16 NOVEMBER 1867, Page 6


not the strongest of men, but he and Mr. Walpole, though they can scarcely be said to represent the mind of the Conservative Government, do in some respects represent, even better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Stanley, whatever there is in it that can be fairly called popular. They represent the most amiable side of Conservatism,—its emotional side. The preference which Lord John Manners confessed the other day at the Crystal Palace for calling agriculturallabourers 'peasants,' and for speak- ing of " fellowship " with the peasantry with effusion, and even tenderness, almost resembled the feeling with which wealthy young ladies atboarding-schools speak of those "darling" friends of a lower class whom it is possible for them to patronize. Not that there is the slightest insincerity in Lord John Manners's enlargement of heart, after he has asked and taken permis- sion to call agricultural labourers by the pleasanter name of peasants. On the contrary, it represents, as we said, the.most popular, because the most amiable side, of Conservatism,—the disposition which Conservatives have always felt in even greater measure than the Liberals to "ameliorate," as the phrase is, the condition of the working-classes, so far as this can be done without any alteration of the existing social rela- tions between them and the higher castes. Lord John Man- ners seems a perfect type of the nobleman who desires to "ameliorate" those who are humble, on condition that theyknow and keep their inferior place in society. The true Conservative genius is, we think, really milder and more disposed to enjoy the clemency of doing kind acts towards the poor than the true Liberal genius. Lord John Manners claimed a credit which no fair person will deny to the Conservatives, for their consistent advocacy of social improvements and restrictions like the Ten Hours' Act, the other Factory Acts, and sanitary regulations devised and executed expressly with the view of humanizing the condition of the operatives of our towns. We believe it is quite true to say that these measures have chiefly originated with, and been more warmly advocated by, the Conservative than the Liberal party, and this not only because it happened that the great Radical manufacturers personally disliked and dreaded all restrictions on the freedom of contract with their labourers, but because it belonged to the genius of the Liberal party generally to be suspicious of protective and regulative measures, and to prefer to grant political rights, and then leave it to the grantees to use them as they would, rather than to grant political boons to those whose rights were contested and denied. The strength of the Conservatives has always consisted in the amiable wish of the best among them to soften all the social relations between the higher and lower classes, so as to render existing relations more genial and enduring ; the strength of the Liberals in the wish to equalize the rights of the poor and rich, and so to give the poor the power to protect themselves. While Conservatives have said to the nobles and the wealthy, you have a right to exercise power over the plebeians and the poor, but it is your duty to exercise that right kindly ;' Liberals have said, you have no right but that of contract between equals, and what- ever advantage of position wealth may give you, you may use without scruple as you would with one of your own class.' We need scarcely say which of these two views, the humane patron's, or the sometimes rough and surly Radical's, seems to us, though there be good in both, on the whole the worthier. The striking point now is to note that the Conservatives, though they have conceded what Mr. Disraeli, indeed, assures Mt are not "democratic rights," but only "popular privi- leges," still seem to dream that they occupy the old position which they have virtually evacuated. They have given up all right of treating the working-classes de hunt en bas, and all power to do so, if the working-classes choose to resist it. But they have so good a confidence in the genuine preference of the working-classes for that sort of treatment, that Lord John Manners elicited the vehement cheering of all his 1,840 work- ing-men at the Crystal Palace, by every sentence which assumed that they would be, for the future, as good little boys as ever, and show as much pleasure whenever the aristocracy may please to pat their heads and give them a sixpence to put in their pockets, as if they had not now the power of dictation in their own hands. The Conservatives have abso- lutely given up the political power of the higher classes, and yet they evidently propose to wield all the old influ- ence, and more if they can, in the old way, by consent of the lower. Of course, if they can do so, they are fully entitled to do so ; but there is this obvious danger, which. Lord John Manners exemplified only too vividly the other day at the Crystal Palace, that in order to keep this influence they will have, now that they have lost substantial power, to user flattery instead. Lord -John Manners is a perfectly honest as well as amiable man, and we do not mean to imply that when he flattered his (real or supposed) working-class audience into. enthusiastic Conservatism, he had the least intention of insin- cere compliment. But if you are to persuade a not very wise or very educated class of society like the small borough house- holders, that they are very well as they are, that they need no fundamental or radical reform, that they may well be content with very gradual improvements indeed, that they should con- template no changes except what are already suggested by the spirit of past legislation, in short, that they should limit them- selves to acting to-morrow on the hints dropped by Conserva- tive statesmen yesterday,—if, we say, you are to persuade such a class as that which now has in its hands the suffrage of our- country towns of the wisdom of this great Conservative poliey, the only and obvious way is to take an exceedingly rosy and optimist view of their present condition, and this is exactly what Lord John Manners,—thanks, no doubt, rather to the deficiency of his intellect than to any insincerity of motive,— did. According to him, it is the greatest merit of the Conser- vative Reform Act that it gives to the working-class in small country boroughs so large an influence in the politics of the country. The working-class in small country boroughs, so- far from being unfit for the franchise, is, says his Lordship, a class of the highest political enlightenment. He is delighted with their intelligence, with their education, with every quality that they have. He rigidly abstains from any congratulations- on the enfranchisement