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would give him another chance still; but even Rigby was preferable to
Jawster Sharp, who, finding it would not do, published his long-prepared
valedictory address, in which he told his constituents, that having long
sacrificed his health to their interests, he was now obliged to retire
into the bosom of his family. And a very well-provided-for family, too.

All this time the Liberal deputation from Darlford, two aldermen, three
town-councillors, and the Secretary of the Reform Association, were
walking about London like mad things, eating luncheons and looking for
a candidate. They called at the Reform Club twenty times in the morning,
badgered whips and red-tapers; were introduced to candidates, badgered
candidates; examined would-be members as if they were at a cattle-show,
listened to political pedigrees, dictated political pledges, referred
to Hansard to see how men had voted, inquired whether men had spoken,
finally discussed terms. But they never could hit the right man. If
the principles were right, there was no money; and if money were ready,
money would not take pledges. In fact, they wanted a Phoenix: a very
rich man, who would do exactly as they liked, with extremely low
opinions and with very high connections.

'If he would go for the ballot and had a handle to his name, it would
have the best effect,' said the secretary of the Reform Association,
'because you see we are fighting against a Right Honourable, and you
have no idea how that takes with the mob.'

The deputation had been three days in town, and urged by despatches
by every train to bring affairs to a conclusion; jaded, perplexed,
confused, they were ready to fall into the hands of the first jobber
or bold adventurer. They discussed over their dinner at a Strand
coffee-house the claims of the various candidates who had presented
themselves. Mr. Donald Macpherson Macfarlane, who would only pay the
legal expenses; he was soon despatched. Mr. Gingerly Browne, of Jermyn
Street, the younger son of a baronet, who would go as far as 1000_l._
provided the seat was secured. Mr. Juggins, a distiller, 2000_l._ man;
but would not agree to any annual subscriptions. Sir Baptist Placid,
vague about expenditure, but repeatedly declaring that 'there could
be no difficulty on that head.' He however had a moral objection to
subscribing to the races, and that was a great point at Darlford. Sir
Baptist would subscribe a guinea per annum to the infirmary, and the
same to all religious societies without any distinction of sects; but
races, it was not the sum, 100_l._ per annum, but the principle. He had
a moral objection.

In short, the deputation began to suspect, what was the truth, that they
were a day after the fair, and that all the electioneering rips that
swarm in the purlieus of political clubs during an impending dissolution
of Parliament, men who become political characters in their small circle
because they have been talked of as once having an intention to stand
for places for which they never offered themselves, or for having stood
for places where they never could by any circumstance have succeeded,
were in fact nibbling at their dainty morsel.

At this moment of despair, a ray of hope was imparted to them by a
confidential note from a secretary of the Treasury, who wished to
see them at the Reform Club on the morrow. You may be sure they were
punctual to their appointment. The secretary received them with great
consideration. He had got them a candidate, and one of high mark, the
son of a Peer, and connected with the highest Whig houses. Their eyes
sparkled. A real honourable. If they liked he would introduce them
immediately to the Honourable Alberic de Crecy. He had only to introduce
them, as there was no difficulty either as to means or opinions,
expenses or pledges.

The secretary returned with a young gentleman, whose diminutive stature
would seem, from his smooth and singularly puerile countenance, to be
merely the consequence of his very tender years; but Mr. De Crecy was
really of age, or at least would be by nomination-day. He did not say
a word, but looked like the rosebud which dangled in the button-hole of
his frock-coat. The aldermen and town-councillors were what is
sometimes emphatically styled flabbergasted; they were speechless from
bewilderment. 'Mr. De Crecy will go for the ballot,' said the secretary
of the Treasury, with an audacious eye and a demure look, 'and for Total
and Immediate, if you press him hard; but don't, if you can help it,
because he has an uncle, an old county member, who has prejudices, and
might disinherit him. However, we answer for him. And I am very happy
that I have been the means of bringing about an arrangement which,
I feel, will be mutually advantageous.' And so saying, the secretary
effected his escape.

