Let us endeavour to penetrate this social anomaly that has harassed and perplexed centuries.
It is alleged that the dispersion of the Jewish race is a penalty incurred for the commission of a great crime: namely, the crucifixion of our blessed Lord in the form of a Jewish prince, by the Romans, at Jerusalem, and at the instigation of some Jews, in the reign of Tiberius Augustus Caesar. Upon this, it may be observed, that the allegation is neither historically true nor dogmatically sound.
I. Not historically true. It is not historically true, because at the time of the advent of our Lord, the Jewish race was as much dispersed throughout the world as at this present time, and had been so for many centuries. Europe, with the exception of those shores which are bathed by the midland sea, was then a primeval forest, but in every city of the great Eastern monarchies and in every province of the Roman empire, the Jews had been long settled. We have not precise authority for saying that at the advent there were more Jews established in Egypt than in Palestine, but it may unquestionably be asserted that at that period there were more Jews living, and that too in great prosperity and honour, at Alexandria than at Jerusalem. It is evident from various Roman authors, that the Jewish race formed no inconsiderable portion of the multitude that filled Rome itself, and that the Mosaic religion, undisturbed by the state, even made proselytes. But it is unnecessary to enter into any curious researches on this head, though the authorities are neither scant nor uninteresting. We are furnished with evidence the most complete and unanswerable of the pre-dispersion by the sacred writings themselves. Not two months after the crucifixion, when the Third Person of the Holy Trinity first descended on Jerusalem, it being the time of the great festivals, when the Jews, according to the custom of the Arabian tribes pursued to this day in the pilgrimage to Mecca, repaired from all quarters to the central sacred place, the holy writings inform us that there were gathered together in Jerusalem 'Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.' And that this expression, so general but so precise, should not be mistaken, we are shortly afterwards, though incidentally, informed, that there were Parthians, Medes, and Persians at Jerusalem, professing the Mosaic faith; Jews from Mesopotamia and Syria, from the countries of the lesser and the greater Asia; Egyptian, Libyan, Greek, and Arabian Jews; and, especially, Jews from Rome itself, some of which latter are particularly mentioned as Roman proselytes. Nor is it indeed historically true that the small section of the Jewish race which dwelt in Palestine rejected Christ. The reverse is the truth. Had it not been for the Jews of Palestine, the good tidings of our Lord would have been unknown for ever to the northern and western races. The first preachers of the gospel were Jews, and none else; the historians of the gospel were Jews, and none else. No one has ever been permitted to write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, except a Jew. For nearly a century no one believed in the good tidings except Jews. They nursed the sacred flame of which they were the consecrated and hereditary depositaries. And when the time was ripe to diffuse the truth among the ethnics, it was not a senator of Rome or a philosopher of Athens who was personally appointed by our Lord for that office, but a Jew of Tarsus, who founded the seven churches of Asia. And that greater church, great even amid its terrible corruptions, that has avenged the victory of Titus by subjugating the capital of the Caesars, and has changed every one of the Olympian temples into altars of the God of Sinai and of Calvary, was founded by another Jew, a Jew of Galilee.
From all which it appears that the dispersion of the Jewish race, preceding as it did for countless ages the advent of our Lord, could not be for conduct which occurred subsequently to the advent, and that they are also guiltless of that subsequent conduct which has been imputed to them as a crime, since for Him and His blessed name, they preached, and wrote, and shed their blood 'as witnesses.'
But, is it possible that that which is not historically true can be dogmatically sound? Such a conclusion would impugn the foundations of all faith. The followers of Jesus, of whatever race, need not however be alarmed. The belief that the present condition of the Jewish race is a penal infliction for the part which some Jews took at the crucifixion is not dogmatically sound.
2. Not dogmatically sound. There is no passage in the sacred writings that in the slightest degree warrants the penal assumption. The imprecation of the mob at the crucifixion is sometimes strangely quoted as a divine decree. It is not a principle of jurisprudence, human or inspired, to permit the criminal to ordain his own punishment. Why, too, should they transfer any portion of the infliction to their posterity? What evidence have we that the wild suggestion was sanctioned by Omnipotence? On the contrary, amid the expiating agony, a Divine Voice at the same time solicited and secured forgiveness. And if unforgiven, could the cry of a rabble at such a scene bind a nation?
But, dogmatically considered, the subject of the crucifixion must be viewed in a deeper spirit. We must pause with awe to remember what was the principal office to be fulfilled by the advent. When the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation was consummated, a Divine Person moved on the face of the earth in the shape of a child of Israel, not to teach but to expiate. True it is that no word could fall from such lips, whether in the form of profound parable, or witty retort, or preceptive lore, but to guide and enlighten; but they who, in those somewhat lax effusions which in these days are honoured with the holy name of theology, speak of the morality of the Gospel as a thing apart and of novel revelation, would do well to remember that in promulgating such doctrines they are treading on very perilous ground. There cannot be two moralities; and to hold that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity could teach a different morality from that which had been already revealed by the First Person of the Holy Trinity, is a dogma so full of terror that it may perhaps be looked upon as the ineffable sin against the Holy Spirit. When the lawyer tempted our Lord, and inquired how he was to inherit eternal life, the great Master of Galilee referred him to the writings of Moses. There he would find recorded 'the whole duty of man;' to love God with all his heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, and his neighbour as himself. These two principles are embalmed in the writings of Moses, and are the essence of Christian morals.*
* 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.' —Leviticus xix. 18.
It was for something deeper than this, higher and holier than even Moses could fulfil, that angels announced the Coming. It was to accomplish an event pre-ordained by the Creator of the world for countless ages. Born from the chosen house of the chosen people, yet blending in his inexplicable nature the Divine essence with the human elements, a sacrificial Mediator was to appear, appointed before all time, to purify with his atoning blood the myriads that had preceded and the myriads that will follow him. The doctrine embraces all space and time—nay, chaos and eternity; Divine persons are the agents, and the redemption of the whole family of man the result. If the Jews had not prevailed upon the Romans to crucify our Lord, what would have become of the Atonement? But the human mind cannot contemplate the idea that the most important deed of time could depend upon human will. The immolators were preordained like the victim, and the holy race supplied both. Could that be a crime which secured for all mankind eternal joy—which vanquished Satan, and opened the gates of Paradise? Such a tenet would sully and impugn the doctrine that is the corner-stone of our faith and hope. Men must not presume to sit in judgment on such an act. They must bow their heads in awe and astonishment and trembling gratitude.
But, though the opinion that the dispersion of the Jewish race must be deemed a penalty incurred for their connection with the crucifixion has neither historical nor doctrinal sanction, it is possible that its degrading influence upon its victims may have been as efficacious as if their present condition were indeed a judicial infliction. Persecution, in a word, although unjust, may have reduced the modern Jews to a state almost justifying malignant vengeance. They may have become so odious and so hostile to mankind, as to merit for their present conduct, no matter how occasioned, the obloquy and ill-treatment of the communities in which they dwell and with which they are scarcely permitted to mingle.
Let us examine this branch of the subject, which, though of more limited interest, is not without instruction.
In all the great cities of Europe, and in some of the great cities of Asia, among the infamous classes therein existing, there will always be found Jews. They are not the only people who are usurers, gladiators, and followers of mean and scandalous occupations, nor are they anywhere a majority of such, but considering their general numbers, they contribute perhaps more than their proportion to the aggregate of the vile. In this they obey the law which regulates the destiny of all persecuted races: the infamous is the business of the dishonoured; and as infamous pursuits are generally illegal pursuits, the persecuted race which has most ability will be most successful in combating the law. The Jews have never been so degraded as the Greeks were throughout the Levant before the emancipation, and the degradation of the Greeks was produced by a period of persecution which, both in amount and suffering, cannot compare with that which has been endured by the children of Israel. This peculiarity, however, attends the Jews under the most unfavourable circumstances; the other degraded races wear out and disappear; the Jew remains, as determined, as expert, as persevering, as full of resource and resolution as ever. Viewed in this light, the degradation of the Jewish race is alone a striking evidence of its excellence, for none but one of the great races could have survived the trials which it has endured.
