Front Page Titles (by Subject) EDWARD HENRY, FIFTEENTH EARL OF DERBY - Historical and Political Essays
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
EDWARD HENRY, FIFTEENTH EARL OF DERBY - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, Historical and Political Essays 
Historical and Political Essays (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1908).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
EDWARD HENRY, FIFTEENTH EARL OF DERBY
The time has not yet arrived for the publication of a full life of the late Lord Derby, but in submitting to the public a collection of his more important speeches outside Parliament, a short sketch of the chief features of his life and character may not be out of place.
Edward Henry, fifteenth Earl of Derby, was born July 21, 1826, and was educated at Rugby, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained a First Class in classics. In March 1848 he unsuccessfully contested Lancaster, and soon after started for a long and instructive journey in America and the West Indies. During his absence from England he was elected Member for Lynn Regis upon the death of Lord George Bentinck in September 1848, and he held this seat without interruption till his accession to the earldom in October 1869. His first speech in the House of Commons was delivered on May 31, 1850, on the sugar duties. The effect on the West Indies of the abolition of the preferential duty on sugar was a subject which he had specially studied during his journey, and he had published a pamphlet upon it. Sir Robert Peel greatly praised his maiden speech, and Greville describes the great impression which it made — an impression which a further knowledge of the speaker speedily confirmed.
The appearance in Parliament of the eldest son of one of the most brilliant party leaders of the age could scarcely fail to be a considerable political event, and it was soon found that the new member was not only a man of rare ability, but was also in nearly all respects very unlike his illustrious father. Never was there a more striking instance of that strange freak of heredity by which an able son is sometimes much less the continuation than the complement of an able father, exhibiting in strongly contrasted lights both opposite qualities and opposite defects. The fourteenth Earl was a great orator. He was one of the greatest debaters who have ever lived. He was a party leader of extraordinary power, delighting in political conflict; throwing into it much of the fire and passion which he displayed in his sporting contests; little fitted to conciliate opponents, but eminently fitted to win the enthusiastic loyalty of his followers, to rally a dispirited minority, to lead a party attack. His keen and rapid judgment; his perfect command of pure and lucid English; his unfailing readiness in argument, invective, sarcasm, and repartee; his indomitable courage, and the somewhat imperious dignity of his manner, all marked him out for the position which he held. If there was some truth in the common taunt that he was more a party leader than a statesman, it must at least be remembered that he has identified his name with several important measures, and that during most of his career he was in a hopeless minority. His enemies accused him of rashness, arrogance, and some superficiality, both of thought and knowledge. They alleged that he carried too much of the sporting spirit into politics; that his naturally excellent judgment was often deflected by the passions of the fray; that he was accustomed to judge measures more by their party advantages than by their intrinsic merits, and to care more for an immediate triumph than for ultimate results.
His son was made in a very different mould. Though like most able and clear-headed men he acquired by much practice a respectable facility in purely extemporaneous argument, he was never a great debater. His speeches were very carefully prepared, and they possessed conspicuous merits of form as well as of matter, but they were not the speeches of a brilliant orator. No one could reason more clearly, more powerfully, or more persuasively. He was a supreme master of terse, luminous, weighty, and accurate English. He had much skill in bringing into vivid relief the salient points of an obscure and complicated subject, condensing an argument into a phrase, and illustrating it by graphic felicities of language that clung to the memory. But he hated rhetoric. His enunciation was faulty and unimpressive. He appealed solely to the reason, and never to passion or to prejudice, and he had nothing of the fire and temperament of a party orator. Very few politicians mastered so thoroughly the subjects with which they dealt. No politician of his time retained so remarkably, amid party conflicts, the power of judging questions from all their sides; of balancing judicially opposing considerations; of looking beyond the passions and interests of the hour; of realising the points of view of those to whom he was opposed. Declamation, clap-trap, evasion, ambiguities of thought and expression, empty plausibilities, unfair, partial, and exaggerated statements, were all essentially repugnant to that clear and sceptical intellect, to that sound, cautious, practical judgment. His business talents were very great, and they were assiduously cultivated. His appetite for work was insatiable. No one knew better how to administer a great department or preside over a Parliamentary Committee, or arbitrate in a difficult controversy, or give wise and timely advice to an inexperienced organisation. It was in these fields that his influence was, perhaps, most deeply felt. His success in them did not depend merely on his unflagging industry and his excellent judgment, it was also largely due to his eminently conciliatory character. The uniform courtesy which he displayed to men of all ranks and opinions is happily no rare thing among his class, but everyone who was brought in contact with Lord Derby soon felt that he was in the presence of one who tried to understand his position, to estimate his arguments at their full worth, to find some common ground of agreement. If it were possible in a bitter controversy to arrive at reasonable compromise, Lord Derby was most likely to effect it. He had a curious talent of making speeches with which everyone must agree, and which at the same time were never commonplace. Their secret lay in the habit of mind that led him always to seek out the common grounds of principle or fact that underlie every controversy, and which in the heat of the conflict the disputants had often failed to recognise.
It was not difficult to forecast the place which a statesman of this kind was likely to fill in English politics. He was plainly wanting in many of the qualities of a party leader, and in most of the qualities of a parliamentary gladiator, and he was not likely to succeed in all forms of statesmanship. He would certainly not prove
His clear perception of the objections to any course, combined with a very deep sense of responsibility, not unfrequently enfeebled his will in moments when bold and decisive action was required, and there were times when the love of compromise which was so useful an element in his character seemed to his best friends too closely allied to weakness. But he probably saved every party with which he acted from many mistakes. He brought to every Government which he joined a very eminent administrative capacity. He defended every policy that he espoused with a persuasive reasoning that few men could equal. He was a supremely skilful detector of false weights and of false measures. Every fad, every new-born enthusiasm, every crude ill-digested theory, found in him the calmest and most penetrating of critics, and he inspired the great body of moderate men of all parties with a deep confidence in his patriotism and in his judgment.
