Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On the problem of inventing the new Eric Cantor

Dilke's work was aggravated by the diversity of his colleagues' opin-ions. Some seemed to believe that filth and disease were God's judge-ment on sin. What was wanted was pure hearts not pure water. Lord Salisbury maintained that the poor were at-tached to their slums and would posi-tively resent being rehoused. But the deepest divergence was one which perplexed most Victorian philanthro-pists. Loving liberty, and sensitive to the claims of individuals, they hesitated to resort to compulsory powers .. The Commissioners soon discovered that parish vestries, charged with preventing abuses, generally consisted of precisely those people most interested in preserving them.

Our popinjay priest in a tropical tie, of sharecropper populism, gigolo of the Republican cruise ship of rapine sanctimony, has been heard to squeal of late as Lord Salisbury's self-important stooge, on an emergency in the Party. How should one be surprised? I have studied him in a concert bowl, on a sunny day in Richmond, feeding demagogic barbecue to saturated leers of his assiduously uneducated base, citing the name, alone, of San Francisco's Italian and female Congresswoman as nourishment enough of every phobia he promotes. He knows he may rely upon his audience's defiant ignorance of every fact illuminating him. How bereft this Party's ideological starva-tion of its following has left it now, of adaptations which must resemble a betrayal.

Amongst the witnesses summoned to give evidence were Lord Shaftesbury and the Reverend A. Mearns, whose bitter cry had reached the Queen. Both described scenes of unimagin-able squalor: houses in which effluent overflowed down staircases, dead bodies left to rot for a week or more, vermin everywhere, unendurable stench, filth, dark, damp, helplessness and despair. 
The Prince approved the Commission's Report which was published in May 1885, but refused to sign an appen-dix proposing leasehold enfran-chisement .. [to] require landlords to maintain their property in habit-able repair: thus threatening the Englishman's inalienable right to let his roof fall in.

An advantage of one's vintage is to have observed each of the serial recostumings of ostensible Conservatism in the sorry, rootless life of Richard Nixon. Congressman Cantor, our fresh and local delegate, pursues a well known path of clinging to power at any price. To what happier appraisal of our corrupt hysterics can we bring ourselves, on Mardi Gras, than to a Prince's own indulgence of their masque? What sweetens more, harsh circumstance, than hypocrisy's adroit investiture in its amelioration? Our Eric counts on our not knowing, what the Prince of Wales, himself, well understood -- The brutal and inescapable facts which the Commissioners were forced to contemplate compelled them to propose measures totally inconsistent with their declared political opinions. As the Prince of Wales said at the Mansion House, on 5 November 1895, 'We are all Socialists now-a-days.'

Giles St. Aubyn
Edward VII
  Prince and King
Atheneum, 1979©

Martin Conte

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