LORD AMBERLEY'S SECOND APPEARANCE.
VISCOUNT AMBERLEY has swallowed himself whole. That is rather a brutal remark to make about the poor lad, who after all is trying to do as well as he can, but it really is the only one which expresses the absurd position into which he has got himself at Leeds. He went down to that great Northern borough not two months ago full of good intentions, boyish enthusiasm, and the name of Russell. They are all good things and all popular things, and so great is still the belief of the constituencies in his father, that Lord Amberley would have been returned, though not without a lit- tle trouble, but that he chose to cut out a line of his own. Whether acting upon his own real though embryo convic- tions, or overbalanced by the attentions of those around him or ° penetrated with that sudden hunger for popularity which sometimes seizes men when face to face with a hostile meet- ing,—it was hostile in a way, having been called for the express object of criticizing the Ministry,—he suddenly announced himself a leader of the democracy, satirized the peers, defended the rights of the masses, and went in, as far as skilled reporters could understand, for government by uni- versal suffrage.. He did not exactly say he wanted to give every man a vote, but he did say that he hoped to see the day when every honest and intelligent man would have one—and who at a public meeting is not honest and intelligent ?—and his audience, interpreting him altogether in that sense, went wild with approval. Here was a young David on tip-toes ready to slay Goliath, and with the sling, too, quite visible in his hand. People with nothing thought there never was anything like Lord Amberley, and as people with something are never much afraid of a Viscount attacking property there seemed every prospect of his being returned by acclaim. Mr. Beecroft was a dangerous opponent, for Mr.' Beecroft is liked.; but still Leeds at heart is not exactly the borough which a Tory member desires. Lord Amberley therefore went home full of honours, but the Press, which whether Tory or Whig is at bottom just a little impatient of young men who measure their height from the ground when standing upon their fathers' shoulders, followed him with criticisms; his father can scarcely have approved his course, and the drawing-rooms were decidedly very angry. " Society " must have been rather a bore to Lord Amberley for a little while. He was "opening the sluice gates, —letting in the flood before he had gained the experience necessary to teach him its strength.
Lord Amberley reflected, we suspect, and indeed he says so, as he had never reflected before, and the result was the curious scene witnessed on Wednesday night in the Leeds Music Hall. With the kind of plucky frankness common to young men of his class who know they will be tolerantly treated, and that they cannot fall far, he resolved to be absolutely honest, to strip himself mentally naked before his audience, to show them that his political frame was built up only of intellectual' gristle. He really did it. With a nerve for which as we laugh we have a feeling of honour, he eat out an hour and a half's examination, and throughout told the electors the simple truth, that his convictions on most points were altogether unformed, that he was still thinking out everything, that he could not pledge himself upon any point because he did not know what he might think by and bye, and did not like to break pledges. Russells do not.
That is' as far as we know, main good of Russells. Was he for the ballot? Well, he liked the ballot, but he had not made up his mind "whether it would be as effectual as might be wished ;" 'people might find some other mode of coercion, and on the whole he was in favour of a permissive ballot to be adopted by any constituency which liked it, a suggestion painfully imbecile. Imagine the Duke of Somerset, for example, told by a tenant that his vote was sacred because the majority of his neighbours in Totness wished it to be. Would he vote, asked a Mr. Doalton, for the repeal or amendment of the present law on the relation of Masters and workmen ? (These hard-headed Leeds men are getting unpleaiantlf practicial.) Well, he did not know anything about it, but when he did he would give a reply. Would he vote for national education gratis ? In principle yes, but in practice he thought that everybody who could pay should pay. Or compulsory education ? Well, he was favourable to that "as a measure of abstract principle,"—a measure is concrete, and what is concrete abstract ?—but he "doubted whether it would work well in this country." It might, one perceives, in Laputa, but then Leeds electors were un- fortunately not asking about Laputa, but Leeds. Was he for or against the Permissive Bill ? He had the greatest respect for the Permissive Bill. He really wanted to suppress drunkenness, but doubted if that were the best way. There might be a better,—" It was possible that on further consideration he might be in favour of it, but at present he saw some objections to it." In the midst of all this came up half-a-dozen times the main point—the question of suffrage. Would Lord Amberley vote for Mr. Baines's Bill, making .a six-pounds rental the limit of suffrage instead of ten ? The question was at first asked as a pure matter of form, Lord Amberley's first speech having gone far beyond that paint, but as the evening advanced the interrogatories grew earnest and even angry. Viscount Amberley answered them all, frankly and in a way fully. The gallant little man never skulked the most disagreeable position, never even said, as he ,xnight have done, that he was going to speak specially on that