Notes on the Anti-Corn Law Struggle/Chapter 3
CHARLES PELHAM VILLIERS.
The Right Hon. Charles Pelham Villiers was born in London in 1802; the third son of the Hon. George Villiers, and Theresa, the only daughter of the first Lord Boringdon. His eldest brother, George Villiers, succeeded to the title of Earl of Clarendon, a title which passed out of the family of Hyde into that of Villiers in this way. Thomas Villiers, second son of the second Earl of Jersey, having married the eldest daughter of the third Earl of Essex of the family of Capel, by Jane Hyde, daughter and co-heir of the last Earl of Clarendon, of the family of Hyde, was created Baron Hyde of Hindon in 1756, and Earl of Clarendon in 1776.
There are reasons for saying a word or two about Mr. Villiers's family. In his speech at Colchester, July 8, 1843, Mr. Villiers stated that he bore no ill-will to the landed interest; that by birth he was connected with the landed interest, and had no kind of connection whatever with manufactures.
There was in the beginning of the seventeenth century a family of the name of Villiers seated at Brookesley Hall, in Leicestershire, on an estate which had been in that family for four hundred years. Sir George Villiers, of Brookesley, was twice married. From his first marriage descended Edward Villiers, created Baron Villiers of Hoo, and Viscount Villiers of Dartford, both in the county of Kent, 20th March, 1691; and created Earl of the Island of Jersey, 13th October, 1697. From his second marriage descended George Villiers, created Viscount Villiers in 1616; Earl of Buckingham, 5th January, 1617; Marquis of Buckingham, 1st January, 1618; and Duke of Buckingham, 18th May, 1623.
The dates of the peerages of Edward Villiers, Earl of Jersey, compared with the dates of the peerages of the descendants of the second marriage of Sir George Villiers of Brookesley—namely, George Villiers, created Viscount Villiers, 1616, and Duke of Buckingham, 1623; John Villiers, created Viscount Purbeck, 1619; and Christopher Villiers, created Earl of Anglesey, 1623—show that the peerages of the descendants of the second marriage, were all creations of James the First, whereas the peerages of Edward Villiers, Viscount Villiers, and Earl of Jersey, were creations of William the Third. The connection, indeed, of Charles Pelham Villiers with the English peerage is quite independent of the Duke of Buckingham branch of the Villiers family. I cannot say that there is no connection with any Stuart peerage since the peerages of Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, and the peerage of Capel, Earl of Essex, were Stuart peerages.
It appears then that Charles Villiers, the advocate of the abolition of the bread-tax, was descended from an ancient and honourable English or Anglo-Norman family, and not from an upstart Court favourite of the times of the Stuarts. It is true that when the Government is monarchical, a Jack Ape can make any man a duke, and George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, possessed the power of governing James I., as much as the Duchess of Marlborough possessed the power of governing Queen Anne. But even when the Government is what it was under James I. and Queen Anne, it is possible that the difference may be very great between the Court favourite of one reign and that of another. The husband of the Duchess of Marlborough, who governed Queen Anne, possessed mental qualities of a very different order from those which Buckingham had possessed, a genius for politics not inferior to the genius of Richelieu, a genius for war not inferior to the genius of Turenne.
With the Princess Anne on the throne of England, Marlborough might look forward to a time when the armies of England would be commanded by a man with a genius for war very different from that of the Dutchman,—in whose case even the genius of Macaulay has been unable to disprove the maxim that without originality there is no greatness,—by a man whose memorable march into Germany, won the admiration of Napoleon Bonaparte, by whose order a "Histoire de Jean Churchill, Due de Marlborough" (three volumes, octavo, Paris, 1808), was written in a fair spirit. The consummate skill with which the objects of the march into Germany, in 1704, were concealed from the enemy, until it was too late to prevent his real design on the Danube, has been reckoned by competent judges among the greatest achievements of military genius. The successes of Marlborough, too, were gained with an army in which the native British contingent did not exceed 20,000 men, and three-fourths of which army were composed of Dutchmen, Hanoverians, Hessians, Danes, and Prussians; and his plans were in almost every enterprise thwarted and marred by the timidity or obstinacy of the Dutch deputies.
The descendants of Sir George Villiers, of Brookesley, by his first wife, and the descendants of the same Sir George Villiers by his second wife, were kinsmen only of the half-blood. And by the old law of England, "the heir need not be the nearest kinsman absolutely, but only sub modo; that is, he must be the nearest kinsman of the whole-blood; for if there be a much nearer kinsman of the half-blood a distant kinsman of the whole-blood shall be admitted, and the other entirely excluded; nay, the estate shall escheat to the lord, sooner than the half-blood shall inherit.
So that by the old law of England, the Duke of Buckingham, and the other children of Sir George Villiers of Brookesley by his second wife, could not have succeeded their half-brothers in the estate of Brookesley which remained in the line of the family of Villiers represented by Edward Villiers, created Earl of Jersey in 1697. The law of descent has indeed been materially altered by the Stat. 3 and 4 Will. 4, c. 106; but though the half-blood is not excluded, it is enacted that a relation of the whole-blood, and his or her issue, shall be preferred to a relation of the same degree of the half-blood, and his or her issue.
The term half-blood appears from a passage in Shakspeare's King Lear, Act V., Scene 3, to have been used in a depreciatory sense. The term half-blooded is applied by the Duke of Albany to Edmund, the bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester.
"Alb.—The let-alone lies not in your goodwill.
"Edm.—Nor in thine, lord.
"Alb.— Half-blooded fellow, yes."
The descendants of the first marriage of the Leicestershire knight and the inheritor of the estate of Brookesley, might look upon their half-blood relations of the second marriage with a feeling the reverse of pride, notwithstanding the wealth and titles of honour they had received from a court of which it might be said, as has been said of the Roman Republic, its enmity might be dangerous, but its friendship was fatal—none ever escaped with life and honour from that deadly embrace.
The ancestor of Charles Pelham Villiers was raised to the peerage neither by the first, nor the second, nor the third, nor the fourth of those four persons bearing the name of Stewart or Stuart, whatever was their lineage—whether fiddler, lackey, king or nobleman,—who had borne the title of King of England for some fourscore years, and were of those of whom it has been said—
"Many a despot men miscall
"Crown'd and anointed from on high."
Edward Villiers was created Viscount Villiers and Earl of Jersey by a King, under whom England resumed her old rank in Europe of a first-rate power, from which the Stuart dynasty had degraded her, to a second or a third-rate power. In the file of the Doges of Venice a black veil is painted over the place of Marino Faliero. The history of the Stuarts in England might be told by a black veil painted over their place in the file of the Kings of England.
The honour conferred on royalty by Robert Bruce, has been counter-balanced by the dishonour brought on it by those who called themselves Robert Bruce's heirs—dishonour so great that a descendant of Robert Bruce might forego the great honour of such a descent to escape the ignominy of any possible imputation of blood relationship to the son of Mary Stuart, who succeeded Elizabeth on the throne of England.
Hume tells us in his life that he devoted two years to his History of the Reigns of James I. and Charles I. He probably devoted more time to his Inquiry concerning the Human Understanding which contains the Section on Miracles. I am inclined to think that Hume might have found in James I. a subject for intellectual anatomy of a more interesting kind, than that James was only a jolly fellow, like James Boswell, who promoted a cheerful glass, "strongly inclined," says Hume, "to mirth and wine and sports of all kinds—he apprehended the Puritans' censure for his manner of life, free and disengaged. . . . In all history, it would be difficult to find a reign less illustrious, yet more unspotted and unblemished, than that of James in both kingdoms."
And this is said of a man who truly or falsely has been accused of some of the most frightful crimes in all history. Besides the grossness of manners, amounting to filthiness, that lies on the surface, there is an ominous cloud made up in part of frightful crimes distinctly traced out, and in part of crimes still more frightful, remaining in shadow, which imparts to that court, and in some degree to that time, a strange, repulsive, pestilential air and aspect, hardly belonging in an equal degree to any other period of modern history. The wars of the Roses and the Tudor tyranny that followed and completely destroyed the warlike Anglo-Norman nobility rendered this possible, and permitted the protracted existence of a King on the throne of England, of whom the barons of the iron hand and the iron time would have made very short work.
But if Hume and those who, like Isaac Disraeli and Mr. Gifford, have taken a view similar to his, that the unfavourable opinion of James I. is a re-echo of the yell of the Nonconformists of James's time, had ever read Clarendon carefully, they might have seen cause for grave reflection on the significance of Clarendon's guarded disclosures respecting the court of James. Clarendon has displayed great ability both in what he has told and in what he has left untold. Those who impute this to a fondness f©r mystery, forget that Clarendon's History and his Life, taken together, may be truly viewed as an elaborate defence of the Stuarts, conducted in a manner very creditable to Clarendon's skill as an advocate. The case resembled those cases in which the characters of "personages" are involved, and in which the most consummate advocates at the bar are retained with the highest fees. The fee which Clarendon ultimately received was a large one; but it was earned by the tact and adroitness of the advocate in marshalling the strong points of his case and keeping the weak points out of sight.
What a strange story for instance, is half revealed, half kept in sombre shadow, in his History, taken together with what he lets out in his Life, of the habits and character of Sir Edward Sackville, Earl of Dorset, and of his own means of obtaining an intimate knowledge of them; of his having, when a young man in the Temple, spent much time "in the eating hours with the Earl of Dorset, the Lord Conway, and the Lord Lumley, men who excelled in gratifying their appetites;" of Dorset's "person, beautiful and graceful and vigorous;" of his wit and learning such "that he could not miscarry in the world." Lord Clarendon then glances at the unrestrained scope Dorset gave to his sensual appetites at that season of life—in the latter years of James I.—when the court of England presented a scene, such as could only be paralleled by the court of Henry III. of France. Clarendon then alludes to the duel in which the Earl of Dorset killed the Lord Bruce under the walls of Antwerp, "upon a subject very unwarrantable." It could not have been under such a King as Hume has described James in the words above quoted, that the men lived to whom Clarendon referred when he said that when he looked back to those days of his own early life, when he herded with such associates, that he had much more cause to be terrified upon the reflection than the man had who viewed in the morning Rochester Bridge, which he had galloped over in the night, and saw that it was broken.
Such might have been the reflections of many a man who survived to die quietly in his bed after having come in contact even in thedegree with that court. But it is to be borne in mind that Clarendon, though he could not always repress his natural feelings, wrote his History, in the character of counsel at the bar of the world for the family on which the royal power in England had been settled for far the greater part of the seventeenth century. When we read therefore Clarendon's characters of the Stuarts, we must bear in mind that we are reading the discourse, however able, adroit, and even subtle in its analysis of human character, of the avowed advocate of the Stuarts before the tribunal of posterity.
I am willing to take one case on which to try this question; and that one case shall be the tragedy of Gowrie House, Perth, which King James called the Gowrie Conspiracy. If the champions of King James can prove the truth of the royal version of that strange story they will have achieved a feat of no slight difficulty.
Having examined the whole of the evidence bearing on the tragedy of Gowrie House; having carefully perused the depositions of the witnesses, the letters alleged to have been written by Logan to the Ruthvens, and which I have proved to be forgeries executed seven or eight years after the event to which they refer, and all the papers relating to the matter; having most anxiously sought to arrive at the truth by a careful examination and comparison of all the various parts of which the evidence consists, in order to learn how firmly or how loosely, how coherently or how incoherently it hangs together, I have arrived at the conclusion that the assertion of the existence of the alleged conspiracy on the part of the two murdered boys, the Earl of Gowrie and his brother Alexander Ruthven, is based only on a vast fabric of circumstantial falsehood, propped up by perjury, torture, forgery, and murder.