But, though a material organization of the highest class may account for so strange a consequence, the persecuted Hebrew is supported by other means. He is sustained by a sublime religion. Obdurate, malignant, odious, and revolting as the lowest Jew appears to us, he is rarely demoralized. Beneath his own roof his heart opens to the influence of his beautiful Arabian traditions. All his ceremonies, his customs, and his festivals are still to celebrate the bounty of nature and the favour of Jehovah. The patriarchal feeling lingers about his hearth. A man, however fallen, who loves his home is not wholly lost. The trumpet of Sinai still sounds in the Hebrew ear, and a Jew is never seen upon the scaffold, unless it be at an auto da fe.
But, having made this full admission of the partial degradation of the Jewish race, we are not prepared to agree that this limited degeneracy is any justification of the prejudices and persecution which originated in barbarous or mediaeval superstitions. On the contrary, viewing the influence of the Jewish race upon the modern communities, without any reference to the past history or the future promises of Israel; dismissing from our minds and memories, if indeed that be possible, all that the Hebrews have done in the olden time for man and all which it may be their destiny yet to fulfil, we hold that instead of being an object of aversion, they should receive all that honour and favour from the northern and western races, which, in civilized and refined nations, should be the lot of those who charm the public taste and elevate the public feeling. We hesitate not to say that there is no race at this present, and following in this only the example of a long period, that so much delights, and fascinates, and elevates, and ennobles Europe, as the Jewish.
We dwell not on the fact, that the most admirable artists of the drama have been and still are of the Hebrew race: or, that the most entrancing singers, graceful dancers, and exquisite musicians, are sons and daughters of Israel: though this were much. But these brilliant accessories are forgotten in the sublimer claim.
It seems that the only means by which in these modern times we are permitted to develop the beautiful is music. It would appear definitively settled that excellence in the plastic arts is the privilege of the earlier ages of the world. All that is now produced in this respect is mimetic, and, at the best, the skilful adaptation of traditional methods. The creative faculty of modern man seems by an irresistible law at work on the virgin soil of science, daily increasing by its inventions our command over nature, and multiplying the material happiness of man. But the happiness of man is not merely material. Were it not for music, we might in these days say, the beautiful is dead. Music seems to be the only means of creating the beautiful, in which we not only equal, but in all probability greatly excel, the ancients. The music of modern Europe ranks with the transcendent creations of human genius; the poetry, the statues, the temples, of Greece. It produces and represents as they did whatever is most beautiful in the spirit of man and often expresses what is most profound. And who are the great composers, who hereafter will rank with Homer, with Sophocles, with Praxiteles, or with Phidias? They are the descendants of those Arabian tribes who conquered Canaan, and who by favour of the Most High have done more with less means even than the Athenians.
Forty years ago—not a longer period than the children of Israel were wandering in the desert—the two most dishonoured races in Europe were the Attic and the Hebrew, and they were the two races that had done most for mankind. Their fortunes had some similarity: their countries were the two smallest in the world, equally barren and equally famous; they both divided themselves into tribes: both built a most famous temple on an acropolis; and both produced a literature which all European nations have accepted with reverence and admiration. Athens has been sacked oftener than Jerusalem, and oftener razed to the ground; but the Athenians have escaped expatriation, which is purely an Oriental custom. The sufferings of the Jews, however, have been infinitely more prolonged and varied than those of the Athenians. The Greek nevertheless appears exhausted. The creative genius of Israel, on the contrary, never shone so bright; and when the Russian, the Frenchman, and the Anglo-Saxon, amid applauding theatres or the choral voices of solemn temples, yield themselves to the full spell of a Mozart or a Mendelssohn, it seems difficult to comprehend how these races can reconcile it to their hearts to persecute a Jew.
We have shown that the theological prejudice against the Jews has no foundation, historical or doctrinal; we have shown that the social prejudice, originating in the theological but sustained by superficial observations, irrespective of religious prejudice, is still more unjust, and that no existing race is so much entitled to the esteem and gratitude of society as the Hebrew. It remains for us to notice the injurious consequences to European society of the course pursued by the communities to this race; and this view of the subject leads us to considerations which it would become existing statesmen to ponder.
The world has by this time discovered that it is impossible to destroy the Jews. The attempt to extirpate them has been made under the most favourable auspices and on the largest scale; the most considerable means that man could command have been pertinaciously applied to this object for the longest period of recorded time. Egyptian Pharaohs, Assyrian kings, Roman emperors, Scandinavian crusaders, Gothic princes, and holy inquisitors have alike devoted their energies to the fulfilment of this common purpose. Expatriation, exile, captivity, confiscation, torture on the most ingenious, and massacre on the most extensive, scale, with a curious system of degrading customs and debasing laws which would have broken the heart of any other people, have been tried, and in vain. The Jews, after all this havoc, are probably more numerous at this date than they were during the reign of Solomon the Wise, are found in all lands, and, unfortunately, prospering in most. All of which proves that it is in vain for man to attempt to battle the inexorable law of nature, which has decreed that a superior race shall never be destroyed or absorbed by an inferior.
But the influence of a great race will be felt; its greatness does not depend upon its numbers, otherwise the English would not have vanquished the Chinese, nor would the Aztecs have been overthrown by Cortez and a handful of Goths. That greatness results from its organization, the consequences of which are shown in its energy and enterprise, in the strength of its will and the fertility of its brain. Let us observe what should be the influence of the Jews, and then ascertain how it is exercised. The Jewish race connects the modern populations with the early ages of the world, when the relations of the Creator with the created were more intimate than in these days, when angels visited the earth, and God himself even spoke with man. The Jews represent the Semitic principle; all that is spiritual in our nature. They are the trustees of tradition and the conservators of the religious element. They are a living and the most striking evidence of the falsity of that pernicious doctrine of modern times—the natural equality of man. The political equality of a particular race is a matter of municipal arrangement, and depends entirely on political considerations and circumstances; but the natural equality of man now in vogue, and taking the form of cosmopolitan fraternity, is a principle which, were it possible to act on it, would deteriorate the great races and destroy all the genius of the world. What would be the consequence on the great Anglo-Saxon republic, for example, were its citizens to secede from their sound principle of reserve, and mingle with their negro and coloured populations? In the course of time they would become so deteriorated that their states would probably be reconquered and regained by the aborigines whom they have expelled, and who would then be their superiors. But though nature will never ultimately permit this theory of natural equality to be practised, the preaching of this dogma has already caused much mischief, and may occasion much more. The native tendency of the Jewish race, who are justly proud of their blood, is against the doctrine of the equality of man. They have also another characteristic, the faculty of acquisition. Although the European laws have endeavoured to prevent their obtaining property, they have nevertheless become remarkable for their accumulated wealth. Thus it will be seen that all the tendencies of the Jewish race are conservative. Their bias is to religion, property, and natural aristocracy: and it should be the interest of statesmen that this bias of a great race should be encouraged, and their energies and creative powers enlisted in the cause of existing society.
But existing society has chosen to persecute this race which should furnish its choice allies, and what have been the consequences?
They may be traced in the last outbreak of the destructive principle in Europe. An insurrection takes place against tradition and aristocracy, against religion and property. Destruction of the Semitic principle, extirpation of the Jewish religion, whether in the Mosaic or in the Christian form, the natural equality of man, and the abrogation of property, are proclaimed by the secret societies who form provisional governments, and men of Jewish race are found at the head of every one of them. The people of God cooeperate with atheists; the most skilful accumulators of property ally themselves with communists; the peculiar and chosen race touch the hand of all the scum and low castes of Europe! And all this because they wish to destroy that ungrateful Christendom which owes to them even its name, and whose tyranny they can no longer endure.
