Benjamin Disraeli.

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induced to withdraw, and the great name of Wellington supplied his place
in council. The talents of the Duke, as they were then understood, were
not exactly of the kind most required by the cabinet, and his colleagues
were careful that he should not occupy too prominent a post; but
still it was an impressive acquisition, and imparted to the ministry a
semblance of renown.

There was an individual who had not long entered public life, but who
had already filled considerable, though still subordinate offices.
Having acquired a certain experience of the duties of administration,
and distinction for his mode of fulfilling them, he had withdrawn
from his public charge; perhaps because he found it a barrier to the
attainment of that parliamentary reputation for which he had already
shown both a desire and a capacity; perhaps because, being young and
independent, he was not over-anxious irremediably to identify his career
with a school of politics of the infallibility of which his experience
might have already made him a little sceptical. But he possessed the
talents that were absolutely wanted, and the terms were at his own
dictation. Another, and a very distinguished Mediocrity, who would not
resign, was thrust out, and Mr. Peel became Secretary of State.

From this moment dates that intimate connection between the Duke
of Wellington and the present First Minister, which has exercised a
considerable influence over the career of individuals and the course of
affairs. It was the sympathetic result of superior minds placed among
inferior intelligences, and was, doubtless, assisted by a then mutual
conviction, that the difference of age, the circumstance of sitting in
different houses, and the general contrast of their previous pursuits
and accomplishments, rendered personal rivalry out of the question. From
this moment, too, the domestic government of the country assumed a new
character, and one universally admitted to have been distinguished by a
spirit of enlightened progress and comprehensive amelioration.

A short time after this, a third and most distinguished Mediocrity died;
and Canning, whom they had twice worried out of the cabinet, where they
had tolerated him some time in an obscure and ambiguous position, was
recalled just in time from his impending banishment, installed in the
first post in the Lower House, and intrusted with the seals of the
Foreign Office. The Duke of Wellington had coveted them, nor could Lord
Liverpool have been insensible to his Grace's peculiar fitness for such
duties; but strength was required in the House of Commons, where they
had only one Secretary of State, a young man already distinguished, yet
untried as a leader, and surrounded by colleagues notoriously incapable
to assist him in debate.

The accession of Mr. Canning to the cabinet, in a position, too, of
surpassing influence, soon led to a further weeding of the Mediocrities,
and, among other introductions, to the memorable entrance of Mr.
Huskisson. In this wise did that cabinet, once notable only for the
absence of all those qualities which authorise the possession of power,
come to be generally esteemed as a body of men, who, for parliamentary
eloquence, official practice, political information, sagacity in
council, and a due understanding of their epoch, were inferior to none
that had directed the policy of the empire since the Revolution.

If we survey the tenor of the policy of the Liverpool Cabinet during the
latter moiety of its continuance, we shall find its characteristic to be
a partial recurrence to those frank principles of government which
Mr. Pitt had revived during the latter part of the last century from
precedents that had been set us, either in practice or in dogma, during
its earlier period, by statesmen who then not only bore the title,
but professed the opinions, of Tories. Exclusive principles in the
constitution, and restrictive principles in commerce, have grown up
together; and have really nothing in common with the ancient character
of our political settlement, or the manners and customs of the English
people. Confidence in the loyalty of the nation, testified by munificent
grants of rights and franchises, and favour to an expansive system of
traffic, were distinctive qualities of the English sovereignty, until
the House of Commons usurped the better portion of its prerogatives. A
widening of our electoral scheme, great facilities to commerce, and the
rescue of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects from the Puritanic yoke,
from fetters which have been fastened on them by English Parliaments in
spite of the protests and exertions of English Sovereigns; these were
the three great elements and fundamental truths of the real Pitt system,
a system founded on the traditions of our monarchy, and caught from the
writings, the speeches, the councils of those who, for the sake of these
and analogous benefits, had ever been anxious that the Sovereign of
England should never be degraded into the position of a Venetian Doge.

