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Controversial wars in Afghanistan and South Africa undermined his public support. He angered British farmers by refusing to reinstitute the Corn Laws in response to poor harvests and cheap imported grain. With Gladstone conducting a massive speaking campaign , his Liberals bested Disraeli's Conservatives at the general election. In his final months, Disraeli led the Conservatives in Opposition. He had throughout his career written novels, beginning in , and he published his last completed novel, Endymion , shortly before he died at the age of Disraeli's siblings were Sarah — , Naphtali born and died , Ralph — , and James "Jem" — He was close to his sister, and on affectionate but more distant terms with his surviving brothers.
Isaac D'Israeli had never taken religion very seriously, but had remained a conforming member of the Bevis Marks Synagogue. Turner stood as godfather when Benjamin was baptised, aged twelve, on 31 July Conversion to Christianity enabled Disraeli to contemplate a career in politics. Britain in the early-nineteenth century was not a greatly anti-Semitic society, and there had been Members of Parliament MPs from Jewish families since Samson Gideon in But until , MPs were required to take the oath of allegiance "on the true faith of a Christian", necessitating at least nominal conversion.
He began there in the autumn term of ;  he later recalled his education:. I was at school for two or three years under the Revd. Too much so; in the pride of boyish erudition, I edited the Idonisian Eclogue of Theocritus, wh. This was my first production: puerile pedantry. In November , shortly before his seventeenth birthday, Disraeli was articled as a clerk to a firm of solicitors —Swain, Stevens, Maples, Pearse and Hunt—in the City of London.
The firm had a large and profitable business, and as the biographer R W Davis observes, the clerkship was "the kind of secure, respectable position that many fathers dream of for their children". My father's refrain always was ' Philip Carteret Webb ', who was the most eminent solicitor of his boyhood and who was an MP. It would be a mistake to suppose that the two years and more that I was in the office of our friend were wasted.
I have often thought, though I have often regretted the University, that it was much the reverse. His reasons for doing so are unknown, but the biographer Bernard Glassman surmises that it was to avoid being confused with his father. Disraeli toured Belgium and the Rhine Valley with his father in the summer of ; he later wrote that it was while travelling on the Rhine that he decided to abandon his position: "I determined when descending those magical waters that I would not be a lawyer.
He enrolled as a student at Lincoln's Inn and joined the chambers of his uncle, Nathaniel Basevy, and then those of Benjamin Austen, who persuaded Isaac that Disraeli would never make a barrister and should be allowed to pursue a literary career. There was at the time a boom in shares in South American mining companies.
Spain was losing its South American colonies in the face of rebellions. At the urging of George Canning the British government recognised the new independent governments of Argentina , Colombia and Mexico both He became involved with the financier J. Powles , who was prominent among those encouraging the mining boom. In the course of , Disraeli wrote three anonymous pamphlets for Powles, promoting the companies. Murray had for some time had ambitions to establish a new morning paper to compete with The Times.
The new paper, The Representative , promoted the mines and those politicians who supported them, particularly Canning. Disraeli impressed Murray with his energy and commitment to the project, but he failed in his key task of persuading the eminent writer John Gibson Lockhart to edit the paper. After that, Disraeli's influence on Murray waned, and to his resentment he was sidelined in the affairs of The Representative. The bursting of the mining bubble was ruinous for Disraeli. Disraeli could not pay off the last of his debts from this debacle until Reviewers were sharply critical on these grounds of both the author and the book.
Furthermore, Murray and Lockhart, men of great influence in literary circles, believed that Disraeli had caricatured them and abused their confidence—an accusation denied by the author but repeated by many of his biographers. Disraeli's biographer Jonathan Parry writes that the financial failure and personal criticism that Disraeli suffered in and were probably the trigger for a serious nervous crisis affecting him over the next four years: "He had always been moody, sensitive, and solitary by nature, but now became seriously depressed and lethargic. The tour was cut short suddenly by Meredith's death from smallpox in Cairo in July He became, in Parry's words, "aware of values that seemed denied to his insular countrymen.
