Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 41

The Earl of Beaconsfield and his Work

page break

The Earl of Beaconsfield and his Work.

The death of the Earl of Beaconsfield, K. G., at the ripe age of seventy-six, was the most noteworthy event of the past month. Under ordinary circumstances the death of an English nobleman would excite no interest beyond his own immediate circle; but in this case one of the most remarkable men of the century has passed away. Let us see who and what this man was in his lifetime, and consider the part he played in the world's affairs, that we may form a just estimate of his character.

The Parliamentary Companion has a brief mention of the deceased statesman. Born in 1805, he sat continuously in the House of Commons from 1837 till 1876, when he was raised to the peerage as Earl of Beaconsfield and Viscount Hughenden, in the County of Bucks; a Privy Councilor; Knight of the Garter; D.C.L. of Oxford, and LL. D. of Edinburgh and Glasgow; an Elder Brother of the Trinity House; was three times Chancellor of the Exchequer, twice Prime Minister, and once (1876) Lord Privy Seal; was Commissioner of Education for Scotland, and one of the committee of the Council on Education; also, Rector of the University of Glasgow, etc.; and, let us add, that at the time of his death he was leader of Her Majesty's opposition—in other words, keeper of the Government conscience. How well or how ill he performed this function latterly, it is not for us to say. His opportunities for pricking the Government conscience were not numerous since the accession of Mr. Gladstone to office; but if he had lived longer, we may be sure he would not have allowed it to sleep on guard.

A mere recital of these dignities and honors shows that Lord Beaconsfield was no ordinary man. To be three times Chancellor of the Exchequer and twice Prime Minister of England is a distinction which falls to the lot of few men, however exalted their birth or distinguished their talents may be. But when these dignities and honors have been fairly won and honorably worn by a man who had nothing behind him in the battle of life but his own audacious talent, and who, moreover, belonged to a proscribed race, the wonder becomes all the greater, and he rises superior, in all the qualities of leadership, to contemporary statesmen, to whom he has been a source of mingled admiration and distrust Benjamin Disraeli the Law advent Christianity), had no peer as a parliamentary leader. He was a self-made man, and consciously so. At no time during his long and checkered career did he fail to stand on guard. I He knew that success was the price of unflagging vigilance. His own party distrusted him J while obeying his mandates; and more than once the existence of the Conservative party! was jeopardized by defections within the Ministry, caused by antipathy toward him and distrust of his methods. But that which would have proved almost fatal to a Liberal statesman did not appear to weaken him in the least. Thus, when Lords Derby and Carnarvon resigned office in the very crisis of the Eastern question, the Premier, Lord Beaconsfield, at once presented a bolder front, and strengthened his Cabinet by appointing Earl Derby's brother and heir as Secretary of War, and giving the seals of the Foreign Office to the Marquis of Salisbury, who had been his bitterest I opponent within the Conservative party, and the recognized rival of Lord Derby. As Lord Robert Cecil, the Marquis of Salisbury had persistently assailed Mr. Disraeli in the Quarterly Review; and at a subsequent period, when Lord Cranbourne, he led the bolt from Earl Derby's second administration on the celebrated "Ten Minutes Reform Bill," in which he was followed by Earl Carnarvon and General Peel. Excepting the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Premier, these were by far the ablest members of that Government, but their places were filled by men of higher social position.

Thus, the Ministry was strengthened instead of weakened by this defection, just as in later years the resignation of the two Earls, Carnarvon and Derby, already mentioned, strengthened Lord Beaconfield's political influence, and led up to the short-lived but remarkable popular outburst known as Jingoism. Personal changes within the Cabinet are nearly always fatal to Liberal administrations, as witness the Adullamite episode, and the disintegration of Mr. Gladstone's government in 1874, after he had carried the Irish Church Disestablishment Bill and the Irish Land Bill. The explanation is found in the totally different conditions under which the Tory and Liberal governments of England have existed since the overthrow of [unclear: Sir Robert Peel in 1846 The Liberal Party] page 4 ment is always composed of men of strong individuality and directness of purpose. Liberal statesmen are conscientious. They feel that they have a mission to fulfill, and mere party exigencies are not a featherweight in the scale of their judgment when balanced against principle. Hence, in the very nature of things, a Liberal Government cannot be permanent in the present transition stage of English politics. Conflicts of opinion will arise within the Cabinet; cabals will be formed within the party; pressure from without will influence the "independent" wing; and then, when a crisis arises, instead of standing back to back and showing an unbroken front to the enemy, the Liberals present the humiliating spectacle of a divided power, and the field is lost.

The Tories, since the defeat of Peel, have become a party of expediency. The Tory party represents no principle. It has formulated no plan of progress. It was the creation of one mind, and it became the slave of that superior and subtle intelligence which thought for and led it—Benjamin Disraeli.

When the parliamentary history of the reign of Queen Victoria comes to be written, we think it will be found that this judgment, harsh as it may seem, is correct. The landed gentlemen of England, dull of thought, averse to change, and in their innermost heart and soul despising their leader, yet followed him blindly whithersoever he led. He was a bold leader, and understood the fox-hunting, wine-drinking, hard-headed, chivalrous pack which obeyed the crack of his whip. They were educated in the belief that the legislative power was theirs of right, and that the trading classes were parliamentary interlopers. They felt instinctively that Benjamin Disraeli was an aristocrat at heart; they knew that he had no sympathy with the common people—that he did not understand, and that he had no wish to understand them. To Disraeli, as to them, the people were useful merely as pawns in the game of government, but not otherwise to be thought of or mentioned. A party so led and disciplined had at least cohesive power. It did not think for itself; and when one or two of the leading men became restive and resented their contemptuous treatment, they were left without a following. The Tories stood stanch by their leader, for they had the sense to know that without him they would soon lose their political influence and be swept over the rapids of radical innovation by the constantly swelling wave of popular demands. Hence it has happened that the Tory party in England, although numerically far weaker than the liberal and progressive and in some respects, to be mentioned further on, even surpassed the Liberals in the breadth and scope of its legislative achievements.