It is in the plunder of the Church that we must seek for the primary
cause of our political exclusion, and our commercial restraint. That
unhallowed booty created a factitious aristocracy, ever fearful that
they might be called upon to regorge their sacrilegious spoil. To
prevent this they took refuge in political religionism, and paltering
with the disturbed consciences, or the pious fantasies, of a portion of
the people, they organised them into religious sects. These became the
unconscious Praetorians of their ill-gotten domains. At the head
of these religionists, they have continued ever since to govern, or
powerfully to influence this country. They have in that time pulled
down thrones and churches, changed dynasties, abrogated and remodelled
parliaments; they have disfranchised Scotland and confiscated Ireland.
One may admire the vigour and consistency of the Whig party, and
recognise in their career that unity of purpose that can only spring
from a great principle; but the Whigs introduced sectarian religion,
sectarian religion led to political exclusion, and political exclusion
was soon accompanied by commercial restraint.

It would be fanciful to assume that the Liverpool Cabinet, in their
ameliorating career, was directed by any desire to recur to the
primordial tenets of the Tory party. That was not an epoch when
statesmen cared to prosecute the investigation of principles. It was
a period of happy and enlightened practice. A profounder policy is the
offspring of a time like the present, when the original postulates of
institutions are called in question. The Liverpool Cabinet unconsciously
approximated to these opinions, because from careful experiment they
were convinced of their beneficial tendency, and they thus bore an
unintentional and impartial testimony to their truth. Like many men, who
think they are inventors, they were only reproducing ancient wisdom.

But one must ever deplore that this ministry, with all their talents and
generous ardour, did not advance to principles. It is always perilous to
adopt expediency as a guide; but the choice may be sometimes imperative.
These statesmen, however, took expediency for their director, when
principle would have given them all that expediency ensured, and much
more.

This ministry, strong in the confidence of the sovereign, the
parliament, and the people, might, by the courageous promulgation of
great historical truths, have gradually formed a public opinion, that
would have permitted them to organise the Tory party on a broad, a
permanent, and national basis. They might have nobly effected a complete
settlement of Ireland, which a shattered section of this very cabinet
was forced a few years after to do partially, and in an equivocating
and equivocal manner. They might have concluded a satisfactory
reconstruction of the third estate, without producing that convulsion
with which, from its violent fabrication, our social system still
vibrates. Lastly, they might have adjusted the rights and properties
of our national industries in a manner which would have prevented that
fierce and fatal rivalry that is now disturbing every hearth of the
United Kingdom.

We may, therefore, visit on the _laches_ of this ministry the
introduction of that new principle and power into our constitution which
ultimately may absorb all, AGITATION. This cabinet, then, with so much
brilliancy on its surface, is the real parent of the Roman Catholic
Association, the Political Unions, the Anti-Corn-Law League.

There is no influence at the same time so powerful and so singular as
that of individual character. It arises as often from the weakness of
the character as from its strength. The dispersion of this clever and
showy ministry is a fine illustration of this truth. One morning the
Arch-Mediocrity himself died. At the first blush, it would seem that
little difficulties could be experienced in finding his substitute. His
long occupation of the post proved, at any rate, that the qualification
was not excessive. But this cabinet, with its serene and blooming
visage, had been all this time charged with fierce and emulous
ambitions. They waited the signal, but they waited in grim repose.
The death of the nominal leader, whose formal superiority, wounding no
vanity, and offending no pride, secured in their councils equality among
the able, was the tocsin of their anarchy. There existed in this cabinet
two men, who were resolved immediately to be prime ministers; a third
who was resolved eventually to be prime minister, but would at any rate
occupy no ministerial post without the lead of a House of Parliament;
and a fourth, who felt himself capable of being prime minister, but
despaired of the revolution which could alone make him one; and who
found an untimely end when that revolution had arrived.