The journey encouraged his self-consciousness, his moral relativism, and his interest in Eastern racial and religious attitudes. They conditioned his attitude toward some of the most important political problems which faced him in his later years—especially the Eastern Question; they also coloured many of his novels. Disraeli wrote two novels in the aftermath of the tour. Contarini Fleming was avowedly a self-portrait. It is subtitled "a psychological autobiography", and depicts the conflicting elements of its hero's character: the duality of northern and Mediterranean ancestry, the dreaming artist and the bold man of action.
As Parry observes, the book ends on a political note, setting out Europe's progress "from feudal to federal principles". After the two novels were published, Disraeli declared that he would "write no more about myself". The choice of a Tory publication was regarded as strange by Disraeli's friends and relatives, who thought him more of a Radical. Indeed, he had objected to Murray about Croker's inserting "high Tory" sentiment: Disraeli remarked, "it is quite impossible that anything adverse to the general measure of Reform can issue from my pen.
Disraeli's politics at the time were influenced both by his rebellious streak and by his desire to make his mark. The Whigs derived from the coalition of Lords who had forced through the Bill of Rights in and in some cases were their actual descendants, not merely spiritual. The Tories tended to support King and Church, and sought to thwart political change. A small number of Radicals, generally from northern constituencies, were the strongest advocates of continuing reform.
Disraeli's political views embraced certain Radical policies, particularly democratic reform of the electoral system, and also some Tory ones, including protectionism. He began to move in Tory circles. She was having an affair with Lyndhurst, and began another with Disraeli. Lyndhurst was an indiscreet gossip with a fondness for intrigue; this appealed greatly to Disraeli, who became his secretary and go-between. In Disraeli stood for the last time as a Radical, unsuccessfully contesting High Wycombe once again. In April , Disraeli fought a by-election at Taunton as a Tory candidate.
He possesses all the necessary requisites of perfidy, selfishness, depravity, want of principle, etc. His name shows that he is of Jewish origin. I do not use it as a term of reproach; there are many most respectable Jews. But there are, as in every other people, some of the lowest and most disgusting grade of moral turpitude; and of those I look upon Mr.
Disraeli as the worst. Disraeli's public exchanges with O'Connell, extensively reproduced in The Times ,  included a demand for a duel with the year-old O'Connell's son which resulted in Disraeli's temporary detention by the authorities , a reference to "the inextinguishable hatred with which [he] shall pursue [O'Connell's] existence", and the accusation that O'Connell's supporters had a "princely revenue wrung from a starving race of fanatical slaves". Disraeli kept Labouchere's majority down to ,  a good showing that put him in line for a winnable seat in the near future.
With Lyndhurst's encouragement Disraeli turned to writing propaganda for his newly adopted party. His Vindication of the English Constitution , was published in December It was couched in the form of an open letter to Lyndhurst, and in Bradford's view encapsulates a political philosophy that Disraeli adhered to for the rest of his life. His targets included the Whigs, collectively and individually, Irish nationalists, and political corruption. One essay ended:. The English nation, therefore, rallies for rescue from the degrading plots of a profligate oligarchy, a barbarizing sectarianism, and a boroughmongering Papacy, round their hereditary leaders—the Peers.
The House of Lords, therefore, at this moment represents everything in the realm except the Whig oligarchs, their tools the Dissenters, and their masters the Irish priests. In the mean time, the Whigs bawl that there is a "collision! Disraeli was now firmly in the Tory camp. He was elected to the exclusively Tory Carlton Club in , and was also taken up by the party's leading hostess, Lady Londonderry. In the election in July Disraeli won a seat in the House of Commons as one of two members, both Tory, for the constituency of Maidstone.
He had broken off the relationship in late , distraught that she had taken yet another lover. Disraeli made his maiden speech in Parliament on 7 December He followed O'Connell, whom he sharply criticised for the latter's "long, rambling, jumbling, speech". He was a loyal supporter of the party leader Sir Robert Peel and his policies, with the exception of a personal sympathy for the Chartist movement that most Tories did not share. His motives were generally assumed to be mercenary, but the couple came to cherish one another, remaining close until she died more than three decades later.
