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I like very much to hear anything you have to say on Australian politics, which interest me for auld lang syne. I am very sorry for your law troubles, and doubt not that your distrust of the Court is very well founded; but those who live by the Law must suffer by the Law, even as those who take the sword shall perish by the sword. You must console yourselves as consumers for what you lose as producers.
Most sincerely yours,
On March 12, Mr. Gladstone introduced the Government Reform Bill in a long and elaborate speech, in which he made the celebrated allusion to the Trojan horse, which gave his watchful antagonist his first decided advantage in the encounter. Mr. Gladstone had remarked: We cannot consent to look upon this large addition, considerable although it may be, to the political power of the working classes of this country as if it were an addition fraught with nothing but danger. We cannot look upon it as the Trojan horse approaching the walls of the sacred city, and filled with armed men, bent upon ruin, plunder, and confiscation. We cannot join in comparing it with that "monstrum infelix "--we cannot say,
Scandit fatalis machina muros,
Fota armis mediæque minans illabitur urbi.
On the following evening, in an overcrowded House, Robert Lowe sprang to his feet, and in his reply to Mr. Gladstone made the well-known felicitous allusions to the Trojan horse.
'Well, Sir, the right honourable gentleman, who had not time to give us a reason for introducing the Bill, found time to give us a quotation; and it was a quotation of a very curious kind, because, not finding in his large classical répertoire any quotation that would exactly describe the state of perfect bliss to which his Bill would introduce us, he was induced to take the exact contrary, and make a quotation to show us what his Bill was not.
Scandit fatalis machina muros,
he exclaimed," and that," he added, "is not my Bill." Well, that was not a very apt quotation; but there was a curious felicity about it which he little dreamt of. The House remembers that, among other proofs of the degree in which public opinion is enlisted in the cause of Reform is this-that this is now the fifth Reform Bill that has been brought in since 1851. Now, just attend to the sequel of the passage quoted by the right hon. gentleman. I am no believer in sortes Virgilianæ, and the house will see why, in a moment
O Divum domus Ilium, et inclyta bello
But that is not all
Instamus tamen immemores, cæcique furore,
There were more serious things in Lowe's speech than this witty Virgilian banter, which, however, greatly amused those members on both sides of the House who still cherished the parliamentary traditions of the classic era of Canning. One principal actor in the great fray sat, we are told, glum and unresponsive during this fence of scholarship and wit-John Bright,' whose importance as a determining factor in the struggle, was only secondary in the House to that of Gladstone, Disraeli and Lowe, while in the country it was far greater than any of them.
Disraeli-the most discerning watcher of signs and omens-had already perceived that even before the death of Palmerston, John Bright was growing stronger and stronger as a political leader. It was, indeed, owing to Bright and the
In a speech at Birmingham, delivered on August 27, 1866, and almost wholly devoted to the vilification of Robert Lowe, the great Tribune incidentally remarked: He (Lowe) goes on-passing a sentence which was a classical illustration which amused the House, but which it is not necessary to quote here.' No one knew a popular audience better than Bright, and he was doubtless quite right not to bore them with classical quotations which in all probability only vexed and irritated himself.
energetic action of the Trades Societies and Unions in the great provincial cities, that Earl Russell and Mr. Gladstone were now engaged in the attempt to pass their Reform Bill. By the mere gift of his sympathetic oratory, backed up by many fine and stalwart qualities, Bright, though of an essentially bourgeois character, with no genius of political insight and no talent for administrative statesmanship, was at this crisis, amongst the working classes, perhaps the most influential man in England. His power lay rather in the country than in the House, and more in the provincial towns than in the metropolis. Having by his impassioned oratory and restless agitation, brought this question of parliamentary reform to the front, his influence in the House was at its highest point, while in the country itself it was paramount.
