Benjamin Disraeli.

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in the world that Lord Monmouth dislikes so much as Manchester
manufacturers, and particularly if they bear the name of Millbank. It
must not be thought of, my dear Harry. I hope you have not spoken to
the young man on the subject. I assure you it is out of the question.
It would make Lord Monmouth quite ill. It would spoil everything, quite
upset him.'

It was, of course, impossible for Coningsby to urge his wishes against
such representations. He was disappointed, rather amazed; but Madame
Colonna having sent for him to introduce her to some of the scenes and
details of Eton life, his vexation was soon absorbed in the pride of
acting in the face of his companions as the cavalier of a beautiful
lady, and becoming the cicerone of the most brilliant party that had
attended Montem. He presented his friends, too, to Lord. Monmouth, who
gave them a cordial invitation to dine with him at his hotel at Windsor,
which they warmly accepted. Buckhurst delighted the Marquess by his
reckless genius. Even Lucretia deigned to appear amused; especially
when, on visiting the upper school, the name of CARDIFF, the title Lord
Monmouth bore in his youthful days, was pointed out to her by Coningsby,
cut with his grandfather's own knife on the classic panels of that
memorable wall in which scarcely a name that has flourished in our
history, since the commencement of the eighteenth century, may not be
observed with curious admiration.

It was the humour of Lord Monmouth that the boys should be entertained
with the most various and delicious banquet that luxury could devise or
money could command. For some days beforehand orders had been given for
the preparation of this festival. Our friends did full justice to their
Lucullus; Buckhurst especially, who gave his opinion on the most refined
dishes with all the intrepidity of saucy ignorance, and occasionally
shook his head over a glass of Hermitage or Côte Rôtie with a
dissatisfaction which a satiated Sybarite could not have exceeded.
Considering all things, Coningsby and his friends exhibited a great deal
of self-command; but they were gay, even to the verge of frolic. But
then the occasion justified it, as much as their youth. All were in high
spirits. Madame Colonna declared that she had met nothing in England
equal to Montem; that it was a Protestant Carnival; and that its only
fault was that it did not last forty days. The Prince himself was all
animation, and took wine with every one of the Etonians several times.
All went on flowingly until Mr. Rigby contradicted Buckhurst on some
point of Eton discipline, which Buckhurst would not stand. He rallied
Mr. Rigby roundly, and Coningsby, full of champagne, and owing Rigby
several years of contradiction, followed up the assault. Lord Monmouth,
who liked a butt, and had a weakness for boisterous gaiety, slily
encouraged the boys, till Rigby began to lose his temper and get noisy.

The lads had the best of it; they said a great many funny things,
and delivered themselves of several sharp retorts; whereas there was
something ridiculous in Rigby putting forth his 'slashing' talents
against such younkers. However, he brought the infliction on himself by
his strange habit of deciding on subjects of which he knew nothing, and
of always contradicting persons on the very subjects of which they were
necessarily masters.

To see Rigby baited was more amusement to Lord Monmouth even than
Montem. Lucian Gay, however, when the affair was getting troublesome,
came forward as a diversion. He sang an extemporaneous song on the
ceremony of the day, and introduced the names of all the guests at the
dinner, and of a great many other persons besides. This was capital! The
boys were in raptures, but when the singer threw forth a verse about Dr.
Keate, the applause became uproarious.

'Good-bye, my dear Harry,' said Lord Monmouth, when he bade his
grandson farewell. 'I am going abroad again; I cannot remain in this
Radical-ridden country. Remember, though I am away, Monmouth House is
your home, at least so long as it belongs to me. I understand my tailor
has turned Liberal, and is going to stand for one of the metropolitan
districts, a friend of Lord Durham; perhaps I shall find him in it when
I return. I fear there are evil days for the NEW GENERATION!'

END OF BOOK I.




BOOK II.



CHAPTER I.