When the secret societies, in February, 1848, surprised Europe, they were themselves surprised by the unexpected opportunity, and so little capable were they of seizing the occasion, that had it not been for the Jews, who of late years unfortunately have been connecting themselves with these unhallowed associations, imbecile as were the governments, the uncalled-for outbreak would not have ravaged Europe. But the fiery energy and the teeming resources of the children of Israel maintained for a long time the unnecessary and useless struggle. If the reader throw his eye over the provisional governments of Germany and Italy, and even of France, formed at that period, he will recognize everywhere the Jewish element. Even the insurrection, and defence, and administration of Venice, which, from the resource and statesmanlike moderation displayed, commanded almost the respect and sympathy of Europe, were accomplished by a Jew—Manini—who, by the bye, is a Jew who professes the whole of the Jewish religion, and believes in Calvary as well as Sinai,—'a converted Jew,' as the Lombards styled him, quite forgetting, in the confusion of their ideas, that it is the Lombards who are the converts—not Manini.
Thus it will be seen, that the persecution of the Jewish race has deprived European society of an important conservative element, and added to the destructive party an influential ally. Prince Metternich, the most enlightened of modern statesmen, not to say the most intellectual of men, was, though himself a victim of the secret societies, fully aware of these premises. It was always his custom, great as were the difficulties which in so doing he had to encounter, to employ as much as possible the Hebrew race in the public service. He could never forget that Napoleon, in his noontide hour, had been checked by the pen of the greatest of political writers; he had found that illustrious author as great in the cabinet as in the study; he knew that no one had more contributed to the deliverance of Europe. It was not as a patron, but as an appreciating and devoted friend, that the High Chancellor of Austria appointed Frederick Gentz secretary to the Congress of Vienna—and Frederick Gentz was a child of Israel.
It is no doubt to be deplored that several millions of the Jewish race should persist in believing in only a part of their religion; but this is a circumstance which does not affect Europe, and time, with different treatment, may remove the anomaly which perhaps may be accounted for. It should be recollected, that the existing Jews are perhaps altogether the descendants of those various colonies and emigrations which, voluntary or forced, long preceded the advent. Between the vast carnage of the Roman wars, from Titus to Hadrian, and the profession of Christ by his countrymen, which must have been very prevalent, since the Christian religion was solely sustained by the Jews of Palestine during the greater part of its first century, it is improbable that any descendants of the Jews of Palestine exist who disbelieve in Christ. After the fall of Jerusalem and the failure of Barchochebas, no doubt some portion of the Jews found refuge in the desert, returning to their original land after such long and strange vicissitudes. This natural movement would account for those Arabian tribes, of whose resistance to Mohammed we have ample and authentic details, and who, if we are to credit the accounts which perplex modern travellers, are to this day governed by the Pentateuch instead of the Koran.
When Christianity was presented to the ancestors of the present Jews, it came from a very suspicious quarter, and was offered in a very questionable shape. Centuries must have passed in many instances before the Jewish colonies heard of the advent, the crucifixion, and the atonement; the latter, however, a doctrine in perfect harmony with Jewish ideas. When they first heard of Christianity, it appeared to be a Gentile religion, accompanied by idolatrous practices, from which severe monotheists, like the Arabians, always recoil, and holding the Jewish race up to public scorn and hatred. This is not the way to make converts.
There have been two great colonies of the Jewish race in Europe; in Spain and in Sarmatia. The origin of the Jews in Spain is lost in the night of time. That it was of great antiquity we have proof. The tradition, once derided, that the Iberian Jews were a Phoenician colony has been favoured by the researches of modern antiquaries, who have traced the Hebrew language in the ancient names of the localities. It may be observed, however, that the languages of the Jews and the Philistines, or Phoenicians, were probably too similar to sanction any positive induction from such phenomena; while on the other hand, in reply to those who have urged the improbability of the Jews, who had no seaports, colonizing Spain, it may be remarked that the colony may have been an expatriation by the Philistines in the course of the long struggle which occurred between them and the invading tribes previous to the foundation of the Hebrew monarchy. We know that in the time of Cicero the Jews had been settled immemorially in Spain. When the Romans, converted to Christianity and acted on by the priesthood, began to trouble the Spanish Jews, it appears by a decree of Constantine that they were owners and cultivators of the soil, a circumstance which alone proves the antiquity and the nobility of their settlement, for the possession of the land is never conceded to a degraded race. The conquest of Spain by the Goths in the fifth and sixth centuries threatened the Spanish Jews, however, with more serious adversaries than the Romans. The Gothic tribes, very recently converted to their Syrian faith, were full of barbaric zeal against those whom they looked upon as the enemies of Jesus. But the Spanish Jews sought assistance from their kinsmen the Saracens on the opposite coast; Spain was invaded and subdued by the Moors, and for several centuries the Jew and the Saracen lived under the same benignant laws and shared the same brilliant prosperity. In the history of Spain during the Saracenic supremacy any distinction of religion or race is no longer traced. And so it came to pass that when at the end of the fourteenth century, after the fell triumph of the Dominicans over the Albigenses, the holy inquisition was introduced into Spain, it was reported to Torquemada that two-thirds of the nobility of Arragon, that is to say of the proprietors of the land, were Jews.
All that these men knew of Christianity was, that it was a religion of fire and sword, and that one of its first duties was to avenge some mysterious and inexplicable crime which had been committed ages ago by some unheard of ancestors of theirs in an unknown land. The inquisitors addressed themselves to the Spanish Jews in the same abrupt and ferocious manner in which the monks saluted the Mexicans and the Peruvians. All those of the Spanish Jews, who did not conform after the fall of the Mohammedan kingdoms, were expatriated by the victorious Goths, and these refugees were the main source of the Italian Jews, and of the most respectable portion of the Jews of Holland. These exiles found refuge in two republics; Venice and the United Provinces. The Portuguese Jews, it is well known, came from Spain, and their ultimate expulsion from Portugal was attended by the same results as the Spanish expatriation.
The other great division of Jews in Europe are the Sarmatian Jews, and they are very numerous. They amount to nearly three millions. These unquestionably entered Europe with the other Sarmatian nations, descending the Borysthenes and ascending the Danube, and are according to all probability the progeny of the expatriations of the times of Tiglath-Pileser and Nebuchadnezzar. They are the posterity of those 'devout men,' Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, who were attending the festivals at Jerusalem at the time of the descent of the Holy Spirit. Living among barbarous pagans, who never molested them, these people went on very well, until suddenly the barbarous pagans, under the influence of an Italian priesthood, were converted to the Jewish religion, and then as a necessary consequence the converts began to harass, persecute, and massacre the Jews.
These people had never heard of Christ. Had the Romans not destroyed Jerusalem, these Sarmatian Jews would have had a fair chance of obtaining from civilized beings some clear and coherent account of the great events which had occurred. They and their fathers before them would have gone up in customary pilgrimage to the central sacred place, both for purposes of devotion and purposes of trade, and they might have heard from Semitic lips that there were good tidings for Israel. What they heard from their savage companions, and the Italian priesthood which acted on them, was, that there were good tidings for all the world except Israel, and that Israel, for the commission of a great crime of which they had never heard and could not comprehend, was to be plundered, massacred, hewn to pieces, and burnt alive in the name of Christ and for the sake of Christianity.
