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upper and middle classes cared very little about a new Reform Bill. They had had all the reform they wanted in 1832. But, so long as the bill of 1832 remained unsupplemented, it was evident that any political party could appeal to the support of the working-classes throughout the country in favour of any movement which promised to accomplish that object. In short, Mr. Disraeli knew that reform had to come some time, and he was resolved to make his own game if he could.
This time, however, he was not successful. The difficul. ties in his way were too great. It would have been impossible for him to introduce such a Reform Bill as Mr. Bright would be likely to accept. His own party would not endure such a proposition. He could only go so far as to bring in some bill which might possibly seem to reformers to be doing something for reform, and at the same time might be commended to Conservatives on the ground that it really did nothing for it. Mr. Disraeli's Reform Bill was a curiosity. It afforded a variety of little innovations which nobody wanted or could have cared about, and it left out of sight altogether the one reform which alone gave an excuse for any legislation. We have explained more than once that Lord Grey's Reform Bill admitted the middle class to legislation but left the working-class out. What was now wanted was a measure to let the working-class in. Nobody seriously pertended that any other object than this was sought by those who called out for reform. Yet Mr. Disraeli's scheme made no more account of the working-class as a whole than if they already possessed the vote of every man of them. It proposed to give a vote in boroughs to persons who had property to the amount of ten pounds a year in the funds, bank stock or East India stock; to persons who had sixty pounds in a savings bank; to persons receiving pensions in the naval, military, or civil service, amounting to twenty pounds a year; to professional men, to graduates of universities, ministers of religion, and certain schoolmasters; in fact, to a great number of persons who either already had the franchise or could have it if they had any interest that way. The only proposition in the bill not absolutely farcical and absurd was that which would have equalized the franchise in counties and in boroughs, making ten pounds the limit in each alike. The English working classes cried out for the franchise, and Mr. Disraeli proposed to answer the cry by giving the vote to graduates of universities, medical practitioners, and schoolmasters.
Yet we may judge of the difficulties Mr. Disraeli had to deal with by the reception which even this poor little mea: sure met with from some of his own colleagues. Mr. Walpole and Mr. Henley resigned office rather than have any. thing to do with it. Mr. Henley was a specimen of the class who might have been described as fine old English gentlemen. He was shrewd, blunt, honest, and narrow, given to broad jokes and to arguments Aavored with a sort of humor which reminded not very faintly of the drolléry of Fielding's time. Mr. Walpole was a man of gentle bearing, not by any means a robust politician, nor liberally endowed with intellect or eloquence, but pure-minded and upright enough to satisfy the most exacting. Mr. Walpole wrote to Lord Derby a letter which had a certain simple dignity and pathos in it, to explain the reason for his resignation. He frankly said that the measure which the cabinet were prepared to recommend was one which they should all of them have stoutly opposed if either Lord Palmerston or Lord John Russel had ventured to bring it forward. This seemed to Mr. Walpole reason enough for his declining to have anything to do with it. It did not appear to him honorable to support a measure because it had been taken
up by one's own party, which the party would assuredly have denunced and opposed to the uttermost it it had been brought forward by the other side. Mr. Waloole's collea
gues no doubt respected his scruples, but some probably regarded them with good-natured contempt. Such a man, it was clear, was not destined to make much of a way in poli. tics. Public opinion admired Mr. Walpole, and applauded his decision. Public opinion would have pronounced even more strongly in his favor had it known that at the time of his making this decision and withdrawing from a high offi. cial position Mr. Walpole was in circumstances which made the possession of a salary of the utmost importance to him. Had he even swallowed his scruples and held on a little longer, he would have become entitled to a pension. He did not appear to have hesitated moment. He was a highminded gentleman; he could very well bear to be poor; he could not bear to surrender his self-respect.
