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Chapter XXVII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 2


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Mr. Morgan O'Connell soon found that he had no sinecure in undertaking to give satisfaction with the pistol for all his father's violations of the code of honour. Shortly after, Mr. Daniel O'Connell referred, in the following strong language, to an attack made upon him by Mr. Disraeli at Taunton: - " In the annals of political turpitude, there is not anything deserving the appellation of blackguardism to equal that attack upon me. What is my acquaintance with this man? Just this: in 1831, or the beginning of 1832, the borough of Wycombe became vacant. I knew him, but not personally; merely as the author of one or two novels. He got an introduction to me, and wrote me a letter, stating that, as I was a radical reformer, and he was also a radical, and was going to stand upon the radical interest for the borough of Wycombe, where, he said, there were many persons of that way of thinking, who would be influenced by my opinion, he would feel obliged by receiving a letter from me recommendatory of him as a radical. His letter to me was so distinct upon the subject, that I immediately complied with his request, and composed as good an epistle as I could on his behalf. I am in the habit of letter-writing, sir, and Mr. Disraeli thought letter no valuable, that he not only took the autograph, but had it printed and placarded. It was, in fact, the ground upon which he canvassed the borough. He was, however, defeated, but that was not my fault. I did not demand gratitude from him, but I think, if he had any feeling of his own, he would conceive I had done him a civility at least, if not a service, which ought not to be repaid by atrocity of the foulest description. The next thing I heard of him was, that he had started upon the radical interest for Marylebone, but was again defeated. Having been twice defeated on the radical interest, he was just the fellow for the conservatives, and accordingly he joined a conservative club, and started for two or three places on the conservative interest. How is he now engaged? Why, in abusing the radicals, and eulogising the king and the church, like a true conservative. At Taunton, this miscreant had the audacity to style me an incendiary! Why, I was a greater incendiary in 1831 than I am at present, if I ever were one - and if I am, he is doubly so for having employed me. Then he calls me a traitor. My answer to that is - he is a liar. He is a liar in action and in words. His life is a living lie. He is a disgrace to his species. What taste of society must that be that could tolerate such a creature, having the audacity to come forward with one set of principles at one time, and obtain political assistance by reason of those principles - and at another to profess diametrically the reverse? His life, I say again, is a living lie. He is the most degraded of his species and kind; and England is degraded in tolerating or having upon the face of her society a miscreant of his abominable, foul, and atrocious nature. My language is harsh, and I owe an apology for it; but I will tell you why I owe that apology. It is for this reason, that if there be harsher terms in the English language, I should use them; because it is the harshest of all terms that would be descriptive of a wretch of his species. He is just the fellow for the conservative club. I suppose if Sir R. Peel had been out of the way, when he was called upon to take office, this fellow would have undertaken to supply his place. He has falsehood enough, depravity enough, and selfishness enough, to become the fitting leader of the conservatives, He is conservatism personified. His name shows lie is by descent a Jew. His father became a convert. He is the better for that in this world; and I hope, of course, he will be the better for it in the next. There is a habit of underrating that great and oppressed nation - the Jews. They are cruelly persecuted by persons calling themselves Christians - but no person ever yet was a Christian who persecuted. The cruellest persecution they suffer is upon their character, by the foul names their calumniators bestowed upon them before they carried their atrocities into effect. They feel the persecution of calumny severer upon them than the persecution of actual force, and the tyranny of actual torture. I have the happiness to be acquainted with some Jewish families in London, and, amongst them, more accomplished ladies, or more humane, cordial, high-minded, or better educated gentlemen, I have never met. It will not be supposed therefore, when I speak of Disraeli as the descendant of a Jew, that I mean to tarnish him on that account. They were once the chosen people of God. There were miscreants amongst them, however, also; and it must have certainly been from one of those that Disraeli descended. He possesses just the qualities of the impenitent thief who died upon the cross; whose name, I verily believe, must have been Disraeli. For aught I know, the present Disraeli is descended from him; and with the impression that he is, I now forgive the heir-at-law of the blasphemous thief who died upon the cross."

When Mr. Disraeli read this tremendous philippic, he wrote to Mr. Morgan O'Connell for satisfaction, which the latter denied his right to demand. He had not seen the attack, nor was he answerable for his father's words, though he had taken up his quarrel when lord Alvanley, in his absence, attempted to get him expelled from the club. Not being able to get satisfaction by means of pistols, he had recourse to the pen; and, certainly, if O'Connell's attack was violent, the retaliation was not the meekest. The eminence to which Mr. Disraeli has since risen as a statesman lends additional interest and importance to the following letter: -

"To Mr. Daniel O'Connell, M.P. for Dublin. "London, May 5.