The Eastern Jews, who are very numerous, are in general the descendants of those who in the course of repeated captivities settled in the great Eastern monarchies, and which they never quitted. They live in the same cities and follow the same customs as they did in the days of Cyrus. They are to be found in Persia, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor; at Bagdad, at Hamadan, at Smyrna. We know from the Jewish books how very scant was the following which accompanied Esdras and Nehemiah back to Jerusalem. A fortress city, built on a ravine, surrounded by stony mountains and watered by a scanty stream, had no temptations after the gardens of Babylon and the broad waters of the Euphrates. But Babylon has vanished and Jerusalem remains, and what are the waters of Euphrates to the brook of Kedron! It is another name than that of Jesus of Nazareth with which these Jews have been placed in collision, and the Ishmaelites have not forgotten the wrongs of Hagar in their conduct to the descendants of Sarah.
Is it therefore wonderful that a great portion of the Jewish race should not believe in the most important portion of the Jewish religion? As, however, the converted races become more humane in their behaviour to the Jews, and the latter have opportunity fully to comprehend and deeply to ponder over true Christianity, it is difficult to suppose that the result will not be very different. Whether presented by a Roman or Anglo-Catholic or Genevese divine, by pope, bishop, or presbyter, there is nothing, one would suppose, very repugnant to the feelings of a Jew when he learns that the redemption of the human race has been effected by the mediatorial agency of a child of Israel: if the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation be developed to him, he will remember that the blood of Jacob is a chosen and peculiar blood; and if so transcendent a consummation is to occur, he will scarcely deny that only one race could be deemed worthy of accomplishing it. There may be points of doctrine on which the northern and western races may perhaps never agree. The Jew like them may follow that path in those respects which reason and feeling alike dictate; but nevertheless it can hardly be maintained that there is anything revolting to a Jew to learn that a Jewess is the queen of heaven, or that the flower of the Jewish race are even now sitting on the right hand of the Lord God of Sabaoth.
Perhaps, too, in this enlightened age, as his mind expands, and he takes a comprehensive view of this period of progress, the pupil of Moses may ask himself, whether all the princes of the house of David have done so much for the Jews as that prince who was crucified on Calvary. Had it not been for Him, the Jews would have been comparatively unknown, or known only as a high Oriental caste which had lost its country. Has not He made their history the most famous in the world? Has not He hung up their laws in every temple? Has not He vindicated all their wrongs? Has not He avenged the victory of Titus and conquered the Caesars? What successes did they anticipate from their Messiah? The wildest dreams of their rabbis have been far exceeded. Has not Jesus conquered Europe and changed its name into Christendom? All countries that refuse the cross wither, while the whole of the new world is devoted to the Semitic principle and its most glorious offspring the Jewish faith, and the time will come when the vast communities and countless myriads of America and Australia, looking upon Europe as Europe now looks upon Greece, and wondering how so small a space could have achieved such great deeds, will still find music in the songs of Sion and still seek solace in the parables of Galilee.
These may be dreams, but there is one fact which none can contest. Christians may continue to persecute Jews, and Jews may persist in disbelieving Christians, but who can deny that Jesus of Nazareth, the Incarnate Son of the Most High God, is the eternal glory of the Jewish race?
IT WOULD seem to follow from the views expressed in the preceding chaptet, that in communities professing a belief in our Lord, the Jewish race ought not to be subject to any legislative dishonour or disqualification. These views, however, were not those which influenced Lord George Bentinck in forming his opinion that the civil disabilities of those subjects of her Majesty who profess that limited belief in divine revelation which is commonly called the Jewish religion should be removed. He had supported a measure to this effect in the year 1833, guided in that conduct by his devoted attachment to the equivocal principle of religious liberty, the unqualified application of which principle seems hardly consistent with that recognition of religious truth by the state to which we yet adhere, and without which it is highly probable that the northern and western races, after a disturbing and rapidly degrading period of atheistic anarchy, may fatally recur to their old national idolatries, modified and mythically dressed up according to the spirit of the age. It may be observed that the decline and disasters of modern communities have generally been relative to their degree of sedition against the Semitic principle. Since the great revolt of the Celts against the first and second testament, at the close of the last century, France has been alternately in a state of collapse or convulsion. Throughout the awful trials of the last sixty years, England, notwithstanding her deficient and meagre theology, has always remembered Sion. The great Transatlantic republic is intensely Semitic, and has prospered accordingly. This sacred principle alone has consolidated the mighty empire of all the Russias. How omnipotent it is cannot be more clearly shown than by the instance of Rome, where it appears in its most corrupt form. An old man on a Semitic throne baffles the modern Attilas, and the recent invasion of the barbarians, under the form of red republicans, socialists, communists, all different phases which describe the relapse of the once converted races into their primitive condition of savagery. Austria would long ago have dissolved but for the Semitic principle, and if the north of Germany has never succeeded in attaining that imperial position which seemed its natural destiny, it is that the north of Germany has never at any time been thoroughly converted. Some perhaps may point to Spain as a remarkable instance of decline in a country where the Semitic principle has exercised great influence. But the fall of Spain was occasioned by the expulsion of her Semitic population: a million families of Jews and Saracens, the most distinguished of her citizens for their industry and their intelligence, their learning and their wealth.
It appears that Lord George Bentinck had offended some of his followers by an opinion expressed in his address to his constituency in '47, that in accordance with the suggestion of Mr. Pitt, some provision should be made for the Roman Catholic priesthood of Ireland out of the land. Although this opinion might offend the religious sentiments of some, and might be justly looked upon by others as a scheme ill-suited to the character of an age adverse to any further religious endowments, it must be acknowledged that no member of the Protectionist party had any just cause of complaint against Lord George for the expression of an opinion which he had always upheld, and of his constancy to which he had fairly given his friends notice. This was so generally felt that the repining died away. The Jewish question, as it was called, revived these religious emotions. These feelings, as springing from the highest sentiment of our nature, and founded, however mistaken in their application, on religious truth, are entitled to deep respect and tenderness; but no one can indulge them by the compromise of the highest principles, or by sanctioning a course which he really believes to be destructive of the very object which their votaries wish to cherish.
As there are very few Englishmen of what is commonly called the Jewish faith, and as therefore it was supposed that political considerations could not enter into the question, it was hoped by many of the followers of Lord George Bentinck that he would not separate himself from his party on this subject, and very earnest requests and representations were made to him with that view. He was not insensible to them; he gave them prolonged and painful consideration; they greatly disquieted him. In his confidential correspondence he often recurs to the distress and anxiety which this question and its consequences as regarded his position with those friends to whom he was much attached occasioned him. It must not, therefore, be supposed that, in the line he ultimately took with reference to this question, he was influenced, as some have unkindly and unwarrantably fancied, by a self-willed, inexorable, and imperious spirit. He was no doubt, by nature, a proud man, inclined even to arrogance, and naturally impatient of contradiction; but two severe campaigns in the House of Commons had already mitigated these characteristics: he understood human nature, he was fond of his party, and, irrespective of other considerations, it pained his ardent and generous heart to mortify his comrades. It was therefore not in any degree from temper, but from principle,—from as pure, as high, and as noble a sense of duty as ever actuated a man in public life,—that Lord George Bentinck ultimately resolved that it was impossible for him to refuse to vote for the removal of what are commonly called Jewish disabilities. He had voted in this particular cause shortly after his entrance into public life; it was in accordance with that general principle of religious liberty to which he was an uncompromising adherent; it was in complete agreement with the understanding which subsisted between himself and the Protectionist party, when at their urgent request he unwillingly assumed the helm. He was entreated not to vote at all; to stay away, which the severe indisposition under which he was then labouring warranted. He did not rudely repulse these latter representations, as has been circulated. On the contrary, he listened to them with kindness, and was not uninfluenced by them. Enfeebled by illness, he had nearly brought himself to a compliance with a request urged with affectionate importunity, but from which his reason and sense of duty held him aloof. After long and deep and painful pondering, when the hour arrived, he rose from his bed of sickness, walked into the House of Commons, and not only voted, but spoke in favour of his convictions. His speech remains, one of the best ever delivered on the subject, not only full of weighty argument, but touched with a high and even tender vein of sentiment.
