‘but I can
judge of men and horses.’ It is difficult to refuse those who are
themselves setting a constant example of self-sacrifice, and therefore,
so far as the labour was concerned, the writer would not have shrunk
from the exertion even on the last day of the month of August, and when
the particular wish of Lord George was found to be more general than the
writer presumed to suppose, he accordingly endeavoured to accomplish the
intention.

Three or four days after this, the writer, about to leave London, called
at Harcourt House, to say farewell to his comrade in arms. He
passed with Lord George the whole morning, rather indulging in the
contemplation of the future than in retrospect. Lord George was serene,
cheerful, and happy. He was content with himself, which was rarely the
case, and remembered nothing of his career but its distinction, and the
ennobling sense of having done his duty.

Any misunderstandings that may have for a moment irritated him seemed
forgotten; he appeared conscious that he possessed the confidence
and cordial regard of the great majority of the Protectionist party,
although he chose to occupy a private post, and he was proud of the
consciousness. He was still more sensible of the sympathy which he had
created out of doors, which he greatly appreciated, and to which, though
with his usual modesty, he more than once recurred. ‘The thing is
to get the people out of doors with you,’ he repeated, ‘men like the
merchants; all the rest follow.’ It was evident that the success of his
colonial committee had greatly satisfied his spirit. He had received
that day the vote of thanks of the West-India body for his exertions.
He said more than once, that with a weak government, a parliamentary
committee properly worked might do wonders. He said he would have a
committee on import duties next year, and have all the merchants to show
what share the foreigners had obtained of the reductions that had been
made of late years. He maintained, that, quite irrespective of the
general arrangements of the new commercial system, Sir Robert Peel had
thrown away a great revenue on a number of articles of very inferior
importance, and he would prove this to the country. He said our colonial
empire ought to be reconstructed by a total abolition of all duties on
produce from her Majesty’s dominions abroad.

All his ideas were large, clear, and coherent. He dwelt much on the
vicissitudes which most attend all merely foreign trade, which, though
it should be encouraged, ought not to be solely relied on, as was the
fashion of this day. Looking upon war as occasionally inevitable, he
thought a commercial system based upon the presumption of perpetual
peace to be full of ruin. His policy was essentially imperial and not
cosmopolitan.

About to part probably for many months, and listening to him as he
spoke, according to his custom, with so much fervour and sincerity, one
could not refrain from musing over his singular and sudden career. It
was not three years since he had in an instant occupied the minds
of men. No series of parliamentary labours had ever produced so much
influence in the country in so short a time. Never was a reputation so
substantial built up in so brief a period. AH the questions with which
he had dealt were colossal questions: the laws that should regulate
competition between native and foreign labour; the interference of the
state in the development of the resources of Ireland; the social and
commercial condition of our tropical colonies; the principles upon which
our revenue should be raised; the laws which should regulate and protect
our navigation. But it was not that he merely expressed opinions
upon these subjects; he came forward with details in support of his
principles and policy, which it had before been believed none but a
minister could command. Instead of experiencing the usual and almost
inevitable doom of private members of Parliament, and having his
statements shattered by official information, Lord George Bentinck on
the contrary, was the assailant, and the successful assailant, of
an administration on these very heads. He often did their work more
effectually than all their artificial training enabled them to do it.
His acute research, and his peculiar sources of information, roused
the vigilance of all the public offices of the country. Since his time,
there has been more care in preparing official returns, and in arranging
the public correspondence placed on the table of the House of Commons.

When one remembered that in this room, not three years ago, he was
trying to find a lawyer who would make a speech for him in Parliament,
it was curious to remember that no one in the period had probably
addressed the House of Commons oftener. Though his manner, which was
daily improving, was not felicitous in the House, the authority of his
intellect, his knowledge, and his character, made him one of the great
personages of debate; but with the country who only read his speeches
he ranked high as an orator. It is only those who have had occasion
critically to read and examine the long series of his speeches who can
be conscious of their considerable merits. The information is always
full and often fresh, the scope large, the argument close, and the
style, though simple, never bald, but vigorous, idiomatic, and often
picturesque. He had not credit for this in his day, but the passages
which have been quoted in this sketch will prove the justness of this
criticism. As a speaker and writer, his principal need was condensation.
He could not bear that anything should remain untold. He was deficient
in taste, but he had fervour of feeling, and was by no means void of
imagination.

The writer, in his frequent communications with him of faithful and
unbounded confidence, was often reminded of the character by Mr. Burke
of my Lord Keppell.

The labours of Lord George Bentinck had been supernatural, and one ought
perhaps to have felt then that it was impossible they could be continued
on such a scale of exhaustion; but no friend could control his eager
life in this respect; he obeyed the law of his vehement and fiery
nature, being one of those men who in whatever they undertake know no
medium, but will ‘succeed or die.’

But why talk here and now of death! He goes to his native county and his
father’s proud domain, to breathe the air of his boyhood and move amid
the parks and meads of his youth. Every breeze will bear health, and the
sight of every hallowed haunt will stimulate his pulse. He is scarcely
older than Julius Cæsar when he commenced his public career, he looks as
high and brave, and he springs from a long-lived race.