Had Mr. Secretary Canning remained leader of the House of Commons under
the Duke of Wellington, all that he would have gained by the death of
Lord Liverpool was a master. Had the Duke of Wellington become Secretary
of State under Mr. Canning he would have materially advanced his
political position, not only by holding the seals of a high department
in which he was calculated to excel, but by becoming leader of the
House of Lords. But his Grace was induced by certain court intriguers to
believe that the King would send for him, and he was also aware that Mr.
Peel would no longer serve under any ministry in the House of Commons.
Under any circumstances it would have been impossible to keep the
Liverpool Cabinet together. The struggle, therefore, between the Duke of
Wellington and 'my dear Mr. Canning' was internecine, and ended somewhat
unexpectedly.

And here we must stop to do justice to our friend Mr. Rigby, whose
conduct on this occasion was distinguished by a bustling dexterity which
was quite charming. He had, as we have before intimated, on the credit
of some clever lampoons written during the Queen's trial, which were,
in fact, the effusions of Lucian Gay, wriggled himself into a sort of
occasional unworthy favour at the palace, where he was half butt and
half buffoon. Here, during the interregnum occasioned by the death, or
rather inevitable retirement, of Lord Liverpool, Mr. Rigby contrived
to scrape up a conviction that the Duke was the winning horse, and in
consequence there appeared a series of leading articles in a notorious
evening newspaper, in which it was, as Tadpole and Taper declared, most
'slashingly' shown, that the son of an actress could never be tolerated
as a Prime Minister of England. Not content with this, and never
doubting for a moment the authentic basis of his persuasion, Mr. Rigby
poured forth his coarse volubility on the subject at several of the new
clubs which he was getting up in order to revenge himself for having
been black-balled at White's.

What with arrangements about Lord Monmouth's boroughs, and the lucky
bottling of some claret which the Duke had imported on Mr. Rigby's
recommendation, this distinguished gentleman contrived to pay almost
hourly visits at Apsley House, and so bullied Tadpole and Taper that
they scarcely dared address him. About four-and-twenty hours before the
result, and when it was generally supposed that the Duke was in, Mr.
Rigby, who had gone down to Windsor to ask his Majesty the date of some
obscure historical incident, which Rigby, of course, very well knew,
found that audiences were impossible, that Majesty was agitated, and
learned, from an humble but secure authority, that in spite of all his
slashing articles, and Lucian Gay's parodies of the Irish melodies,
Canning was to be Prime Minister.

This would seem something of a predicament! To common minds; there are
no such things as scrapes for gentlemen with Mr. Rigby's talents for
action. He had indeed, in the world, the credit of being an adept in
machinations, and was supposed ever to be involved in profound and
complicated contrivances. This was quite a mistake. There was nothing
profound about Mr. Rigby; and his intellect was totally incapable of
devising or sustaining an intricate or continuous scheme. He was, in
short, a man who neither felt nor thought; but who possessed, in a
very remarkable degree, a restless instinct for adroit baseness. On the
present occasion he got into his carriage, and drove at the utmost speed
from Windsor to the Foreign Office. The Secretary of State was engaged
when he arrived; but Mr. Rigby would listen to no difficulties. He
rushed upstairs, flung open the door, and with agitated countenance, and
eyes suffused with tears, threw himself into the arms of the astonished
Mr. Canning.

'All is right,' exclaimed the devoted Rigby, in broken tones; 'I have
convinced the King that the First Minister must be in the House of
Commons. No one knows it but myself; but it is certain.'

We have seen that at an early period of his career, Mr. Peel withdrew
from official life. His course had been one of unbroken prosperity; the
hero of the University had become the favourite of the House of Commons.
His retreat, therefore, was not prompted by chagrin. Nor need it have
been suggested by a calculating ambition, for the ordinary course of
events was fast bearing to him all to which man could aspire. One
might rather suppose, that he had already gained sufficient experience,
perhaps in his Irish Secretaryship, to make him pause in that career of
superficial success which education and custom had hitherto chalked out
for him, rather than the creative energies of his own mind. A thoughtful
intellect may have already detected elements in our social system which
required a finer observation, and a more unbroken study, than the gyves
and trammels of office would permit. He may have discovered that the
representation of the University, looked upon in those days as the
blue ribbon of the House of Commons, was a sufficient fetter without
unnecessarily adding to its restraint. He may have wished to reserve
himself for a happier occasion, and a more progressive period. He may
have felt the strong necessity of arresting himself in his rapid career
of felicitous routine, to survey his position in calmness, and to
comprehend the stirring age that was approaching.

