Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Benjamin Disraeli - Twice Prime Minister, Conservative, Jewish, and The Dark Horse

 Benjamin Disraeli:  Accomplishments Known
Background Victorian Jewish
To Mainstream Anglican
and "Dark Horse"
Lesser Known

Benjamin Disraeli 1804-1884. The original "dark horse." A life to revisit: The Jewish child baptized Anglican, and a rise to power in England - twice Prime Minister, see ://www.victorianweb.org/history/pms/dizzy.html.

Unlikely winner. Gay. Nineteenth Century Britain. Famous. So, how can a famous Victorian person be "unsung" and included here at "Bogomilia?"

We include him because his life is worth revisiting, in light of current terms, definitions, issues.  See how this past era dealt with
  • the early baptism of a Jew in Victorian Britain to mainstream Anglican life, 
  • his status as an immigrant (family from Spain, to Venice, to Britain over centuries)
  • explorations of gay issues in his creative writing and that not being an issue for his Conservative politics
  •  running for office as a radical, 
  • entering as a Conservative, and what those terms meant then - and now. 
  • He also originated the idiom, "dark horse" to mean an unlikely winner.
Family: Immigrations. The family had been Spanish, was forced out by the Inquisition, and lived then in Venice beginning at the end of the 15th Century or so. There, the family assumed the name D'Israeli. See ://www.2020site.org/literature/ben_disraeli.html.  His father was a "literary genius."

Education, writing, poetry. Benjamin Disraeli received an excellent education. He was a poet, and a writer. One of his novels, "Vivian Grey" was popular with all classes of people.

The dark horse: This is from a line in one of Disraeli's novels,"The Young Duke," see ://www.trivia-library.com/b/origins-of-sayings-a-dark-horse.htm - "A dark horse which had never been thought of, and which the careless St. James had never even observed in the list, rushed past the grandstand in sweeping triumph." See also ://www.answers.com/topic/dark-horse.See it in pop culture at ://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dark+horse

Jewish background. His background as a Jew is not noted as a factor in the sites we have found so far.

Nobility by marriage. He became the Earl of Beaconsfield by virtue of his marriage to the widow of the earlier Earl of Beaconsfield. And, his baptism as a Christian was long before entering politics. See http://www.ujc.org/page.aspx?id=51500.

Work in youth. After some failures in obtaining a seat in Parliament, he founded "Young England," looking to youth for reform and national prosperity.

Issues and positions included work for a common good, but in the context of the aristocracy reformed but continuing to rule in "peace and justice." That party survived 1841-1845. He "campaigned as a radical" but "entered Commons as a conservative." See ://www.history-ontheweb.co.uk/topic/topic_disraeli%20and%20vicconservat_101,htm. 

Eloquence. He was eloquent, showing Venetian roots perhaps, and derided for it. He focused, became a great debater, and began to use "bitterness," "invective" and "sarcasm." That early party dissolved and he moved into many high positions in Parliament. The conservatives lost in 1880.

Conservatism, British variety.

 Disraeli once said, "A conservative government is organized hypocrisy," quote from http://www.victorianweb.org/history/pms/dizzy.html. We are not sure when that was said. Perhaps before entering Commons? He himself was a Conservative himself thereafter.

Disraeli often changed position on issues. Changes in position - addressed, and it was not a problem.  See the changes, and the effects.  All positive - change in response to conditions. See ://www.history-ontheweb.co.uk/topic/topic_disraeli%20and%20vicconservat_101.htm

 And what did "conservative" mean then? Not the same as in the US. Conservative / liberal - see the differences with what is important, and how definitions change over time - see ://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-29511823_ITM; and ://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3724/is_200608/ai_n17184745.

Victorian British conservatism: three basic tenets - defense of institutions (state, form of government (then a monarchy), tradition and church (the Church of England). See ://au.encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761566793/Conservative_Party.html. Disraeli's actions: "rallied landed interests," "expanded party organization," appealed to trade unions. See ://au.encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761566793/Conservative_Party.html. "[M]ild social reform, low taxation, and playing the nationalistic 'patriotic' playing card." Still, the conservatives lost in 1880.

Victorian British liberalism: It looks like modern US neo-conservatism, even libertarianism, as concluded at this site, see ://www.victorianweb.org/history/goodlad1.html. The "centralized institutions and statist interventions were curbed to preserve the 'self-governing' liberties of individuals and local communities." Notable voice: one John Bright, see ://www.fee.org/Publications/the-Freeman/article.asp?aid=1545. Ongoing struggles, balane, centralism vs. individualism.

Terms in eras and countries differ. See American conservatism: See everyman's overview at ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatism_in_the_United_States. American liberalism - also at everyman's overview, see ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism_in_the_United_States

Sexuality.  Note that there is discussion about a possible ambivalent sexuality of Disraeli, or more, and nobody cared - no looking at people's early life to see seeds of later anathema, see ://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anathema -  Some look to the novels for their documentation, but whether novels reflect such about the author, up to others.


FAMOUS FALSELY ATTRIBUTED QUOTE ABOUT LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES:

This often-repeated bit is not, repeat not, Winston Churchill. And, as shown about comparative definitions, the terms themselves are indefinable, so the quote is meaningless.

"If you're not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35 you have no brain." Not Winston Churchill. This quote has been falsely attributed to him, see ://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=112

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