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constituencies; but the working classes themselves never interfered in the matter. They did not care about it. The schoolmasters interfered and got members of Parliament to oppose the Code; but the working classes never entered into the matter at all.' This noticeable passage reveals Robert Lowe's weakness as well as strength as a modern politician. His Sydney career shows clearly enough that he had the gift of appealing to the outside public; and had he, on his overthrow by the schoolmasters and inspectors, gone before some large typical working-class constituency, with a powerful dissenter element, and told in a rhetorical fashion the story of how his attempt to spread the light of knowledge among the children of the poor had been defeated by the rural clergy and Lord Robert Cecil, he would have been at once a popular hero. His growing dislike for the methods of democracy kept him silent.
Lowe then dealt with what he always regarded as the most serious aspect of the franchise question-the power of combination on the part of the vast armies of workmen for purposes of class legislation, by means of the machinery already in existence for strikes and trades unions. Here he turned from his most intellectual opponent, Mr. Mill, to his far more popular and redoubtable foe, John Bright. Lowe at this time gave great attention to the subject of trades unions and strikes. To his mind they revealed an extraordinary state of tyranny and oppression on the part of workmen, not only towards employers but towards one another. In this speech he quotes many particulars of strikes in various trades and of the means used by the unions to coerce and intimidate nonunion workmen. There is no need to repeat any of his illustrations, for England, America, and the Colonies simply teem with them; and what was regarded as somewhat exceptional in 1866 had become ordinary and habitual in 1893. But Robert Lowe interpreted these facts and drew his political inferences 1 See Quarterly Review article, Trades Unions,' October 1867.
from them with undeviating clearness. The object,' he said, 'is to enclose as many men as can be got into these societies and then to apply to them the strictest democratic principle, and that is, to make war against all superiority, to keep down skill, industry, and capacity, and make them the slaves of clumsiness, idleness, and ignorance.'
Then, reverting to Mr. Gladstone's speech at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, he replied to his strange remark as to the magnificent spectacle of strength put forth by democracy in the American civil war,' in words that have often been quoted, and as often misunderstood.
I never doubted that democracy was a terrible, warlike power. It is not the educated and reflective who are influenced by ideas, but the half-educated and the unreflective; and if you show to the ignorant, and poor, and half-educated, wrong, injustice, and wickedness, anywhere, their generous instincts rise within them, and nothing is easier than to get up a cry for the redress of these grievances. We feel the injustice, too; but we look not merely at the injustice itself, we look before and after, we look at the collateral circumstances, at what must happen to trade, revenue, and our own position in the world, and we look also at what must happen to those very poor persons themselves before we commit ourselves to a decided course. Persons also who have something to lose are less anxious to lose it than those who have little at stake, even though these last may by the loss be reduced to absolute poverty.
On this question of democracy and our foreign policy, Robert Lowe, in his article entitled Reform Essays' in the Quarterly Review for July 1867, thus encountered Mr. Frederic Harrison:
In 1848, the people yearned to support the heroic struggles of Italy and the yet more desperate struggles of Hungary. Mr. Harrison thinks the people were right; that is, that in 1848 we ought to have gone to war with Austria, and in 1849 with Russia. In 1859 the mass of our people were heartily Italian.' A second war with Austria. The Polish war came, and again a splendid opportunity occurred.' A second war with Russia. Then followed
1 Strange, because Mr. Gladstone had notoriously sided the American Civil War.
with the South in
the Danish war. France would not help us, but we ought to have waged a third war with Austria, and a first war (no very light matter as events have shown) with Prussia. In all these cases the governing classes who wanted to keep the peace were wrong, and the people who wanted to go to war were right. . Think of the
pinnacle of glory on which we should have stood at the end of the sixth war, with our debt doubled, and nothing to compensate us for it except the reflection that we had done all this in order to elevate France, the only power in Europe that is really formidable to us, and to depress all those nations who might be our allies in the event of such a conflict.
