Benjamin Disraeli

Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


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Benjamin Disraeli—Statesman, Prime Minister of England, Novelist

December 21, 1804, London England, 5:30 AM, LMT. (Source: Notable Nativities, and Sabian Symbols) Died, April 19, 1881, London.

(Ascendant Scorpio, with Venus, Jupiter and Neptune conjunct in Scorpio—Jupiter and Neptune rising, Jupiter from H12 and Neptune from H1; Sun in Sagittarius; Moon and Mars in Leo; Mercury in Capricorn; Uranus conjunct Saturn in Libra; Pluto in Pisces)

Disraeli was a politically astute figure in Victorian England. At various times he held considerable power in government; he was Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1868, the only Jew ever to gain that post. He was a flamboyant character, with “exaggerated speech and extreme dress”, according to Lois Rodden. His relationship with Queen Victoria was unusual, both official as a member of government, and more private serving as both her close advisor and confidant. His policies were considered imperialistic.

Rays very much in evidence were the third, fourth and perhaps the first. His personality was probably on the fourth ray, and his soul on the third.


A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy.

A consistent soul believes in destiny, a capricious one in chance.

A great city, whose image dwells in the memory of man, is the type of some great idea. Rome represents conquest; Faith hovers over the towers of Jerusalem; and Athens embodies the pre-eminent quality of the antique world, Art. Disraeli

A majority is always better than the best repartee.

A man may speak very well in the House of Commons, and fail very completely in the House of Lords. There are two distinct styles requisite: I intend, in the course of my career, if I have time, to give a specimen of both.

A precedent embalms a principle.

Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.
(Mars in Leo.)

An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.
(Moon in Leo, Mercury in Capricorn?)

As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information. (Mercury in Capricorn.)

Assassination has never changed the history of the world.

Be amusing: never tell unkind stories; above all, never tell long ones.
(Moon in Leo; Merucry in Capricorn)

Beware of endeavoring to become a great man in a hurry. One such attempt in ten thousand may succeed. These are fearful odds.
(Saturn in Libra in 10th house.)

Characters do not change. Opinions alter, but characters are only developed.

Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent.

Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for antiquity, it offers no redress for the present, and makes no preparation for the future.
(Saturn conjunct Uranus.)

Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.
(Mars & Moon in Leo.)

Despair is the conclusion of fools.
(Jupiter & Neptune conjunct Ascendant.)

Desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.
(same -- Jupiter & Neptune conjunct Ascendant.)

Diligence is the mother of good fortune.
in 10th; Virgo Midheaven)

Duty cannot exist without faith.

Every man has a right to be conceited until he is successful.

Every production of genius must be the production of enthusiasm.
(Jupiter Neptune rising, and Mars and Moon in Leo)

Everyone likes flattery; and when you come to Royalty you should lay it on with a trowel.
(Moon and Mars in Leo; Mercury and Chiron in Capricorn)

Fear makes us feel our humanity.

Finality is not the language of politics.
(Scorpio Ascendant. Saturn in Libra in 10th house.)

Frank and explicit - that is the right line to take when you wish to conceal your own mind and confuse the minds of others.

Great countries are those that produce great people.

Grief is the agony of an instant. The indulgence of grief the blunder of a life.

He traces the steam engine all the way back to the tea kettle.

How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.

I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.

I feel a very unusual sensation - if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.
(vsk lol -- gee, Moon in Leo?  funny man.)

I have brought myself, by long meditation, to the conviction that a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and that nothing can resist a will which will stake even existence upon its fulfillment.
(Sun in Sagittarius trine Moon in Leo.)

I never deny. I never contradict. I sometimes forget.

I repeat... that all power is a trust; that we are accountable for its exercise; that from the people and for the people all springs, and all must exist.

I say that justice is truth in action.
(Saturn & Uranus in Libra.)

If a man be gloomy let him keep to himself. No one has the right to go croaking about society, or what is worse, looking as if he stifled grief.
(Jupiter conjunct Ascendant.)

IIf you're not very clever you should be conciliatory.
(Mercury in Capricorn)

In politics nothing is contemptible.
(Jupiter and Neptune rising; Mercury in Capricorn)

Increased means and increased leisure are the two civilizers of man.

It destroys one's nerves to be amiable every day to the same human being.

Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.

Little things affect little minds.

London is a roost for every bird.

Man is not the creature of circumstances, circumstances are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter.