It was early in November, 1834, and a large shooting party was assembled
at Beaumanoir, the seat of that great nobleman, who was the father
of Henry Sydney. England is unrivalled for two things, sporting and
politics. They were combined at Beaumanoir; for the guests came not
merely to slaughter the Duke's pheasants, but to hold council on the
prospects of the party, which it was supposed by the initiated, began at
this time to indicate some symptoms of brightening.

The success of the Reform Ministry on their first appeal to the new
constituency which they had created, had been fatally complete. But the
triumph was as destructive to the victors as to the vanquished.

'We are too strong,' prophetically exclaimed one of the fortunate
cabinet, which found itself supported by an inconceivable majority of
three hundred. It is to be hoped that some future publisher of private
memoirs may have preserved some of the traits of that crude and
short-lived parliament, when old Cobbett insolently thrust Sir Robert
from the prescriptive seat of the chief of opposition, and treasury
understrappers sneered at the 'queer lot' that had arrived from Ireland,
little foreseeing what a high bidding that 'queer lot' would eventually
command. Gratitude to Lord Grey was the hustings-cry at the end of 1832,
the pretext that was to return to the new-modelled House of Commons
none but men devoted to the Whig cause. The successful simulation,
like everything that is false, carried within it the seeds of its
own dissolution. Ingratitude to Lord Grey was more the fashion at the
commencement of 1834, and before the close of that eventful year, the
once popular Reform Ministry was upset, and the eagerly-sought Reformed
Parliament dissolved!

It can scarcely be alleged that the public was altogether unprepared for
this catastrophe. Many deemed it inevitable; few thought it imminent.
The career of the Ministry, and the existence of the Parliament, had
indeed from the first been turbulent and fitful. It was known, from
authority, that there were dissensions in the cabinet, while a House
of Commons which passed votes on subjects not less important than
the repeal of a tax, or the impeachment of a judge, on one night, and
rescinded its resolutions on the following, certainly established
no increased claims to the confidence of its constituents in its
discretion. Nevertheless, there existed at this period a prevalent
conviction that the Whig party, by a great stroke of state, similar in
magnitude and effect to that which in the preceding century had changed
the dynasty, had secured to themselves the government of this country
for, at least, the lives of the present generation. And even the
well-informed in such matters were inclined to look upon the perplexing
circumstances to which we have alluded rather as symptoms of a want
of discipline in a new system of tactics, than as evidences of any
essential and deeply-rooted disorder.

The startling rapidity, however, of the strange incidents of 1834; the
indignant, soon to become vituperative, secession of a considerable
section of the cabinet, some of them esteemed too at that time among
its most efficient members; the piteous deprecation of 'pressure from
without,' from lips hitherto deemed too stately for entreaty, followed
by the Trades' Union, thirty thousand strong, parading in procession
to Downing-street; the Irish negotiations of Lord Hatherton, strange
blending of complex intrigue and almost infantile ingenuousness; the
still inexplicable resignation of Lord Althorp, hurriedly followed by
his still more mysterious resumption of power, the only result of his
precipitate movements being the fall of Lord Grey himself, attended by
circumstances which even a friendly historian could scarcely describe
as honourable to his party or dignified to himself; latterly, the
extemporaneous address of King William to the Bishops; the vagrant
and grotesque apocalypse of the Lord Chancellor; and the fierce
recrimination and memorable defiance of the Edinburgh banquet, all these
impressive instances of public affairs and public conduct had
combined to create a predominant opinion that, whatever might be the
consequences, the prolonged continuance of the present party in power
was a clear impossibility.

It is evident that the suicidal career of what was then styled the
Liberal party had been occasioned and stimulated by its unnatural excess
of strength. The apoplectic plethora of 1834 was not less fatal than
the paralytic tenuity of 1841. It was not feasible to gratify so many
ambitions, or to satisfy so many expectations. Every man had his double;
the heels of every placeman were dogged by friendly rivals ready to trip
them up. There were even two cabinets; the one that met in council, and
the one that met in cabal. The consequence of destroying the legitimate
Opposition of the country was, that a moiety of the supporters of
Government had to discharge the duties of Opposition.

