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BENJAMIN DISRAELI 545
the right honorable gentleman, the Secretary of State, has made this evening. Of which speech I may observe, that although it was remarkable for many things, yet there were two conclusions at which the right honorable gentleman arrived. First, the repudiation of the rights of man, and next, the repudiation of the 46 franchise. The first is a great relief; and —remembering what the feeling of the House was only a year ago, when, by the dangerous but fascinating eloquence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we were led to believe that the days of Tom Paine had returned, and that Rousseau was to be rivaled by a new social contract—it must be a great relief to every respectable man here to find that not only are we not to have the rights of man, but we are not even to have the 1862 franchise. . . But I think it is possible to increase the electoral body of the country by the introduction of voters upon principles in unison with the principles of the constitution, so that the suffrage should remain a privilege, and not a right—a privilege to be gained by virtue, by intelligence, by industry, by integrity, and to be exercised for the common good of the country. I think if you quit that ground ; if you once admit that every man has a right to vote whom you cannot prove to be disqualified; you would change the character of the constitution, and you would change it in a manner which will tend to lower the importance of this country. Between the scheme we brought forward, and the measure brought forward by the honorable member of Leeds, and the inevitable conclusion which its principal supporters acknowledge it must lead to, it is a question between an aristocratic government in the proper sense of the term—that is, a government by the best men of all classes—and a democracy. I doubt very much whether a democracy is a government that would suit this country; and it is just as well that the House, when coming to a vote on this question, should really consider if that be the real issue between retaining the present constitution—not the present constitutional body, but between the present constitution and a democracy. It is just as well for the House to recollect that what is of issue is of some price. You must remember, not to use the word profanely, that we are dealing really with a peculiar people. There is no country at the present moment that exists under the circumstances and under the same conditions as the people of this realm. You have, for example, an ancient, powerful, richly-endowed Church ; and perfect religious liberty. You have unbroken order and complete freedom. You have estates as large as the Romans. You have a commercial system of enterprise such as Carthage and Venice united never equalled. And you must remember that this peculiar country, with these strong contrasts, is governed not by force;
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it is not governed by standing armies; it is governed by a most singular series of traditionary influences, which generation after generation cherishes and preserves because they know that they embalm customs and represent the law. And, with this, what have you done? You have created the greatest empire that ever existed in modern times. You have amassed a capital of fabulous amount; you have devised and sustained a system of credit still more marvelous; and, above all, you have established and maintained a scheme so vast and complicated, of labor and industry, that the history of the world offers no parallel to it. And all these mighty creations are out of all proportion to the essential and indigenous elements and resources of the country. If you destroy that state of society, remember this—England cannot begin again. There are countries which have been in great peril and gone through great suffering. There are the United States, which in our own immediate day have had great trials. You have had—perhaps even now in the States of America you have—a protracted and fratricidal civil war which has lasted for four years. But if it lasted for four years more, vast as would be the disaster and desolation, when ended the United States might begin again, because the United States would be only in the same condition that England was at the end of the War of the Roses, when probably she had not even 3,000,ooo of population, with vast tracts of virgin soil and mineral treasures, not only undeveloped, but undiscovered. Then you have France. France had a real revolution in our days and those of our predecessors—a real revolution, not merely a political and social revolution. You had the institutions of the country uprooted, the orders of society abolished—you had even the landmarks and local names removed and erased. But France could begin again. France had the greatest spread of the most exuberant soil in Europe; she had, and always had, a very limited population, living in a most simple manner. France, therefore, could begin again. But England—the England we know, the England we live in, the England of which we are proud—could not begin again. I don’t mean to say that after great troubles England would become a howling wilderness. No doubt the good sense of the people would to some degree prevail, and some fragments of the national character would survive; but it would not be the old England—the England of power and tradition, of credit and capital, that now exists. That is not in the nature of things, and, under these circumstances, I hope the House will, when the question before us is one impeaching the character of our constitution, sanction no step that has a preference for democracy, but that they will maintain the ordered state of free England in which we
WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE (1809-1898)
ENGLAND’S PEERLESS NINETEENTH CENTURY ORATOR
England in the nineteenth century. From 1830 onward to near the end of the century no public question arose on which he had not something of weight and moment to say, and from the middle of the century to his death he was a controlling power in very much of the important legislation that took place. It was his unrivalled power as an orator, his superb statesmanship, and his earnest labors for the best interests of the British people that gave him this supremacy; while in the closing years of his life Ireland hailed him as her champion in the long-sought-for cause of Home Rule.
Gladstone was a man of immense mental activity. The intervals between his rarely ending parliamentary labors were filled with busy authorship. But his fame will rest on his record as statesman and orator, and especially his work for moral progress and practical reform. It would be impossible to name any other British minister with so long and successful a record in practical and progressive legislation. As a parliamentary debater he never had a superior—it is doubtful if he ever had an equal—in his country's history. Gifted with an exquisite voice—sweet, powerful, penetrating, vibrating to every emotion— his long training in the House of Commons developed his natural gifts to the fullest extent. His fluency was great—almost too exuberant, since his eloquence often carried him to too great lengths— but his hearers never seemed to tire of listening. He takes rank, indeed, as one of the greatest orators, and we may say distinctively the greatest debater that the British Parliament has ever known.
As respects Gladstone's deep sympathy with all mankind, we may instance his passionate arraignment in 1851, of the shameful
T HE history of Gladstone falls little short of being the history of
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cruelties of the King of Naples, and at a later date of the terrible Turkish barbarities in Bulgaria. These are two instances of the warm feeling that inspired him on a hundred occasions during his career.
WARFARE AND COLONIZATION [Of Gladstone's oratory we might select innumerable striking examples. But leaving his parliamentary speeches, we make the following extract from the speech of November 1, 1865, at the City Hall, Glasgow, on the presentation to him of the freedom of that city. Many look on this as the most representative example of his eloquence. We choose that portion of it in which he makes war and its effects his theme.]
It is quite unnecessary before this audience—I may venture to say it is unnecessary before any audience of my countrymen—to dwell at this period of our experience upon the material benefits that have resulted from free trade, upon the enormous augmentation of national power which it has produced, or even upon the increased concord which it has tended so strongly to promote throughout the various sections of the community. But it is the characteristic of the system which we so denominate, that while it comes forward with homely pretensions, and professes, in the first instance, to address itself mainly to questions of material and financial interests, yet, in point of fact, it is fraught and charged throughout with immense masses of moral, social, and political results. I will not now speak to the very large measure of those results which are domestic, but I would ask you to consider with me for a few moments the effect of the system of unrestricted intercourse upon the happiness of the human family at large.
Now, as far as that happiness is connected with the movements of nations, war has been its great implement. And what have been the great causes of wars 2 They do not come upon the world by an inevitable necessity, or through a providential visitation. They are not to be compared with pestilences and famines even—in that respect, though, we have learned, and justly learned, that much of what we have been accustomed to call providential visitation is owing to our neglect of the wise and prudent means which man ought to find in the just exercise of his faculties for the avoidance of calamity—but with respect to wars, they are the direct and universal consequence of the unrestricted, too commonly of the unbridled, passions and lusts of men.
If we go back to a very early period of society, we find a state of things in which, as between one individual and another, no law obtained : a state of things in which the first idea almost of those who desired to better their condition was simply to better it by the abstraction of their neighbor's property. In the early periods of society, piracy and unrestrained freebooting among individuals were what wars, for the most part,