"Mr. O'Connell, - Although you have placed yourself out of the pale of civilisation, still I am one who will not be insulted, even by a yahoo, without chastising it. When I read this morning, in the same journals, your virulent attack upon myself, and that your son was, at the same moment, paying the penalty of similar virulence to another individual on whom you had dropped your filth, I thought that the consciousness that your opponents had at length discovered a source of satisfaction might have animated your insolence to unwonted energy; and I called upon your son to re-assume his vicarious office of yielding satisfaction for his shrinking sire. But it seems that gentleman declines the further exercise of the pleasing duty of enduring the consequences of your libertine harangues. I have no other means, therefore, of noticing your effusion but this public mode. Listen, then, to me.

" If it had been possible for you to act like a gentleman, you would have hesitated before you made your foul and insolent comments upon a hasty and garbled report of a speech, which scarcely contains a sentence or an expression as they emanated from my mouth; but the truth is, you were glad to seize the first opportunity of pouring forth your venom against a man whom it serves the interest of your party to represent as a political apostate.

" In 1831, when Mr. O'Connell expressed to the electors of Wycombe his anxiety to assist me in my election, I came forward as the opponent of the party in power, and which I described in my address as 1 rapacious, tyrannical, and incapable of action ' - the English whigs, who, in the ensuing year denounced you as a traitor from the throne; and every one of whom, only a few months back, you have anathematised with all the peculiar graces of a tongue practised in scurrility. You are the patron of those men now, Mr. O'Connell; you, forsooth, are 'devoted' to them. Which of us is the most consistent? You say that I was once a radical; and now that I am a tory, my conscience acquits me of ever having deserted a political friend, or ever having changed a political opinion. I worked for a great and avowed end in 1831, and that was the restoration of the balance of parties in the state; a result which I believed to be necessary to the honour of the realm and the happiness of the people. I never advocated a measure which I did not believe tended to that result; and if there be any measures which I then urged, and now am not disposed to press, it is because that great result is obtained."

Having made some other statements in proof of his political consistency, Mr. Disraeli proceeded to repel the attack of his antagonist with regard to his origin. He says: -

" I admire your scurrilous allusions to my origin. It is quite clear that the 'hereditary bondsman' has already forgotten the clank of his fetter. I know the tactics of your church; it clamours for toleration, and it labours for supremacy. I see that you are quite prepared to persecute.

" With regard to your taunts, as to my want of success in my election contests, permit me to remind you that I had nothing to appeal to but the good sense of the people. No threatening skeletons canvassed for me; a death's- head and cross-bones were not blazoned on my banners. My pecuniary resources, too, were limited; I am not one of those public beggars that we see swarming with their obstrusive boxes in the chapels of your creed; nor am I in possession of a princely revenue wrung from a starving race of fanatical slaves. Nevertheless, I have a deep conviction that the hour is at hand when I shall be more successful, and take my place in that proud assembly of which Mr. O'Connell avows his wish no longer to be a member. I expect to be a representative of the people before the repeal of the Union. We shall meet at Philippi, and rest assured that, confident in a good cause, and in some energies which have been not altogether unproved, I will seize the first opportunity of inflicting upon you a castigation which will make you, at the same time, remember and repent the insults that you have lavished upon" Benjamin Disraeli."

This is moderate, compared with the following to O'Connell's son, which is wholly indefensible: -
"31 a, Park Street, Grosvenor Square, May 6, 1835.

"Sir, - Not having been favoured with your reply to my second letter of yesterday, I thought fit to address a letter to your father - and for this reason, I deduce from t your communication, delivered by Mr. Ffrench, that you do not consider yourself responsible for any insults offered by your father, but only bound to resent the insults which he may receive. Now, sir, it is my hope that I have insulted him; assuredly it was my intention to do so. I wish to express the utter scorn in which I hold his character, and the disgust with which his conduct inspires me. If I failed in conveying this expression of my feelings to him, let me more successfully express them now to you. I shall take every opportunity of holding your father's name up to public contempt, and I fervently pray that you, or some one of his blood, may attempt to avenge the unextinguishable hatred with which I shall pursue his existence. i have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant, "Morgan O'Connell, Esq., M.P." 44B. Disraeli.