This resignation, however, so honorable to Mr. Walpole and to Mr. Henley, will serve to show how great were the difficulties which then stood in Mr. Disraeli's way. Probably Mr. Disraeli's own feelings were in favor of a liberally extended suffrage. It is not a very rash assumption to conjecture that he looked with contempt on the kind of reason. ing which fancied that the safety of a state depends upon the narrowness of its franchise. But his bill bore the character of a measure brought in with the object of trying to reconcile irreconcilable claims and principles. To be the author of something which should give the government the credit with their opponents of being reformers at heart, was apparently the object of Mr. Disraeli. The attempt was a complete failure. It was vain to preach up the beauty of “ lateral extension" of the franchise as opposed to extension downward. The country saw through the whole imposture at a glance. One of Mr. Disraeli's defects as a statesman has always been that he is apt to be just a little too clever for the business he has in hand. This ingenious Reform Bill was a little too clever. More matter and less art would have served its turn. It was found out in a mo
ment. Some one described its enfranchising clauses as " fancy franchises ;" Mr. Brigit introduced the phrase to the House of Commons, and the clauses never recovered the epithet. The savings-bank clause provoked immense ridicule. Suppose, it was asked, a man draws out a few pounds to get married, or to save his aged parent from starvation, or to help a friend out of difficulties, is it fair that he should be immediately disfranchised as a penalty for being loving and kindly? One does not want to make the electoral fran. chise a sort of Monthyon prize for the most meritorious of any class; but still is it reasonable that a man who is to have a vote as long as he hoards his little sum of money is to forfeit the vote the moment he does a kind or even prudent thing? Even as a matter of mere prudence, it was very sensibly argued, is it not better that a man should do something else with his money than invest it in a savings bank, which is after all only a safer version of the traditional oid stocking? It would be useless to go into any of the discussions which took place on this extraordinary bill. It can hardly be said to have been considered seriously. It had to be got rid of somehow, and therefore Lord John Rus. sell moved an amendment, declaring that no readjustment of the franchise would satisfy the House of Commons or the country which did not provide for a greater extension of the suffrage in cities and boroughs than was contemplated in the government measure. Perhaps the most remarkable speech made during the debate was that of Mr. Gladstone, who, accepting neither the bill nor the resolution, occupied himself chiefly with an appeal to Parliament and public opinion on behalf of small boroughs. The argument was ingenious. It pointed to the number of eminent men who had been enabled to begin public life very early by means of a nomination for some pocket-borough, or who, having quar. relled with the constituents of a city or county, might for a while have been exiled from Parliament if some pocketborough, or rather pocket-borough's master, had not admitted them by that little postern-gate. The argument, however went no further than to show that in a civilized country every anomaly, however absurd, may be turned to some good account. If instead of creating small pocket-boroughs the English constitutional system had conterred on a few great peers the privilege of nominating members of Parliament directly by their own authority, this arrangement would undoubtedly work well in some cases. Beyond all question some of these privileged peers would send into Parliament deserving men who otherwise might be temporarily excluded from it. The same thing would sometimes happen no doubt if they made over the nomination to their wives or their wives' waiting-women. But the system of pocket-boroughs, taken as a whole, was stuffed with injustice and corruption. It worked direct evil in twenty cases for every one case in which it brought about indirect good. The purchase of seats in the Parliament of Paris undoubtedly did good in some cases. Some of the men for whom seats were bought proved themselves useful and impartial members of that curious tribunal.
Lord John Russell's resolution was carried by a majority of 330 against 291, or a majority of 39. The government disolved Parliament, and appealed to the country. The elections did not excite very much public interest. They took place during the most critical moments of the war between France and Austria. While such news was arriving as that of the defeat of Magenta, the defeat of Solferino, the entrance of the Emperor of the French and the King of Sardinia into Milan, it was not likely that domestic news of a purely parliamentary interest could occupy all the atten. tion of Englishmen. It was not merely a great foreign war that the people of these islands looked on with such absorbing interest. It was what seemed to be the birth of a new era for Europe. There were some who felt inclined to echo