Circumstances, however, retarded for a season the political career of
the Honourable Alberic de Crecy. While the Liberal party at Darlford
were suffering under the daily inflictions of Mr. Rigby's slashing
style, and the post brought them very unsatisfactory prospects of a
champion, one offered himself, and in an address which intimated that he
was no man of straw, likely to recede from any contest in which he
chose to embark. The town was suddenly placarded with a letter to
the Independent Electors from Mr. Millbank, the new proprietor of
Hellingsley.

He expressed himself as one not anxious to obtrude himself on their
attention, and founding no claim to their confidence on his recent
acquisition; but at the same time as one resolved that the free and
enlightened community, with which he must necessarily hereafter be much
connected, should not become the nomination borough of any Peer of the
realm without a struggle, if they chose to make one. And so he offered
himself if they could not find a better candidate, without waiting for
the ceremony of a requisition. He was exactly the man they wanted; and
though he had 'no handle to his name,' and was somewhat impracticable
about pledges, his fortune was so great, and his character so high, that
it might be hoped that the people would be almost as content as if
they were appealed to by some obscure scion of factitious nobility,
subscribing to political engagements which he could not comprehend,
and which, in general, are vomited with as much facility as they are
swallowed.




CHAPTER IV.


The people of Darlford, who, as long as the contest for their
representation remained between Mr. Rigby and the abstraction called
Liberal Principles, appeared to be very indifferent about the result,
the moment they learned that for the phrase had been substituted a
substance, and that, too, in the form of a gentleman who was soon
to figure as their resident neighbour, became excited, speedily
enthusiastic. All the bells of all the churches rang when Mr. Millbank
commenced his canvass; the Conservatives, on the alert, if not alarmed,
insisted on their champion also showing himself in all directions; and
in the course of four-and-twenty hours, such is the contagion of popular
feeling, the town was divided into two parties, the vast majority of
which were firmly convinced that the country could only be saved by the
return of Mr. Rigby, or preserved from inevitable destruction by the
election of Mr. Millbank.

The results of the two canvasses were such as had been anticipated from
the previous reports of the respective agents and supporters. In these
days the personal canvass of a candidate is a mere form. The whole
country that is to be invaded has been surveyed and mapped out before
entry; every position reconnoitred; the chain of communications
complete. In the present case, as was not unusual, both candidates were
really supported by numerous and reputable adherents; and both had good
grounds for believing that they would be ultimately successful. But
there was a body of the electors sufficiently numerous to turn the
election, who would not promise their votes: conscientious men who felt
the responsibility of the duty that the constitution had entrusted to
their discharge, and who would not make up their minds without duly
weighing the respective merits of the two rivals. This class of deeply
meditative individuals are distinguished not only by their pensive turn
of mind, but by a charitable vein that seems to pervade their being. Not
only will they think of your request, but for their parts they wish both
sides equally well. Decision, indeed, as it must dash the hopes of one
of their solicitors, seems infinitely painful to them; they have always
a good reason for postponing it. If you seek their suffrage during the
canvass, they reply, that the writ not having come down, the day of
election is not yet fixed. If you call again to inform them that the
writ has arrived, they rejoin, that perhaps after all there may not be a
contest. If you call a third time, half dead with fatigue, to give them
friendly notice that both you and your rival have pledged yourselves to
go to the poll, they twitch their trousers, rub their hands, and with a
dull grin observe,

'Well, sir, we shall see.'

'Come, Mr. Jobson,' says one of the committee, with an insinuating
smile, 'give Mr. Millbank one.'

'Jobson, I think you and I know each other,' says a most influential
supporter, with a knowing nod.

'Yes, Mr. Smith, I should think we did.'

'Come, come, give us one.'

'Well, I have not made up my mind yet, gentlemen.'

'Jobson!' says a solemn voice, 'didn't you tell me the other night you
wished well to this gentleman?'

'So I do; I wish well to everybody,' replies the imperturbable Jobson.

'Well, Jobson,' exclaims another member of the committee, with a sigh,
'who could have supposed that you would have been an enemy?'

'I don't wish to be no enemy to no man, Mr. Trip.'

'Come, Jobson,' says a jolly tanner, 'if I wanted to be a Parliament
man, I don't think you could refuse me one!'

'I don't think I could, Mr. Oakfield.'

'Well, then, give it to my friend.'

'Well, sir, I'll think about it.'