His political position was marked out by the fact that his father had recently broken away from the Whig connection which had hitherto been that of his family, and was now the leader of the Conservative party. The son naturally took his place under his father's banner, but I much question whether he would have done so if no family influence had interfered. It was not that he at any time changed considerably his views. As Macaulay has truly said—while the extremes of the two English parties are separated by a wide chasm, there is a frontier line where they almost blend; and Lord Derby when a Conservative always represented the Liberal, and when a Liberal the Conservative wing of his party. But his mind had much of the Whig character; his judgment was very independent; and on Church questions especially he was never fully in harmony with his party. He was appointed Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in his father's first short Ministry in March 1852, at a time when he was travelling in India, and he left office with his father in December of the same year. In 1853 he made a remarkable speech on Indian affairs, in some degree foreshadowing the Indian policy which he was afterwards destined to take such a large part in carrying into effect. During the next few years he spoke frequently on Indian and Colonial questions, on questions connected with education, factories, and other working-class interests, and he supported—often in opposition to the majority of his party— a large number of reforms which have since been accomplished. He advocated the introduction of competitive examinations, first of all into the Diplomatic, and then into most branches of the Civil Service. He spoke against the system of purchase in the army, and served on a Eoyal Commission on the subject. He supported a motion for securing to married women their property and earnings. He took a decided part in opposition to Church rates. He voted for the emancipation of the Jews. He voted and spoke in favour of the Maynooth grant. He was an early advocate of the opening of museums on Sundays, and of a conscience clause to be enforced in all schools receiving State assistance. He supported the establishment of the Divorce Court, and clearly showed that preference for social as distinguished from political questions which he retained through his whole life. He delighted in placing himself in touch with working men. Mechanics’ institutes, free libraries, almost every movement for the education and improvement of the working class, found in him a steady friend. He once wrote to Lord Shaftesbury: ‘We are both public men deeply interested in the condition of the working class, and for my own part I would rather look back on services such as you have performed for that class than receive the highest honours in the employment of the State.’ On working-class questions he was often accused of Radicalism, but it was Radicalism of the old school, which relied mainly for reform on spontaneous effort, on moral improvement, and extended education, and was very jealous of State interference, compulsion, and control. He had a great admiration for Mill's writings, and especially for his treatise on Liberty, which he described as ‘one of the wisest books of our time.’ Mill fully reciprocated the feeling. He once spoke of Lord Stanley as ‘one of the very few English public men who hold that a politician's opinions ought to be founded on principles.’
‘Our party,’ wrote Lord Malmesbury in 1853, ‘are angry with Disraeli, which is constantly the case, and they are also displeased with Lord Stanley, suspecting him to be coquetting with the Manchester party.’ Greville, nearly at the same time, expressed his belief that Lord Stanley was taking ‘a wise and liberal line,’ and that he was ‘pretty sure to act a conspicuous part.’ In November 1855 there was a critical moment in his career, when Lord Palmerston, on the death of Sir William Molesworth, offered Lord Stanley the post of Secretary of State for the Colonies. He at once went down to Knowsley to consult his father, who put a strong veto on the proposal, and the offer was refused, but in terms which showed that it had been far from unacceptable. It is probable that the refusal was a wise one, for although on many home questions Lord Stanley would have found himself more in harmony with moderate Liberals than with his own party, he would certainly have dissented from Lord Palmerston's foreign policy. During the Crimean war he seems to have sympathised with the views of Bright and Cobden. He took an active part in an able but now nearly forgotten Tory paper called ‘The Press,’ which was opposed to the war, and his extreme horror of war and of every policy which could possibly lead to war was one of his strongest characteristics. Responsibility in office never weighed lightly upon him, but responsibility for measures which led or might lead to bloodshed was more than he could bear.
At the time when this offer of Lord Palmerston was made, Lord Stanley was little more than twenty-nine. Greville considered that he had acted wisely in refusing, and he has given us an interesting account of the light in which the young statesman then appeared to experienced political judges. ‘His position and abilities,’ he said, ‘are certain before long to make him conspicuous, and to enable him to play a very considerable part. He is exceedingly ambitious, of an independent turn of mind, very industrious, and has acquired a vast amount of information. Not long ago Disraeli gave me an account of him and of his curious opinions—exceedingly curious in a man in his condition of life and with his prospects. Last night Lord Strangford (George Smythe) talked to me about him, expressed the highest opinion of his capacity and acquirements, and confirmed what Disraeli had told me of his notions and views even more, for he says that he is a real and sincere democrat, and that he would like if he could to prove his sincerity by divesting himself of his aristocratic character, and even of the wealth he is heir to. How far this may be true I know not. … Nothing appears to me certain but that he will play a considerable part for good or for evil, but I cannot pretend to guess what it will be. At present he seems to be more allied with Bright than with any other public man, and as his disposition about the war and its continuance is very much that of Bright it would have been difficult for him to take office with Palmerston.’
Lord Stanley had not long to wait for high office. His father formed his second Administration in February 1858, and Lord Stanley was made Colonial Secretary. He appears to have accepted the office with some reluctance, and only because Sir E. Bulwer, for whom it was at first intended, found that he could not secure his re-election. The Government was a very weak one, and it opened with the worst prospects. It was a Government in a minority Its very existence depended on the dissensions between Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell, and its first steps met with little favour either in the House or in the country. The Indian Mutiny was now nearly suppressed, and Lord Palmerston shortly before quitting office had pledged the House of Commons to the policy of withdrawing the Government of India from the East India Company and placing it directly under the Crown. To carry this policy into effect was the first task of the new Government. They introduced an Indian Bill which they were compelled to withdraw, and then substituted for it a new Bill founded on resolutions which were carried through the House of Commons. In May the Government almost fell on account of the indiscreet publication of a despatch of Lord Ellenborough, condemning a Proclamation of the Governor-General, Lord Canning. A vote of censure was moved and would certainly have been carried if Lord Ellenborough had not saved his colleagues by resigning. He was President of the Board of Control, the Office which then directed Indian affairs, and Lord Stanley took his place, piloted the Indian Bill successfully through the House of Commons, and when the measure became law, was the first Secretary of State for India, and undertook the very important and responsible task of beginning the new system of Indian Government.
‘The Times’ noticed the singular good fortune of Lord Derby in being able at this very critical moment to place his eldest son in one of the most important Cabinet offices in his Ministry without incurring from any side the smallest imputation of nepotism, and the skill and success of the new administration of the India Office was speedily and generally recognised. Greville tells us that Lord Stanley ‘ gamed golden opinions and great popularity at the India House’; and he gives a striking instance of the firmness with which he maintained the full authority of the new Council over Indian affairs. He adds: ‘I was prepared to hear of his ability, his indefatigable industry, and his business qualities; but I was surprised to hear so much of his courtesy, affability, patience, and candour; that he is neither dictatorial nor conceited, always ready to listen to other people's opinions and advice, and never fancying that he knows better than anyone else. I afterwards told Jonathan Peel what I had heard and he confirmed the truth of this report and said he was the same in the Cabinet.’ ‘Lord Stanley,’ Greville said, ‘is so completely the man of the present day, and in all human probability is destined to play so important and conspicuous a part in political life, that the time may come when any details, however minute, of his early career will be deemed worthy of recollection.’ It is a characteristic fact that Lord Stanley offered a seat on the Indian Council to John Stuart Mill, which, however, that great writer declined.
The disturbance in European politics which culminated in the French declaration of war against Austria contributed to weaken still further the feeble Ministry of Lord Derby. The Reform Bill caused profound divisions in its ranks. Mr. Walpole and Mr. Henley resigned, and the Government Bill was defeated in the spring of 1859. Lord Malmesbury mentions that in the Cabinet divisions on that question Lord Stanley supported the more democratic view, and that on one occasion he threatened to resign if the measure were not made more liberal. He defended the Bill in an elaborate speech, advocating such an introduction of the working class to the franchise as would give them a considerable but not a preponderating power. A general election followed, and the Government gained several seats, but not sufficient to give it a majority. The different fractions of the Opposition drew together; on June 11 a vote of want of confidence was carried by a majority of 13, and Lord Derby immediately resigned.