Finding the financial demands of his Maidstone seat too much, Disraeli secured a Tory nomination for Shrewsbury , winning one of the constituency's two seats at the general election , despite serious opposition, and heavy debts which opponents seized on. Although a Tory or Conservative, as some in the party now called themselves [n 14] Disraeli was sympathetic to some of the aims of Chartism, and argued for an alliance between the landed aristocracy and the working class against the increasing power of the merchants and new industrialists in the middle class.
They held that the landed interests should use their power to protect the poor from exploitation by middle-class businessmen. For many years in his parliamentary career Disraeli hoped to forge a paternalistic Tory-Radical alliance, but he was unsuccessful. Before the Reform Act , the working class did not possess the vote and therefore had little political power.
Although Disraeli forged a personal friendship with John Bright , a Lancashire manufacturer and leading Radical, Disraeli was unable to persuade Bright to sacrifice his distinct position for parliamentary advancement. When Disraeli attempted to secure a Tory-Radical cabinet in , Bright refused. Disraeli gradually became a sharp critic of Peel's government, often deliberately taking positions contrary to those of his nominal chief. The best known of these stances were over the Maynooth Grant in and the repeal of the Corn Laws in But the young MP had attacked his leader as early as on Ireland and then on foreign policy interventions.
In a letter of February , he slighted the Prime Minister for failing to send him a Policy Circular. He laid into the Whigs as freebooters, swindlers and conmen but Peel's own Free Trade policies were directly in the firing line. Peel hoped that the repeal of the Corn Laws and the resultant influx of cheaper wheat into Britain would relieve the condition of the poor, and in particular the suffering caused by successive failure of potato crops in Ireland—the Great Famine.
The first months of were dominated by a 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. Disraeli had declined, though pledged support to the Country Gentlemen's Interes, as Bentink had offered to lead if he had Disraeli's support.
Disraeli stated, in a letter to Sir William Miles of 11 June , that he wished to help "because, from my earliest years, my sympathies had been with the landed interest of England". An alliance of free-trade Conservatives the " Peelites " , Radicals, and Whigs carried repeal,  and the Conservative Party split: the 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 split in the Tory party over the repeal of the Corn Laws had profound implications for Disraeli's political career: almost every Tory politician with experience of office followed Peel, leaving the rump bereft of leadership. In Blake's words, "[Disraeli] found himself almost the only figure on his side capable of putting up the oratorical display essential for a parliamentary leader.
However, he would take office with a group of men who possessed little or no official experience, who had rarely felt moved to speak in the House of Commons, and who, as a group, remained hostile to Disraeli on a personal level. Peel successfully steered the repeal of the Corn Laws through Parliament, and was then defeated by an alliance of all his enemies on the issue of Irish law and order; he resigned in June In the general election , Disraeli stood, successfully, for the Buckinghamshire constituency.
In a small political crisis occurred which removed Bentinck from the leadership and highlighted Disraeli's differences with his own party. In that year's general election, Lionel de Rothschild had been returned for the City of London. As a practising Jew he could not take the oath of allegiance in the prescribed Christian form, and therefore could not take his seat. Lord John Russell, the Whig leader who had succeeded Peel as Prime Minister and like Rothschild was a member for the City of London, proposed in the Commons that the oath should be amended to permit Jews to enter Parliament.
Disraeli spoke in favour of the measure, arguing that Christianity was "completed Judaism", and asking the House of Commons "Where is your Christianity if you do not believe in their Judaism? The Tories and the Anglican establishment were hostile to the bill. One who was not yet an MP, Lord John Manners , stood against Rothschild when the latter re-submitted himself for election in Disraeli, who had attended the Protectionists dinner at the Merchant Taylors Hall, joined Bentinck in speaking and voting for the bill, although his own speech was a standard one of toleration.
The measure was voted down. In the aftermath of the debate Bentinck resigned the leadership and was succeeded by Lord Granby ; Disraeli's own speech, thought by many of his own party to be blasphemous, ruled him out for the time being. The possession of a country house, and incumbency of a county constituency were regarded as essential for a Tory with ambitions to lead the party. Disraeli and his wife alternated between Hughenden and several homes in London for the rest of their marriage.