Among the reviews of Essay V. of my "Essays on Historical Truth," was one in The Scotsman of December 26, 1871, the writer of which, who had devoted more than ordinary attention to the question of the Gowrie Conspiracy, says:—
"The question of the genuineness or spuriousness of the Logan Letters may be considered the crucial test of the truth or falsehood of the Gowrie Conspiracy."
I am willing to accept this test; and I say, that if the letters had been then in existence they would have been produced at the trial of Sprot. My opinion is that they were fabricated in the interval between the trial of Sprot and the trial of Logan's bones. At the same time I admit that my reviewer—who says "we have subjected the letters to a very searching examination, on which we entered with strong misgivings about their genuineness"—has some advantages over me in having "had the opportunity of comparison with three undoubted signatures of Logan—one of them appended to a document in Lord Napier's possession; the other two occurring in the Public Records;" and the further, he says, "we pushed our investigation, the more did our suspicions disappear, till the evidence of genuineness became so overwhelming that we could no longer resist it."
On this it is necessary to remark that the reviewer appears to attach an undue or unwarranted authority to what has been termed the evidence of handwriting; and, like Mr. Pitcairn, Lord Dover, and Mr. Patrick Fraser Tytler, to ground his conclusions chiefly upon the assumption of the authenticity of Logan's handwriting. The cases that have come before the English courts show that, as Mr. Justice Coleridge said, in the case of Smyth v. Smyth and others, tried at the Gloucester Assizes in August, 1853, "The identity of handwriting is very much a matter of opinion, and anybody might be deceived in a matter of evidence like that."
It is, indeed, a rule of English law that evidence of handwriting based on the comparison between the handwriting of a party to a document and other documents proved or assumed to be his handwriting, as well as evidence of handwriting by knowledge acquired from specimens, is not receivable. Among the cases collected by Mr. Best, there are two which strikingly show the deceptive nature of this kind of evidence. The first is related by Lord Eldon. A deed was produced at a trial, purporting to be attested by two witnesses, one of whom was Lord Eldon. The genuineness of the document was strongly attacked; but the solicitor for the party setting it up, who was a most respectable man, had every confidence in the attesting witnesses, and had in particular compared the signature of Lord Eldon to the document with that of several pleadings signed by him. Lord Eldon had never attested a deed in his life.
This case it will be observed is precisely similar to the case of the reviewer stated above, comparing the signature attached, to what I maintain are the forged documents called the Logan Letters, with three undoubted signatures of Logan. The other remarkable case occurred in Scotland, where on a trial for forgery of some bank-notes, one of the banker's clerks, whose name was on a forged note, swore distinctly that it was his signature, while to another which was really his, he spoke with hesitation. "Standing alone," says Mr. Best, "any of the modes of proof of handwriting by resemblance are worth little—in a criminal case, nothing."
One of the Logan letters which was alleged to have been written in July, 1600, specifies "extirpating of our names" as a necessary consequence of treason; whereas the abolition of a surname—a family or clan name—was introduced in November, 1600, by special parliamentary enactment in the case of the Earl of Gowrie and his brother. The recurrence of such a proceeding in 1603, in the case of the Clan Gregor, would be apt to make a person writing the Logan letters in 1608 forget that the extirpating a family or clan name was not a matter of course, and even forget that in July, 1600, it was unprecedented.
The writer of these letters never names any conspirator but the Earl of Gowrie and "M. A. R." [Mr. Alexander Ruthven], sometimes "Mr. A. his lo-brother," and in letter fourth to the Earl of Gowrie "M. A. your lo-brother." The letters, five in number, are all professedly written by Logan. The first, third, and fifth letters are "to. . . ." and all commence with the words "Right Honorable Sir." If we take the proportion of letters to this "Right Honorable" phantom, as a measure of the proportion of weight which he bore in the alleged conspiracy, we find that he bore to the Earl of Gowrie the proportion of three to one, and to Alexander Ruthven, the Earl of Gowrie's brother, the proportion of three to nothing. It appears from this that the King and his ministers in 1608, had altogether abandoned the course of proceeding they had followed in 1600, which was to assert that Gowrie was too cautious to have any accomplices in his alleged designs. Finding that their former device had obtained no credit, they now tried another device to make the "story hang more handsomely together;" and from representing Gowrie as a person of the greatest caution, represent him as so incautious and rash as to put his life and fortune in the power of a drunken debauchee, by a compact which was to deprive him of his valuable estate of Dirleton. And how came it to pass that this "right honorable" phantom, who according to the Logan letters hypothesis was the head and front of the alleged conspiracy, should altogether vanish, while the royal wrath is wreaked on the house of Gowrie?
That was the age of jugglers, and this story called the Gowrie Conspiracy presents some examples. The name of Spottiswood, who was then Archbishop of Glasgow, stands third in the list of those who sat upon the trial of George Sprot, the notary, from whose repositories the Logan letters were professed to have been produced. Spottiswood was also one of those who were on the scaffold at Sprot's execution, and his name stands first in the list of those who subscribed Sprot's final deposition there made.
"'A little before the execution,' Calderwood says, 'when Mr. John Spotswood, bishop of Glasgow, said to Mr. Patrick Galloway, "I am afraid this man make us all ashamed," Mr. Patrick answered, "Let alone, my lord, I shall warrant him;" and indeed he had the most part of the speech to himself upon the scaffold.' Well may Mr. Napier say, 'Had the treasonable letters been produced on Sprot's trial, or even one well-authenticated letter, there would have been little reason for the courtly bishop expressing his fear that the wretched man on the scaffold would ' make us all ashamed.'. . . . This fact shakes the credit of this criminal process and the farce that followed to the very foundation.
Spottiswood distincly confirms what has been stated from the records, that no letter was produced at Sprot's trial. In his History, after saying that Sprot had deponed—
"That he knew Robert Logan of Restalrig, who was dead two years before, to have been privy to Gowrie's conspiracy, and that he understood so much by a letter [not letters] that fell in his hand, written by Restalrig to Gowrie, bearing that he would take part with him in the revenge of his father's death, and that his best course should be to bring the King by sea to Fast Castle, where he might be safely kept till advertisement came from those with whom the Earl kept intelligence,"—
He adds the following sentence:—
"It seemed a very fiction, and to be a mere conceit of the man's own brain; for neither did he show the letter, nor could any wise man think that Gowrie, who went about that treason so secretly, would have communicated the matter with such a man as this Restalrig was known to be."
King James was a tough morsel for courtly writers such as Archbishop Spottiswood and Sir Walter Scott. Spottiswood settles the matter by quoting an epitaph on James setting forth that Kings are not men but gods—
"Princes are gods, do not then
Rake in their graves to prove them men."
Sir Walter Scott and Calderwood give very conflicting statements of Sprot's execution, the former saying that Sprot asserted to the last that the letters were genuine, and that being desired to give a sign of the truth of his confession, after he was thrown off the ladder he clapped his hands three times. Such is Scott's account of what Calderwood represents as the trick by which Dunbar, James's Prime Minister for Scotland, whose place was no sinecure when he had to attend executions as assistant-hangman, gave a sign when Sprot's dying speech should be interrupted by his being cast off the ladder so as to give to his words a sense the reverse of that which they seemed intended to convey.
One more question I would ask: Why were no letters of the Ruthvens produced? If there had even been any letters from the Ruthvens, those letters would have been more likely to be preserved than the letters alleged to be found in the custody of those who had been connected with Logan.
"In this way it is in the power of any man—by writing letters referring to an enterprise of a treasonable nature, and keeping the letters in his own custody—to make circumstantial evidence of criminality in any shape against any other man."
In this case, however, the letters were written not by Robert Logan, but by those who were far more powerful than Robert Logan.
I have said that the letters were alleged to have been found in the custody of those who had been connected with Logan. Robert Logan, laird of Restalrig, died in the month of July, 1606; and the state in which he left his property at the time of his death throws some curious light on the selection of him as a candidate for the honour of being associated with the Ruthvens, in what King James denominated "the Gowrie Conspiracy." It appears that the Earl of Dunbar, Prime Minister of Scotland, and Lord Balmerinoch, Secretary of State, had engaged in money transactions to a great amount with Logan, and were deeply indebted to his estate.
"From the record of the Great Seal it appears," says Mr. Mark Napier, "that in the year 1605, Logan's estate of Restalrig had passed into the hands of Balmerinoch by purchase. But the purchase money had not been paid; and 'when the laird of Restalrig died, the Secretary was in his debt no less than eighteen thousand marks, a large sum in those days. This is proved by the register of confirmed testaments, where Logan's is recorded; and by the same it appears that the Earl of Dunbar was also Logan's debtor to the amount of fifteen thousand marks."
It further appears by extracts from the Register of the Privy Seal, also furnished to Mr. Mark Napier by Mr. David Laing, that George, Earl of Dunbar, obtained from the King "the gift of the escheit and ferfaultour of the sowme of fyftene thousand markis Scotis money," remaining unpaid by him to the late Robert Logan of Restalrig, for completing the sum of thirty-eight thousand marks agreed on for the lands of Flemyng-town. There is also a grant to Alexander Home of Renton, the Earl of Dunbar's cousin-german, of certain leases and titles that had belonged to the late Robert Logan of Restalrig.
King James destroyed a good deal of documentary evidence relating to the deaths of Prince Henry and Sir Thomas Overbury, but the Gowrie business was a job too tough for him, even with the help of such faithful coadjutors as the Earl of Dunbar and Lord Balmerinoch, who were dangerous men to sell estates to in those days, when Scotland had the felicity to be ruled by the sixth James Stuart.
For the accomplishment of their own and their royal master's purpose this Prime Minister Dunbar, and this Secretary of State Balmerinoch, fixed upon a certain notary named George Sprot, This Sprot had the character of being very expert in imitating handwriting, and was made use of by the Earl of Dunbar, to be an agent in his scheme of making his Majesty's story of his adventures at Gowrie House "hang more handsomely together;" being partly bribed by promises of benefit to his wife and children, partly tortured into his statement as to Logan's correspondence with the Ruthvens. But this addition to the original story instead of confirming it proves its falsehood.
As to the character attributed to the laird of Restalrig, who was so unfortunate as to be a man of considerable landed property in Scotland, when no man's landed property was safe under a King whose favourites might take any man's property which they took a fancy to, the words "ane godless, drunkin deboschit man in his tyme," describe the character exactly of a man whom Hume has white-washed into an angel of light, and who according to Bacon, throughout the inquiries respecting Overbury's murder "had shown to the world, as if it were written in a sunbeam, that he was the Lieutenant of Him with whom there is no respect of persons." Possibly Logan has been blackened as much as the other has been whitened; and if Hume were to have tried his brush upon him he might have come out as a jolly good fellow, "strongly inclined to mirth and wine— though he apprehended the Puritans' censure for his manner of life, free and disengaged."
The strange tragedy of Gowrie House was a story dark and terrible as that of Ugolino. The Torre della fame of Pisa did not witness a crime more horrible, more revolting, or more deserving of a terrible retribution than that perpetrated in the Black Turnpike in that old tower of Gowrie House at Perth. King James professed to take the "redacting noble houses, and men and women of noble blood, to slavish offices," to be one of his prerogatives granted by Holy Writ. James's practice was quite consonant with what Tacitus calls the mos regius in reference to the Emperor Tiberius. And with such a King as this James Stuart, possessed of power to perpetrate with impunity crimes such as the murder of Alexander Ruthven and his brother the Earl of Gowrie, of whom it has been said:—
"Unhappy boys! to perish by such a fate, and to leave behind them, though perishing so young, a blackened memory!
quia nee fato, merita nee morte peribant;
Sed miseri aute diem."
The English and Scottish nobility were in as bad a condition as the Roman nobility during the latter years of Tiberius, when that monster had retired to hide himself and his crimes amid the rocks of Caprese; and sent forth his emissaries to select his victims from the noblest houses of Rome, with power to employ force if necessary to effect their purpose.