In opposition Lord Stanley devoted himself chiefly to the class of questions that had occupied him before his accession to office. He served on the long Cambridge University Commission, and supported the admission of Nonconformists to Fellowships. He was also warmly in favour of the measure which made it possible for clergymen to free themselves from their Orders and to adopt other professions. He presided over the Commission on the Sanitary State of the Indian Army and over the Commission on Patents. Like Disraeli, he displayed during the American Civil War a reticence and reserve which contrasted very favourably with the rash language of other leaders.
In 1862 a curious episode occurred which showed at least the widespread reputation that he had acquired. Prince Alfred having refused the throne of Greece, the idea was for a short time entertained of offering it to Lord Stanley. ‘If he accepts,’ Disraeli wrote to his friend Mrs. Willyams, ‘I shall lose a powerful friend and colleague. It is a dazzling adventure for the house of Stanley, but they are not an imaginative race, and I fancy they will prefer Knowsley to the Parthenon and Lancashire to the Attic Plains.’ ‘The Greeks really want to make my friend Lord Stanley their king. This beats any novel; but he will not. Had I his youth I would not hesitate, even with the earldom of Derby in the distance.’
It does not appear that this proposal ever took a very serious form, and if it had been made there is little doubt that Disraeli formed a just forecast of what would have been the result. The death of Lord Palmerston on October 18, 1865, gave a new turn to the political kaleidoscope: Lord Russell became Prime Minister; the policy of reform was pushed into the forefront, and the Reform Bill of 1866 speedily produced a secession in the Liberal ranks and led to the downfall of the Ministry. The feature of the Bill which specially lent itself to attack was that it dealt solely with reduction of the franchise, leaving the question of the distribution of seats to subsequent legislation, and an amendment was moved by Lord Grosvenor to the effect that no Bill for the reduction of the franchise should be discussed till the whole scheme was before the House. This amendment was seconded by Lord Stanley in a speech which Lord Malmesbury pronounced to be ‘the finest and most statesmanlike speech he ever made.’ In June the Government were beaten by a small majority on an amendment of Lord Dunkellm substituting rating for rental; a few days later Lord Russell resigned and Lord Derby for the third time became Prime Minister.
As on the two former occasions he was in a minority, though the temporary secession of a portion of the Liberal party gave him a precarious power. Once more, too, he took office amid the convulsions of a European war, for the war of Prussia and Italy with Austria had just begun. In the new Ministry Lord Stanley was Secretary for Foreign Affairs. In his election address he gave the keynote of his policy by insisting in the strongest terms that England should observe a strict neutrality in European controversies. Her vast Indian and Colonial Empire, he said, made her a world apart and threw upon her duties and responsibilities that taxed all her energies. She had duties also to her poorer classes at home, whose condition was not what we could desire; and by simply existing as a free, prosperous, and selfgoverned nation, we should do more for the real freedom of Europe than by any policy of meddling or war.
As far as his own department was concerned Lord Stanley's administration during this short Ministry was both eminently consistent and eminently successful. It is true that this pacific Minister made the Abyssinian war for the release of some imprisoned British subjects, but he only did this after every peaceful effort to procure their release had proved abortive, and it was almost universally recognised that there was no honourable alternative open to him. During his ministry the Luxemburg question brought France and Prussia to the very verge of war. It fell to the task of Lord Stanley to mediate between them, and he did so with a success which certainly adjourned, though it could not ultimately avert, the great catastrophe that burst upon Europe in 1870. No success could have been more gratifying to him, and he was fond of repeating the saying of Canning that ‘If a war must come sooner or later, for my part I prefer that it should come later than sooner.’ Lord Russell bore an ungrudging testimony to the ‘ tact and discretion’ Lord Stanley displayed in this negotiation. In the same spirit he refused to take part in a conference of European Powers which the French Emperor desired to convene to settle the Roman question, declaring that this question was one with which England should in no way meddle, and that a conference would be useless and dangerous unless a basis were laid down before. He refused to interfere in any way with the Cretan rebellion, and with the impending disputes between Turkey and Greece. His abstention on this question was blamed by some, but it met with the full approbation of his great opponent, Lord Russell, who declared that ‘he had acted with much prudence and discretion.’ He laid the foundation also of the settlement of the long outstanding difficulty with America by proposing to refer the Alabama question to arbitration, and he negotiated a treaty on the subject, which, however, the Senate refused to ratify.
In all this he was very consistent. The same consistency cannot be claimed for his support of a Reform Bill far more Radical than that which his party had so recently rejected. In my own judgment it is impossible to defend with success the conduct of the Derby Ministry on this question, and although Lord Stanley took only a subsidiary part in it, he cannot escape his share of the responsibility. The difficulty of the position of the eldest son of the Prime Minister who was taking this ‘leap in the dark’ was very great, and it must be remembered that he had long been identified with the more democratic wing of his party. After the great agitation that followed the downfall of the Russell Ministry, he probably regarded a democratic measure as inevitable, and it was the character of his mind to be very ready to accept what he considered the inevitable, and to endeavour by timely compromise to mitigate its effects. Lord Derby's health was now completely broken, and on February 24, 1868, he resigned office, and Disraeli became Prime Minister.
Mr. Gladstone soon re-united the sundered sections of the Opposition by raising the question of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. The resolutions asserting the expediency of this policy were introduced into the House of Commons in April. Lord Stanley was put forward as the principal opponent. His amendment expressed no opinion about the merits of the proposed policy, but simply affirmed that it was a question which ought to be reserved for a new Parliament which was soon to be elected under an altered franchise. In his speech he disclaimed any wish to maintain that the Irish Church Establishment was what it ought to be, but urged that in the condition of Ireland a merely destructive measure would do nothing but harm, that it would serve no good purpose to attack the Establishment without laying down the lines of a definite, constructive ecclesiastical policy, and that it was absurd to launch such a question in the last session of an expiring Parliament. The more ardent spirits of the Tory party strongly censured the ambiguity of this defence, and the Government were beaten by majorities of 56 and 60. The House of Commons was dissolved in the autumn and a large Liberal majority returned. Disraeli at once resigned without waiting for the assembling of Parliament.