For that, he could not but be conscious that the education which he had
consummated, however ornate and refined, was not sufficient. That age
of economical statesmanship which Lord Shelburne had predicted in 1787,
when he demolished, in the House of Lords, Bishop Watson and the
Balance of Trade, which Mr. Pitt had comprehended; and for which he was
preparing the nation when the French Revolution diverted the public mind
into a stronger and more turbulent current, was again impending, while
the intervening history of the country had been prolific in events which
had aggravated the necessity of investigating the sources of the wealth
of nations. The time had arrived when parliamentary preeminence could no
longer be achieved or maintained by gorgeous abstractions borrowed from
Burke, or shallow systems purloined from De Lolme, adorned with Horatian
points, or varied with Virgilian passages. It was to be an age of
abstruse disquisition, that required a compact and sinewy intellect,
nurtured in a class of learning not yet honoured in colleges, and which
might arrive at conclusions conflicting with predominant prejudices.

Adopting this view of the position of Mr. Peel, strengthened as it is by
his early withdrawal for a while from the direction of public affairs,
it may not only be a charitable but a true estimate of the motives which
influenced him in his conduct towards Mr. Canning, to conclude that he
was not guided in that transaction by the disingenuous rivalry
usually imputed to him. His statement in Parliament of the determining
circumstances of his conduct, coupled with his subsequent and almost
immediate policy, may perhaps always leave this a painful and ambiguous
passage in his career; but in passing judgment on public men, it behoves
us ever to take large and extended views of their conduct; and previous
incidents will often satisfactorily explain subsequent events, which,
without their illustrating aid, are involved in misapprehension or
mystery.

It would seem, therefore, that Sir Robert Peel, from an early period,
meditated his emancipation from the political confederacy in which
he was implicated, and that he has been continually baffled in this
project. He broke loose from Lord Liverpool; he retired from Mr.
Canning. Forced again into becoming the subordinate leader of the
weakest government in parliamentary annals, he believed he had at length
achieved his emancipation, when he declared to his late colleagues,
after the overthrow of 1830, that he would never again accept a
secondary position in office. But the Duke of Wellington was too old a
tactician to lose so valuable an ally. So his Grace declared after the
Reform Bill was passed, as its inevitable result, that thenceforth
the Prime Minister must be a member of the House of Commons; and this
aphorism, cited as usual by the Duke's parasites as demonstration of his
supreme sagacity, was a graceful mode of resigning the preeminence which
had been productive of such great party disasters. It is remarkable
that the party who devised and passed the Reform Bill, and who, in
consequence, governed the nation for ten years, never once had their
Prime Minister in the House of Commons: but that does not signify; the
Duke's maxim is still quoted as an oracle almost equal in prescience
to his famous query, 'How is the King's government to be carried on?'
a question to which his Grace by this time has contrived to give a
tolerably practical answer.

Sir Robert Peel, who had escaped from Lord Liverpool, escaped from Mr.
Canning, escaped even from the Duke of Wellington in 1832, was at
length caught in 1834; the victim of ceaseless intriguers, who neither
comprehended his position, nor that of their country.




CHAPTER II.


Beaumanoir was one of those Palladian palaces, vast and ornate, such
as the genius of Kent and Campbell delighted in at the beginning of the
eighteenth century. Placed on a noble elevation, yet screened from the
northern blast, its sumptuous front, connected with its far-spreading
wings by Corinthian colonnades, was the boast and pride of the midland
counties. The surrounding gardens, equalling in extent the size of
ordinary parks, were crowded with temples dedicated to abstract virtues
and to departed friends. Occasionally a triumphal arch celebrated a
general whom the family still esteemed a hero; and sometimes a votive
column commemorated the great statesman who had advanced the family a
step in the peerage. Beyond the limits of this pleasance the hart and
hind wandered in a wilderness abounding in ferny coverts and green and
stately trees.

