« AnteriorContinuar »
lived, changing, enthusiasms. One German Emperor, of President Roosecould not conceive of him sitting down velt, of Mr. Chamberlain. to write a letter of compliment to the The truth is that Lord Salisbury was last new lady novelist, or plunging into essentially an aristocratic statesman. By public controversy with a Professor of this it is not meant that he had any Biology.
undue preference for his own order, or His circle of friends was limited and was imbued with the vulgar pride of select, and he did not seek to rank or birth. From the kind of enlarge it; and even from the men who snobbishness, which is not limited to might have been regarded as his politi- social aspirants and nouveaux riches, cal associates he held himself apart. but often goes with the oldest lineage, It was said that he did not know all he was absolutely without a trace. His the members of his own Ministry by habits were simple, his dress was caresight, and sometimes had to ask their less, his manner, in private life, was. names when they saluted him in any unassuming. He showed no consciouspublic place. In all these traits, and ness, and very likely he had none, of habits, and inclinations,
was those differences in “position,” which strangely out of touch with an age count for so much in our English sowhich has a most valet-like inquisitive- ciety, and which were always rather
all the minor doings of acutely present to the minds of Lord "great people," and looks upon its Beaconsfield and Mr. Gladstone. He heroes chiefly as material for attrac- treated a marquess in the same fashtive gossip. But nobody could gossip ion as he treated a curate or a clerk about Salisbury. You might as well in the Treasury, with the same modest have tried to joke over the Binomial reserve, the same absence of hauteur. Theorem. This reserve made bim re- His aristocracy was that of the intelspected, and gave him a reputation, lect and the temper. His mind was perhaps even beyond his deserts, for constitutionally incapable of underself-contained force and silent resolu- standing the prejudices, the passions, tion. One was sometimes reminded the loose opinions, of the common run of Sheridan's irreverent treatment of of men and women. When he apLord Salisbury's most famous ances- proached a great question it was in the tor. With Mr. Puff in The Critic, the spirit with which he encountered some public may have felt that "a minister problem of chemical electricity in his in his situation with the whole affairs laboratory. He made his appeal to inof the nation on his head," could not structed reasoning, and to the finished be expected to find time to mix much mental processes of penetrating logiwith other people. “Burleigh comes cians like himself. To the sentiments, forward, shakes his head, and exit." the impulses, which sway the masses, Impressive, undoubtedly, was the occa- he was curiously blind. He came near sional emergence of the shrouded fig. to being a great orator: at least, he ure, to "shake his head," with а had many of the qualities which betrenchant speech on the platform, or long to that character. He had wit, in the Senate, only to retire to his and readiness, and fluency, a State-papers, or behind the guarded manding presence, an imposing delivgates of Hatfield, where even the so- ery, a keen sense of style, an apt mas-ciety journalist could not follow him. tery of epigram, argument and retort. A great Whig noble, in short, who had But he lacked the sympathetic inbrought down the reticent eighteenth stincts which, for the public speaker, century traditions to the age of the are greater than these. With all his.
instincts than Lord Salisbury, to dan. gerous blunders; as when Lord Beaconsfield, in the midst of the Bulgarian atrocities agitation of 1876, allowed himself to slide into that celebrated sentence, which did him as much harm as anything he ever said:
The Turks do not often resort to tor. ture, but generally terminate their connection with culprits in a more expeditious manner.
gifts he was less effective on the platform than many a smaller man. Except on some rare occasions, as at the famous Opera House meeting in 1886, when be was roused beyond himself, be seemed out of touch with his audience. He was destitute of the histri. onic elasticity which made Mr. Gladstone as much at home with a mob of dockyard laborers on Blackheath as he was with the blasé critics of the House of Commons. The popular orator is "Dear akin" to the actor; but the temperament of the stage was not given to Lord Salisbury. He lectured crowd of workmen or small shopkeepers with a professional aloofness and i dignified unconsciousness of their special characteristics. The admirable analysis, the cutting phrases, delighted the judicious reader of the next day's newspapers. But at the moment of delivery they too often fell fat, or were received with a murmur of half-bewildered appreciation.
He had an odd habit of thinking aloud in his speeches. With his facts well arranged in his mind beforehand, he could speak without references or potes. The words came to him as he went on, and often the ideas. And if a sudden thought struck him, he would sometimes pursue it to the conclusion which suggested itself to his trenchant, satirical intellect, he might have done-and in
that case with impunity-in conversation with intimate friends round his dining-table at Hatfield. I think that this trait, much more than any natural impulsiveness of temperament, accounts for those occasional “blazing indiscretions," those "gibes, and flouts, and jeers," of which so much was made. His emotions did not run away with him; but sometimes his sense of logic did, and his artistic enjoyment of remorseless paradox and pungent epigram pbrase. It is a perilous talent, and has led men, with more popular
It was the ill-timed flippancy of a caustic man of the world-the affectation of treating serious topics lightly, that is current in "Society." If it had been said in the right milieu and at the right time, it would not have occurred to any one to accuse the speaker of undue levity or a callous disregard of suffering. But Disraeli had forgotten that the audience he addressed was only a fragment of the great British public, which at the moment was passing through an emotional crisis, and was pulsing with religious indignation. To a good half of the nation, to tens of thousands of earnest church-going and chapel-going men and women, the jest so lightly uttered was an unforgivable offence, a vivid proof that its author was a heartless cynic, wanting the common feelings of humanity.