In October 1869 the death of Lord Derby terminated the career of his son in the House of Commons, and the following year added very greatly to the happiness of his life by his marriage with the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury. His attitude in opposition is clearly shown in his published speeches. He had no wish to see the Conservative party again in office till they possessed an assured and homogeneous majority, and he maintained that it should be their main object to strengthen the influence of the more moderate section in the Government. He believed that by habitually pursuing this policy they would best prevent revolutionary changes, mitigate by wise compromises measures which they did not wholly approve, secure the continuance of the harmony of classes, on which more than on any other condition the prosperity of England depends, and gradually strengthen their own hold on the confidence of the country. It was also his earnest desire that English politics should be turned as much as possible from a policy of organic change to a policy of administrative reform. He considered it a great evil that public men had acquired the habit of continually tampering with the existing legislative machinery instead of wisely using it for the benefit of the whole nation. The party system, as he always thought, had falsified the perspective of English politics, bringing into the foreground comparatively unimportant questions which were well suited to rally parties and win majorities; thrusting into the background others which were immeasurably more important, but which were less available for party purposes. What Carlyle called ‘The Condition of England Question’ was always in his thoughts. No one would accuse him of under-rating the evils of war, but he questioned whether the most sanguinary battle which had ever been fought carried off nearly as many human beings as die in England every year from purely preventible causes. He threw the whole force of his clear and penetrating intellect into such questions as sanitary reform, the regulation of mines, the promotion of education and especially technical education, the organisation of charities, the treatment of juvenile offenders, the diffusion of wise methods of encouraging saving among the poor. The overcrowding of the great cities, and the vast masses of insanitary dwellings, seemed to him one of the most pressing dangers of the time, and he was a prominent member of nearly every important company and association in England for improving the houses of artisans. He had no puritanism in his nature and was very anxious, by the establishment of free libraries and people's parks, and Sunday opening of museums, to extend the range of innocent pleasure. ‘Men die,’ he once said, ‘ for want of cheerfulness, as plants die for want of light.’ He did not believe in the repression of drunkenness by coercive legislation like the Local Veto Bill, but he believed that its true root lay in overcrowding, ignorance, insanitary conditions of life, the want of innocent means of enjoyment, excessive hours of labour. ‘When you have to deal with men in masses,’ he said, ‘the connection between vice and disease is very close. With a low average of popular health you will have a low average of national morality and probably also of national intellect. Drunkenness and vice of other kinds will flourish on such a soil, and you cannot get healthy brains to grow on unhealthy bodies. Cleanliness and self-respect grow together, and it is no paradox to affirm that you tend to purify men's thoughts and feelings when you purify the air they breathe.’ He supported liberally the movement for establishing coffee-houses, and he looked with great hope to the co-operative movement as averting or mitigating industrial conflicts. ‘The subject of co-operation,’ he said, ‘is in my judgment more important as regards the future of England than nine-tenths of those which are discussed in Parliament, and around which political controversies gather.’ As the possessor of one of the largest properties in England he was excellently informed on all agricultural questions, and he exercised a great influence upon them. Among other services he dispelled many misrepresentations by obtaining an accurate return of the numbers of owners of land in the United Kingdom, and of the quantity of land which they owned.
With the single exception of Lord Shaftesbury, I believe no conspicuous English public man devoted so much time and labour as Lord Derby to the class of questions I have described. He brought to their discussion an almost unrivalled fulness of knowledge. His purse was liberally opened in such causes, and the speeches in which he examined what Government can do and what it cannot do for the material well-being of the poor, are in my judgment among the most valuable contributions to political thought that have been furnished by any English statesman during the present century.
The election of 1874, bringing the Conservative party again into power, called him to other fields, and he became for the second time Foreign Secretary under Disraeli, and was soon involved in that Eastern Question which led to his severance from the Conservative party. It would answer no good purpose in a short sketch like the present to rake up the still smouldering ashes of that controversy. The time will come when it will be reviewed in the calm light of history, and with the assistance of materials that are not now before the public. I shall here content myself with a mere sketch. In the earlier stages of their foreign policy the Government appear to have been perfectly agreed. Lord Derby fully concurred in the purchase of the Khedive's shares in the Suez Canal, which was one of the most successful strokes of policy of the Government, though he defended it on somewhat more prosaic grounds than some of its supporters, and was careful to explain that it was essentially a measure of self-defence, and not connected with any project for the dismemberment of Turkey or the establishment of an English protectorate in Egypt. When the insurrection broke out in 1875 in Herzegovina and Bosnia, neither Lord Derby nor any of his colleagues believed it to be more than a mere passing disturbance. But the feebleness manifested by the Turkish army in suppressing the insurrection, and the partial bankruptcy of the Government at Constantinople, contributed with many elements of race and religious dissension, with foreign intrigue and local misgovernment, to aggravate the sore, and the movement soon acquired the dimensions of a great European danger. In sending an English Consul in conjunction with the Consuls of the other Powers to the scene of insurrection, in order, if possible, to arrive at a mediation; in the acceptance of the Andrassy Note, by which the three Imperial Powers laid down the reforms which they considered urgently necessary; in the rejection of the Berlin Memorandum, on the ground that the Porte could not or would not carry out its demands, and that it would almost certainly lead to an armed intervention; and finally, in sending the British fleet to Besika Bay for the purpose of protecting English and Christian interests at Constantinople, at a time when that city was in a state of almost complete anarchy, the Government were fully agreed, and they carried with them an immense majority m Parliament and in the country. For some time, also, the country seemed to approve of the policy which Lord Derby uniformly avowed and steadily observed, of maintaining a strict neutrality in the contest that was raging; doing all that could be done by advice, remonstrance, mediation, and moral influence to induce the Porte to carry out internal reforms; warning the Turkish Government in clear terms that under the circumstances of the case they must not look for any military assistance from England, but at the same time discouraging as much as possible the active interference of other Powers in the affairs of Turkey, and abstaining rigidly from any step that would involve the use of force or the chance of war unless some serious English interest was affected. He believed that the integrity of the Turkish Empire was a vital English interest, and that any attempt to substitute a Slavonic for a Turkish Empire would bring upon Europe calamities the extent of which it was impossible to exaggerate or to foresee. Russia and Austria would at once come into collision; England would almost certainly be drawn into the war, and all the fierce elements of race hatred and religious fanaticism would be let loose.
For a time most English politicians seem to have agreed with him, and his one great object was to bring about an armistice, a mediation, and a peace. But the popular agitation which arose in England on the subject of the Bulgarian atrocities in the summer and autumn of 1876 added enormously to his difficulties, and the danger was the greater because some skilful party management was blended with much genuine philanthropy. The speeches addressed by Lord Derby to the successive deputations that came to him, give the best explanation and defence of his position during this critical period, and the interruptions to which he had to reply give a vivid picture of the state of feeling that had arisen. The Crimean war was now deplored as a calamity, if not a crime. The Turks were described on high political authority as ‘the one great anti-human specimen of humanity.’ The Ministers were accused of complicity in the Bulgarian massacres; they were urged to cast neutrality to the wind; to adopt a policy of armed coercion in Turkey; even to assist Russia in driving the Turks out of Constantinople. It had become, as Lord Derby sarcastically said, a very unpopular thing for an English Minister to talk of English interests in connection with the Eastern Question—almost dangerous for any man at a public meeting to express in plain terms his doubt of the disinterested philanthropy of Russia.
