Return Of The Native Son: Chapter Eight

The next day was spent in preparing for the trip to London as well as a short meeting with Mr. Housewell about the meeting to take place upon his return to inaugurate the political season in the neighborhood. With that business out of the way, after morning service in Orient House, Lord Lipton got into his carriage and went as far as York, where his horses were sent back and he continued on. Throughout the course of the journey, he pondered over the state of England and noted the friendliness of the innkeepers along the way and the state of the nation. He developed a travel routine of eating breakfast at the inn and traveling through the day and then eating supper at the next day’s stop, while making the changes in between with an eye towards getting to know the innkeepers along the way where horses were changed. He found a great deal of friendly conversation and worthwhile information along the way, as he rubbed shoulders with other nobles, gentry, and merchants who were all making the way along the roads from place to place.

By the time he reached London it was time for him to visit Lipton House, and he found that his townhouse was in a comfortable area of town. He arrived late in the day, shortly before sunset, and found that while his own staff was not quite ready to cook a meal, that it did not take much effort to make it to White’s club, where he was able to enjoy a fine meal and also get to know some of his fellow members of Parliament with whom he would be rubbing shoulders.

He did not consider himself a natural politician, but one of the advantages of being a hereditary peer was that it was not necessary for him to win elections through charm and eloquence and the delicate art of appealing to the prejudices of one’s electorate whether or not one was able or interested in acting upon those prejudices in one’s own votes. If he did not think that a collection of his speeches would ever be turned into a book that anyone would want to read, he did find much to his pleasure that the Whig peers and ordinary politicians he met were gracious and friendly and interested in finding out about his own experiences and his own reasons for visiting the city.

It was readily understood that as a new peer who had spent decades in the colonies without having had the opportunity to go to formal school that he was likely to be a bit more rough than most of his peers, but as had frequently been the case, his good cheer and obvious polish were both surprising and pleasing to others, who had marked the Viscount as being a bit of a wild card. If they did not think he would be a savage, there were concerns among many of them that the lack of civilization of the area would rub off on him and they were pleased to see that was not the case. If he was fond of plain dishes, he enjoyed reading good books and if not a big drinker himself did not appear to be censorious of others, which marked him as a person of considerable goodwill, which tends to lead others to be fond of the company of someone who was both kind and witty.

It took Lord Lipton the next day to recover from the ardor of travel, and the servants of the London townhouse were pleased to know that his generosity to the Orient House staff also extended to them and that he was interested in making sure of their own well-being and ability to do their job well. It quickly became apparent that he was not someone who tended to throw large parties or engage in shady business, and the combination of friendliness and goodwill as well as his own unobtrusive example led them to view him as someone with respect. While he rested and recovered from the stress of travel and prepared for the next couple of days in London before his return home, he communicated to them his plans for spending time in London with his household during the political sessions while spending the rest of his time in his estate, giving them an idea of how he planned to divide his time between the two houses given the large distances between the two homes.

As it happened, after a day of personal rest, it was time to celebrate the customary day of rest for society as a whole. Lord Lipton dressed for morning service and took his walking stick and went to the nearby parish church, which was very closeby, much to his pleasure. Not being well-known or easy to recognize in these parts, he found a quiet seat by himself to sit and view the speaker, who appeared to be one of those fashionable sorts of people who enjoyed the more elite audience in London than was the case in the parish churches where Lord Lipton had usually attended. With a dramatic flourish, the minister gave a message that went something like this:

“I would like to take as my text today the wise and sobering words of the Qohelet when he tells the reader: “Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.” I do not think it needs to be emphasized that we live in an age where people feel too free to insult and mock their betters. It is often insufficiently understood that we live in a land full of voluntary spies and to the extent that we feel ourselves as having the license to speak evil about the powerful and wealthy without realizing that such speech can lead to great harm for ourselves. Let us not forget that libel laws are in full operation and that if we speak evil of others it may be expensive to us. And let us not forget as well that speaking evil of others can lead one to be jailed or gunned down by those whose good name we have besmirched with our lies. There is no privacy for those who speak evil of the king or of the rich, for those words will fly far away.

Let us not forget as well that as Paul said to the Romans, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Those who speak evil of authorities and rebel against authorities will find damnation for themselves in the world to come and chains in this world. The church does not offer any succor to those who deny their obligations to honor and obey authorities, and we should not be under any illusions that God is hostile to those who are disordered and disobedient. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, after all, and those who rebel against authorities in our own present evil age deserve to be treated as witches were in times of yore.”

Lord Lipton pondered who this sermon was for. To be sure, he had been no friend of rebellion, and had spent a great deal of his life so far addressing the underlying problems of rebellion in the Southern colonies, ultimately unsuccessfully but no less honestly for that. Looking around at the audience, though, he did not see many people he supposed to be likely to insult the rich because they were the rich. Such people were not very likely to be overly critical of a ruler except in the sense that those who are close to rulers are often most exasperated because of their personal interaction. That is to say, Lord Lipton found it striking and more than a little bit disappointing that there should be so much attention spent on a subject that was not directly relevant to the audience. There was no exhortation not to steal wages from one’s laborers, no reminder that to whom much has been given, much is expected, nothing that would prompt an understanding of the duties and responsibilities that came with positions of offices and authorities, nothing that showed the proper use of God-given riches and blessings, nothing that would shake a sense of complacency that God had ordained a perfect world with ourselves in charge.

Perhaps Lord Lipton would not have been so sensitive about this had he spent his life as someone who had been from the cradle bred for high rank and title. As it was, he had spent nearly four decades of his life as a relatively ordinary person of considerable gifts of intellect and of reasonable social position, but hardly among the wealthiest or most powerful people around in the eyes of those around. If he always felt comfortable in the homes of the wealthy and powerful, they had until recently not been his own houses. If he could engage in witty conversation with others, he did so as someone who had for a substantial amount of time been considered on the lower end of gentry. He had not been prepared on the mentality that would be expected of someone in his office, and so when he heard about passages directed to honoring authority, his first instinct was supposing who he was supposed to honor and respect and not that he was expected to be the recipient of such honor. This was a habit that may change, but for the sake of his own humility before His Lord and Master he did not wish such a change to happen rapidly, if at all. If he did not intend to waste his inheritance or the power and privilege it gave him, he was certainly aware that he had not grasped the position and did not view it as something he had been entitled to.

In general, he found much to ponder concerning his observation of London. In general, he found the people to be engaged in the normal sort of affairs that one would expect for a city that considered itself to be the center of the world. Such places were not well known for their reflective tendencies or for Christian humility. Yet it was here where one needed to be, at least sometimes, to get business done, and so he resigned himself to come here for business while spending as much time as possible far from the glittering prizes and illusory charms that so many people appeared to be so interested in. If he had found Charleston too corrupt a city for his tastes, certainly London did not please his preference for open spaces and the avoidance of flattery and oily charm.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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