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Mr. Disraeli on the Conspiracy Bill.
203 yet himself in total oblivion of the cardinal facts of his own ministerial career. We say that it is absolutely untrue, that the change of government in February last involved a change of policy on the Conspiracy Bill. Does Mr. Disraeli mean to assert that, when his Government came into power, they came into power resolved to abandon that Bill, in the face of Lord Derby's own assertion in the House of Lords, so late as the 1st of June last, that Ministers had suspended a decision on the prosecution of this Bill, until the answer of the French Government to their own overture should be received ?
The fact, therefore, is patent, that the present Government assumed office (so far as our French relations are concerned) with no principles whatever, and that they were equally ready to prosecute the Conspiracy Bill, if Count Walewski should insist thereon, or be indisposed to recommend a change in the laws of England, if Count Walewski should not insist! It is obvious, therefore, by force of Mr. Disraeli's own reasoning, both that there never was, and that there NEVER COULD HAVE BEEX, any peril of war with France, in consequence of the change of Ministry, since the present Government were avowedly as really open to French dictation as their predecessors.
We should be sorry to believe that a truckling policy towards France' (to use Mr. Disraeli's own expression) has been pursued by any Administration that has governed England; and it is offensive to our national pride to hear such an aspersion at all. But this we take leave to say, that if, unhappily, a “truckling policy' has been pursued by the British towards the French Government during the present year, that truckling policy has been the policy of Lord Derby's-not of Lord Palmerston's Administration. We have already stated that we write on this question independently of party politics, and that we are conscious of no other bias than on the side of truth. But the fact is indisputable, and even obvious.
Lord Palmerston introduced the Conspiracy Bill on the logical principle of carrying into uniform practice a principle of our law, which, in spite of the spontaneous dictum of Lord Campbell, is generally acknowledged to be partial and defective in its operation. He did so before any representation had been offered on the subject by the French Government, and at the instance of the law officers of the Crown, who were the authorized exponents of the deficiencies in our penal code. The juncture was certainly unfavourable for such a move.
It is to be regretted that it was made. But the intention was not to alter the laws of England, but simply to destroy an anomaly, in order to render uniform the application of the general principles of English law.
The asseveration that a Bill, devised before even a French suggestion had been offered on the subject, proceeded from French dictation, is merely an abuse of argument.
The policy of the present Government displayed no such independent character. We will not apply to it the offensive term, 'truckling.' Nobody stigmatizes the policy of Lord Derby's Government as 'truckling but Mr. Disraeli himself. But we shall satisfactorily show that Mr. Disraeli does abundantly stigmatize the policy of his own Government as truckling. What was the policy pursued by Lord Derby, the present Prime Minister; by Mr. Walpole, the present Home Secretary; by Mr. Napier, the present Irish Chancellor ; by others now in office, but a vehement demand for special legislation against conspiracies hatched in this country against the French Government? What was the policy of the whole of the present Administration, when they acceded to power, but a maintenance of the sume policy, unless and until they should be exonerated from its prosecution by Count Walewski ? And this is precisely the policy which Mr. Disraeli calls 'truckling.'
In fact, Mr. Disraeli's defences, or apologies, for his famous Slough speech have gone far to increase our knowledge. Mr. Disraeli therein makes his own colleagues pre-eminently the creatures of French dictation. He makes them adopt or ignore the Conspiracy Bill according to the terms of the answer they might receive from M. de Walewski. He makes them support that Bill, not as an act of municipal, but as an act of diplomatic legislation. He represents them the avowed instruments of the French Government.
Lord Derby and Lord Malmesbury are men of public honour too highly established to be vitally struck by the random shafts of Mr. Disraeli. But it is certain that their whole policy is branded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as 'truckling' in an almost inconceivable degree.
The truth is, that every public document proves just the l'everse of what Mr. Disraeli has asserted, as to the imminence of war.
When Lord Palmerston's Bill was thrown out by a narrow majority—for we believe, that in point of law it was thrown out—what was the attitude of the Moniteur? Did it breathe menaces of war? Quite the contrary. The Moniteur calmly chronicled the fact, adding that this division did not involve the rejection of the bill ;' although the Moniteur knew full well that its ultimate success in the House of Commons was extremely doubtful. To add to this indication that the French Government were desirous of conciliating popular prejudice in this country, Count Persigny, who was then in France upon
I'rench Policy of Lord Derby's Government. 205 urgent private business, was immediately ordered to return to London. Mr. Disraeli had been bold enough to tell the people of Bucks and the people of England,' as he termed them, that the Count had left England in consequence of the change of Ministry; whereas, not only does this representation invert the fact, but Lord Clarendon asserts that M. de Persigny had stated to him that he had chosen for his absence the very juncture in which it was least likely to be ascribed to public motives.
It is clear, therefore, that from the moment of the ministerial crisis in this country, the French Government were unwilling to press for the completion of a measure which the late ministry had spontaneously undertaken. Not only, then, was there no peril of war, because the new Ministry were at the outset prepared to support the principle of the Conspiracy Bill; but there would presumptively have been no peril, if they had immediately repudiated it. And scarcely had this Ministry been a week in power, when we heard, with our own ears, Lord Malmesbury declare in the House of Lords, that the French Emperor had officially recorded his conviction, that the Anglo-French alliance could be preserved only on the condition that the honour of one country should never be sacrificed to the honour of the other !