This vote and speech of Lord George Bentinck no doubt mortified at the moment a considerable portion of his followers, and occasioned great dissatisfaction among a very respectable though limited section of them. This latter body must either have forgotten or they must have been strangely unacquainted with the distinct understanding on which Lord George had undertaken the lead of the party, or otherwise they could not have felt authorized in conveying to him their keen sense of disapprobation. Unfortunately he received this when the House had adjourned for the holidays, and when Mr. Bankes, who had been the organ of communication with him in '46, was in the country, and when the party was of course generally dispersed. Lord George did not take any pains to ascertain whether the representation which was made to him was that of the general feeling of a large party, or that only of a sincere, highly estimable, but limited section. He was enfeebled and exhausted by indisposition; he often felt, even when in health, that the toil of his life was beyond both his physical and moral energies; and though he was of that ardent and tenacious nature that he never would have complained, but have died at his post, the opportunity of release coming to him at a moment when he was physically prostrate was rather eagerly seized, and the world suddenly learnt at Christmas, with great astonishment, that the renowned leader of the Protectionist party had relinquished his trust.
The numerous communications which he received must have convinced him that the assumed circumstances under which he acted had not been accurately appreciated by him. He was implored to reconsider his course, as one very detrimental to the cause to which he was devoted, and which would probably tend to the triumph of those whose policy he had attempted to defeat, and whose personal conduct he had at least succeeded in punishing.
'The prophesied time has come,' he wrote to his friend Mr. Bankes, on the 23rd of December, 1847, 'when I have ceased to be able to serve the party, the great cause of Protection, or my country, by any longer retaining the commission bestowed on me in the spring of 1846. You will remember, however, that when unfeignedly and honestly, but in vain, trying to escape from being raised to a position which I foresaw I must fail to maintain with advantage to you or honour to myself, I at last gave my consent, I only did so on the express understanding that my advancement should be held to be merely a pro tempore appointment, waiting till the country should have the opportunity of sending to Parliament other men better fitted to lead the country gentlemen of England. I have recalled these circumstances to your mind with no other purpose than that the party may feel how entirely free they are, without even the suspicion of doing an injustice to me or of showing me in this any disrespect, to remodel their arrangements, and to supersede my lieutenancy by the appointment of a superior and permanent commander.'
And again on Christmas-day, to the same gentleman, in reply to an acknowledgment of the preceding, he says, while thanking Mr. Bankes 'for his warm-hearted letter as very grateful to his feelings,'—' Confidentially I tell you, that far from feeling in the least annoyed, I shall feel greatly relieved by a restoration to privacy and freedom. I worked upon my spirit in '46 and '47; but I have learnt now that I have shaken my constitution to the foundation, and I seriously doubt my being able to work on much longer.'
He wrote on the 24th of December to one of his most intimate friends and warmest supporters, Mr. Christopher, the member for Lincolnshire, who had remonstrated with him as to his decision: 'It is not in my nature to retain a station one moment after I get a hint even that any portion of those who raised me to it are wearied of seeing me there. The old members of the party will all recollect how clearly I foresaw and foretold that I should be found a very inconvenient as well as a very inefficient leader, so soon as the great Protection battle was brought to a close. I predicted all that has since occurred; and no one more cordially agrees than I do in the wisdom of the present decision, the spirit I presume of which is that no great party or large body of men can be successfully, or to any good purpose, led except by a man who heart and soul sympathizes with them in all their feelings, partialities, and prejudices. Cold reason has a poor chance against such influences. There can be no esprit de corps and no zeal where there is not a union of prejudices as well as of commercial opinions. The election of a leader united with the great body of the party in these respects, will tend greatly to reunite its scattered particles, even on those questions where I shall be able to give my aid with all my wonted zeal, which will not be the less spirited because it will be free and independent.'
At a later period, acknowledging an address signed by the great body of the Protectionist party, and presented to him by the present Earl Talbot, then a member of the House of Commons, Lord George wrote, 'The considerations which obliged me to surrender a post of honour which every independent and high-minded English gentleman has at all times prized above the highest rewards in the gift of the crown, "the leadership of the country gentlemen of England," will never influence me to swerve from any endeavours of which my poor abilities and bodily energies are capable in the promotion of the prosperity of all classes in the British empire at home and in the colonies, any more than they can ever make me forget the attachment, the friendship, and the enthusiastic support of those who stood by me to the end of the death struggle for British interests and for English good faith and political honour, and to whose continued friendship and constancy I know I am indebted for this graceful and grateful compliment.'
If Lord George Bentinck was inexorable to the entreaties of his friends, it must not be supposed that he was influenced in the course which he pursued, as was presumed by many at the time not acquainted with the circumstances, by any feeling of pique or brooding sullenness. No high-spirited man under vexatious and distressing circumstances ever behaved with more magnanimity. In this he was actuated in a great degree by a sense of duty, but still more by that peculiar want of selfishness which was one of the most beautiful traits of his character. The moment he had at all recovered from the severe attack by which, to use his own language, he had been 'struck down in the first week of the session,' and from the effects of which it may be doubted whether he ever entirely recovered, he laboured zealously to induce some competent person to undertake the office which he had thought it expedient to resign, offering in several instances to serve in the ranks, and to assist with his utmost energies, both in and out of the House, the individual who would undertake the responsible direction in the Commons.
These efforts, though indefatigable, were not successful, for those who were competent to the office cared not to serve under any one except himself. About this time, a personage of great station, and who very much admired Lord George Bentinck, wrote to him, and recommended him not to trouble himself about the general discipline of the party, but to follow his own course, and lead that body of friends who under all circumstances would adhere to him, instancing the case of Mr. Canning, under circumstances not altogether dissimilar. Lord George replied: 'As for my rallying a personal party round myself, as Mr. Canning did, I have no pretension to anything of the kind; when Mr. Canning did that, the House of Commons, and England too, acknowledged him to be the greatest orator who had survived Pitt and Fox; he had been Secretary of State for foreign affairs, and had taken a conspicuous part in rousing the country to carry on the war against France.'
The nature of the subject, dealing as it necessarily does with so many personal details, renders it impossible to make public the correspondence in which Lord George Bentinck was engaged at this time in his attempts to place the Protectionist party under the guidance of one who would unite all sympathies; but were that publication possible, it would place Lord George Bentinck in a very noble and amiable light, and prove a gentleness and softness in his nature for which those who were not very intimate with him did not give him credit. Not that it must be for a moment supposed that he was insensible to what was occurring. He was the most sensitive as well as the proudest of men. When the writer called at Harcourt House, to bid him farewell, before the Christmas holidays, and, conversing very frankly on the course which he was then pursuing, inquired as to his future proceedings, Lord George said with emotion: 'In this cause I have shaken my constitution and shortened my days, and I will succeed or die.' In the course of the year 1848, walking home, talking together, from the House of Commons, he twice recurred to this terrible alternative.
But all considerations were merged at this moment in the predominant one which was to keep the party together. He wrote to a friend at the end of January, who urged him, as the hour of work approached and the injurious inconveniences of his abdication would be more felt, to confer with his former followers and reconsider his position, that no personal feeling prevented his taking that course, but that he felt any resumption of responsibility on his part would not be pleasing to a section of those who formerly served with him, and that there would be a 'split' in the ranks. 'As far as I am personally concerned,' he added, 'I could submit to anything short of having my ears cut off and appearing as a "Croppy," to be free again. My pride cannot stand leading an unwilling party; I would just as soon thrust myself into a dinner-room where I was at once an uninvited and an unwelcome guest.'
In the meantime, according to his custom, the moment that he had sufficiently recovered from his illness, he prepared with the utmost zeal for the coming struggle respecting the fate of our sugar colonies, in which subject he was soon absorbed.
