Lord Sydney and Lord Lipton arrived at the House of Lords and after parking the carriage stepped inside the building and then the chamber to meet their fellow peers. Although neither of them were by any means the most famous or the most notable of the peers, and Viscount Sydney only recently elevated from Baron Sydney, their appearance in the newspapers had given them a considerable amount of attention. The crowd was a bit larger than usual for the season. Perhaps the theater run this winter was a little low, perhaps the newspapers had unintentionally hyped up the interest in hearing a peer talk about his background. At any rate, it took a bit longer or the chatter to quiet enough for Lord Lipton to be introduced.
“Esteemed peers and prelates of the Church, I stand before you to introduce myself as is the custom of this house that my grandfather and great-grandfather enjoyed so much and that, to be frank, I did not expect to sit in myself. Since I am unknown to most of you except for perhaps the slightest and least accurate knowledge, I thought it would be worthwhile for me to introduce myself to you and lay down before you at least the main facts of my life thus far so that you may know me better and so that we may be able to work together for the good of the nation. I stand before you as the third Viscount Lipton, a creation made at the latter end of the Stuart monarchs to honor my great-grandfather for his efforts in opening up and expanding the trade in Asia. I am the grandson of the second Viscount of this line through my father, who was the Viscount’s second son.
For most of my life, I passed through this world as no Lord at all, but merely as a Mr. Hartley, assisting my father in his service in the Southern colonies where he went in order to best serve the interests of the realm. No doubt he could have stayed home as my uncle did and lived a comfortable existence but he wished to serve the realm and place was found for him as it tends to be found for those who wish to serve likewise. I was with my father as I grew up and as he went to engage in diplomatic missions between The British, the colonies, and the various native peoples of the area, making sure that British interests were served by whatever treaties were made after those innumerable conflicts that are always breaking up in that quarter. From about the age of seven or eight or so until just a few weeks ago I had only very rarely and for very short periods of time stood on these shores, as my youth and young adulthood was nearly entirely spent in the Southern Colonies and the West Indies.
I have always felt keenly my inability to return to this blessed land in order to study at Eton or some other public school like it and then to take my place as a student at Oxford or Cambridge as would be expected of someone of my intellectual interests and personal background. All the same, I rigorously engaged in education through extensive reading and conversation as well as the best masters that could be asked for among the English population of the area. I trust that you will not find me to be either an illiterate barbarian or a simpleton, however much time I have spent among the various savages that can be found in our erstwhile colonies, or in our loyal ones that still remain in the West Indies, or even in the colonies of our former opponents who are now once again at peace with us.
It is to be regretted that I cannot go into a lengthy discussion of the various deeds that I have undertaken in order to serve the interests of my king and country. Suffice it to say at present that I have given my youth and a great deal of my health in order to serve those interests and to strive to preserve the well-being and unity of the realm, remaining loyal and faithful to England and her interests at considerable personal risk. I am willing and able to undertake any duty this House may see fit to give, whether it require experience in the arts of diplomacy or whether it requires the knowledge of Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Portuguese, or Italian among the ancient and modern languages.
I do think it necessary, because it has become an issue for me already, to comment on one aspect of my political beliefs. In the time before I returned to this country to take up my place as Viscount Lipton, I served in the West Indies to help provide freehold land for various freedmen who had wished to take up the King’s offer of liberty for all who were willing to cast off their chains in opposition to the rebellion that lately took place in the Atlantic colonies now known as the United States. Although I could have joined this House earlier, I did not think it would be an act of good faith and loyalty to abandon the task that I was then engaged in to provide land and the resulting opportunity for freed men to enjoy a decent and honorable lifestyle based on the sweat of their own brow and the content of their character. Having seen the diligence and skill of many children of Ham over the course of the past few years, having seen their steady loyalty to the king in the face of so much treachery and rebellion on a part of those who considered themselves to be a superior race fit to own their moral superiors, having seen their uncomplaining devotion to the hard work necessary to improve their knowledge and their lives, and having seen their willingness to do whatever was necessary to fulfill their own obligations to king and country, I could do no less than my utmost and highest for their own well-being and interests.
Whatever may be the degraded state may be of many people who themselves or their fathers or more remote ancestors were ripped from their native lands in Africa to serve as slaves in the Americas, the possibility of the highest cultural and intellectual and moral advancement exists for them as it does for us. Some people have yet reached those heights and we trust that others will as time and opportunity permit through the course of time. Seeing in such people other beings created in the image and likeness of the same Creator God who formed me in my mother’s womb and who knew me before I drew breath, it is an abomination to me that such people could be seen as being fit to be kidnapped from their homes and farms, dragged to dark and dreary castles on the Atlantic Coast, and sold to traders for some iron or a hatchet or a gun or a few measly coins and then chained in barbaric and inhumane conditions to cross the Atlantic and then to be sold for a tidy profit as mere chattel property.