Lowe's speech in the House of Commons was more concerned. with the outcome of democracy as applied to domestic legislation, to the maintenance or destruction of our institutions. He quoted Mr. Bright's provincial harangues, which he thought far more frank and outspoken than his measured utterances in Parliament, to show that the House of Peers, the Church, and the judiciary, would probably be destroyed or tampered with. In proof of this he dwelt on the examples of America, and, to a lesser extent, the Colonies. Then followed the tribute to Palmerston, the disavowal of Lord Russell, and the famous passage on demagogues.
Sir, it appears to me we have more and more reason every day we live to regret the loss of Lord Palmerston. The remaining members of his Government would seem, by way of a mortuary contribution, to have buried in his grave all their prudence, statesmanship, and moderation. He was scarcely withdrawn from the scene before they set to work to contravene and contradict his policy. That policy, acted upon by a statesman who perfectly understood the wants of the English people, had been crowned with unexampled success, and they, I suppose, must have thought that the best way to secure a continuance of that success was to aim at doing that which he above all other things disapproved.
The noble lord at the head of the Government, and the right honourable gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, have performed a great feat. They have taken the great mass of their supporters, who are, I believe, men of moderate views and moderate opinions, and laid them at the feet of the honourable member for Birmingham. . . . We are told that we are bound by every tie that ought to bind mankind to act in accordance with the policy of Earl
Russell; but I, for one, Sir, dispute the justice of that proposition. I have never served under that noble lord. I have served under two prime ministers for a period-I am sorry to say-of little less than ten years. The one was Lord Aberdeen, the other Lord Palmerston. Earl Russell joined the Government of each of those Ministers; both Governments he abandoned, both he assisted to destroy. I owe the noble lord no allegiance. I am not afraid of the people of this country. They have displayed a good sense, which is remarkable indeed when contrasted with the harangues which have been addressed to them. But, if I am not afraid of the people, neither do I agree with the right honourable gentleman the member for Huntingdon,' in fearing those by whom they are led. Demagogues are the commonplace of history. They are to be found wherever popular commotion has prevailed, and they all bear to one another a strong family likeness. Their names float lightly on the stream of time; they are in some way handed down to us, but then they are as little regarded as is the foam which rides on the crest of the stormy wave and bespatters the rock which it cannot shake. Such men, Sir, I do not fear. But I have, I confess, some misgivings when I see a number of gentlemen of rank, of character, of property and intelligence carried away, without being convinced or even over-persuaded, in the support of a policy which many of them in their inmost hearts detest and abhor. Monarchies exist by loyalty, aristocracies by honour, popular assemblies by political virtue and patriotism, and it is in the loss of those things, and not. in comets and eclipses, that we are to look for the portents that herald the fall of States.
Robert Lowe closed his speech with that fine peroration which still lives in the memories of men :
'Surely the heroic work of so many centuries, the matchless achievements of so many wise heads and strong hands, deserve a nobler consummation than to be sacrificed at the shrine of revolutionary passion or the maudlin enthusiasm of humanity? But if we do fall, we shall fall deservedly. Uncoerced by any external force; not borne down by any internal calamity, but in the full plethora of our wealth and the surfeit of our too exuberant prosperity, with our own rash and inconsiderate hands we are about to pluck down on our own heads the venerable temple of our liberty and our glory. History may Lord Robert Montagu.
tell of other acts as signally disastrous, but of none more wanton, none more disgraceful.'
The following letter from the present Earl of Derby to Mrs. Lowe shows the writer's high appreciation of the speech, which, it is believed, he still considers one of the greatest intellectual efforts made in his experience in the House of Commons.
Lord Stanley to Mrs. Lowe.
23 St. James's Square: March 15, 1866. Dear Mrs. Lowe,--You will have heard so many expressions of opinion in the last two days that one more or less can make no difference, and it is therefore chiefly for the satisfaction of my own feelings that I write.
Mr. Lowe's speech on Tuesday has done more to influence affairs than any that has been delivered in Parliament within my recollection; and never was such assistance to the constitutional cause more needed.
The Conservative party are to meet to-morrow and discuss the best mode of opposing the Bill. I cannot conceive that on our side the House there will be any difference or any slackness, but we are a minority, and all turns on the strength of the Whig contingent. Believe me, very truly yours,