Hume, in Ms History of the Reign of James I., refers to an anecdote related in the preface to Waller's works. Hume's manner of telling this anecdote shows how little he knew of what he was writing about. Hume says: "When Waller was young, he had the curiosity to go to Court; and he stood in the circle and saw James dine; where, among other company, there sat sat at table two bishops, Neile and Andrews." The words in the work referred to are not "sat at table" but "stood behind his Majesty's chair." Hume seems to have altered the words of his authority to suit his own view of his Majesty and his Majesty's Court. I cannot say on what particular occasion a subject was first admitted to the honour of sitting at dinner with a king or queen of England, but from the day when Bishops Neile and Andrews stood behind the chair of James I. to the day when William Fitz-Osberne, Earl of Hereford, who as dapifer or steward of the royal household, had the charge of the King's table, served William I. with the flesh of a crane only half roasted, and the King became so angry that he lifted up his fist and would have struck Fitz-Osberne, had not his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent, warded off the blow, no subject, however high in rank, was admitted to the honour of sitting at dinner with the King or Queen of England.
It is somewhat difficult to place before the mind manners and customs differing very much from those we have been used to; and it may seem strange to persons living in the nineteenth century as it might seem strange to Hume in the eighteenth century, that in the eleventh and twelfth centuries the person who had the charge of seeing that the royal dinner was not served up half roasted held an office which made him the most powerful man in the kingdom after the King. He was not only at the head of the King's palace, but of all the departments of the State, civil and military, chief administrator of justice, and leader of the armies in war. Madox is in error when he says ("Hist. Excheq.," p. 28), that in the reign of William I., William Fitz-Osberne was the King's Constable, because he is called Magister Militum; whereas in the very same passage (of "Orclericus Vitalis") he is called Normaniæ Dapifer, in virtue of which office he would be magister militum as well as capitalis justitiarius. The constable was not originally magister militum, but was an officer subordinate to the senescallus or dapifer.
Some English lawyers have assumed that the power of the officer created pro hâc vice to preside in the House of Lords at State Trials grew out of those of the Chief Justiciary. If that view were correct, the functionary so appointed would have been styled "high justiciary," whereas he is styled "lord high steward"—that is, senescallus Angliæ, and he exercises powers which had been delegated to the high justiciary from the senescallus Angliæ, to whom they were restored pro hâc vice in the person of the lord high steward.
For some twenty years this King had governed Scotland with a rule as absolute and much more intolerable than that of the Black Douglas three hundred years before. But how different were the rulers! In the one case the ruler was a veteran soldier covered with honourable wounds received in fighting against fearful odds, to preserve his country's independence. In the other it was a man who bore the same relation to the warlike ruler of former days that Appius Claudius did to Marcus Furius Camillus—the relation of a maker of speeches to a winner of battles. The words in one of Lord Macaulay's "Lays of Ancient Rome" describe well the relation to which I have referred:—
"Still Caius of Coriali, his triumphs and his wrongs,
His vengeance and his mercy, live in our camp-fire songs.
Beneath the yoke of Furius oft have Gaul and Tuscan bowed;
And Rome may bear the pride of, him of whom herself is proud.
A Cossus, like a wild cat, springs ever at the face;
A Fabius rushes like a-bear against the shouting chase.
The Claudian triumphs all were won within the city-towers;
The Claudian yoke was never pressed on any necks but ours."
If this King's days were evil in Scotland, they were not less so when he became King of England, when England had the grievous misfortune to have thrust upon her for a king, a man whose history is written in the history of the deaths of the Earl of Gowrie and his brother Alexander Ruthven, of Prince Henry, and of Sir Thomas Overbury.
In an examination of the evidence, which escaped the destruction by which the powerful seek to efface all traces of some of their deeds, respecting the death of Prince Henry, I used these words:—
"It is one of the privileges of absolute power to efface, when it desires, all traces of its footsteps."
And the words immediately preceding are:—
"It is only within the last few years, and more than two centuries after the event, that any glimpse of the truth respecting the fate of Overbury has been obtained; all that was before made public having been carefully prepared and arranged by some of the subtlest legal intellects of their own or any time to raise a false issue."
With that man's name are linked the rumours of deeds so revolting, that they suggest the words which in a tragedy of that time a veteran general applies to his sister whom a royal libertine had dishonoured:—
"'Tis, to be thy brother,
An infamy below the sin of coward,"
James I. had as great a horror of war as the gentlemen of the Peace Society. Being nearly despotic he had been able to put in practice his peace-at-any-price doctrines so successfully, both in avoiding war and in breaking the once high spirit of the English people, that the ambassadors of foreign powers resident in England repeatedly expressed their astonishment that the English nation submitted to such disgrace and oppression—calling it cowardice in the English people, some of them even going so far as to say that there were no men in England. England had, in fact, in this disgraceful reign sunk so low that her ambassadors were repeatedly insulted at foreign courts, her merchant ships could not sail the sea in safety, and her coasts were ravaged by the Barbary pirates, who plundered the villages and carried off many hundreds of the inhabitants into slavery.
No man ever engaged in the court intrigues of that king's reign and escaped with life and honour; and no man of average knowledge and capacity ever attempted to write the history of that reign and escaped without finding himself involved in a subject unsuited to an age in which Sporus and Locusta cannot be brought upon the scene. I do not dispute Hume's capacity, and as to his knowledge he knew enough to know that in the matter called the Gowrie Conspiracy there were pitfalls which even his dexterity might not enable him to escape, and therefore he avoided all mention of it. But though this might show prudence what did it say as to his love of truth? His account of the reign of James I. will remain a memorial of his extraordinary interpretation of the meaning of the word duty applied to a historian.
It can be shown that the first Lord Hyde of the name of Villiers was a man possessed of qualities very different from those of the unhappy minion of court favour who died by the knife of Felton, or of his brilliant and dissolute son who died at Helmsley, after having wasted some of the choicest gifts of nature and of fortune. The great estate of Helmsley, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, had been bestowed by the Parliament of England on Fairfax, their general, and had been part of the marriage portion which Fairfax's daughter had brought to Buckingham. Helmsley was purchased for near ninety thousand pounds by a goldsmith or banker, Charles Duncombe, and,
"Helmsley, once proud Buckingliain's delight,
Slides to a scrivener or a city knight."
The picture by the author of these lines on the death of Buckingham,
"In the worst inn's worst room," &c.,
is completely imaginary. He died in one of his own farm houses, having taken cold one day after fox-hunting, by sitting on the cold ground. This threw him into an ague and fever which carried him off, after three days' sickness, at a tenant's house, Kirkby-Moor-side a lordship of his own, near Helmsley. And besides the misstatement as to "the worst inn's worst room," the two lines ending with the rhymes "friends" and "ends" are words only meant to tickle the ear. Instead of dying as in Pope's " Moral Essays," he died surrounded by friends. The Earl of Arran, son to Duke Hamilton; Mr. Brian Fairfax, second son to Lord Fairfax's uncle, to whom that title came, and other friends were with him when he died. However, Macaulay's words are true; for though his death was not in "the worst inn's worst room," it was under a humble roof, and on a coarse pallet, that Buckingham closed his chequered life.
"The spacious domain," adds Macaulay, "passed to a new race; and in a few years a palace more splendid and costly than had ever been inhabited by the magnificent Villiers rose amidst the beautiful woods and waters which had been his, and was called by the once humble name of Duncombe."
There are among the Mitchell Papers some letters from Sir Thomas Villiers, created Lord Hyde in 1756, and Earl of Clarendon in 1776, to Sir Andrew Mitchell, his successor at the Court of Berhn as the representative of England, which show that this member of the elder branch of the family of Villiers of Brooksley, was a man of a totally different character from either the first or the second Duke of Buckingham of the name of Villiers. In a letter dated 27th June, 1761, to Mitchell, Lord Hyde says:—
"My dear Mitchell,—Though I can't say that I am fond of unnecessary writing or unnecessary talking, I was happy in receiving a letter from an old friend that I love; having heard that his health which endured the follies of youth had been injured by ministerial toils. By matrimony it seems I am freed from both, and enjoy life in a plain, insignificant way, with a wife that I value, and three boys and a girl. I give no flattery and receive no favours. I am not out of humour, but see things, as far as my sight will reach, without prejudice or partiality. How long this state of annihiliation will last I can't determine as I have taken no resolutions on it, but considering my great indolence and little merit, I shall scarce be again in an active station; so my friends will scarce ever have anything of me, but my wishes which would have accompanied yours had I known they had tended to Augsbourg, I mean for yourself, for as to me I am happy that Lord Egremont is at the head of our Ministers there. Lord Granville is much as he was as to spirits and dignity, at least to us who see him daily and partially. We often talk you over, and wish for the stories we are to have when you return. Lord Jersey has rather more gout than he had, in other respects the same. . . . I wish my poor friends in your parts were as I left them. I often feel for you and for Fritsch as much as for any. Let those who are alive, who are not many, and fall in your way, be assured of my regard, esteem, and compassion, and be yourself convinced that I am unalterably yours.—H.
"My wife begs her compliments of friendship and esteem."
In a letter dated "The Grove, 24th Sept., 1763," Lord Hyde says:—
"My dear Mitchell,—I am very glad to find by your favour of the 3rd that your health is better, and that you are not so Germanized but that you wish to be among us; all who know you wish for your return. Ton will find terrible gaps in our acquaintances; death has made cruel havoc; we that remain, according to Prussian discipline, should stand the closer."
And in a letter dated "Upper Grosvenor Street, 1st Dec, 1763," Lord Hyde says:—
"If anybody besides yourself thinks of me where you are, you may confidently assert that I retain warm gratitude for Berlin, but I imagine most of my ministerial and military acquaintances are gone gradually or precipitately to their last home. Should ever opportunity be so blindly favourable as to permit you to lay my duty and respects at his Prussian Majesty's feet, you may with great truth add that I shall ever feel, as I ought, the honour done me by his Majesty's most gracious opinion. Is there any historian attempting to describe and keep pace with his wonderful achievements? Were I as young and as unengaged as when I first knew that part of the world, I would again embark in that agitated sea. But as it is I must be contented to tell old stories to my wife and children, and to read and explain the Gazettes. Was there any hope of your assistance in these domestic amusements we should be all the happier. My wife joins in hearty wishes for your welfare, and in that perfect esteem with which I unalterably remain,
"My dear Mitchell.
"Most cordially yours,
Mr. C. P. Villiers was, at the age of sixteen, sent to the East India College at Haileybury, where he had the advantage of studying for two years under Mr. Malthus and Sir James Mackintosh, then the Professors of Political Economy and International Law at Haileybury. Circumstances having induced Mr. Villiers to give up the intention of going to India, he had his name entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, and took the degrees of B.A. and B.L. in 1824, and the degree of M.A. three years later.
While an undergraduate at Cambridge, Mr. Villiers was a member of the "Union," a debating society, in which whether he was or was not a frequent speaker I cannot say, for though at that time I was an undergraduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, I was not a member of the "Union," and the only members of the "Union" whose names emerged beyond the walls of the "Union" debating-room were T. B. Macaulay and W. M. Praed. There were others who became noted afterwards, among whom may be named Sir Alexander Cockburn, Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench; Charles Buller, and Charles Austin, whose unequalled success as a parliamentary counsel, by keeping him out of Parliament, possibly prevented him from being Prime Minister.
