31 JANUARY 1852, Page 14


DISRAELI'S LORD OEOROE BENTINCX.* Tr is a Protectionist mistake to talk of the late Lord George Ben- tinck as a "statesman," or even as a politician. When Nature gives qualities of any kind, she gives the disposition to exercise them. The child is father of the man in an intellectual as well as a moral sense.- Pope lisped in numbers, for the numbers came. Milton's early style was known, by certain vital signs it had, that it was likely to live. Shakspere had not only chosen his walk but achieved celebrity in early manhood. Newton's boyish occupations indicated the bent of his mind. Napoleon was First Consul at thirty. The eye of Sylla early perceived that there were many Marmses in the youthful Julius. Raphael died a young man. In short, men 'distinguished for eminence in any department early display their native bias ; though occasionally long years of labour may be necessary to their culmination. Lord George Bentinek was a remarkable man, whom passion and circumstances sud- denly raised to distinction ; but a statesman or politician he was not, scarcely a party leader. It may be said that there are exceptions to every rule—that some men, especially men of action, have not exhibited themselves till middle age : and the names of Cromwell and Blake will suggest themselves to every one. In those two cases, perhaps in all such cases opportunity was wanting ; when that came, the men dis- played themselves. Lord George Bentinek had every opportu- nity; what he wanted was the turn of mind. His uncle Mr. Canning early launched him into official and political life under favourable auspices ; he sat in the House of Commons for eight Parliaments ; he neglected both opportunities for the not very re- putable business of the turf, and the sports of the field,—manly in themselves, and useful, we believe, to a country, as keeping up its breed of men but certainly not qualified, when carried to an ex- treme, to store the mind or enlarge the comprehension. His political career supports the 5. priori conclusion. From first to last, Lord George Bentmck never displayed any of that resource 'which a powerful genius long dormant strikes out in its own walk on the stimulus of necessity. His "Protectionist" ideas were as old as Protection ; he gave them spirit by his pluck, and if not much novelty,. yet apparent weight, by the statistics with which he crammed his speeches and rather overlaid them. His opinion that the peculiar circumstances of the Tropical Colonies entitled them to peculiar countervailing duties, was not original ; it had been laid down by various authorities and supported by various writers. The only plan he can be said to have promulgated was his Irish railway proposal. It scarcely deserved the ridicule with which it was assailed. It was superior to the Ministerial waste-money pro- pc' t : there would have been "something to show for the money." The true objection seems to have been, that before the scheme could be fairly in action, either the famine or the people would be at an end.

If politics mean something else than vindictive passion pursued to gratification by unscrupulous means, Lord George Bentinck was no more a politician than he was a statesman. He succeeded in turning out Peel ; but by means so little in accordance with po- litical principle, or perhaps with the conventional morality of his class, that out of two hundred and eighty so-called followers, only some eighty would divide with him. By this time they may have found out that they have improved upon the proverb, and out off the body to be revenged upon the head. The disruption at once displayed their deficiencies in intellect and business training ; they have since been abandoned to the misguidance of adventurers 'without a plan or even a feasible project. Although numerically perhaps the strongest single party in the state, they were compelled to escape from office when thrust upon their acceptance. It is matter of uncertain experiment whether they have vitality left to go into the Gazette ; it is certain that if they could stand as Ministers against a Whig-Liberal Opposition, they would split up themselves from their want of purpose and their out-of-doors dreams of im- possibilities. Even the author of this volume does not scruple to sneer at the plan of Lord Stanley and a large section of the party- " a respectable, moderate, fixed duty, which might have benefited no one and satisfied everybody." (Page 262.) It is customary to talk of the frankness and other manly quali- ties of Lord George Bentinck. There was nothing effeminate or mean-spirited about him ; but that he had other than a conven- tional interpretation of those virtues may be doubted. Mr. Dis- raeli's "PoliticalBiog;raphy " is singularly deficient in personal traits and those living characteristics which bring the man before you. Some features here and there peep out in his letters which are quoted, that give but an indifferent opinion of his manners and his mind. Ile seems to have retained in his high accidental sphere the habits of language and conduct he had picked up in a lower and more congenial. We say nothing of his open aud avowed coarseness,—as his "paid janissaries " and "seventy other rene- gades," which his "companion in arms" admires and defends on the plea that in another generation greater men had used language as 'violent. In a sort of half official letter to the Secretary of the Treasmy, he speaks of the "anti-murder bill,"—a bill, by the by, which he was subaequently the means of rejecting ; and he ever gave the worst of thoughts the worst of words. In his letters, again, we see no trace of high conviction, of reliance upon principle, or confidence in the prevalence of truth. There is dexterity in • Lord George Bentinck; a Political Biography. By B. Disraeli, Member of Par- liament for the County of Buckingham. Published by Colburn and Co.

finesse, a shrewd appreciation of advantages gained or lost, skilful- ness in what may be called jockey arts, and much earnestness to win rather than to succeed. There was also an indefatigable spirit, that shrank from no toil ; though whether the results were equal to the labour is a question—whether a better-trained man might not have done the same tasks with one half of the work. If higher and more admirable qualities existed, they do not appear in the "Political Biography ": but that very possibly is the fault of the author.

