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throughout the empire and lead to the penning of innumerable leading articles. Mr. Disraeli was at the period a young man, shining in Parliament and society it is true, but with a glittering uncertain light that did not inspire in the mind of the unprejudiced beholder any confidence in its continuance. Like his own Coningsby, he had a circle of attached friends, "all men whose position forced them into public life,” forming "a nucleus of honour, faith, and power,” and lacking only a leader who would“ dare.” It is conceivable that at this epoch Mr. Disraeli set out with the hope of “inspiring enthusiasm" and so “commanding the world.” The effort, if made, is one in which he has conspicuously failed, and in the picture he drew thirty years, ago of the leader shrouding himself in artificial reserve we have a curiously exact portrait of himself, whilst he sketches Mr. Gladstone in the opposite panel. Happily for the Premier, the power of inspiring enthusiasm is not needed for the discharge of the official duties of a leader of the House of Commons, and, in fact, its possession is in this connection actually detrimental. Partly for this reason Mr. Disraeli, as an official member, stands as far above Mr. Gladstone as Mr. Gladstone, regarded as an orator, towers above Mr. Disraeli. The one has a tact, a ready wit, and an imperturbability of temper of which the other has often shown himself distressingly deficient. As a statesman, Lord Palmerston fell far short of the just renown of Mr. Gladstone; but when we think of the qualities by which Lord Palmerston ruled the House of Commons, and mentally compare them with the temperament of the author of the Irish Land Bill and the Irish Church Bill, we perceive why under the leadership of the latter the House should often have grown riotous, and how it came to pass that the progress of public business has frequently been delayed. Mr. Gladstone always took matters au sérieux. He answered an interrogation by a speech, had “three courses” for choice in the most trivial dilemma, and thrust himself into debates which had far better been left to the subordinate officers of his Government. Had Mr. Gladstone been on the Treasury Bench when, the other night, Mr. Whalley proposed to add two names to the Committee on Privileges he would almost certainly have opposed the motion, stating his reasons in a convincing speech. Mr. Whalley would have risen
. to speak, a scene of uproar would have followed, and much valuable time would have been lost. Mr. Disraeli, seeing at a glance that it did not matter the toss of a button whether the two gentlemen named by Mr. Whalley were on or off the Committee, simply said that he
saw no objection to the proposal," and it was settled in five minutes. The Premier does not aspire to the jaunty manner of Lord Palmerston
in dealing with official work in the House, but he has an easy conversational way of disposing of it which is not less efficacious, and he carefully distinguishes between the duty of making a speech and the accident of answering a question. He is a much less anxious man than his predecessor in office, and with him on the box there is considerably less creaking of the wheels of the chariot of State than we have been accustomed to during recent Sessions.
The transition at the Treasury from Mr. Robert Lowe to Sir Stafford Northcote is like taking a saucer of tepid tea after swallowing a cup of sour cider. In forming his Ministry Mr. Disraeli seems to have sought for contrasts to the personnel of the late Government, even to the points of beard and whisker. On higher grounds it is impossible to conceive a more complete contrast than that presented by Sir Stafford and his two immediate predecessors in the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Gladstone raised the exposition of the Budget to the level of the highest oratorical displays of the Session. In Mr. Lowe's time the Budget night was an event of importance beyond the limits of the interest that attached to the disclosure of the Ministerial financial programme. Sir Stafford Northcote has brought the Budget speech down to little more than a dry business statement inflated rather than adorned by argument and illustration. A harsh dry voice, an unsympathetic manner, and an almost total absence of the charm of imagination or fancy, reduce his speeches to a dead level over which the House is glad to hasten at a trot. He is, however, a safe business mar, and in the present temper of Parliament is a welcome foil to the brilliancy of his predecessors. In the case of his immediate forerunner this brilliancy was, it must be admitted, a matter of faith rather than of sight. The reputation made by Mr. Lowe whilst he was a dweller in the Cave of Adullam pitched high the expectation of the House whenever, in the early days of his occupancy, he rose from the Treasury Bench. But I cannot at the moment call to mind any occasion when this expectation was fully satisfied. By far the best speech Mr. Lowe has delivered of late years was that in which, addressing the electors of London University upon the dissolution of Parliament, he attacked his ancient foeman Mr. Disraeli. This was done in his best old manner, a manner which he had apparently found unsuited for a Cabinet Minister speaking in Parliament, and had consequently temporarily abandoned. Good or indifferent, Mr. Lowe's speeches are of the class of oratory that it is better to read than to listen to. His voice is not an attractive one, and it suffers sorely in the delivery. Possibly the outside public will find a
VOL. XII., N.S. 1874.
difficulty in believing it, but it is nevertheless true that Mr. Lowe is a bashful speaker. When he comes to a point in his speech he seems half afraid of it not succeeding, and goes some way towards realising his fears by hanging down his head and nervously jerking out the concluding portion of the sentence, wherein the sting generally lies, in a low, broken tone that frequently fails to reach one-half his hearers. He is, furthermore, afflicted with near-sightedness, and on Budget nights, when recurrence to documents was of momentary necessity, the spectacle of the Chancellor of the Exchequer holding within an inch of his eyebrows a piece of papergenerally the wrong piece at first-hurriedly glancing over it, quoting figures, and immediately correcting his quotations, was a spectacle not calculated to engender either confidence or pleasure. Mr. Lowe's manner of answering questions was wont much to amuse the House before repetition palled upon the appetite. If the question might be answered by the monosyllable “yes” or “no," "yes" or “no” was the full extent of Mr. Lowe's answer. He had a wholesome contempt for purposeless talk, and once horrified a number of estimable gentlemen who had occupied a whole night in a discussion on a forthcoming Budget by curtly promising to consider their “ interesting conversation,” and so resuming his seat. They thought they had been “debating,” and have probably never forgiven the scornful Chancellor of the Exchequer for reminding them that they were only conversing.
