Disraeli, by Stanley Weintraub
In August 1867 England took a famous “leap in the dark” by passing the Second Reform Bill, which enfranchised the urban working classes (women excepted), nearly doubled the size of the electorate, and committed the country irrevocably to democracy. The bill had been guided through the House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who during the debate spoke no fewer than 310 times on its behalf in order “to prepare the mind of the country and to educate . . . our party”—which happened, of course, to be the Tory party.
That the Tory party should have bestowed upon England the new democratic dispensation must have seemed the ultimate paradox in that age of paradoxes, unless one counts the even greater paradox that the Tories, a party of aristocrats notorious for not reading books, a party derided by J. S. Mill as “the stupid party,” was now being guided by a novelist and literary man with the wildly improbable name of Benjamin Disraeli.
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