HEN the Session began it was understood in the political world that a very strong opposition was to be organized against the Government under the guidance of Sir Orlando Drought and that the great sin to be imputed to the Cabinet was an utter indifference to the safety and honour of Britain, as manifested by their neglect of the navy. All the world knew that Sir Orlando had deserted the Coalition because he was not allowed to build new ships, and of course Sir Orlando would make the most of his grievance. With him was joined Mr. Boffin, the patriotic Conservative who had never listened to the voice of the seducer, and the staunch remainder of the old Tory party. And With them the more violent of the Radicals were prepared to act, not desirous, indeed, that new ships should be built, or that a Conservative Government should be established,-or, indeed, that anything should be done,-but animated by intense disgust t at so mild a politician as the Duke of Omnium should be Prime Minister. The fight began at once Sir Orlando objecting violently to certain passages in the Queen's Speech. It was all very well to say that the country was at present at peace with all the world; but how was peace to be maintained without a fleet? Then Sir Orlando paid a great many compliments to the Duke, and ended his speech by declaring him to be the most absolutely faineant minister that had disgraced the country since the days of the Duke of Newcastle. Mr. Monk defended the Coalition, and assured the House that the navy was not only the most powerful navy existing, but that it was the most powerful that ever had existed in the possession of this or any other country, and was probably in absolute efficiency superior to the combined navies of all the world. The House was not shocked by statements so absolutely at variance with each other, coming from two gentlemen who had lately been members of the same Government, and who must be supposed to know what they were talking about, but seemed to think that upon the whole Sir Orlando had done his duty. For though there was complete confidence in the navy as a navy, and though a very small minority would have voted for any considerably increased expense, still it was well that there should be an opposition. And how can there be an opposition without some subject for grumbling,-some matter on which a minister may be attacked? No one really thought that the Prussians and French combined would invade our shores and devastate our fields, and plunder London, and carry our daughters away into captivity. The state of the funds showed very plainly that there was no such fear. But a good cry is a very good thing, — and it is always well to rub up the officials of the Admiralty by a little wholesome abuse. Sir Orlando was thought to have done his business well. Of course he did not risk a division upon the address. [II, 178-79]
Anthony Trollope. The Prime Minister. [1875-76] "Oxford World Classics." Oxford: Oxford UP, 1951.
Last modified December 2001