point, but he had altered his mind, and he did not know what to say. True, however, to his plucky resolve to strip himself bare, he said pretty clearly that, showed his audience that he was still thinking and, we fear, materially diminished his own chances. He did not entirely repudiate his former speech. No, "he adhered to that fatly," he was still willing "that every in- telligentand honestman should be admitted to the suffrage," but "it was not altogether in his power to say whether the 61. householders, whether all of them at any rate, had those quali- fications." He "hesitated to give a positive opinion on the point, because he felt that at a future time he might see reason to change his opinion." The electors who had believed that Lord Amberley thought the payment of taxes a sufficient qualification looked dreadfully blank at this, so the speaker explained his view still further. "As you are aware, I am very much in favour of extending the franchise to the work- ing classes, and of giving them a proper representation; and if I find that the object cannot be accomplished in the way I myself should wish, I should in all probability vote for Mr. Baines's Bill. At the same time I don't find myself in a position to give a positive promise on this matter." The real idea in Lord Amberley's mind was probably the sound one that he wanted to give working-men a representation, a real and adequate representation, without swamping every- body else, but he had only inchoate ideas how to do it; he knew the indefiniteness of his own ideas, and he con- sequently uttered sentences more widely opposed to his father's principles, his own principles, Tory principles, and Radical principles than any we ever remember to have read. His utterances have no basis whatever. The Tory principle is that intelligence, as exhibited in the accu- mulation of property, ought to be the basis of the franchise, and in that view intelligence and honesty have by themselves no claim. The Whig view is that intelligence and honesty are good qualifications plus property, and in that view also his definition is thrown out. Our principle, which is also Lord Amberley's secret principle, is that iatelligence and honesty are full qualifications, provided those who possess them are not so numerous as to swamp every other class possessed of the same qualifications. Intelligent and honest John Nokes is as qualified to vote as Henry Beauchamp, Master of Arts with ten thousand a year, but as there are u hundred Nokeses for one lhauchamp, the Nokes's votes must be limited some- how. Otherwise the English decision will be the decision of the Nokeses, which is not equivalent to u national decision, and this is precisely what Lord Amberley meant,—but then rental has very little to do with the mutter. Finally, the Radical view is that the Englishm in has right of vote qua Englishman, or at all events qua taxpayer, a proposition which reduces all other formulas either to absurdities or temporary devices accepted for the sake of expediency, and is totally in- conlistent with any limit of rental. No Radical not a fool ever argued that John Stuart Mill, if pauper in a Union, would not be qualified to vote. Viscount Amberley's proposal Is that every man of intelligence shall have a vote irrespective of _property, only that if lie lives in a house of less than ten pounds a year he cannot be held to be intelligent, which is simply nonsense. The truth is the speaker had, like most young Englishmen, a mass of contradictory ideas on the subject &Ming in his head, and unlike most young Englishmen, he allowed his audience to see him trying to reduce them to systematic order. It was really a courageous attempt, one which only a truly honest and brave man would have made, and we are pleased to perceive that the people of Leeds had a kindly feeling towards the man who was making it, and the grace to cheer when Mr. Marshall, with sound tact, said it was not often any candi- date was half so honest. They may not elect him this time, even though he has since this meeting swallowed the 6/. clause, but they will like him for the future, and that is something. But then this being the truth, what possessed Lord Amberley to go and talk wild democracy, and abuse the peerage, and advocate universal suffrage only a few weeks before ? Boy- ishness? Well, we want to see the boys in Parliament, and have rather a penchant for seeing boys of the old houses elected in preference to Smith and Jones, but then they should not stand for Leeds, or utter great dogmas one week to retract them the next. A month ago anybody with intelligence and honesty was qualified for a vote, on Wednesday nobody was qualified if he lives in a house rated only at 6/. a year ! We are not supporters of Mr. Baines's Bill, which will not do what we want to see done, namely, seat fifty working-men, or work- ing-men's nominees in Parliament, and will eventually do what we do not want to see done, swamp the well-educated in the less cultivated, but a candidate who pleads for universal suf- frage one day ought to be able to swallow a six-pound suffrage and a good deal more the next. Consistency is generally only another term for intellectual obstinacy, but then one requires as much of that quality as will demonstrate intel- lectual clearness.
The meeting ended nominally in a resolution requiring further explanations, but really in a conviction that Lord Am- berley will make a creditable politician, but is not as yet the man either to lead the democracy or to represent Leeds. We agree with the meeting, all the more because on the following day Lord Amberley swallowed himself again, and agreed to vote for Mr. Baines's suffrage Bill.