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Beaconsfield

Beaconsfield

 

 

 

BeaconsfieldIt is one of the romantic features of the history of England in the latter half of the nineteenth century that its foremost Conservative statesman should be a novelist of Jewish descent and of marked Jewish name and features-nay, more, that this literary statesman should display honorable pride in his ancestry, should be a personal favorite of his sovereign, and should repay that attachment by conferring upon her the grand title of Empress of India.

 

The Primrose League-named after Beacons field's favorite flower, and having for its object the perpetuation and propagation of his Conservative doctrines and principles-is to-day the most exclusive political society in England, and the most aristocratic and noble families are proud to be enrol1ed among its members. The name of the once despised Jew is now the rallying cry of modern English conservatism.

 

Benjamin Disraeli was born in the heart of London on the 21st of December, 1804. His ancestors had been driven from Spain by the Inquisition, in the fifteenth century, had taken refuge in Venice, and thence had migrated to England in 1748. His father, Isaac D' Israeli, the well-known author of "The Curiosities of Literature n and similar works, finally withdrew from the synagogue. Benjamin, who had been duly circumcised, was afterward baptized at the age of twelve, the poet Samuel Rogers being his godfather. In his youth he was apprenticed to the law, but the scholarly atmosphere in which he was born exercised a more potent influence over him, and he engaged in literary pursuits. His brilliant novel, Vivian Grey, published in 1826, astonished the reading public. It is now seen to be a bold forecast of his own achievements. Then, with its brilliant style and piquant burlesque of the men and doings of the day, it took the town by storm. The successful young author was admitted to the coterie of Lady Blessington. Going abroad, be visited the most famous places in Europe and the Levant. Returning to England, he entered the whirl of political life.

 

His father had now settled in Buckinghamshire, and young Disraeli offered himself, in t832, to the electors of High Wycombe as a Radical candidate for Parliament, but was defeated by Colonel Grey, son of the prime minister. He had been supported by Daniel O'Connell and Joseph Hume, but, after two defeats, he announced himself as a Tory, and quarreled with O' Connell, who reproached him with descent from" the impenitent thief." He did not enter Parliament until 1837, when he was elected from Maidstone. Meantime he had published Contarini Fleming 1832, a story of the development of the poetic character; The Wondrous Tale of Alroy 1833, a remarkable romance at the Middle Ages; The Revolutionary Epick 1834, a blank-verse poem, from which be long afterwards expunged passages approving of tyrannicide. His renunciation of his youthful Radicalism was shown in his Runnymede Letters, or Vindication of the English Constitution 1835, which was welcomed as a new justification of the Tory Party. Some novels fallowed, including Venetia 1837, in which, according to his constant practice of il1trodltcing actual persons, Byron and Shelley were presented thinly disguised.

 

Disraeli's first attempt at oratory in the House of Commons was a signal failure. He was overwhelmed with derisive shouts, yet, as he ended, he cried out defiantly: "I have begun several things many times, and have often succeeded at last-ay, and though I sit down now, the time will come when you will hear me." His first successful speech was an the Chartist Petition of 1839, the consideration of which he favored. In this year Disraeli married the widow of his former colleague, 'Wyndham Lewis, Who brought him a considerable fortune, and made him proprietor of Hughenden.

 

He was still somewhat a free¥lance, but after a few years he became the head of the" Young England" party, whose rallying cry was, "Our young Queen and old Constitution." Among his noted speeches was a fierce attack on Sir Robert Peel for his abandonment of the Corn Laws. Lord George Bentinck, whose biography be afterwards wrote, was the leader of the Tory Protectionists, but Disraeli defended their cause brilliantly in debate.

 

Meantime two other novels, Coningsby 1844 and Sybil 1845, had appeared from his pen, and excited extraordinary interest. They set forth in a more attractive guise the political principles contained in his Runnymede Letters, but added to them all exhibition of the condition of the people and the duties of the church as a remedial agency. In Tattered or the New Crusade 1847 these ideas were still further carried out. It is not without significance that the word "new" was part of the alternative title. His object was to revive the story Party by arousing it to satisfy popular demands. His powerful oratory and effective wit, satire and irony, were the qualities needed in the leader of the Opposition. He silenced one class of opponents; he taught the others to keep their distance. At last, in I852, Lord Derby was called to be Prime Minister, and after offering the place to Glady stone, he made Disraeli Chancellor of the Excbequer. The general election did not give a Tory majority. It was still a time of agricultural distress, and Disraeli, in his attempt to relieve the farmers, was obliged to extend the income tax. On this the ministry was defeated by a coalition, Lord Aberdeen became Prime Minister and the country drifted into the Crimean war. In Lord Derby's second administration in 1858 Disraeli in response to the demand for parliamentary reform, brought in ,,,hat was called the " Fancy Franchise" Bill, but it shared the fate of other partial attempts. The Liberals regaining power, held it for seven years and Disraeli again had frequent opportunity to display his talent as leader of the Opposition.