Man is only great when he acts from passion.
(Scorpio Ascendant; and Mars and Moon in Leo.)

Mediocrity can talk, but it is for genius to observe.

Moderation has been called a virtue to limit the ambition of great men, and to console undistinguished people for their want of fortune and their lack of merit.

Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth.

Never complain and never explain.
(Mercury in Capricorn)

Never take anything for granted.

Next to knowing when to seize an opportunity, the most important thing in life is to know when to forego an advantage.

Nine-tenths of the existing books are nonsense and the clever books are the refutation of that nonsense.

On the education of the people of this country the fate of the country depends.
(Sun in Sagittarius.)

Once at a social gathering, Gladstone said to Disraeli, "I predict, Sir, that you will die either by hanging or of some vile disease". Disraeli replied, "That all depends, sir, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
(vsk: Scorpio something!)

One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.

Silence is the mother of truth.

Something unpleasant is coming when men are anxious to tell the truth.

Success is the child of audacity.
(Mars and Moon in Leo)

Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.

The best security for civilization is the dwelling, and upon properly appointed and becoming dwellings depends, more than anything else, the improvement of mankind.

The choicest pleasures of life lie within the ring of moderation.
(Mercury in Capricorn in the 2nd house)

The first magic of love is our ignorance that it can ever end.
(the whole chart says this: vsk)

The fool wonders, the wise man asks.

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.

The palace is not safe when the cottage is not happy.

The people of England are the most enthusiastic in the world.
(huh?, not sure where he came up with this. May be a Mercury Capricorn 'hopeful' view?)

The pursuit of science leads only to the insoluble.

The secret of success is constancy to purpose.

There is no greater index of character so sure as the voice.

War is never a solution; it is an aggravation.

We moralize among ruins.

What we anticipate seldom occurs: but what we least expect generally happens.

Where knowledge ends, religion begins.

Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle, Old Age a regret.
(ugh.  Bad Scorpio mood. )


Benjamin Disraeli,
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
27 February 1868 – 1 December 1868
20 February 1874 – 21 April 1880
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, KG, PC, FRS (21 December 1804 – 19 April 1881) was an English statesman and literary figure. He served in government for three decades, twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – the first and thus far only person of Jewish parentage to do so, although Disraeli was baptised in the Anglican Church at an early age. Disraeli's most lasting achievement was the creation of the modern Conservative Party after the Corn Laws schism of 1846.

Although a major figure in the protectionist wing of the Conservative Party after 1844, Disraeli's relations with the other leading figures in the party, particularly Lord Derby, the overall leader, were often strained. Not until the 1860s would Derby and Disraeli be on easy terms, and the latter's succession of the former assured. From 1852 onwards, Disraeli's career would also be marked by his often intense rivalry with William Ewart Gladstone, who eventually rose to become leader of the Liberal Party. In this duel, Disraeli was aided by his warm friendship with Queen Victoria, who came to detest Gladstone during the latter's first premiership in the 1870s. In 1876 Disraeli was raised to the peerage as the Earl of Beaconsfield, capping nearly four decades in the House of Commons.

Before and during his political career, Disraeli was well-known as a literary and social figure, although his novels are not generally regarded as belonging to the first rank of Victorian literature. He mainly wrote romances, of which Sybil and Vivian Grey are perhaps the best-known today. He was and is unusual among British Prime Ministers for having gained equal social and political renown.

Early life
Isaac D'Israeli
Father of Benjamin DisraeliDisraeli descended from Italian Sephardic Jews from both his maternal and paternal sides, although he claimed Spanish ancestry during his own lifetime, he may have just been referring to the fact that all Sephardim ultimately originate in Spain. [1] His father was the literary critic and historian Isaac D'Israeli who, though Jewish, in 1817 had Benjamin baptised in the Church of England, following a dispute with their synagogue. The elder D'Israeli (Benjamin changed the spelling in the 1820s by dropping the foreign-looking apostrophe) himself was content to remain outside organized religion. [2] Benjamin at first attended a small school, the Reverend John Potticary's school at Blackheath[3] (later to evolve into St Piran's School). Beginning in 1817, Benjamin attended Higham Hall, in Walthamstow. His younger brothers, in contrast, attended the superior Winchester College, a fact which apparently grated on Disraeli and may explain his dislike of his mother, Maria D'Israeli.