Parliament reassembled on the 3rd of February, and on that night Lord George Bentinck brought forward his motion for 'a select committee to inquire into the present condition and prospects of the interests connected with and dependent on sugar and coffee planting in her Majesty's East and West Indian possessions and the Mauritius, and to consider whether any and what measures can be adopted by Parliament for their relief.' When he entered the House, Lord George walked up to the head of the second bench below the gangway, on the opposition side, and thus significantly announced that he was no longer the responsible leader of the Protectionist party. It was the wish of the writer of these pages, who had resolved to stand or fall by him, to have followed his example and to have abdicated the prominent seat in which the writer had been unwillingly and fortuitously placed; but by the advice, or rather at the earnest request, of Lord George Bentinck, this course was relinquished as indicative of schism, which he wished to discourage; and the circumstance is only mentioned as showing that Lord George was not less considerate at this moment of the interests of the Protectionist party than when he led them with so much confidence and authority. The session, however, was to commence without a leader, without any recognized organ of communication between parties, or any responsible representative of opinion in debate. All again was chaos. There is, however, something so vital in the Conservative party that it seems always to rally under every disadvantage.
Lord George spoke well to his resolution: the House soon recognized he was master of his case, and though few foresaw at the moment the important consequences to which this motion would lead, the House was interested from the first; and though there was no division, the debate lasted two days, and was sustained on both sides with great animation.
The mover vindicated himself very successfully for only proposing a committee of inquiry. 'It has been represented to me,' he said, 'by the colonies and by persons in this country who are interested in them, that the course which I am proposing is not consistent with the necessities of the case; that there is something pusillanimous in the motion which I am going to make; that in point of fact the interests connected with sugar and coffee planting are in extremis; and that while the question of their redress is being discussed in a committee above-stairs, these great interests will perish. They say to me that a committee of inquiry will be to them of the nature of that comfort which,
"Like cordials after death, come late; "
and that before the committee shall have reported, the West-Indian interest will be altogether past recovery. But, sir, it is for me to consider what my power is to obtain any substantial relief by a direct vote of this House; and when I remember that in July, 1846, I moved a resolution the purport of which was, to maintain the protection for the West-Indian and the East-Indian free-labour colonies which they now seek, and that I had but one hundred and thirty gentlemen to support me, while two hundred and sixty-five votes were recorded in favour of the measure of the Government admitting slave-labour sugar, I feel that it is hopeless for me to endeavour in this House, where I have no reason to suppose any addition has been made to the members acquiescing in my views, to convert that minority into a majority; and more especially when I recollect that on that occasion but five gentlemen connected with the West-Indian and East-Indian interests recorded their votes with me, I think the West-Indian interest has not a good case against me when they blame me for not taking a more resolute step on this occasion.'
He was not, however, without hope from the course which he had decided to pursue. 'Looking, as I have done, at the deplorable state of the West Indies, the East Indies, and the Mauritius, and holding, as I do, in my hand a list of forty-eight great houses in England—twenty-six of the first commercial houses in London, sixteen in Liverpool, and six elsewhere—which have failed, and whose liabilities amount in the whole to L6,300,000 and upwards, none of which I believe would have fallen had it not been for the ruin brought upon them by the change in the sugar duties and the consequent reduction in the price of their produce,—I do hope, through the intervention of a committee of this House, I may be able to prevail upon the House to change its policy with regard to this great question.'
Lord George was supported in this debate by Mr. Thomas Baring, in one of the best speeches ever made in the House of Commons. Few more combine mastery of the case with parliamentary point than this gentleman. It is not impossible to find a man capable of addressing the House of Commons who understands the subject; it is not impossible to find a man who can convey his impressions on any subject to the House in a lively and captivating manner, though both instances are rarer than the world would imagine; but a man who at the same time understands a question and can handle it before a popular assembly in a popular style, who teaches without being pedantic, can convey an argument in an epigram, and instruct as the Mexicans did by picture, possesses a talent for the exercise of which he is responsible to his sovereign and his country.
Mr. Baring said that he could not perfectly agree either with Lord John Russell or Lord George Bentinck, that Protection or Free Trade must be in what they called a circle, round which in their legislation they must always move; that they must either give protection to everything or free trade to everything. He could not say that because sugar claimed protection, coals must have protection also. Neither would he, on the other hand, apply free trade to every article. He acknowledged the advantage of competition as a stimulus: he thought that, placing things on equal grounds, competition was undoubtedly a great advantage. He could understand a competition to try the mutual speed of race-horses; but there could be no competition between a race-horse and a steam-engine, for the power of the animal could bear no comparison with that of the machine!
Mr. Baring could look back to no legislation more humiliating than the legislation regarding our colonies. No great interest was ever so much trifled with, so much sacrificed to the cry of the day; at one moment to no slavery and another to cheap sugar.
The committee was granted, and it was generally felt that the question was consequently quieted for the session.
DURING the first six weeks of this famous committee the attendance of its members was not very regular, and its labours attracted little attention. The evidence on the East-India part of the question was closed and reported to the House by the end of February; after that period the evidence was reported to the House every week or ten days. Towards the end of March, rumours began to circulate of the extraordinary vigour and ability with which this investigation was pursued, and of the novel, authentic, and striking evidence that had been elicited. The proceedings were talked of in the House of Commons and on the Royal Exchange; the City men who were examined went back to their companions with wondrous tales of the energy and acuteness of Harcourt House, and the order, method, and discipline of the committee-room at Westminster. As time elapsed, the hopes of the colonial interest again revived. It was generally felt that Lord George had succeeded in establishing an irresistible case. It was rumoured that the government could not withstand it. Those who had originally murmured at the course which he had adopted of moving for a committee of inquiry, instead of proposing a specific measure of relief, and had treated an investigation as a mere means of securing inaction, now recanted their rash criticism, and did justice to his prescience and superior judgment, as well as to his vast information and indefatigable exertions. The week during which the committee sat on their report was a very anxious one; the divisions were known every day in the House of Commons; the alternations of success and discomfiture, and the balanced numbers that so often called for the interposition of the chairman, were calculated to sustain the excitement; and when, on the 29th of May, it was known that the report was at length agreed to, and that a committee of free traders had absolutely recommended a differential duty of 10s. in favour of our own produce, one might have fancied from the effect visibly produced, that a government was changed.
A few days before—it was the day after the Derby, May 25th—the writer met Lord George Ben-tinck in the library of the House of Commons. He was standing before the book-shelves, with a volume in his hand, and his countenance was greatly disturbed. His resolutions in favour of the colonial interest after all his labours had been negatived by the committee on the 22nd, and on the 24th, his horse Surplice, whom he had parted with among the rest of his stud, solely that he might pursue without distraction his labours on behalf of the great interests of the country, had won that paramount and Olympian stake, to gain which had been the object of his life. He had nothing to console him, and nothing to sustain him except his pride. Even that deserted him before a heart which he knew at least could yield him sympathy. He gave a sort of superb groan:—
'All my life I have been trying for this, and for what have I sacrificed it!' he murmured.
It was in vain to offer solace.
'You do not know what the Derby is,' he moaned out.
'Yes, I do; it is the blue ribbon of the turf.'
'It is the blue ribbon of the turf,' he slowly repeated to himself, and sitting down at the table, he buried himself in a folio of statistics.
But on Monday, the 29th, when the resolution in favour of a 10s. differential duty for the colonies had at the last moment been carried, and carried by his casting vote, 'the blue ribbons of the turf were all forgotten. Not for all the honours and successes of all the meetings, spring or autumn, Newmarket, Epsom, Goodwood, Doncaster, would he have exchanged that hour of rapture. His eye sparkled with fire, his nostril dilated with triumph, his brow was elate like a conqueror, his sanguine spirit saw a future of continued and illimitable success.
'We have saved the colonies,' he said,—'saved the colonies. I knew it must be so. It is the knell of free trade.'