But the task of the Tory chief was a hard one. It admitted of no rest from scheming, no respite from intrigue. It suited his restless and ambitious spirit. In early life he confessed that his forte was sedition. He was cynically candid. Being invested with the responsibilities of state, however, his natural bias for sedition was directed into another and less dangerous channel, and he became an adept in party management. His tact and vigilance were unwearied, and he never failed to offset the defection of one great noble by securing the adhesion of another of equal social influence and political consideration. In this art of management he was without a rival. It was natural to him, perhaps, to judge men accurately, but the necessities of his position sharpened his wits and greatly emboldened him. He must act promptly, if at all; hence his social successes were almost invariably the foundation for his political triumphs.

Never did a responsible Minister of the Crown in England venture to dispense its honors, in the sovereign's name, with such lavish, and withal so judicious, a hand. He enlarged the peerage by many additions. His creations in every case strengthened his hold upon the governing families of the kingdom, and commended themselves to the popular imagination. He had a weakness for strawberry leaves, and, therefore, did not hesitate to create dukes. No one, for example, could take exception to the Marquis of Abercorn being advanced to a dukedom. As heir male of the princely house of Hamilton, his social position and political services in Ireland alike entitled him to this distinction. Moreover, he had been badly treated 1; by the French Emperor. The Marquis of Abercorn had established in the French courts his right to the ducal title of Chatelherault, which had been in the Hamilton family for centuries; but Napoleon III., by virtue of his prerogative, refused to recognize his claim, and confirmed the title to his own relative by marriage—the Duke of Hamilton. Thus, the Tory chief compensated the Marquis of Abercorn for the loss of his French title by an Irish one of equal rank, and more substantial privileges. Neither could any fault be found with the revival of the ducal title of Gordon in the person of the Duke of Richmond, a Tory peer of great influence in the House of Lords. His dukedoms of Lennox in Scotland and Daubigny in France were sufficient vouchers for his respectability outside of his English title. In truth, however, page 5 only a political Bohemian like Benjamin Disraeli would have ventured upon, because the right to the ducal title of Gordon was stoutly contested by another powerful family, and with superior claims to those which the Duke of Richmond could urge; but the daring Minister settled this momentous social controversy by rewarding his own political ally and friend, who is now encumbered with four ducal titles and all the prestige thereto belonging. Lord Beaconsfield always rewarded his friends; he never forgave his enemies. In the selection of men for administrative appointments his nominees invariably turned out well, to the surprise and gratification of the country. He read men and their motives like an open book, but while probing the secrets of others he always wore a mask, and no man ever knew his secret thoughts.

To go back, however, to the beginning, Benjamin Disraeli was born in London, in December, 1805, of Jewish parents. His father was a man of culture and ability, and is famous as the author of The Curiosities of Literature, and several other works of a like character. He was also a D. C. L. of Oxford. The elder Disraeli paid more attention to his literary work than to his family, and there was some danger of the subject of this sketch growing up destitute of a polite education but for the intervention of friends, among whom was the poet Rodgers, through whose influence he was baptized, and became nominally a member of the Church of England. Thenceafter, Benjamin Disraeli observed the forms of the Christian religion, but he never forgot his race or its striking vicissitudes, and his speech in support of the Jewish Disabilities Bill in after years, as leader of the House of Commons, did much to insure the success of that measure. He was articled to a city attorney at his father's request, but soon abandoned the study of law as uncongenial to his tastes. His peculiar training and straightened circumstances sharpened his wits, and he very early chalked out for himself the career to which he adhered strictly throughout life. He resolved to make a literary reputation, on the strength of which he should get into Parliament; and once there, he felt satisfied that he could make his way. Fortune favored him, but not until he had compelled her to smile upon him.

In his twenty-third year Benjamin Disraeli published Vivian Grey, a work of undoubted genius, in which he sketched his own character and ambition. This was followed at intervals by The Young Duke, Henrietta Temple, Contarini Flemming, Alroy, and other works of imagination. He took a higher flight than mere [unclear: ed] as a great dramatist, and published a tragedy of which nobody now ever thinks of hears, and A Revolutionary Epic in 1834—the latter political. It was the subject of criticism in the House of Commons in the Stanfeld-Mazzini debate, by Mr. Bright, a quarter of a century later, and gave him very great annoyance. It is full of absurd passages, and the following lines were alluded to by Bright as justifying tyrannicide:

"The spirit of her strong career was mine;
And the bold Brutus but propelled the blow
Her own and Nature's laws alike approved."

Disraeli denied that there was anything at all justifying Bright's charge, and published a revised edition, in which this passage is very materially changed. In fact, it is emasculated. The best known of all Disraeli's books perhaps are his latest novels—Lothair and Endymtion. His Life of Lord George Bentinck and a biography of his father are of no special interest. Suffice it, however, that the young author attracted a great deal of attention at home and abroad by his writings, and numbered among his admiring correspondents, Heinrich Heine and Goethe. He was a prolific writer, but his books were not then regarded as likely to hold a permanent place in standard literature. Society opened its arms to this remarkable young man. His appearance was quite as striking as his manners were oddly eccentric. He dressed elaborately. Indeed, he was always overdressed in the most showy fashion, and covered with rings and chains. His hair hung in dark ringlets over his left brow; his face was pale and immobile, save for the fire and vivacity of his piercing black eyes. The face was a typical Jewish face—not of the handsomest perhaps, but strong, resolute, and with clear-cut features. His conversation was bright and sparkling, full of exaggeration and the most extravagant assertion, but always, and at all times, entertaining. He was an amusing puzzle to some; to others he was a mystery, which time was only partially to unravel. He owed much to the celebrated Countess of Blessington, who introduced him to fashionable society, and was his stanch friend during her lifetime. Beckford, the eccentric author of Vathek, was also an admirer of young Disraeli, who went abroad and made a long tour through Italy, Greece, Albania, Syria, Nubia, and Egypt. His impressions upon this tour colored all his subsequent writings.

