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periodical and alternate command of rival oligarchical connections; but it can subsist only by the subordination of the sovereign and the degradation of the multitude, and cannot accord with an age whose genius will soon confess that power and the people are both divine." *

It is also prophesied again and again that Toryism will rise from the grave in which it has lain since the death of Bolingbroke, in order to proclaim to the world with a mighty voice "that power has but one duty-to secure the welfare of the masses.” There are passages in this book which remind one of Lassalle.

*“Sybil,” p. 44.

CHAPTER XVI.

THE CORN LAWS AND THE CONTEST WITH PEEL.

THE fourth decade of the present century opened stormily in Great Britain. A general discontent and restlessness had taken possession of the people. Bad harvests, hard winters, the rigid Poor Law, the Chartist movement, with the burning of stacks that followed, disturbances, and riots, kept the lower classes in a perpetual fever. Chartist petitions were continually being presented to Parliament; the one handed in in May, 1842, had over 3,300,000 signatures, and as they shared the fate of the National Petition, two attempts on the life of the Queen were made in three months. High prices and distress excited a rebellion in Wales; a secret society, called "Rebecca and her Daughters," insolently bade defiance to the authorities; and the state of things in the autumn of 1843 was officially described as "utterly lawless." But nothing equalled the distress and the spirit of rebellion in Ireland. The popula tion of that country, destitute of trade or manufac tures, was exclusively devoted to agriculture, and the peasantry of the over-populous island had sunk

into the most abject wretchedness through high rents and great competition for land. The people's diet consisted exclusively of potatoes, and in most districts, begging seemed to be their chief source of gain. The desperation of the famishing people was so great that the landowners seldom ventured to live amongst their tenantry, and, of course, the existing evils were only increased by absenteeism. To all this social ferment, political agitation must be added, for just at this period O'Connell was straining every nerve in a crusade for the Repeal of the Union, and holding meetings, attended by an everincreasing number of people-once 300,000 were present, and on another occasion 1,200,000, while in every chapel enthusiastic and fanatical priests made collections for the purposes of agitation. He was indicted as a conspirator, and in the two first instances, sentenced with unjust severity; he was, therefore, of course, more passionately revered by the people than ever; on the last occasion he was fully acquitted, a circumstance but little adapted to increase respect for the Government.

The agitation, however, which pervaded the country was not confined to these movements of the revolutionary and Radical party. A far more important agitation had been stirred up among the educated and mercantile middle classes against the Corn Laws by the powerful eloquence of Richard

Cobden, and arising out of the Anti-Corn Law League. This league, after an existence of a few years, had a million sterling at its command, and with "cheap bread" for its watchword, sought to incite the people to oppose a system of legislation, the result of which, on an average, was described by the Free Traders to be to make bread dearer by £10,000,000, for the sole benefit of 16,000 landowners and farmers.

The Chartists were at first very cool, or even hostile, to the Liberal agitation; they openly asserted that "cheap bread" would practically result in an agitation for "cheap labour." But by degrees, distress compelled them to give up their distrust of, and opposition to, the Liberals, and when they and the Irish joined the Free Trade movement, it grew stronger and stronger, and soon became nearly irresistible.

The Tory party had taken the helm in 1841. Sir Robert Peel had succeeded Lord Melbourne as Prime Minister. He was then at the summit of his fame; he was not only the most powerful, but the most popular man in England; he was held to be what Disraeli had called him at his election at Shrewsbury during the same year, "the greatest statesman of his age;" and it was the general impression that he would retain his power until his death.

Party interests alone would have induced Disraeli to support Peel; in the "Runnymede Letters," in which he had loaded most of the other politicians with taunts, he had alluded to Peel in touching words as the hope of the nation. About 1840 also he spoke of him in his speeches and writings with an admiration which not seldom approaches flattery; he seems at first to have regarded him as his trump card. He probably cherished a hope that Peel would offer him a place in his cabinet, if only a subordinate one-an Under-Secretaryship of State, for instance, with which Contarini Fleming began his career; but of course, he was too wise as well as too proud to do anything which might be construed into asking for it. But Peel overlooked his ardent follower; it was not his strong point to discern ability before it had been discovered by all the world, and in this case there seems to have been an antipathy also. Disraeli swallowed his disappointment, continued, with unchanged attitude and faithfulness to party, to support, Peel during the two following years, and even glorified him in "Coningsby." It was a bad habit of Peel's to treat his supporters with a repelling coldness, as if they were conquered subjects, and to reserve all the urbanity and winning qualities at his command for his opponents. For some years Disraeli submitted to this treatment with perfect discipline. Yet we can

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