It may be asked, if he was neither statesman nor politician how did he attain the eminence which as a party leader he certainly reached? In the first Rime, he had a great deal of English pluck ; which always among Englishmen counts for its full value. He was a man of great energy ; which none of his comates in the cause display, if they happen to have it: he had what they certainly have not, an unwearying industry— in fact, his labour, made more harassing and severe by want of previous knowledge of his work and mastery of his materials, literally killed him. Of his statis- tics purchased at the price of his life, we think little. Mr. George Frederick Young, if not quite so various, is quite as copious and as cumbrous : but such a profusion of "facts" was new to the Country party, and the practice of the betting-book, the calcula- tiog of the odds, and other employments of the race-course, had given Lord George a dexterity in the use of figures, though he wanted the comprehensive knowledge and the inventive logic ne- cessary to draw sound conclusions. We suspect, however, that cir- cumstances quite as much as qualities gave distinction to the man. The Protectionist party wanted some one who could shape a course of conduct to gratify their angry disappointment and their re- venge; and who could give tongue to feelings which many could not and some few would not utter. Political adventurers might probably have been found, who would have had no scruple in doing the work, and so far as mere trading rhetoric was concerned might have done it better. But such a person could not have fulfilled the mission. A man was necessary who felt the passion which he spoke—who was English in habits, family, and even in his prejudices—and who had that sympathy arising from blood and manners which outlasts so mach and which nothing can alto- gether supply. Lord George perhaps died in happy time. Had he lived much longer he would have outlived his position and his uses. Ile wanted the acquirements and the genius even to carry on a living cause and he had linked himself to a dying one. The split caused by his vote upon the hew bill showed how little real re- gard existed between him and the most respectable or his followers. The" Political Biography "of Mr. Disraeli, which professes to de- scribe the mania his public career, is less a life than a review of par- ties and politics from the time of Lord John Russell's Edinburgh letter of 1845 till the close of the session of 1848. And a long, dull and tedious review it is. Sometimes there is a clever account of a scene in Parliament or a private political meeting, or a smart sketch of a political" character," and there is a full-length portrait of Sir Robert PeeL The bulk of the book consists of an abridg- ment of the debates in Parliament, interlarded with quotations, in which Lord George or his biographer figured, and sundry con- nected or digressive commentaries thereupon. A truly critical ac- count of men or measures was not to be expected from Mr.. Dis- raeli ; but one looked for entertainment, and it is not found. This may be attributable to the fact that Lord George Ben tinck is by no means the sole subject or the sole object of the book. The "friend," the "gentleman who sat beside him," the "companion in arms," is by no means lost sight of; directly or indirectly, the fidus Achates is as prominent as the dux rfrojanus. It is in- deed possible that the book may be designed as a covert manifesto; a review of the past and a sort of intimation of the future. In this light it is an equal failure ; for it will hardly satisfy friends, and if it could be supposed that Mr. Disraeli had any real power, it might be alarming to those who think the safety of the country of more importance than factious disputes. The tune of the Parlia- mentary portion of the book is compliments all round ; yet the compliments directed to foes are much better turned, if not more hearty, than those to friends. In fact, the praises of friends are made upon matters which the Roman poet would hardly have called theirs—their acres and their pedigree. Their minds are by no means overrated, and a large portion of the party out of doors are twitted upon occasion. "The general election of 1847 did not materially alter the position of par- ties in the House of Commons. The high prices of agricultural produce which then prevailed, naturally, rendered the agricultural interest apathetic ; and although the rural constituencies, from a feeling of esteem, again re- -turned those Members who had been faithful to the protective principle, the farmers did not exert themselves to increase the number of their supporters. The necessity of doing so was earnestly impressed upon them by Lord George Bentinck, who warned them then that the pinching hour was inevitable; but the caution was disregarded, and many of those individuals who are now the loudest in their imprecations on the memory of Sir Robert Peel, and who are the least content with the temperate course which is now recommended to them by those who have the extremely difficult office of upholding their interests us the House of Commons, entirely kept aloof, or would smile when they were asked for their support, with sarcastic self-complacency, saying, Well, Sir, do you think after all that free trade has clone us so much harm ' Perhaps they think now, that if they had taken the advice of Lord George Bentinck, and exerted themselves to return a majority to the House of Commons, it would have profited them more than useless execrations and barren discontent. But it-is observable that no individuals now grumble so much as the farmers who voted for Free-traders in 1847, unless indeed it be the shipowners, every one of whom, for years, both in and out of Parliament, supported the repeal of the Corn-laws.'

