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HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
justified. On March 9, 1781, for instance, my ancestor Horace Walpole wrote:
"Our glory is gone, our constitution is gone, our sense is gone"; yet here we are to-day still alive and comparatively flourishing, and, what perhaps is more to the point, still saying the same thing.
Janus and his political devotees-Anecdote of Lord PalmerstonMr. Lowe-Lord Iddesleigh-Anecdote-The decay of oratory-Jobbery and election tricks-The late Lord Lytton's apt criticism of Parliamentary life-'eds of feathers and 'earts of gold-Anecdote of Mr. GladstoneThe Parliament Bill-Lord Halsbury's fearless British pluck-Sham Radicals and shoddy titles-An amusing anecdote-Women's rights -My own view-"Babes for men "-An old French tale-Victorian women-Mademoiselle de Fauveau
WELL-KNOWN public man, who in his day had played many parts, once declared that "he had seen a good deal of rascality on the turf, more on the Stock Exchange, but only when he began to get behind the scenes in politics did he realize how contemptible human nature can become."
Long years ago Sir Robert Walpole said much the same thing; according to him it was fortunate that so few men could be Prime Ministers, as it was best that few should thoroughly know the shocking wickedness of mankind.
The only consolation about all this is the idea that time will always sift the wheat from the tares, and every true thought and genuine deed will have its value when the more showy performances of charlatans have disappeared from the face of the world.
There was perhaps a good deal of sense about
LACK OF MORAL COURAGE
the whimsical suggestion which was made at the time when the great clock was set up high above the new House of Commons at Westminster.
For a time only two out of the four sides worked, making it double-faced, like a good many members. It was then said the clock ought to be called Janus, the great head and patron of all politicians.
The god in question has certainly never had more worshippers in Parliament than to-day; a particularly unsatisfactory result of which is that England, as has been aptly said, has become merely an island in the German Ocean governed by Scotland, coerced by Ireland, and plundered by Wales.
The present state of affairs has been largely brought about by so many men worthy of better things being totally devoid of moral courage-their main object seemingly is not to lead, but to follow.
What a difference from the old school and their unflinching ways!
Once when Lord Palmerston went to Glasgow the working men formed a deputation to present his lordship with an address. After the latter and his suite had retired from the conference, the Lord Provost of Glasgow, addressing the Premier, said, "My lord, it must be a great bore to you to receive and hear so many deputations from all parts of the country." "Oh yes," said Palmerston; "but it is my duty, and I get over it very easily. However, I have had some very curious deputations waiting
on me in my time. You all remember, of course, the tragedy of Rugeley, where Palmer poisoned Cook with strychnine. Well, what d'ye think?—a deputation of the principal inhabitants came up to me praying that I should give my consent to changing the name of the town, as it had become so infamous by the murder. After talking to them for a few minutes, I said, 'Gentlemen, the town belongs to So-and-so, who would require to be consulted.' The deputation thought I could settle the matter at once. I then asked them what they could propose as a new name, and they left it to me. 'So,' I said, 'in that case, best name that I could suggest
the only and the
is Palmers' town!'
I can tell
I can tell you that no deputation ever left my room quicker than they did."
The House of Lords is now weakened and revolutionary Radicalism exercises real influence throughout the land. Nevertheless, the public cannot be said to have benefited very much, for, though Parliamentary life now costs members a good deal less than in old days, it costs the British taxpayer a good deal more-the little item, for instance, of Mr. Winston Churchill's speech at Belfast, owing to the police and military which had to be employed, took no less than £4000, I believe, out of the national pocket. Considering that no one was a penny the better for it, this visit of the First Lord was certainly expensive.
In connexion with the enormous increase of taxation which has become such a feature of recent
years, there are one or two politicians to whom one might well apply the line of Goldsmith:
A man is he to all the country dear.
Mr. Lloyd-George, with his philanthropic ideas and visionary schemes, squanders the large sums wrung from the moneyed classes. "Robbing henroosts," it seems, is far more to his taste than thrift, which one of his Liberal predecessors, my old friend, the late Lord Sherbrooke, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, understood so well.
Mr. Lowe, though his first two Budgets were very successful, aroused very great opposition when he proposed to put a halfpenny tax upon every box of lucifers. A regular riot, indeed, occurred amongst the East End match-sellers in April 1871, and the idea-not a very good one, it must be confessedhad to be abandoned, the Chancellor of the Exchequer being nicknamed "Lucifer Lowe."
He himself is said to have summed up his financial administration in the following lines :
Twelve millions of taxes I took off,
But I got well abused for my pains.
Mr. Lowe was a fine classical scholar, a highly appreciated quality in British statesmen in former days. Lord Iddesleigh, better known to his contemporaries as Sir Stafford Northcote, was also well known for his familiarity with the great Latin and