Return Of The Native Son: Chapter Fourteen

Lord Lipton did not have nor did he expected a busy day. He read and replied to his letters, as was customary, read his newspapers, and put the finishing touches on his own prepared remarks. He went outside after breakfast and spoke to the people who had assembled in the prepared area, which included a great proportion of his tenants and neighbors, and said something like the following:

“Greetings, neighbors. The time has come for us to thank God for the bounteous harvest that we are enjoying, the promise of enough food to last through the winter until we are again able to farm again. This is the first time I have been able to greet you all as we commence an election season, and though I am not running for office myself, I would like to greet you all and hope that this campaign is conducted honorably and with fair play. I do not wish to rob the time of any of our speakers today, though, so I will say no more for now.” With that he sat down to the pleasure of the audience, who saw his honest gratitude, his desire for their well-being, and his willingness not to steal from the time of other speakers.

Lord Lipton sat and listened attentively with Clarissa at his side and Miss Wood on the other side of his cousin, and listened to Mr. Housewell give his inaugural speech as a candidate. The speech was what one would expect from someone who had spent his life dealing with people. It was a well-polished speech, discussing the good he wished to do in Westminster and his knowledge of the interests of the area. He spoke eloquently of farming, of the worth of free trade and the price of corn. The crowd was pleased to hear him go through the accustomed forms, to acknowledge their interests and well-being, to know that he would not forget who sent him to London when he went there and associated with the great and powerful.

There followed speeches by other people, some of them longer and some of them shorter. Among the more notable speeches was one by a relatively young member of Parliament, a Mr. Wilberforce, who had started his political career but a few years before and had raised his voice loudly in support of a reformation of morals in England as well as the suppression of the slave trade. It must be admitted that the people of the area cared little about the slave trade. They wanted to be thought of as good people, to be sure, like most people one thinks, but they had little knowledge or familiarity with slavery and the degradation it caused not only to slaves but to the free, especially the masters whose manners and behavior were coarsened by the lack of freedom and will granted to those who served as the objects of their lust or anger. Lord Lipton alone among them had spent years of intimate acquaintance with slaves and masters, and he did not wish to speak of the experience, not thinking that it would be appreciated or be useful for his audience.

While the speeches were going on, it must not be supposed that there were no opponents to Lord Lipton and his associates there. To be sure, they were not speaking in public, but they had other ways of making themselves known. A few subtle souls found themselves directing the attention of members of the crowd to the girl who sat next to Lord Lipton, asking about who she was and insinuating that she was there at his side for some sort of immoral purposes. He was brushed off by the crowd. They knew her to be his cousin, knew him to be taking care of her, and knew her to be in quite good hands and not subject to any sort of behavior like that thank you very much. The subtle agents of the opposition took down what information they heard in the efforts of the neighbors of Lord Lipton to defend his reputation, as that would be more useful for verisimilitude in future efforts, and then quietly departed to share their notes and plan on future efforts to bring trouble upon the Viscount and his supporters.

Lord Lipton did not hear of these efforts. They were far too quiet in their efforts to smear him and to gather information to make smears directed at less discerning and critical audiences easier to believe to draw his attention and notice, and none of those who were asked about it thought to bring it up to his attention. They took the people for ignorant strangers who did not know the Viscount and whose opinions and statements were of little account rather than the paid agents of people who, if they did not know Lord Lipton very well, were certainly not friendly and whose opinion and statements lamentably mattered a great deal.

So it was that while the Viscount was sharing the bountiful harvest of his own estate with his tenants and neighbors and bidding them a sporting and honorable begin to a political season, his enemies were surreptitiously seeking to bring dishonor upon him and behaving in an underhanded manner. They took it for granted that he was not aware that he had such serious enemies, and that he would be unaware of their efforts for some time. They also took for granted that he would be ineffectual in countering their slanders and libels, and that seemed a bit of an assumption that was not warranted by the available evidence.

After all, Lord Lipton had spent a considerable amount of his life around the hot-blooded aristocracy of Georgia and South Carolina, men who drew their pistols at the slightest provocation. It was not merely that libels drove those men to violent hatred, but especially the truth. It was a given that if one told an untruth about a hotspur that the result would be that one would be lying in a pool of one’s own blood if he had anything to say about it. It was especially true that if you said truths that were unpleasant that you would end up in the same state. These men may have been used to dirty politics and dishonorable innuendo, but they had not spend their time around people who were willing to punish such conduct. It is a common misconception among those who engage in dishonorable slander and libel campaigns that if someone is virtuous they are not inclined to ferocity, and that was a fatal error when it came to Lord Lipton. If he was mild and gracious in his dealings with others, if he was a person of a kind and gentle heart, fond of children and small woodland animals, very much a fan of fair play, a strong defender of Christian values, he was immensely fierce when it came to dealing with his enemies. It was a shame, alas, that no one was there to tell those enemies about the Lord’s character before they went about seeking to slander him. But those who are vicious are not often wise, and had someone told them about the Lord’s upbringing and his own steely temper, they might have just laughed it off and not believed them.

It is a lot more obvious what Lord Lipton would have done had he known he had such opposition. He would have sought to know how they operated, why they opposed him, and he would have brought their deeds into the light. This is precisely what they would not have wanted. After all, they were strongest in the shadows, where they could threaten and insinuate, and were at their weakest in an honest argument, where they would have to admit that they made appeals out of fear and greed and had nothing worthwhile to offer others except the dubious worth of their own leadership in offices of the state.

It goes without saying that in such an evil time as that many officers of state were corrupt. Lord Lipton had known this to be the case dealing with colonial and military officials. There were commonly people who sought offices in order to gain money from them, and they usually found themselves swaying to the wind of the local political climate in the knowledge that the local assemblies were the ones who paid colonial offices and as holders of the purse strings got to call the tune. Fortunately, Lord Lipton had never been in such a political office as depended on the favor of local colonists, but it was no panacea for all that, because he had to deal with working for the colonial office itself, and that could be no less corrupt. If Lord Sydney was an honorable man with the desire to elevate the state of England and its people and deal with social problems, not all people who had been involved in the office were people he could approve of. Many of them were placed in positions of authority simply for political reasons, because the colonial office was a plum that could help keep a fragile coalition together. And that is not saying anything about the problem of procurement.

Unusual for members of his class, Lord Lipton had a great interest in what would be considered matters of logistics. He was unusually interested in how goods and people moved from one place to another and for what purposes, what the value of raw materials was that came from areas and the value of the manufactured goods that returned, interested in what allowed small market towns and individual family farms to flourish. If he did not consider himself an expert in the economics of the time, he had at least read books on the matter and talked to merchants and farmers and seen how it was that various conditions affected their ability to make a good living. He thought about the issues of taxation and public debt. These were issues that perhaps were political in the sense of inspiring a great deal of anger, but not very much knowledge.

And to be sure, a great part of the reason for that lack of knowledge was the lack of understanding. There were some people who thought of the debt of a nation like that of a household, and understood that even if one could borrow a great deal of money, that the ability of a nation to support its debt depended on the cultivation of creditworthiness, just as it was for households. Those reliable debtors would be able to borrow more, while those who were not reliable would be harshly punished for less debt, as had been the case with Spain and seemed to be the case for France, if his reading was accurate, as well as for the new American colonies whose creditworthiness was not considered to be particularly great and likely would not be until they could create a better government than their current one. Lord Lipton wondered about what his involvement in the House of Lords would be, and while the election campaign was going on around him, at the same time he sought to plan his own speech introducing himself to his fellow peers, wondering what they would think about him and his own life experience, not thinking that he would be a person of great interest in him otherwise. In this he was much mistaken.

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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