There is a long chapter on that eternal topic the Jewish race,— as if the writer were haunted by his pedigree. It is apropos to nbthing ; for Lord George, who at all events had a practical

English mind, "was not influenced by the views expressed in the preceding chapter." These views are partly old and partly new. There is an attempt to make out that the Jews are Chris-

tians, and the Christians Jews, and that it is quite an error to sup- pose that the Jewish people crucified Christ ; the whole of the judaical essay, when it touches on religion, being, as is always the ease with the author, of a strangely (unconscious) irreligious east. The political drift of the author on the Semitio question is not 'very easy to catch, except that as people are Jewish they are Con- servative, and Red Republican, Socialist, or Communist, as they are the reverse. Whether there is not some leaning to the arbi-

taary power which has overwhelmed Continental freedom in the crusade against anarchy, is a question of no consequence as re- spects Mr. Disraeli, but in the present aspect of affairs is of some consequence as regards the probable conduct of the party. The Whig Ministry is not so strong, the state of the country is not so secure, but that a worse than Holy Alliance, a very unholy alliance, if made a card for Parliamentary opposition by unscrupulous ha- ranguers, may cause injury and possibly danger to the State. That inflation of small things, those efforts after investing the commonplace with grandeur, which often lend to Mr. Disraeli's lucubrations the amusing character of unintentional burlesque, are rare in this volume ; but there are some. When Lord George re- signed his post of leader he changed his seat : Mr. Disraeli wished to accompany him ; but Lord George, to prevent the appearance of schism, wished him not. That simple fact is thus expanded. "Parliament reassembled on the 3d of February, and on that night Lord George Bentinck brought forward his motion for a Select Committee, to inquire into the present condition and prospects of the interests connected with and dependent on sugar and coffee planting in her Majesty's East and West India Possessions and the Mauritius, and to consider whether any and what measures can be adopted by Parliament for their relief.' When he entered the House, Lord George walked up to the head of the second bench below the gangway on the Opposition side, and thus significantly announced that he was no longer the responsible head of the Protectionist party. It was the wish of the writer of these pages, who had resolved to stand or fall by him, to have followed his example, and to have abdicated the prominent teat in which the writer had been unwillingly and fortuitously placed : but, by the advice, or rather at the earnest request of Lord George Bentinek, tins course was relinquished, as indicative of schism, which he wished to dis- courage; and the circumstance is only mentioned as showing that Lord George was not less considerate at this moment of the interests of the Pro- tectionist party than when he led them with so much confidence and author- ity. The session, however, was to commence without a leader, without any recognized organ of communication between parties, or any responsible re- presentative of opinion in debate. All again was chaos. There is, however, something so vital in the Conservative party, that it seems always to rally under every disadvantage."

The true scene of the hero's glory, the turf, is rather gingerly touched upon; but here is one incident of a mock heroic kind, in which, as usual, "the friend" figures.

"A few days before—it was the day after the Derby, May 25th—the writer met Lord George Bentinek in the House of Commons. He was standing before the book-ahelves, with a volume in his hand, and his countenance was greatly disturbed. His resolutions in favour of the Colonial interest, after all his labours, had been negatived by the Committee on the 22d; and on the 24th his horse Surplice, whom he had parted with amongst the rest of his stud, solely that he might pursue without distraction his labours on behalf of the great interests of the country, had won that paramount sad Olympian stakelo gain which had been the great object of his life. He had nothing to console him, and nothing to sustain him except his pride. Even that deserted him before a heart which he knew at least could yield him sympathy. He gave a sort of superb groan : All my life I have been trying for this, and for what have I sacrificed it !' he murmured. It was in vainto offer solace. 'You do not know what the Derby is,' he moaned oat. Yes, I do ; it is the blue riband of the turf.' 'It is the blue riband of the turf,' he slowly repeated to himself, and, sitting down to a table, he buried himself in a folio of statistics. But on Monday the 29th, when the resolu- tion in favour of a 10s. differential duty for the Colonies had at the last moment been carried, and carried by his casting-vote,' the blue ribands of the turf' were all forgotten. Not for all the honours and successes of all the meetings, spring or autumn, Newmarket, Epsom, Goodwood, Doncaster, would he have erchanged that hour of rapture. His eye sparkled with five, his nostril dilated with triumph, his brow was elate like a conqueror, his sanguine spirit saw a future of continued and illimitable success. We have saved the- Colonies,' he said ; 'saved the Colonies ! I knew it must be so. It is the knell of Free Trade.'"

Indeed! It is not necessary to travel far to learn the fate of the Sugar Colonies, and Protection is a good deal nearer its death-knell than Free Prude. Bentinck might have been excused for glorying at the moment, but what must we think of King Cambyses who sticks to the absurdity now