Lord Derby had at this time to encounter much unpopularity. He was accused of an undue leaning towards the Turkish Government, and an inadequate sympathy with the Christian populations, and it was alleged that if he had acted in firm concert with the other Powers in coercing the Porte—if he had not proclaimed so loudly and constantly his determination to abstain from all active interference and compulsion—his remonstrances would have had more effect, and he might have averted or restricted the calamities that had occurred. But a great change soon took place. The first object of the Government was to prevent the Turkish disturbance from leading to a European war, and in this object they failed. On April 24, 1877, Russia, in spite of English remonstrances, declared war against Turkey. On the same day a Russian army crossed the Pruth, and the Eastern Question entered into a new and dangerous phase.
To a statesman like Lord Derby, who maintained that war, unless it is a necessity, is a crime; that the maintenance of peace is beyond all comparison the greatest of British interests, the months that followed were extremely trying. His first object was to limit the war, and to safeguard English interests, and for this purpose he drew up on May 6, 1877, a Note defining the English interests that were vital in the East. He warned the Russian Government that an attempt by Russia to blockade the Suez Canal, an attack on Egypt, a Russian occupation of Constantinople, or an alteration of the existing arrangements for the navigation of the Bosphorus or the Dardanelles might compel England to abandon her neutrality. Russia accepted these conditions, and for some time there appeared every prospect of limiting the war. But in the beginning of 1878 a period of extreme danger undoubtedly arrived. Plevna had fallen. The Turkish resistance had collapsed. A Russian army, flushed with victory, had advanced to near Constantinople. The treaty of San Stephano was signed; which in the opinion of most European statesmen placed Turkey at the feet of Russia, and Russia at first refused to submit its terms to a conference of European Powers. Public feeling in England now ran strongly in a direction almost opposite to that in which it had been running eighteen months before, and the nation was extremely alarmed at the danger of Constantinople becoming speedily and irremediably a Russian port. On the other hand, the national and military pride of the conquering Power was aroused, and it was felt that a single false step, a single imprudent menace, might lead to war.
It was one of those moments in which men's judgments are largely affected by their temperaments, and it soon became evident that the Cabinet was seriously divided. Disraeli had now become Lord Beaconsfield, and sat with his Foreign Secretary in the House of Lords With his character it was inevitable that he should meet the danger by a bold, decisive, and even aggressive, policy. It was no less natural that Lord Derby should have persistently leaned towards the side of caution and shrunk from any measure that could cut short negotiation and diminish the chances of peace. The order given that the British Fleet should enter the Dardanelles, first produced the inevitable schism, and Lord Derby and Lord Carnarvon resigned. The order was countermanded, and Lord Derby, for a short time, resumed his post. He acquiesced, but with great reluctance, in the vote of credit for six millions which was at once brought before the House of Commons, but he was soon convinced that measures he did not approve of were impending, and when orders were given for calling out the reserves he definitely resigned.
He announced his resignation on March 28, 1878, in terms of much dignity and moderation. He believed, he said, that his colleagues desired peace as truly as himself, and he did not maintain that their later measures led inevitably to war, but he considered that they were neither necessary nor ‘prudent in the interests of European peace.’ He agreed that the terms of the treaty should be submitted to a European Congress, in which England should take part. On minor matters he thought it his duty to waive his own opinion, but he could not do so on a question involving the momentous issue of peace or war. The threat involved in the last act of the Government, he said, in a later speech, would make it more difficult for Russia to modify her policy, and he believed that without a threat such a modification of the treaty of San Stephano could be obtained as would make it acceptable. He had been accused of indecision and even of cowardice. For his own part he thought it needed more courage to stand up in his place to express views which he knew to be unpopular among the great body of his friends, than to sit at a desk in Downing Street and issue orders which would bring no danger or unpopularity to himself, but might bring about a European war.
The short speech in which Lord Beaconsfield accepted the resignation, and dwelt on the long friendship, personal as well as political, that bound him to Lord Derby, seems to me a perfect model of good feeling and good taste. Unfortunately the example of the Prime Minister was not followed, and words used in a later debate went far to make the breach irrevocable.
Lord Derby for a short time maintained a neutral position, but the foreign policy of Lord Beaconsfield was in the highest degree distasteful to him. A wave of Chauvinism was passing over England, which was utterly opposed to his views, and he believed that a section of the Conservative party encouraged it in order to divert the thoughts of men from internal reforms. He objected to the acquisition of Cyprus, to some of the responsibilities assumed by England under the treaty of Berlin, and very strongly to the Afghan war; and in the beginning of 1880 he formally attached himself to the Liberal party, on the ground of his objections to the foreign policy of the Government. His speeches m his new capacity differed very little from those which he had formerly delivered, but he said that he had learnt to see more clearly the uselessness of attempting to resist popular ideas, and to think ‘ more highly of the moderation, the fairness, and the general justice with which masses of men, including all conditions of life, are disposed to use their power.’ He thought that England should mix herself as little as possible with ‘ the sanguinary muddle ‘ of European diplomacy; that she should avoid increasing her responsibilities; that she should take stringent measures to reduce her debt; that she should pay much more attention than she was accustomed to do to the condition of her own poorer population; and that it should be the object of her statesmen to meet every great popular demand by wise and equitable compromise. One of the greatest dangers, he said, that could befall the country, would be ‘a state of things in which the comparatively harmless antagonism of parties would be replaced by the far more serious and dangerous war of classes. From that danger more than from any other it is the business of a well-considered Liberalism to protect us.’
In 1882 he accepted the Colonial Office from Mr. Gladstone, and held it until the fall of the Government in the summer of 1885. His ministry was not a very eventful one, and it was marked by that steady adherence to a middle line which had always characterised him. He congratulated the country that the indifference to our colonies which had prevailed during his youth had passed away, but he was by no means favourable to extensions of the Empire. ‘We have quite black men enough,’ he was accustomed to say; and he believed that any increase of our responsibilities was likely to endanger the Empire, and to divert the energies of politicians from pressing home questions. He did not condemn the policy which led to the occupation of Egypt by England, but he declared that even if it was inevitable it was a misfortune, and that we ought to ‘see that we do not on any pretext, however plausible, get that Egyptian millstone tied permanently round our necks.’ He was very sceptical about Imperial Federation, and entirely incredulous about the possibility of an Imperial Zollverein. He deplored the protectionism of the colonies, but was himself a strict free-trader of the school of Cobden, and utterly opposed to any attempt to negotiate treaties with the colonies on a basis of preferential tariffs. On the other hand, he showed himself quite ready to favour Confederation in Australia, and he accepted gratefully Australian help in the Soudan, but he was much alarmed by tendencies in some colonies which might lead to complications with foreign Powers, and he incurred considerable unpopularity in Australia by refusing to consent to the annexation by Queensland of New Guinea.