His father destined him for the law, and he was articled to a solicitor in 1821. The law was, however, uncongenial, and by 1825, he gave it up. Disraeli was apparently determined to obtain independent means, and speculated on the stock exchange as early as 1824 on various South American mining companies. The recognition of the new South American republics on the recommendation of George Canning had led to a considerable boom, encouraged by various promoters and aggrandizers. In this connection, Disraeli became involved with the financier J. D. Powles, one such booster. In the course of 1825, Disraeli wrote three anonymous pamphlets for Powles, promoting the companies. [4]

That same year Disraeli's financial activities brought him into contact with the publisher John Murray who, like Powles and Disraeli, was involved in the South American mines. Accordingly, they attempted to bring out a newspaper, The Representative, to promote the cause of the mines and those politicians who supported the mines, specifically Canning. The paper was a failure, in part because the mining "bubble" burst in late 1825, ruining Powles and Disraeli. Also, according to Disraeli's biographer, Lord Blake, the paper was "atrociously edited", and would have failed anyway. Disraeli would be indebted for the rest of life.

Literary career
a Young Disraeli
by Sir Francis Grant, 1852Disraeli now turned towards literature, and brought out his first novel, Vivian Grey, in 1827. Disraeli's biographers agree that Vivian Grey was a thinly-veiled re-telling of the affair of the Representative, and it proved very popular on its release, although it also caused much offence within the Tory literary world when Disraeli's authorship was discovered. The book, which was initially published anonymously, was purportedly written by a "man of fashion" – someone who moved in high society. Disraeli, then just twenty-three, did not move in high society, and the numerous solecisms present in Vivian Grey made this painfully obvious. Reviewers were sharply critical on these grounds of both the author and the book. Furthermore, Murray believed that Disraeli had caricatured him and abused his confidence–an accusation denied at the time, and by the official biography, although subsequent biographers (notably Blake) have sided with Murray.[5]

After producing a Vindication of the British Constitution, and some political pamphlets, Disraeli followed up Vivian Grey by a series of novels, The Young Duke (1831), Contarini Fleming (1832), Alroy (1833), Venetia and Henrietta Temple (1837). During the same period he had also written The Revolutionary Epick and three burlesques, Ixion, The Infernal Marriage, and Popanilla. Of these only Henrietta Temple (based on his affair with Lady Henrietta Sykes) was a true success.

During the 1840s Disraeli wrote three political novels collectively known as "the Trilogy"–Sybil, Coningsby, and Tancred.

Disraeli's relationships with other writers of his period (most of whom were male), were strained or non-existent. After the disaster of the Representative John Gibson Lockhart was a bitter enemy and the two never reconciled.[6] Disraeli's preference for female company prevented the development of contact with those who were not alienated by his opinions, comportment, or background. One contemporary who tried to bridge the gap, William Makepeace Thackeray, established a tentative cordial relationship in the late 1840s only to see everything collapse when Disraeli took offence at a burlesque of him which Thackeray had penned for Punch. Disraeli took revenge in Endymion (published in 1880), when he caricatured Thackeray as "St. Barbe." [7]

Disraeli had been considering a political career as early as 1830, before he departed England for the Mediterranean. His first real efforts, however, did not come until 1832, during the great crisis over the Reform Bill, when he contributed to an anti-Whig pamphlet edited by Croker and published by Murray entitled England and France: or a cure for Ministerial Gallomania. The choice of a Tory publication was regarded as odd if not offensive by Disraeli's friends and relatives, who thought him more of a Radical.

Sir Robert Peel, Bt.
Prime Minister 1834-35, 1841-46Indeed, Disraeli had objected to Murray about Croker inserting "high Tory" sentiment, writing that "it is quite impossible that anything adverse to the general measure of Reform can issue from my pen." Further, at the time Gallomania was published, Disraeli was in fact electioneering in High Wycombe in the Radical interest. [8] Disraeli's politics at the time were influenced both by his rebellious streak and by his desire to make his mark. In the early 1830s the Tories and the interests they represented appeared to be a lost cause. The other great party, the Whigs, was apparently anathema to Disraeli: "Toryism is worn out & I cannot condescend to be a Whig." [9]

Though he initially stood for election, unsuccessfully, as a Radical, Disraeli was a progressive Tory by the time he won a seat in the House of Commons in 1837 representing the constituency of Maidstone. The next year he settled his private life by marrying Mary Anne Lewis, the widow of Wyndham Lewis, Disraeli's erstwhile colleague at Maidstone.