When Charles Villiers went to St. John's College, Cambridge, towards the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, an intensely aristocratic spirit prevailed over every part of Great Britain, and manifested itself in great force at the University of Cambridge. Rent of land was looked upon as the only respectable source of revenue. The profits of trade were only fitted for the pedlar class of mankind, while the receivers of rent were the class that produced the English gentleman, who considered himself as entitled to satisfaction if he received an insult even from emperors and kings. The King, who in 1820 succeeded to the throne of England, set an example when he graciously permitted "Young Dukes" to hear him "declare His royal sense of operas or the fair." It was more than ten years before the Reform Bill of 1832, and whatever shortcoming that Reform Bill might have been guilty of, one thing it accomplished. The middle classes ceased after a time to be the standing jest of such writers as the authors of "Vivian Grey" and "Pelham," and, as the latter observed, that joke would not do any longer.
When Charles Villiers went to Cambridge, the qualifications for killing game, or rather the exemptions from the penalties inflicted by the Statute Law, were—1, The having a freehold estate of £100 per annum; that is one hundred pounds being required to enable a man to kill a partridge, when forty shillings enabled him to vote for a knight of the shire; 2, A leasehold for ninety—nine years of £150 per annum; 3, Being the son and heir apparent of an esquire, or person of superior degree; 4, Being the owner, or keeper, of a forest, park, chase, or warren.
But though shooting partridges and grouse might be very well, fox-hunting was the amusement befitting a gentleman. A Prime Minister, if he could not ride to hounds, was looked down upon as not quite a gentleman, according to the proper standard. Even Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington was not quite up to their mark in horsemanship. Their talk was of horses and dogs, fox-hunting, horse-racing, and tandem-driving. The walls of their rooms were covered with prints such as might be considered congenial to their cultivated minds; with portraits of celebrated racers and hunters, and dogs remarkable for their courage or sagacity, particularly when such courage and sagacity had been exhibited like those of the dog Billy, of rat-catching reputation. With those young men, though kings and lords were not as other men, of the earth earthy, but had a sort of divinity hedging them round about, so that their chaff was better than other folks' corn; yet even kings and lords, who could not ride quite to their satisfaction, were to be regarded as slow coaches and spoons.
This question has another aspect.
It has been thought by some that the genius of Walter Scott, which delighted in the romantic and chivalrous aspect of feudalism, has had considerable influence in obtaining for the aristocratic spirit the ascendancy it held in England for the first quarter of the nineteenth century. It seemed a vain imagination in Wordsworth to attempt to establish a respectable pedlar in the roll of honour which was appropriated to bold buccaneers and respectable cow-stealers. Indeed, what was that foray which closed with the Battle of Otterburne? Does not the old ballad say
"Doughty Douglas was boun' to ride
To England to drive a prey"?
An ancient name and lineage were indispensable, and really Scott had wonderful success in stamping impressions that I can hardly admit were a very useful or healthy part of a boy's education—impressions that associated with the gloom of Gothic castles and the high-fretted roofs and pictured windows of Gothic abbeys or colleges, the idea of grandeur, of glory and honour that were once bright and true, on the hypothesis that they had been earned by labour and won by heroic deeds. The result may perhaps be dimly indicated by some of Scott's lines which describe the entrance of Deloraine into the chancel of Melrose Abbey—
"By a steel-clenclied postern door,
They enter'd now the chancel tall;
The darken'd roof rose high aloof
On pillars lofty, and light, and small."
"Full many a scutcheon and banner riven.
Shook to the cold night-wind of heaven,
Around the screened altars pale;
And there the dying lamps did burn.
Before thy low and lonely urn,
O gallant Chief of Otterburne!
And thine, dark Knight of Liddesdale!
O fading honours of the dead!
O high ambition, lowly laid!"
In the same poem Scott gives a striking picture of the state of the country on the borders of England and Scotland in the words of Wat Tinlinn—
"They cross'd the Liddel at curfew hour,
And burnt my little lonely tower;
The fiend receive their souls therefor!
It had not been burnt this year and more.
Barn-yard and dwelling, blazing bright.
Served to guide me on my flight;
But I was chased the live-long night.
Black John of Akeshaw, and Fergus Grasme,
Full fast upon my traces came,
Until I turn'd at Priesthaugh Scrogg,
And shot their horses in the bog.
Slew Fergus with my lance outright—
I had him long at high despite,
He drove my cows last Fastern's night."
Scott himself, in his History of Scotland, has given a good explanation of the effect of his own genius in describing that of the genius of Shakspeare upon the Scottish tale of Macbeth.
"The genius of Shakspeare," says Scott, "having found the tale of Macbeth in the Scottish chronicles of Holingshed, adorned it with a lustre similar to that with which a level beam of the sun often invests some fragment of glass, which, though shining at a distance with the lustre of a diamond, is, by a near investigation, discovered to be of no worth or estimation. . . . Early authorities shows no such persons as Banquo and his son Fleance. Neither were Banquo or his son ancestors of the house of Stewart."
Scott has in another of his works some instructive remarks on the effect of times which may be said to have something of a revolutionary character. In the "Monastery," Murray (the Regent) says:—
"In times like these we must look to men and not to pedigrees. Times of action makes princes into peasants and boors into barons. All families have sprung from one mean man; and it is well if they have never degenerated from his virtue who raised them first from obscurity."
"My Lord of Murray will please to except the house of Douglas," said Morton haughtily; "men have seen it in the tree, but never in the sapling—have seen it in the stream, but never in the fountain. In the earliest of our Scottish annals, the Black Douglas was powerful and distinguished as now.""I bend to the honour of the house of Douglas," said Murray somewhat ironically; "I am conscious -we of the Royal House have little right to compete with them ia dignity. What though we have worn crowns and carried sceptres for a few generations, if our genealogy moves no farther back than to the humble Alanus Bapifer!"
It happened to me to have a singular opportunity of observing this intensely aristocratic character in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, pervading English Society. It was at that time customary, I know not if it is the custom now, for the college tutor at Trinity College to take compassion on the unhappy Freshman who was to dine for the first time in hall, so far as to appoint him to come to his rooms a few minutes before the dinner bell rang, and consign him to the care of another Freshman who had been similarly introduced to hall a day or two before, and who by the arrangement of the college tutor was to introduce into hall another Freshman as he had himself been introduced a few days before. I think, to the best of my recollection, that the number of undergraduates dining daily in the hall of Trinity College, Cambridge, at that time, was about three hundred, more or less. On the day of my first dining in hall, I went by appointment to the rooms in Neville's Court of my college tutor, and was immediately introduced by him to a man of about my own height, with light hair and a remarkably good-humoured countenance, who went with me to the hall, which was close by, and taking a seat on a bench at a table covered with joints of meat and dishes of vegetables, together with bread and beer glasses filled or empty, carved some slices of meat from a joint, put them with some vegetables on his plate, and intimated to me that I was to follow his example. This was keeping terms by dining in hall.
When dinner was over we walked out, and my companion very heartily invited me to accompany him to his lodgings and take a glass of wine. But as I had resolved at that time to avoid what are called wine parties at Cambridge, I thanked him and declined—though I afterwards went to wine parties at his rooms, and he came to wine parties at my rooms, for I found it advisable to change my resolution in regard to wine parties. I have to add that Blake, the name of the Freshman who had been asked by the college tutor to take me into hall, had been some days before taken into hall by a Freshman named Williamson, and these two Freshmen of that year remained among my friends as long as one lived, and as long as the other remained in England, for Blake told me that he was the representative of the great Admiral of the Commonwealth of England, whose eldest brother had gone to America, and I surmise, for I never asked him any questions, that he had property in the Southern States of America. But the point I wish to bring out is this, that this American representative of the great Commonwealth Admiral, who is reputed by Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards Earl of Clarendon, in a letter to Secretary Nicholas, to have said that monarchy was a sort of government the world was weary of—so far from holding the opinions, either of Robert Blake or George Washington, as to royalty—had adopted the opinions of those against whom Robert Blake and George Washington fought; for he used to say it was unlucky for him that Admiral Blake had served under the Commonwealth since, if he had served under a King he, as his representative, would have inherited a peerage, a peerage which the great "admiral and general at sea" would have declined.
To minds weary of the constantly recurring spectacle of savage party spirit, rising at times into fury, at other times wearing that degraded form of malignity which has received in England the name of spite—which has been described as in some natures surviving all the other faculties, so as to give rise to the words—"his power gone—his spite immortal—a dead nettle"—there is a singular pleasure in turning to the testimony of the opposite party—of Clarendon, of Johnson, of Hume, to the valour and integrity of Robert Blake. The subject seems to rouse even Hume into enthusiasm.. "Never man," he says, "so zealous for a faction, was so much respected and esteemed, even by the opposite factions."
Blake's fate as to a peerage is suggestive and significant as to the peerage question. If a peerage were intended as a public recognition of great public services, never man had earned a peerage more truly than Robert Blake. If Blake had lived at the time when peers were persons who wore a coat of mail and not a footman's livery, his fate would have been at least to escape the ignominy of the "mean revenge" which insulted his body by dragging it from the place where it had been entombed "with," says Johnson, "all the funeral solemnity due to the remains of a man so famed for his bravery, and so spotless in his integrity."
Whatever weight may be attached to the investigation of the Lords' Committee on the subject of the Barones Majores having the right to sit in the Legislative Assemblies without being summoned by the King's Writ, it must be evident that peers who levied war against the Plantagenets were a different order of persons from peers who might bear the very titles of the Nevilles and the Percies under the Tudors and the Stuarts. Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, was a very different Earl of Salisbury from Richard Nevill, Earl of Salisbury and Warwick, who fell at the Battle of Barnet, and among whose dying words Shakspeare has written these—"Who liv'd King, but I could dig his grave?" Whether he used these words or not it is certain he and Hotspur and others were very different sort of peers from the persons bearing the name of peers who were the courtiers or footmen of the Tudor s and the Stuarts. Footman is the proper word. Is not the court dress at this day the dress of a footman? And as every peer puts on that dress at certain times, by doing so he transforms himself into a court footman. Is a court footman a proper and fit legislator for a great nation? A great soldier, a Marlborough or Wellington, owes his distinction not to being a peer but to being a great soldier. Of the two greatest admirals one did not live to bear the title of earl; and the body of the other was torn from its receptacle in Westminster Abbey, and cast like that of a masterless dog—for a dog that has a master is decently buried—into a pit. This was the fate of a man whom even Samuel Johnson, while bestowing on Hampden no more honourable name than that of "the zealot of rebellion," censures for acting on one occasion with temerity, in terms which may indicate the degree of his panegyric— panegyric—"We must thus admit," he says, "amidst our eulogies and applauses, that the great, the wise, and the valiant Blake was once betrayed to an inconsiderate and desperate enterprise, by the resistless ardour of his own spirit, and a noble jealousy of the honour of his country."
I will quote here some words which I have used in another place:—
A modern hero-worshipper who has taken Cromwell for one of his heroes in reference to Cromwell's expulsion of the Rump declares he knows not in what eyes are tears at their departure, except it be their own.
"From the time of the expulsion of the Long Parliament by Cromwell, if we except Blake—who continued to fight the foreign enemies of England, but who never, in any sense, became the creature of Cromwell—none of the great spirits whose fixedness of purpose, intensity of will, and fierce yet single-minded and unselfish enthusiasm, had fought the great fight for liberty in the hall of debate as well as on the field of battle, had borne down before them the opposition alike of adverse opinions and of hostile armies, and extorted even from enemies a reluctant admiration, ever more acted with Cromwell. … Whatever vices or infirmities those men might have had, they had not the vices and infirmities of slaves or cowards—of quacks, of liars, of renegades."
A friend of mine who wrote a review that that tended much to the success of a former work of this writer, said to me of his work on Cromwell that he had sacrificed everyone to Cromwell, and had not made much of him. This hero-worshipper has been very profuse of his scorn and reprobation towards those members of the Rump who did not lick the dust before Cromwell. The fault of each of those opponents of Cromwell is that he is not a "royal man." He then makes another outcry for "a royal man;" and all that he has to say of the fate of the men who refused submission to a tyrant, whether his name was Stuart or Cromwell, is such cowardly scurrility as this—"peppery Scot's hot head will go up on Temple Bar." Thomas Scot's last words in Parliament, as reported in Burton's Diary, are these, and they are words such as hero-worshippers are not apt to use:—
"I would, be content it should,be set upon my monument—if it were my last act, I own it—I was one of the king's judges. I hope it shall not be said of us, as of the Romans once, 'O homines ad servitutem parati!'"
