No. 293.
General Schenck to Mr. Fish.

No. 553.]

Sir: Having sent you on Saturday, with an account of the dissolution of Parliament, Mr. Gladstone’s address to his constituents, I have thought it might interest you to have also, as a pendant to that, and in a form to be preserved, the counter-address issued to his constituents by Mr. Disraeli, the leader of the opposition to the government. I inclose it accordingly. It is not to be presumed that the questions of either local or national policy which may just now enter into a general election in [Page 493] Great Britain will be regarded with any great degree of concern in the United States; but still it may be well to keep a note of the issues—more or less clearly defined—which are involved in the present strife of parties in this kingdom.

I have, &c.,

[Extract from the Times, Monday, January 26, 1874.]

the general election.

Mr. Disraeli has issued the following address to the electors of the county of Buckingham:

“Gentlemen: Mr. Gladstone has informed the electors of Greenwich that Her Majesty has been advised by her ministers to dissolve the present Parliament.

“Whether this step has been taken as a means of avoiding the humbling confession by the prime minister that he has, in a fresh violation of constitutional law, persisted in retaining for several months a seat to which he was no longer entitled, or has been resorted to by his government in order to postpone or evade a day of reckoning for a war carried on without communication with Parliament, and the expenditure for which Parliament has not sanctioned, it is unnecessary at present to consider. It is sufficient to point out that if, under any circumstances, the course, altogether unprecedented, of calling together Parliament by special summons for the dispatch of business and then dissolving it before its meeting, could be justified, there is in the present case no reason whatever suggested why this was not done six weeks ago, and why the period of the year usually devoted to business before Easter, which must now be wasted, should not thus have been saved.

“Gentlemen, I appeal to you again for the continuance of that confidence which you have extended to me on nine different occasions, running over a period longer than a generation of men.

“The prime minister has addressed to his constituents a prolix narrative, in which he mentions many of the questions that have occupied or may occupy public attention, but in which I find nothing definite as to the policy he would pursue, except this, that having the prospect of a large surplus, he will, if retained in power, devote that surplus, to the remission of taxation, which would be the course of any party or any ministry. But what is remarkable in his proposals is that, on the one hand, they are accompanied by the disquieting information that the surplus, in order to make it adequate, must be enlarged by an adjustment, which must mean an increase of existing taxes, and that, on the other hand, his principal measures of relief will be the diminution of local taxation and the abolition of the income-tax—measures which the conservative party have always favored and which the prime minister and his friends have always opposed.

“Gentlemen, I have ever endeavored, and if returned to Parliament, I shall, whether in or out of office, continue to endeavor to propose or support all measures calculated to improve the condition of the people of this kingdom. But I do not think this great end is advanced by incessant and harassing legislation. The English people are governed by their customs as much as by their laws, and there is nothing they more dislike than unnecessary restraint and meddling interference in their affairs. Generally speaking, I should say of the administration of the last five years that it would have been better for us all if there had been a little more energy in our foreign policy and a little less in our domestic legislation.

By an act of folly or of ignorance rarely equaled, the present ministry relinquished a treaty which secured us the freedom of the Straits of Malacca for our trade with China and Japan, and they, at the same time, entering on the west coast of Africa into those ‘equivocal and entangling engagements’ which the prime minister now deprecates, involved us in the Ashantee war. The honor of the country now requires that we should prosecute that war with the vigor necessary to insure success; but when that honor is vindicated, it will be the duty of Parliament to inquire by what means we were led into a costly and destructive contest which neither Parliament nor the country has ever sanctioned, and of the necessity or justice of which, in its origin, they have not been made aware.

“The question of a further reform of the House of Commons is again suggested by the prime minister. I think unwisely. The argument for extending to the counties the household franchise of the towns on the ground of the existing system, being anomalous, is itself fallacious.

[Page 494]

“There has always been a difference between the franchises of the two divisions of the country, and no one has argued more strongly than the present prime minister against the contemplated identity of suffrage. The conservative party view this question without prejudice. They have proved that they are not afraid of popular rights. But the late reform act was a large measure, which, in conjunction with the ballot, has scarcely been tested by experience, and they will hesitate before they will sanction further legislation which will inevitably involve, among other considerable changes, the disfranchisement of at least all boroughs in the kingdom comprising less than 40,000 inhabitants.

“Gentlemen, the impending general election is one of 110 mean importance for the future character of this kingdom. There is reason to hope, from the address of the prime minister, putting aside some ominous suggestions which it contains as to the expediency of a local and subordinate legislature, that he is not, certainly at present, opposed to our national institutions or to the maintenance of the integrity of the empire. But, unfortunately, among his adherents some assail the monarchy; others impugn the independence of the House of Lords, while there are those who would relieve Parliament altogether from any share in the government of one portion of the United Kingdom. Others, again, urge him to pursue his peculiar policy by disestablishing the Anglican as he has despoiled the Irish Church, while trusted colleagues in his cabinet openly concur with them in their desire altogether to thrust religion from the place which it ought to occupy in national education.

“These, gentlemen, are solemn issues, and the impending general elections must decide them. Their solution must be arrived at when Europe is more deeply stirred than at any period since the Reformation, and when the cause of civil liberty and religious freedom mainly depends upon the strength and stability of England. I ask you to return me to the House of Commons to resist every proposal which may impair that strength and to support by every means her imperial sway.