THE DERBY GOVERNMENT.
London, 15th April 1852. Sire—I notice in your paper of last week two replies to my question, " What is Lord Derby's Ministry without Protection ?" Your Dublin cor- respondent " H. M." answers, that " his is the Government which has buried the murdered corpse of Protection, and will lay its waudthering sperrit." Poetical and Irish, but not quite to the point. Your correspond- ent " R. S." is equally sententious, though not more precise or categorical: all what he can tell about the matter is, that " without Protection, Lord Derby's Government is possible—with it, impossible." I fear the effect of your recent articles has been lost upon him : they show plainly enough, that whether with or without Protection, Lord Derby's Government cannot con- tinue as it is. I wish to state the ease plainly and fairly. The last Conservative Government was that of Sir Robert Peel It con- tained the following statesmen—Lord Aberdeen, Sir James Graham, the Duke of Newcastle, Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Sydney Herbert, Mr. Cardwell. They followed the fortunes of their leader, and have been in a state of obscuration since Whiggery became dominant. Where are now those statesmen ? Are they with Lord Derby and his Government ? No—they are Conservative still, but not of Lord Derby's party. Why net? they are surely fitter for office than the present Ministers ? Why, in the present state of foreign af- fairs, is the country deprived of Lord Aberdeen ? Why are the Colonies taken from the care of Mr. Gladstone, one of the very few men who tho- roughly understands them ? Even Mr. Walpole, respectable as he is, will bear no comparison with Sir James Graham, one of the ablest of Home Secretaries. I ask, why is this ? Is not the fact too plain to admit of ques- tion ? Lord Derby's Government is still Protectionist. Protectionism is its law of personal cohesion ; although, to keep itself in office, it is compelled to make an open denial of its faith. It seems, however, now likely to assume a new phase ; it is about to take a positive distinctive character. It is to be a Government of pure and simple inertia—barring, perhaps, a modicum of Law Reform ; about which the coun- try only now concerns itself with the question of when and how it is to be done. Eldonism is to be revived. Lord Derby's policy it to be a do-nothing policy. Such is the tone of the Ministerial organs. That, to be sure, will be honest and intelligible, though utterly insane and ruinous. Then, in- deed, Lord Derby will be playing the game of the Chartists with desperate effect.
Let me apply a few tests to the question. For instance—Does Lord Derby mean to leave the administration of county affairs unchanged ? In my last letter I referred to our county institutions as simple oligarchies. I used the term advisedly, but not with the intention of offence or of personal disre- spect to country gentlemen. In truth, our county institutions, (which are in the nature of municipalities,) as at present constituted are mere oligarch- ies, unsuited to the existing state of things, and not well adapted for the management of county affairs. Will Lord Derby stick by them ? In doing so, he will assuredly destroy the Country Gentleman interest ; who will be quickly flooded with the rush of the Democratic tide, or swallowed up in the vortex of Centralism. An infusion of popular control into this department of our local institutions would be essentially a Conservative measure, and give strength and safety to the country gentlemen. Again—Is the University question to remain where it is ? Will no effort be made to move those inert bodies ; or will it be left for Whigs and Radicals, on their first return to office, to sweep away Academical institutions, and to instal a Ministry of Public Instruction ? Again—Are Church affairs to pass untouched ? Are time-honoured abuses of Deans and Chapters to be winked at—Rochester to wit, and others ? Is the vast aggregate of Episcopal revenues to remain distributable amongst a few dignitaries, notwithstanding the cry of the Church herself against the weakness and inefficiency of her Episcopate, the want of more bishops, and the excessive disproportion between the position of bishops and the inferior clergy ? Is it Lord Derby's policy to let these things be ? or to take timely account of them, so as to prevent a general outbreak of popular disgust, and an overthrow of Church institutions of all kinds ?
Again—In the case of our Colonies, is Lord Derby deaf or blind to the signs of the times ? Does he fail to perceive from a thousand indioations, that a great change is coming over the Colonies themselves, as well as over the public mind in England respecting them ? They are weary of Co- lonial Office rule, and the country is sick of Caffro wars. The children have, for the most part, attained manhood, and demand emancipation : is Lord Derby prepared to concede this fully and frankly ? I fear not : his few re- marks the other night, on prescntine* a petition from Newfoundland, show that his mind is yet wandering in darkness on this question. He would hold fast by the established regime of Downing Street, till, one by one, each colony in turn has been fretted into disaffection, with the certainty of be- coming a rebel the moment it is big enough. So of many other questions of pressing interest. To sum up the whole, is Lord Derby's policy to be that of mere ineitia—to stand still till he and his party are swept away, together with the institutions which he professes to value ? Or is it to be a policy of Conservative Reform—safe, progressive, and effective, and therefore Conservative ? But if so, why is his Govern- ment so narrowed ; and why aro the only men of known fitness for such work excluded from it ? Doubtless, Lord Derby will say that such exclusive- ness is not of his own choice: and that is in a measure true—it is one of the great and necessary evils of the falseness of his position. No one can extri- cate him from it but himself. Has he the requisite statesmanship for the purpose ? I believe not; I believe that ho will go on as he has begun—that he started with no definite policy, and that he will form none. He will stick to his Protectionist followers as a party. He has not the courage to shako the rotten fabric to pieces. He will go to the election—and will return with a strong minority. By dint of continued mismanagement, he will alienate and exasperate all that body, of Liberal Conservatives who are at present out- side his pale, and will either disgust them into useless neutrality, or force them into combination with the various sections of his Anti-Conservative opponents. That combination must speedily oust him from office; and be, with the Country Gentlemen, will pass over into sulky, factious, and ineffective
opposition. In the mean time, flexible Lord John will have bid up for Radi- cal support—sad will have bought it. He will form new factions, at each step descending lower and lower. He will become by this process numeri- cally strong, and win a certain kind of popularity. So he will recover, and probably keep the Government—flinging away bit by bit the institutions which Conservatism seeks to maintain, and permanently overthrowing Conservatism itself. Such appears to me the probable course of events, for which the thanks of the Conservative party will be due to the Derby-Disraeli Ministry. These, at least, are my speculations ; and till I can see more light through the