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THE GREAT IMPOSTURE.
MR EBONY,-Will you, out of your infinite kindness, indulge a poor bewildered individual with the space of a few columns, whilst, in plain language and with an earnest spirit, he narrates the cause of his perplexity? I am very much in the situation of Mrs Beecher Stowe's favourite hero, the lost nigger-owning no master, pertaining to no tribe, but claimed by half-a-dozen fellows with whips, each of whom swears that he is entitled to clap me into the bilboes, and to sell me at the nearest market. So, like the pattern Sambo of the aforesaid Mrs Beecher, I find myself wandering in a dreary political swamp, with no pleasanter prospect than the cane-brakes and mudbanks where the alligators roll in dalliance; and around me are a good many unfortunate people in the like predicament with myself.
Pardon this somewhat enigmatical or metaphorical preface. I shall try to express myself more clearly. I am a Liberal born and bred; that is, my respected sire was a very strong adherent of the Liberal party about the time of the passing of the Reform Bill. He was a citizen of a town of some importance in the north of England, wherein he drove a reputable trade as a merchant in a small way, dealing in such wares as tape, bird-seed, hosiery, tobacco-pipes, potatoes, and sugar-candy. He attended regularly the meetings of the Political Union, though I am not aware that he ever made a personal attempt at oratory; and he carefully instilled into my youthful mind a cordial hatred of what were, or were supposed to be, the principles of the British Constitution. According to him, the Established Church was a malignant cancer eating out the vitals of the people; the House of Peers an assemblage of bloated aristocrats, who never met without helping themselves to the savings of the poor; nay, I can hardly venture to assert that the Crown itself did not come in for some share of the paternal objurgation. I well remember the ecstasy into which my revered
parent was thrown when the inimitable "Scion," who is still spared to us from Orcus, characterised the voice of a high estate of the realm as the "whisper of a faction." Also I recollect well the glowing eulogium which he passed upon the public spirit and intrepidity of the highminded Larkins, when that distinguished patriot and demagogue announced his opinion that, for a less offence against the liberties of the people, a fairer head than ever graced the shoulders of Queen Adelaide had ere now rolled upon the scaffold. And I have not forgotten the enthusiastic approval which he gave to the proposed popular march from Birmingham to London, although disqualified by an unfortunate fit of rheumatism from taking part in that glorious expedition. But when the great victory was won, and the Whigs were comfortably installed in office, the ardour of my progenitor began visibly to cool. He had borne the burden and heat of the day, and was certainly entitled to expect that, in the general distribution of good things, he should receive some small crumb of comfort-some stray crust -some little bone with a morsel of meat upon it-so that he might at least have a flavour of the rewards set apart for those who have served their country. But alas! the time had not come when such as he could be permitted to partake even of the refuse of the banquet. As a flock of ravens descends upon the palpitating carcass of a sheep-speeding from the east, and west, and north, and south, till not one particle of wool is visible beneath the unclean flapping of their multitudinous wings,-so stooped the Whigs upon their quarry. Not only the old, but the young ravens also, had to be gorged to the very throat, before any stray kite had license to dig at sinew or intestine; and what, I pray you, was a single sheep among so many? So, while the Elliots, and Greys, and Russells, and Phippses were tearing away like mad-swallowing gobbets so greedily that they almost stuck in their throats,
and croaking to their countless cousins to make haste and improve so splendid an opportunity, my sire, in company with a good many more disappointed patriots, stood afar off, and, I fear, bestowed not a few execrations upon the late subjects of their idolatry. But even the worst of men, after they have well eaten, become placable and even generous. Polyphemus, after he had chewed up a brace of juicy Ithacans, spoke affable words to Ulysses, and even expressed a wish to do him service; and so, when the Whigs could eat no more, they leaned back plethorically in their chairs, and signified their willingness that now there might be a distribution of the scraps.