I shall be told by the critics, as I have been told by them before, that I am digressing from the strict subject-matter, namely, the struggles of the opponents of the Corn Laws; and perhaps I shall be asked what have Robert Blake and Thomas Scot in common with Charles Pelham Villiers and Richard Cobden? My answer is that as Robert Blake and Thomas Scot strove against the Divine Right of the Stuart Kings, Charles Pelham Villiers and Richard Cobden strove against the Divine Right of the Landlords, whose manifesto may be summed up in the words of a certain Irish- English peer whose English peerage dates from 11th August, 1815, and is therefore coeval with the Corn Laws. The wisdom and far-seeing intelligence of this noble lord, who had considerable landed estates and held for some years the post of prime minister of a country, the energy and intelligence of the inhabitants of which have made it famous and powerful over the world, in spite of such prime ministers as he, prompted him in the debate in the House of Lords, March 14, 1839, on Lord Fitzwilliam's Resolutions condemning the Corn Laws, to give utterance to these words:—
"To leave the whole agricultural interest without protection, I declare before God that I think it the wildest and maddest scheme that has ever entered into the imagination of man to conceive."
To contend against such reasoning there was need of a mind which, like that of Mr. Villiers, had been trained to that rigid analysis of the principles of economic science which enables it to detect a fallacy at a glance, and to set forth a truth with the simple force and clearness that are best fitted to give it a fair chance of success.
At the General Election of 1826, Mr. C. P. Villiers was one of the candidates for the representation of Hull. The writer of a letter in a Hull paper of May, 1883, says:—
"Noticing that on Mr. C. P. Villiers's cards were the words, 'Vote for Villiers and Cheap Bread,' it struck me that it must point to the right hon. octogenarian Member for Wolverhampton, whom all England will for ever hold in affectionate remembrance for being the first to agitate for the removal of the tax on food."
The writer of the letter also says that he copied from a MS. in his possession, certain particulars relating to Mr. Villiers's family, the contest at Hull, the public offices Mr. Villiers had held, and took the liberty of forwarding the same, requesting to know if there was any truth in the statements therein. Mr. Villiers replied, with his usual courtesy, and gave his testimony to the general accuracy of the statements in the MS. referred to as being in the possession of his correspondent. So that Mr. Villiers was, in 1826, in the field which General (then Major) Thompson entered in 1827, by the publication of his celebrated "Catechism on the Corn Laws."
In 1827 Mr. Villiers was called to the Bar, and in 1832 he was an Assistant-Commissioner under the Royal Commission appointed to make a full inquiry into the practical operation of the Poor Laws. Being one of those employed under the same Commission of Inquiry, I had then for the first time the honour of his acquaintance, and also the advantage to be derived from seeing the actual working of the English system of Poor Laws.
Mr. Villiers would probably, after devoting to the subject the time and labour required for a thorough survey of it, arrive at the following among other conclusions:—
That in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries the wages of the agricultural labourer in England were such as to procure for him nearly, if not quite, double the quantity of food which his wages between 1740 and 1794 procured; and that the wages obtained by him from 1834 to 1844, as measured by the quantity of produce, were considerably less than in the period between 1740 and 1794.
That under the combined operation of the Poor Law of 1796 and the Corn Law of 1815, the wages of agricultural labour were lower, and the condition of the agricultural labourer was worse, than at any former period, except that in which the Poor Law of Elizabeth was passed. Mr. Villiers's labour as an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner "brought him," says the writer of the Political Memoir prefixed to his Free Trade Speeches, "into direct contact with the labouring classes, and introduced him to one of the most instructive branches of political science." Mr. Villiers may indeed have thus seen more clearly the effects of the combined operations of two bad laws upon the condition of all classes except the receiver of rent, and this would be of use to him in his free trade labours.
Whether his duties as Secretary to the Master of the Rolls and Examiner in the Court of Chancery enlarged his political views, I cannot take upon me to say.
Wolverhampton had always sought as representatives the opponents of the Corn Laws. It returned for its first Member, Mr. Whitmore, who lost no opportunity of denouncing the injustice of the Corn Laws. When Mr. Whitmore died he was succeeded by Mr. Villiers, and the connection thus formed has not since been interrupted. From. 1835 to 1884 when these words are written is a period of forty-nine years; and I think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a case similar to that afforded by Wolverhampton and Mr. C. P. Villiers, of mutual esteem and mutual confidence between the electors and the elected.
In 1837 Mr. Villiers was chosen by the Liberals assembled at Sir William Molesworth's to become their leader in the House of Commons on the question of the Repeal of the Corn Laws. He introduced this subject March 15, 1838, and repeated his motion every year for eight years. Mr. Villiers had to fight many battles against the Corn Laws, so many and against such odds that,—and I hope the illustration will not be deemed the exile of Rachrin who won at last the great Battle of Bannockburn.—when on the 10th of June, 1845, Mr. Villiers brought forward his eighth and last motion for the Repeal of the Corn Laws the circumstances of the case with its gloomy fortunes in the past and the dark clouds lowering over the future, may well recall the celebrated story told of
Robert Bruce, when lying one morning on his wretched bed, deliberating whether he had not better resign his enterprise of making good his right to the Scottish crown, and happening to look up to the roof of the cabin in which he lay, saw a spider hanging at the end of a long thread of its own spinning, and trying to swing itself from one beam in the roof to another for the purpose of fixing the line on which it meant to stretch its web. The spider made the attempt repeatedly and failed each time. Bruce counted that it had tried and failed six times; and bethought him that he had fought six battles against the English. He then resolved that if the spider should make another effort and succeed, he would try his fortune in Scotland a seventh time. The spider made another exertion and succeeded in fastening its thread to the beam which it had so often in vain attempted to reach. Bruce seeing the success of the spider resolved to try his fortune again, and as he had never before won a battle he never after lost one. Sir Walter Scott says:—
"I have often met with people of the name of Bruce, so completely persuaded of the truth of this story, that they would not on any account kill a spider; because it was that insect which had shown the example of perseverance, and given a signal of good luck to their great namesake."
It is interesting to compare Mr. Villiers's first speech on the Corn Laws in the House of Commons, made March 15, 1838, with Mr. Cobden's first speech in the House of Commons, made August 25, 1841. In this, his first speech in the House of Commons, Mr. Villiers spake these words:—
"I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that thousands are now withdrawing their confidence from the Legislature in consequence of the manner in which they observe that it deals with the general interests of the country. And with respect to this question in particular, there is a tone assumed and a temper shown that no wise man can view without alarm; for they proceed not from those from whom violence is to be apprehended, but from those on whom we must depend to suppress violence whenever it may occur—men whose intelligence gives strength to their feelings, and who now openly avow their despair of justice from this House because they observe that the power of those who passed these Laws, and who still insist upon maintaining them, has been strengthened by the Reform Bill."
This significant remark seems to have escaped the observation of Mr. Cobden, who was not inclined to believe that there could be much difficulty in obtaining Repeal from the Reformed Parliament, until he happened one night (February 19, 1839), about two years before he became a Member of the House, to be present as "a stranger" and witness the treatment which Mr. Villiers, when advocating Repeal, experienced from the Protectionists. From a speech of Mr. Villiers's at Salford, on the occasion of unveiling Mr. Cobden's statue, it appears that Cobden suddenly left the House, returned to Lancashire that night, and determined that he would never cease to agitate until the public should be apprised of the character of those laws and the difficulty of repealing them.
Mr. Cobden said, in his first speech in the House of Commons, August 25, 1841:—
"What are these taxes upon food? They are taxes levied upon the great body of the people, and hon. gentlemen opposite, who show such sympathy for the working classes after they have made them paupers, cannot deny my right to claim on their behalf that those taxes should be a primary consideration. I have heard them called Protection; bat taxes they are, and taxes they shall be in my mouth, as long as I have the honour of a seat in this House. The bread-tax is a tax primarily levied upon the poorer classes; it is a tax, at the lowest estimate, of 40 per cent, above the price we should pay if there were a free trade in corn. The report upon the handloom-weavers puts down ten shillings as the estimated weekly earnings of a family. It moreover states that out of ten shillings each family expends five shillings on bread. The tax of 40 per cent, is, therefore, a tax of 20 per cent, upon the earnings of every labouring man's family earning ten shillings a week. How does it operate as we proceed upwards in society? The man with forty shillings a week pays an income-tax of 5 per cent.; the man of £250 a year pays but 1 per cent.; and the nobleman or millionaire, with an income of £200,000 a year, and whose family consumes no more bread than that of the agricultural labourer, pays less than one halfpenny in every £100. (Laughter.) I know not whether the laugh 'is at the monstrous character of the case, or at the humble individual who states it; but I repeat that the tax upon the nobleman is less than one halfpenny per cent., while upon the poor man's family it is £20 per cent. I am sure there is not an hon. member in the House who would dare to bring in a bill to levy an income-tax on all grades of society upon a scale similar to this, and yet I maintain that the bread-tax is such a tax, and is levied, not for the purposes of the State, but for the benefit of the richest portion of the community. That is a fair statement of the tax upon bread. I can sympathize with the incredulity of hon. gentlemen opposite, but if they knew the case as it really is, and felt it as they would if they did know it, they would also feel that they could not lie down to rest in comfort or safety if they voted for such a tax. … Let me remind the House, that the parties who have so patiently struggled for three years past for a hearing at your bar, have never been allowed to state their case; that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Charles Villiers)—for whose great and incessant services I, in common with millions of my fellow-countrymen, feel grateful—when he proposed that the case of those millions should be heard at the bar, had the proposition scouted and spurned; and that, when they had denied them a hearing, they proceeded to misrepresent their motives."
One of the difficulties Mr. Villiers had to contend with I can well understand from having experienced it myself when employed in an inquiry into the condition of the farm labourers in Wilts, Dorset, and Somerset, in the winter of 1844-5. The difficulty was that the Anti-Corn Law movement incurred the disadvantage of being represented—or misrepresented—as a purely manufacturers' agitation, got up and set agoing for the purpose of lowering the wages of their workmen, and thereby enabling them to compete on more equal terms with other nations. I remember making Mr. Cobden very angry for a moment by telling him that some of the persons I met with in Wilts, Dorset, and Somerset, in December and January, 1844-5, puzzled me extremely at times by saying that Mr. Cobden sometimes said the Repeal would raise wages, sometimes that it would lower them.
Mr. Cobden was in the position of a counsel who is employed in a case of vast importance, beset with complications and difficulties; and he showed the abilities of an advocate of a very high order. I cannot undertake to say that he never made the conflicting statements which have been mentioned; but I have at this distance of time a distinct recollection of being met with the objections above mentioned when I was on that inquiry into the condition of the farm labourers in Wilts, Dorset, and. Somerset, in December, 1844, and January, 1845.
My impression is in agreement with that of others who have laboured in the cause of Free Trade and, nevertheless, were not traders. At the same time, it is to be noted, with reference to Sir W. Napier's expression, "the cold, calculating baseness of commercial avarice," that avarice is avarice, whether it be commercial or non-commercial, civil or military; whether it animates the breasts of merchants and manufacturers, or of squires, lords, kings and queens. The persons probably most free from its tyranny are such persons as laboured for Free Trade without being actuated by any very strong passion to increase their real or personal property: the objects that employed their thoughts, and might be termed the objects of their ambition, being looked upon as visionary and fantastic by the men who considered either money or land as the only things worth having and worth striving for.