 

At last, in July, 1866, the Liberals attempted a Reform Dill and were defeated. Disraeli again became Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House. He felt that reform of some kind was needed; his first effort was to bring the Tory ministry to the same way of thinking. It was a desperate task, and only a mall of consummate tact and persistent courage could succeed in the effort to push the bill through. Some members of the Cabinet resigned, among whom was the present 'Marquis of Salisbury. But Disraeli was able to secure the passage in the Tory Parliament of 1867, a bill more radical and democratic than that which had been rejected the year before by the same House. It was a leap in the dark, or as Carlyle more boldly characterized it, "Shooting Niagara." In 1868 Lord Derby retired from power, and Disraeli became prime minister. From this time until 1880 the game of British politics was a parliamentary duel between Disraeli and Gladstone. Both of them had departed from their original principles, but in opposite directions, and yet both clung tenaciously to many of their former views. Gladstone brought forward resolutions for the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and the elections of 1868 were strongly in his favor. Disraeli reigned, and his wife, who had faithfully assisted his political career, was raised to the peerage as Viscountess Beacons field. She died in December, r872. Disraeli was again leader of the Opposition from 1869 to 1874. During this period appeared the most famous novel of his later years, Lothair 1870, a remarkable kaleidoscopic picture of the personages of English society of the time.

 

Disraeli was able to prevent the passage of the Irish University Education bill in 1873, and in the following January Parliament was dissolved. The new Parliament had a large Conservative majority, and Disraeli, now seventy years old, was again prime minister. Some two years were given chiefly to home affairs, but in 1875 he surprised the world by purchasing from the Khedive of Egypt one· half the ownership of the Suez Canal, the new highway to India. In 1876 he conferred on Queen Victoria the title of Empress of India; not only as a personal comp1iment, but as an acknowledgment of the vastness and importance of British possessions in Asia. In August of the same year, the veteran statesman was called to the House of Lords as Earl of Beacons field.

 

The Eastern Question again arose to vex the diplomacy of Europe. The Russo-Turkish war of 1877 threatened the annihilation of the weaker power but England stayed the hand of the stronger. In spite of Gladstone's outcry against the Bulgarian atrocities, Beaconsfield insisted on upholding Turkey as a bulwark against Russian aggression. He was sustained by the popular enthusiasm, which found vent in a music-hall ditty, that furnished the name "Jingo" to the favorers of foreign war. Beaconsfield sent a British fleet to the Dardanelles to protect Constantinople, and he brought an Indian force to Malta. By this threatening of war, Russia was obliged to submit her claims to a European Congress at Berlin, in 1878. Lord Beaconsfield, accompanied by Lord Salisbury, attended this Congress, and was greeted, on his return, with loud popular demonstrations in favor of "Peace with Honor." Russia, however, had reclaimed all she had lost by the Crimean War. Turkey was stripped of Roumania, Servia, and other territories. England got Cyprus by a secret treaty. The Afghan war was said to have secured a "scientific frontier" for India. The Zulu war ended with the capture of the chief Cetewayo. Yet both were costly experiments, yielding little return. At home there was a reaction, caused by commercial and agricultural distress, besides troubles in Ireland. The general election of 1880 gave a majority of forty-six to the Liberals, and Beaconsfield resigned before Parliament assembled. Henceforth he took little part in public affairs. He employed his leisure in writing Endymion 1881, another novel, tracing the career of a successful politician. After a short illness he died at his London residence, on the 19th of April, 1881. His will forbade a public funeral, and he was buried at Hughenden, in Buckinghamshire.

