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OPPOSITION TO THE BILL-MR. GIBSON'S AMENDMENT.
with the French foreign minister. This might have answered the purpose if the subsequent utterances of French addresses and French journals had not given another interpretation to the despatch in the minds of its opponents. But though the French government had been told, through the official channels, that we could not pass an Alien Bill, and could only set in motion a law against conspiracy on receiving proper evidence, and though the emperor, directly his attention was called to the outrageous language of the army addresses, had authorized his minister to express his regret that they should have been received, or should have been allowed to appear in the Moniteur; a majority of the House of Commons and the country had determined to support an amendment-arranged, it was said, by Lord John Russell, and moved by Mr. Milner Gibson-against the second reading. The amendment was:-That this house cannot but regret that her majesty's government, previously to inviting the house to amend the law of conspiracy at the present time, have not felt it to be their duty to reply to the important despatch received from the French government, dated January 20th.
On the first introduction of the bill it had been opposed by Mr. Kinglake with some force; but Mr. Kinglake was not a power in the House of Commons, and was known to be a bitter opponent of the French emperor. Mr. Disraeli had seemed to be waiting on events, and employed the tactics of balancing the debate and at the same time incidentally damaging the ministry. He pointed out that in 1853, under a government of which the noble lord the member for London, who felt that this country would be so humiliated by the adoption of the bill, was the leading member of the house, we had statesmen of the greatest eminence in this country denouncing the Emperor of the French as a tyrant, usurper, and perjurer; we had a cabinet minister fresh from a cabinet council proceeding to the hustings, and amusing his constituents by depicting to them the danger of their country from the impending piratical invasion of the French people. What was now to be considered, however, was not the foolish or insulting speeches
made on either side. "What the Emperor of the French really required, I apprehend," said Mr. Disraeli, "was a plain demonstration on the part of this country, which would have dissipated the apprehensions that have unfortunately proved so considerable in France; but I cannot believe that the bill which the noble lord has proposed will at all tend to that most desirable consummation. So far as I am concerned, I consider it the most unfortunate part of the position in which we are placed, that this opportunity has been so mismanaged by her majesty's ministers as to have alarmed England without pleasing France. Still I cannot think that we ought to take a course which might lead to prolonged and mischievous misconceptions, because we disapprove of the clumsy and feeble manner in which the government has attempted to deal with this difficulty."
Lord Palmerston attempted to carry the house with him against Mr. Milner Gibson's motion, by treating the language of the French colonels as a trumpery reason for refusing an important measure. It would be unworthy
of the nation to be turned from a course otherwise proper "upon any paltry feelings of offended dignity or of irritation at the expressions of three or four colonels of French regiments." But if the propriety of the proposed measure was not denied, its timeliness was strongly disputed. The temper of the nation would have refused even the most desirable measure of legislation to the demand of a foreign government, and the very fact that Palmerston had apparently submitted to dictation, at once created suspicion that there was unworthy truckling to the French emperor for some state purpose. The country was jealous and disappointed, and it soon became evident that the premier and the ministry had taken a step from which they would not be able to recover their former footing. The amendment was supported not only by the Radicals who had opposed the first reading of the bill, but also by Mr. Gladstone and the Peelites, as well as by the chiefs of the opposition. “What satisfaction," said Mr. Disraeli, "was it to the country that some indefinite words were dropped in a conversation? The government
manner, deficient in dignity and self-respect. The despatch ought to have been answered in a spirit worthy of the occasion. A great opportunity had been lost of asserting the principles of public law."
had acted in a perplexed, timid, and confused | dicating that law. As far as justice requires, let us have the existing law vindicated, and then let us proceed to amend it if it be found necessary. But do not let us allow it to lie under a cloud of accusations of which we are convinced that it is totally innocent. These times are grave for liberty. We live in the nineteenth century; we talk of progress; we believe that we are advancing; but can any man of observation who has watched the events of the last few years in Europe have failed to perceive that there is a movement indeed, but a downward and backward movement? There are a few spots in which institutions that claim our sympathy still exist and flourish. They are secondary places— nay, they are almost the holes and corners of Europe so far as mere material greatness is concerned, although their moral greatness will, I trust, ensure them long prosperity and happiness. But in these times more than ever does responsibility centre upon the institutions of England; and if it does centre upon England, upon her principles, upon her laws, and upon her governors, then I say that a measure passed by this House of Commons-the chief hope of freedom-which attempts to establish a moral complicity between us and those who seek safety in repressive measures, will be a blow and a discouragement to that sacred cause in every country in the world.”