There is, however, one incident in the colonial administration of Lord Derby on which it is necessary to dwell at somewhat greater length, for subsequent events have given it an unfortunate prominence and it has thrown some discredit on his statesmanship. I allude, of course, to the convention with the Transvaal in 1884. In the preceding convention, which had been signed in August 1881, complete self-government had been granted by England to the Transvaal ‘ subject to the suzerainty of her Majesty’ and her successors, and also to a large number of carefully specified reservations and limitations. They comprised the complete control of the external relations of the Transvaal, including the conclusion of treaties and the conduct of diplomatic intercourse with foreign Powers, which could only be carried on through her Majesty's officers; the right of moving British troops in case of necessity through the Transvaal; a power of veto over all legislation affecting the interests of the native population. A number of articles prohibited slavery in the new State; protected with much detail the interests of the native population; secured complete religious liberty; established the right of all persons other than natives who conformed themselves to the laws of the State, to enter, travel, and reside in any part of the Transvaal, to acquire property and to carry on their business without being subject to any other taxation than that which was imposed on the citizens of the Transvaal, and placed British imports and exports on the same plane as those of the most-favoured nations. The limits of the new State were carefully defined and a British Resident was established in the Transvaal to superintend the carrying out of these provisions. There was no express provision in the convention for the political privileges of the English residents in the Transvaal, but the Government appear to have relied on a not very explicit verbal assurance given to the British Commissioners by President Kruger in May 1881. Asked about the rights of British subjects to complete free trade throughout the Transvaal, President Kruger answered that before the annexation ‘they were on the same footing as the burghers’; that ‘there was not the slightest difference in accordance with the Sand River convention’; that this state of things would be continued and that ‘there would be equal protection for everybody.’ Sir Evelyn Wood then added, ‘and equal privileges?’ ‘We make no difference,’ answered President Kruger, ‘so far as burgher rights are concerned. There may perhaps be some slight difference in the case of a young person who has just come into the country.’ It was subsequently explained that the words ‘young person’ did not refer to age, but to the time of residence in the Republic— according to the old Transvaal Constitution, a year's residence in the Republic was necessary for naturalisation. With this assurance the Government of 1881 appears to have been content. They believed in words expressly sanctioned by Mr. Gladstone, that the concession of limited independence to the Transvaal by the convention of 1881 would’ provide for the full liberty and equal treatment of the entire white population, guard the interests of the natives, and promote harmony and good-will among the various races in South Africa.’1 As a matter of fact, the only change in the political position of the English residents in the Transvaal was that the period of naturalisation was extended from one to five years—a change which appears to have produced little or no commotion in the Republic.
The convention of 1881 was, however, extremely unpopular among a large section of the Boer population. Complete independence was their avowed object, and in order to attain it their first task was to abolish the suzerainty of Great Britain. Almost immediately after the convention was signed, the limitations of the Transvaal established by the convention were flagrantly disregarded by Transvaal filibusters, who proceeded with the tacit and even with the avowed countenance of their Government to place new sections of native territory under the exclusive protectorate of the Transvaal Government;1 and a deputation, headed by President Kruger, came to England in 1883 for the purpose of negotiating with the Colonial Office for the abolition of the chief articles of the convention of 1881. They avowed with complete frankness that absolute independence would alone satisfy them, and that their desire was to revert to the Sand Eiver convention of 1852, by which this independence had been recognised. This demand was absolutely rejected by the Imperial Government, but Lord Derby attempted to meet the objections of the Transvaal leaders by substituting for the articles of the convention of 1881 new articles in several respects more favourable to the pretensions of the Boers.
He, in the first place, made a sentimental concession to which it is probable he attached little importance, but which was regarded by the Boer population as a considerable step towards the achievement of their independence. The term’ Transvaal State,’ which was accepted in the convention of 1881 as the designation of the new State, was dropped and the old title of ‘South African Republic’ was revived and recognised. The question of suzerainty was dealt with in a somewhat ambiguous fashion. The new convention purported only to substitute new articles in the place of those of the preceding convention; and it was afterwards argued that the old preamble, which asserted at once the internal independence of the Transvaal and the suzerainty of Great Britain, remained in force, In fact, however, this preamble was neither reprinted nor replaced in the new convention, and the term ‘suzerainty,’ which occurred in the original draft of the document, was deliberately expunged—it is said by Lord Derby himself. He considered the term wholly wanting in the precision which is desirable in a treaty arrangement, that it was capable of many different degrees of extension, and that the fact of the paramountcy of Great Britain over the new State might be sufficiently established without the use of an ambiguous word which excited the most bitter hostility in the Transvaal. His own words in defending his conduct in the House of Lords are perfectly clear. ‘The word suzerainty,’ he said, ‘is a very vague word, and I do not think it is capable of any precise legal definition. Whatever we may understand by it, I think it is not very easy to define. But I apprehend whether you call it a protectorate, or a suzerainty, or the recognition of England as a paramount Power, the fact is that a certain controlling power is retained when the State which exercises this suzerainty has a right to veto any negotiation into which the dependent State may enter with foreign Powers. Whatever suzerainty meant in the convention of Pretoria (1881), the condition of things which it implies still remains; although the word is not actually employed, we have kept the substance. We have abstained from using the word because it was not capable of legal definition, and because it seemed to be a word which was likely to lead to misconception and misunderstanding.’
The articles of the previous convention relating to slavery, to native rights, to free trade, to religious liberty, to the rights of residence of foreigners in the Transvaal, reappear in the new convention, and the limits of the State were somewhat more fully defined, but the controlling power of Great Britain over the foreign policy of the Transvaal, though clearly reasserted, was somewhat limited in its scope. It was provided that the South African Republic should conclude no treaty or engagement with any State or nation other than the Orange Free State, or with any native tribe to the eastward or westward of the Republic, until the same had been approved by the Queen; that every such treaty should be at once submitted to her Majesty's Government for her consent, but that this consent should be presumed to have been granted if no notification to the contrary was received within six months. The desire of the Transvaal authorities to be recognised as representing an independent sovereign power was thus distinctly rejected, and the English Government positively refused a proposal to admit foreign arbitration in cases of dispute between England and the Transvaal.
This convention has been severely censured by later writers on the ground of the insufficiency and ambiguity of its assertion of the paramount authority of Great Britain over the Transvaal, and of its failure to do anything to supply the great deficiency in the preceding convention by an article securing political equality for the British population within it. A few years later, when an immense English immigration had taken place, not only with the consent but at the express invitation of the Transvaal Government; when the English element formed a large majority of the inhabitants of the State when they paid an enormous preponderance of its taxation, and were the chief agents in developing its wealth and raising it from the position of a very poor pastoral community into that of a great and wealthy State, the Transvaal Government proceeded to impose upon the new emigrants disqualifications and disabilities which were utterly unknown when England conceded self-government to ‘the inhabitants of the Transvaal.’ They completely deprived the vast majority of political power or local self-government, and surrounded them at every turn with the most irritating disabilities. The Transvaal became the one part of South Africa where one white race was held in a position of inferiority to another. At a time when perfect equality was enjoyed by the Dutch population in our own colonies, the political disqualification of the English race was made the very corner-stone of the policy of the Transvaal Government. An annual revenue greatly in excess of what was required for its internal government was raised almost entirely Irom the taxation of an unrepresented class, to whom the prosperity of the State was mainly due, and it was employed in accumulating a great armament which could only be intended for use against England and for main-turning the subjection of an English population.