We have taken this as a fair example of the accuracy of Mr. Disraeli's representations. We have not the space to deal with others. The speaker's description of the Neapolitan question is not much more faithful. There is no doubt that Lord Malmesbury has on this question been very successful—but probably Lord Malmesbury himself would claim no other merit than that of having successfully carried out the policy of Lord Clarendon. It must be remembered that the information which enabled the present Cabinet to succeed in this particular came from Lord Palmerston; and that Mr. Disraeli had announced in the House of Commons a resolution which fell little short of the total abandonment of the two British engineers. It was certainly this information from the late Government which changed the fate of those two British subjects.
It must be borne in mind also, that the arrangement between the Neapolitan Court and our own is a compromise on the important question of the amount of indemnity to the two British engineers. It is no doubt an honourable compromise : but Lord Malmesbury, who, unlike Mr. Disraeli, would be the last to overstate anything, would not himself represent it otherwise than as a compromise.
When the late Sir William Molesworth, on his accession to the Colonial Office, three years ago, spoke in the House of Commons in a manner that might perhaps indicate a slight degree of selfconfidence, his speech was referred by Mr. Disraeli to the
saturnalia of salary, under which, no doubt, he had given vent 'to a little natural exultation. A satirist rarely reflects with what tenfold force his strictures may sometimes be remembered against himself. Now, moreover, that great naval and military preparations are being made by the French Government, Mr. Disraeli must take the whole responsibility on himself, if an apprehension of war should seize the public mind.
The immediate questions of Indian reform resolve themselves into two cardinal classes—those which relate to the system of home government, and those which relate to the policy to be pursued in the territories which we are now reconquering, or have already reconquered. In regard to the former of these classes of questions, there can be no doubt that our legislation for India has virtually been in abeyance during the last four months. As we have before said, we see no other prospect of Indian reform than in a rescue of this question from the dilatory process under which it has been worked out by inappreciable degrees. The mode of legislating by resolutions which Ministers adopted, was a very different one from that which Lord John Russell had in contemplation. It had apparently no other object than that of postponing earnest legislation until 1859 ; unless, indeed, there was the ulterior motive of staving off the question of Parliamentary Reform, which will assuredly overthrow any Conservative Government upon which its adoption may be forced. There is, however, even yet a hope-at the time in which we write-of carrying into effect a measure of Indian Reform during the present session. That result is to be attained only by retracing our steps so far back as to last February—in other words, by reverting substantially to the Indian Bill No. 1. There is no alternative to this course, if we would shield parliamentary government from the slur of inability to consolidate two public departments during a whole session.
Lord Derby, indeed, was fortunate in the abstract, in being able to entrust Indian Reform successively to two politicians personally acquainted with India. But these advantages were in both instances rather nominal than real. Both Lord Ellenborough and Lord Stanley, though in some respects very different men, have in common produced but very indifferent India Bills, which we apprehend must share a common fate.
If this presentiment be well founded-and it is at least a prevalent one-it may be doubted whether a centralization of our Indian Government at home will be effected after all by the present Ministry. When the Indian mutiny shall finally be supThe Indian Legislation of Mr. Disraeli.
pressed, the popular enthusiasm in favour of a concentration of power in the hands of the Crown will very probably decline. Indian reform may then, perhaps, be allowed quietly to drop, until, possibly, a fresh mutiny, or some other disaster, shall break out. We do not say that this insidious abandonment of Indian reform will be the more probable result of this interminable process of legislation. We doubt if the House of Commons will suffer a policy asserted by so large a majority to be so ignominiously defeated. But the contingency is possible enough to deserve a careful circumspection.
The present Government have never heartily entered upon the question. This lukewarmness, indeed, can hardly be wondered at. They accepted, as the price of office, a policy which they had loudly denounced when in opposition. The alleged ground of their conversion was the extent of the majority by which the India Bill No. 1 had been carried ; in other words, it was the popular enthusiasm in favour of a reform such as that Bill shadowed out. When, therefore, this popular enthusiasm shall subside, all legislation on the part of the present Ministers may be fairly expected to subside also; unless, indeed, either the enthusiasm shall survive the resolutions, or
an India Bill No. 3 shall opportunely help them to keep off the question of Parliamentary Reform.
We do no injustice to Mr. Disraeli if we ascribe to him such a policy for 1859. There will scarcely be any deceit in the matter.
. In introducing his India Bill No. 2, he acknowledged himself, with eminent candour, the cat's-paw of a liberal majority. He confessed that he had bartered Conservative convictions for liberal votes. He did the same by the India Bill as he had just before done by the Conspiracy Bill. His mind, when he came into office in February last, was, politically, that utter blank which Locke would have told him that it was, naturally, when he came first into the world. He had no innate political ideas, and his policy was built up by the action of example around him. He would adopt or repudiate the Conspiracy Bill
, according to the dictation of Count Walewski. He would adopt or repudiate the India Bill, according to the dictation of a Liberal majority in the House of Commons.
Mr. Disraeli's policy is therefore essentially, in one word, reciprocity. If Mr. Disraeli were to turn lexicographer, he would probably, when he came to the word ' opinion,' describe it as 'that "ostensible profession, or intangible ware, which a statesman in office barters for political support of a corresponding value.' And if he were to turn political economist, this system of merchandize would undoubtedly occupy a large place in his chapters