« ZurückWeiter »
ART. X.-1. Speech of Lord Derby : delivered in the House of
Lords. Monday, February 7, 1852. 2. Speech of Lord Derby : delivered in the House of Lords.
Monday, March 15, 1852. 3. Speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer : delivered in the House of Commons. Monday, March 15, 1852.
“Watchman, what of the night?” WHEN Victoria, Duchess of Lancaster, made a progress last autumn through her ducal demesne, all its denizens througed to do her homage: banners waved around her-garlands were strewed in her path—no efforts which ingenuity could devise were omitted to possess her Majesty's mind with a notion that the wealth and inight of her dominions were centred in her manufacturing districts. The opulence of mill-owners and the comfort of mill-workpeople were with equal elaborate care displayed before her eyes: portly age bowed before the royal duchess with well-assumed devotion; and childhood was schooled to repeat the language of loyalty with parrot-like volubility, and with parrot-like unconsciousness of the import of the words it lisped forth.
Never in the chivalric days of the Roses were professions of loyalty more profuse. No grumbling allusions to Peterloo were audible—no sneers at an effete and obstructive nobility-no imputation upon the landed gentlemen of England as “ devourers of widows' houses” (Cobden's last most scandalous and perverse quotation) were heard--all was smiling welcome-ali “ went merry as a marriage bell.” “The Queen! the Queen! Our hearts, and hands, and fortunes, our labours and our lives, are hers !"—this was the universal cry. The Times was absolutely rampant in its jubilations over demonstrations which were to drown for all coming time the faintest whisper against the blessings of Free-trade, or the loyalty and sagacity of its partisans. The man who was bold enough to question the sincerity of this lip-worship was railed against by the Times, in its own peculiar fashion, as an impracticable dolt or a drivelling dotard. The armed legions of continental despots were scoffed at, and placed in derisive contrast to the unbought defensiveness of the volunteers of Oldham and Manchester, before whose pale or grimy countenances the golden guard of the Czar, the steel-clad cuirassiers of Austria, and the fiery soldiers of Gaul, were alike to flee. The smiths and weavers of Bradford and Bolton were henceforth to replace Queen Victoria's life-guards, and factory
children were to be her choristers. In short, nothing could exceed the exultation of the Free-trade press over this September show; and nothing could be more ostentatiously loyal than her Majesty's reception in those districts which have so often resounded with the insurgent's cry and blazed with the incendiary's fire. Perhaps, even in the autumn of 1851, could Queen Victoria have taken a midnight ramble, like Haroun el Raschid, in disguise, with a clergyman's wife or charitable visiting lady as her ambulatory vizier, she might have witnessed far different scenes than those which met her royal eye ; for in no portion of her Majesty's British dominions is “ the other side of the wall” a more significant phrase than in those towns which Richard Cobden would hold up as models for universal imitation. On one side of the wall may be found the Sybarite's self-indulgence and the roar of revelry, or the soft accents of the contented optimist with whom want and misery are fictions; while on the other, the comfortless pallet of the pale factory child, the sobs of her sorrow-stricken mother, and the curses of her debased and misguided father, may be seen and heard by those who will visit the seldom visited, though inaudible through the curtained wall. But a Queen of England in the nineteenth century cannot walk abroad with the same facility as a Bagdad caliph in the ninth ; and the millocrats who fawned upon her took good care that only the banquet side of the wall should be visible. We can easily imagine whenever her Majesty expressed her gratification, as each successive group of factory children in holiday garb was paraded before her, that a millocrat mayor would avail himself of the propitious moment to whisper—"Not much factory misery here, your Majesty : all a calumny, I assure your Majesty-all our children are just like these.” Queen Victoria's well-known sagacity and sound judgment forbid us to doubt that her Majesty estimated all these complimentary demonstrations at their just value; else much must her Majesty have marvelled at the late Manchester doings, and been strangely perplexed by the mutability of men, who, in September 1851, were thus prodigal of avowals of devoted loyalty, and in February 1852 subscribe 27,0001. in twenty-five minutes to cripple the exercise of her most unquestionable prerogative.