The period had now arrived when Disraeli thought he should take part in public affairs. England was convulsed by the Reform agita-[unclear: inr] page 6 the pocket-borough of High Wycombe, which had thirty-five registered voters, Disraeli stood for the seat on ultra-Radical principles, but was defeated by Colonel Grey, son of Earl Grey, the Premier. Twelve votes only were cast for the political adventurer, and the son of the Reform Premier took his seat. But time brings around its revenges to him that can wait. In 1868, when the late Lord Derby resigned, the Queen's letter to Mr. Disraeli, commanding him to form a Ministry, was brought to him by her equerry, General Grey, who, thirty-seven years before, had defeated him in the Wycombe election. Their respective positions had changed somewhat in the interval, the odds now being with the literary adventurer, who, on being asked at Wycombe upon what he stood for Parliament, answered that he stood upon his head.

Benjamin Disraeli, having once made up his mind to do a thing, was not easily baffled. A general election having followed soon after his first defeat, he stood for Wycombe a second time, and was again beaten by a Whig. This exasperated him, and he never after forgave the Whigs. He perceived that there was more noise than substance in the Radical party, and resolved to abandon Daniel O'Connell, Joseph Hume, and W. J. Fox, under whom he had trained for Parliament, and secure more substantial backing. Accordingly, he stood for Marylebone the first opportunity as a Tory, and defended his apostasy from Liberalism in the following audacious words:

"A statesman is the creature of his age, a child of circumstances, the creation of his times. A statesman is essentially a practical character, and when he is called upon to take office he is not to inquire what his opinions may have been upon this or that subject; he is only to ascertain the needful, the beneficial, and the most feasible manner in which affairs are to be carried on. I laugh, therefore, at the objections to a man that at a former period of his career he advocated a policy different from the present one."

This apostasy exasperated O'Connell, who had done his best to get Disraeli into Parliament, and in a speech at Dublin he scarified the young political renegade. "Having been twice defeated by the Radicals," he exclaimed, "this miscreant was just the fellow for the Conservatives." Then, after a glowing tribute to the Hebrew race, he alluded to the apostasy of his victim, and said: "It will not be supposed, therefore, that when I speak of Disraeli as a Jew, I mean to tarnish him on that account. His life is a living lie. The Jews were once the chosen people of God. There were miscreants among them, and it must have been from one of these, that Disraeli descended. He possesses all the qualities of the impenitent thief who died on the cross, and for aught I know the present Disraeli is his true heir-at-law." This tirade was followed by a challenge from Disraeli addressed to O'Connell's son, Morgan, who refused to accept it, and who was sustained by public opinion. In his letter, Disraeli says: "Words fail to express the utter scorn in which I hold your father's character, and the disgust with which his conduct inspires me. I shall take every opportunity of holding up his name to public contempt, and I fervently pray that you, or some of your blood, may attempt to assuage the inextinguishable hatred with which I shall pursue his existence."

The code was then in fashion, and Disraeli, although he never had a hostile meeting, always expressed his readiness to fight if called to account. This was almost necessary, because he was in the habit of using the most violent and abusive language toward his political antagonists. Sir James Graham described him, after he had become Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the red Indian of debate, who had scalped his way into power with a tomahawk, and was determined to retain power by the same means.

In 1835, Disraeli stood for Taunton in the Tory interest, and was again defeated. On the hustings he kept up the quarrel with O'Connell, whom he denounced as "a bloody traitor." His perseverance was at length rewarded. In 1837 he was returned to Parliament for Maidstone through the influence of Wyndham Lewis, whose money had enabled him to contest three elections, and whose widow he married in 1839. This was the turning point in his life. His marriage brought him fortune and social influence. It gave him also the love and solicitude of a noble woman, older than himself by ten years, but entirely devoted to him. And to his honor be it said that he returned her affection.

The Queen having offered him a peerage in 1868, he refused it for himself, but accepted it for his wife, who was created Viscountess Beaconsfield in her own right. Her death, some years ago, was a severe blow to him, besides involving a large pecuniary loss, as her life interest in her former husband's estates passed to the Lewis family.

In his first session, in 1837, Benjamin Disraeli followed O'Connell in a debate in which that consummate orator had attacked Sir Charles Burdett for deserting the Liberal party. The scene has become historical. Disraeli's exaggerated style, his foppish attire, his theatrical gestures and ludicrous remarks excited the House to the most uproarious mirth and he page 7 was rudely laughed down. Before resuming his seat, he turned to the Liberal party, and exclaimed, with passionate energy:

"I have begun several times many things, and I often succeed at last; ay, sir, and though I sit down now the time will come when you will hear me."

The prediction came true. He spoke often and well after this, but, somehow, the House paid no heed to him. From 1841 to 1847 he sat for Shrewsbury; but although a frequent and aggressive speaker he possessed no weight.