of the operatives of the great manu- facturing towns, but he cannot conceal his exultation that so- much more enlightened a class, the journeymen of the small boroughs, have received so liberal a share of power :—" Let me assign a reason why working-men, whether Conservative or not in their politics, should think well of that portion of the Conservative Reform Act • I allude to the retention of the smaller boroughs of the kingdom. By the Act, as it stands, every working-man, I believe, in the smaller boroughs who pays his rates and resides for a limited period in the borough will exercise the franchise." And Lord John Manners has no. fear at all as to the education of this, his favourite class. He- says, in the broadest way, probably without the motive, but certainly not without the effect of flattery, "that the working- classes are uneducated, is capable of refutation. Figures, which no one doubts and everybody admits, show that during- the last half-century the most extraordinary progress has been, made in popular education, and the last census which we have- proves that, with the single exception of Prussia, where edu- cation may be said to take place at the point, not of the birch, but of the bayonet, the primary education of England is. ahead of all the countries in the world." And then ha adds, in solemn rebuke to Mr. Lowe, who had insisted on the absolute necessity of educating our new masters :—" I say that we are not to be terrified into an educational coup de'tat, because we have—with the full consent and assent of the great Conservative party, an assent ratified and endorsed by the acceptance of Parliament and the nation at large—settled the question of the borough franchise on a. broad, an intelligible, and, I trust, an enduring basis." Indeed, Lord John Manners believes and maintains that the enfran- chised classes are educated quite enough for their work. No. doubt this proceeds to a certain extent from aristocratic jealousy of that sort of education which is supposed to be "levelling." Lord John Manners secretly likes so much educa- tion as will fit men to like an aristocracy, but not enough to fit men to believe profoundly in themselves. We can see peeping through his speech that his preference for the journeymen of the small boroughs is due to his impression—very likely, true— that they are much more open to the moral influence of wealth and position than the artisans of the big towns. What the latter would call a thorough education, with its hard, levelling sciences, Lord John Manners would not wish to see too rapidly extended. He sees no hurry about the Education question. He is against all coups d'e'tat expressly in the interest of the people. He wishes to ameliorate, not to revolutionize. Yet how feeble and how falsely flattering does this Conservative view of the condition of the working-class in our small boroughs appear by the light of the riots which we have just had in Exeter, Teignmouth, Barnstaple, and Oxford, and of which Lord John Manners must have read the very day on which he was ex- plaining his theory that the working-men in places of this kind are quite up to the new duties imposed upon them, "without any educational coup d'Itat." Take Barnstaple, which is just above the 10,000 limit, and will, therefore, retain its privilege of electing two members. Lord John Manners must have seen that only last Friday, there were from 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants of that town, who supposed that breaking the windows of butchers and bakers was a fit remedy for dear meat and dear bread. The ringleader in that riot urged on his comrades to take vengeance on the bakers, "who had grown rich through cheating them of their due," and afterwards attacked a corn mill, on the ground that its proprietor had bought up all the corn in the market, and so caused its high price. And, as we know, this is not an exceptional case. What has happened at Barnstaple has happened also at Exeter, Teignmouth, and Oxford,—and, might happen any day in any one of the small boroughs whose householders Lord John Manners thinks quite enough instructed for all practical political purposes now. The truth is, as Lord John Manners well knows, that these riots are a mere outburst, of dense, profound, immeasurable ignorance,—igno- rance such as will not be remedied in a generation by the mild development of our existing educationalinstitutions,—ignorance such as nothing but "an educational coup d'e'tat" can within the next ten years subdue even sufficiently for the most common-place political duties. What contrast can be greater than that between the bearing of the great Lancashire and Yorkshire cities under the fearful pressure of the cotton famine, and these idle displays of wanton and almost occasionless violence in Lord John Manners' pet small boroughs ? Can anything better illustrate the emptiness of the Conservative compliment to those new electors from whom they profess to hope so much We fear very seriously that the Conservatives, now they have conceded the question of right, will be driven, like Lord J. Manners, through intense desire to preserve the influence of class, to salve over the real wants of the new constituencies, and to draw a veil over their ignorance and sluggishness, because so only will they be able to exercise the full power of position and rank. It is obvious that both Mr. Disraeli and Lord John Manners feel that household suffrage in the small boroughs is somehow to be made a compensation to the Conservative party, and a set-off for the Liberal gain by household suffrage in the great manufacturing cities. If it be so, it can only be by the Conservatives taking up this unfortunate line of rivet- ing the influence which their greater political kindliness to inferior classes has long given them, through flattering the illusions of the most ignorant of the new voters. The Liberals will no doubt be likely to say roughly enough to the new constituencies, "See how miserable your condition is. Recognize it thoroughly, and, as you have now the right to legislate for your own regeneration, we will show you how." If the Conservatives take the other line, of painting, as Lord John Manners did, the new householders in the most rosy light, in order to avoid the necessity of radical changes, —coups d'e'tat, either educational or otherwise,—they may win a little temporary popularity, but their fate as a party will not be good. The only " kindly " policy now is to teach the new constituencies the depth of their needs. To persuade them that they are educated enough for political purposes is a flattery which will do more harm to the tongues that utter it,—however foolishly sincere they may be,---than to the ears which it will not long continue to deceive.