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support it by every means in his power because it will be necessary now to protect mob against mob, people against people; there is no longer any fear of intimidation from rich manufacturers, rich capitalists, rich lawyers, or rich anybody else; the danger to the people is from themselves, and they must be protected from themselves. But in the presence of this great democratic influence and the advance of this great democratic wave, which is going on even in spite of itself—for I believe its rapid advance is against the wishes of those who give to it a considerable amount of its impetus-in such a presence it passes my comprehension to understand how an hereditary House like this can hold its own. It might be possible for this House in one instance to withstand a measure if it were violent, unjust, and coercive; but I do not believe that the repetition of such an offence would be permitted. It would be said, “The people must govern, and not a set of hereditary peers never chosen by the people.' Is not what I am now saying very much in accordance with your lordships' own observation ? Are we not living in a time in which nothing is taken for granted ? Everything must be ripped up to its first principles, and in vain you argue that a thing is good ; your adversary admits it, but says that a change will be better. Thus it is that we are going on at the present day.
“I have heard it said that the middle classes are not Conservative, but that if you go deeper you get into a
vein of gold, and encounter the presence of a highly Conservative feeling. In the first place, I ask, is that so ? And in the second place, what do you mean by a very Conservative measure ? Do you mean to say that this large mass they call the residuum, of which I venture to say that few men living have more knowledge than I have, is conservative of your lordships' titles and estates ? Not a bit; they know little about them and care less. Will you venture to say that they are conservative of the interests of the Established Church ? Certainly they are not. Thousands upon thousands living in this vast city of London do not know the name of the parish in which they reside nor the name of the minister in charge of it. They are, however, very conservative indeed of their own sense of right and wrong. They are living from hand to mouth, and they are very conservative of what they consider to be their own interests. They are affectionate, grateful, and open to sympathy. If there were to go among them two persons, one a lord and the other a plebeian, they would prefer the lord, because they would think he would have more power to forward their views. They have their interests strongly at heart. They have no desire for plunder or spoliation, but they have rights and wrongs of their own conception which they will insist upon maintaining or redressing. Long as I have known them I could go to a meeting of a thousand, take a different view of their interests from what they take, and try to persuade them to adopt my view, and I am sure that 995 out of the thousand would vote against me, and would take good care to look out for some one who would better serve their interests. I cannot understand upon what ground you say this is a Conservative measure. I have heard it argued that we must rely a good deal upon social influences. I perfectly understand how social influences can prevail where a landlord lives among his tenants ; but a totally different state of things prevails in London and the other large towns. The people live far removed from the influences you speak of, and I cannot give a better proof of it than this statement. Not long ago an excellent clergyman of the Church of England told me that in the whole of his district, containing 6000 people, there was not a single family that kept a housemaid. Look at what is going on in London and all great towns. Persons of property, and even tradesmen, are leaving town for country residences. In the neighbourhood of this House there is a remarkable congregation. Twenty-five years ago it was so rich that the minister could find agents and money for any object. The other day he told me that the wealthy were leaving the district in such numbers that the necessary agencies could hardly be maintained. It is the same in the manufacturing towns-in Manchester, Huddersfield, and others I could name. The same complaint is made everywhere—that the people of property and station are leaving the towns, and are removing themselves from the working classes, and
that a hard and fast line is being drawn between employer and employed, between persons of influence and those who ought to be subject to it. To trust to social influence under existing circumstances is to trust to the greatest of all chimeras. Another hope held out is that of education. I am sure I shall not be misunderstood when I say that the hope of education is one of the most fallacious that could be entertained at present. If you would give us ten years of preparation education might do a great deal; but what you are going to do is this, to give the franchise before you give education. It will take ten years to bring up the residuum by education ; but it will not take six months for them, through their representatives, to destroy everything that comes before them. I must say, when I look at the state of this vast population, when I know what they are, how easily they are deluded, how impressible and open to influence they are, I think that this gift of the suffrage is one of the most fatal gifts ever bestowed upon an uneducated people. In the interests of the people, you ought to have withheld it for some years. Depend upon it, there will be no lack of rich, unscrupulous candidates, desirous of social position, and they will find the new voters purchasable as a flock of sheep.”
The following are the observations of Earl Stanhope, in the Lords, July 30, 1867:—“Let their lordships not deceive themselves as to the magnitude of the change now before them. He believed that no greater change had ever been proposed by peaceful legislation. Greater changes undoubtedly had been made as a consequence of civil war or foreign invasion. But, speaking solely of peaceful legislation, he did not think that they would find that greater changes had been effected. What was it they were about to do ? They were about to transfer the government of this country from the middle classes, who, speaking as a whole, had exercised it during the last 30 years, to those whom he might describe as the wages class —the class subsisting on weekly wages. He did not say that the Constitution would suffer. He did not altogether share in the gloomy anticipations that had been expressed with so much ability, with so much force, and with so much knowledge of the subject by the noble lord he saw opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury). Still, however, no one could say where they were going. They were taking a leap in the dark. Like the Prince in the Persian tale, they might possibly alight on a bed of roses, but it was equally possible that at the close of the descent they might find themselves on a mass of flints. Under any circumstances, he trusted that their lordships would not ignore the magnitude of the change they were effecting.”