The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83
Disraeli in Power
Disraeli in Power.
An opportune work is the "History of Two Parliaments," by Mr Lucy, published by Cassell. The two Parliaments are Disraeli's from 1874 to 1880, and Gladstone's, from 1880 to 1885. We have the first volume, dealing with the administration of Disraeli. The page 54 names of Beaconsfield and Gordon are the idols of the British nation at present.
Disraeli had brief tenures of office in 1852 and 1858, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, under the Earl of Derby, and a somewhat longer innings in 1867-8, when he drove through the Reform Bill. Lord Malmesbury, in his Memoirs, brings out the friction between the easy-going Derby, who was in fact an admirer of his rival Palmerston, and the ardent, pushing Disraeli. In 1868 Dizzy enjoyed a fitful premiership, being quickly deposed by Gladstone, who then ruled for six years, till Disraeli returned to power, in 1874.
Mr. Lucy's is the second history of the Disraeli Administration 1874-80. The other was written by the Rev. Mr. Clayden, with what the Liberals termed a crushing indictment. The points chiefly attacked were Disraeli's Afghan, South African, and Egyptian policies.
The situation of 1878 has rolled round again, with the Lion's tail stiffened, and the Bear on his hind legs. Beaconsfield's attitude throughout the whole crisis was that of the Sphinx. Punch depicted him as such, steadfast, unmoveable, with the stony eyes devoid of all expression. Press and Parliament might storm, rave and beseech, but the badger could not be drawn. Everyone felt the power of this silence. It won the respect of France, Germany, Austria and Russia, besides that of England.
Disraeli concentred in himself the whole power of England. It was a storage of electric force. "Beware!" was the word which expressed the sense of this attitude throughout the world. Everyone—even the Russian, said that the prestige of England had been restored.
The Eastern Question mounted up and up in intensity. Every eye was on Disraeli at the helm. "Speak!" implored London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Constantinople, St. Petersburg. "No," said the Sphinx. "I do not argue; I strike, First the blow and then the word. England does not fear a second or a third campaign. She is not a Bankrupt Power. Beware!"
The purchase of the Suez Canal shares was a stroke unheralded by a word. The withering rhetoric of Gladstone could not change the situation. Greenwood, of the Pall Mall Gazette went to the Earl of Derby, as Foreign Secretary, and said, "Half the Suez Canal shares are in the market, and being hawked about Europe. The English Government ought to buy them." The thing was pooh-poohed at first, but Beaconsfield saw the advisability, nay, the necessity of the step. So the Rothschilds advanced eight millions, and the announcement came like a thunderclap, that this transaction had been effected, without a word being spoken to the House of Commons, which holds the purse strings of the nation.
Imagine how Gladstone, the Financier, squared his shoulders page 55 and lashed into Beaconsfield. But it was no use. The Commons ratified this unconstitutional and daring piece of business. It told the French that they could not rule in Egypt. Beaconsfield's aim was always to cement the alliance with Imperial Germany and Austria, and when it had been fully effected, not until near the end of his tether of power, Salisbury characterised the news as "glad tidings of great joy." Gladstone quickly burst it up, and flung himself into the arms of France and Russia. The outcome of this is that Germany, Austria, and Russia are in a strict league, and France has almost joined it too, while England stands all alone among the five great Powers.
Strange that Lord Derby should have been the Foreign Minister of Lord Beaconsfield, and come to hold the Colonial Office under Mr. Gladstone. The secret history of the Beaconsfield Cabinet is beginning to be unveiled, how Derby restrained his chief from measures which might have plunged Europe into war. At last the tension between them became too highly strung, when Beaconsfield ordered the British fleet to steam through the Dardanelles, to Constantinople. Derby retired.
This rupture was severely felt on both sides. Beaconsfield never could forget what he owed to Lord Derby's father, and their own friendship had been of the closest. Lord Derby entered upon the course which landed him as a member of the Liberal Party, and colleague of Mr. Gladstone.
Mr. Lucy unfolds the circumstances of the Treaty of Berlin. War looked inevitable, when the interposition of Bismarck brought about a conference. Beaconsfield and Count Schouvaloff, the Russian ambassador in London, arrived at a private settlement. This was signed and sealed before ever the Conference of Berlin began. Unfortunately the London Foreign Office was so indiscreet as to employ clerks, at tenpence an hour, to copy State documents of the greatest moment. Mr. Charles Marvin was one of those clerks. He copied the Secret Treaty, and sold it to the Globe newspaper for £50.
What a hubbub! The Government absolutely foamed at the mouth. Lord Salisbury, the Foreign Minister, tried to deny the authenticity of the disclosure on some quibble, but it was no use. The sting was taken out of the conference, the edge gone off it. It was all a carefully rehearsed play, entitled "Bamboozle." Marvin was to be prosecuted, and what not, but they could not punish him. His fortune was made. He bad talent to back up his audacity, and is now a recognised writer of ability, on the Eastern Question in particular.
Mr. Lucy paints the closing scenes of the Beaconsfield Administration artistically. There was Gladstone's dash into "The Heart of Midlothian," the stronghold of the bold Buccleuch. What emotions overwhelmed him as he paced the wood of Dalmeny page 56 on the eve of the general election. Then came the tremendous verdict. Gladstone, the "sophistical rhetorician, intoxicated with the exuberance of his own verbosity," as Beaconsfield styled him, again sprang into the saddle. The Queen tried Granville and Hartington. It was no good. Gladstone must be sent for.
"This too shall pass away!" So said the Eastern sage, in Prosperity and Adversity. In the National Pantheon, when this generation is old, will be inscribed the names of Gladstone, Beaconsfield, Gordon—all men who have deserved well of their country. Each will have a niche in the Westminster Abbey of great, glorious, and indestructible England I For, look you, all these struggles testify to the vigor and health of our national life, as that of no trembling France, or iron bound Germany, or Vesuvian Russia.
We may add a recommendation of the biographies of Disraeli by Messrs. O'Connor and Hitchman, both violently coloured, the former Liberal, and the latter Conservative.