22 MARCH 1968, Page 7

A hundred years ago From the 'Spectator', 21 March. 1868—[The

Irish debate.] Mr. Disraeli's reply was one of his most felicitous displays of intellectual pluck, and cer- tainly the most utterly infelicitous of all his many infelicitous suppressions of logic. "Laughter" occurs in the Times' report of his speech thirty- obe times, often it is "Much laughter,"—while "Laughter" occurs seven times only in that of Mr. Gladstone;—the laughter in the latter case being in more than one of the seven instances derisive laughter of the Ministerial benches,— not at a joke, but at what they considered an inconsistency. The comparision is not uninstruc- tive as to both the spirit of the speeches and the spirit of the men. Mr Disraeli's speech was a series of happy sarosms at his opponents, crowned with a significant and emphatic threat.— 'I deny your moral competence to come to a decision such as that which the honourable Mern- ber for Birmingham has recommended, and such as the right honourable gentleman the Member for South Lancashire is orepared practically to carry out,—I deny your moral competence to do that without an appeal to the nation."