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'protection' and 'dear bread' could be imputed to the Opposition as their party cries, they were sure to see a heavy majority arrayed against them those views once abandoned, and a considerable portion of that majority lost the bond of cohesion. Upon some neutral ground, they might once more be appealed to as free agents. In this disposable portion of the House might be included a considerable number of county members and proprietors who were pledged to Free Trade, because they believed in the expansive power of British agriculture, and no inconsiderable portion of the independent Liberals, who were as little disposed to see the manufacturing class as the landed aristocracy in the ascendant.
To these sections of the House Mr.
Disraeli made a tacit appeal when demanding attention to the state of local taxation and of the burthens on land. Basing his case on his faith in the common-sense and love of justice inherent in the British character, he claimed that the agriculturists, having been deprived by the late policy of the country of the protection they derived from import duties on grain, should be relieved from any and all burthens bearing exclusively on them, and for the imposition or retention of which that protection' had been made the justification. It is not here that we would discuss the specific value of such a proposition, being only engaged in the inquiry so far as to determine whether its adoption strengthens Mr. Disraeli's claims as a tactician and Party Leader. Mr. Disraeli's case, true or false, was, that at present nearly the whole of the local taxation for national purposes fell upon the land, and that one-third of the revenue derived from the excise was unjustly levied on agricultural produce. The immediate effect of this claim on the House was not very great; but it was at once admitted that the Opposition had now something to go upon more legitimate than hatred to a name, or a mere blind impulse of reaction. The speech in which the new proposition was enforced, like all recent ones from the same source, aimed at higher objects than those immediately avowed. His previous attacks on the manufacturing
interest had aroused its chiefs, and they already began to look on Mr. Disraeli as an antagonist, although at present not a formidable one. He denounced all attempts to legislate for or by a class (another step towards the good graces of the public,) and maintained that the prosperity of the entire nation depended upon the union and prosperity of all classes. Applying these views to the leaders of the Manchester party, he apostrophized them as having all in open chorus announced their object to be the monopoly of the commerce of the universe, and to make this country the workshop of the world. That system, and the system of the Tory party, were exactly contrary. The landed interest invited union. They believed that national prosperity could only be produced_by the prosperity of all classes. But the Manchester school preferred to remain in isolated splendour and solitary magnificence. But believe me,' he added, 'I speak not as your enemy when I say, that it will be an exception to the principles which seem hitherto to have ruled society, if you can succeed in maintaining the success at which you aim, without the possession of that permanance and stability which the territorial principle alone can afford. Although you may for a moment flourish after their destruction-although your ports may be filled with shipping, your factories smoke on every plain, and your forges flame in every city, I see no reason why you should form an exception to that which the page of history has mournfully recorded; that you, too, should not fade like the Tyrian dye, and moulder like the Venetian palaces. But, united with the land, you will obtain that best and surest foundation upon which to build your enduring welfare; you will find in that interest a counsellor in all your troubles, in danger your undaunted champion, and in adversity your steady customer. I wish to see the agriculture, the commerce, and the manufactures of England, not adversaries, but co-mates and partners -and rivals only in the ardour of their patriotism and in the activity of their public spirit.' On July the 2nd, of the same year, on a motion to consider the State of the Nation,
he obtained 156 votes against 296 given to the Government; and on the 20th of the same month, in speaking on Mr. Herries' motion for a fixed duty on foreign corn, he made a rattling onslaught on Mr. Cobden, in retorting upon him a recent charge, that his (Mr. Disraeli's) professions out of doors were inconsistent with those he made in Parliament. These pitched combats between the Tory leader and the chief of the Manchester school became now more frequent-a sure sign that the former was making way, and consolidating at the same time his own position and that of his party.
Thus, Mr. Disraeli had profited by his opportunities. His Leadership, however attained, was practically acquiesced in by at least 156 of his followers; he was recognised in his new capacity by the head of the Government, and he was attacked in it by Mr. Cobden. He had adroitly shifted the tactics of his party from an untenable to a tenable ground, and had made strides towards reconciling an estranged interest with the nation at large.