At the general election in 1847, he was returned for the county of Bucks, for which he sat continuously until the night of August 11, 1876, which was his last appearance in the House of Commons. It was upon that last great occasion that he outlined and defended the "imperial policy of England." Next morning the country was astounded by the announcement that Mr. Disraeli had been created Earl of Beaconsfield, and would henceforth lead the peers of England. He had fairly won his title, and no one grudged him it. Only, men of all shades of party regretted that the great name of Benjamin Disraeli, and his peculiar reputation, should be lost under the new and unknown title of Earl of Beaconsfield. But those who thought so misjudged the man. It was as the Earl of Beaconsfield that he won his highest laurels as a statesman and became a great historical character in Europe.

Let us return once more to the thread of our narrative. In 1841, and for several years afterward, Disraeli was recognized as the leader of the Young England party—a party which did no good to anything or any cause, and which had no element of good in it. In 1846 Sir Robert Peel introduced his famous Corn Law Bill, and it was then Disraeli saw the great opportunity of his life and boldly seized upon it. The protectionist policy had been successful at the polls; and it was with amazement and rage, therefore, that the Conservatives (as Peel styled the Tories) heard the Premier announce, almost the first day of the session, that he had adopted a free trade policy and would introduce a bill repealing the corn law. They were speechless; but one man was neither speechless nor amazed, and that man was Benjamin Disraeli. He arose and assailed Peel in tones of such bitter invective as had never before been heard in the House. It was a remarkable speech on a remarkable occasion, and it was the making of the despised political adventurer. Suddenly, without their seeking, a man arose to lead the squirearchy of England, and they rallied around him with the spiration of hope that in this political Arab they had found their Moses. And they really had done so, though they were slow to believe the fact, despite their loyalty to him. "The country party" was the political issue of that speech; and before the session closed, Disraeli gave the Tories their revenge by combining with the Irish members to defeat the Coercion Bill. The very day which saw the Corn Law Bill pass the House of Lords, witnessed Peel's defeat and final downfall in the House of Commons. That great statesman fell in the very hour of triumph, to rise no more. He soon afterward died from the effects of a fall from his horse. But Disraeli's time had not yet fully come. The coalition which turned out Peel could not hold together. The Whigs came into office and remained in power until 1852, when Earl Derby's first and short-lived administration was formed, of which Disraeli was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and leader of the House of Commons. He had succeeded to the leadership of the country party on the death of Lord George Bentinck, who died suddenly, it was supposed from poison administerd by Palmer, a country physician and sporting man, who owed Lord George money on bets, and who, soon afterward, poisoned one Cooke, to get rid of a similar obligation, for which crime he was tried and hanged. But, in truth, Disraeli was the brains of the country party; although it suited him to make a son of the Duke of Portland the figurehead. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Disraeli's first duty was to renounce the heresy of protection, for abandoning which he had denounced Peel so terribly. Facts and figures were not to be controverted, however. Sophistry and assertion could not get rid of them. Yet strange as it may seem, the squirearchy followed him like lambs. The short session, in which Earl Derby found himself in office very much against his will, passed off without any serious incident, and a good deal of useful work was done. Next session, when Disraeli, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced a financial scheme, he was replied to on the spot by Mr. Gladstone, despite the very advanced hour of the night when he closed his budget. This impromptu speech by Gladstone crushed the Chancellor, who, truth to say, never professed to understand finance. The House and country recognized the inherent worthlessness of Disraeli's scheme, and the Government went out of office. This was the first round in the long and fiercely fought battle between Disraeli and Gladstone; and, by a singular chance—say, rather, by a wonderful dispensation of Providence—Gladstone was the victor first and last. Thus Peel and page 8 this principles were vindicated by his great pupil and the Tories were thrust once more into the background.

Owing to the political vicissitudes of the times, Lord Derby again took office in 1858, with Disraeli as Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House of Commons. He had made the place for himself in his party, and he insisted upon filling it. Reform was then the paramount question, and Disraeli introduced a comprehensive bill dealing with the subject, providing all kinds of fancy suffrage. This was too absurd for the common sense Commons of England, and the Tories went out in 1859 on a vote of want of confidence. The Palmerston-Russell Government succeeded to power, and remained in office till Lord Palmerston's death in October, 1865, when the Russell-Gladstone Government was formed; but in 1866 it was defeated on a no-confidence motion. For the third time Lord Derby took office, with Disraeli as leader of the House of Commons.

The Russell-Gladstone Government having been ousted for the insufficiency of its Reform Bill, Disraeli felt that the Tories must do something to settle it; and it was during this conjuncture they took the celebrated "leap in the dark," which was to do them so much political service subsequently. Disraeli claimed afterward to have "educated his party up to it;" but, in truth, their education was undertaken by the Liberal party in the House of Commons, and it was completed by promptly abandoning their

own measures and adopting those of the opposition. The history of the Reform Bill of 1867 is one of the most amusing and instructive incidents in the course of English Parliamentary Government, and was a triumph of liberal principles brought about by the most unlooked for and unnatural of political conjunctions. But the point of the incident, for the purpose of this review, was the masterly and unscrupulous way in which Disraeli adapted himself to the will of the majority, changing front almost daily, and dragging his party with him from pillar to post of inconsistency. His motive was a personal one. He wanted to be the Minister which had settled the Reform question—not because he favored an extension of the suffrage (for he did not), but because that by so doing he would strengthen his hold upon the English people and increase his popularity. He felt secure of his followers. He knew the Tories could not afford to desert him, and, therefore, when he boldly conceded the demands of "The Tea-Room Party," which went far beyond anything Gladstone or Bright proposed, or even considered politic, he conciliated the ultra-Radicals, and compelled the Liberal leaders to sustain him also on pain of political extinction. The Tories took the leap in the dark after their leader, and the Liberals helped to make the Reform Bill a really valuable and progressive measure. It is in this way the Tories claim to be more Liberal than the Liberal party, and the workingmen of England at a general election ratified this claim by their votes. But the fact remains that the resolutions and two reform bills introduced by Disraeli during that session were the veriest shams every attempted to be palmed upon a legislative body.