Within a month of his appointment Granby resigned the leadership in the Commons, feeling himself inadequate to the post, and the party functioned without a leader in the Commons for the rest of the parliamentary session. At the start of the next session, affairs were handled by a triumvirate of Granby, Disraeli, and John Charles Herries —indicative of the tension between Disraeli and the rest of the party, who needed his talents but mistrusted him. This confused arrangement ended with Granby's resignation in ; Disraeli effectively ignored the two men regardless.
In March , Lord John Russell's government was defeated over a bill to equalise the county and borough franchises, mostly because of divisions among his supporters. He resigned, and the Queen sent for Stanley, who felt that a minority government could do little and would not last long, so Russell remained in office.
Disraeli regretted this, hoping for an opportunity, however brief, to show himself capable in office. At the end of June , Stanley's father died, and he succeeded to his title as Earl of Derby.
Russell dismissed Lord Palmerston from the cabinet, leaving the latter determined to deprive the Prime Minister of office as well. Palmerston did so within weeks of Parliament's reassembly on 4 February , his followers combining with Disraeli's Tories to defeat the government on a Militia Bill, and Russell resigned. Derby had either to take office or risk damage to his reputation  and he accepted the Queen's commission as Prime Minister.
Palmerston declined any office; Derby had hoped to have him as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Disraeli, his closest ally, was his second choice and accepted, though disclaiming any great knowledge in the financial field. Gladstone refused to join the government. He wrote regular reports on proceedings in the Commons to Victoria, who described them as "very curious" and "much in the style of his books". Instead, the election later that month had no clear winner, and the Derby government held to power pending the meeting of Parliament.
Disraeli's task as Chancellor was to devise a budget which would satisfy the protectionist elements who supported the Tories, without uniting the free-traders against it. To make his budget revenue-neutral, as funds were needed to provide defences against the French, he doubled the house tax and continued the income tax. MP Sidney Herbert predicted that the budget would fail because "Jews make no converts". Disraeli delivered the budget on 3 December ,  and prepared to wind up the debate for the government on 16 December—it was customary for the Chancellor to have the last word.
A massive defeat for the government was predicted. Disraeli attacked his opponents individually, and then as a force, "I face a Coalition This, too, I know, that England does not love coalitions. As MPs prepared to divide, Gladstone rose to his feet and began an angry speech, despite the efforts of Tory MPs to shout him down. The government was defeated by 19 votes, and Derby resigned four days later. With the fall of the government, Disraeli and the Conservatives returned to the opposition benches. Disraeli would spend three-quarters of his year parliamentary career in opposition.
Derby was reluctant to seek to unseat the government, fearing a repetition of the Who? Ministry and knowing that despite his lieutenant's strengths, shared dislike of Disraeli was part of what had formed the governing coalition. Disraeli, on the other hand, was anxious to return to office. In the interim, Disraeli, as Conservative leader in the Commons, opposed the government on all major measures. In June Disraeli was awarded an honorary degree by Oxford University. He had been recommended for it by Lord Derby, the university's Chancellor.
The British military efforts were marked by bungling, and in a restive Parliament considered a resolution to establish a committee on the conduct of the war. The Aberdeen government chose to make this a motion of confidence ; Disraeli led the opposition to defeat the government, to Aberdeen resigned, and the Queen sent for Derby, who to Disraeli's frustration refused to take office.
Palmerston was deemed essential to any Whig ministry, and he would not join any he did not head. The Queen reluctantly asked Palmerston to form a government.
Disraeli was early to call for peace, but had little influence on events. When a rebellion broke out in India in , Disraeli took a keen interest in affairs, having been a member of a select committee in which considered how best to rule the subcontinent, and had proposed eliminating the governing role of the British East India Company. After peace was restored, and Palmerston in early brought in legislation for direct rule of India by the Crown, Disraeli opposed it.
Many Conservative MPs refused to follow him and the bill passed the Commons easily. Palmerston's grip on the premiership was weakened by his response to the Orsini affair , in which an attempt was made to assassinate the French Emperor Napoleon III by an Italian revolutionary with a bomb made in Birmingham. At the request of the French ambassador, Palmerston put forward amendments to the conspiracy to murder statute, proposing to make creating an infernal device a felony rather than a misdemeanour.