And so it came to pass that, after a time, my father, who was a notable in his way, and the centre and oracle of a group of voters, got a share of a Government contract for bees'-wax and molasses, and was enabled materially to extend his business. I could name more than one cadaverous and lanthorn-jawed individual, presently in the House of Commons, whose rise in life may be traced to precisely the same source, and who invariably testify their gratitude to the Whig oligarchy by backing up their nefarious jobs when they are in power, and by seconding their factious plots when they are, as now, in opposition. No such insinuation can be made against my sire, because he never was in the House of Commons, but wisely contented himself by strengthening his position and increasing his influence in his native borough. But he became an eminent Liberal, with a place somewhat in advance of the regular Whig phalanx, which, nevertheless, he was sworn to guard. He rose to municipal honours, achieved considerable opulence, and died of gout at a venerable age, leaving me the undoubted heir to his principles and money in the Funds. So that, when I term myself a Liberal born and bred, I am guilty of no exaggeration.
I have not the vanity to regard myself as a person of strong intellect; nay, I make no scruple in acknowledging that I am rather weakminded than otherwise. Naturally unsuspicious, any one can wheedle
or cajole me. I flutter heedlessly into the jaws of humbug, like a weaving-bird into the mouth of a rattlesnake. Had I fallen into the hands of one of those trained, adroit, oleaginous emissaries of the Whigs, who are the most consummate of Jesuits, with smiles bland enough to thaw the heart of a turnpike-keeper, tongues smooth as glycerine, and fingers whose loving pressure conveys the very magnetism of persuasion-he might have done with me what he pleased. But the first specimens of Whiggery with whom I became acquainted were persons of a different stamp. Our borough was represented by two members, the elder of whom, Mr Samuel Chouser (late of the firm of Chouser, Thimblerig & Co.), was an independent, who went the whole hog for the ballot and household suffrage. He was not (so he said) a favourite with the Whigs. Lord John Russell treated him with marked coldness, because he had set his authority at defiance, and was resolved to push Liberal principles to the utmost. He (Chouser) had no idea of truckling to the dictation of any man. Lord John had no doubt deserved well of his country, but he required a shove now and then to keep him moving in the right direction. If his (Chouser's) constituents approved of his conduct, good; if not, let them say so, and he was most ready to resign. He occupied that seat, not for his own benefit, but for the good of the people. The Whigs feared, though they did not love him; and more than once he had been asked to take office, but felt it his duty to refuse. He was resolved to die, as he had lived, independent and a Liberal.
So spake Samuel Chouser, Esquire, not once only, but periodically, with little variation, whenever called on to address his constituents; and I must own that, for some time, I heard him very reverently. To the ears of an Englishman there is always something attractive in the assertion of blunt independence. The mere pantomimic act of buttoning up the breeches-pocket looks like the erecting of a bulwark against the insidious approaches of bribery; and in no
character was Mr Chouser so great as in that of the spurner of office. But to be eminent is, as Macchiavelli justly remarks, to invite enmity. A Radical cobbler, whom Chouser had offended by refusing to renew a bill after an election, lifted up his voice in the market-place, proclaiming that Chouser the immaculate was Chouser the thrice sold; that the self-denying refusant of office for himself was the grasping monopoliser of places for his family; that the intrepid patriot was no better than a pasteboard and buckram sham. And by way of proving these assertions, he published a list of the votes of our Chouser ever since his entry into Parliament, by which it certainly did appear that in no one instance had he given a vote which could seriously embarrass the Whigs; and also, what was more awkward, a list of the good things which had fallen to the share of the house of Chouser. That list was headed by the name of the Reverend Aminadab, eldest brother of the selfdenying Samuel, whose piety and biblical lore had secured him a benefice of £900 per annum. Then followed Launcelot Gobbo Chouser, also a brother of Samuel, quartered on the Customs at the rate of £600. Then followed the sons of Samuel-Sydney Russell Chouser (Woods and Forests); Charles Grey Chouser (Home Office); Henry Petty Chouser (Victualling Department); and John Cam Hobhouse Chouser (Board of Control); -besides divers others, who did not bear the name of Chouser, but who, nevertheless, were supposed to derive their origin from the same family root. Altogether, the hole which these gentlemen made in the taxes was something rather appalling; and the facts lost none of their pungency when stated by the irascible cobbler.
cannot remember at this distance of time; but I recollect perfectly that it gave a considerable shock to my faith in the absolute disinterestedness of advanced Liberals, and made me, for the first time, entertain a suspicion that between them and the Whigs proper there were more intimate relations than the world was permitted to perceive.