This was the position to which the paramount Power in South Africa, the Power which of its own free will had conceded a limited independence to the Transvaal, found itself reduced. And yet it was possible for the Boer Government to maintain that there was nothing in all this legislation which was inconsistent with the terms of the convention of 1884.
I do not think that the justice of this criticism can be wholly denied. The Transvaal authorities had already given clear intimation of their desire to emancipate themselves from all British control, and especially of their determination to disregard the limitations which had been imposed on the expansion of their State. There is, however, one very material fact to be remembered in judging the policy of Lord Derby. At the time of the convention of 1884 the English population in the Transvaal was a small, scattered, and powerless minority, and as their numbers were far too scanty to make them a danger to the State, there was not much reason to believe that the Transvaal authorities would repudiate their own assurances and subject them to oppressive disabilities. It was not until two years after the convention that the vast gold-mines of the Transvaal were discovered and all the conditions of the South African problem fundamentally changed. The gigantic immigration that ensued reversed the proportion between the two races. The revenue and the expenditure of the State multiplied more than fifteen fold in little more than ten years.1 The Transvaal became the most powerful and wealthy State in South Africa, and the great preponderance of the Outlander element in numbers, wealth, energy, and industry rendered a conflict of races almost inevitable. No statesman could have foreseen this change, and a convention that might have allayed discontent if the gold-mines had never been discovered, proved wholly inefficient to meet it.
Though in a politician of the stamp of Lord Derby the change from a very liberal conservatism to a very conservative liberalism involved little real modification of opinion, it necessarily involved some change of attitude, and on some questions he spoke with a freedom which would have been impossible as a member of the Conservative party. On Church questions, for example, while strongly maintaining that the country was not ripe for the disestablishment of the Church in England, he declared that in his opinion the exclusive alliance of one religious denomination among many with the State could not be permanently maintained side by side with a democratic representation—that disestablishment and at least partial disendowment must ultimately come; that if the representatives of Scotland desired the disestablishment of their Church, it was not for Englishmen to oppose them; and that Wales had a strong claim to be separately dealt with. ‘The Welsh people constitute in many respects a distinct nationality, and I do not see why we should refuse to Welsh loyalty what we have granted to Irish sedition.’ On the subject of endowments indeed as early as 1875 his view was that of most moderate Liberals. ‘To my mind, so far as right is concerned, the Legislature may do what it chooses in regard to any endowment, without injustice, provided only that the rights of living individuals are respected. How far it is politic to use that power is another matter. … Eespect the founder's object, but use your own discretion as to the means. If you don't do the first, you will have no new endowments. If you neglect the last, those which you have will be of no use.’1 He maintained that the question of local government had in England become one of pressing importance, and that the administration of county affairs must be put into the hands of elective bodies. He would give those local parliaments very large power—but he most urgently insisted on the importance of one restriction. The new bodies must not be given an unlimited power of mortgaging the future. The gradual reduction of the National Debt had been for some years one of the chief aims of enlightened politicians, but all that had been done in this direction would be undone if, side by side with the National Debt, there grew up a municipal debt of perhaps equal amount. In this tendency to municipal extravagance he saw one of the gravest menaces to property. ‘The growth of Socialism throughout Europe has followed very closely on the gigantic increase of national indebtedness during the present century, and men who begin to feel the pressure intolerable are apt to raise questions, more easily stated than solved, as to the right of any State to impose burdens in perpetuity for the benefit of one generation.’ He urged that every local body which contracted a debt should be under a statutory obligation to provide for its repayment in fifty or sixty years at latest.
The growth of municipal indebtedness; the excessive tendency to increase the functions of the State; the disaffection of Ireland and the contingency of an isolated and disloyal body of some eighty Irish representatives offering their services to any party which would consent to carry out their designs, appeared to Lord Derby the chief dangers of English domestic politics. The last danger was very speedily realised, and the sudden conversion of Mr. Gladstone to Home Rule produced one more change in the attitude of Lord Derby. On this question he had never flinched or wavered, and he at once took his place in the front rank of the Liberal Unionists, whom for some time he led in the House of Lords. I do not know that the Unionist case has ever been more powerfully put forward than in his speeches on the subject, and the eminently judicial character of his mind, and his entire freedom from all mere party bias, gave a special weight to his advocacy. With this exception he took little part in party politics during the last years of his life, but he devoted himself largely to social questions, and among other things served with great assiduity and ability on the Labour Commission. His last speech was delivered at Manchester on the unveiling of the statue of Mr. Bright in October 1891. His last public work was that of presiding over the Labour Commission in May 1892. In the preceding year an attack of influenza, followed by a relapse, had shattered a health which had hitherto been robust. Other complications ensued, and he passed away at Knowsley on April 21, 1893, in his sixty-seventh year.
The foregoing sketch will, I hope, have given a sufficient idea of his public character. Few men have made a greater sacrifice of ambition to a conscientious conviction than he did, when, rather than support a measure which might lead to war, he abandoned the Conservative Ministry in 1878. He was then the fully recognised successor of Lord Beaconsfield, and if he had adopted a different course he would in a short time have been, beyond all doubt, Prime Minister of England. On the whole, however, the severance from old friends cost him, I believe, far more than the sacrifice of his political prospects. Whatever he may have been in his youth, he was certainly not in mature life an ambitious man. With the great position he held in England the world had little to offer him, and the self-knowledge which was not the least of his many remarkable gifts showed him that party conflict was not the sphere in which Nature intended him to move. With many of the qualities of the highest statesmanship he wanted some necessary ingredients of a great statesman. He wanted the power of appealing to the imagination and moving the passions. He wanted more decision of character, more power of initiative, more capacity of bearing lightly the weight of a great responsibility. His belief that the House of Lords must always ultimately yield to the House of Commons aggravated a weakness of resolution which was deeply rooted in his nature. There were moments when his inveterate moderation tended to exasperate, and he was accused, not altogether without reason, of sometimes making admirable speeches, pointing out in the clearest terms all the evils and dangers of a measure, and then concluding by exhorting the House of Lords to vote for it, introducing mitigating amendments in Committee. The measures he treated in this way usually, as he had predicted, became law, but this was not the attitude of a great leader. During a considerable part of his career, like a very large proportion of moderate men in England, he was in the embarrassing position of agreeing substantially with the home policy of one party and with the foreign policy of the other. After the death of Lord Palmerston an element of passion was infused into public life which was very uncongenial to his temperament, and English politics passed into phases in which caution, character, judgment, and knowledge were less prized than brilliant strokes that appealed to the popular imagination, clever coalitions, a skilful barter of principles for votes. In spheres governed by such methods Lord Derby was very useful, but he was not likely to play a foremost part.
