A DISRAELI IN FUSTIAN. T HE Times observed on Monday that
"there are very few people in the political world who are in a condition to deny that it is fair to expect a man to vote with his master, his employer, or his landlord, unless he feels strong reasons why he should not, and if the population of a town generally vote in that way, it cannot be said that the opinions and interests of that town are all represented. The tests of resi- dence and personal ratepaying indirectly secure full scope for a man's regular social connection,"—and again, they " secure that the influences which ought to sway him shall have due play." Now, we give the Times credit for this honest avowal that it likes personal ratepaying because it secures employers and landlords an additional control over the votes of the men. In other words, the Times thinks the Tory Bill will increase the influence of property over the working class instead of diminish- ing it, and will open a plain way to such a wholesome system of general intimidation as the interests of property require. If the Tory party would only put that forth to the world with the amiable frankness of the Times, we should not have much anxiety about the ultimate result of this Bill, be it in itself good or bad. We should not hear of many Conservative Working Men's Associations, if we could only get the sup- porters of the Government to avow as candidly as the Times- avows that they are the friends of the working man in this sense, that they wish to take good care that " the influences which ought to sway him,"—" the influence of his master, his em- ployer, or his landlord,"—" shall have due play,"—due oppor- tunity, that is, to bias his intellect through his pocket and his domestic feelings. Unfortunately for the working man, these frank confessions of the Times, which should be carefully studied by working men, are not openly made by the supporters: of the Government. Mr. Disraeli, who understands a good deal better the principles of " Loyola's interpretation " than Mr. Gladstone, to whom he last week imputed so much intimacy with them, has given the cue to his followers to confuse- the subject as thoroughly as they can by playing the varia- tions on the distinction between "popular privileges " and " democratic rights." Accordingly, the secretaries and paid`: authors to the various " Working Men's Conservative Associa- tions " are now putting forth all sorts of humble imitations of Mr. Disraeli in the same cuttle-fish vein,—squirting out all sorts of inky fluids into the already sufficiently turbid waters= of Reform discussion, that the fishy tricks and manoeuvres of the working man's new friends may not be discovered.
We have before us a noble document, evidently produced by some such Disraeli in fustian for the benefit of his brother artisans of the "London Working Men's Conservative Club."' The writer shows no inferiority in moral discrimination to his: more accomplished prototype, but his style, as Mr. Disraeli said the other day of Mr. Beresford Hope's, "though greatly ornamental to discussion, requires practice," and it is obvious• that the Conservative working man's friend in question has not yet attained quite that practice in avoiding subjects of which he is profoundly ignorant, and selecting such superficial his- toric plausibilities as will suit the paradox he wishes to estab- lish, as a more careful study of his master will in time give- him. The London Working Men's Conservative Club are, it seems, printing a series of "Papers for the People," of which the first is now before us. The " right of publication is: confined," we are told, " to the London Working Men's- Conservative Club," but we do not understand this notice as- forbidding us to extract from it such gems of Disraelite- wisdom, as may serve to illustrate the Conservative lessons which these important institutions are now striving earnestly to- disseminate through the length and breadth of the land. The- paper is styled, " What is Conservatism ? " to which the writer kindly gives us a double answer. First, it is " opposed" to "Liber- alism or Radicalism." Next, " in the abstract, it simply means- a preservation of what is constitutionally right and just in the laws of a country, and the maintenance of Authority and Government by law and order." What it is not in the- abstract the author proceeds immediately to explain. On the- lucid definition we have just given we need only remark that its essence probably lies in the phrase " constitutionally right and just," which appears to exclude from Conservatism all respect for what is unconstitutionally right and just, and also for what is constitutional, but wrong and unjust. But how the Constitution limits rectitude and justice, and how rectitude and justice limit the Constitution, the author very wisely does not pretend to say. He would have been wiser still if he had not suggested the existence of this preliminary stumbling-block for Conservatives,—that they are not told` what habit of mind to take up towards either constitu- tional practices which are wrong and unjust, or uncon- stitutional practices which are right and just. On these large classes of human customs our Conservative coun- sellor keeps us quite in the dark as to what ideal Con- servatism should feel. Thus far, however, this counsellor of Conservative working men has not really got into his Disraelite vein. He should study happy generalizations such as the distinction between "popular privileges and democratic rights " rather more carefully. At present his metaphysics are not so worthy of his master as his history, though there are marked fallings-short of his high standard even there. He be- comes, however, somewhat more impressive when he announces, " Conservatism has in all ages tended to the progress and con- solidation of nations, whilst Democracy or extreme Liberalism has tended to their overthrow or decay. It was Conservatism- which made Greece, Rome, and other nations great ; it was. Democracy which overthrew them—as may be seen in the historical writings of Rollin, Gibbon, Macaulay, De Tocque- ville, and others." The chief fault here,—which Mr. Disraeli himself never commits,—is in falling back on authorities ; especially as they are either wholly irrelevant or authorities for the opposite view. Gibbon probably believed that Christianity