Be that as it may, I am not an impractical sort of person either. I do not wish that this class of property and people, as evil as their condition is, can be thrust into responsibility and then blamed for the inevitable failures and difficulties that will follow when people who have been treated as brute beasts are now required to live up to the standard of eminent statesmen. The great difficulty of slavery and other forms of tyranny is that no one is ever permitted to peacefully graduate. If we send one of our children off to school or tutor him or her at home, it is our goal for such a student to eventually graduate, to have acquired the necessary connections and accomplishments and knowledge to be fit for an honorable and respectable role in society. But where we hold people to be savages and to treat savagely and without restraint, we do not teach that which a man must know to live peaceably and well. We do not treat respect for property when we deny a man the right to the property he may acquire through his own wits or through his own labor. We do not teach someone to respect authority when the authority we give to them is with whips and chains, with immense cruelty. We do not teach people to be loving parents and spouses when we deny to them the freedom to marry, the honor that those marriages deserve, and when we break apart families to sell them to pay off debts or dispose of an estate to squabbling heirs or when we force such people to serve as our concubines without their consent. I hasten to add that I do not consider it an evil for a man and a woman of whatever background to join together in union with mutual love and consent and with all proper permission from parents. What all of these things bear in common is the reminder, though, that we must act so as to prepare all people for liberty as best as we may achieve it.
We ought to be under no illusions that we can turn the world into a host of Little Englands of various colors and sizes and origins easily or at all. Our own England has been the result of the steady practice and improvement of the Christian faith, of centuries of practice in self-government, of the negotiation between burghers and lords over charters for the freedom of cities, of the negotiations between peasants and the manor born for better terms than villianage and serfdom, of the sometimes sense negotiations between kings and queens and the peers and gentlemen of this realm for the rights of all native born Englishman, of whom I stand before you as one. This is not even to consider the rights that are claimed as universal and self-evident in the face of a world where the dignity of mankind is often denied by despotic and incompetent governments, or to consider the ways in which the dark superstitions of the ordinary masses or the pride and lack of self-knowledge of elites have imprisoned the world in a penitentiary of degrading lies and fictions.
I have perhaps spoken too long of such things. No doubt you are aware of, at least as much as I am, of the difficulties that we have in being right with our Lord and Creator, of treating others justly, of living according to what is good and true. I do not speak to perfect men nor do I speak to as a perfect and blameless man, however we try to live up to the standards of honor and goodness that we have been raised to respect and practice. We live in dangerous times, where people are impatient to try out the untested theories of universal brotherhood and liberty and a contempt for those who have achieved any position of honor because it is assumed that they are corrupt. We live in a world poisoned by envy, where some would put all of the value of what is on this earth, people and animal, vegetable and mineral, into only that which may be used to buy it cheap and sell it dear. We live in a world where it is necessary to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves, and where it is all too easily found to our sorry that we are often far more nearly the reverse.
I trust that in the months and years and decades ahead that in the conversations I have with all of you and in our disputations and in the records of our attempts to pass some laws and reject others, and to engage in the normal affairs of this noble House, that we will all get to know each other better. I hope to become close friends and associates with many of you, and to treat with honor and respect even those with whom I respectfully and candidly disagree. You may all trust that win or lose, right or wrong, the interests and well-being of this House and of the country which it serves will never cease to be present in my heart and in my mind. I will serve not only through using my own knowledge and experience to inform what I say and do but also in giving you all an honest hearing of what is proposed and discussed here. Whether that is honest support or candid critique, I hope that all of you are able to share in the business of this house without taking support as being the sign of bribes or corruptions or opposition as being hostile and personal. I also await the discussion of any of you to ask me questions here or in the conversations we will have in clubs and homes now and in the future for me to answer as honestly as I can.”
With that he sat down, much to the pleasure and astonishment of his fellows. Indeed, no one stood to ask him any questions about what he said. Whether they counted themselves as friends or opponents of the Lord and of his beliefs, he had demonstrated his status as a man and as a gentleman, as a formidable person who had read and thought deeply about the subjects of his day and who was both aware of his own flaws and imperfections as well as the realities of a fallen and imperfect world while also at the same time making strong statements about justice and faith that it was impossible to ignore. So, with no one in the house feeling comfortable asking questions at this time, and wishing to digest and ruminate upon what was said for what was being meant by it, the House of Lords welcome their newest member with pats on the back and clapping and cheers.
The rest of the business that was there to discuss was not of any great controversy. There was a discussion about the feeling of the King’s government to the latest bouts of slander that had infected the realm, but such a subject had already been repeated so often in so many rooms that nearly everyone was sick to death of it and the people who had wasted their time with half-backed fevered imaginations and obvious lies that even those who might normally be expected to offer a challenge to what Lord Sydney had to say on behalf of the government and those peers personally libeled and attacked were silent, if by no means inclined to think kindly of the two men who had spoken thus far. There was, it must be admitted, very little business to discuss, with peace reigning over the empire and with the Commons in the middle of its own election season. There did not appear to be any great and controversial issues of state to make it worth stirring up one’s bile ducts and getting into arguments and fisticuffs with other peers and prelates of the realm. And that must be counted as a very good thing.