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WHAT IS THE ARISTOCRACY?
the Chief Officers of India and all the Colonies-in a word, the enormous list of offices of emolument and honor throughout the British Empire are held or conferred by THE ARISTOCRACY. For this privileged class the Government exists, and for them alone. It is an Aristocracy pure and simple-not a Democratic element enters into it. It is the richest, the most powerful, the most splendid aristocratic organization of which we have any knowledge in human history. Nor is it possible to conceive a condition of society, or a series of events, that can ever produce its equal or its like on the face of the earth!
HAT is this British Aristocracy made up of-princes and princesses of royal blood, dukes and duchesses, marquises and marchionesses, earls and countesses, viscounts and viscountesses, barons and baronesses, bishops, admirals, generals, ambassadors, lord-lieutenants, judges, governors, and members of Parliament ?
The answer is short. They are the people that own and rule the Empire. Nobody else has much to do with it. The fee-simple of most of the land is in the Nobility.
The family estates of many an aristocratic house cover immense regions, exceeding in extent ordinary German principalities, and yielding revenues far greater. The annual income of the Marquis of Westminster, who owns all that part of London in the vicinity of Euston and Berkeley Squares, is $5,000,000, and that of the Duke of Buccleugh, is half that amount; that of the Duke of Roxborough, is $2,000,000. The Duke of Sutherland owns half of Scotland; but his revenues are somewhat less than any of the above, since the greater portion of his lands are irreclaimably barren. Some idea may be formed of the resources of the Duke of Buckingham, whose estates and effects were sold at Richmond, from the fact that his liabilities were not less than £1,500,000.
Although the lords receive directly no compensation for
POWER OF THE ARISTOCRACY.
their services as the hereditary legislators of the realm, yet the immense patronage derived from their position is ten times more than equivalent. Through their influence they procure for themselves pensions of profitable places in the civil and military departments of the government, obtain commissions and preferments for their sons and nephews in the army and Church, and secure high and lucrative posts at Court for their wives and daughters. Out of the whole number of British peers, there are not fifty who do not themselves hold, or have not immediate relatives holding, valuable public offices. The Duke of Beaufort has a brother and an eldest son in the House of Commons, a son in the Life-Guards, nine brothers and cousins in the army, and three in the Church, and is patron of twentynine Church livings. The Duke of Bedford has two brothers in the House of Commons, a cousin who is Accountant-General of the Court of Chancery, eight brothers and nephews in the army and navy, and one brother in the Church, and is patron of twenty-seven Church livings. These two cases are proper samples of the character and extent of aristocratic patronage. It is true that military commissions are objects of sale in England, but yet it requires great personal influence to obtain them; and the official staff of the army is recruited mainly from the sons, nephews, and cousins of peers, deprived by the laws of entail and primogeniture of their fair share in the family estates. The extent to which nepotism and personal favoritism in the distribution of public offices have been carried in America, has justly excited great complaint. But these things, as known among us, are mere child's play compared with what is practised in England. There they ramify through every sphere of the public service, civil, military and ecclesiastical; and, what is worse, they are chiefly used to bolster up the family interests of a class whose wealth and other advantages, if rightly improved, would, without the aid of government, put within their reach every honorable station in professional or in public life.
The government of Great Britain is called a limited mon
CHARACTERISTICS OF NOBLEMEN.
archy, but if it received its denomination from the predominant element in its administration, it would more truly be termed a limited oligarchy. Practically, the Aristocracy is always more or less in submission to popular sentiment, but potentially they have the direction of public affairs in their own hands. The majority of the Cabinet almost always consists of the peers of the realm. Of the present Cabinet, with Lord John Russell at its head, one-half belong to the House of Lords, and every individual of the other half is connected either by birth or marriage with the peerage. A majority of the seats of the Lower House, are, or at least may be, filled by the nominees of the Nobility. The colonial governors, and the ambassadors at important foreign Courts, are almost universally selected from the ranks of the Aristocracy.
