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above it and have got into the region of freeholders.' Turning to Mr. Gladstone, whose metaphysical mind has ever been averse to such homely illustrations, Lowe thus continued:
Now to take an extreme case. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that 600 quarts of beer is a fair average consumption for every adult male in the course of the year, and taking beer at 4d. a pot, the consumption of 240 quarts represents an annual outlay of 41. If, therefore, persons who live in 87. houses would only forego 120 quarts annually, they might at once occupy a 101. house and acquire the franchise. That is the exact measure of the sacrifice which is required on their part to obtain this much-coveted right, to raise themselves from the position of slaves, to wipe off from their characters the mark of degradation, and all the other horrors that have been so feelingly depicted. That is by no means all. I have no wish to demand from the working man any great amount of rigid selfdenial. I am neither an ascetic in theory or practice. But I would point out that there is a certain amount of accommodation, especially of sleeping accommodation, which is absolutely necessary for the preservation of the commonest decency and morality, for the avoidance of the most frightful impurities and even crimes. The amount which it is necessary to expend in rent for these purposes, and the preservation of the health of the poor man and his family, will, with a very slight addition, infallibly obtain for him the franchise. And the question for you now to determine is, whether you ought to bring down the franchise to the level of those persons who have no such sense of decency or morality, and of what is due to the health of themselves and their children-whether you will degrade the franchise into the dirt and imperil your institutions--or whether will make this franchise a vast instrument of good, a lever by which you may hope to elevate the working classes, not in the manner which a mawkish sentimentality contemplates, but by fixing the franchise at a reasonable level, requiring a little, and only a little, effort and self-denial on their part, a little security that they are able to conduct their own affairs before we entrust them with those of the nation?
To understand Robert Lowe's unbending opposition to what he termed the degradation of the franchise, it is essential to bear in mind that he fully recognised that the House of Commons had more and more become the dominant power in the realm. Little as he approved of universal suffrage in foreign countries, in France or in America, even in our own
colonies, he thought that system might be productive there of infinitely less evil than in England. Congress, compared to the House of Commons, was an insignificant and unimportant body; in France there was always some kind of despotic authority behind the votes of the multitude, and colonial governments were more or less municipalities so long as the mother country protected these communities from foreign aggression. He was no admirer of democracy in these lands, but any step in England in the direction of universal suffrage he regarded with much graver disapproval and far deeper dislike. From the peculiar nature of our Constitution, under which all authority and ultimate power rested in the popular elective chamber, he foresaw that if the working classes, by their numerical majority, succeeded in outvoting all the other classes in the community, it meant mismanagement, instability, and probably disaster, to the nation and the empire.
It was a marvellous thing, he thought-the wonder of the world that this wide-spread and complex British Empire should be controlled by an elective assembly like the House of Commons. There was nothing like it in all history; but he felt sure, by his process of inductive reasoning, that to widen the franchise so as to make the mere heterogeneous masses arbiters of the situation, was a political experiment fraught with peril. As for the great bulk of the working classes for whose real welfare he had laboured as Minister of Education, Trade, and Health, he frankly told them that in his opinion they were unfit to control the complex machinery of our ancient and artificial system of government. This was met by loud denial from the three classes into which he divided the democratic forces against whom he was contending. But yet it is noticeable that each of these classes, typified by Mr. Mill, Mr. Gladstone, and Mr. Bright, in their own different ways, dreaded and distrusted the absolute sway of the masses as much as Mr. Lowe himself. What else was the meaning of Mill's persistent advocacy of the representation of minorities;
of Mr. Gladstone's denial that his tentative reform measures meant in their logical outcome universal suffrage, and of John Bright's diatribe against the residuum and his expressed dislike of working-men M.P.'s?
But Robert Lowe came in for all the abuse because he eschewed flattery and frankly told the working classes that unless by skill, frugality, and self-denial, they could raise themselves to the level of 10l. householders, it were better they should have no voice in the creation and control of that sovereign body, the House of Commons. Above all things Lowe dreaded combination and co-operation amongst the working classes-which he thought meant the Conspiracy of the Unfit-whereby in a democratic State, intelligence, culture, toleration, and even patriotism, might be swamped and obliterated. He used very plain and unmistakable words, which may perhaps be even less palatable now than when he uttered them; yet, as a profound and still living observer has said, such words read more like history than prophecy-so exact is the fulfilment.'