Lord John Manners
Friend of Disraeli, and leading figure in the Young England movementAlthough nominally a Conservative, Disraeli was sympathetic to some of the demands of the Chartists and argued for an alliance between the landed aristocracy and the working class against the increasing power of the middle class, helping to found the Young England group in 1842 to promote the view that the rich should use their power to protect the poor from exploitation by the middle class. During the twenty years which separated the Corn Laws and the Second Reform Bill Disraeli would seek Tory-Radical alliances, to little avail.

Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel passed over Disraeli when putting together his government in 1841 and Disraeli, hurt, gradually became a sharp critic of Peel's government, often deliberately adopting positions contrary to those of his nominal chief.[10] The best known of these cases was the Maynooth grant in 1845 and the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. The end of 1845 and the first months of 1846 were dominated by the battle in parliament between the free traders and the protectionists over the repeal of the Corn Laws, with the latter rallying around Disraeli and Lord George Bentinck. An alliance of pro-Peel Conservatives, Radicals, and Whigs carried repeal, but the Conservative Party split: Peel and his followers, known as Peelites, moved towards the Whigs, while a "new" Conservative Party formed around the protectionists, led by Disraeli, Bentinck, and Lord Stanley (later Lord Derby).

The first opportunity for Disraeli, Stanley, and the protectionist Tories to take office had come in 1851, when Lord John Russell's government had been defeated in the House of Commons over the Ecclesiastical Titles Act 1851. Disraeli was to have been Home Secretary, with Stanley (who became the Earl of Derby later that year) as Prime Minister. The Peelites, however, refused to serve under Stanley or with Disraeli, and attempts to create a purely protectionist government failed. [11]

Russell resumed office, but resigned again in early 1852 when a combination of the protectionists and Lord Palmerston defeated him on a Militia Bill. This time Lord Derby (as he had become) took office, and appointed Disraeli Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. Disraeli's first and primary responsibility was to produce a Budget for the coming fiscal year. He proposed to reduce taxes on malt and tea (indirect taxation); additional revenue would come from an increase in the House tax. More controversially, Disraeli also proposed to alter the workings of the Income Tax (direct taxation) by "differentiating"–i.e., different rates would be levied on different types of income. [12] The establishment of the income tax on a permanent basis had been the subject of much inter-party discussion since the fall of Peel's ministry, but no conclusions had been reached, and Disraeli was criticised for mixing up details over the different "schedules" of income. He was also hampered by an unexpected increase in defence expenditure, which was forced on him by Derby and Sir John Pakington (leading to his celebrated remark to John Bright about the "damned defences"). [13] This, combined with bad timing and perceived inexperience led to the failure of the Budget and consequently the fall of the government in December of that year.

Prime Minister 1852, 1858-59, 1866-68Nonetheless, William Ewart Gladstone's final speech on the Budget marked the beginning of over twenty years of mutual parliamentary hostility and the end of Gladstone's formal association with the Conservative Party.

The second and third Derby governments
Main article: Second Derby Ministry
Derby returned to office in 1858 and once again made Disraeli chancellor and leader of the House of Commons+. The principal measure of the 1858 session was the India Act, under which the subcontinent would be governed for sixty years. The East India Company and its Governor-General were replaced by a viceroy and the Indian Council, while at Westminster the Board of Control was abolished and its functions assumed by the India Office, under the newly-created Secretary of State for India. Disraeli worked closely with Lord Stanley, Derby's son and the President of the Board of Control, to guide the measure through the house. [14]

Main article: Third Derby Ministry
After engineering the defeat of a Liberal Reform Bill introduced by Gladstone in 1866, Disraeli and Derby introduced their own measure in 1867.

William Ewart Gladstone
Four-time Prime MinisterThis was primarily a political strategy designed to give Conservatives control of the reform process and thereby long term benefits in the Commons, similar to those derived by the Whigs after the 1832 Reform Act. The Reform Act of 1867 extended the franchise by 938,427 (an increase of 88%) by giving the vote to male householders and male lodgers paying at least 10 pounds for rooms and eliminating rotten boroughs with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants and granting constituencies to fifteen unrepresented towns and extra representation in parliament to larger towns such as Liverpool and Manchester, which had previously been underrepresented in Parliament.[15]. This act was unpopular with the right wing of the Conservative Party, most notably Lord Cranborne (later the Marquess of Salisbury), who resigned from the government and spoke against the bill, accusing Disraeli of "a political betrayal which has no parallel in our Parliamentary annals." [16] Cranborne, however, was unable to lead a rebellion similar to that which Disraeli had led against Peel twenty years earlier.