\HE peerage of England as a body, though there are many miserable and most disgraceful exceptions, are now of high personal character. Even most of those who have no lofty guiding principle, have a quick sense of honor, and a scorn of base actions. As a class, they are not corrupted by vice, nor are they enervated by that effeminacy which has sapped the strength of favored classes in so many other lands. They are both intellectually and physically robust, and they share abundantly in all those qualities which are comprised in the expressive word manliness. Most of them have undergone long discipline in the Senate or at the bar, or on the camp-ground, or the quarter-deck, and have thereby acquired the stamina of character which qualifies men for high posts and arduous duties, and which not "all the blood of all the Howards" would be able of itself to give. No class of men in England have better developed physical organizations, while the beauty of English women of rank is incomparable.
The British nobleman has much of that chivalrous spirit which long descent through honored generations naturally
SUNNY SIDE OF ARISTOCRACY.
inspires, with little of that over-bearing pride which springs from a contempt of inferiors. Arrogance and hauteur, a vain love of ostentation, and other like traits, are seldom among his characteristics; on the contrary, his intercourse with the world is usually distinguished by courtesy, urbanity, generous confidence, and graceful simplicity. His ordinary personal appearance exhibits no mark of affectation. The relations that exist between the English Nobility and their tenants, are often of a friendly and pleasant nature, totally differing in character from the same relations in Ireland. The British proprietor generally feels a personal interest in his tenant; an interest founded in the fact that the ancestors of both have lived and died on the same hereditary domains. And this interest is not confined to the landlord personally; it is not at all unusual to see his wife and daughters visiting the dwellings of his tenant, to mingle in his family joys and sorrows. Not a few noblemen build, at their own expense, schools and churches on their estates, and manifest some solicitude for the well-being of those subject to their influence. But they are perfectly innocent of any idea of raising' the subjects of their benevolence beyond the doom of hard work and absolute depend
CUCH, however, is but the sunny side. Let us probe deeper, and come to the real essence and spirit of what British Aristocracy consists-what are their true feelings-what their determination. They are not ignorant of the burdens and distresses of the people, nor of their feelings and determination under their wrongs. They are aware of the rapid advances reform has already made, and the increased confidence of those who urge it. The encroachments on their ancient prerogatives and power are felt. The still more radical changes proposed, do not elude their scrutiny. Quiet and dignified as they may appear, they feel under their feet the mighty undulations of the
POLICY OF THE ARISTOCRACY.
mass on which they have so long trod. The ominous sounds arising from starving millions-the clear, practical language of men who have just learned both their rights and their strength, are not unheard by them; the perils with which they are begirt, thickening every year, are not unwatched. They are also conscious that taxation, the cause of this discontent and suffering, must be increased to meet the exigencies of the times, or their revenue decreased. Placed in this dilemma, beset by the dangers that are augmenting every hour, it is not to be supposed they are without feeling or purpose. Inaction is not to be entertained a moment. But the thought of surrendering their power, is repelled as equally unwise and unworthy. Too much pride, and too much interest, are involved in the surrender. A reform thorough enough to allay the discontent of the people, and relieve their distresses, would deprive the nobility of their emoluments and influence, and tend to reduce them to the rank of citizens.*
The same spirit governs the Church, with her immense revA certain Lord Bishop not long ago said, in Parliament, "Reduce the revenues of the Church, and no man of rank will enter it." Self-interest holds the whole Aristocracy and Hierarchy together a bond of union minor differences will never sunder. But united though they be by interest, and held together by love of rank and influence, yet different portions of them have very different anticipations, in view of the terrific and increasing struggle to cleave down the tree of hereditary despotism. One part, destitute of intellect and virtue, look back on the long unbroken family line, of which they form a
* When Lord Stanley, though willing enough to support reform in the corporations, opposed all reform in the Church, one remarked: "It is very natural; for he would have to give up livings, worth £22,000, or more than $100,000, a year. The Duke of Rutland, in eighteen weeks, had drank in his house 200 dozen of wine, 70 hogsheads of ale-burned 2,330 wax lights-630 gallons sperm oil. In that time, there had dined at his grace's table 2,000 persons, 2,421 more in the Steward's room, 11,312, in the servants' hall, etc. The income of some of the richest noblemen in England is over $5,000 a day. Such estates will not be given up without a struggle.