Our second member was Lord Viscount Breadberry, a young hereditary Whig, of whom it may justly be said that, had his manners been as polished as his boots, or his intellect as well cultivated as his whiskers, a more accomplished gentleman never drew the salary of an Under Secretary. But I am constrained to say that the boots and whiskers were much better cared for than the qualities of the inner man. A greater fool than Breadberry never buttered a roll. He had neither sense nor capacity, nor the power of uttering three consecutive intelligible sentences. Yet we, the Liberal electors, returned him to Parliament in preference to a man of high genius and accomplishment, a ripe scholar, a shrewd thinker, and a powerful orator, because the latter would not burn a single grain of incense upon the altar which we had set up. Oh, happy country! where wisdom is despised, and idiocy advanced, solely upon the credit of a name!
You will observe, sir, that I have been describing the situation of matters at a period comparatively remote, ere the silken cord which bound all Liberals together was snapped in twain. At that time the common understood object was to keep out the Tories; and whenever a combination was necessary to that effect, poor dear Feargus O'Connor received his card as regularly as Sir Charles Wood. In the vestibule of the Reform Club it was pleasant to hear, on the eve of some grand party struggle, the halfstifled hurroos of those Irish memhers who had successfully carried through negotiations with the Secretary of the Treasury, as they dug their digits into his shrinking sides, and playfully denominated him " divvle!' Then walked the stiff old official Whig, type of frozen exclusiveness, narrow-chested, high-shoul
dered, vinegar-visaged, arm-in-arm, for the nonce, with John Tacketts, the great manufacturer of nails, and even listening to his violations of grammar with such a sickly smile as radiates on the face of Pantaloon when the Clown applies a red-hot poker to his rear. Then there was the recently-created Whig agricultural lord, as recognisable from his peculiar costume, as Pan from his hairy hips. Behold him in St James' Street, attired even as he is when interchanging samples of wheat with the hawbucks in his distant county, in a low-crowned, broad-brimmed white hat, with green ribbon; wideskirted coatee, with pockets each large enough to contain a pig; drab terminations, and a blue bird's-eye handkerchief. Great potentate he, ready to go, if not to the death, at all events to the expenditure of a good many thousands of pounds, for the supremacy of the Whig houses; owner of two snug nomination boroughs, which, had there been consistency in statesmen or principle in reformers, ought long before to have undergone extinguishment under Schedule A; liberal in all matters not affecting his own peculiar interests, but violently opposed to a repeal of the corn-laws, the hour for enlightenment of his party on that particular point not having yet arrived. Then prowled the pseudopolitical economist, usually of Caledonian extraction, who, ever and anon refreshing his bulged nostrils with copious pinches of maccabaw, hawked out apothegms from Adam Smith, Ricardo, and the Report of the Bullion Committee, to any weary wight whom he might attach by the button, with the gravity of Achitophel delivering a lecture to some reprobate companion of Absalom. All these, and many more types, forms, and combinations of liberality, were to be seen clustering and commingling for a common object, though there was as little apparent natural coherence among them, as we may suppose to have existed among the builders of Babel, subsequent to the confusion of tongues.
I sketch from memory, but the scene is as deeply imprinted on my mind as if it had taken place only
yesterday. Gatherings of this kind are of an august and almost solemn nature. They recall to us the array of the Roman Senate when the Gauls were filing through the gates of the eternal city, the stern assemblage of the iron-sheathed Barons at Runnymede, or the midnight muster of the associates of William Tell at the summons of the horn of Underwalden. No wonder that it made an impression upon a raw recruit like myself. What a thrill of awe shot through me as the veteran placeman who condescended to act as my guide, pointed out to me the stately forms of the different leaders, chiefs, and men of renown. Like Cressid instructed by Pandarus, I stood to see the warriors pass over the stage.
"There! look there," he cried; "that's him-that's the man! what a fellow he is! What an intellect! How gigantic!"