 

Lord Beaconsfield's career is that of all astute, versatile politician, caring little for general principles, and yet not devoid of leading ideas to which he remained attached. He started as a Radical, and though he became a Tory, he aimed to infuse Radical ideas into the Tory Party, henceforth called Conservative. His tact and skill in managing men were amply proved, and his success in extending suffrage to the mass of the people by the votes of a Parliament almost pledged to the opposite, is one of the most astonishing political triumphs in English history. He loved to dazzle as a means to convince and captivate, and to the last he retained this power. It was never more signally displayed than in the Berlin Congress, and his triumphant return. His brilliant victories have lost some of their glitter by lapse of time, yet he succeeded in restoring British prestige in foreign affairs. His purchase of the control of the Suez Canal and the acquirement of Cyprus were diplomatic strokes immediately effective and also far-reaching. He saved the Tory party from perishing of dry-rot.

 

JERUSALEM.

 

The broad moon lingers on the summit of Mount Olivet, but its beam has long left the garden of Gethsemane and the tomb of Absalom, the waters of Kedron and the dark abyss of Jehoshaphat. Full falls its splendor, however, on the opposite city, vivid and defined in its silver blaze. A lofty wall, with turrets and towers and frequent gates, undulates with the unequal ground which it covers, as it encircles the lost capital of Jehovah. It is a city of hills far more famous than those of Rome for all Europe has heard of Sion and of Calvary, while the Arab and the Assyrian, and the tribes and nations beyond, are as ignorant of the Capitoline and Aventine Mounts as they are of the Malvern or the Chiltern Hills.

 

The broad steep of Sion crowned with the tower of David; nearer still, Mount Moriah, with the gorgeous temple of the Cod of Abraham, but built, alas! by the child of Hagar, and not by Sarah's chosen one; close to its cedars and its cypresses, its lofty spires and airy arches, the moonlight falls upon Bethesda's pool further on, entered by the gate of St. Stephen, the eye, though 'tis the noon of night, traces with ease the Street of Grief, a long winding ascent to a vast cupolaed pile that now covers Calvary-called the Street of Grief, because there the most illustrious of the human, as well as of the Hebrew race, the descendant of King David, and the divine son of the most favored of women, twice sank under that burden of suffering and shame which is now throughout all Christendom the emblem of triumph and of honor. Passing over groups and masses of houses built of stone, with terraced roofs, or surmounted with small domes, we reach the hill of Salem, where Melchisedek built bis mystic citadel and still remains the hill of Scopas, where Titus gazed upon Jerusalem on the eve of his final assault. Titus destroyed the temple. The religion of Judea has in turn subverted the fanes which were raised to his father and to himself in their imperial capital; and the God of Abraham. of Isaac, and of Jacob is now worshiped before every altar in Rome.

 

Jerusalem by moonlight! 'Tis a fine spectacle, apart from all its indissoluble associations of awe and beauty. The mitigating hour softens the austerity of a mountain landscape magnificent in outline, however harsh and severe in detail and, while it retains all its sublimity, removes much of the savage sternness of the strange and unrivaled scene. A fortified city, almost surrounded by ravines, and rising in the center of chains of far-spreading hills, occasionally offering, through their rocky glens, the gleams of a distant and richer land.

 

The moon has sunk behind the Mount of Olives, and the stars in the darker sky shine doubly bright over the sacred city. The all-pervading stillness is broken by a breeze, that seems to have traveled over the plains of Sharon from the sea. It wails among the tombs, and sighs among the cypress groves. The palm-tree trembles as it passes, as if it were a spirit of woe. Is it the breeze that has traveled over the plain of Sharon from the sea?

 

Or is it the haunting voice of prophets mourning over the city that they could not save? Their spirits surely would linger on the land where their Creator had deigned to dwell, and over whose impending fall Omnipotence had shed human tears, from this mount! Who can but believe that, at the midnight hour, from the summit of the Ascension, the great departed of Israel assemble to gaze upon the battlements of their mystic city! There might be counted heroes and sages, who need shrink from no rivalry with the brightest and wisest of other lands; but the lawgiver of the time of the Pharaohs, whose laws are still obeyed j the monarch, whose reign has ceased for three thousand years, but whose wisdom is a proverb in all nations of the earth  the teacher, whose doctrines have modeled civilized Europethe greatest of legislators, the greatest of administrators, and the greatest of reformers-what race, extinct or living, can produce three such men as these!

 

The last light ii extinguished in the village of Bethany. The wailing breeze has become a moaning wind a white film spreads over the purple sky; the stars are veiled, the stars are hide all becomes as dark as the waters of Kedron and the valley of Jehoshaphat. The tower of David merges into obscurity; no longer glitter the minarets of tile mosque of Omar Bethesda's angelic waters, the gate of Stephen, the street of Sacred Sorrow, the hill of Salem, and the heights of Scopas, can no longer be discerned. Alone in the increasing darkness, while the very line of the walls gradually eludes the eye, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a beacon light.