He was defeated by 19 votes on the second reading, with many Liberals crossing the aisle against him. He immediately resigned, and Lord Derby returned to office. Derby took office at the head of a purely "Conservative" administration, not in coalition with any other faction. He again offered a place to Gladstone, who declined.
Disraeli was once more leader of the House of Commons and returned to the Exchequer. As in , Derby led a minority government , dependent on the division of its opponents for survival. During its brief life of just over a year, the Derby government proved moderately progressive. Disraeli had a bill passed through the Commons allowing each house of Parliament to determine what oaths its members should take. This was grudgingly agreed to by the House of Lords, with a minority of Conservatives joining with the opposition to pass it. Faced with a vacancy, [n 18] Disraeli and Derby tried yet again to bring Gladstone, still nominally a Conservative MP, into the government, hoping to strengthen it.
Disraeli wrote a personal letter to Gladstone, asking him to place the good of the party above personal animosity: "Every man performs his office, and there is a Power, greater than ourselves, that disposes of all this. The Tories pursued a Reform Bill in , which would have resulted in a modest increase to the franchise.
The Liberals were healing the breaches between those who favoured Russell and the Palmerston loyalists, and in late March , the government was defeated on a Russell-sponsored amendment. Derby dissolved Parliament, and the ensuing general election resulted in modest Tory gains, but not enough to control the Commons. When Parliament assembled, Derby's government was defeated by 13 votes on an amendment to the Address from the Throne. He resigned, and the Queen reluctantly sent for Palmerston again. After Derby's second ejection from office, Disraeli faced dissension within Conservative ranks from those who blamed him for the defeat, or who felt he was disloyal to Derby—the former Prime Minister warned Disraeli of some MPs seeking his removal from the front bench.
When Cecil's father objected, Lord Robert stated, "I have merely put into print what all the country gentlemen were saying in private. Disraeli led a toothless opposition in the Commons—seeing no way of unseating Palmerston, Derby had privately agreed not to seek the government's defeat. When the American Civil War began in , Disraeli said little publicly, but like most Englishmen expected the South to win.
Less reticent were Palmerston, Gladstone again Chancellor and Russell, whose statements in support of the South contributed to years of hard feelings in the United States. The party truce ended in , with Tories outraged over Palmerston's handling of the territorial dispute between the German Confederation and Denmark known as the Schleswig-Holstein Question. Disraeli had little help from Derby, who was ill, but he united the party enough on a no-confidence vote to limit the government to a majority of 18—Tory defections and absentees kept Palmerston in office.
In the wake of the poor election results, Derby predicted to Disraeli that neither of them would ever hold office again. Political plans were thrown into disarray by Palmerston's death on 18 October Russell became Prime Minister again, with Gladstone clearly the Liberal Party's leader-in-waiting, and as Leader of the House Disraeli's direct opponent. One of Russell's early priorities was a Reform Bill, but the proposed legislation that Gladstone announced on 12 March divided his party.
The Conservatives and the dissident Liberals repeatedly attacked Gladstone's bill, and in June finally defeated the government; Russell resigned on 26 June. The dissidents were unwilling to serve under Disraeli in the House of Commons, and Derby formed a third Conservative minority government, with Disraeli again as Chancellor.
Without a majority in the Commons, the Conservatives had little choice but to accept amendments that considerably liberalised the legislation, though Disraeli refused to accept any from Gladstone. It eliminated rotten boroughs with fewer than 10, inhabitants, and granted constituencies to 15 unrepresented towns, with extra representation to large municipalities such as Liverpool and Manchester. Derby had long suffered from attacks of gout which sent him to his bed, unable to deal with politics.
As the new session of Parliament approached in February , he was bedridden at his home, Knowsley Hall , near Liverpool. He was reluctant to resign, reasoning that he was only 68, much younger than either Palmerston or Russell at the end of their premierships. Derby knew that his "attacks of illness would, at no distant period, incapacitate me from the discharge of my public duties"; doctors had warned him that his health required his resignation from office. Disraeli is Prime Minister! A proud thing for a man 'risen from the people' to have obtained!