Derby's health had been declining for some time and he finally resigned as Prime Minister in late February of 1868; he would live for another twenty months. Disraeli's efforts over the past two years had dispelled, for the time being, any doubts about him succeeding Derby as leader of the Conservative Party and therefore Prime Minister. As Disraeli remarked, "I have climbed to the top of the greasy pole." [17]

The Marquess of Salisbury
Three-time Prime MinisterHowever, the Conservatives were still a minority in the House of Commons, and the enaction of the Reform Bill required the calling of new election once the new voting register had been compiled. Disraeli's term as Prime Minister would therefore be fairly short, unless the Conservatives won the general election. He made only two major changes in the cabinet: he replaced Lord Chelmsford as Lord Chancellor with Lord Cairns, and brought in George Ward Hunt as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Disraeli and Chelmsford had never got along particularly well, and Cairns, in Disraeli's view, was a far stronger minister. [18]

Disraeli's first premiership was dominated by the heated debate over the established Church of Ireland. Although Ireland was (and remains) overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, the Protestant Church remained the established church and was funded by direct taxation. An initial attempt by Disraeli to negotiate with Cardinal Manning the establishment of a Roman Catholic university in Dublin foundered in mid-March when Gladstone moved resolutions to dis-establish the Irish Church altogether. The proposal divided the Conservative Party while reuniting the Liberals under Gladstone's leadership. While Disraeli's government survived until the December general election, the initiative had passed to the Liberals.[19]

However, in the election that followed, William Gladstone and the Liberals were returned to power with a majority of 170. After six years in opposition, Disraeli and the Conservative Party won the election giving the party its first absolute majority in the House of Commons since the 1840s. Disraeli's government introduced various reforms, such as the Artisans Dwellings Act (1875), the Public Health Act (1875), the Pure Food and Drugs Act (1875), the Climbing Boys Act (1875), and the Education Act (1876). His government also introduced a new Factory Act meant to protect workers, the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act (1875) to allow peaceful picketing, and the Employers and Workmen Act (1878) to enable workers to sue employers in the civil courts if they broke legal contracts.

Disraeli and Queen Victoria.Disraeli was a staunch British imperialist and helped strengthen the British Empire with his support for the construction of the Suez Canal. He also achieved a diplomatic success at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 in limiting the growing influence of Russia in the Balkans and breaking up the League of the Three Emperors. However, difficulties in South Africa, epitomised by the defeat of the British Army at the Battle of Isandlwana, and Afghanistan weakened his government and likely led to his party's defeat in the 1880 election.

He was elevated to the House of Lords in 1876 when Queen Victoria (who liked Disraeli both personally and politically) made him Earl of Beaconsfield and Viscount Hughenden. He and Gladstone clashed again over Britain's Balkan policy. Disraeli saw the situation as a matter of British imperial and strategic interests; that is, keeping to Palmerston's policy of supporting the Ottoman Empire against Russian expansion. Gladstone, however, saw the situation as a moral one because Bulgarian Christians had been massacred by the Turks and therefore he believed it was immoral to support the Turks. Gladstone embarked on his "Midlothian campaign" in 1879 denouncing what he called "Beaconsfieldism". In the general election of 1880 Disraeli's Conservatives were defeated by Gladstone's Liberals. Disraeli became ill soon after and died in April 1881. His literary executor and for all intents and purposes his heir was his private secretary, Lord Rowton.

Personal life and family
Benjamin was the second child and eldest son of Isaac D'Israeli and Maria Basevi. His siblings included Sarah (1802–1859), Naphtali (1807), Ralph (1809–1898), and James (1813–1868). [20]

Before his entrance into parliament Disraeli was involved with several different women, most notably Lady Henrietta Sykes (the wife of Sir Francis Sykes, Bt), who served as the model for Henrietta Temple. His relationship with Henrietta would eventually cause him serious trouble beyond the usual problems associated with a torrid affair. It was Henrietta who introduced Disraeli to Lord Lyndhurst, with whom she later became romantically involved. As Lord Blake observed: "The true relationship between the three cannot be determined with certainty...there can be no doubt that the affair [figurative usage] damaged Disraeli and that it made its contribution, along with many other episodes, to the understandable aura of distrust which hung around his name for so many years." [21]

Disraeli's Judaism
Although born of Jewish parents, Disraeli was baptised in the Christian faith at the age of thirteen, and remained an observant Anglican for the rest of his life.[22] At the same time, he regarded himself racially Jewish and did not view the two positions as incompatible.