did more than anything else to destroy Rome, and assuredly did not trace to Democracy the fall of an empire which in the long period in which he had to deal with it scarcely contained a single element of Democracy. De Tocqueville did very powerfully establish one thesis about Conservatism,—but it was that the long- continued conservatism of the old French Kingdom prepared inevitably the way for the Revolutionary Empire,—an empire which this popular instructor condemns with some energy a little further on. De Tocqueville also inculcated a view about Democracy, — that in America Democracy is inevi- table, and whatever his dislike of it, he certainly did not assert for a moment that it would overthrow the power of America, but rather supposed that it would render it more dangerous. Macaulay hated Conservatism with true Whig hatred, and never thought any good of it, or ascribed to it the power of rendering any nation great. In future papers for working men let us recommend this counsellor of theirs to enunciate historical paradoxes on his own authority only, as Mr. Disraeli did when he called Charles I. " the holocaust of direct taxation." It is more impressive ; and it is not equally open to confutation. He is nearer his master,—indeed it sounds very like Mr. Disraeli himself, —when he goes on to say, " Conservatism can be liberal without being libertine." " Liberal, not libertine," is very well, but he should not have spoiled it by the sad anti-climax, "as many of our principal Acts of Parliament testify." When Mr. Disraeli says, " No, I never smoke : tobacco is the tomb of love," he would certainly never have thought of adding, "as many of our principal smoking saloons testify." Paradox and epigram should not refer to every-day human institutions like Acts of Parliauent for evidence of authenticity. Our new teacher goes on to ob- serve that " Pitt was a Conservative, and yet he proposed an extension of the suffrage ; Huskisson was a Conservative, and remitted taxation ; Wellington was a Conservative, and passed the Catholic Emancipation Act; Peel was a Conservative, and proved himself the ablest statesman of modern times." We doubt if even working men will be taken in by this. Most of them know that Pitt was educated a Liberal, differed from the Conservative party in heartily wishing both for Re- form and Catholic Emancipation, and only came to lead Con- servatives, through his administrative talents at the outbreak of a great war in which he himself was most reluctant to embark. Many of them know that Mr. Huskisson differed from the bulk of the Conservative party on financial questions, re- signed his place in the Duke of Wellington's Government because he was too Liberal for it, and was in active opposition to the Conservative party at the time of his death. All of them know that the Duke of Wellington passed the Catholic Eman- cipation Act against his own avowed Conservative principles, because he thought the country in imminent danger. All of them know that Sir Robert Peel's greatreputation as a statesman was derived from twice throwing his Conservative principles overboard, and that it was greatly injured by the only consistent Conservatism of his life,—his opposition to the Reform Bill. For the purpose of making working men Conservatives their counsellors are rather too explicit. They should not quote facts—which are seldom favourable to the Conservative party. They should keep to vague abstract ideas, and sweeten with alliterative antitheses.
It is rather a descent when the working men's Conservative friend comes down to the actual Reform Bill and "personal payment of rates." But there is something novel, and there- fore refreshing, in this,—" we know of nothing so effectual to put down mischievous and ruinous strikes as direct payment of rates. No one can doubt that if the 8,000 tailors who are on strike in London had directly to pay their poor's rate, and so knew the mischief and burden which their proceedings cause, they would be more careful and considerate than they now are, when their first cry is ' we will throw ourselves on the Union.' " It seems almost doubtful whether this powerful writer distinguishes the Tailors Trade Union and the Union Workhouses. The tailors do pay direct voluntary rates to that Union on which they throw themselves during their strike, and as that doesn't prevent their strike, it is a mystery why their payment of direct rates to an institution to which they have no wish or power to appeal during their voluntary idleness, _should open their eyes to the expensive nature of the proceed- ing. We suppose this personal payment of rates is rather a high and mystic, than a rational, article of the Conservative working man's creed ; as, indeed, is also the curious creed that Liberalism loves war—so oddly illustrated by the case of Count Bismarck's and King Wix.iam of Prussia's " assumption of Liberalism" as a preliminary to going to war. Here the working man's friend clearly has access to historic sources not open to common men. The Prussian Parliament certainly had got the impression that their King and Minister were fierce Tories, hating Liberalism in every shape. But the friend of the working man must know something of which the world at large has been hitherto kept ignorant.
This silly address to working men, which "some great booby," as Mr. Disraeli politely said of one of his own con- stituents in Buckinghamshire, must have prepared, is a document rather insulting to the understandings of the class for which it is prepared. We do not deny a certain con- servatism, such as all sensible Liberals and Radicals can sympathize with, to be a very general characteristic of the higher artisans. But it is not party conservatism ; it is the conservatism of good sense,—the dislike to silly and unmean- ing defiances of authority such as the proposed invasion of Hyde Park,—the sobriety of feeling which all intelligent and honest industry tends to strengthen, the dislike to non- sense and sentimentalism of every kind, in politics no less than in real life. But that is not party conservatism. That is not respect for Mr. Disraeli's political sleight of hand. The more widely such appeals as these to the Conservatism of work- ing men are distributed, the more heartily will working men laugh at their cunning and ignorant Conservative advisers.