Lord Salisbury, at any rate, was no cynic, if by that term is meant a soured materialist, who believes that human conduct is directed mainly by motives of self-interest and self-indulgence. He was neither misanthropic nor morose, but on the contrary a deeply devout man, who had faith, not only in the moral ordering of the universe, but in the instincts and character of his countrymen. But he surveyed public affairs without illusions. In private life kindly, affectionate, genial, even cheerful, Lord Salisbury was in politics a contented and philosophical pessimist. He acquiesced with a large tolerance in the imperfections of an
imperfect world. He took the view, of his life he has all that the millions which is not easily disputed, that the of other men hopelessly desire, if he scheme of things is very badly ar. has wealth, high station, splendid esranged and exhibits numerous inex- tates, a palace to live in, the best of plicable deficiencies. As most of these society to choose from, books, pictures, cannot be amended, it is best to accept leisure and the other delectable things them, and make due allowance for that money can purchase, and in additheir operation in the management of tion a superior intellect, personal digaffairs. If you ignore them, you will nity, domestic comfort, and the enjoycertainly go wrong; if you endea vor to ment of the family affections--if all remove them altogether, you will prob- these are given unto him, he may be ably do more harm than good. In this excused for finding the world a very he was at the opposite pole of feeling tolerable place in despite of its obvious from the Radicals and Liberals of his blemishes. Insensibly a man is conearlier days. The old-fashioned re- ditioned by his “environment." It formers of the great progressive era would be strange indeed if a Cecil or had before them an ideal of perfection, a Cavendish should find himself raywhich could be realized by political aged by consuming passion for radical and economic changes. The world was change. out of joint it is true, though chiefly With this view of things, Lord Salisthrough the errors of sovereigns, minis- bury could hardly be a constructive ters, and aristocratic rulers, in the statesman. He was less a reformer past; but Parliament and a free Press, than a critic. The latter rôle suited aided by popular enlightenment and his analytical tastes, his caustic and Mechanics' Institutes, could put it penetrating style, and the bent of his right. These sanguine meliorists held intellect, which in its essence was judithat there was no abuse which would cial and argumentative, rather than not be rooted out, no public evil which practical and direct. If he had been might not be abolished. Lord Salis- on the Bench, he would have made a bury, whose hobby was science, had great judge, though it may be that no sympathy with this romance of the his expositions and his obiter dicta future. He thought there were many would have gained him more admirathings that were not susceptible of im- tion than his decisions. In the old provement, and was satisfied with the days of the unreformed Court of Chanfabric of institutions, and the balance cery there were famous Chancellors, of powers and interests, which had like Eldon, who grew so fond of a been arranged by Nature, or slowly tangled case, that they pondered and evolved through the ages. Society, as refined over it for years before they constituted in nineteenth-century Eng- could deliver their judgments. Lord land had undoubtedly its defects; but Salisbury had a good deal of this anit also had its advantages, and a wise alyzing and casuistical temper, which, man would put up with the one for the when carried to excess, is a disadvansake of the other, instead of worrying tage in the conduct of affairs. He himself over the unattainable. It may saw both sides of a question, and prebe that circumstances, as much as tem- ferred to brood over their weak points, perament, were responsible for this instead of cutting through them with intelligent Toryism in the case of the some roughly effective solution. There late Prime Minister. If a man has are many keen and searching passages been born in the innermost circle of a in his speeches in which defects of exprivileged caste, if for the greater part isting institutions and practices are ex
posed. Such, for instance, are his oc- our tariff arrangements. "Away with casional references to our tiscal sys- Free Trade," then, might be the hasty tem. Lord Salisbury always professed deduction of
more impatient to be a Free Trader, but he declined to statesman. It was an inference Lord accept the Peelite legislation as a re- Salisbury never drew. He remained ligion, and maintained that “the Holy a Free Trader to the end, and I have Doctrine of Free Trade” had no claim no doubt the common report is correct, to an infallible orthodoxy. His satire which represents him, in the last was at its best when he was bantering months of his life, as deeply concerned the economical pontificate, especially and alarmed by Mr. Chamberlain's when it was regarded as the special sudden counter-march. Nor, though he heritage of the Liberal Party:- sometimes talked Retaliation, did he
ever make an attempt to carry that Political economy is an oracle whose utterances we profoundly respect; but
policy into effect. Theoretically, and which, like a certain oracle of old, is as a matter of argument, he could see apt to suit its utterances to the wishes the weak places of our fiscal method. of those who have the guardianship of But to remedy it by a kind of economic it for the time being. On a certain oc
revolution was the last thing that casion, when the Delphic oracle was in
could commend itself to his cautious the power of the Macedonian Army, its utterances were said to be “Philip
and conservative temperament. He ized," and I am afraid that the utter- knew that there are many things, in ances of political economy nowadays the abstract far from perfect, which are only too apt to be “Gladstonized."