Disraeli's governments
First Disraeli Ministry (February–December 1868)
Second Disraeli Ministry (February 1874–April 1880)
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
Marjie Bloy Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore

Prime Minister: 27 February-1 December 1868; 20 February 1874-21 April 1880

Benjamin Disraeli was born on 21 December 1804 at Bedford Row London. He was the eldest son and second of five children born to Isaac D'Israeli and his wife Maria Basevi. Although the family was Jewish, Benjamin was baptised at St. Andrew's Anglican church in 1817. He was educated at Miss Roper's school in Islington and then went to Higham Hall School in Walthamstow between 1817 and 1821. In 1824 he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn but he withdrew in 1831. After that Disraeli travelled throughout Europe and the Near East; whilst on his travels he contracted venereal disease and was subjected to the mercury treatment on his return to England. Since gonorrhoea causes sterility in males, this may explain why he remained childless. On his return he abandoned a career in Law to pursue one in writing.

In 1825 the daily newspaper The Representative appeared: it was founded by Disraeli and John Murray but it lasted only a few months. However, his first novel, Vivien Grey was published in April 1826, earning him £200. His first foray into political life was when he stood as a candidate for Wycombe in June 1832 but was not elected. He stood three times for Wycombe as an Independent Radical so in 1835 he committed himself to the Tory Party after Lyndhurst, the Lord Chancellor, became his political patron. Disraeli lost the Taunton by-election in April 1835 but by then he was an 'official' Tory candidate thanks to the efforts of Sir Francis Bonham and the Carlton Club. Disraeli had been conducting an affair with Lady Henrietta Sykes since 1833; it seems that her husband was aware of the liaison that continued for three years. They parted in the autumn of 1836.

In 1835 Disraeli and Daniel O'Connell quarrelled publicly over press reports that O'Connell had been called a 'traitor and incendiary' by Disraeli. The pair were to fight a duel but the police intervened and Disraeli was bound over to keep the peace. This was the first of their confrontations. In a heated debate in parliament, O'Connell referred to Disraeli's Jewish ancestry in disparaging terms to which Disraeli responded:

Yes, I am a Jew and when the ancestors of the right honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.

By 1835 he had a number of publications to his name: The Voyage of Captain Popanilla (1828);The Young Duke (1831); Contarini Fleming (1832); The Wondrous Tale of Alroy and the Rise of the Iskander (1833); A Year at Hartlebury (1834) and the political pamphlet A Vindication of the English Constitution in a Letter to a Noble and Learned Lord by Disraeli the Younger (1835). He also attacked the Municipal Corporations Bill in fourteen anonymous articles in the Morning Post. In 1836 he produced a series of nineteen letters in The Times under the pseudonym 'Runnymede' that poked fun at identifiable members Melbourne's government. This did nothing to endear him to his contemporaries, especially after he entered parliament as MP for Maidstone in July 1837 during the general election, along with Wyndham Lewis. His maiden speech on the subject of Irish elections was something of a disaster: he was shouted down but ended it by saying, 'I sit down now but the time will come when you will hear me'. His second speech, delivered two weeks later, was deliberately dull and was received with more attention. In 1844 and prior to the start of the Famine, he summarised the "Irish question" in the following terms

... you have a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien church, and in addition the weakest executive in the world. That is the Irish Question.

In August 1839 Mary Anne Wyndham Lewis (the widow of Wyndham Lewis) and Disraeli were married. She was twelve years older than her new husband and at the time there was a great deal of gossip that he had married her for her money-which lasted only for her lifetime. There was no doubt that they were devoted to each other and in later years he teased her by saying that he had only married her for her money: her reply invariably was 'but if you had to do it again, you'd do it for love'. That year saw the first manifestation of Chartism; in a parliamentary debate on the Poor Law he expressed support for the Chartists and in June 1840 was one of only five MPs who protested at the harsh punishment meted out to the Chartist leaders.