The session of 1850 was also one of advance for Mr. Disraeli. In the debate on the Address, he followed up the leading idea of his speech at the commencement of the previous session, but he developed it more boldly. The claim he set up for his party was embodied in the general demand for Justice to the land of England,'-to the owners, to the occupiers, to the cultivators,-to all persons dependent upon the land. It was now, too, that he attempted to turn the flank of the Manchester school, by adopting their principles, and making them serve his own purpose. Accepting one of the fundamental maxims of the politicians who profess to be guided by the principles of political economythat the raw material of manufactures should be untaxed, he claimed for the land that it was the raw material of agriculture, and he demanded that this kind of raw material should be as free from taxation as any other. In the course of one of the most able speeches he had ever yet delivered, Mr. Disraeli proclaimed that, as far as his own convictions went, he still condemned
the late change in our commercial policy. A more perilous, and as he believed a more disastrous, experiment in politics never yet occurred.' A bolder proposition still was that which followed, when he declared his conviction that the land of England never did at any time depend for its fortune on any artifi cial law whatever. In fact, by this time, Mr. Disraeli had acquired no inconsiderable hearing' in the House, while his own party surren dered themselves, as far as outward demonstrations went, entirely to his guidance. The cheers of the one, and the listening attitude of the other, tempted him sometimes to utter propositions a little too bold for an assembly whose members counted a slight knowledge of past and contemporary history among their legislatorial qualifications. Still, on the whole, there was moderation, tact, demonstrability, and common sense' in the general principle he laid down. Above all, there was novelty and a semblance of logical fairness, in accepting the principles of antagonists and arguing from them.
This speech produced a very striking effect, out of doors as well
as in the House itself. The immediate result of its ingenious theory and bold logic was, that Mr. Disraeli in less than three weeks after was able to rally 252 votes in favour of his motion for the relief of special agricultural burthens. The minis ters obtained but 273; so that their majority, which the year be fore had been 140, was now reduced to 21.
Still, so strong is the prejudice of the English against new men, and so powerful was the influence of the antagonist faction, which had possession of the ablest and most widely circulated organs of the press, that a result which would have been regarded as almost deci sive of the fate of the ministry, had it been arrived at by a recognised pupil of party, or a leader who had laboured with patient mediocrity through a quarter of a century of hourly compromise and inconsistency, produced no adequate effect at the time upon the surface of political affairs. The public looked on as if it were only a phantasmagoria
Among thinking men and the chieftains of party, the effect was different. The newspapers more immediately inspired by the Conservative or Radical propitiators of the manufacturing interest, dropped their tone of insolent quizzing, and began in fearful earnest to make nine-pins of Mr. Disraeli's figures and principles. The public had been so accustomed to be led by the nose by these statistic-choppers,' that they were easily persuaded into the conviction, that however brilliant an orator or clever a tactician Mr. Disraeli might be, he certainly did not understand the rule-of-threethat all his figures of arithmetic were utterly wrong, and his figures of speech mere will-o'-the-wisps to lure the Baotian mind. As for the minority of 252, that was nothing at all-an accident, a stolen surprise, a capital joke; anything, in short, but a solemn recognition, by a large portion of the aristocratic and trading communities that they were tired of being dictated to by demagogues and their puppets and were ready to think of restoring the balance that had been so violently disturbed. As for Lord John Russell, he saw at once the political significance of the result of the division. He sedulously went out of his way to treat Mr. Disraeli formally and officially as leader of the Opposition, thereby startling the complacency of the Graliams and Gladstones, and paving the way for a reinforcement of his strength by a future coalition with the displaced ministers. In the month of June, when the Tories and the Grahamites combined to attack Lord Palmerston, Lord John Russell reproached Mr. Disraeli for having, although leader of the Opposition, permitted such a subject. to be initiated by an independent member (Mr. Roebuck); and, on the 9th of July following, Mr. Disraeli received formal investiture
in his office, by being called upon to second the address of condolence to the Duchess of Cambridge. Thus we find another session had still further advanced and consolidated the position of Mr. Disraeli; so much so, that it must be matter of wonder to any impartial person, how he could have failed to produce upon the public at large an impression in some degree corresponding to that which he had made within the House of Commons, and in the inner ring' of the political world. The fact was, that John Bull's ear was still possessed by his daily and weekly deputy-thinkers.