Mr. Villiers's position under these difficulties has been described with singular clearness in the Political Memoir which forms an introduction to Mr. Villiers's Free Trade Speeches:—
"His keen perception made him acutely sensitive of the embarrassments to which the predominance of one body of men in the movement exposed the cause of Repeal iu both Houses of Parliament; whilst their comparative ignorance of Parliamentary procedure, and the stubborn strength that was arrayed against them in the Legislature, placed them in no little danger, in their impatience of temporary defeat and the consciousness of numerical superiority in the country, of compromising the cause by such acts of indiscreet zeal as could only retard the object they had in view."
Mr. Villiers's situation was one beset with difficulties which it is not easy to analyze completely. That Mr. Villiers's difficulties in the House of Commons arose from no want of power as an advocate, as far as the most honourable functions of an advocate are in question, is shown by the declaration of a political adversary whose debating powers rendered him a competent judge of parliamentary speaking. Mr. Disraeli, when Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1852 in Lord Derby's administration, said:—
"I may say that he may look back with proud self-complacency to the time when I remember him sitting on almost the last bench on this side of the House, and bringing forward, with the command of a master of the subject, never omitting a single point, and against all the prejudices of his audience, the question of the Corn Laws. There were no cheers then from the followers of Sir Robert Peel. There were no enthusiastic adherents then in a defunct Whig ministry. On the contrary, the right honourable baronet, the member for Carlisle, came forward and threw his broad shield over the territorial interest of England; and anybody but the honourable and learned member for Wolverhampton would have sunk in the unequal fray. I honour, respect and admire him, but I cannot agree to his Resolutions."
The uphill battle that the Anti-Corn Law League had to fight is exemplified in the meeting held at Colchester on the 8th of July, 1843, in support of the repeal of the Corn Laws. It is hardly necessary to say that Colchester was a stronghold of Conservatism, as far as Conservatism meant the preservation of the Corn Laws, since it would have been difficult at that time to find any considerable town in Britain which was not such a stronghold. A large majority of the landholders and clergy throughout England was in favour of the Corn Laws, and a large majority of the thousands of people assembled at the Colchester meeting from all parts of the country was expected by the Protectionists to be in favour of the maintenance of the Corn Laws and against the advocates of Repeal. Indeed violence to the latter was apprehended and special constables were sworn in. Never perhaps was the effect of Mr. Cobden's speaking, which, to borrow the well-chosen words of Mr. Bright, "was so simple and easy and true," more wonderfully manifested than on this occasion. The farmers at first refused to listen to him. Before the end of his speech he won their attention if not their acquiescence.
Mr. Villiers, who followed Sir John Tyrrell, was received with great cheering, and closed his speech with a passage thus reported:—
"If the people get poorer, can the farmer get rich while his customers are declining? ['No.'] And if competition compels him to give the highest price for his land, can he pay his rent if the produce falls in price? ['No, no.'] Where then is the advantage to any one in such an unnatural regulation? The Corn Laws have lasted twenty-eight years; what good have they done you? You are now called upon to make known your sentiments on the subject. You are summoned here as jurors before your country; and after a full and fair trial of these Laws, you are bound to declare your verdict upon them. What do you say? Are the Corn Laws guilty or not guilty? [Loud cries of 'Guilty!' and some cries of 'No.'] Well, then, you who think that they ought to be abolished speak out like men—in a manner no longer to be misunderstood; and never again allow yourselves to be misrepresented as wishing to perpetuate a system fraught with folly and injustice, and unattended with real benefit to any one. Thanking you sincerely for the attention that you have given me, I will now make way for those who may be waiting to address you."
Rents had been rising for a good many years before the passing of the 1815 Corn Laws, which in 1843 had, as Mr. Villiers says, lasted for twenty-eight years. They continued to rise steadily under the Corn Laws of 1815. The landlords being thus prosperous maintained that the Corn Laws being good for them were good for what they called the agricultural interest. The Corn Laws raised rents. Did they raise profits and wages? Are men to conclude from the fact that the farmers, or some of them, hunted in red coats, and occasionally killed foxes, that the Corn Laws had raised their profits as they had raised their landlord's rents?
"I am no orator," said Mr. Villiers in his speech in Covent Garden Theatre, July 3, 1844, " I simply stated facts, in support of my Resolutions, disclosing the distress of the people. And I asked for an answer; I asked for a proof that the Corn Laws were not an injury to the people. How was I met? Do you think that if they could have proved that the labourers were well off they would not have done so? Do you think that if the farmers could have been shown to have benefitted in one single respect, or if advantages resulted to anybody but themselves from these Laws, we should not have heard of it?"
In his speech at Colchester, July 8, 1843, Mr. Villiers said:—
"We sometimes tell them in the House that the special object of the Corn Laws is to keep up rents. But they always say in reply that this is a vulgar view of the question; that if rent were the object of the Corn Laws, there would be no difficulty in getting rid of them; that country gentlemen would give them up at once. What is the object then? They say that, the farmers and farm labourers are so well pleased with these Laws for the good they have done them that they won't hear of their being abolished. That they are really the people for whom the Corn Laws are wanted. The farmers depend upon them for profit, and the labourer gets good work and good wages by means of them. ['No.'] Nevertheless, from the beginning to the end of a discussion on the Corn Laws in the House of Commons, we hear of nothing but of your [the farmers'] interests. Is it not, therefore, consistent with, our sincerity in this cause that we should come among you, and face to face talk over the matter, and so learn your real feelings on the subject—because, be it remembered, all are agreed now on the mischief that the Corn Laws do to all other classes, and, as I have already said, you [the farmers] alone are made the pretext and excuse for their continuance? Is it not reasonable and laudable in Mr. Cobden to come here to discuss the question with you, when there are so many things afloat to make one believe that you are not properly represented?—when people declare that the Corn Laws have done you so much good?—when, as he says, you and your landlords are all jumbled up together in a sort of family party, called the landed interest, and are said to be so prosperous on account of them?"
It appears from the evidence cited by Mr. Cobden and Mr. Villiers that the capital of the tenantry had been disappearing in the preceding ten, twelve, or fifteen years; that many of the farmers had become insolvent, the wages of labourers being paid out of the farmers' capital. Mr. John Houghton, a land agent on property in Lincoln, Bucks, Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex, Northampton and Suffolk, said:—
"When I have been paying workmen in provincial towns they have said, 'You have all the money of the place for rents, and the tenants cannot pay us.'"
Mr. W. Cox, of Scotsgrove, Bucks, said:—
"A great part of the farmers have failed; and more than half the rest, if they were to reckon, would be insolvent."
Mr. John Rolfe, Beaconsfield, Bucks, was examined:—
"Do you mean to say that one half of the tenantry in your district are insolvent?—Yes, I do."
Mr. William Thurnall, Daxford, Cambridge, says:—
"The condition of the tenantry is I think verging on insolvency, not only in Cambridge, but in a great part of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex."
Mr. Charles Howard, East Riding, Yorkshire, when asked—
"Are the present wages of labourers paid out of the profits of the farmer or out of his capital?" said—"Out of his capital."
Mr. J. G. Cooper, Blythburgh, Suffolk:—
"What is the state of the farmer?—The condition of the farmer I consider to be bordering on ruin."
In a former page I have quoted some words of a Whig Minister, which are remarkable for several things; but passing over those words that are intended to convey the ministerial sense of the Minister's knowledge and wisdom and the ignorance and folly of all who condemn the Corn Laws, I will call attention to one word in particular. The noble lord says:—
"To leave the whole agricultural interest without Protection; I declare before God that I think it the wildest and maddest scheme that has ever entered into the imagination of man to conceive."
By the word whole here prefixed to agricultural interest, the noble lord makes the usual assumption that, the agricultural interest comprehended the farmers and the labourers in the same sense as it comprehended the landlords—certainly a strong assumption, since an opinion has prevailed somewhat extensively that rent and profits, and rent and wages do not vary in a direct but in an inverse ratio.
Lord Fitzwilliam's resolutions condemning the Corn Laws were rejected in the House of Lords, March 14, 1839, by 224 to 24. Mr. Villiers's motion in the House of Commons, made March 12, 1839, after a debate of five nights, was rejected by 342 to 195. The result was the organization of the Anti-Corn Law League. The Council of the League was formed of the executive committee of the Manchester Anti-Corn Law Association, which the League absorbed. The central offices of the League were established at Manchester.
There is an argument mentioned by Mr. Villiers in his speech in the House of Commons, May 26, 1840, contained in the answers of the handloom weavers to the Handloom Commissioners, which, as Mr. Villiers observes, is not urged altogether without reason. The handloom weavers say:—
"We have as good a right to have a tax imposed upon machinery as the landowners have to a tax upon the produce of more fertile soils. The country in the last case is taxed for the benefit of a class: we have an equal claim to a tax on machinery; for the principle is the same: it is taxing the community for the benefit of a few."
And they say further that if the Legislature will neither act wisely as regards the public and repeal the Laws, nor consistently towards them by taxing machinery, then they will seek to be represented more faithfully in this House than they are at present. They claim the suffrage with the view of getting justice; and it is a strange spectacle to see the persons who have got hold of the soil of this country, or of any country, setting up a claim to compel all the inhabitants of the country to go to their shop, and no other shop in the world, to buy their bread. Sometimes it was salt in which the monopoly was set up. When Strafford was attempting to make Charles I. a free, that is, an absolute monarch, he recommended that the King should be "sole merchant" of salt because, like bread, it is "of absolute necessity, and may at all times be raised in price—witness the gabelles of salt in France." Witness also some other things which such statesmen as Strafford leave out of their reckoning.
On the 8th of April, 1844, a deputation of the League, including Mr. Cobden, Mr. Bright, and Colonel Thompson, and accompanied by the two borough Members, Mr. Villiers and Mr. Thornley, visited Wolverhampton, where a meeting was held in a large pavilion erected for the occasion, it having been evident from the interest manifested that no building in the town was large enough to contain the numbers assembled.
Mr. Villiers began his speech by expressing the great pleasure he experienced in observing the numbers assembled to receive and welcome and give cordial thanks to the distinguished men present, "whom," said Mr. Villiers, "I may term the apostles of Freedom of Commerce."
"You were never deceived," said Mr. Villiers, "by the jargon of Monopoly, which sought to prove, if it sought to prove anything, that scarcity is a blessing." To which fallacy Mr. Villiers once heard a working man give this answer: "If scarcity is such a good thing for the working classes, what a blessing no food at all would be!"
In the course of his speech Mr. Villiers gave some interesting illustrations of that strange hallucination by which the landlords jumbled up together in a sort of family party themselves as lords of the soil, the tenant farmers, and the labourers, and gave it the name of the landed interest.