Notwithstanding the formal renunciation of the leadership of the Protectionist party by Lord George Bentinck, it was soon evident to the House and the country that that renunciation was merely formal. In these days of labour, the leader of a party must be the man who does the work, and that work cannot now be accomplished without the devotion of a life. Whenever a great question arose, the people out of doors went to Lord George Bentinck, and when the discussion commenced, he was always found to be the man armed with the authority of knowledge. There was, however, no organized debate and no party discipline. No one was requested to take a part, and no attendance was ever summoned. The vast majority sitting on the Protectionist benches always followed Bentinck, who, whatever might be his numbers in the lobby, always made a redoubtable stand in the House. The situation however, it cannot be denied, was a dangerous one for a great party to persevere in, but no permanent damage accrued, because almost every one hoped that before the session was over, the difficulty would find a natural solution in the virtual chief resuming his formal and responsible post. Notwithstanding his labours on the two great committees of the year—those on colonial and commercial distress,—Lord George Bentinck found time to master the case of the shipping interest when the navigation laws were attacked, to impugn in a formal motion the whole of the commercial policy of Sir Robert Peel, even while the sugar and coffee planting committee was still sitting, and to produce, early in March, a rival budget. It was mainly through the prolonged resistance which he organized against the repeal of the navigation laws, that the government, in 1848, was forced to abandon their project. The resistance was led with great ability by Mr. Herries, and the whole party put forward their utmost strength to support him. But it is very difficult to convey a complete picture of the laborious life of Lord George Bentinck during the sitting of Parliament. At half-past nine o'clock there called upon him the commercial representatives of the question of the day; after these conferences came his elaborate and methodical correspondence, all of which he carried on himself in a handwriting clear as print, and never employing a secretary; at twelve or one o'clock he was at a committee, and he only left the committee-room to take his seat in the House of Commons, which he never quitted till the House adjourned, always long past midnight, and often at two o'clock in the morning. Here he was ready for all comers, never omitting an opportunity to vindicate his opinions, or watching with lynx-like vigilance the conduct of a public office. What was not his least remarkable trait is, that although he only breakfasted on dry toast, he took no sustenance all this time, dining at White's at half-past two o'clock in the morning. After his severe attack of the influenza he broke through this habit a little during the last few months of his life, moved by the advice of his physician and the instance of his friends. The writer of these observations prevailed upon him a little the last year to fall into the easy habit of dining at Bellamy's, which saves much time, and permits the transaction of business in conversation with a congenial friend. But he grudged it: he always thought that something would be said or done in his absence, which would not have occurred had he been there; some motion whisked through, or some return altered. His principle was that a member should never be absent from his seat.
The session of '48 had been one of unexampled length, having lasted ten months, and, as usual under such circumstances, the obstacles to the transaction of public business were sought everywhere except in the real quarter. The forms of the House and the propensity to unnecessary discussion among its members were chiefly denounced. Lord George Bentinck did not agree in the justness of these criminations; they were eagerly caught by the thoughtless and the superficial, but it was his habit to investigate and analyze everything, and he found that these charges had no basis. The forms of the House of Commons are the result of accumulated experience and have rarely been tampered with successfully, while on the other hand a parliamentary government is by name and nature essentially a government of discussion. It is not at all difficult to conceive a mode of governing a country more expeditious than by a parliament; but where truth as well as strength is held to be an essential element of legislation, opinion must be secured an unrestricted organ. Superfluity of debate may often be inconvenient to a minister, and sometimes perhaps even distasteful to the community; but criticizing such a security for justice and liberty as a free-spoken parliament is like quarrelling with the weather because there is too much rain or too much sunshine. The casual inconvenience should be forgotten in the permanent blessing. Acting upon these false imputations a committee was even appointed, two years ago, of the most eminent members of the House of Commons, to investigate the subject and suggest remedies, and some votaries of the Transatlantic type recommended the adoption of the rules of Congress where each speaker is limited to an hour. But an hour from an uninteresting speaker would be a great infliction. The good sense and the good taste of the House of Commons will be found on the whole to be the best regulators of the duration of a debate.
The truth is that the delay in the conduct of parliamentary business which has been much complained of during the last few years, murmurs of which were especially rife in 1848, is attributable to the fact that the ministry, though formed of men inferior in point of ability to none who could be reasonably intrusted with administration, had not sufficient parliamentary strength. After all their deliberations and foresight,—after all their observations of the times and study of the public interest, their measures when launched from the cabinet into the House were not received by a confiding majority, firm in their faith in the statesmanlike qualities of the authors of these measures and in their sympathy with the general political system of which the ministry was the representative. On the contrary, the success of the measures depended on a* variety of sections who in their aggregate exceeded in number and influence the party of the ministers. These became critics and took the ministerial measures in hand; the measures became, the measures, not of the cabinet, but of the House of Commons; and a purely legislative assembly became, in consequence of the weakness of the government, yearly more administrative. This was undoubtedly a great evil, and occasioned, besides great delay, many crude enactments, as will be the case where all are constructors and none are responsible, but the evil was not occasioned by the forms of the House or the length of the speeches. Sir Robert Peel was unquestionably a very able administrator, but if he had not had a majority of ninety he would have fallen in as ill repute as has been too often the lot of Lord John Russell.
Lord George Bentinck was very anxious that there should be a parliamentary summary of this enormous and eventful session of '48, that the conduct of business by the ministry should be traced and criticized and the character of the House of Commons vindicated, and he appealed to the writer of these observations to undertake the task. But the writer was unwilling to accede to this suggestion, not only because at the end of August he shrank from a laborious effort, but principally because he did not hold that his position in the House of Commons warranted on his part such an interference, since, after all, he was only the comrade in arms of one who chose to be only an independent member of the House. He therefore unaffectedly stated that he thought the office was somewhat above his measure. But Lord George Bentinck would not listen to these representations. 'I don't pretend to know much,' he said, 'but I can judge of men and horses.' It is difficult to refuse those who are themselves setting a constant example of self-sacrifice, and therefore, so far as the labour was concerned, the writer would not have shrunk from the exertion even on the last day of the month of August, and when the particular wish of Lord George was found to be more general than the writer presumed to suppose, he accordingly endeavoured to accomplish the intention.
Three or four days after this, the writer, about to leave London, called at Harcourt House, to say farewell to his comrade in arms. He passed with Lord George the whole morning, rather indulging in the contemplation of the future than in retrospect. Lord George was serene, cheerful, and happy. He was content with himself, which was rarely the case, and remembered nothing of his career but its distinction, and the ennobling sense of having done his duty.
Any misunderstandings that may have for a moment irritated him seemed forgotten; he appeared conscious that he possessed the confidence and cordial regard of the great majority of the Protectionist party, although he chose to occupy a private post, and he was proud of the consciousness. He was still more sensible of the sympathy which he had created out of doors, which he greatly appreciated, and to which, though with his usual modesty, he more than once recurred. 'The thing is to get the people out of doors with you,' he repeated, 'men like the merchants; all the rest follow.' It was evident that the success of his colonial committee had greatly satisfied his spirit. He had received that day the vote of thanks of the West-India body for his exertions. He said more than once, that with a weak government, a parliamentary committee properly worked might do wonders. He said he would have a committee on import duties next year, and have all the merchants to show what share the foreigners had obtained of the reductions that had been made of late years. He maintained, that, quite irrespective of the general arrangements of the new commercial system, Sir Robert Peel had thrown away a great revenue on a number of articles of very inferior importance, and he would prove this to the country. He said our colonial empire ought to be reconstructed by a total abolition of all duties on produce from her Majesty's dominions abroad.
All his ideas were large, clear, and coherent. He dwelt much on the vicissitudes which most attend all merely foreign trade, which, though it should be encouraged, ought not to be solely relied on, as was the fashion of this day. Looking upon war as occasionally inevitable, he thought a commercial system based upon the presumption of perpetual peace to be full of ruin. His policy was essentially imperial and not cosmopolitan.