Herein, then, we detect the real cause of all that irregular and
unsettled carriage of public men which so perplexed the nation after the
passing of the Reform Act. No government can be long secure without a
formidable Opposition. It reduces their supporters to that tractable
number which can be managed by the joint influences of fruition and of
hope. It offers vengeance to the discontented, and distinction to the
ambitious; and employs the energies of aspiring spirits, who otherwise
may prove traitors in a division or assassins in a debate.

The general election of 1832 abrogated the Parliamentary Opposition of
England, which had practically existed for more than a century and
a half. And what a series of equivocal transactions and mortifying
adventures did the withdrawal of this salutary restraint entail on the
party which then so loudly congratulated themselves and the country that
they were at length relieved from its odious repression! In the hurry of
existence one is apt too generally to pass over the political history
of the times in which we ourselves live. The two years that followed the
Reform of the House of Commons are full of instruction, on which a young
man would do well to ponder. It is hardly possible that he could rise
from the study of these annals without a confirmed disgust for political
intrigue; a dazzling practice, apt at first to fascinate youth, for it
appeals at once to our invention and our courage, but one which really
should only be the resource of the second-rate. Great minds must trust
to great truths and great talents for their rise, and nothing else.

While, however, as the autumn of 1834 advanced, the people of this
country became gradually sensible of the necessity of some change in the
councils of their Sovereign, no man felt capable of predicting by what
means it was to be accomplished, or from what quarry the new materials
were to be extracted. The Tory party, according to those perverted views
of Toryism unhappily too long prevalent in this country, was held to
be literally defunct, except by a few old battered crones of office,
crouched round the embers of faction which they were fanning, and
muttering 'reaction' in mystic whispers. It cannot be supposed indeed
for a moment, that the distinguished personage who had led that party in
the House of Commons previously to the passing of the act of 1832, ever
despaired in consequence of his own career. His then time of life, the
perfection, almost the prime, of manhood; his parliamentary practice,
doubly estimable in an inexperienced assembly; his political knowledge;
his fair character and reputable position; his talents and tone as a
public speaker, which he had always aimed to adapt to the habits and
culture of that middle class from which it was concluded the benches of
the new Parliament were mainly to be recruited, all these were qualities
the possession of which must have assured a mind not apt to be disturbed
in its calculations by any intemperate heats, that with time and
patience the game was yet for him.

Unquestionably, whatever may have been insinuated, this distinguished
person had no inkling that his services in 1834 might be claimed by
his Sovereign. At the close of the session of that year he had quitted
England with his family, and had arrived at Rome, where it was his
intention to pass the winter. The party charges that have imputed to him
a previous and sinister knowledge of the intentions of the Court, appear
to have been made not only in ignorance of the personal character, but
of the real position, of the future minister.

It had been the misfortune of this eminent gentleman when he first
entered public life, to become identified with a political connection
which, having arrogated to itself the name of an illustrious historical
party, pursued a policy which was either founded on no principle
whatever, or on principles exactly contrary to those which had always
guided the conduct of the great Tory leaders. The chief members of this
official confederacy were men distinguished by none of the conspicuous
qualities of statesmen. They had none of the divine gifts that govern
senates and guide councils. They were not orators; they were not men of
deep thought or happy resource, or of penetrative and sagacious minds.
Their political ken was essentially dull and contracted. They expended
some energy in obtaining a defective, blundering acquaintance with
foreign affairs; they knew as little of the real state of their own
country as savages of an approaching eclipse. This factious league had
shuffled themselves into power by clinging to the skirts of a great
minister, the last of Tory statesmen, but who, in the unparalleled
and confounding emergencies of his latter years, had been forced,
unfortunately for England, to relinquish Toryism. His successors
inherited all his errors without the latent genius, which in him might
have still rallied and extricated him from the consequences of his
disasters. His successors did not merely inherit his errors; they
exaggerated, they caricatured them. They rode into power on a springtide
of all the rampant prejudices and rancorous passions of their time.
From the King to the boor their policy was a mere pandering to
public ignorance. Impudently usurping the name of that party of
which nationality, and therefore universality, is the essence,
these pseudo-Tories made Exclusion the principle of their political
constitution, and Restriction the genius of their commercial code.