Lord Derby resigned in February, 1868, owing to failing health, and the Queen sent for Mr. Disraeli. This was the supreme moment in his long and successful career. The wild dream of his boyhood was now to be realized. The prize for which he schemed and toiled as a man, and which, but for his inspirational attack on Sir Robert Peel, never would have fallen to his lot, was now within his grasp. Benjamin Disraeli, "the Jew adventurer," "the political juggler," and a score of other equally opprobrious, and perhaps equally truthful, characterizations, was now the foremost man in England, possessing the confidence of his sovereign, and receiving her command to form a government. When a foppish, flippant, vanity-smitten youth, Disraeli was introduced to Lord Melbourne, the most genial of men, and a model Premier. That nobleman inquired, with amused curiosity, what the young man meant to become should he ever get into Parliament. "I mean to be Prime Minister," was the prompt reply. As likely, perhaps, at the time, as to become Archbishop of Canterbury, who is in matters ecclesiastical the English Pope. And here he was about to become not only Premier, but one of the greatest Ministers England ever produced—a Minister whose achievements, for good or for ill, far eclipse those of Lord Melbourne, and who will be remembered, and spoken of, and quoted, when the memory of that Minister will have been utterly forgotten.

To the surprise of the great Tory nobles, Earl Derby recommended the Queen to intrust the formation of a government to his intriguing and capable lieutenant. His own son, Lord Stanley, the present Earl of Derby, was then a Secretary of State, and would have been acceptable to the country. The young and able Foreign Minister was thought to be the political heir-general of the Tory party. But Lord Derby knew far better. He knew that the Tory party was Mr. Disraeli, and that without him it would cease to be any party at all. So Mr. Disraeli was sent for, and Mr. Disraeli obeyed Her Majesty's command and formed a [unclear: government. His task was not] page 9 because he must make changes within his own party. In other words, he was compelled to dispense with some of his colleagues and take in new men.

The Tories were weakest in debating power in the House of Lords, although numerically the strongest. Above all, they were weakest in their Lord Chancellor. The new Premier, therefore, intimated to Lord Chelmsford, an old and comparatively useless man, that he must step down from the woolsack to give place to Lord Cairns—an Irishman in the prime of life, who had forced his way to the front rank as a parliamentary debater and lawyer without any adventitious aids from fortune. He was at the time quietly shelved as Lord Justice of Appeal, and, being a personal friend of Disraeli, he made no scruple about accepting the great seal. And here it may not be out of place to relate an incident in Lord Cairns's early career. He was one of the members for Belfast, and had introduced a motion in favor of law reform. As a junior member of the Chancery Bar, Hugh McCalmont Cairns was known in the profession as one of the most thorough equity lawyers in the kingdom; but until he made the speech in question, he did not give promise of such marked parliamentary ability, rising to statesmanship. The venerable Lord Brougham occupied a seat in the Lords' gallery, and listened attentively to Mr. Cairns's exposition of the principles of law reform. Brougham turned to another law-lord, who sat beside him, and said, "The man who delivered that speech will be the youngest Lord Chancellor that ever sat on the woolsack"—a prediction which was about to be verified. Lord Chelmsford's friends were indignant, but they could not venture to set him in competition with the brilliant young Irishman. In due time Lord Cairns became an Earl, and Lord Chelmsford's son, who inherited his title, commanded the British troops in the disastrous Zulu war, and only saved his honor by the very hazardous experiment of risking everything in a pitched battle just before Sir Garnet Wolseley arrived in camp to take the command. While on the subject of Lord Cairns's accession to the woolsack, another anecdote occurs to us at the moment, which was an open secret in Ulster about a quarter of a century ago. The young lawyer was an aspirant to the hand of Miss McNeil, an Antrim heiress of ancient lineage, who steadily refused to become his wife until he could give her a title. This was the only thing which could reconcile the proud daughter of John McNeil to marry the son of a Belfast tradesman. Spurred on by love, the young lawyer sought [unclear: Parliament and because Solicator] General in Lord Derby's first administration, an office which carries with it knighthood from the hand of the sovereign, and the haughty Irish beauty soon after became Lady Cairns, and is now a countess.