'Leave him to me,' says another member of the committee, with a
significant look. 'I know how to get round him. It's all right.'

'Yes, leave him to Hayfield, Mr. Millbank; he knows how to manage him.'

But all the same, Jobson continues to look as little tractable and
lamb-like as can be well fancied.

And here, in a work which, in an unpretending shape, aspires to take
neither an uninformed nor a partial view of the political history of the
ten eventful years of the Reform struggle, we should pause for a
moment to observe the strangeness, that only five years after the
reconstruction of the electoral body by the Whig party, in a borough
called into political existence by their policy, a manufacturing
town, too, the candidate comprising in his person every quality and
circumstance which could recommend him to the constituency, and
his opponent the worst specimen of the Old Generation, a political
adventurer, who owed the least disreputable part of his notoriety to
his opposition to the Reform Bill; that in such a borough, under such
circumstances, there should be a contest, and that, too, one of a very
doubtful issue.

What was the cause of this? Are we to seek it in the 'Reaction' of the
Tadpoles and the Tapers? That would not be a satisfactory solution.
Reaction, to a certain extent, is the law of human existence. In the
particular state of affairs before us, England after the Reform Act, it
never could be doubtful that Time would gradually, and in some instances
rapidly, counteract the national impulse of 1832. There never could
have been a question, for example, that the English counties would
have reverted to their natural allegiance to their proprietors; but the
results of the appeals to the third Estate in 1835 and 1837 are not to
be accounted for by a mere readjustment of legitimate influences.

The truth is, that, considerable as are the abilities of the Whig
leaders, highly accomplished as many of them unquestionably must be
acknowledged in parliamentary debate, experienced in council, sedulous
in office, eminent as scholars, powerful from their position, the
absence of individual influence, and of the pervading authority of a
commanding mind, have been the cause of the fall of the Whig party.

Such a supremacy was generally acknowledged in Lord Grey on the
accession of this party to power: but it was the supremacy of a
tradition rather than of a fact. Almost at the outset of his authority
his successor was indicated. When the crisis arrived, the intended
successor was not in the Whig ranks. It is in this virtual absence of
a real and recognised leader, almost from the moment that they passed
their great measure, that we must seek a chief cause of all that
insubordination, all those distempered ambitions, and all those dark
intrigues, that finally broke up, not only the Whig government, but the
Whig party; demoralised their ranks, and sent them to the country, both
in 1835 and 1837, with every illusion, which had operated so happily in
their favour in 1832, scattered to the winds. In all things we trace the
irresistible influence of the individual.

And yet the interval that elapsed between 1835 and 1837 proved, that
there was all this time in the Whig array one entirely competent to the
office of leading a great party, though his capacity for that fulfilment
was too tardily recognised.

LORD JOHN RUSSELL has that degree of imagination, which, though evinced
rather in sentiment than expression, still enables him to generalise
from the details of his reading and experience; and to take those
comprehensive views, which, however easily depreciated by ordinary
men in an age of routine, are indispensable to a statesman in the
conjunctures in which we live. He understands, therefore, his position;
and he has the moral intrepidity which prompts him ever to dare that
which his intellect assures him is politic. He is consequently, at the
same time, sagacious and bold in council. As an administrator he is
prompt and indefatigable. He is not a natural orator, and labours under
physical deficiencies which even a Demosthenic impulse could scarcely
overcome. But he is experienced in debate, quick in reply, fertile in
resource, takes large views, and frequently compensates for a dry and
hesitating manner by the expression of those noble truths that flash
across the fancy, and rise spontaneously to the lip, of men of poetic
temperament when addressing popular assemblies. If we add to this, a
private life of dignified repute, the accidents of his birth and rank,
which never can be severed from the man, the scion of a great historic
family, and born, as it were, to the hereditary service of the State, it
is difficult to ascertain at what period, or under what circumstances,
the Whig party have ever possessed, or could obtain, a more efficient
leader.

But we must return to the Darlford election. The class of thoughtful
voters was sufficiently numerous in that borough to render the result
of the contest doubtful to the last; and on the eve of the day of
nomination both parties were equally sanguine.