Mr. Disraeli had voted with the government for the introduction of the bill, though he had by his comments endeavoured to injure the ministry. He now opposed it. But its fate was already fixed. Mr. Gibson, returned to parliament by another constituency after he had been rejected by his former supporters, was the representative of a body which, though it had been depressed during the Crimean war, was again rising to influence, and Palmerston had lost some popularity before the promotion of this measure. His appointment, to the office of lord privy-seal, of the Marquis of Clanricarde, whose reputation was by no means a good one, and who had recently been exposed in a trial in the Dublin Court of Chancery, had caused some scandal, and a very obvious element of public distrust appeared to be mingled with the former admiration for the noble lord, who was presently to discover that he was the subject of general abuse and of accusations of subserviency to France and nobody knew what other crimes against the state. Among the most favourable expressions of opinion at that time it was said, "Palmerston is growing old and childish, his day is over; and though he was once the representative of English power and influence in Europe, his head has been turned by the civilities of the Tuileries and a personal friendship for the French emperor."
But there were statesmen who, setting party considerations aside, were still strongly opposed to the introduction of the bill without a formal answer having been given to the French despatch explaining the state of our law. Not only had this been neglected, but they were asked to pass the present bill as an answer to Count Walewski's despatch. "If there is any feeling in this house for the honour of England," said Mr. Gladstone, "don't let us be led away by some vague statement about the necessity of reforming the criminal law. Let us insist upon the necessity of vin
These words were full of meaning in relation to coming events in Italy, the shadows of which were even then being thrown forward with unmistakable distinctness, though only a few could discern their shape and relative proportions.
Lord Palmerston could always take defent with cheerful equanimity, but he seldom allowed that he would be defeated until the battle was really over. He usually fought to the last with courage and address. He fought now, but not with his usual address. He lost his temper, and became as abusive to Mr. Milner Gibson as he had on former occasions been to Mr. Bright and Mr. Cobden, and in much the same style. It was, he said, the first time in his life that he had seen Mr. Gibson stand forth in the character of champion of the honour of England and vindicator
LORD DERBY'S GOVERNMENT-LORD COWLEY.
he had no desire to retain office under the circumstances. Lord Derby was sent for to undertake the difficult task of forming a government, and the ex-premier resumed, with cheerful ardour, occupations which still gave him a large share of public business, until the following November, when he went gaily off to Compiegne on a visit to the Emperor Napoleon, to join in shooting pheasants and hunting stags in the imperial forest, and to talk philosophical politics with his host in the intervals of festivity.
of the rights of the country against foreign | would not at first accept his resignation, but nations. The policy which that gentleman had invariably advocated had been one of submission of crouching to every foreign power with which we had any differences to discuss. The right honourable gentleman belonged to a small party who said, "What care we if this country should be conquered by a foreign force? If we are conquered by a foreign power, they would allow us to work our mills." This might have "fetched" the house two years before, but the spell which gave such animus to any attack on the "Manchester school," and the "Peace-at-any-price" party, had been weakened. Neither Cobden nor Bright were in parliament, but they had not been altogether silent, and there had been a peculiar fusion of parties on some leading questions. His attack on Mr. Gibson was as ill-timed as the bill which it was intended to
Lord Derby had little confidence in being able to maintain a Conservative government, and it was generally understood that the new ministry would only keep office as it were by sufferance. There were few new names in the administration. Mr. Disraeli was of course chancellor of the exchequer; Lord Malmes
secretary; Sir J. Pakington, first lord of the admiralty. It is to be remarked that Lord Derby offered the appointment of secretary for the colonies to Mr. Gladstone, who declined it, and that it was then conferred on Lord Stanley, in whom the Conservatives had begun to look with no little expectation, because of his solid acquirements and a certain appearance of calm deliberation which peculiarly distinguished him from his father. It was both significant and important that Lord Cowley was retained as our representative in Paris. In fact after Lord Derby had made his ministerial statement on assuming office, Lord Clarendon had given such an explanation of the course adopted by the late government, that the new prime minister, in reporting to the queen the proceedings of the evening, wrote, "Lord Clarendon made an admirable speech in explanation of the course which the late government pursued, and which, had it been delivered in the House of Commons on the subject of the amendment, would pro