Disraeli led the House of Commons as Prime Minister, and during the remainder of the session he achieved some successes. But the Nemesis of party stalked behind him, and Gladstone threw him into a minority on the Irish Church Disestablishment Resolutions. This was a thrust at Disraeli's vital part. He was a champion of Church and State if he was anything, and he had always regarded the Irish Church as an appenage of the English Church Establishment. Anyhow, it was a field in which political services could be indirectly rewarded by the Crown; and therefore this rude assault by "Church-and-State Gladstone," who had turned iconoclast, upon church patronage, was one to be resisted to the last moment. Although in a minority in the House of Commons on more than one occasion, Disraeli declared that he would not resign without an appeal to the country. He fancied that the heart of the people was sound on the Church question; but the elections soon showed him that a Liberal reaction had set in. Without waiting for Parliament to reassemble he resigned, and his successful rival took office as Premier in 1868. Gladstone carried his Irish Church Disestablishment Bill; he also carried an Irish land bill, which is the basis of the Land Bill of 1881; but he fell a victim to sectarianism on the Irish University question. The Tories coalesced with the Home Rulers and the Irish party generally, and Gladstone, who appealed to the country, was defeated at the general election of 1874. The borough and county franchise, which Disraeli claimed to have created, and which then for the first time came into general operation, proved the salvation of the-Tory party. The workingmen in the boroughs voted for Tory candidates. The clergy worked like Trojans to avenge themselves on Gladstone; and the beer-sellers, and the brewers, and the malsters, who had been antagonized by the Liberal Government, joined hands with the parsons and overthrew it. The Tory reaction had set in once more. The two spiritual powers—Rum and Religion—had carried the day; and the work of legislative reform in England received a set-back from which it will not recover for many years. Gladstone resigned office, and he also threw up the lead of the Liberal party in disgust. Disraeli was once more in power, and stronger than ever. He retained office until 1880, when, his majority having begun to [unclear: slip away from him, he appealed to the count-] page 10 try to realize in his own case the fickleness of the constituencies. The majority was over-whelmingly against him. He was beaten worse than Gladstone had been, and beaten by the [unclear: indomitable] will and splendid talents of that great English statesman. It was Mr. Gladstone single-handed, and not the Liberal party readers, that turned the tide of popular opinion against the popular idol; and it was Mr. Gladstone, to Disraeli's great chagrin, and contrary to the wish of the Queen, who succeeded him. Thus the open political account was balanced between these two great but dissimilar men.

In 1870, while out of office, Disraeli published the politico-religious novel, Lothair. Eighty thousand copies of this book were sold in America. It served a threefold purpose. It revived his literary reputation, kept his name in a phenomenal way before the public, and furnished him with money, of which he then stood greatly [unclear: in] need. In 1876, as already stated, Benjamin Disreali was created Earl of Beaconsfield. He was then in the zenith of his power and fame, and no one could have anticipated his sudden all. But there were causes, unseen though [unclear: potent], at work which sufficiently account for it. The Tories had utterly neglected social questions. They had allowed the Irish question to develop proportions menacing to the monarchy, through the combined influence of [unclear: famine] and rack-rents. They had done nothing to mitigate the agricultural depression in England and Scotland consequent upon a succession of bad crops and American competition. They had, on the contrary, kept the public mind occupied and the popular imagination dazzled by a succession of foreign surprises. But the time had now fully come when he country, wearied with a sensational foreign policy, involving heavy expenditures and wars without glory, insisted upon a return to sober domestic legislation, and, as a matter of course, Disraeli's power and popularity disappeared like a morning cloud in the fierce rays of the sun.

The Earl of Beaconsfield, as has been already shown, was a great party leader—the greatest, perhaps, of any since Chatham's time. He understood Parliament; he understood the aristocracy; and he used this knowledge skillfully to his own personal advantage. He was also a great Minister. This character contemporary history concedes to him, and the judgment of posterity will justify it. But his methods were not English methods. His genius was purely [unclear: Semitic], and herein lay the secret of his great success. He took risks which no other English constitutional Minister would ever think of taking, and fortune, which is so often propitious to the daring, was very kind to him. It was so in his case, when he had all to gain and nothing to lose. He was a "lucky man," but he made his own good luck. His name thus comes to be identified with the most successful administrative speculations of modern times. Disraeli was the Minister who purchased the telegraph system of the United Kingdom and consolidated it with the Post office Department. This was a bold speculative operation, which the result fully justified; but it is of far more importance politically, as giving the Government, in certain contingencies, the control of all avenues of information, and preventing the creation of a dangerous monopoly. Benjamin Disraeli was the great telegraph consolidator. Jay Gould simply works upon the lines laid down by the British Minister as a measure of public policy, and usurps a power which should alone be exercised by responsible executive authority. More audacious, and yet more speculative, was the purchase by Disraeli, on behalf of the British Government, of the Khedive's interest in the Suez Canal, calling for the payment of £4,000,000 sterling, or twenty million dollars. There was no precedent for such an act, no warrant or authority for pledging the credit of the State for such a purpose; yet Disraeli quietly arranged for payment through the Rothschilds, and trusted to Parliament to appropriate the money. This purchase was completed on the 25th of November, 1875, and instead of impeachment, to which the Minister was liable, he was lauded to the skies. It gave England control of the short route to India, and made her mistress of the situation in the East. Steadily Disraeli's sun kept rising in the European firmament, and as steadily his ambition kept mounting. The climax was reached when Parliament was informed, upon its assembling in 1876, that the title "Empress of India" had been added to the royal style of the Queen. This was the enunciation of "the imperial policy," which has been fruitful of so much trouble already, and which will cause England infinitely more trouble in the hereafter. There are constitutional reasons for this, but they need not be discussed in this place. The Prince of Wales had been sent to India to impress upon the native princes and sovereigns the personality of that power which held them in its iron grip, but which had hitherto been a mere abstraction to them. They saw and did homage to their future Emperor, and thenceforward must associate the man with the sovereign authority. This was Disraeli's conception. It was natural to a man of his race, but it would not have occurred to a purely English statesman, whose constitutional instincts and training would have impelled him to avoid artifice in government. page 11 It was a mere trick, but it was a very successful one. It was not approved generally in England, because personal government is distasteful to Anglo-Saxon sentiment, while it is of the essence of Semitic thought, which is formulated in the ancient demand: "Give us a king to rule over us." As a step in the imperial policy, however, the visit of the Prince of Wales to India was a very important one. It was leading up straight to what was soon to follow—the proclamation of the Indian Empire.