About to part probably for many months, and listening to him as he spoke, according to his custom, with so much fervour and sincerity, one could not refrain from musing over his singular and sudden career. It was not three years since he had in an instant occupied the minds of men. No series of parliamentary labours had ever produced so much influence in the country in so short a time. Never was a reputation so substantial built up in so brief a period. AH the questions with which he had dealt were colossal questions: the laws that should regulate competition between native and foreign labour; the interference of the state in the development of the resources of Ireland; the social and commercial condition of our tropical colonies; the principles upon which our revenue should be raised; the laws which should regulate and protect our navigation. But it was not that he merely expressed opinions upon these subjects; he came forward with details in support of his principles and policy, which it had before been believed none but a minister could command. Instead of experiencing the usual and almost inevitable doom of private members of Parliament, and having his statements shattered by official information, Lord George Bentinck on the contrary, was the assailant, and the successful assailant, of an administration on these very heads. He often did their work more effectually than all their artificial training enabled them to do it. His acute research, and his peculiar sources of information, roused the vigilance of all the public offices of the country. Since his time, there has been more care in preparing official returns, and in arranging the public correspondence placed on the table of the House of Commons.
When one remembered that in this room, not three years ago, he was trying to find a lawyer who would make a speech for him in Parliament, it was curious to remember that no one in the period had probably addressed the House of Commons oftener. Though his manner, which was daily improving, was not felicitous in the House, the authority of his intellect, his knowledge, and his character, made him one of the great personages of debate; but with the country who only read his speeches he ranked high as an orator. It is only those who have had occasion critically to read and examine the long series of his speeches who can be conscious of their considerable merits. The information is always full and often fresh, the scope large, the argument close, and the style, though simple, never bald, but vigorous, idiomatic, and often picturesque. He had not credit for this in his day, but the passages which have been quoted in this sketch will prove the justness of this criticism. As a speaker and writer, his principal need was condensation. He could not bear that anything should remain untold. He was deficient in taste, but he had fervour of feeling, and was by no means void of imagination.
The writer, in his frequent communications with him of faithful and unbounded confidence, was often reminded of the character by Mr. Burke of my Lord Keppell.
The labours of Lord George Bentinck had been supernatural, and one ought perhaps to have felt then that it was impossible they could be continued on such a scale of exhaustion; but no friend could control his eager life in this respect; he obeyed the law of his vehement and fiery nature, being one of those men who in whatever they undertake know no medium, but will 'succeed or die.'
But why talk here and now of death! He goes to his native county and his father's proud domain, to breathe the air of his boyhood and move amid the parks and meads of his youth. Every breeze will bear health, and the sight of every hallowed haunt will stimulate his pulse. He is scarcely older than Julius Caesar when he commenced his public career, he looks as high and brave, and he springs from a long-lived race.
He stood upon the perron of Harcourt House, the last of the great hotels of an age of stately dwellings with its wings, and court-yard, and carriage portal, and huge outward walls. He put forth his hand to bid farewell, and his last words were characteristic of the man—of his warm feelings and of his ruling passion: 'God bless you; we must work, and the country will come round us.'
The Curtain Falls
THE heavens darken; a new character enters upon the scene.
They say that when great men arise they have a mission to accomplish and do not disappear until it is fulfilled. Yet this is not always true. After all his deep study and his daring action Mr. Hampden died on an obscure field, almost before the commencement of that mighty struggle which he seemed born to direct. In the great contention between the patriotic and the cosmopolitan principle which has hardly begun, and on the issue of which the fate of this island as a powerful community depends, Lord George Ben-tinck appeared to be produced to represent the traditionary influences of our country in their most captivating form. Born a natural leader of the people, he was equal to the post. Free from prejudices, his large mind sympathized with all classes of the realm. His courage and his constancy were never surpassed by man. He valued life only as a means of fulfilling duty, and truly it may be said of him, that he feared none but God.
A few days after the interview noticed in the last chapter, Lord George Bentinck returned to Welbeck. Some there were who thought him worn by the exertions of the session, and that an unusual pallor had settled upon that mantling and animated countenance. He himself never felt in better health or was ever in higher spirits, and greatly enjoyed the change of life, and that change to a scene so dear to him.
On the 21 st of September, after breakfasting with his family, he retired to his room, where he employed himself With some papers, and then wrote three letters, one to Lord Enfield, another to the Duke of Richmond, and the third to the writer of these pages. That letter is now at hand; it is of considerable length, consisting of seven sheets of note-paper, full of interesting details of men and things, and written not only in a cheerful but even a merry mood. Then, when his letters were sealed, about four o'clock he took his staff and went forth to walk to Thoresby, the seat of Lord Manvers, distant between five and six miles from Welbeck, where Lord George was to make a visit of two days. In consequence of this his valet drove over to Thoresby at the same time to meet his master. But the master never came. Hours passed on and the master never came. At length the anxious servant returned to Welbeck, and called up the groom who had driven him over to Thoresby and who was in bed, and inquired whether he had seen anything of Lord George on the way back, as his lord had never reached Thoresby. The groom got up, and accompanied by the valet and two others took lanthorns, and followed the footpath which they had seen Lord George pursuing as they themselves went to Thoresby.
About a mile from the Abbey, on the path which they had observed him following, lying close to the gate which separates a water meadow from the deer-park, they found the body of Lord George Bentinck. He was lying on his face; his arms were under his body, and in one hand he grasped his walking-stick. His hat was a yard or two before him, having evidently been thrown off in falling. The body was cold and stiff. He had been long dead.
A woodman and some peasants passing near the spot, about two hundred yards from the gate in question, had observed Lord George, whom at the distance they had mistaken for his brother the Marquis of Titchfield, leaning against this gate. It was then about half-past four o'clock, or it might be a quarter to five, so he could not have left his home much more than half an hour. The woodman and his companions thought 'the gentleman' was reading, as he held his head down. One of them lingered for a minute looking at the gentleman, who then turned round, and might have seen these passers-by, but he made no sign to them.
Thus it seems that the attack, which was supposed to be a spasm of the heart, was not instantaneous in its effects, but with proper remedies might have been baffled. Terrible to think of him in his death-struggle without aid, and so near a devoted hearth! For that hearth, too, what an impending future!
The terrible news reached Nottingham on the morning of the 22nd, at half-past nine o'clock, and, immediately telegraphed to London, was announced by a second edition of the 'Times' to the country. Consternation and deep grief fell upon all men. One week later, the remains arrived from Welbeck at Harcourt House, to be entombed in the family vault of the Bentincks, that is to be found in a small building in a dingy street, now a chapel of ease, but in old days the parish church among the fields of the pretty village of Marylebone.
The day of interment was dark, and cold, and drizzling. Although the last offices were performed in the most scrupulously private manner, the feelings of the community could not be repressed. From nine till eleven o'clock that day all the British shipping in the docks and the river, from London Bridge to Gravesend, hoisted their flags half-mast high, and minute guns were fired from appointed stations along the Thames. The same mournful ceremony was observed in all the ports of England and Ireland; and not only in these, for the flag was half-mast high on every British ship at Antwerp, at Rotterdam, and at Havre.
Ere the last minute gun sounded, all was over. Followed to his tomb by those brothers who, if not consoled, might at this moment be sustained by the remembrance that to him they had ever been brothers not only in name but in spirit, the vault at length closed on the mortal remains of George Bentinck.
One who stood by his side in an arduous and unequal struggle, who often shared his councils and sometimes perhaps soothed his cares, who knew well the greatness of his nature and esteemed his friendship among the chief of worldly blessings, has stepped aside from the strife and passion of public life to draw up this record of his deeds and thoughts, that those who come after us may form some conception of his character and career, and trace in these faithful though imperfect pages the portraiture of an English Worthy.