To few men who have taken a conspicuous part in active politics was the excitement of such an existence so little necessary. Happy in his domestic life and in a companionship and sympathy which were all-sufficient to him, he was not less happy in the wide range of his interests and duties. The administration of his vast estate would have been more than sufficient to tax the energies of most men, and it was, I believe, universally acknowledged that it was admirably administered. In the everyday affairs of practical life he had no indecision, and he judged swiftly with the clearest of judgments. Nothing about him was more remarkable than the apparent ease and the absence of all hurry and confusion with which he could deal with many different forms of work. His study in its perfect neatness was more like a lady's boudoir than the workshop of a very busy man. Ohne Hast, ohne Bast, might have been his motto. He had much belief in the future of English land, and was not, I think, at all exempt from the great English landlord's foible of adding field to field. In the long period of agricultural depression it was easy for a rich man to do so. ‘ In my experience,’ he used to say, ‘in nine cases out of ten it is Naboth who comes to Ahab and begs him to buy his vineyard.’ Certainly no one had reason to complain, for there were few better or more popular landlords than Lord Derby. In many long walks with him through his property I was always struck with the evident pleasure with which he was welcomed by his people, the fulness of knowledge and the kindness of interest with which he inquired into the circumstances of every tenant. It is characteristic of him that only two days before his death he was giving instructions for building a hospital for the sick poor of Knowsley. I have known few men in whom the desire to make everyone about them happy was so strongly and so clearly marked. He was fond of looking minutely into the circumstances of men of different classes, and comparing their wants with their means, often with somewhat whimsical results. There was a tradesman who made regularly 5l. a week; who was accustomed every week to devote 2l. to his household expenses, to lay by 2l., and to employ the remainder in getting drunk. He was, Lord Derby thought, the only man he had ever known who satisfied all his wants with 40 per cent. of his income, who always laid by 40 per cent, and who expended 20 per cent, on his pleasures.
Outside his property Lord Derby had strong county interests. With perhaps the exception of Birmingham there is no part of England where a distinctive local patriotism is so intensely developed as in Lancashire, and Lord Derby in tastes and character was pre-eminently a Lancashire man, very proud of the greatness, and deeply concerned in the interests, of his county. In all the vicissitudes of his career, Liverpool, I believe, never wavered in its attachment to him. He contributed to the many charitable and philanthropic works with which he was concerned not only much money, but also—what in so rich a man was far more meritorious —an extraordinary amount of time and patient supervision. Among the many offices he accepted, was president of the Literary Fund for dispensing charity to needy authors, and on the committee of that charity I had, during many years, ample opportunity of observing how far he was from treating a presidential position as a sinecure. The regularity of his attendance, the constant attention he paid to every detail of the charity; the infinite pains which he would bestow upon obscure cases of distress, marked him out as a model president, and many of those whom our rules did not allow us to help were assisted by his bounty. He contributed with a large but discriminating generosity to many causes that were conspicuous in the eyes of the world, but his special bias was towards unostentatious and unobserved benevolence, and crowds of obscure men in obscure positions were assisted by him.
Those who did not know him, and those who had come in merely casual contact with him, sometimes formed a false impression of his character. He had a great deal of natural shyness. He had very little of the gift of small talk. On occasions of mere show and in uncongenial atmospheres he was apt to be awkward and embarrassed, and when walking by himself he was extremely absent and quite capable of brushing against his oldest friend with a complete unconsciousness of his presence. These traits sometimes gave rise to natural misinterpretations, which a fuller knowledge always dispelled. No one who knew Lord Derby could fail to feel that his nature was one of the most genuine and transparent simplicity, singularly free from all tinge of arrogance, superciliousness, and acrimony. His personal tastes were exceedingly simple, and there was not a particle of ostentation in his character. He delighted in a quiet country life and had a strong sense of natural beauty. In his youth he had been an ardent mountaineer, and in later life he had few greater pleasures than to watch the growth of his plantations. He calculated that he had planted in his lifetime about two million of trees.
He was among the best-read men I have ever known. His private library was one of the finest in England, and he took a keen interest in it. A love of sumptuous, large-paper editions was indeed one of the very few luxuries in which from mere personal taste he greatly indulged. Like all men of literary tastes he had his limitations. German was a closed book to him. Theology and metaphysics were conspicuous by their absence. He was certainly not drawn to the mystical, the unintelligible, or the morbid, either in imaginative or speculative literature, and although he was a great lover and great buyer of water-colour pictures, I do not think he had much real sense or knowledge of art. But he had read very extensively and with great profit and discrimination in many widely different fields, and his memory was unusually retentive. He was an excellent literary critic, and if clear thought and accurate knowledge were what he most valued, it would be a complete mistake to suppose that he was insensible to the poetic and imaginative side of literature. He could repeat long passages from ‘Childe Harold,’ and I can well remember the delight which he took in the picturesque narrative of Mr. Froude, and in the fiery verses of Sir Alfred Lyall.
He was one of the kindest and most gracious of hosts, and his genuine unforced good nature and good humour drew to him many whose tastes and sympathies were widely different from his own. Nature certainly never intended him for a sportsman, but he preserved game extensively and until the last years of his life usually went out with his guests. ‘I rather like shooting,’ he once said to me, ‘it prevents the necessity of general conversation.’ Among kindred spirits, however, his own conversation was eminently attractive. His wide knowledge both of books and men, his vast range of political anecdote, his experience of so many statesmen and offices and departments of life, made it singularly instructive. He was a very shrewd, and at the same time a very kind, judge of character; and he had a power, which is certainly not common, of fully appreciating merits that are allied with great and manifest defects. He had much quaint, dry humour, and a great happiness of expression; and one always felt that his opinions were genuinely thought out—that they were voices and not echoes. His private conversation had the quality that I have noticed in his public speeches, of grasping at once the essential elements of a question and disencumbering it from accessories and details. It is one of the qualities that add most to the charm of conversation, and, with the exception of Lord Russell, I do not think I have met with anyone who possessed it to a greater degree than Lord Derby. He delighted in long walks with one or two friends, and he might be seen to great advantage in some small dining-clubs which play a larger part than is generally recognised in the best English social life of our time. He had been a member of Grillion's for thirty-seven years, but the society to which he was most attached was, I think, ‘ The Club ‘ which was founded by Johnson and Eeynolds. During the nineteen years of which I can speak from personal experience, he was an almost constant attendant, and certainly no other member enjoyed a greater popularity in it, or contributed more largely to its charm.
He hated cant of all kinds, and had a great distrust of ostentatious professions of lofty motives. He disliked, I think greatly, the habit of dragging sacred names into party speeches, and attributing every party manoeuvre to a solemn sense of duty. Language of this kind will never be found in his speeches, but I have known few men who were governed through life more steadily though more unobtrusively by a sense of duty. He always tried to look facts in the face, and to promote in the many spheres which he could influence the real happiness of men. There have been statesmen among his contemporaries of greater power and of more brilliant achievement. There has been, I believe, no statesman of sounder judgment and more disinterested patriotism; there have been very few whose departure has left a void in so many spheres.
See, on this subject, Cook's Bights and Wrongs of the Transvaal war, pp. 260–265.
See Westlake's L'Atigleterre et les Républiques Boers, pp. 30–31.
See the table of revenue and expenditure in Fitzpatrick's Transvaal from Within, p. 71.
Inaugural address at Edinburgh University.