Benjamin Disraeli, the political and literary waif, had done many surprising things. He had conferred titles and honors with a lavish hand; but what were these social distinctions compared with encircling the brow of his sovereign mistress with the diadem of empire? Peerages, ribbons, and stars sink into insignificance when compared with this august creation. To create a ducal title, which conferred limited social prestige, was a very little thing in comparison to charging the sovereign style of a constitutional kingdom with the addition of "Emptess," which carried with it a precedence above kings and the idea of absolutism. This was his work. In the whirl of active life, its audacity and grandeur have been overlooked, but in time to come it will certainly be regarded as the greatest achievement of his life, and in many respects, also, of the century. The possibilities of what it involves were only slightly disclosed to Europe during the later phases of the Eastern question, when the Queen of England, as Empress of India, brought her Indian troops to the Mediterranean, outside the charter limits, without the consent of Parliament, and when it was argued by Lord Chancellor Cairns that as Queen, by virtue of her prerogative, she might quarter them in Scotland and Ireland, because they had independent legislatures when the Bill of Rights was enacted, and were not parties to ft. In other words, that the following provision of the Bill of Rights—"that the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with the consent of Parliament, is against law"—applies only to the ancient realm of England, and not to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or to any colonial dependency thereof. It was made the subject of a very dignified protest by the Russian representatives at the Berlin Congress, and was bitterly resented by the Liberals in Parliament. But the presence of the Indian battalions at Malta, outside the charter limits of India, in a time of peace, and without the knowledge or consent of Parliament, proved that the title, "Empress of India," was not an empty one. The British people disliked the imperial style; Queen Victoria liked it exceedingly, and she rewarded her Minister with an earldom, and extended to him a measure of personal confidence greater than had ever before been enjoyed by any of her constitutional advisers.

It is not necessary to follow in detail the development of this imperial policy. In South Africa it was enforced by the annexation of Basutoland and Transvaal, involving three costly, bloody, and humiliating wars—the Zulu war, in which the Prince Imperial was killed; the war in Basutoland, still in progress; and the Transvaal war. Previous to this, Abyssinia had been invaded and its ruler killed, at the cost of many millions of treasure; and the savage king of Ashantee was driven out of his capital by British bayonets. These wars were the outgrowth of the imperial idea, which had, through Disraeli, permeated the Tory ranks. British blood in purple streams enriched the soil of the Dark Continent in warfare which was destitute of all possibilities of honor, and which was unjust in the extreme. What matter? It was in pursuance of a policy which placed the imperial crown of India upon the brow of Queen Victoria. But imperialism was not safe in India without "a scientific frontier," and accordingly a quarrel was fixed upon the British pensioner, Sheer Ali, Ameer of Afghanistan, who was driven direct into Russia's arms. India invaded Afghanistan, and here, too, British blood was poured out like water in a doubtful, and as it proved, a losing and useless cause. A scientific frontier was fixed by the treaty of Gundamuk, but all that remains of it now is the memory of the Cabul massacre, the annihilation of General Burrows's command by Ayoob Khan, the brilliant achievements of General Roberts, and a dangerous state prisoner in the person of Yakoob Khan, the puppet sovereign set up by the Indian Government by direction of Disraeli.

The Eastern question was seized upon by Disraeli as an occasion for testing the imperial policy in European affairs. He boldly swung England into the front rank of European powers in opposition to Russia, which was pressing j hard upon Turkey, and abandoned the policy of non-intervention, which had been accepted by several administrations as the wisest one for an insular power. That non-intervention had sometimes been carried to an extreme, to the prejudice of national honor, is undoubted; but Disraeli displayed a spirit of recklessness, on the other hand, which might have involved the country in great disasters. It was his imperialism, however, which was at the root of all. During that great controversy of the nations, whatever men may think of the wisdom of his page 12 policy, thus much must be admitted, that in no single particular did he lose sight of the grandeur and dignity of England. The entrance of the Dardanelles by the British fleet was an act of war, although it was convenient for Russia not to so regard it, and it saved Constantinople when the Grand Duke Nicholas was prepared to enter it. This closed the Rus so-Turkish war. Fighting was out of the question then, unless Russia was prepared to fight England, and the ironclads were at the Goldmen Horn, and the trained battalions of India were at Malta, and would soon be in Armenia and Turkey. Moreover, the British mob had become intoxicated with imperialism, and the jingo furor was the infallible symptom of it. To fight England, thus aroused and prepared, after a severe struggle with Turkey, was impossible. Russia knew this. The Czar tore up the treaty of San Stefano at the dictation of Lord Beaconsfield, and consented to submit the settlement to a congress of the great powers. Not thus did Germany when it crushed the French Empire; not thus did Prussia when it trampled on the gallant Dane; not thus France when its Emperor dictated terms to Austria at Solferino; but on those occasions England stood aloof. It was out of the European circle, and the conquerors did as they pleased. England now threw its sword into the scale, and Russia listened to reason. Nay, it consented to humiliating terms for the sake of peace.

Although Bismarck convened the Berlin Congress, Lord Beaconsfield was its real author, and he adopted the unusual course of going himself in person as chief representative of England, accompanied by the Marquis of Salisbury as second commissioner. Never before! had a British Premier left the realm on such a mission while Parliament was in session; but this man did not stop at anything which would increase his personal influence and importance, and add to the luster of his administration. He had passed the stage of adventure; his position and status were now fixed. He was a peer of Parliament, an English Earl, and the Premier of a powerful nation. His ambition, therefore, took a wider scope than formerly. His political reputation had been exclusively 'British. He had now an opportunity of making a name for himself as a diplomatist in the field of European politics. The occasion was one of empire. The issues involved the weightiest questions of sovereignty and administration. "It was no paltry matter the Berlin Congress had to decide, and Lord Beaconsfield resolved that it should be decided as he had predetermined.

