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of men whose whole life is necessarily occupied in daily struggle for existence.
I earnestly hope-and it is the object I have in view-that I may have done something to make men think on this question, to pick it out of the slough of despond in which it has wallowed. Sir, I have been weary and sickened at the way in which this question has been dealt with. The way in which the two parties have tossed this question from one to the other reminds me of nothing so much as a young lady and young gentleman playing at battledore and shuttlecock. After tossing the shuttlecock from one to the other a few times they let it drop, and begin to flirt. The great Liberal party may well be presumed to know its own business better than I do. I venture, however, to make this prediction, that if they do unite their fortunes with the fortunes of democracy, as it is proposed they should do in the case of this measure, they will not miss one of two things: if they fail in carrying this measure they will ruin their party, and if they succeed in carrying this measure they will ruin their country.
In this debate Disraeli, speaking on the same side, made an almost equally striking speech, which afterwards supplied the distinguished author of The Conservative Surrender '— that most notable of Quarterly Review articles-with almost all his telling points and effective sarcasm. It is noticeable that in his elaborate arguments against democracy in England, Disraeli used illustrations almost identical with those of Lowe in regard to the contrast between this country and America. France and America could even revive after civil war and revolution; but,' exclaimed the co-author of the Reform Bill of 1867, England, the England we know, the England we live in, the England of which we are proud, could not begin again I hope the House will, when the question before us is one of impeaching the character of our Constitution, sanction no step that has a preference for democracy.'
Robert Lowe's speech created no little stir, especially among Liberals in the House and throughout the country; and its effect might have been decisive against the reform movement, had not the leaders of the Liberal party shrewdly suspected
that if they shelved the question, Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli would promptly monopolise it. Lord Lansdowne wrote to Lowe, as soon as he had read the speech, as follows:
The Marquis of Lansdowne to the Right Hon. R. Lowe.
My dear Lowe,-I must write you a few lines about your speech. I read it under the influence of a fit of gout which produces occasionally a sort of desire to quarrel with everybody all round, and renders the patient a most pugnacious critic. But the columns of the Times completely subdued me, and left me with no other feeling than that of admiration for you. I know that you have a sufficient regard for me to make you not indifferent to the mite of my suffrage (although, from what I hear, this is a case of unobjectionable universal suffrage, including even opponents who may not agree in the arguments, but who must admit the lucidity and eloquence with which they were presented to the House). I need not say I agree in every word, as we have often talked upon this question. Lady Lansdowne desires to join in all I say.
THE BATTLE WITH DEMOCRACY
(ii.) Against Gladstone, Bright, and Mill
PARLIAMENT was opened by the Queen in person February 6, 1866. In the Royal Speech, special references were made to the close of the American civil war, to the outbreak under Governor Eyre in Jamaica, to the cattle plague in England, to the Fenian disturbances in Ireland, and Parliamentary Reform. On the latter subject the following words were spoken by the Lord Chancellor in the name of Her Majesty :
I have directed that information should be procured in reference to the right of voting in the election of members to serve in Parliament for counties, cities, and boroughs. When that information is complete, the attention of Parliament will be called to the result thus obtained, with a view to such improvements in the laws which regulate the right of voting in the election of Members of the House of Commons, as may tend to strengthen our free institutions and conduce to the public welfare.
Robert Lowe, in warrior, took too The signs of the
The battle was now about to begin. donning his armour, like many a true sanguine a view of his chances of success. times were indeed ominous; the close of the American civil war had let loose on Ireland a number of soldiers of fortunefor the most part mere braggarts and Bobadils-but yet dangerous enough to be regarded as birds of ill-omen as they flocked into that distracted country. There are' (wrote the Lord Lieutenant) 340 such men known to the police in the provinces
and about 160 in Dublin. There are several hundred men who have come over from England and Scotland who receive 18. 6d. a day and are waiting for the time of action.' As he also found that under the guidance of these worthies, bullets, cartridges, and pikes were being secretly manufactured in Dublin, and that the Irish soldiers in the Queen's army were being tampered with, he urged the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Meantime Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Bright devoted their energies to the Reform Bill.
Robert Lowe always thought his countrymen overrated the importance of the Fenian movement of 1866, but at the same time he considered it a strange moment to introduce a Reform Bill that would enormously increase the Irish vote in the House of Commons. At first Lowe and his friends thought the Government would do nothing in the way of parliamentary reform. This opinion arose from the feeling in the inner political circles that they were not in earnest on the question.
John Delane wrote as follows to Bernal Osborne :-)
February 1, 1866.
Nobody in the whole Cabinet, except Lord Russell and Gladstone, have the least hope or desire of carrying a Reform Bill. They say the subject was disinterred only to meet the personal exigencies of Lord John, and he may carry it, if he can. In the meantime, the Tories admit that they are not ready, and so, though much against my ordinary opinions, I think there is a chance for a Third Party which includes the unattached-such as Stanley, Lowe, Horsman, &c. Lowe has hitherto done exceedingly well this Session, and has enormously improved his position. His spar with Bright on Wednesday, and with Mill last night, were much to his advantage. Little as Lord John likes him, he might have had the India Office the other day, and might have the Home Office when Lord Grey retires.
Considering that John Delane was so thoroughly behind the political scenes, this last sentence is worthy of notice; it only remains to add that it was not based on mere hearsay,
Life of Bernal Osborne. (Printed for private circulation.)
and shows that Lowe played a very honourable and disinterested part in opposing the Russell-Gladstone Government.
Robert Lowe to Henry Sherbrooke of Oxton.
34 Lowndes Square: February 20, 1866. My dear Henry, I am sorry to say I have no suggestion worth having about carrying out the Act. I hope you will remember for future use that it is mainly to me the farmers owe it that the rate is not put on them instead of on the country. I think I have put a spoke in Bright's wheel. I believe the Government to be in extremis, the returns proving exactly the contrary of what they ought to prove. Nothing resolved on, and time pressing. Gladstone's failure as a leader becomes more manifest every day; but they have taken a good while to discover it.
Your affectionate brother,
From a Letter of Robert Lowe to Bernal Osborne.
34 Lowndes Square: February 26, 1866.
The Government is in a wretched plight. Everybody seems to hate everybody, and all agree in hating John more than anyone else. I do not think they have any chance of carrying that great benefit to the human race- -a Reform Bill-unless you or some vigorous man will come to their aid.
Robert Lowe to Mrs. Billyard, of Sydney.
February 25, 1866.
My dear Mrs. Billyard,—I am, of course, quite full of Politics, and believe myself on the eve of success, only I have been so often disappointed that I no longer feel confidence even in the most carefully considered opinions on a subject so liable to constant change from the unruly wills and affections of sinful men. I, in common with everyone else, not excepting the Government themselves, anticipate their speedy downfall. The Reform movement is a complete failure, the sense of the constituencies, the House, and the educated mind of the country is dead against it, and I am in the enviable position of being considered by everyone as the cause of this great and salutary change in public opinion. It is a distinction. much more valuable than any mere official rank. I may very likely take office, in the next Government that is formed, but as long as I possess my present income I am quite independent of office, and by no means very keen about it.
Cattle Plague Act.