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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51


For more than eight centuries of dishonour the story of our Old Nobility is one of all but uninterrupted and, alas! generally successful crime. It divides itself naturally into four well-marked epochs.

In the first period, covering the times of Norman and Plantagenet royalty, they struggled fiercely to subjugate the monarchy to their purposes, and while thus engaged they occasionally forgot to oppress the people. Nay, they were even at times constrained to invoke their aid when the royal tyrant of the day proved too strong for them. At this stage in their career they were cruel, fierce, and bloody, like the robber horde from which they sprang. Eventually, in the War of the Roses, they succeeded in completely exterminating each other, literally verifying the profound saying of Christ, "He that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword."

A very different order of men were the lords of the Tudor and Stuart régimes. These were mostly parchment-made nobles, mean, crawling courtiers, who lived to register royal decrees, and to go cringingly to the block for any offence, real or imaginary, which it pleased royalty to lay to their charge. The kings oppressed them, and they in turn avenged themselves, to the best of their ability, by oppressing the people. When the latter rose against the tyranny of page 20 Charles Stuart, the peers had neither the courage to strike for the Crown nor for national freedom. They were the veriest poltroons that ever figured in a great constitutional crisis. Howbeit, adversity taught them not manly wisdom, but a species of low, aristocratic craft, which has stood them in good stead ever since. In 1688, when the third epoch began, they ventured on a make-believe, rose-water Revolution of their own. They contrived to convince the soft-headed mass that they were their best friends—the champions of every rational liberty. The power which they could not retain by force they rendered doubly secure by fraud. They stripped the Crown of nearly all its possessions, and made it a pauper on the bounty of the people. They pensioned themselves almost to a man for their services, and monopolised nearly every office of honour and emolument in Church, State, army and navy. To conceal their rogueries at home they plunged the nation into endless wars abroad.

In the fourth era, i.e., since the Reform Act of 1832, they have persistently obstructed and minimised every good measure, while intensifying the worst features of the worst Bills that have come before them. At all times they have been the unswerving foes of freedom to the full limit of their capacity. It is impossible for any one who knows their story and loves his country to regard them as other than public enemies of the most malignant type.