He stood upon the _perron_ of Harcourt House, the last of the great
hotels of an age of stately dwellings with its wings, and court-yard,
and carriage portal, and huge outward walls. He put forth his hand to
bid farewell, and his last words were characteristic of the man--of his
warm feelings and of his ruling passion: ‘God bless you; we must work,
and the country will come round us.’



CHAPTER XIII.

     _The Curtain Falls_



THE heavens darken; a new character enters upon the scene.

They say that when great men arise they have a mission to accomplish
and do not disappear until it is fulfilled. Yet this is not always true.
After all his deep study and his daring action Mr. Hampden died on an
obscure field, almost before the commencement of that mighty struggle
which he seemed born to direct. In the great contention between the
patriotic and the cosmopolitan principle which has hardly begun, and
on the issue of which the fate of this island as a powerful community
depends, Lord George Ben-tinck appeared to be produced to represent the
traditionary influences of our country in their most captivating form.
Born a natural leader of the people, he was equal to the post. Free from
prejudices, his large mind sympathized with all classes of the realm.
His courage and his constancy were never surpassed by man. He valued
life only as a means of fulfilling duty, and truly it may be said of
him, that he feared none but God.

A few days after the interview noticed in the last chapter, Lord George
Bentinck returned to Welbeck. Some there were who thought him worn by
the exertions of the session, and that an unusual pallor had settled
upon that mantling and animated countenance. He himself never felt in
better health or was ever in higher spirits, and greatly enjoyed the
change of life, and that change to a scene so dear to him.

On the 21 st of September, after breakfasting with his family, he
retired to his room, where he employed himself With some papers, and
then wrote three letters, one to Lord Enfield, another to the Duke of
Richmond, and the third to the writer of these pages. That letter is
now at hand; it is of considerable length, consisting of seven sheets of
note-paper, full of interesting details of men and things, and written
not only in a cheerful but even a merry mood. Then, when his letters
were sealed, about four o’clock he took his staff and went forth to
walk to Thoresby, the seat of Lord Manvers, distant between five and six
miles from Welbeck, where Lord George was to make a visit of two days.
In consequence of this his valet drove over to Thoresby at the same time
to meet his master. But the master never came. Hours passed on and the
master never came. At length the anxious servant returned to Welbeck,
and called up the groom who had driven him over to Thoresby and who was
in bed, and inquired whether he had seen anything of Lord George on the
way back, as his lord had never reached Thoresby. The groom got up, and
accompanied by the valet and two others took lanthorns, and followed
the footpath which they had seen Lord George pursuing as they themselves
went to Thoresby.

About a mile from the Abbey, on the path which they had observed him
following, lying close to the gate which separates a water meadow from
the deer-park, they found the body of Lord George Bentinck. He was lying
on his face; his arms were under his body, and in one hand he grasped
his walking-stick. His hat was a yard or two before him, having
evidently been thrown off in falling. The body was cold and stiff. He
had been long dead.

A woodman and some peasants passing near the spot, about two hundred
yards from the gate in question, had observed Lord George, whom at the
distance they had mistaken for his brother the Marquis of Titchfield,
leaning against this gate. It was then about half-past four o’clock, or
it might be a quarter to five, so he could not have left his home much
more than half an hour. The woodman and his companions thought ‘the
gentleman’ was reading, as he held his head down. One of them lingered
for a minute looking at the gentleman, who then turned round, and might
have seen these passers-by, but he made no sign to them.

Thus it seems that the attack, which was supposed to be a spasm of the
heart, was not instantaneous in its effects, but with proper remedies
might have been baffled. Terrible to think of him in his death-struggle
without aid, and so near a devoted hearth! For that hearth, too, what an
impending future!

The terrible news reached Nottingham on the morning of the 22nd, at
half-past nine o’clock, and, immediately telegraphed to London,
was announced by a second edition of the ‘Times’ to the country.
Consternation and deep grief fell upon all men. One week later, the
remains arrived from Welbeck at Harcourt House, to be entombed in the
family vault of the Bentincks, that is to be found in a small building
in a dingy street, now a chapel of ease, but in old days the parish
church among the fields of the pretty village of Marylebone.

The day of interment was dark, and cold, and drizzling. Although the
last offices were performed in the most scrupulously private manner, the
feelings of the community could not be repressed. From nine till eleven
o’clock that day all the British shipping in the docks and the river,
from London Bridge to Gravesend, hoisted their flags half-mast high,
and minute guns were fired from appointed stations along the Thames.
The same mournful ceremony was observed in all the ports of England and
Ireland; and not only in these, for the flag was half-mast high on every
British ship at Antwerp, at Rotterdam, and at Havre.

Ere the last minute gun sounded, all was over. Followed to his tomb by
those brothers who, if not consoled, might at this moment be sustained
by the remembrance that to him they had ever been brothers not only in
name but in spirit, the vault at length closed on the mortal remains of
_George Bentinck_.

One who stood by his side in an arduous and unequal struggle, who often
shared his councils and sometimes perhaps soothed his cares, who knew
well the greatness of his nature and esteemed his friendship among
the chief of worldly blessings, has stepped aside from the strife and
passion of public life to draw up this record of his deeds and thoughts,
that those who come after us may form some conception of his character
and career, and trace in these faithful though imperfect pages the
portraiture of an _English Worthy_.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lord George Bentinck: A Political Biography" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home