defend. He seemed to forget that the indig-bury, foreign secretary; Mr. Walpole, home nant rejection by men with Mr. Milner Gibson's views, of a foreign despatch which he had been ready to accept and to act upon, was a startling evidence of the national dislike to the position which he had been ready to assume towards the French government. His retorts were received with murmurs and exclamations of dissent, and he was too good a tactician not to feel that he was on a wrong course. He ended by appealing to the house not to support an amendment which would have an entirely contrary effect to that which had been anticipated; but the house did not respond to his appeal, and the government was defeated by a majority of 19 on a division in which 459 members voted-that majority being composed of 146 Conservatives, 84 Liberals, and 4 of those who were still called Peelites, viz. Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Cardwell, Mr. Sidney Herbert, and Sir James Graham. Palmerston could scarcely have expected such a result, and it is very doubtful whether those who made the majority were quite prepared for it, or were delighted with the pros-bably have deprived Lord Derby of the pect of a Conservative government. Had Palmerston chosen to drop the bill, and to appeal to the house for a vote of confidence, he would very likely have gained the point, but he preferred to resign at once. The queen
honour of addressing your majesty on the present occasion."
It was well that a man so fully trusted by the Emperor of the French as Lord Cowley was to be retained at Paris, for it required
some one in a confidential relation to explain | frankness which has characterized his conduct, the necessity for dropping the Conspiracy Bill and sending a definite answer to Count Walewski's despatch.
to offer an explanation which cannot fail to remove any existing misconception.”
The strongest assurances were given orally by Count Walewski to Lord Cowley, when this despatch was read to him, that he had never intended to do more than to call attention to the acts of certain conspirators against the emperor's life, who had used England as the base for their machinations, but that he had never pointed out, "or intended to point out, a remedy for them. It was for the English government and the English nation alone to determine in what manner, and in what measure, a remedy could be applied."-Count de Persigny was also instructed, in a despatch from Count Walewski, to reiterate these assurances in unqualified terms, and the following paragraph of the despatch brought the differences between the governments to an honourable close:
When the Emperor of the French learned from Lord Derby's speech that the Conspiracy Bill would not be proceeded with, his vexation and disappointment were at first great. The passing of the bill would have helped to appease the angry spirit which his own indiscretion had helped to foment among a certain section of his followers, and which had been made the most of, for their own purpose, by the plotters against the Anglo-French alliance. Once persuaded that the measure was one which no ministry could carry, he was certain to see the wisdom of letting the subject drop. To satisfy him on this head, therefore, became the first object of the government, and they were materially assisted in this by the confidence which the emperor felt in Lord Cowley, and by the frankness with which he discussed this subject with his lordship, as, indeed, he was in the habit of discussing with him all questions that affected the interests of the two countries. Lord Cowley had even the courage to suggest that as such a measure, unless carried by what was clearly not to be hoped for, the almost unanimous consent of parliament, could be no satisfaction to France, the emperor would place himself in a far better position with England were he himself to request that all further discussion on the subject should drop. An intimation to this effect was subsequently conveyed from the emperor to the French ambassador here.
A friendly adjustment was in fact soon arrived at. Walewski's obnoxious despatch of the 20th of January was answered in a despatch by Lord Malmesbury to Lord Cowley, written to be communicated to Count Walewski. In this answer Count Walewski's attention was called to the imputations which seemed to be conveyed by the language of his despatch. A conviction was expressed that, whatever the words might import, it could not have been Count Walewski's intention to convey an imputation, "injurious alike to the morality and honour of the British nation," and that he would not hesitate, "with that
"In giving these assurances to the principal secretary of state you will add, that the emperor's intentions having been misunderstood, his majesty's government will abstain from continuing a discussion, which, if prolonged, might injuriously affect the dignity and good understanding of the two countries, and will place its reliance purely and simply on the loyalty of the English people."