The Conservatives remained a minority in the House of Commons and the passage of the Reform Bill required the calling of a new election once the new voting register had been compiled. Disraeli's term as Prime Minister, which began in February , would therefore be short unless the Conservatives won the general election. Derby had intended to replace Chelmsford once a vacancy in a suitable sinecure developed.
Disraeli was unwilling to wait, and Cairns, in his view, was a far stronger minister. Disraeli's first premiership was dominated by the heated debate over the Church of Ireland. Although Ireland was overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, the Protestant Church remained the established church and was funded by direct taxation, which was greatly resented by the Catholic majority.
An initial attempt by Disraeli to negotiate with Archbishop Manning the establishment of a Roman Catholic university in Dublin foundered in March when Gladstone moved resolutions to disestablish the Irish Church altogether. The proposal united the Liberals under Gladstone's leadership, while causing divisions among the Conservatives.
The Conservatives remained in office because the new electoral register was not yet ready; neither party wished a poll under the old roll. Gladstone began using the Liberal majority in the House of Commons to push through resolutions and legislation. Disraeli's government survived until the December general election , at which the Liberals were returned to power with a majority of about Despite its short life, the first Disraeli government succeeded in passing a number of pieces of legislation of a politically noncontentious sort. It ended public executions, and the Corrupt Practices Act did much to end electoral bribery.
It authorised an early version of nationalisation , having the Post Office buy up the telegraph companies. Amendments to the school law, the Scottish legal system, and the railway laws were passed. With Gladstone's Liberal majority dominant in the Commons, Disraeli could do little but protest as the government advanced legislation. Accordingly, he chose to await Liberal mistakes. Having leisure time as he was not in office, he wrote a new novel, Lothair A work of fiction by a former Prime Minister was a new thing for Britain, and the book became a best seller.
By there was dissent in the Conservative ranks over the failure to challenge Gladstone and his Liberals. This was quieted as Disraeli took steps to assert his leadership of the party, and as divisions among the Liberals became clear. Public support for Disraeli was shown by cheering at a thanksgiving service in on the recovery of the Prince of Wales from illness, while Gladstone was met with silence. Disraeli had supported the efforts of party manager John Eldon Gorst to put the administration of the Conservative Party on a modern basis.
On Gorst's advice, Disraeli gave a speech to a mass meeting in Manchester that year. To roaring approval, he compared the Liberal front bench to "a range of exhausted volcanoes. Not a flame flickers on a single pallid crest. But the situation is still dangerous. There are occasional earthquakes and ever and again the dark rumbling of the sea. At his first departure from 10 Downing Street in , Disraeli had had Victoria create Mary Anne Viscountess of Beaconsfield in her own right in lieu of a peerage for himself. She died on 15 December. Urged by a clergyman to turn her thoughts to Jesus Christ in her final days, she said she could not: "You know Dizzy is my J.
In , Gladstone brought forward legislation to establish a Catholic university in Dublin. This divided the Liberals, and on 12 March an alliance of Conservatives and Irish Catholics defeated the government by three votes. Gladstone resigned, and the Queen sent for Disraeli, who refused to take office.
Without a general election, a Conservative government would be another minority, dependent for survival on the division of its opponents. Disraeli wanted the power a majority would bring, and felt he could gain it later by leaving the Liberals in office now. Gladstone's government struggled on, beset by scandal and unimproved by a reshuffle.
As part of that change, Gladstone took on the office of Chancellor, [n 19] leading to questions as to whether he had to stand for re-election on taking on a second ministry—until the s, MPs becoming ministers, thus taking an office of profit under the Crown, had to seek re-election. In January , Gladstone called a general election, convinced that if he waited longer, he would do worse at the polls. Balloting was spread over two weeks, beginning on 1 February. As the constituencies voted, it became clear that the result would be a Conservative majority, the first since In Scotland, where the Conservatives were perennially weak, they increased from seven seats to nineteen.
The Queen sent for Disraeli, and he became Prime Minister for the second time. Disraeli's cabinet of twelve, with six peers and six commoners, was the smallest since Reform. Of the peers, five of them had been in Disraeli's cabinet; the sixth, Lord Salisbury, was reconciled to Disraeli after negotiation and became Secretary of State for India. The Queen had offered to ennoble him as early as ; he had then declined. She did so again in , when he fell ill at Balmoral , but he was reluctant to leave the Commons for a house in which he had no experience.
