Home  »  Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men  »  Lord Derby

S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Lord Derby

  • [Edward Stanley, fourteenth Earl of Derby; an eminent English statesman and orator; born in Lancashire, 1799; educated at Oxford; entered Parliament, 1820; chief secretary for Ireland, 1830–33; secretary for the colonies, 1841; raised to the peerage, 1844; first lord of the treasury, 1852, 1858, 1866; translated Homer’s Iliad, 1865; died October, 1869.]
  • Johnny’s upset the coach!

  • To Sir James Graham, on the rejection of the Reform Bill in 1831, which had been mainly drawn by Lord John Russell. The Grey ministry thereupon resigned, appealed to the country, and obtained a large majority, by which the bill was finally passed in 1832. To some one who thought that the reform bill passed by the Derby ministry in 1867, giving the right of suffrage to householders in boroughs, was too great a concession to the Liberals, the Premier replied, “We have dished the Whigs.”
  • He said in the House of Lords, February, 1864, of the course of Earl Russell, the minister for foreign affairs, “The foreign policy of the noble earl, as far as the principle of non-intervention is concerned, may be summed up in two truly expressive words: ‘meddle’ and ‘muddle.’”
  • Disraeli said of Lord Derby, then Lord Stanley, in the House of Commons, April, 1844, “The noble lord is the Prince Rupert of parliamentary discussion.” The comparison was a malicious one. The nephew of Charles I. was distinguished for his bravery and headlong courage; but his rash pursuit of a part of Cromwell’s army at Naseby, while the main body remained on the field, gave the victory to the Parliamentarians; and, after his surrender of Bristol, he was deprived of his command: so on this occasion Disraeli added, “His charge is resistless; but when he returns from the pursuit, he always finds his camp in possession of the enemy.” Bulwer applied the epithet to Stanley in “The New Timon,” published in 1846:—
  • “The brilliant chief, irregularly great,
  • Frank, haughty, rash,—the Rupert of debate.”
  • Lord Stanley said in a speech on the abolition of the Corn Laws, March 15, 1836, “The Continent will not suffer England to be the work-shop of the world.”
  • We must stem the tide of democracy.

  • While Lord Derby did not utter these exact words, he spoke, March 15, 1852, of a government “which will exert itself, I don’t hesitate to say, to stem with some opposition, to supply some barrier against the current of that continually increasing and encroaching democratic influence in this nation, which is bent on throwing the whole power and authority of the government nominally into the hands of the masses, but practically and really into those of demagogues and republicans, who exercise an influence over those unthinking masses.”
  • Sir, I have tasted your sherry, and I prefer the gout.

  • To a wine-merchant, who recommended his sherry as not having gout in a hogshead of it. Macaulay tells the story of the criminal who had the choice of the galleys, or the reading of Guicciardini’s “History,” and naturally chose the latter. But the war of Pisa was too much for him, and he asked to change his choice. This is as old as Philoxenus of Cythera, who was sent to the quarries by Dionysius, because he did not like the tyrant’s poetry. He was, however, recalled, and had some more read to him, when he got up to go. “Where are you going?” asked Dionysius. “To the quarries,” was the reply.
  • The famous remark, “Johnny’s upset the coach,” quoted above, was caused by a speech of Lord John Russell, when paymaster-general in Lord Grey’s ministry, in 1834, in which, replying to the Hon. E. Stanley (afterward Earl of Derby), he said that “if the State should find that the revenue of the Irish Church was not appropriated justly to the purposes of religious and moral instruction,… it would then be the duty of Parliament to consider of a different appropriation.” This declaration was received with cheers by radicals and repealers; but it led to the resignation of Stanley and three other members of the Grey ministry. A story, since denied, represented Stanley scribbling the words, “Johnny’s upset the coach,” while Russell was speaking, on a scrap of paper, and passing it to his colleague Sir James Graham, who slipped it into his pocket, where it was found by his valet, and communicated to the “Times.” Lord John Russell was at a later period called “the stormy petrel of politics,” because he was the chief instrument of defeating Lord Palmerston in 1857, and because he attacked the Tory Reform Bill of 1859; and Sidney Herbert once said of him, “He drops his resolutions as if they were his colleagues.”—Life of Bishop Wilberforce, ii. 315.
  • Joseph Hume was discussing with Lord John Russell the maxim, derived from the Italian publicist Beccaria, “The greatest happiness of the greatest number,” when Lord John defined “the greatest number” to be “No. 1.” This maxim was employed by Jeremy Bentham in an attack on Alexander Wedderburn, afterward Lord-Chancellor Loughborough: “In a government which had for its end the greatest happiness of the greatest number, he might have been attorney-general,” etc. This attack was included in Bentham’s “Principles of Morals and Legislation.” Macaulay said of Bentham, that he found jurisprudence a gibberish, and left it a science. Boswell asked Johnson whether Wedderburn, called by Trevelyan, in his “Early Life of C. J. Fox,” “the cleverest Scotchman who had crossed the Tweed, and the sharpest lawyer that ever hugged an attorney,” behaved unworthily in canvassing for briefs through the agency of a Scotch bookseller. “If I were a lawyer,” replied Johnson, “I should not solicit employment; not because I should think it wrong, but because I should disdain it.” Of Wedderburn’s appointment to office after forsaking the Whigs, Horace Walpole wrote, “’Tis an honest vocation to be a scavenger, but I would not be solicitor-general.” And Junius said of him, “There is something about him which even treachery cannot trust.” (vide)
  • It was in an article in the “Quarterly Review” (vol. liii. 1835, 270), on Sir Robert Peel’s address to the electors of Tamworth in 1834, after the resignation of the Grey ministry, already alluded to, that the expression occurred, “That fortuitous concourse of atoms,” which the writer called Lord Melbourne’s government, with Lord John Russell for its leader; an earlier use of the phrase than that in the entry on Lord Palmerston. But it was anticipated in “Marcus Minucius Felix his Octavius; or, A Vindication of Christianity against Paganism,” published in London in 1695.