POLITICAL SLEIGHT-OF-HAND. "Sure the pleasure is as great In being
cheated as to cheat." SINCE the days of Don Raphael and Ambrose Lamella, the more dexterous of that class who, inasmuch as they by superior wit make others subservient to their purposes, may properly be designated the natural aristocracy or governing class of society, have relin- quished the old hackneyed method of winning the confidence of those they wish to manage by great professions of honesty and
good-will. They do not address their man, "You are a noble fellow," and " I am sincerity itself." They on the contrary begin by assuming a general laxity of principle and selfishness ; tell how this, that, or t'other has been or may be cheated ; then, shrugging their shoulders and sighing, say, " But you are such a sharp fellow, we have no chance with you! '—and having thus con- ciliated,his self-love, wind up by putting some barefaced trick upon him.
In these moral days, there are few Don Raphaels in genteel so- ciety. But as there is a principle in human nature which leads men who deny themselves one indulgence to make amends by ex- ceeding in another, so many, who are above tricking us for our money, have no objection to do it for the purpose of showing their cleverness. To prevent the tricking propensity from growing too strong from entire want of vent, society has wisely left two or three limited fields wherein clever fellows are at liberty to try their skill. There is no great harm in this : the pursuits of life, in which you are not to expect men to be straitlaced, are as well known as the first of April or 'Change Alley. If you stray into them, it is after being forewarned of the treatment you are to expect : if you dislike it, why do you run the risk ? Horse-dealing is one of these liberal professions : we once heard a dignified clergyman say, in a most matter-of-course vein, "Oh, in a horse a man would cheat his father." The pursuit of politics is another. Tory and Radical politicians are, comparatively, bunglers : the Whigs stand at the top of the profession. The Whigs do not af- fect any preternatural virtue : they are matter-of-fact " practical men," as Mr. O'CONNELL and the Morning Chronicle phrase it. They tell you, you are a man of sense; explain the bargain they wish to strike with you • and end by outwitting you in strict con- formity with the rules of fair-dealing. Let us take an example. Mr. E. ELLICE junior met his consti-
tuents at Cupar about a week ago. Ile began by telling them, that be thought the best way of preserving their confidence was to be perfectly frank wi,th them. He admitted that, "in the estimation of some of his friends, be might not at times have gone far enough." Upon this hint, he reminded them, that "his had not been the easy task of a mere follower of Government, or a thick-and-thin sup- porter of Sir Robert Peel"; that, "having to judge and determine for himself, in many cases was no easy matter.' He might labour under a disadvantage from taking this high ground, which less scrupulous persons escaped : " It might indeed be of advantage to a sham Reformer, to use as a blind to his constituents, who did not think he went far enough, and who would send it down to them and say, ' Look what a Radical vote I have given '—knowing very well all the time, that he would not have given it had he thought there was any chance of its being acted upon." After this preface, young Mr. ELLICE proceeded to make a tolerably liberal declara- tion of his views and sentiments ; taking care, however, to guard himself by the necessity of keeping Ministers in—" If he was re- quired to give a vote be might not exactly like, but which did not involve a dereliction of principle, in favour of Government at a time when their existence as a Ministry depended upon it, he had to balance which was the greater of two evils, the yielding a point in opinion, and thus keeping in a Liberal Government, or by re- fusing to support them, turn them out and bring in the Tories."
The trick is palpable enough when one reflects upon it at leisure, though it seems generally to escape detection in the hurry of a public meeting ; as was the case with the Cupar electors. The process is as follows. The gentleman candidate or representative first gently awakens the combative or argumentative tendencies of those upon whom be has a design, by professing some opinion which he knows to be rather unpalatable to some of them. His friends and opponents thereupon bristle up, and prepare for a struggle. He affects a de- gree of sturdy dogged resolution, and magnanimously declares, that however much he values their good opinion, yet with him con- science is all in all. With this his friends are in raptures, and his opponents exclaim, "Come, he is at least a frank, manly fellow." He then goes on to say a great many things that he knows will please both parties. His opponents begin to think, that a man who entertains so many sound opinions is not to be despised, and that his sturdiness at first is a guarantee for his sincerity. His friends look round triumphantly, as if to say, "Did we not tell you so ?" And amid the general pleasing excitement, no one notices the qualification slyly introduced—in a parenthesis—which neu- tralizes all his professions. Thus, young Mr. aides carried the meeting by his declaration in favour of Corn-law Repeal, Vote by Ballot, his sympathy" with the rabble," and above all, his interest in local improvements. His auditors forgot, or did not feel the full force of his provided their support be compatible with keeping Ministers in.' Young Mr. ELLICE will not, to support Ministers, give up a principle, but he will for that end " give a vote he might not exactly like "—he will "yield a point in opi- nion." What is the difference between " giving up a principle" and" yielding an opinion" ? What votes can or ought a man to dislike, except those that are contrary to his "opinions"—or,
what is the same thing, to his" principles" ? Young Mr. Eeeics has provided himself beforehand with an excuse for leaving any or every principle by professing which he conciliated the electors of Cupar, to shift for itself, on a fitting occasion. He gulps down Liberal pledges with the same boldness that the poisoner in FLETCHER'S Wife for a Month swallows half the draught he has prepared for his victim ; and for the same reason—because he has taken his antidote beforehand.
The trick is, after all, neither very recherche nor very new; and we should feel contempt for the Cupar electors while publishing how easily they have been gulled, were it not that there are so many to keep them in countenance. The trick, indeed, is one which, with what are called "Liberal electors," seems never to fail of success. They have.a liking for it, and go half-way to meet the operation. We noticed not long ago, the success with which Mr. Giesow played it off at Manchester. Mr. GieLosi, encouraged probably by Mr. E. &laces success, has performed it with great eclat at Falkirk. And even Mr. O'Cosneem., who seemed to have tired himself and everybody with its incessant repetition, shows symptoms of an inclination to have recourse to it for one season more. In a letter to the editor of the Leeds Times, he defends himself against the charge of being one of those who caused " that shirking of Reform, of which he now bitterly complains," by "sacrificing principle to subserve the purpose of faction," upon the plea that it is necessary to support the Whigs.
" Decies repetita placebit." Never since the pantomime of Mother Goose drew the theatre-shunning Lord ELDON fourteen times running to witness its exhibition, has a trick been produced which has stood the wear and tear of repetition-so well as this "Keep in the Whigs" method of backing genteelly out of fair promises has done with the most gullible public.