No man in that distinguished assemblage filled the public eye so completely as the Earl of Beaconsfield. The world instinctively felt that he was master of the situation, while Bismarck, the great state artificer of Germany, was playing for time. His first act was characteristic. He declared at the outset that the deliberations should be in English. This point was conceded. Very soon it became apparent that combinations were formed to baffle him, but his subtle intellect had anticipated this, and he tore the diplomatic web into a thousand pieces. Never was surprise so complete, never indignation more intense, than when Lord Salisbury announced that England had made a convention with Turkey by which she obtained Cyprus, together with the protectorate of Asia Minor in certain contingencies. Here was a new and unlooked for complication—one of those things which could not be foreseen, and, therefore, could not be guarded against. The only thing to be done was to get through the business on hand, and obtain as large concessions as this arbiter of the destinies of Europe chose to make. This plan succeeded, and the British plenipotentiaries made greater concessions to Russia, on the Roumanian boundary question, and to Austria, than was consistent with sound policy or judgment. But Beaconsfield and his distinguished colleague could afford to be generous with other people's territory, so it fell out that the seed was planted for another European war, when events are ripe for it.

There were other reasons why Lord Beaconsfield made these concessions and left the Greek boundary question unsettled. He desired to disarm Russia of any hostile feeling by restoring the territory in Bessarabia taken from it by the allies after the Crimean war; and he succeeded in this. He wanted to attach the Austro-Hungarian monarchy to the British imperial policy by giving Francis Joseph the rich provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina; and in this also he was successful. He did not want to weaken Turkey further, by lopping off Epirus and Thessaly in the interest of Greece, which could be of no help to him in furtherance of his policy. So far as the plan which Lord Beaconsfield set before himself is concerned, therefore, nothing could be more completely successful than the Congress of Berlin, and this is the standard by which he, at least, wished it judged. It is not for us to anticipate the future. Suffice it to say, that where failure has occurred, it has been through the default of the Porte to discharge its part of the contract; wherefore England declined to shoulder its own and Turkey's obligations.

During the Berlin Congress, public feeling in [unclear: England] page 13 nation had almost gone frantic. It had got into one of its mad fighting moods, and would rather have had war than peace. When the annexation of Cyprus and the protectorate of Asia Minor were announced, there was a burst of exultation, and millions of money were ready at call to build "The Euphrates Valley Railroad." The Suez Canal might be blockaded by hostile flotillas. England wanted a land route to India, and—

"We don't want to fight; but, by jingo, if we do,
We have got the men, we have got the ships,
And we have got the money, too."

It was during this popular frenzy that Lord Beaconsfield and his colleague arrived in England. Never was victorious general or ruler received with greater enthusiasm. Lord Beaconsfield was at that hour the most popular man in England. He had "brought back peace with honor." Congratulatory messages were sent from the remotest British colony, and the British residents of San Francisco presented him with an address and casket, which he regarded as the greatest compliment ever paid him, and made its presentation the occasion for declaring his foreign policy upon which he had declined to speak explicitly in Parliament, because, he said, the British people all over the world who sympathized with him had a right to know what the Government meant to do. Thus San Francisco became identified with Lord Beaconsfield's career at the very pinnacle of his fame.

And here the Earl of Beaconsfield's public life may be said to close. Events were too strong for him. The Zulu and Afghan wars became more serious than he had contemplated. The harvests failed at home, and Ireland was visited by famine. Trade declined and the revenue fell off, while enormous expenditures were being incurred abroad for purposes which the British people, in their sober second thought, did not approve. Everything went against the Government, and agitators and opponents did not scruple to charge the visitations of Providence to their account. Mr. Gladstone threw off all reserve, and boldly took the lead of his party, speaking all over the United Kingdom, and creating a public opinion which swept away the Tory Government. Lord Beaconsfield should have appealed to the country when the Opposition began to press him home; but he delayed until March 24, 1880, and then the country had been wrought to such a pitch that the Liberals went back into power with a majority of one hundred and twenty. The Tories had fallen; their great chief was defeated; and the Queen, after vainly asking Lord Hartington and Earl Granville to form a Government, was forced to send for Mr. Gladstone, the uncompromising opponent of imperialism, and by far the most capable and most conscientious public man in England. He has had to pass under the harrow in the all but hopeless task of repairing the mischief done by "the imperial policy" in home affairs. The famine stage in Ireland has been succeeded by an agrarian revolt, in which the champions of natural and vested rights stand ready to fly at each other's throats, while Gladstone stands in the breach as mediator. American competition is ruining the agricultural classes of England, added to which are foreign complications that may prove serious. Some of these are legacies of Lord Beaconsfield's imperial policy; but they may, and possibly will, overwhelm the Liberal Government.

The Earl of Beaconsfield died just at the crisis when it was possible, by a bold and original stroke on the Irish land question, to have pacified Ireland and returned to power stronger than ever. It is not for us to discuss what might have been. We have simply to do with the has been. For good or for evil, the man Benjamin Disraeli has finished his work. As we have endeavored to show, it has been a conspicuously great work. And it has been a thoroughly consistent work as well. From start to finish it preserved the unities. Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, lived up to his own ideal. He realized his dream of life. He satisfied his ambition to the full. Such as he was by nature, such he perfected by art. He was a consummate actor, a natural leader, and a man of very brilliant parts. He was not a great man, for he lacked conscientiousness; he was not a noble man, for he lacked sincerity. But he was an original and a successful man, who, born out of his natural element, an alien and a foreigner by race and sentiment, had the genius to mold English thought and sentiment to his will, and to lead captive the most conservative and exclusive social and political elements in European society. With Benjamin Disraeli dies the last and greatest of British statesmen who sought to strengthen Prerogative by weakening the Constitution.

Robt. J. Creighton.