This was satisfactory, the honour of both countries was vindicated, and when Mr. Disraeli was able to announce the happy termination of the difference, it was felt to be a favourable introduction to the new administration. That administration had, as we have seen, to take up the question of an India Bill, and the programme which had been announced also included parliamentary reform. Nobody expected that the government could last long, nobody looked forward with very great excitement to its operations after the India Bill had passed. One or two of the measures which were adopted we have already noted. Some of the events we shall place hereafter in their relation to their results. The two features of the session now to be considered were the budget and the proposal of a measure of reform which had been promised in the ministerial programme. The budget was not cal
THE CONSERVATIVE REFORM BILL.
culated to arouse either great admiration or sustained opposition. It was framed to meet peculiar difficulties. There was an increased expenditure, and yet commercial failures had
The financial statement
was felt to be a critical point, but it was well received, chiefly because it proposed no violent changes. There was a deficit of £3,990,000, and Mr. Disraeli had determined to postpone the engagement to pay off £2,000,000 of exchequer bonds and £1,500,000 of the war sinking-fund. The introduction of a stamp on bankers' cheques was a new feature which would produce £300,000, and it was hoped that £500,000 would be obtained by an equalization of the spirit duties. Mr. Disraeli said he hoped it would still be possible, in the year anticipated, to carry into effect Mr. Gladstone's wise arrangements for the extinction of the income-tax; and Mr. Gladstone, who was, as we may remember, soon about to depart for Corfu as Lord Commissioner Extraordinary to the Ionian Islands, expressed general approval of the scheme, thanked the chancellor of the exchequer for equalizing the spirit duties, and hoped there would be some prospect of keeping down the scale of national expenditure, and of conferring upon the country, at an early date, an actual and positive realization of its wishes.
The budget passed without difficulty, and the government had enough on its hands to last till the end of the session, when it had to consider what should be the measure of reform which would satisfy the country. The subject had not been sleeping during the past twelvemonths. Had Palmerston's ministry continued to hold office, they were pledged to introduce a new reform bill. Several large and important meetings had been held at Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow, at which Mr. Bright had spoken, for he had recovered from the serious illness which had affected him for nearly two years, and was again actively engaged in political work. To him the promoters of a wide measure of reform had applied to prepare the outlines of a bill, and he somewhat reluctantly consented. He would have given the borough franchise to all persons rated for the relief of the poor, and
to all lodgers who paid ten pounds a year rental, and would have reduced the franchise in counties to a ten-pound rental, laying the expenses of the returning officer on the county or borough rate, prescribing that votes should be taken by ballot, wholly disfranchising eighty-six boroughs, taking away one member from each of thirty-four other boroughs, and transferring the seats thus obtained to the larger towns, counties, and divisions of counties.
It could scarcely be expected that the Conservative ministry would introduce such a bill as this; and there was some anxiety to discover what would be their plan. Practically they had no definite scheme, and were so long in framing one that there were fears lest they might break down altogether. On the 28th of February, 1859, however, Mr. Disraeli was ready to explain the measure which had been framed by the government. It was a remarkable proposal, reminding one somewhat, in its curiously fanciful provisions, of the India bill proposed by Lord Ellenborough. It was not intended, its introducer said, to alter the limits of the franchise, but to introduce into the borough a new kind of franchise, founded upon personal property. It was to give a vote in boroughs to persons with £10 a year in the funds, bank stock, or East India stock, to persons having £60 in a savingsbank, to pensioners of £20 a year in the naval, military, or civil services; to the inhabitants of a portion of any house whose aggregate rental was £20 per annum; to graduates, ministers of religion, members of the legal and medical professions, and under certain circumstances to schoolmasters. It proposed to remedy the working of the famous Chandos Clause of the Reform Bill of 1832, by extending the £10 household franchise to the counties, an arrangement which, it was calculated, would add 200,000 to the number of county electors.
The bill was brought in without opposition, but it pleased neither side. The charge brought against it by the opposition was that it aimed to increase the number of voters in such a way as to secure a Conservative majority. Mr. Walpole and Mr. Henley, on the