The opening of the session of 1851 brought the later tactics of the Opposition Leader to their climax. In the interval since the dissolution, he had addressed some public meetings, and impressed on the agriculturists the broad features of his party policy; he had made them understand, that as they could not ask for a return to protection,' they might at least demand such a diminution of their local burthens as would enable them to produce more cheaply. In his speech on the 11th February, re-enforcing his propositions of the last two sessions, he distinctly declared that he had no idea of bringing back protection. He demanded that no gentleman would support him under the idea that his motive was an attempt to bring back protection in disguise. It was nothing of the kind. He reminded the House that he had already declared that in that Parliament' he would make no attempt to bring back the abrogated' system of protection. These assurances, together with the doubtful position of the ministry on other grounds, procured for Mr. Disraeli 267 votes against 281 on the Government side; so that ministers were left in a majority of only 14. In 1849, they had defeated their new antagonist by a majority
It was quite obvious that matters could not go on thus. Yet, with an obliquity of purpose which can rarely be imputed to Lord John Russell, the minister declined to admit that he had sustained a legitimate defeat, in a fair contest, upon an intelligible proposition. The sole claim of the Whigs being that they were a Free
be the hustings' cries. One point, however, is quite clear, that
far as the House of Commons is concerned, Mr. Disraeli stands pledged to try the great question mooted by his party, in the financial, rather than the political arena. Disclaiming all desire for protection, he demands that when the great question of taxation comes to be decided, the claims of the land to a release from undue burthens shall be considered. This, and the possible modification of the Incometax, he contends, will reduce the revenue of the country to its normal condition, when, in place of a surplus, there will appear a deficiency. To meet that deficiency, low fixed duties must be imposed on articles coming from countries that have not met our magnanimous policy of 1846 in a spirit of reciprocity more or less complete. Here is a distinct and specific proposition: we do not know that we are entitled to demand from a Party Leader an enunciation of views and principles on questions not yet mooted before the public.
Commons, and exercising a direct control over debates and the fate of parties, seemed absurd enough. But so did the ascendancy of other men of the day at their outset, though now it be acquiesced in with a religious respect. Mr. Disraeli has shown himself a tactician in more senses than one. His personal demeanour has been as well calculated as his political manoeuvring; so much so, that it is not within the walls of the House of Commons that any doubt is entertained of his abilityay, or even of his soundness. Öne only doubts whether the advance he has made has not been too rapid to be real; whether to a fortunate concurrence of accidents must not be attributed his parliamentary successes. That is a question into which we do not desire to enter; but, in justice to this very remarkable man, we feel bound to declare that his mental and moral development has kept pace with his political advancement; that he has matured the crudities and thrown off the vicious excrescences which formerly weakened or defaced his character; that his speeches are skilful amalgamations of the useful practical matter needed in parliamentary debates, with the ornamental and graceful adjuncts which relieve discussion from dulness and dreariness; that personal display is subordinated to political duty; that pompous extravagances of imagery have vanished from his diction, and impossible party combinations from his political theories; that he no longer comes down on his contemporaries in the panoply of the middle ages with lance in rest, and some forgotten ensign for his war-cry, but is in the Commons and of the Commons, a steady-going, arithmetical, practical middle-aged gentleman of the nineteenth century, a working statesman, and, with all his brilliancy, at times a little prosaic. In fact, he is so thoroughly changed in these respects, that the old familiar style seems to have become utterly strange to him. He has paid such devotions at the altar of the practical, that his flights of rhetorical eloquence, although undoubtedly finer than those of any contemporary in the House, have in them something of the untrue. All that used