"The League," says Mr. Villiers, "is now grappling well with its two great opponents, Interest and Ignorance. It is facing those who assert their interest in the Corn Laws, and it tells them that the Laws are as foolish as they are wrong. It seeks to enlighten the ignorant and to infuse a little spirit into those who dare not call their souls their own. It has drawn the great men of monopoly from their retirement; it has brought them before the public; it has made them speak out and show cause why these Laws should not be abolished. And a pretty mess the great men have made of their case. The wisdom of their former silence has become striking even to themselves, I should think. When men have nothing to conceal they may talk freely; but not otherwise, especially if they have been found out. Sir Robert Peel, I believe, has admonished his friends that silence is golden; but the League has driven the squires mad, and they will not be advised—they will talk. Formerly they could say many things with impunity in Parliament that now they cannot say with the least safety anywhere. They used to tell the House how prosperous the farmer was, how happy and how contented the labourers were, and how they loved their lords. The farmers and labourers never heard what they said, and the Members for Wolverhampton were told, if they ventured to object, that they knew nothing of the farmers and labourers. Lately, however, the squires have been saying these things in the counties, and within earshot of the farmers. And at last the poor farmers all over the country have been roused into thinking for themselves. And they are asking themselves and one another, how it is that the Corn Laws can have been so beneficial to them, seeing that no good at all has ever been done them; that for the last twenty-eight years they have been very badly off—never certain of anything—in short, worse off than their neighbours. It is a little more than they can stand, to be told that laws passed to keep up rents are all for their good, and that the landlord cares nothing about his rent. The farmers have been questioning and thinking about this for the last year; and at last, as if they can endure it no longer, a thing has happened, the like of which, I suppose, has never happened in this country before: two real live farmers from different parts of the country, not known to each other, but both precisely the kind of farmers said to be benefitted by the Corn Laws, came to London, and told Mr. Cobden that, if there were an opportunity, they should be perfectly ready to state the real case of the farmers at Covent Garden Theatre, at one of the great meetings held there by the League. Accordingly, about a fortnight ago they did so, and a very strange tale they told about the blessings of Corn Laws to them. Such a tale, indeed, that if there is any modesty in the landlords, they will never again, as long as they live, mention the farmers as an excuse for their monopoly. It is impossible to do justice now to the narration of all the mischief that the two farmers declared the Corn Laws had inflicted upon them, especially as farmers. But they defied contradiction of anything that they said, and they have not received any. They are noted as good farmers in their counties, and are well known as estimable and able men in other respects."
Now that statues have been raised and clubs formed in honour of the repeal of the Corn Laws, it would be no easy matter to convey an idea of the extremely hostile feeling that for some years prevailed against the Anti-Corn Law League. It was not merely the Tory party that evinced aversion and contempt for the "men of cotton and cant," as some of their organs in the press phrased it. No Tory could have despised the men that formed the bulk of the Anti-Corn Law League more than the ministers, Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston, who, without a shadow of pretension to ancestors whose names appeared either in the Domesday Survey or among the barons of Magna Carta, looked down upon the "men of cotton and cant" with a scorn as lofty as if they had been able to prove an uninterrupted lineal descent from a genuine pirate. Perhaps they might have had means of proving such a descent, for those who had seen slave ships used to say that Lord . Palmerston seemed to them to have much the appearance of the captain of a slaver. They laughed at the Anti-Corn Law League and treated its efforts to influence the mind of the public as the tricks of mountebanks. Lord Granville, in his speech at Wolverhampton, on the occasion of unveiling the statue of the Right Hon. C. P. Villiers, on June 6, 1879, said:—
"An offer to him to become Governor of Bombay was withdrawn, in consequence of objections raised by the East India Company, exclusively owing to the political antecedents of Mr. Villiers, and the low company he had kept in his communications with the Anti-Corn Law League."
It is evident from this that Mr. Villiers derived nothing but loss in the world at large from his exertions in the cause of Corn Law Repeal. Those who have had, like Mr. Disraeli, as he expressed it in the House of Commons, "the honour and gratification of his acquaintance," may truly say that Mr. Villiers never acted in the matter with the view to make capital for himself out of it, and was really too well pleased with the result of all that had occurred, ever to complain of being deliberately snuffed out for the sake of the greater glorification of others. Mr. Villiers himself stated that being by birth connected with the landed interest, and having no kind of connection whatever with manufactures, he could not have acted in the matter under the stimulus of commercial avarice. Mr. Villiers, in one of his speeches, used some words which are full of meaning, though as in the case of Antony's speech over Cæsar's body, they are somewhat misleading since Antony, while saying, "I am no orator as Brutus is," was far more of an orator than Brutus.
"I am no orator," said Mr. Villiers in His speech in Covent Garden Theatre, July .3, 1844; "I simply stated facts in support of my Resolutions, disclosing the distress of the people. And I asked for an answer; I asked for a proof that the Corn Laws were not an injury to the people."
Now, in the case of Mr. Villiers, the words "I simply stated facts," have a meaning; for the word "fact" has a meaning impressed on it, and strengthened by constant use for a good many ages. In the vocabulary, however, of several eminent forensic advocates, the word "fact" has not the meaning it has in the vulgar tongue. But Mr. Villiers's ambition did not aspire to any place high or low in the roll of eminent forensic advocates, and when he said, "I am no orator, I simply state facts," he meant to convey the same meaning that an average man of honour would have conveyed by the words—nothing more than that. Mr. Villiers had too much self-respect to lie for a client, though that client might be the English nation. Therefore the conduct of the League in omitting, in their final proceedings, all public recognition of their Parliamentary leader was exceedingly strange—was strange even to a degree of strangeness to which a much stronger word belongs—to omit all public recognition of a Parliamentary advocate, of whom, and of what he had done for them, they had so much cause to be proud.
And the special reason they had to be proud of him was that he was no orator, and simply stated facts—that he did not profess to have a command over facts—to have, in other words, a power of making and unmaking facts at his pleasure. What does that mean? And what does "no orator" mean? Does it mean that it is part of the business of an orator to make facts to suit his purpose? Is it? Yet I hardly think Cicero made those "facts" about Antony in the second Philippi, which cost the orator his life. The sting lay in the terrible truth of them. One charge went deeper from Cicero's stating that he spoke from personal knowledge; for even in that depraved age of Rome, men who shrunk from no vice shrunk from the brand of disgrace implied in such a charge.
It may be not without use to state more fully the meaning of the words, a command over facts.
"A command over facts" is understood to be the distinctive quality of the highest paid advocates. The reader may ask, what is a command over facts? A command over facts is such a power as the Creator exercised when He said, "Let there be light," and there was light. An advocate of this high order, when he wants facts, creates them for the occasion, and marshalls them in the order and array best suited to the purpose he has in view. Such an advocate has been thus described by an eminent lawyer who had occasion to watch his career:—
"No advocate had a greater command over facts. His statement of his client's case, and even his reading from the evidence in the cause, would enchain the attention, and often extort the admiration and astonishment of his adversaries and the court—as if it were a romance."
An advocate of this type may be expected to get more honour and more profit than an advocate who, in the exercise of his duty, if he is entrusted with the defence of a prisoner for murder, and on examining the evidence sees that the crime cannot be proved, will get off the criminal by showing that the crime cannot be proved, but will not utter a single word which he knows to be an untruth. Such an advocate has very small chance of being Lord Chancellor. The Reverend Sydney Smith says in a letter to a son who was writing a life of his father, and applied to Sydney Smith for assistance as one of his father's friends:—
"Curran, the Master of the Rolls, said to Mr. Grattan, 'You would be the greatest man of your age, Grattan, if you would buy a few yards of red tape, and tie up your bills and papers.' This was the fault or the misfortune of your excellent father; he never knew the use of red tape."
The eminent person alluded to appears to have been somewhat scantily rewarded for his services by his very good friends the Whig Aristocracy. If a very subordinate office was all the reward they thought fit to bestow, it shows that it was a better recommendation to high employment under a Whig Administration to be a "relation of Lord Grey's or a tool of Lord Brougham's" than to be "a consummate master of metaphysics and moral philosophy, a profound historian, and an accomplished orator." However, the Rev. Sydney Smith seems to think that it was not so much the possession of the qualities above indicated and the authorship of the Vindiciæ Gallicæ, as the want of certain other qualities that hindered the promotion of the individual alluded to, who, though he has been called "an accomplished orator," was not an orator—for orators are powerful and often arrogant and grasping. Whereas the Rev. Sydney Smith says of Sir James:—
"If he had been arrogant and grasping; if he had been faithless and false; if he had been always eager to strangle infant genius in its cradle; always ready to betray and to blacken those with whom he sat at meat; he would have passed many men, who, in the course of his long life, have passed him."
I have seen the advocate referred to as notable for his great "command over facts" in the Court of Chancery, and I have admired the luminous conciseness of his statement of facts. I have heard him in the Court of a Vice- Chancellor, who was a most courteous and good-humoured gentleman, enforce his argument in these words—"Your Honour must feel, as a gentleman, that," &c., &c. "Oh, yes! Oh, yes!" replied his Honour, evidently appreciating the compliment. It was most curious to see this eminent advocate, when he turned from addressing his Honour the Vice-Chancellor to answer a question put to him by the counsel on the opposite side, how instantaneously the purr of the domestic cat with which he had been addressing the Vice-Chancellor changed into the angry growl of the tiger when he answered his opponent's question. This man used to say, when a somewhat dubious case was submitted to him—"Well, we can get a decree" (from this Vice-Chancellor); "but then the Chancellor will upset it."
This shows, in regard to the question as to what oratory can do and what it cannot do, that the character of the audience is a most important factor in the problem. Where the audience is a single judge, or more than a single judge, or a jury, an adroit advocate may so mould his discourse as to obtain their suffrages. But I do not believe that the most powerful orator that ever appeared upon earth would, though he spoke with the tongue of men and of angels when he asked for an abolition of the bread-tax, get a single vote from a House of Commons or a House of Lords composed of landowners who had prospered as the British landlords had prospered by the high price of corn and the consequent rise of rents.
It has been said with some truth that there is no greatness without originality. By originality I mean mental power of Mill alluded to was one of the many subtle thinkers who appear in this world, but live and die unheard, leaving no name behind them.to originate new ideas. John Mill used to say that happiness consisted in having work to do and doing it. A friend of John Mill used to say that happiness consisted in having new ideas. John Mill's estimate of that friend may be inferred from the fact that when the former was proposed as a member of the Political Economy Club, he would only consent to have his name brought forward on the condition that his friend should be elected a member of the club at the same time. The friend
The founders of the Cobden Club seem to have adopted some words used by Mr. Cobden towards the end of his "1793 and 1853." The words used by Mr. Cobden are "Peace on earth and good-will towards men." The words used by the Club are "Free Trade, Peace, Good-will among Nations," accompanied by a somewhat grim effigy of their new Messiah. There are certain memories summoned up by those religious or quasi-religious professions of unbounded philanthropy which startle those who recall the beginning and the end of the first French Revolution. The Jacobin Club did not say "Peace and Good Will among nations," but it said "Liberty, Equality, and Universal Philanthropy," the "universal philanthropy" meaning in reality universal murder.
I will quote, on the subject of bringing religion into the question when honesty would do, a writer whose opinion respecting the new Messiah was pretty much the same as mine, and who can express much better than I can the peculiar points of the question. General Perronet Thompson, the writer I allude to, in his paper on "Saint Simonianism" in the thirty-second number of The Westminster Review, says:—
"The thirteenth, fourteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth sittings introduce religion. On which it is enough to state, and leave every man to decide on its truth by his experience—that there never was but one class of men that needlessly introduced religion as the instrument of settling men's temporal affairs, and but one other class that ever have submitted to it. The world wants honest lawgivers, not pious ones. If piety will make men honest, let them favour us with the honesty, and keep the piety for God and their own consciences. There never was a man that brought piety upon the board when honesty would do, without its being possible to trace a transfusion in the shape of money or money's worth from his neighbour's pocket into his. The object of puzzling the question with religion is clear. You cannot quarrel for sixpences with the man who is helping you the way to heaven. The man who wants your sixpences therefore assumes a religious phraseology, which is cant; and cant is fraud, and fraud is dishonesty, and the dishonest should have a mark set on them."
But as there may be clubs that profess philanthropy when they mean murder, so there may be clubs that, without much profession of exalted benevolence, brotherly love, and such rodomontade, are really benefactors of mankind. The Political Economy Club was a club of this kind. Professor Bain, in his Life of James Mill, mentions an important service rendered to Free Trade by James Mill in being one of the founders of the Political Economy Club in 1821; an important event which should have been recorded in the Political Memoir prefixed to Mr. Villiers's Free Trade Speeches.
The projector of the Political Economy Club was Thomas Tooke, who drafted the Petition to Parliament of 8th May, 1820, from tile Merchants of London, in favour of Free Trade. The Club had its origin in a small knot of Political Economists who had for some time held evening meetings at Ricardo's house for the discussion of economical questions.
