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LORD SHERBROOKE AND LORD DERBY
The following letters of Lord Sherbrooke have been placed at the disposal of his biographer by the Countess of Derby, to whom they were addressed. They need little or no introduction; but, considering that for the most part Lord Derby and Lord Sherbrooke were in opposite political camps, this correspondence of itself proves the high mutual esteem and regard in which they held each other. Lord Sherbrooke may have had older, and in a sense more intimate, personal friends among his own political colleagues, but there was no one in whose clearness of judgment, common-sense, and sagacity, he felt such confidence. The first three extracts, it will be seen, are from letters written while Lord Sherbrooke was Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary, Lord Derby being then one of the Conservative leaders.
The Land Question
September 13, 1871
I agree very much with Lord Derby in his views about land; people do not see that there has been an entire revolution on the subject. Formerly it was the only means of support for the poor. It was considered as an unskilled occupation by which a subsistence might be made. Now it is recognised as a manufacture, and one of a complicated, difficult and precarious nature. Nothing can be more foolish than to take this occupation out of the hands of capital, and to give it to labour, and to labour burdened with ownership. But, on the other hand, I also think that this change has made land a much less desirable kind of property for rich people; and that the mania for obtaining and increasing great estates is just as imprudent as the desire of infinite subdivision is absurd. The heresy in the one case is political, in the other economical.
The Education Question
11 Downing Street: December 1871
I am glad you liked my speech. The Education question is very serious, and though I don't expect to be refuted, I have no hope that I shall be able to stop the narrow-minded and ignorant
people who have selected this of all subjects as the ground from which to assault the Church of England, quite careless if, in doing so, they sacrifice the only chance of taming the monster within whose claws they have placed us.
On Himself as first Finance Minister after the Reform Bill
Home Office: 1873
A man likes to reap what he has sown, and my administration of the finances will be found, when people come to look into it, to be a great success, and deserving a very different treatment. I am the first Finance Minister under the Reformed Parliament. It remains to be seen whether anyone else who does his duty will fare much better.
The three following letters were addressed by Lord Sherbrooke to the Countess of Derby, after Lord Derby had resigned the Foreign Secretaryship in Lord Beaconsfield's Cabinet, in 1878, and joined the Liberal party. The last letters, it will be seen, were written after Lord Derby had become Colonial Minister in Mr. Gladstone's Administration.
Lord Sherbrooke's characteristic remarks on New Guinea and Australian federation will be recognised as sound even by the most fervid Australian patriots; but, unfortunately, Prince Bismarck, in resentment of Lord Derby's action in May 1876 in the rejection of the Berlin Memorandum, seems to have determined to make mischief for him at the Colonial Office. There are few political articles so worthy of being carefully studied as Mr. Wemyss Reid's 'Lord Derby at the Foreign Office, 1876-8,' in Macmillan's Magazine for June 1879. Lord Sherbrooke would have fully endorsed the statement that it was owing to the attitude assumed within the Cabinet by Lord Derby that England, in the spring of 1877, did not go to war for the Turks.' But though he was strongly opposed to the pro-Turkish policy of Lord Beaconsfield, he found it difficult to follow Mr. Gladstone in the vehemence of his Russian propaganda. It was at such crises that Lord Sherbrooke considered the clear, unbiassed judgment of Lord
Derby invaluable. There was the further bond of sympathy between them, that Lord Derby brought upon himself unpopularity, if not obloquy, by acting in accordance with what he believed to be the truest interest of the country, regardless of his own position or future fame.
The letter G.
Sherbrooke January 11, 1880
My dear Lady Derby,—I am, as usual, very much pleased with Lord Derby's speech. Glory and gunpowder are an admirable antithesis, and the letter G is peculiarly adapted to express contempt. The ambiguous word 'business' is peculiarly adapted to the same purpose. I suppose we are to have the dissolution at Easter. Very truly, yours,
Ireland. Death of Lord Airlie
Sherbrooke: October 1, 1881
My dear Lady Derby,-I must write one line to tell you how much I admire Lord Derby's article. His full grasp of the subject, its moderation, its admirable style, make it quite a production sui generis, and separate it, by a wide interval, from anything I have seen written on the subject. The newspapers try to put aside its force, but, as it seems to me, they utterly fail to touch it. The result seems to me to be, that we shall be obliged to relieve three of the four divisions of Ireland from the duty of sending Members of Parliament, and that we shall have to suspend trial by jury in criminal and, perhaps, civil cases. I hope you are comfortably settled at Knowsley. I have been much distressed by the sudden and unexpected death of my old and kind friend, Lord Airlie. He will be a great loss to me in the House. He was so kind and ready to tell me everything and everybody. He was a really good honourable man, and could not have done anything wrong if he had tried. which I am sure he never did.
Always most truly yours,
New Guinea and Federation
Sherbrooke: September, 1883
My dear Lady Derby,-I am very sorry that I cannot accept your kind invitation. I am in the midst of settling, and cannot leave my 1 Ireland and the Land Act.' Nineteenth Century, October, 1881.
wife even for so short a time. I hope I may be more fortunate another time. I hope my friends, the Australians, will be a little more reasonable than their Press. I quite approve of Lord Derby's speech, which I understand to mean that, if the Colonies choose to unite, they can have New Guinea, or anything they want in reason. Most truly yours, SHERBROOKE.
The Albino. Australia
Sherbrooke: November 1883
My dear Lady Derby,-I am very glad to hear of you, though I have very little to say in return. I hope you will not be obliged to stay long in the North, especially now that the weather has declared itself in all its abominations. I can now only just see to read and write at twelve o'clock. I have no letters, and I hear no news. I have been inspecting an albino who has been brought to me to see if I could prescribe for him; he wants the element of impudence, which I always possessed in perfection, poor little fellow. They have brought him over thirty miles to consult me, and I can do him no good.
The Colonists seem to me to be very unreasonable. They like the notion of a squabble with England, a trick which I may humbly say I taught them, and of which they have bettered the instruction. Would it not be wiser not to stick at negatives, but to state at once what Government will grant, and what it won't, making the offer as large as prudence permits. The taking New Guinea is one thing, the outcry against French convicts quite another. The first should, I think, be granted at once; the second cannot, I think, be reasonably insisted on. At any rate, I think it would be wise to let the Colonists know what will be conceded, and what will not. Till this is done, there is always a growing tendency to demand more. Pray don't trouble yourself to write. It is better that I should trot over some day, than that you should tire your eyes, at any rate, by more than a line or two.
Most truly yours,
THE concluding period of Lord Sherbrooke's life was passed in that leisured ease so justly earned by years of unremitting toil. His active participation in politics may be said to have closed with his fourth year in the House of Lords; he continued, however, to attend the debates, and took a keen interest in the fortunes of the Unionist Party, the appearance of this distinguished recruit at the first meeting of the LiberalUnionists on December 7, 1886, being greeted with much enthusiasm.
In the year 1885 he married his second wife, Caroline, daughter of Thomas Sneyd, of Ashcombe Park, co. Stafford, whose family dates back to Saxon times, and has been identified with its native county for 600 years. After sharing in the vicissitudes of the country during the preceding reigns, the family suffered heavily for their loyalty to the Stuarts, the then representative, Colonel Ralph Sneyd, being killed by one of the last shots fired during the defence of the Isle of Man by the Countess of Derby, in 1649. The house of his brother Richard, who entertained Prince Rupert before the battle of Worcester, still exists in the town of Stafford, in excellent preservation, and forms an interesting relic of the period.
Lord Sherbrooke had at this time shaken off the gouty symptoms which had troubled him for some years past, and he recorded his obligations to his old friend Sir Richard