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from the truth. Sympathising as he doubtless did with many of Macaulay's political views, and having the highest admiration for his personal character and literary attainments, Lord Sherbrooke could never, in any sense, have been a disciple, and was probably often an impatient reader of his works. The following passage on one of the political results of the Glorious Revolution under William III. should effectually dissipate the too prevalent idea that because Lowe was a Liberal in politics, he blindly accepted the Whig version of English history:
It is perhaps not one of the most advantageous illustrations which was introduced into the theory and practice of our Government by the Revolution of 1688, that the ecclesiastical patronage of the Crown should be at the disposal of a Minister virtually owing his seat to the will of a majority of the House of Commons. The practice which treats Government patronage as a means of strengthening party influence ought clearly not in propriety to extend itself to presentations to benefices in the Church. This surely is a sacred trust which ought to be exercised with a feeling somewhat akin to that with which the sacred office itself should be performed.
This brief passage is enough to make many a pious churchman who has been content to dub Lord Sherbrooke an Erastian, pause and reconsider his judgment. In this article he maintains that of all the members in a Ministry, the Lord Chancellor, as a rule, is the best fitted to dispense ecclesiastical patronage, as he is 'least exposed to the vulgar solicitations and reckless importunity of party.'
Like the deities of Lucretius, the Chancellor dwells in a higher and purer atmosphere than that in which his political colleagues move, and endeavours-and we must admit for the most part successfully endeavours to preserve that even and inflexible impartiality which they neither desire nor profess. Whatever be the profession of the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor must not worship the Constitution of England after that fashion which is called 'party.' Moreover, the Lord Chancellor is generally what Her Majesty's present Ministers would call a second-rate politician—that is, unconnected by birth at least with those few fortunate families to whom alone, as we are told, the art of governing mankind has been
committed by Providence and merely raised by talent and industry from the mass of men made to be governed. In this there is a double advantage. He is less accessible to mere party influences than those who have been brought up among them, and he knows, probably, far better than his colleagues the class of men out of whom his selection is to be made. . . . [Chancellors] being something more than mere party men themselves, owing their elevation to acquirements which are measured by no party standard, they have been able to look for something more than mere party merit in others. Thus we find the Tory Lord Lyndhurst bestowing a prebend on the arch-Edinburgh Reviewer, Sydney Smith, and the Whig Lord Truro, a living on the son of the furious Quarterly Reviewer, Robert Southey.
In addition to an entire series of articles on Chancery Reform, Lord Sherbrooke wrote a great deal on law reform generally. Such subjects may not seem inviting to the ordinary lay reader, but owing to his lively and effective style these articles may be read, even under the altered circumstances of to-day, with not a little pleasure.
Robert Lowe was always a free trader, and he applied the principle to the question of law reform. Free trade, he argued, must be general. We have not discarded the monopolies of agriculture and commerce to expose men in their daily commercial affairs to expenses enhanced by laws passed for the benefit of a class. He therefore urged that the division between law and equity should be abolished.
In a series of admirable articles he dealt with the Inns of Court in connection with legal education. The Inns of Court, he said, had done little beyond keeping enormous taverns and bartering the degrees with the distribution of which they were entrusted in exchange for fees and compulsory dinners. They were rigid about eating, careless about learning; strict about money, negligent about knowledge; lavish to the stomach, but niggards to the mind.' Later on in the year he continued to gird at the Inns of Court, but in such a vivacious manner that the most solemn of Benchers must have smiled occasionally over the perusal of his morning paper.
If the Universities and Colleges of Oxford were abolished, and the powers of giving degrees were conferred on the landlords of the Angel, the Star, the Roebuck, and the Mitre, they could not be less fitting depositories of the trust than the four Inns of Court have shown themselves to be. The worst the innkeepers could do would be to drop the present system of examination, and confer degrees on those who most answered the innkeepers' test, that is, who spent most money in the house. . . . Let them retain their vocation as inn and lodging-house keepers, and carry on, if they can, a successful competition with their brethren in the narrow streets which lead from the Strand to the river; but let the task of directing the legal education of the country, of providing a systematic and complete course of instruction, of rewarding merit and industry, and of protecting by a searching examination the Bar of England from the intrusion of ignorant and unqualified pretenders, be reposed in other hands. We want a legal university, where lectures shall take the place of dinners, and examinations of room-rents, and whose degrees shall confer honour because they are the reward of merit.