The blind goddess that plays with human fortunes has mixed up the memory
of these men with traditions of national glory. They conducted to a
prosperous conclusion the most renowned war in which England has ever
been engaged. Yet every military conception that emanated from their
cabinet was branded by their characteristic want of grandeur. Chance,
however, sent them a great military genius, whom they treated for a long
time with indifference, and whom they never heartily supported until
his career had made him their master. His transcendent exploits, and
European events even greater than his achievements, placed in the
manikin grasp of the English ministry, the settlement of Europe.

The act of the Congress of Vienna remains the eternal monument of their
diplomatic knowledge and political sagacity. Their capital feats were
the creation of two kingdoms, both of which are already erased from
the map of Europe. They made no single preparation for the inevitable,
almost impending, conjunctures of the East. All that remains of
the pragmatic arrangements of the mighty Congress of Vienna is the
mediatisation of the petty German princes.

But the settlement of Europe by the pseudo-Tories was the dictate of
inspiration compared with their settlement of England. The peace of
Paris found the government of this country in the hands of a body of men
of whom it is no exaggeration to say that they were ignorant of every
principle of every branch of political science. So long as our domestic
administration was confined merely to the raising of a revenue, they
levied taxes with gross facility from the industry of a country too busy
to criticise or complain. But when the excitement and distraction of
war had ceased, and they were forced to survey the social elements
that surrounded them, they seemed, for the first time, to have become
conscious of their own incapacity. These men, indeed, were the mere
children of routine. They prided themselves on being practical men. In
the language of this defunct school of statesmen, a practical man is a
man who practises the blunders of his predecessors.

Now commenced that Condition-of-England Question of which our generation
hears so much. During five-and-twenty years every influence that can
develop the energies and resources of a nation had been acting with
concentrated stimulation on the British Isles. National peril and
national glory; the perpetual menace of invasion, the continual triumph
of conquest; the most extensive foreign commerce that was ever conducted
by a single nation; an illimitable currency; an internal trade supported
by swarming millions whom manufacturers and inclosure-bills summoned
into existence; above all, the supreme control obtained by man over
mechanic power, these are some of the causes of that rapid advance of
material civilisation in England, to which the annals of the world can
afford no parallel. But there was no proportionate advance in our moral
civilisation. In the hurry-skurry of money-making, men-making, and
machine-making, we had altogether outgrown, not the spirit, but the
organisation, of our institutions.

The peace came; the stimulating influences suddenly ceased; the people,
in a novel and painful position, found themselves without guides.
They went to the ministry; they asked to be guided; they asked to be
governed. Commerce requested a code; trade required a currency; the
unfranchised subject solicited his equal privilege; suffering labour
clamoured for its rights; a new race demanded education. What did the
ministry do?

They fell into a panic. Having fulfilled during their lives the duties
of administration, they were frightened because they were called upon,
for the first time, to perform the functions of government. Like all
weak men, they had recourse to what they called strong measures. They
determined to put down the multitude. They thought they were imitating
Mr. Pitt, because they mistook disorganisation for sedition.

Their projects of relief were as ridiculous as their system of coercion
was ruthless; both were alike founded in intense ignorance. When we
recall Mr. Vansittart with his currency resolutions; Lord Castlereagh
with his plans for the employment of labour; and Lord Sidmouth with his
plots for ensnaring the laborious; we are tempted to imagine that the
present epoch has been one of peculiar advances in political ability,
and marvel how England could have attained her present pitch under a
series of such governors.