"The furthering of the Free Trade movement inaugurated by the Merchants' Petition was the foremost object in the view of the projectors of the Club. Mill was specially named to draft the Rules, the original of which is still preserved in his hand."
Professor Bain adds in reference to the early members of the Club:—
"The survivors among the early members of the Club well remember Mill's crushing criticism of Malthus's speeches."
Political Economy was not James Mill's strong point, and if clearness of style was not Malthus's strong point, James Mill made no discovery in Political Economy to be compared to Malthus's discovery of the principle of population. Moreover, as John Mill has shown, many of the conclusions of Ricardo and James Mill can only be admitted if their are admitted—which is impossible.
Johnson defines Club (in his definition (4) of that word)—"An assembly of good fellows, meeting under certain conditions." Now, there are two Clubs which demand our attention here—the Political Economy Club and the Cobden Club. Whether or not the Political Economy Club could be termed "an assembly of good fellows," it had claims to be termed an assembly of sages, for it contained among its members Ricardo and Malthus, of whom the latter had discovered a law as important to the human race as the law, the discovery of which had made the name of Isaac Newton immortal.
But if the Political Economy Club may be called an assembly of sages, the Cobden Club can hardly lay claim to such a designation. The Cobden Club, indeed, at the time of the year when after-dinner speeches are most in season, has a dinner followed by speeches in which Mr. Cobden is duly glorified as the apostle of Free Trade. Admitting that Richard Cobden was a remarkable man, when a club assumes his name, it may be asked, if so much of Cobden's mantle has fallen upon the Cobden Club as to render it a remarkable Club? and if so, what are its claims to distinction?
The Political Economy Club, though it contained men of original thought, also contained men of whom a subtle analysis is given in some words of a letter of James Mill to Lord Brougham, dated 5th October, 1835, and published in Professor Bain's Life of James Mill, p. 393. The words of James Mill are these:—
"As for McCulloch, he has a knack at finding people stealing from him; though there is nothing in him to steal; for all that he has is either the opinion of some other previous writer, or an error."
I do not presume to say that the Cobden Club may not in the course of time favour the world with discoveries. But I venture to doubt the appearance of new ideas in answer to an advertisement. The Cobden Club offers prizes for certain Essays which they advertise as Cobden Club Essays. I doubt if the most minute search could discover any prize essay that was worth printing. The Principia of Newton and the Essay on the Principles of Population of Malthus were not prize essays.
There is some evidence on the subject of the effect of prizes in the Calendars of the English Universities. In the case of the Seatonian Prize, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, the Master of Clare, and the Greek Professor are the judges, and have made the award now for more than a hundred years. The poems which obtained the prize were printed at the time; and these poems have been published in two volumes; but it does not appear as yet that the effect has been very great in the way of the immortality that poets are supposed to desire. Indeed the successful prizemen may be considered as somewhat similarly situated with the writer who, according to Byron, "cultivated much private renown in the shape of Latin verses." It is not to be supposed that the judges selected by the Cobden Club to adjudicate the prize for the best Essay on the future of Free Trade, have more chance of discovering a political economist who shall see further than any preceding political economist, than the judges selected by the University of Cambridge have of discovering a poet who shall soar higher than Shakspeare and Milton.
Mr. Villiers in a letter to me, of June 3, 1884, says, there was nothing of which the man whose name the Club bears had a greater horror than of being made the hero of a tavern dinner. Mr. Villiers in the same letter also says:—
"The Cobden Club, so far as it celebrates a great achievement in our commercial History, enables a great many people, by sending in their subscriptions, to announce their adoption of Free Trade views. The Club by means of annual subscriptions and original payments upon entry receive, I believe, a good deal of money, and much of this, as I have understood, has been expended in the publication and circulation of works on Free Trade, and of speeches of certain public men which have been selected by the Secretary."
It follows that the Secretary of the Cobden Club is invested with a certain amount of power bearing the proportion to the power Mr. Cobden had when the Anti-Corn Law League expended on the press a thousand pounds a week which an unknown quantity bears to a thousand pounds a week
- 2 Bl. Comm., 227.
- Hume's devotion to philosophical truth forms a curious contrast to his occasional deviation from historical truth. In the first section of his "Inquiry concerning the Human Understanding," Hume, after referring to the labour of the investigation, says, "we must submit to this fatigue, in order to live at ease ever after; and must cultivate true metaphysics with some care, in order to destroy the false and adulterated." In the second page of the first chapter of his "Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy," J. S. Mill says:—"England's thinkers are again beginning to see, what they had only temporarily forgotten, that a true Psychology is the indispensable scientific basis of Morals, of Politics, of the science and art of Education; that the difficulties of Metaphysics lie at the root of all science; that those difficulties can only be quieted by being resolved, and that until they are resolved positively whenever possible, but at any rate negatively, we are never assured that any human knowledge, even physical, stands on solid foundations."
- Clarendon, Hist., i., 106, 107, Oxford, 1826. Clarendon, Life, i., 75, Oxford, 1827.
- The examination of the Gowrie tragedy forms the bulk of Essay V. of my "Essays on Historical Truth" (London: Longmans and Co., 1871). The book should have been entitled—"An Inquiry into the credibility of some portion of English and Scottish History."
- See Best on Presumptions of Law and Fact, p. 221 et seq., and the cases there collected (London: S. Sweet, Chancery Lane, 1844).
- In the case of Engleton v. Kingston, 8 Ves. jun. 476.
- Best on Presumptions of Law and Fact, p. 233.
- Cited in Mr. Mark Napier's note to Spottiswood's Hist., vol. iii., p. 277.
- Note, Ibid., p. 277.
- The History of the Church of Scotland, by John Spottiswood, Archbishop of St. Andrew's, vol. iii., pp. 199, 200 (Bannatyne Club Edition, Edinburgh, 1850).
- Calderwood says, "The people wondered wherefore Dunbar should attend upon the execution of such a mean man; and surmised, that it was only to give a sign when his speech should be interrupted, and when he was to be cast over the ladder" (Calderwood: printed by the Wodrow Society, vol. vi., p. 780).
- Bentham's Rationale of Judicial Evidence, vol. iii., pp. 43, 44.
- A mark is 13s 4d.
- Mr. Mark Napier's note in the Bannatyne Club Edition of Spottiswood's History, vol. iii., p. 298.
- These are the words of a MS. letter in the State Paper Office, from John Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton, dated London, Nov. 11, 1608. These words are very significant as showing the general, one might say the universal, opinion at that time in England, and even in James's court, respecting the Gowrie story.
- Wodrow MSS. in the Advocates' Library, cited Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, vol. ii., p. 275.
- Johnson gives four meanings of the word apprehend, the fourth is probably the meaning used here "to think on with terror; to fear." Then what does Hume mean by "free and disengaged"?
- King James's Works, p. 199, folio, 1616.
- Sir Walter Scott, not content with turning King James's romance, called "The Gowrie Conspiracy," into history, has characterized the basest and most cowardly act of a life of cowardice and baseness, as one in which King James "showed the spirit of his ancestors" ("The Fortunes of Nigel," chapter v.). Which of his ancestors? Robert Bruce or Signior Davie?
- "Essays on Historical Truth," p. 213 (London : Longmans and Co., 1871).
- Professor Stubbs is, as far as I know, the only writer, legal or historical, who has come to the same conclusion which I have come to as to the origin of the English Justiciarship. In the first volume of his Constitutional History (Stubbs), p. 346, he says:—"It would seem most probable that William Fitz-Osberne at least was left in his character of steward, and that the Norman seneschalship was thus the origin of the English justiciarship." Professor Stubbs's first volume was published in 1874. In July, 1838, I published in The British and Foreign Review an article which John Kemble, the editor of that Review, whom both Professor Stubbs and Mr. E. A. Freeman cite as an authority in English history, said had a historical value. That article gave an explanation of the functions of the seneschal or dapifer and their relation to those of the Chief Justiciary.
- "Essays on Historical Truth," p. 36.3. Essay Seventh, Prince Henry. (See also Essay Eighth, Sir Thomas Overbury; and Essay Fifth, Sir Walter Scott.)
- 4 Bl. Comm., 175. By the statute 1 and 2 Will. 4, c. 32, the qualification for killing game was abolished; and every certificated person may kill game, subject only to the law of trespass.
- By "respectable" here is meant a cow-stealer who was in a large way of business, and would have thought it beneath the character of a gentleman to steal a single cow, or anything less than a herd of cows with the bull or bulls.
- History of Scotland contained in "Tales of a Grandfather," vol. i., p. 16, note (Robert Cadell, Edinburgh, 1846).
- Sir W. Scott (see "Monastery," Note N) seems to have succeeded in overthrowing Chalmers's scheme of the Douglas pedigree from Theobaldns Flammaticus. Scott says:—"The lands granted by the Abbot of Kelso to Theobaldus Flam
Flammaticus are not the same of which William de Douglas was in possession. It would appear from comparing the charter granted to Theobaldus Flammaticus that though situated on the water of Douglas, they never made a part of the barony of that name, and therefore cannot be the same with those held by William de Douglas in the succeeding generation. But if William de Douglas did not succeed Theobaldus Flammaticus, there is no more reason for holding these two persons to be father and son than if they had lived in different provinces, and we are still as far from having discovered the first mean man of the Douglas family as Hume of Godscroft was in the sixteenth century.
- Mr. Hepworth Dixon, in his Life of Robert Blake, says, p. 21, "that the Admiral's eldest brother, after the restoration, was persecuted for non- conformity, and at last quitted this country for Carolina, where some of his descendants still remain."
- "That you may see how brave and open-dealing your friends of the new Commonwealth are, Blake, at his late being at Cadiz, said openly that monarchy is a kind of government the world is weary of, that it is past in England, going in France, and that it must get out of Spain with more gravity, but in ten years it would be determined there likewise."—Sir Edward Hyde to Secretary Nicholas, Madrid, February 9, 1651 (Clarendon State Papers, vol. iii., p. 27).
- "History of the Commonwealth of England," vol. ii., pp. 478, 479 (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1867).
- "Neither Blake himself, nor his brother Benjamin, nor his nephew Robert, ever set their hands to the declaration of approval of Cromwell's expulsion of the Parliament, to which Cromwell obtained the signatures of Deane, Monk, Penn, and many of the captains of the ships" (Ibid., p. 478). See the declaration in Granville Penn's "Memorials of Sir Wm. Penn," vol. i., pp. 489-491 (London, 1833).
- Villiers's Free Trade Speeches, vol. i., pp. 3, 4.
- Cobden's Speeches, vol. i., pp. 3-5.
- Villiers's Free Trade Speeches, Political Memoir, p. xxxiv.
- Villiers's Free Trade Speeches, vol. ii., p. 61.
- I suppose Mr. Villiers means the Law of 1815, which, together with some subsequent modifications of it, may receive the plural name of Corn Laws.
- Villiers's Free Trade Speeches, vol. ii., p. 186.
- Ibid., vol. ii., p. 52.
- Villiers's Free Trade Speeches, vol. ii., pp. 55, 56.
- Villiers's Free Trade Speeches, vol. ii., pp. 55, 56.
- Villiers's Free Trade Speeches, vol. i., p. 209.
- Strafford's Letters and Despatches, vol. i., p. 193.
- Villiers's Free Trade Speeches, vol. ii., pp. 93-96.
- Speech at Colchester, July 8, 1843. Villiers's Free Trade Speeches, vol. ii., p. 53.
- Villiers's Free Trade Speeches, vol. ii., p. 186.
- Cic. Phil. 2, 18.
- Life of James Mill, by Alexander Bain, LL.D., Emeritus Professor of Logic in the University of Aberdeen (London: Longmans and Co., 1882), pp. 198, 199.