There were many other questions besides legal reform to engross the rapid and trenchant pen of the new Times leader-writer in the year 1851. It was indeed a most eventful year. First, as most people at the time thought, though Robert Lowe himself deemed the matter of least importance, it was the year of the Great Exhibition. It was also the year of Louis Napoleon and the coup d'état; of Pius IX. and Papal aggression. It was the year, too, of the discovery of the Australian gold-fields, a subject whose social and political, rather than material, aspect especially interested the late member for Sydney. And in addition, we had on our hands a Caffre War at the Cape, which furnished him with fresh and frequent illustrations of the blundering of Downing Street.
When Lowe left Australia it was partly, as shown in the preceding chapter, because he felt that he could be of more immediate service to the cause of colonial reform in London than in Sydney. It is very currently believed in Australia, even to the present day, that, having been baffled by the alliance of the squatter party and the Crown officials, he returned to England with antagonistic feelings towards the
whole colony. There is always a not unnatural feeling of resentment in a small community-as in a club-when anyone leaves it and joins another. The very fact of his doing so seems to imply that he regards his former associates as not altogether good enough for him. If the deserter subsequently attain to eminence, he invariably leaves behind a large number of persons who, by the perpetual reiteration of the fiction that they materially assisted him in mounting the ladder of fame, at last come to believe it. To a mind like Lord Sherbrooke's such idle rumours did not even cause a passing annoyance-he was, in fact, unaware of their existence; but in the course of time these little shallow runnels converge, and form the stream of public opinion.
That after his return to London Lord Sherbrooke in some way sought to belittle the Australian community of which for some years he had himself been a member, and to retard its social and political development, seems still to be widely credited. Nothing could be more absurd. In the columns of the Times, not less clearly than in the columns of the Atlas, he continued to attack Colonial Secretaries of State and to do his utmost, by clear and convincing exposition of his views, to make the governing classes in England realise that Australia was the destined home of a great and ever-expanding branch of the English race, which must be allowed to manage on the spot its own local affairs, without the meddling and mischievous interference of Downing Street. In fact, throughout a long series of anonymous leading articles, one finds that while generous encouragement is bestowed upon Australia, severe censure is meted out to England, or at least to English officials.
When the discovery of the gold-fields was announced, he wrote in the most glowing words of Bathurst, where the precious metal was first found-the district whither he had wandered when threatened with total loss of sight in the early years of his colonial career.
Nothing,' he said, ' can be imagined more delightful than the climate of this elevated plateau.' He contrasted California with this region of Australia in terms that could not have been stronger had he been a salaried emigration agent :
Fever, ague, dysentery, the scorching heat of summer and the biting cold of winter, which scourge the Californian miner, are unknown to the Australian, and the unsuccessful gold-seeker will still find himself in the midst of a thoroughly English community, where a very moderate exertion will secure him the substantial comforts of life in the utmost abundance. It may be that the prizes are not so great; but there are no blanks. The labouring man who goes to Australia in pursuit of gold may not obtain the object of his search, but he will at any rate acquire the means of competence and comfort in the cheapest and most abundant country in the world.
Just as Robert Lowe was wholly without that common feeling of class prejudice which is so prevalent in England, so, as a returned colonist, he had not a trace of that contempt for the land he had left which distinguishes, or rather disgraces, many colonial-born men whose wealth tempts them to live idly in the Old World. This type of ex-colonist is so marked that it almost demands a new Thackeray, or at least an additional chapter to the Book of Snobs.
It is hardly possible to overrate the influence for good of his colonial articles in the Times, written at this critical period of the discovery of the gold-fields. It is not too much to say that they were among the chief means of inducing a number of better-class people to emigrate to Australia. Newly-married men and women, full of energy and with good intelligence, read such passages as those contrasting California and Australia, and their minds were naturally swayed by statements that carried with them the authority of the leading journal, as well as internal evidence of their essential truth.
How easily the reputation of Australia, then only obscurely known to respectable English folk as a receptacle for British crime, might have been permanently damaged may be shown