LORD BROUGHAM AND THE WHIGS.
It remains true that BROUGHAM was more than a Whig, that the Whigs felt it, and that he never pulled well in harness with them.
The circumstance was due partly to his defects. Though, in an emergency he worked for his party with an intensity and continuance that would have killed any ordinary man - though no taint of covetousness or selfish baseness was ever imputed to him, and he would at any time have sacrificed himself for the cause - yet there was something in his nature that could be neither understood nor calculated on, something which may remain a problem for the curious in psychology, something which we do not pretend to define or explain, but which we connect with that incapacity to sleep, and that difficulty in keeping his centre of gravity rightly adjusted, which characterised him in long clothes.
That he should be daring, incautious, headstrong, may be well enough comprehended as rising from his ardent temperament, his brilliant success at school, at college, and in society - as in fact the usual and not ungrateful accompaniment of magnificent capacity in the flush of youth. But that there should have lurked in close company with his vigilant, keen, and penetrating intellect, a simplicity which might at any moment be taken off its guard, a guilelessness almost childish, a blundering awkwardness capable of covering himself and his associates with ridicule, is not easy to be understood.
Men of transcendent talents have often acted as madmen; the peculiarity in the case of BROUGHAM was that, with one of the most splendidly endowed intellects of his time, he, on several occasions, acted like a fool. His announcement that he would write to His Majesty without loss of a post to tell him that he lived in the hearts of the citizens of Inverness; his off-hand chatty mention to QUEEN VICTORIA at a drawing room that he was in a few days to cross the Channel, if she had any message or parcel for KING LOUIS PHILLIPPE; his proposal to be at one and the same time ex-Chancellor in the English House of Peers, and republican orator in the National Assembly of France; these will occur to those who know the history of his life, not as mere mistakes, but as momentary lapses into sheer inbecility which no theory yet established can account for.
What is not only intelligible, but obvious is, that this mysterious characteristic of BROUGHAM's must have been a fatal drawback to the cordiality of his relations with the Whigs.
All men dread ridicule, and public men, in a country where public affairs may be said with hardly a figure to be transacted in the open air, have the best of reasons for dreading associates who may expose them to derision.
That fine sense of the proper and the becoming, which has been recognised as one mark of the genuine Wig, increased the difficulty of establishing relations of perfect harmony between the Whigs and BROUGHAM.
And yet one cannot help feeling that men of stronger geniality, of more hearty friendliness, less femininely sensitve, less intent upon their personal ambitions, and their personal reputations, might have got on better with BROUGHAM than the Whigs did.
Had they succeeded in the attempt, vast benefit at once to Liberalism, and to England might have been the result. He was the natural leader and born king of the party. Braver and stronger men would have conquered their party aristocratism, and raised him on their shields.
Their grudge against him was like that of the Scotch nobles against WALLACE. Had he been prudent, circumspect, and an aristocrat, they would have delighted to do him honour. The Whig party was triumphant so long as it held to BROUGHAM. It owed its decadence to its chiefs.
Free trade chirrupted on the lap of PEEL, household franchise crowed in the arms of DISRAELI, because the MELBOURNES and RUSSELLS were men of the same order.
BROUGHAM, it is true, did not support the Anti-Corn-Law League. His study of the French revolution had taught him to distrust and condemn association for political purposes in countries which have an elected House of Commons, and a free press.
But he pronounced against the Corn Laws long before PEEL.
The Whig formula on the subject of representation - the mystical ten pound line and the finality of the Reform Bill of 1842 -- the senile shudder of Radicalism, and stolid cantempt for first principles which you meet with in such a Whig as LORD CAMPBELL -- had to place in the intellect of BROUGHAM.