On the resignation of Lord Melbourne in 1841, Peel was appointed as PM following the general election; Disraeli became the MP for Shrewsbury. He wrote to Peel asking for government office but was not made a member of the government. Consequently he attached himself to 'Young England', a group of young aristocrats who first entered parliament that year and were led by George Smythe. Other members were Lord John Manners and Alexander Baillie-Cochrane. They expressed a desire to return to the 'golden age' of agricultural society where paternalism and deference ensured that society worked for the benefit of all and the aristocracy ruled the land in justice and peace. By the end of 1844 the group had disintegrated.

In a speech in the House of Commons on 28 February 1845 Disraeli attacked Peel for disregarding the views of the Conservatives in parliament who opposed the alteration of the Corn Laws; he said:

The Right Honourable Gentleman caught the Whigs bathing and walked away with their clothes. He has left them in the full enjoyment of their liberal position, and he is himself a strict conservative of their garments.

Disraeli also commented that 'a conservative government is an organised hypocrisy'. As it became increasingly obvious that Peel was likely to move for a repeal of the Corn Laws, a 'protectionist' group was established early in 1846 to oppose the PM from within his own party: the leaders of this group were Disraeli, Bentinck and Stafford O'Brien who spear-headed the parliamentary attacks on Peel. In May, Disraeli made a vicious attack on Peel in the Corn Law debates. Peel accused him of touting for office in 1841: Disraeli denied that he had done so, relying on the hope that Peel could not produce the letter. Although Peel managed to push the repeal of the Corn Laws through parliament he resigned over the Irish Coercion Act in June and was succeeded as PM by a Whig ministry led by Lord John Russell. Disraeli supported the Whig attempt to remove the civil disabilities still imposed on Jews and continued to do so for the next ten years until the legislation was successful.

Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire. Disraeli bought the house in 1847

When Russell resigned in 1852, the Earl of Derby formed his first ministry and Disraeli became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the so-called "Who? Who?" ministry. He spoke for five hours when presenting his first Budget but was answered by Gladstone, thus marking the opening of the parliamentary conflict between the two men. The Bill was defeated and the government resigned, giving way to Aberdeen's ministry that plunged the country into the Crimean War. Gladstone took over as Chancellor of the Exchequer in this ministry and an argument broke out between Gladstone and Disraeli over the furniture in No. 11 Downing Street and the Chancellor's robe that Disraeli refused to surrender. Aberdeen's ministry fell over the mis-handling of the war and was succeeded by that of Palmerston. In February 1858 Derby formed his second ministry and Disraeli again took the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer but the ministry lasted only for eighteen months; during that time, the government introduced a Reform Bill that was defeated by the Liberals. On his third appointment to the Treasury in 1866, Disraeli was responsible for putting the second Reform Bill to parliament: it was an attempt to broaden support for the Tory party. The Bill received royal assent in 1867 and Disraeli formed his first ministry in 1868 on the resignation of Derby on the grounds of ill health. His comment was 'I have climbed to the top of the greasy pole'. Once the new electoral register was ready a general election was held: the Liberals won a resounding victory and Gladstone formed his first administration. Queen Victoria created Mary Anne Disraeli the Countess of Beaconsfield. Mary Anne died in December 1872 leaving Disraeli devastated and reliant upon his private secretary, Monty Corry. In the 1874 general election the Tories were victorious and Disraeli formed his second ministry which saw the passing of a number of pieces of legislation including, in 1875

In 1878 Disraeli was elevated to the House of Lords as the Earl of Beaconsfield; his administration was attacked by Gladstone for its policy towards the Ottoman Empire. In 1876 the Bulgarian atrocities had taken place but Disraeli said that the press reports were exaggerated - this was something of a faux pas for him and Gladstone made the most of his opportunity, publishing a pamphlet The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East later in the year. Another outbreak of Russo-Turkish hostilities erupted in the war of 1877 which ended with the Treaty of Adrianople in 1878 and was followed by the Congress of Berlin that was attended by Disraeli and Salisbury on behalf of Britain. The meeting culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Berlin and Disraeli claimed to have won 'peace with honour'. In 1880 he resigned as PM following a Liberal victory at the general election and became leader of the Opposition from the Lords. Always something of a dandy, he arrived at a dinner party wearing 'green velvet trousers, a canary coloured waistcoat, low shoes, sliver buckles, lace at his wrists and his hair in ringlets...' [Henry Bulmer]. He died a year later and was buried at Hughenden parish church in Buckinghamshire. He was 76 years old.


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