Sunday, June 28, 2009

12Apr1867, Breakup of the Liberal Party

LONDON, April 12th, 1867.
—The downfall and breakup of the Liberal party is the miserable event of to-day. The debate [FN: On Mr. Gladstone's Amendment to Disraeli's Reform Bill.] lasted till 2. It was unsatisfactory and lukewarm throughout. The speeches on both sides were most of them disappointing. Bright, even, was rather laboured and constrained till the end of his speech when he made a fine appeal to the honest feeling of the House. Unhappily there is no such thing, except in a small minority. Dizzy I thought most inconclusive, though cunning enough. Mr. Hardy spoke vigorously and appeared in earnest, but it is in a sense entirely new to him. Mr. Forster was striking, downright and manly, which did one good. When Uncle William got up, he knew the game was up ; but I am not sure that his speech was not all the grander. He began (in answer to a wretched taunt of Dizzy's that he (Uncle W.) was to be taken as distinct from his party) by claiming to be their chosen spokesman and refusing to be dissociated from them ; so making a tacit appeal to the traitors in the camp. He was very striking throughout his speech, and contrasted more forcibly than I can say, in his strong, earnest conviction, with the wiles of his foe whom he followed. We had all been deceived, and had no notion that defeat was probable, dreading only a small majority ; but as the members were pouring out of the House and back again, something made our hearts fail. Poor Auntie Pussy turned white to her very lips as the tellers came in, or even a little before. Then we saw a horrid quiver of delight run through the Government side, and heard a subdued clapping, as 2 or 3 members rushed up to look at the numbers. We gave it up then ; and it was only a finishing stroke when the words came "The Ayes to the right, 289 ; the Noes to the left, 310." But it is a heart-break. We came home hardly knowing what we were about. When I saw Freddy I had a regular cry ; and he was even more cut-up than I was, knowing more fully the rotten state of things it reveals, and the greatness of the defeat.

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