Why Men Went into Parliament
‘You will be of the House of Commons as soon as you are of age’, wrote Lord Chesterfield to his son, Philip Stanhope, on 5 December 1749; ‘and you must first make a figure there if you would make a figure in your country.’ Small boys play at kings and soldiers, or at riders, engine-drivers, chauffeurs, and airmen—the material expression of that fancy varies with methods of locomotion. But for several centuries the dream of English youth and manhood of the nation-forming class has remained unchanged; it has been fixed and focused on the House of Commons, a modified, socialized arena for battle, drive, and dominion. ‘To be out of Parliament is to be out of the world’, wrote Admiral Sir George Rodney to Lord George Germain from the West Indies in 1780, ‘and my heart is set upon my being in.’1 Democracy, by enlarging the circle of the citoyens actifs, has carried this ambition into ever wider circles, and now many a small branch secretary of a trade union or local notable thinks of his own future in Chesterfield’ terms: ‘You must make a figure there if you would make a figure in your country’.
KeywordsEighteenth Century Civil Servant Party Organization East India Company Army Officer
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