yet cannot be altered without injury. When I first entered Parliament, it
A wise man amuses himself by exused to be regarded as an axiom that commercial treaties were founded on
plaining their deficiencies; and puts up erroneous and unsound principles, and
with them. could not be for the benefit of the coun- He had much the same conception of tries entering into them. Circum- the British constitution. Here his at. stances, however, have changed; politi.
titude was essentially Whiggish. I do cal economy has reviewed its doctrines,
not think he could ever have held and commercial treaties are regarded as the most orthodox things imagina
Burke's touching belief in the beauty ble. Spain, let us say, treats our and symmetry of the odd compromise, manufactures very badly, and excludes which evolved itself out of the historithem, while she admits the manufac- cal accidents and the party struggles tures of other countries. If we were
of the seventeenth and eighteenth cenable to say to her, “If you continue in
turies. that course we shall be obliged to raise
The English Parliamentary the duty on your wines,” it is very
system did not excite his reverence. possible that after a little time a new He was conscious that it often worked light might break in upon her reflec- badly, that it was an extremely cumtions. But we cannot do it because brous instrument of administration; retaliation is a mortal sin under this
and he found a gloomy satisfaction in doctrine of Free Trade.
explaining that under it a Ministry He evidently enjoyed the task of dis- could hardly be expected to maintain concerting unthinking enthusiasts by our defensive armaments in a condisbowing that Free Trade at home had tion of genuine efficiency. But such given us no power to secure open mar- as it was, we had it, and must contrive kets abroad. He could always supply to manage our business by its agency an “hypothetical illustration" of the --not perhaps as well as we should manner in which our commercial diplo- like, but better than we should do if macy was filtered by the liberality of we embarked on violent changes. The
party system was of course quite irra- several conspicuously weak places in tional in substance and logically inde- his Administrations of 1886 and 1895; fensible. But there it is, and we are so and matters were not mended when situated that the Cabinet machine will he threw away the opportunity, affordnot work without it. So the prudent ed by the last general election, to give statesman accepts it, with a clear un- promotion to a further contingent from derstanding of the "swing of the pen- the “Hotel Cecil.” To a country which dulum," and a frank recognition of was beginning to clamor for efficiency, the fact that whatever he does, or and was indeed badly feeling the need leaves undone, the fickle democracy is of that quality, this was disappointsure to turn him out of office in due ing. Yet one can hardly suppose that course and put his rivals in.
Lord Salisbury's appointments were take that view, there is undoubtedly due to the unworthy motive of provid
certain temptation to which it ing his family and friends with good seemed sometimes as if Lord Salisbury posts at the public expense. Nor must had succumbed, to pass to the further it be forgotten that an English Prededuction that real success, either per- mier must always find it extremely sonal or political, is scarcely worth difficult to confine his ministerial apstriving for. You are doing necessarily pointments to men of exceptional abil. imperfect work, with inadequate tools, ity. He does not know where to look and you are bound, sooner or later, to for those capable
of business, suffer defeat. Under such conditions, those born administrators whose sera strictly moderate leyel of achieve- vices would be so valuable.
In prac ment is all you can hope to attain. It tice his choice is limited to a very is a philosophical, and perhaps in es- restricted circle, composed as it is of sence a scientific, doctrine which pro- the members of his own party, in the tects those who hold it from illusion two Houses, who have gained a cerand disappointment. But it is not so tain reputation in those assemblies. inspiring as that more artistic, and Eliminate a few commanding figures, possibly therefore more erroneous, for- whose "claims" to office cannot be remula, which declares that “not failure pudiated, and most of these aspirants but low aim is crime," in the life of are much on a level. As A. is neither men and nations.
much better nor much worse than B., To these characteristics and predis- and either would do reasonably well, positions must, no doubt, be attributed the harassed Cabinet-maker naturally a certain carelessness on Lord Salis- selects
one who is personally bury's part in the selection of his politi- known to himself, or to his sons or cal associates and subordinates, to brothers, or to the little court of intiwhich the ugly name of nepotism was mate acquaintances who have his prisometimes given. It cannot be denied vate ear. In the case of Lord Salisthat he exhibited an undue indulgence bury, there was a special temptation for respectable mediocrity, and that to adopt this easy solution of the diffhe was far from diligent in his search culty, since he lived so much apart for talent, nor did he always appear to from general society, and gave himself regard merit and force of character as few opportunities of gauging the calinecessary qualifications for high office, bre of the younger rising men. Nor, or for public honors. He officered his again, must it be overlooked that there Ministries much too largely with well- is a tradition-a very bad traditionborn place-men, veteran party hacks, according to which a politician who and his own relatives. There were has once held “Cabinet rank" has a