It may be well to recapitulate a few facts which at the present moment are sufficiently notorious to most men, but which are worth remembering as supplying evidence of the spirit which actuates that fussy charlatan, Richard Cobden, and his noisy* crew, who, notwithstanding their clamour and ostentatious promises of 27,0001. at a minute's notice, have no more title to represent the wealth, integrity, and intelligence of the
* The subjoined statement, which we extract from the Morning Herald of the 10th of March, warns us to accept League financial returns with many grains of salt,
and to mentally substitute shillings for sovereigns, and tens for hundreds, and safely, perhaps, for thousands :
“ The last great League subscription was in December 1845. It was announced that they were going to raise 250,0001., and a sum of 60,000l. was actually subscribed (on paper) in the room ; but a convenient little proviso was annexed that only twenty per cent. should be called up. A man, therefore, who put down his name for 1001., did only agree to pay 201. And this, in point of fact, was all he did pay. For we state, without fear of contradiction, that no more than twenty per cent of that subscription ever was paid. So that, the final result of the great subscription of 250,0001.' was-subscribed on paper 160,0001.-paid up, 32,0001.; of which a neat sum of 10,0001. was handed over by the committee to their chairman, at the end of the business, as a “small acknowledgment of his kindness in presiding over their deliberations.
“But it was hardly to be expected that such a game as this could be played a second time. And, accordingly, when last week's meeting was convened, it was thought a safer plan to reduce the proportion to be called up to ten per cent., in lieu of twenty-thus enabling any man who meant to give 501. to call it 5001. This first call is all that is meant to be paid, and all that ever will be paid. Nothing beyond the first instalment was paid in 1846, and nothing beyond it will be paid now.
"In spite, however, of this reduction, the falling-off is great and apparent. In 1845-6, the sum subscribed in the room was 60,0001., of which one fifth or 12,0001. was paid up. At last week's meeting only 27,5001. was subscribed, of which only one tenth or 2,750l. is to be paid. Another week has passed away since the meeting, and the League organs only add the names of ten other subscribers, who give, nominally, 4,000l., but really 4001. to the fund. So that the whole sum at the banker's at the present moment can hardly amount to 3,000l. And what do the Leaguers hope to effect by this trumpery sum?
“ No one, however, who takes a thoughtful view of the whole affair can wonder at this failure. For a very little consideration will satisfy any one that a more impudent attempt to raise money, on public grounds, for private purposes, never was made.
“ The drift of the whole affair is quite evident. The prime mover of the businessthe man of'unadorned eloquence' has made a very good thing of the anti-corn-law agitation : he is of opinion that the vein is not yet exhausted. Corn-law repeal' first raised him from a vendor of cotton prints to a legislator. Corn-law repeal' then put 70,0001. into his pocket-at least so the League newspapers told us. Corn-law repeal' then made him M.P. for the West Riding.
And latterly many have been the murmurs because the champion of corn-law repeal' was not made a Cabinet Minister.
“But the tide was visibly turning. For the last year or two even the warmest adherents of Mr. Cobden had begun to speak with doubt of his re-election for the West Riding; yet a descent from this elevation was naturally dreaded. He who begins to sink cannot always tell to what point or degree the decline may proceed. At all events, it was obvious that, as popular favour fell off, his chances of becoming a statesman' would diminish, even to a more than proportionate extent. All this was visible to a man accustomed to calculate beforehand ; and accordingly there could be no want of motives in Mr. Cobden's mind for retrieving bis fortunes by a vigorous effort, if only an opportunity could be found,
"This opportunity he evidently thought he saw in Lord Derby's accession to power. His course was open. The rempants of the old League were got together, and a resolution passed that free trade was in danger. Under cover of this alarm the begging-box was sent round, and 2,7501. (called 27,5001.) was got together. Here was the nucleus of a fund for defending Mr. Cobden's seat in the West Riding.'
“The animus of the whole affair was exhibited by the very next step taken, Before the “hurrahs' of the Manchester meeting had quite died away, Mr.
British nation than had the three tailors of Tooley-street, who subscribed themselves, “We, the people of England !"