Nomination-day altogether is an unsatisfactory affair. There is little
to be done, and that little mere form. The tedious hours remain, and no
one can settle his mind to anything. It is not a holiday, for every one
is serious; it is not business, for no one can attend to it; it is not
a contest, for there is no canvassing; nor an election, for there is no
poll. It is a day of lounging without an object, and luncheons without
an appetite; of hopes and fears; confidence and dejection; bravado bets
and secret hedging; and, about midnight, of furious suppers of grilled
bones, brandy-and-water, and recklessness.

The president and vice-president of the Conservative Association, the
secretary and the four solicitors who were agents, had impressed upon
Mr. Rigby that it was of the utmost importance, and must produce a
great moral effect, if he obtain the show of hands. With his powers of
eloquence and their secret organisation, they flattered themselves it
might be done. With this view, Rigby inflicted a speech of more than
two hours' duration on the electors, who bore it very kindly, as the mob
likes, above all things, that the ceremonies of nomination-day should
not be cut short: moreover, there is nothing that the mob likes so much
as a speech. Rigby therefore had, on the whole, a far from unfavourable
audience, and he availed himself of their forbearance. He brought in
his crack theme, the guillotine, and dilated so elaborately upon its
qualities, that one of the gentlemen below could not refrain from
exclaiming, 'I wish you may get it.' This exclamation gave Mr. Rigby
what is called a great opening, which, like a practised speaker, he
immediately seized. He denounced the sentiment as 'un-English,' and got
much cheered. Excited by this success, Rigby began to call everything
else 'un-English' with which he did not agree, until menacing murmurs
began to rise, when he shifted the subject, and rose into a grand
peroration, in which he assured them that the eyes of the whole empire
were on this particular election; cries of 'That's true,' from all
sides; and that England expected every man to do his duty.

'And who do you expect to do yours?' inquired a gentleman below,' about
that 'ere pension?'

'Rigby,' screeched a hoarse voice, 'don't you mind; you guv it them
well.'

'Rigby, keep up your spirits, old chap: we will have you.'

'Now!' said a stentorian voice; and a man as tall as Saul looked round
him. This was the engaged leader of the Conservative mob; the eye of
every one of his minions was instantly on him. 'Now! Our young Queen and
our Old Institutions! Rigby for ever!'

This was a signal for the instant appearance of the leader of the
Liberal mob. Magog Wrath, not so tall as Bully Bluck, his rival, had
a voice almost as powerful, a back much broader, and a countenance far
more forbidding. 'Now, my boys, the Queen and Millbank for ever!'

These rival cries were the signals for a fight between the two bands of
gladiators in the face of the hustings, the body of the people little
interfering. Bully Bluck seized Magog Wrath's colours; they wrestled,
they seized each other; their supporters were engaged in mutual contest;
it appeared to be a most alarming and perilous fray; several ladies from
the windows screamed, one fainted; a band of special constables pushed
their way through the mob; you heard their staves resounded on the
skulls of all who opposed them, especially the little boys: order was at
length restored; and, to tell the truth, the only hurts inflicted were
those which came from the special constables. Bully Bluck and Magog
Wrath, with all their fierce looks, flaunting colours, loud cheers, and
desperate assaults, were, after all, only a couple of Condottieri, who
were cautious never to wound each other. They were, in fact, a peaceful
police, who kept the town in awe, and prevented others from being
mischievous who were more inclined to do harm. Their hired gangs were
the safety-valves for all the scamps of the borough, who, receiving a
few shillings per head for their nominal service, and as much drink as
they liked after the contest, were bribed and organised into peace
and sobriety on the days in which their excesses were most to be
apprehended.

Now Mr. Millbank came forward: he was brief compared with Mr. Rigby; but
clear and terse. No one could misunderstand him. He did not favour his
hearers with any history, but gave them his views about taxes, free
trade, placemen, and pensioners, whoever and wherever they might be.

'Hilloa, Rigby, about that 'ere pension?'

'Millbank for ever! We will have him.'

'Never mind, Rigby, you'll come in next time.'

Mr. Millbank was energetic about resident representatives, but did not
understand that a resident representative meant the nominee of a great
Lord, who lived in a great castle; great cheering. There was a Lord
once who declared that, if he liked, he would return his negro valet to
Parliament; but Mr. Millbank thought those days were over. It remained
for the people of Darlford to determine whether he was mistaken.

