[In the following pages Lord Beaconsfield expounds that theory of the English Constitution which he had previously set forth in his pamphlet 'A Vindication of the English Constitution in a Letter to a Noble and Learned Lord.' The same theory is expounded in another way in the three great novels, 'Coningsby,' 'Sybil,' and 'Tancred.' His contemporaries never seem to have understood it, while his assailants of a later date appear to have written and spoken concerning him in absolute ignorance of his real political creed. The concluding paragraph of the tract ought, in the minds of all candid men, to disperse at once and forever the innumerable calumnies levelled at Lord Beaconsfield during and since the Reform struggle of 1859-1867.]
Object of the Whigs
ENGLAND has become great by her institutions. Her hereditary Crown has in a great degree insured us from the distracting evils of a contested succession; her Peerage, interested, from the vast property and the national honours of its members, in the good government of the country, has offered a compact bulwark against the temporary violence of popular passion; her House of Commons, representing the conflicting sentiments of an estate of the realm not less privileged than that of the Peers, though far more numerous, has enlisted the great mass of the lesser proprietors of the country in favour of a political system which offers them a constitutional means of defence and a legitimate method of redress; her Ecclesiastical Establishment, preserved by its munificent endowment from the fatal necessity of pandering to the erratic fancies of its communicants, has maintained the sacred cause of learning and religion, and preserved orthodoxy while it secured toleration; her law of primogeniture has supplied the country with a band of natural and independent leaders, trustees of those legal institutions which pervade the land, and which are the origin of our political constitution. That great body corporate, styled a nation-a vast assemblage of human beings knit together by laws and arts and customs, by the necessities of the present and the memory of the past–offers in this country, through these its vigorous and enduring members, a more substantial and healthy framework than falls to the lot of other nations. Our stout-built constitution throws off with more facility and safety those crude and dangerous humours which must at times arise in all human communities. The march of revolution must here at least be orderly. We are preserved from those reckless and tempestuous sallies that in other countries, like a whirlwind, topple down in an instant an ancient crown, or sweep away an illustrious aristocracy. This constitution, which has secured order, has consequently promoted civilisation; and the almost unbroken tide of progressive amelioration has made us the freest, the wealthiest, and the most refined society of modern ages. Our commerce is unrivalled, our manufacturers supply the world, our agriculture is the most skilful in Christendom. So national are our institutions, so completely have they arisen from the temper and adapted themselves to the character of the people, that when for a season they were apparently annihilated, the people of England voluntarily returned to them, and established them with renewed strength and renovated vigour.
The constitution of England is again threatened, and at a moment when the nation is more prosperous, more free, and more famous than at any period of its momentous and memorable career. Why is this? What has occasioned these distempered times, which make the loyal tremble and the traitor smile? Why has this dark cloud suddenly gathered in a sky so serene and so splendid? Is there any analogy between this age and that of the first Charles? Are the same causes at work, or is the apparent similarity produced only by designing men, who make use of the perverted past as a passport to present mischief? These are great questions, which it may be profitable to discuss and wise to study.