We should, however, be labouring under a very erroneous impression. Run
over the statesmen that have figured in England since the accession
of the present family, and we may doubt whether there be one, with the
exception perhaps of the Duke of Newcastle, who would have been a worthy
colleague of the council of Mr. Perceval, or the early cabinet of Lord
Liverpool. Assuredly the genius of Bolingbroke and the sagacity of
Walpole would have alike recoiled from such men and such measures. And
if we take the individuals who were governing England immediately before
the French Revolution, one need only refer to the speeches of Mr. Pitt,
and especially to those of that profound statesman and most instructed
man, Lord Shelburne, to find that we can boast no remarkable superiority
either in political justice or in political economy. One must attribute
this degeneracy, therefore, to the long war and our insular position,
acting upon men naturally of inferior abilities, and unfortunately, in
addition, of illiterate habits.

In the meantime, notwithstanding all the efforts of the political
Panglosses who, in evening Journals and Quarterly Reviews were
continually proving that this was the best of all possible governments,
it was evident to the ministry itself that the machine must stop. The
class of Rigbys indeed at this period, one eminently favourable to that
fungous tribe, greatly distinguished themselves. They demonstrated in a
manner absolutely convincing, that it was impossible for any person to
possess any ability, knowledge, or virtue, any capacity of reasoning,
any ray of fancy or faculty of imagination, who was not a supporter of
the existing administration. If any one impeached the management of a
department, the public was assured that the accuser had embezzled;
if any one complained of the conduct of a colonial governor, the
complainant was announced as a returned convict. An amelioration of
the criminal code was discountenanced because a search in the parish
register of an obscure village proved that the proposer had not been
born in wedlock. A relaxation of the commercial system was denounced
because one of its principal advocates was a Socinian. The inutility of
Parliamentary Reform was ever obvious since Mr. Rigby was a member of
the House of Commons.

To us, with our _Times_ newspaper every morning on our breakfast-table,
bringing, on every subject which can interest the public mind, a degree
of information and intelligence which must form a security against
any prolonged public misconception, it seems incredible that only
five-and-twenty years ago the English mind could have been so ridden
and hoodwinked, and that, too, by men of mean attainments and moderate
abilities. But the war had directed the energies of the English people
into channels by no means favourable to political education. Conquerors
of the world, with their ports filled with the shipping of every clime,
and their manufactories supplying the European continent, in the art
of self-government, that art in which their fathers excelled, they had
become literally children; and Rigby and his brother hirelings were the
nurses that frightened them with hideous fables and ugly words.

Notwithstanding, however, all this successful mystification, the
Arch-Mediocrity who presided, rather than ruled, over this Cabinet
of Mediocrities, became hourly more conscious that the inevitable
transition from fulfilling the duties of an administration to performing
the functions of a government could not be conducted without talents and
knowledge. The Arch-Mediocrity had himself some glimmering traditions
of political science. He was sprung from a laborious stock, had received
some training, and though not a statesman, might be classed among
those whom the Lord Keeper Williams used to call 'statemongers.' In a
subordinate position his meagre diligence and his frigid method might
not have been without value; but the qualities that he possessed were
misplaced; nor can any character be conceived less invested with the
happy properties of a leader. In the conduct of public affairs his
disposition was exactly the reverse of that which is the characteristic
of great men. He was peremptory in little questions, and great ones he
left open.

In the natural course of events, in 1819 there ought to have been a
change of government, and another party in the state should have entered
into office; but the Whigs, though they counted in their ranks at that
period an unusual number of men of great ability, and formed, indeed, a
compact and spirited opposition, were unable to contend against the new
adjustment of borough influence which had occurred during the war,
and under the protracted administration by which that war had been
conducted. New families had arisen on the Tory side that almost rivalled
old Newcastle himself in their electioneering management; and it was
evident that, unless some reconstruction of the House of Commons could
be effected, the Whig party could never obtain a permanent hold of
official power. Hence, from that period, the Whigs became Parliamentary
Reformers.

It was inevitable, therefore, that the country should be governed by the
same party; indispensable that the ministry should be renovated by new
brains and blood. Accordingly, a Mediocrity, not without repugnance, was



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