The present Ministry has been for so brief a period in office that some of its members have scarcely had time to develop a mannerism. But the Home Secretary, Mr. Cross, was evidently to the official manner born, and rises to answer questions put to him on the Treasury Bench as if he had been seated there since the passage of the Reform Act. His sub, Sir H. Selwin-Ibbetson, who used to be a fearful bore when he was a private member, is, temporarily only it is feared, tamed by the chains of office, and always seems glad to find himself once more safe on the Treasury Bench without having perilled the British Constitution by inadvertent or indiscreet observations. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach also displays this wholesome timidity, his manner being in marked contrast to that of the noble lord whom he succeeds. The Marquis of Hartington had none of the supercilious manner of Mr. Ayrton, but, equally with a colleague in whose companionship he must have joyed, his lordship possessed the art of making his audience thoroughly understand that, what with their questions, their objections, and their suggestions, they were decidedly obnoxious and altogether unnecessary people, and
that if they would just leave the affairs of the department in the hands of him who, however unwillingly, addressed them, it would be a great deal better for the country. For the heir to a dukedom and revenues untold, the Marquis of Hartington was a most exemplary member of Parliament, being constantly in his place in the House, and invariably at hand when the division bell rang, just as if he were a Taper or a Tadpole, or even a Right Hon. Nicholas Rigby. But he never spoke unless he was absolutely obliged, and then said as little as possible. There was a surliness about his manner that did not make him an attractive speaker ; but then, as I have said, he is the eldest son of a duke, and on the whole was acceptable to the House of Commons, and even partially awed the Irish members. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach's father was only a baronet, and during his ten years' holding of a seat in the House he has not manifested any qualities that will compensate for this comparative failing.
The Hon. Robert Bourke, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, succeeds a painstaking and efficient man, who was a good deal before the House in the course of a Session. A rapid, glib speaker, Lord Enfield always showed himself well posted up in the details of his office, and had a conciliatory way of addressing the House that was quite refreshing after experience of the manner of the great majority of his colleagues. Mr. Bourke is himself one of those singularly happy men of whom the House of Commons persists in expecting great things. When, six years ago, he took his seat everybody agreed that one who would prove to be a great orator had shaken hands with the Speaker. Mr. Bourke has, at least on two occasions of recent date, found himself in a position when, if the great speech were ready, it might have been made in the hearing of a crowded House and upon a critical occasion. But the speech has yet to be delivered. Mr. C. S. Read never made any pretensions to oratory, and never had them put forth on his account. A plain, straightforward, practical speaker, whom men listen to for what he has to say, not for his manner of saying it. In this respect he is the counterpart of Sir Massey Lopes, though, on the whole, perhaps, of a higher mental calibre, and certainly capable of taking wider views than the champion of the Local Taxation Relief agitators, who has been made a Junior Lord of the Admiralty. Mr. W. H. Smith is of the very stuff that Ministers are made of, and will some day see much higher office than the modest one of Financial Secretary to the Treasury, which he now holds. A plain, clear, sensible, judicious speaker, who always seems to see the right thing at the right moment, and makes known his discovery in a modest manner which the House relishes as a rare luxury. His immediate colleague in office, Mr. Hart Dyke, is a young man to be chief whip to the Government, and whilst yet he was lieutenant to Colonel Taylour had some juvenile ways with him, which time will possibly mend. It was curiously provoking to have Mr. Hart Dyke appearing several times in the course of a sitting, to see him stand in the centre of the line that marks the bar of the House, and with his hands in his pockets slowly survey the assembly as if it were a marionnette show of which he was the registered proprietor. Last Session Mr. Hart Dyke persistently wore brown gaitered boots, and on a night when a great division was pending the sight of these little brown gaiters twinkling about the bar became to the highly strung mind positively insupportable. Mr. Glyn managed to get through his really important business with far less bustle. He was always about the House, bright, cheerful, good tempered, and ready. When a hard fate made him a peer both sides of the House felt that the place seemed scarcely what it used to be, and all regretted that they should never more hear his rapid stuttering cry“ Ayes to the right, f-f-four hundredandone. Noes to the left, f-f-fifty-three !” Among his many qualifications as a successful whip, Mr. Glyn possessed a rare and indescribable power of throwing into the tone of his announcements of divisions a delicate yet unmistakable intimation of the hopelessness of opposing the Ministry. An altogether different personage from his dapper junior and from his sprightly opponent is Colonel Taylour, chief whip on the Conservative side whilst his party was in opposition, and now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. A big, loosely-jointed man, whose careless attire was ever a silent reproach to the coxcombry of Mr. Hart Dyke. No one unacquainted with the fact would have divined that the heavy looking man who occasionally strode across the floor of the House a few minutes before division was called held in his hands all the strings which, pulled, recorded the votes of a great party. But he did, and so held them that on more than one occasion he surprised the House and fluttered Mr. Glyn by running an actually strong Government so close that the Ministerial victory was rather a mortification than a triumph.
Mr. Sclater-Booth has been in office before, and is a painstaking, useful man, but not of the sort to fill the House at the dinner hour. Sir Charles Adderley has a great reputation as an authority on Colonial affairs, for which reason, perhaps, Mr. Disraeli did not make him Colonial Secretary. Mr. Bright has written of the right hon. baronet “He is a dull man”; and I do not think the accuracy of the description would be increased by amplification.