'Never!' exclaimed the mob. 'Millbank for ever! Rigby in the river! No
niggers, no walets!'

'Three groans for Rigby.'

'His language ain't as purty as the Lunnun chap's,' said a critic below;
'but he speaks from his 'art: and give me the man who 'as got a 'art.'

'That's your time of day, Mr. Robinson.'

'Now!' said Magog Wrath, looking around. 'Now, the Queen and Millbank
for ever! Hurrah!'

The show of hands was entirely in favour of Mr. Millbank. Scarcely a
hand was held up for Mr. Rigby below, except by Bully Bluck and his
praetorians. The Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative
Association, the Secretary, and the four agents, severally and
respectively went up to Mr. Rigby and congratulated him on the result,
as it was a known fact, 'that the show of hands never won.'

The eve of polling-day was now at hand. This is the most critical period
of an election. All night parties in disguise were perambulating the
different wards, watching each other's tactics; masks, wigs, false
noses, gentles in livery coats, men in female attire, a silent carnival
of manoeuvre, vigilance, anxiety, and trepidation. The thoughtful voters
about this time make up their minds; the enthusiasts who have told you
twenty times a-day for the last fortnight, that they would get up in the
middle of the night to serve you, require the most watchful cooping; all
the individuals who have assured you that 'their word is their bond,'
change sides.

Two of the Rigbyites met in the market-place about an hour after
midnight.

'Well, how goes it?' said one.

'I have been the rounds. The blunt's going like the ward-pump. I saw
a man come out of Moffatt's house, muffled up with a mask on. I dodged
him. It was Biggs.'

'You don't mean that, do you? D - - e, I'll answer for Moffatt.'

'I never thought he was a true man.'

'Told Robins?'

'I could not see him; but I met young Gunning and told him.'

'Young Gunning! That won't do.'

'I thought he was as right as the town clock.'

'So did I, once. Hush! who comes here? The enemy, Franklin and Sampson
Potts. Keep close.'

'I'll speak to them. Good night, Potts. Up rather late to-night?'

'All fair election time. You ain't snoring, are you?'

'Well, I hope the best man will win.'

'I am sure he will.'

'You must go for Moffatt early, to breakfast at the White Lion; that's
your sort. Don't leave him, and poll him your-self. I am going off to
Solomon Lacey's. He has got four Millbankites cooped up very drunk, and
I want to get them quietly into the country before daybreak.'

'Tis polling-day! The candidates are roused from their slumbers at an
early hour by the music of their own bands perambulating the town, and
each playing the 'conquering hero' to sustain the courage of their jaded
employers, by depriving them of that rest which can alone tranquillise
the nervous system. There is something in that matin burst of music,
followed by a shrill cheer from the boys of the borough, the only
inhabitants yet up, that is very depressing.

The committee-rooms of each candidate are soon rife with black reports;
each side has received fearful bulletins of the preceding night
campaign; and its consequences as exemplified in the morning,
unprecedented tergiversations, mysterious absences; men who breakfast
with one side and vote with the other; men who won't come to breakfast;
men who won't leave breakfast.

At ten o'clock Mr. Rigby was in a majority of twenty-eight.

The polling was brisk and equal until the middle of the day, when it
became slack. Mr. Rigby kept a majority, but an inconsiderable one.
Mr. Millbank's friends were not disheartened, as it was known that
the leading members of Mr. Rigby's committee had polled; whereas his
opponent's were principally reserved. At a quarter-past two there was
great cheering and uproar. The four voters in favour of Millbank, whom
Solomon Lacey had cooped up, made drunk, and carried into the country,
had recovered iheir senses, made their escape, and voted as they
originally intended. Soon after this, Mr. Millbank was declared by his
committee to be in a majority of one, but the committee of Mr. Rigby
instantly posted a placard, in large letters, to announce that, on the
contrary, their man was in a majority of nine.

'If we could only have got another registration,' whispered the
principal agent to Mr. Rigby, at a quarter-past four.

'You think it's all over, then?'



Online LibraryBenjamin DisraeliConingsby → online text (page 23 of 39)