"Who? which? where?" stammered I, in a fever of nervous agitation, staring about for the apparition of some stalwart son of Kish.
"He's gone-you've missed himit was Lord John Russell. But hush -ha-here is a great man indeed!"
Out sauntered a supercilious-looking elderly gentleman, chewing the stalk of a carnation.
"That's Lord Palmerston, the protector of the liberties of Europe.'
Involuntarily I raised my hat. The protector of the liberties of Europe looked surprised — smiled, nodded, took another nibble at the stalk of the carnation, and walked on.
Here is another remarkable man look at him well. You won't often see such another."
He spoke true-Lord Althorp went by.
"Here now-do, pray, look sharp. There's a man who will be much spoken of yet. That's Clanricarde!" "Is it indeed?"
"And that's Hobhouse-fine fellow, Hobhouse! And there's Charley Wood-he's such a funny chap, you'd die with laughing at his jokes. And that's Joe Hume good old Joe! And there's Feargus O'Connor. And -Lord help us, here's Dan! Let's take off our hats to Dan; he likes it, and its down in our whip's orderbook for a week. And that's Mr
Now, why had all these men come together in conclave? Whom were they opposing? What enemy of the State had marched into the bowels of the land? What pernicious influence was at work which required so strong a combination to repress it? Who was the arch-fiend whom those Zephons and Ithuriels sought to scare away? I was not long left in ignorance of that. A deep execration from my friend the placeman warned me of the presence of the evil one. I looked up and saw
The Duke of Wellington.
A singular destiny was that of the great soldier of the age in connection with the Whigs. Twice by their machinations as a party was his career impeded and reputation assailed, and twice he rose in the universal esteem of the nation above their paltry malice. During the Peninsular campaign they did all that men could do to thwart him. Their malignity was silenced at the crowning victory of Waterloo. During the agitation for the Reform Bill they and their creatures so perverted the popular_mind, that the man who saved Europe was pelted in the streets of London, and the windows of his mansion were shattered by the missiles of a brutal mob. Pass a quarter of a century, and the heads even of the lowest are bowed in sorrow as the veteran is lowered into his grave. O yes, the people may be misled; they may be perverted and imposed on-taught to worship false idols, and to put trust in most exceeding knaves, but their instinct is towards true greatness, and nobility of heart and soul, and deception cannot last for ever.
Sir, I speak as a Liberal, not as a Whig. I love liberality in all things.
I like to be liberal with my food, but I refuse to eat it with the thin sour sauce of Whiggery. I like also, in a reasonable way, to be liberal with my drink, but I won't have your Tavistock concoctions of sloe-liquor and verjuice. I am liberal in my opinions, but I deny that they are those of Whiggery. So when I saw, as I then saw, that remarkable combination of persons, many of whom were not considered to be patterns of integrity or virtue, against a party whose most eminent representative was the foremost man in Europe, I began to reflect, somewhat seriously, upon the political aspect of society, and the various sections of politicians. First," said I to myself, "let me ascertain, if possible, with precision, what this thing Whiggery really is; how far it has gone, and how far it proposes to go; what are its aims and objects, and how far these may be intended for and compatible with the public good. When these points are ascertained, I shall be able to resolve a doubt which has just arisen in my mind, as to whether it is really possible for a Whig to be a Liberal."
Accordingly I set me down, as deliberately as a freshman settles to his Euclid, to solve the first problem, "What is Whiggery?"--but, alas! it has been worse than the pons asinorum-I can by no means get over it. Simple as the question seems, just let any one of your readers try to answer it satisfactorily to himself, and I will venture to bet a puncheon of rum that he fails. Try it yourself. You ought to know something about it, for your Magazine has been a hammer, a scourge, a flail, a knout, a
cat-o'-nine-tails to the Whigs. They never see it without experiencing sympathetic pains in the back and ribs; they never hear its name pronounced without uttering a short spasmodic squeal. Yet is there one thing wanting in the Magazine, and that is a proper, just, and distinct definition of Whiggery. The origin of the word is said to be Scotch, "whig" signifying some beastly kind of whey in a partial state of decomposition; but that don't help us much, except by the insinuation of bad taste and acrid flavour. Ask