As a parliamentary man, Mr. Disracli has much advanced. To improve upon the sarcastic power with which he assailed Sir Robert Peel would have been impossible, but to have abstained in a great measure from the use of that disagreeable weapon is itself a sign of improvement. The responsibilities of his position have solidified the character of this once nebulous and comet-like crusader against the real, the prosaic, and the practical. Without knowing the fact, we should infer that Mr. Disraeli must have studied hard in branches of political knowledge the least inviting to a man of his soaring and imaginative spirit. At all events, he carries more ballast than heretofore, and the most accomplished of debaters, the most trained of statists and publicists, find him a doughty antagonist, even on their own chosen ground. It is astonishing with what aptitude the Vivian Grey of 1828 has developed into the sedate and somewhat formal statesman of 1852. At first, with the memory of his earlier, even of recent, follies still active, the notion of the author of Alroy and the Revolutionary Epicbeing the Leader of the Opposition in the House of
to be bombast is so completely surrendered to the practical, that passages, instinct with a lofty spirit of truth, almost seem bombastic. In this way he makes involuntary atonement for the literary and political sins of his earlier career. If in this brief retrospect we have suggested considerations tending to throw the light of truth on Mr. Disraeli's real character and career, we shall not
only have done an act of justice to an individual, but also have conferred a benefit on the public, by leading them to form a more correct judgment than that suggested by sneering and jealous rivals, of a man whose antecedents and present position point him out as likely hereafter to take a prominent part in public affairs.
SUGGESTIONS ABOUT GIFT-BOOKS.
WHEN the men of the present generation were little children -say, some forty years ago-they were wont to regale their eyes at the windows of the stationers' and booksellers' shops with the wonderful flush of gaudily-coloured pictures, which used to make their appearance in as great profusion towards Christmas time and New Year, as the dainty cakes and their daintier devices that announce the approach of Twelfth-Night. These pictures ran across the top of a very large sheet of paper, and down the sides, and across the bottom, leaving an open white space in the centre for the insertion of the name, in the choicest round hand, of the little boy who was fortunate enough to obtain one of them as a prize or a present. The subjects embraced every variety of astonishing trees and figures, and were chiefly selected from Scripture. You could see Daniel, in a bright-green cloak, sprawling down the lions' den, on one side of the sheet; and the terrible lions, in blue, and yellow, and red, sprawling up the other; or, perhaps, there was a draught of fishes, up and down, and everywhere, a hundred times more miraculous than the original; or a blazing sun, looking terribly alarmed out of a pair of round chocolate eyes at a stalwart Joshua, who seemed to throw the whole celestial system into convulsions by the herculean vigour with which he brandished a great, long, light-blue sword up in the violet and amber skies. Never were there seen such gnarled roots of trees, such prodigious foliage and fruit, such lusty sheep, and rain
VOL. XLV. NO. CCLXVI.
bow landscapes, as distinguished those prints, which were affectionately known amongst the juvenile population of this kingdom under the name of Christmas pieces. It was a glad and exulting Christmas that saw three or four of these sheets spread out on a table, with the names of the owners magnificently inscribed in the middle, and the owners themselves making a great clatter over them comparing notes amongst the incredible apples that hung down out of labyrinths of boughs, and the antediluvian animals that looked as if they were able and ravenous enough to gobble them all up at a single mouthful!
Then there were the Story Books, and the Illustrated Alphabets, folded up into half-a-dozen thick pages, with a ceremonious cover, tinted and gilt like gingerbread, at the price of one shilling and sixpence each. In those days there was no cheap literature even for children. You had to pay handsomely for the paint; but you got a gorgeous supply of it-vermilion, lake, gamboge, and all the browns, and blues, and greens in Ackermann's Repository-dashed in with a munificence of hand that flung the colour far beyond the outlines of the drawing, frequently blending two colours together wherever they happened to meet. You got the worth of your money in this way, at all events, and something over; to say nothing of that prodigal exaggeration in the design which lifted up the imagination of the young to the seventh heaven of wonder and curiosity. And the stories! Such miracle-stories of beautiful princesses and cannibal ogres ;