The noble proprietor of this demesne had many of the virtues of his
class; a few of their failings. He had that public spirit which became
his station. He was not one of those who avoided the exertions and the
sacrifices which should be inseparable from high position, by the hollow
pretext of a taste for privacy, and a devotion to domestic joys. He
was munificent, tender, and bounteous to the poor, and loved a flowing
hospitality. A keen sportsman, he was not untinctured by letters,
and had indeed a cultivated taste for the fine arts. Though an ardent
politician, he was tolerant to adverse opinions, and full of amenity
to his opponents. A firm supporter of the corn-laws, he never refused
a lease. Notwithstanding there ran through his whole demeanour and the
habit of his mind, a vein of native simplicity that was full of charm,
his manner was finished. He never offended any one's self-love. His good
breeding, indeed, sprang from the only sure source of gentle manners,
a kind heart. To have pained others would have pained himself. Perhaps,
too, this noble sympathy may have been in some degree prompted by the
ancient blood in his veins, an accident of lineage rather rare with the
English nobility. One could hardly praise him for the strong affections
that bound him to his hearth, for fortune had given him the most
pleasing family in the world; but, above all, a peerless wife.

The Duchess was one of those women who are the delight of existence. She
was sprung from a house not inferior to that with which she had blended,
and was gifted with that rare beauty which time ever spares, so that she
seemed now only the elder sister of her own beautiful daughters. She,
too, was distinguished by that perfect good breeding which is the result
of nature and not of education: for it may be found in a cottage, and
may be missed in a palace. 'Tis a genial regard for the feelings of
others that springs from an absence of selfishness. The Duchess, indeed,
was in every sense a fine lady; her manners were refined and full of
dignity; but nothing in the world could have induced her to appear bored
when another was addressing or attempting to amuse her. She was not one
of those vulgar fine ladies who meet you one day with a vacant stare, as
if unconscious of your existence, and address you on another in a tone
of impertinent familiarity. Her temper, perhaps, was somewhat quick,
which made this consideration for the feelings of others still more
admirable, for it was the result of a strict moral discipline acting
on a good heart. Although the best of wives and mothers, she had some
charity for her neighbours. Needing herself no indulgence, she could be
indulgent; and would by no means favour that strait-laced morality
that would constrain the innocent play of the social body. She was
accomplished, well read, and had a lively fancy. Add to this that
sunbeam of a happy home, a gay and cheerful spirit in its mistress, and
one might form some faint idea of this gracious personage.

The eldest son of this house was now on the continent; of his
two younger brothers, one was with his regiment and the other was
Coningsby's friend at Eton, our Henry Sydney. The two eldest daughters
had just married, on the same day, and at the same altar; and the
remaining one, Theresa, was still a child.

The Duke had occupied a chief post in the Household under the late
administration, and his present guests chiefly consisted of his former
colleagues in office. There were several members of the late cabinet,
several members for his Grace's late boroughs, looking very much like
martyrs, full of suffering and of hope. Mr. Tadpole and Mr. Taper were
also there; they too had lost their seats since 1832; but being men of
business, and accustomed from early life to look about them, they had
already commenced the combinations which on a future occasion were to
bear them back to the assembly where they were so missed.

Taper had his eye on a small constituency which had escaped the fatal
schedules, and where he had what they called a 'connection;' that is to
say, a section of the suffrages who had a lively remembrance of Treasury
favours once bestowed by Mr. Taper, and who had not been so liberally
dealt with by the existing powers. This connection of Taper was in time
to leaven the whole mass of the constituent body, and make it rise in
full rebellion against its present liberal representative, who being
one of a majority of three hundred, could get nothing when he called at
Whitehall or Downing Street.

Tadpole, on the contrary, who was of a larger grasp of mind than
Taper, with more of imagination and device but not so safe a man, was
coquetting with a manufacturing town and a large constituency, where he
was to succeed by the aid of the Wesleyans, of which pious body he had



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