I am sure the House will agree with me that it is an observation, true of human nature as of other things, that aggregation and crystallisation are strong just in proportion as the molecules are minute. It is the consciousness of individual weakness that makes persons aggregate together, and nowhere is that impulse so strong as in the lowest classes of society. Nothing is so remarkable among the working classes of England as their intense tendency to associate and organise themselves. They have done so for the purpose of establishing benefit clubs, and to make provision for sickness and old age. These associations, once existing for praiseworthy objects, one might suppose that they would end there. But no. Once having established the principle of association, this has been used for very different purposes. The working classes select leaders-by no means the best or wisest among them--and to those men they submit with a docility which would be admirable were it not enforced by the reign of terror kept up among and by them
We have here the explanation of the existence of the Irish vote' in all English-speaking countries.
selves. I shall not refer to the subject of strikes, but it is, I contend, impossible to believe that the same machinery which is at present brought into play in connection with strikes would not be applied by the working classes to political purposes. Once give the men votes, and the machinery is ready to launch those votes in one compact mass upon the institutions and property of this country. It is so in America. The wire-pullers and log-rollers there correspond exactly to the leaders whom the working classes follow in the matter of strikes at home. These leaders may be, probably are, men little known; apparently very retiring and insignificant, but nevertheless they wield the masses with the greatest ease. The elector, perhaps, does not know the name of the candidate for whom his vote is to be recorded. Papers for the election of everyone, from a governor down to a constable, and up again to a member of the Congress, are handed to him in a bundle tied round with a dirty piece of string, and the elector votes in the sense required-because his Mr. Potter or his Mr. Odger desires him to do so.
He then referred to the safeguards' proposed by Mr. Mill and Lord Grey against the increase of democratic power. I can fancy,' he said, 'no employment more worthy of the philosopher and statesman than the invention of safeguards against democracy, but I can fancy no employment less worthy of either statesman or philosopher than counselling us to give a loose rein to democracy in order that we may see whether we cannot get back what we have given in another way.'
This speech of 1865 was brought to a close by more than one memorable passage.
The only practical mode of dealing with this question, in a manner worthy at once the dignity of this House and the character of the English people, is to guide our course by the light of experience, gained by what has been done in former times-above all, in our own country, the great nurse of freedom and of the happiness of the whole human family. . . .
Are we prepared to do away with a system of such tried and tested efficacy as no other country was ever happy enough to possess since the world was a world, to substitute for it a form of government of extreme simplicity, whose tendencies and peculiarities have been as carefully noted and recorded as those of any animal or
The country was then ringing with the Sheffield trade outrages, which culminated in the Broadhead disclosures.
vegetable with whose real nature we have no excuse for not being well acquainted-pure democracy?
I am no proscriber of democracy. In America it answers its purpose very well; in States like those of Greece it may have been desirable; but for England in its present state of development and civilisation, to make a step in the direction of democracy appears to me the strangest and wildest proposition that was ever broached The good government which America enjoys under her democracy-whatever estimate hon. gentlemen may be disposed to form of it is absolutely unattainable by England under a democracy, and for this reason: America in her boundless and fertile lands has a resource which removes and carries off all the peccant political humors of the body politic. . . . The wealth which America possesses is of a kind which her people did not make and which they cannot destroy; it is due to the boundless beneficence of the Giver, beside whose works those undertaken and executed by the human race sink into insignificance. The valleys even of the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates, seem ridiculously small when compared with the valley of the Mississippi, which it has been calculated would afford residence to 240,000,000 of people without overcrowding. No tumult, no sedition can ever destroy these natural advantages. But what is our prosperity here? It is the fabric of the labour of generations, raised slowly and with infinite toil, and to continue it is indispensable that it should rest on secure foundations.
I have been a Liberal all my life. I was a Liberal at a time and in places when it was not so easy to make professions of Liberalism as in the present day; I suffered for my Liberal principles, but did so gladly because I had confidence in them, and because I never had occasion to recall a single conviction which I had deliberately arrived at. I have had the great happiness to see almost everything done by the decisions of this House, that I thought should be carried into effect, and I have full confidence in the progress of society to a degree incalculable to us; my mind is so constituted as to rely much on abstract principles, and I believe that by their application the happiness and prosperity of mankind may be enormously augmented. But for the very reason that I look forward to and hope for this amelioration-because I am a Liberal and know that by pure and clear intelligence alone can the cause of true progress be promoted, I regard as one of the greatest dangers with which the country can be threatened a proposal to subvert the existing order of things, and to transfer power from the hands of property and intelligence, and to place it in the hands