Lord J. Russell was defeated on a Militia bill upon an amendment moved by his late colleague, Lord Palmerston; whereupon Lord John, in a huff affected for the purpose of covering his apprehension of a much more serious attack a few nights later, pettishly threw down the reins of Government. The country being thus without a Government, her Majesty sent for Lord Derby and requested him to form an administration. Taken on a sudden and hastily summoned from a friendly visit at the Duke of Beaufort's, Lord Derby nevertheless hastened to obey her Majesty's commands. No sooner had his lordship formed an administration, and long before its proposed line of policy had been disclosed, Richard Cobden hurried down to Manchester and proceeded to resuscitate the Anti-Corn-Law League. The Whig Ministry had retired of themselves on receiving a slight blow from a former colleague; who, we apprehend, hardly anticipated such a knock-down effect from his back-hand tip, though he cannot regret the discomfiture of a Ministry whom he must have despised and who used him vilely. Had a Conservative given the destructive blow, some excuse for bitterness on the part of the defeated might have been found; but a quondam ally was the executioner. Why, then, this outburst against Lord Derby before he had made one official declaration ? Why this mustering of forces at Manchester? Why this re-organisation of that League whose mission-(that, we believe, is the phrase)-has been accomplished ? Is it not a preliminary movement against Lord Derby's order rather than against that noble-minded Minister himself, and against other interests besides the agricultural ? The Times pronounces Richard Cobden's unprovoked onslaught as “simply atrocious;" and we are content to accept the character of a Manchester leaguer from
Cobden was on his way to the West Riding. At Leeds we next hear of him, addressing a large mob meeting, and immediately the Leeds Mercury assures us that Mr. Cobden's seat for the West Riding is made quite safe.'
" And this, after all is said and done-this, and nothing else than this, is the real object of the whole turmoil : for this was the League reassembled. For this, was the subscription set on foot. For this, is an effort to be made, all over the kingdom, to get together, if possible, some 10,0001. or 20,0001. to keep a Stockport cotton-printer in the position of "Member for the West Riding. By stolen marches and masked maneuvres was he first placed in that elevated seat; and by no other than such means can he be kept there. Let common sense have but one week's sway, and Yorkshire will find her own representatives, without going to Stockport or to Sussex to seek for them,
“ Whether the Free-traders of England are quite such a set of gulls as the man of unadorned eloquence' evidently thinks them remains to be From what has already appeared we should be inclined to think that this dodge,' though an artful' one, will not prove very successful.”
Printing-house-square, which the irresistible force of truth alone has extorted from that friendly quarter. But this Manchester effervescence, contemptible as it is in itself, with reference to its direct effects, shows nevertheless how prophetic was the opinion delivered by that thoughtful man, the late Lord Chief Justice Tenterden, in a letter to a friend only a few weeks before his death, that the spirit evoked by the great French Revolution of the last century was so far from being extinct among us that it lies still hushed, in grim repose, ready to pounce upon
available moment. But sensible as we are of the existence of the revolutionary spirit, and alive as we are to its fearful character, we never felt less apprehension of its assaults that at the present moment. To the anxious enquiry, “ Watchman, what of the night ?"--we would confidently report that we descry in the murky horizon the dawning of a. brighter day. The Derby Ministry commences office undeniably amidst difficulties of no ordinary character; but its leader's heart is firm and true, and the heart of England is with him. A fortnight ago Richard Cobden posted, or rather railed, to Manchester, fondly fancying that he held the keys of power in his own hand; and that the League might dictate to both Queen and Country whatever administration promised implicitly to obey the League's august behests. The country, without noise or tumult, has quietly dispelled this vain-glorious pretender's dreams by returning all the members of the Derby Ministry who have appealed to its suffrages. This silent fact is more eloquent than all Cobden's, and Gibson's, and Bright's declamatory harangues. These wordy brawlers have cheated themselves, like the chirping grasshopper in Burke's wellknown simile, into a belief that they are the only tenants of the meadow; but the lordly oxen, who lay in silent repose beneath the ancient oaks, have shown themselves and convinced the world that the buzzing insects are not the sole tenants of the grove: we had nearly written-had convinced the grasshoppers they were not alone; but we checked our pen, for so deeply engrained is Cobden conceit that, like the fly on the axletree of the chariot, he is ever complacently exclaiming, “See what a dust I raise !"
How different were the fortunes of the Whigs in 1835 on an appeal to the country. The great law officers were for months unable to obtain a seat, and the two great chiefs, Lords Palmerston and Russell, were driven to seek refuge at Tiverton and Stroud. Lord Palmerston only obtained a seat by bribing a poor needy barrister with a colonial appointment to make room for him at Tiverton; and Lord John Russell would never