 

And why is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher a beacon light? Why, when it is already past the moon of darkness, When every soul slumbers in Jerusalem, and not a sound disturbs the deep repose except the howl of the wild dog crying to the wilder wind-why is the cupola of the sanctuary illumined, though the hour has long since been numbered, when pilgrims there kneel and monks pray?

 

An armed Turkish guard are bivouacked in the court of the church within the church itself, two brethren of the convent of Terra Santa keep holy watch and ward: while, at the tomb beneath, there kneels a solitary youth, who prostrated himself at sunset, and who will there pass unmoved the whole of the sacred night. Yet the pilgrim is not in communion with the Latin Church; neither is he of the Church Armenian, or the Church Greek; Maronite, Coptic, or Abyssinian-these also are Christian Churches which cannot call him child.

 

He comes from a distant and a northern isle to bow before the tomb of a descendant of the kings of Israel, because he, in common with nil the people of that isle, recognizes in that sublime Hebrew incarnation the presence of a Divine Redeemer. Then why does be come alone? It is not that he has availed himself of the inventions of modern science, to repair first to a spot, which all his countrymen may equally desire to visit, and thus anticipate their hurrying arrival. Before the inventions of modern science, all his countrymen used to flock hither. Then why do they not now? Is the Holy Land no longer hallowed? Is it not the land of sacred and mysterious truths? The land of heavenly messages and earthly miracles? The land of prophets and apostles? Is it not the land upon whose mountains the Creator of the Universe parleyed with man, and the flesh of whose anointed race He mystically assumed, when He struck the last blow at the powers of evil? Is it to be believed that there are no peculiar and eternal qualities in a land thus visited, which distinguish it from all others-that Palestine is like Normandy or Yorkshire, or even Attica or Rome?

 

There may be some who maintain this; there have been some, and those too, among the wisest and the wittiest of the northern and western races, who, touched by a presumptuous jealousy of the long predominance of that Oriental intellect to which they owed their civilization, would have persuaded themselves and the world that the traditions of Sinai and Calvary were fables. Half a century ago, Europe made a violent and apparently successful effort to dis embarrass itself of its Asian faith. The most powerful and the most civilized of its kingdoms, about to conquer the rest, shut up its churches, desecrated it's altars, massacred and persecuted their sacred servants, and announced that the Hebrew creeds which Simon Peter brought from Palestine, and which his successors revealed to Clovis, were a mockery and a fiction. What has been the result? In every city, town, village, and hamlet of that great kingdom, the divine image of the most illustrious of Hebrews has been again raised amid the homage of kneeling millions while, in the heart of its bright and witty capital, the nation has erected the most gorgeous of modern temples, and consecrated it!! marble and golden walls to the name and memory, and celestial efficacy of a Hebrew woman.

 

The country of which the solitary pilgrim, kneeling at this moment at the Holy Sepulcher, was a native, had not actively shared in that insurrection against the first and second Testament which distinguished the end of the eighteenth century. But more than six hundred years before, it had sent its king, and the flower of its peers and people, to rescue Jerusalem from those whom they considered infidels! And now, instead of the third crusade, they expend their superfluous energies in the construction of railroads.

 

The failure of the European kingdom of Jerusalem, on which such vast treasure, such prodigies of valor, and such ardent belief had been wasted, has been one of those circumstances which have tended to disturb the faith of Europe, although it should have carried convictions of a very different character. The Crusaders looked upon the Saracens as infidels, whereas the children of the Desert bore a much nearer affinity to the sacred corpse that had, for a brief space, consecrated the Holy Sepulcher, than any of the invading host of Europe. The same blood flowed in their veins, and they recognized the divine missions both of Moses and of his greater successor. In an age so deficient in physiological learning as the twelfth century, the mysteries of race were unknown. Jerusalem, it cannot be doubted, will ever remain the appanage either of Israel or of Ishmael; and if, in the course of those great vicissitudes which are no doubt impending for the East, there be any attempt to place upon the throne of David a prince of the House of Coburg or Deuxponts, the same fate will doubtless await him as, with all their brilliant qualities and all the sympathy of Europe, was the final doom of the Godfreys, the Baldwins., and the Lusignaus.-B. DISRAELI

 

 

Beaconsfield

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