Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XV
DOWNING STREET (1850)

THE third Pamphlet began:--'From all corners of the wide British Dominion there rises one complaint against the ineffectuality of what are nicknamed our "redtape" establishments, our Government Offices, Colonial Office, Foreign Office, and the others, in Downing Street and the neighbourhood.' As for the Colonial Office, its performances were bad and its functions a mystery, while the other offices, Home and Foreign, escaped the same unanimity of cursing only by escaping notice. The Home Office, by ignoring the need to organise labour now, when the starving Irish were crowding in upon us, was 'more deficient and behind the wants of the Age than the Colonial,' while the Foreign Office had made Britain a public nuisance,--a 'Hercules-Harlequin, the Attorney Triumphant, the World's Busybody.' The reference was to the foreign policy of Palmerston, which had at this time disgusted even his colleagues so much that only party loyalty kept him in place. Carlyle's proposals, however, went beyond what any politician had the sense to see was needed. We might have avoided many wars if we had been guided by his advice. He said that Britain had no real interest in continental affairs but trade, and should abolish the whole of 'that industry of protocolling, diplomatising, remonstrating, admonishing, and "having the honour to be."' The consular service would serve all ordinary purposes; and if anything was needed that could not be conveniently done through consuls or the post, 'special message-carriers, to be still called Ambassadors, if the name gratified them, could be sent when occasion great enough demanded.'

'For all purposes of a resident ambassador, I hear persons extensively and well acquainted among our foreign embassies at this date declare, That a well-selected Times reporter or "own correspondent," ordered to reside in foreign capitals, and keep his eyes open, and (tho sparingly) his pen going, would in reality be much more effective;--and surely we

-254-

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