In these great parliamentary debates, while Lowe and Mr. Gladstone generally fenced with the foils, Bright, particularly on the hustings, used the naked rapier. Even in the House the real fighting was mainly between himself and Lowe. They formed in many respects a splendid contrast, though with certain points of resemblance: born in the same year, both, according to their lights, earnest Liberals, and both possessing those sturdy and straightforward characteristics of which the English as a race are not a little proud. But there were differences and contrasts in their characters and surroundings which were quite as marked. The one sprung from the Church and the landed gentry, with the training of a scholar and a gentleman, and with a fervent love of knowledge and culture which nothing could quench; the other, a dissenter of dissenters, who had seen his people's goods seized to pay a Church-rate, born into trade and commerce, that inconsistent phenomenon a fighting Quaker, full of a wide and eloquent sympathy with the masses, but with a fierce hatred-and what was worse, a narrow envy-of all whose social surroundings and cultured lives were, as he thought, born of privilege, and therefore a reproach rather than an example. Robert
Lowe was a Liberal from reason and conviction: John Bright from feeling and the force of class antagonism. When Lowe trenchantly attacked the system of classical education-the intellectual dividing line between gentry and commonalty-he did so as a scholar and a man of culture, and his attack was the more bitterly resented. It was as though a Chinese mandarin had denounced the wearing of long finger nails—the mark that his class know not the degradation of manual toil. Bright and Cobden always spoke slightingly of all forms of culture, as opposed to mere utilitarian instruction, but from the standpoint of men altogether without the charmed circle; and their diatribes were lightly ignored and speedily forgiven. The contrast between Robert Lowe and John Bright was, in fact, that between Timon of Athens and Apemantus-one had chosen his rugged way of life from conviction: the other was forced into it by necessity.
The keynote of Robert Lowe's great anti-Reform speeches is struck in the opening sentences of his speech of March 13, 1866, in which he met and traversed every point raised by Mr. Gladstone in his elaborate oration of the preceding evening.
Sir,-In the course of a long and illustrious career this House of Commons has gathered into its hands a very large proportion of the political power of the country. It has outlived the influence of the Crown; it has shaken off the dictation of the aristocracy; in finance and taxation it is supreme; it has a very large share in legislation; it can control and unmake, and sometimes nearly make, the executive Government. Probably, when the time shall arrive that the history of this nation shall be written as the history of that which has passed away, it may be thought that too much power and too much influence were concentrated and condensed in this great assembly, and that England put too much to hazard on the personal qualifications of those who sit within these walls. But, sir, in proportion as the powers of the House of Commons are great and paramount, so does the exploit of endeavouring to amend its Constitution become one of the highest and noblest efforts of statesmanship. To tamper
with it lightly, to deal with it with unskilled hands, is one of the most signal acts of presumption or folly.
Although these speeches have been widely read and perhaps more frequently criticised and admired than any collection even of Mr. Gladstone's or John Bright's, I venture to think that the peculiar note of pessimism in these opening sentences has been generally overlooked. Robert Lowe was the intellectual heir, as well as the kinsman, of Hampden and Pym, the men who created the House of Commons as the supreme political power of the nation. Yet it is clear from his remarks just quoted, that he approached the discussion of the question of a democratic reform in its constitution with a presentiment that our free institutions were passing into a condition of instability, if not of actual decay. The longer he lived, the more signs he saw of the decadence in the actual governing and administrative capacity of the House of Commons, which, from his standpoint, was the direct result of the advance of democracy. But that House having acquired, under quite other auspices, supreme power and sovereign rights, he saw not what was to take its place when the time came that it should become absolutely unable to control and manage the affairs of the empire.
It was in this speech that Robert Lowe used the words. which, owing to Bright's distortions, caused him to be vilified, and, as he himself said, 'made a mark for the vengeance of his fellow-countrymen.'
Lowe's actual words were these:-
I shall speak very frankly on this subject, for, having lost my character by saying that the working man could get the franchise for himself, which has been proved to be true, and for saying which he and his friends will not hate me one bit the less, I shall say exactly what I think. Let any gentleman consider I have had such unhappy experiences, and many of us have-let any gentleman consider the constituencies he has had the honour to be concerned with. If you want venality, if you want ignorance, if you want drunkenness and facility for being intimidated, or if, on the other