Great efforts were at this time unceasingly made to damage the new government through O'Connell. The London Post, Herald, and Standard, as well as the tory press throughout the country, were daily filled with attacks upon him. A polemical crusade was organised in Ireland, which had in it a strong mixture of the political element. The Rev. Mortimer O'Sullivan, the Rev. Robert M'Ghee, and captain Gordon - a Scotchman, who became member for the borough of Dundalk - were the ablest and most active leaders of this movement. The armoury from which they drew most of their weapons was a work on "Systematic Theology," by Peter Dens, which advocated the divine right of catholic kings, the lawfulness of breaking faith with heretics for the interest of the church, and a great deal of casuistical matter connected with the confessional, which, when deprived of the decent veil of the Latin in which it was written, and translated into English, was a sort of reading not at all suited to the female sex, nor edifying to the youth of the land. Yet the protestant agitators, in their zeal, did all in their power to give it publicity. These matters were made to tell with peculiar force against the government of lord Mulgrave in Ireland.

Shortly after Sir Robert Peel's retirement from office, a public dinner was given to him in the Merchant Tailors' Hall, to which the duke of Wellington and other leading conservatives were invited. On the morning before the banquet, the following placard was posted up in a conspicuous part of the city: - "Poor men, take notice! A dinner to Peel will be given by the rump of the Pitt and plunder faction, assisted by the self-elected and corrupt courts of assistants of the grocers, tailors, goldsmiths, and skinners; seven city aldermen, seven poverty-stricken peers, twenty-nine defeated candidates, three bishops, a bloated buffoon, the idiot, and a mayor, on Monday next, May the 11th. The expenses to be defrayed out of the funds left for charitable purposes." This placard was denounced as a false and scandalous libel on the wealth and intelligence of the metropolis. The conservative journals stated that the dinner was attended by the principal merchants in London, and that speeches of a strong conservative character were received with universal applause. Sir Robert Peel addressed the meeting at considerable length, and it was on this occasion he uttered the memorable sentence which fructified so well for the benefit of his party. "The battle of the constitution must be fought at the registries." He dwelt upon the fact, that henceforth the house of commons must be the dominant power in the state, and that a party that aspired to rule the destinies of this country must pay particular and incessant attention to the elective franchise.

It was not till the 18th of April that lord Melbourne was able to announce the completion of his arrangements. In forming his cabinet he had to contend with difficulties "peculiarly great and arduous, and some of them of a severe and mortifying nature." He had no change of policy to announce. "His government would be based upon the principles of a safe, prudent, and truly efficient ' reform - principles, the tendency of which was not to subvert or endanger, but, on the contrary, to improve, strengthen, and establish, the institutions of the country; and in regard to ecclesiastical government, every measure contemplated in reference to that subject would have for its end the increase of true piety and religion through the whole of his majesty's dominions." From the disposition and character popularly ascribed to lord Melbourne, it could not be expected that he should prove an energetic reformer. The earl of Derby mentions a saying of his which often escaped him as a member of lord Grey's cabinet. When they had to encounter a difficulty, he would say, "Can't you let it alone? " This accords with the portrait of him presented by Sydney Smith. "Lord Melbourne," he said, "declared himself quite satisfied with the church as it stood; but if the public had any desire to alter it, they might do so if they pleased. He might have said the same thing of the monarchy or of any other institution, and there is in the declaration a permissiveness and good humour which in public men has seldom been exceeded. Carelessness, however, is but a poor imitation of genius; and the formation of a wise and well-reflected plan of reform conduces more to the lasting fame of a minister than the affected contempt of duty which every man sees to be mere vanity, and a vanity of no very high description. Everything about him seems to betoken careless desolation; every one would suppose from his manner that he was playing at chuck- farthing with human happiness, that he would giggle away the great charter, and decide by the method of teetotum whether my lords the bishops should retain their seats in the house of lords. All this is the mere vanity of surprising and making us believe he can play with kingdoms as other men can with nine-pins. I cannot, however, allow to this minister the merit of indifference to his actions. I believe him to be conscientiously alive to the good or the evil he is doing, and that his caution has more than once arrested the gigantic projects of the Lycurgus of the lower house. I am sorry to be obliged to brush away the magnificent fabric of levity and gaiety he has reared; but while I accuse our minister of honesty and diligence, i deny that he is careless or rash; he is nothing more than a man of good understanding and good principles, disguised in the eternal and somewhat wearisome affectation of a political roué."

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Lord Mulgrave
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