Continued ill health during his second premiership caused him to contemplate resignation, but his lieutenant, Derby, was unwilling, feeling that he could not manage the Queen. For Disraeli, the Lords, where the debate was less intense, was the alternative to resignation from office. Five days before the end of the session of Parliament, on 11 August, Disraeli was seen to linger and look around the chamber before departing the Commons.
Newspapers reported his ennoblement the following morning. In addition to the viscounty bestowed on Mary Anne Disraeli;  the earldom of Beaconsfield was to have been bestowed on Edmund Burke in , but he had died before receiving it.
Under the stewardship of Richard Assheton Cross , the Home Secretary , Disraeli's new government enacted many reforms, including the Artisans' and Labourers' Dwellings Improvement Act ,  which made inexpensive loans available to towns and cities to construct working-class housing. Disraeli's government also introduced a new Factory Act meant to protect workers, the Conspiracy, and Protection of Property Act , which allowed peaceful picketing, and the Employers and Workmen Act to enable workers to sue employers in the civil courts if they broke legal contracts. As a result of these social reforms the Liberal-Labour MP Alexander Macdonald told his constituents in , "The Conservative party have done more for the working classes in five years than the Liberals have in fifty.
Gladstone in had sponsored an Order in Council , introducing competitive examination into the Civil Service , diminishing the political aspects of government hiring. Disraeli did not agree, and while he did not seek to reverse the order, his actions often frustrated its intent. For example, Disraeli made political appointments to positions previously given to career civil servants. In this, he was backed by his party, hungry for office and its emoluments after almost thirty years with only brief spells in government. As he had in government posts, Disraeli rewarded old friends with clerical positions, making Sydney Turner , son of a good friend of Isaac D'Israeli, Dean of Ripon.
In this, he came into disagreement with the Queen, who out of loyalty to her late husband, Albert, Prince Consort , preferred Broad church teachings. One controversial appointment had occurred shortly before the election. When the position of Archbishop of Canterbury fell vacant, Disraeli reluctantly agreed to the Queen's preferred candidate, Archibald Tait , the Bishop of London.
To fill Tait's vacant see, Disraeli was urged by many people to appoint Samuel Wilberforce , the former Bishop of Winchester and leading figure in London society. Blake suggested that, on balance, these appointments cost Disraeli more votes than they gained him. Disraeli always considered foreign affairs to be the most critical and most interesting part of statesmanship.
Nevertheless, his biographer Robert Blake doubts that his subject had specific ideas about foreign policy when he took office in He had rarely travelled abroad; since his youthful tour of the Middle East in —, he had left Britain only for his honeymoon and three visits to Paris, the last of which was in As he had criticised Gladstone for a do-nothing foreign policy, he most probably contemplated what actions would reassert Britain's place in Europe.
His brief first premiership, and the first year of his second, gave him little opportunity to make his mark in foreign affairs. Built by French interests, much of the ownership and bonds in the canal remained in their hands, though some of the stock belonged to Isma'il Pasha , the Khedive of Egypt , who was noted for his profligate spending. The canal was losing money, and an attempt by Ferdinand de Lesseps , builder of the canal, to raise the tolls had fallen through when the Khedive had threatened to use military force to prevent it, and had also attracted Disraeli's attention.
The French might also threaten those lines from colonies in Syria. Disraeli had passed near Suez in his tour of the Middle East in his youth, and on taking office, recognising the British interest in the canal as a gateway to India, he sent the Liberal MP Nathan Rothschild to Paris to enquire about buying de Lesseps's shares. The Prime Minister moved immediately to secure the shares.
On 23 November, the Khedive offered to sell the shares for ,, francs. Rothschild did so and controversially took a commission on the deal. The banker's capital was at risk as Parliament could have refused to ratify the transaction. Disraeli told the Queen, "it is settled; you have it, madam! Disraeli's romantic career". A later Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon , described the canal in as "the determining influence of every considerable movement of British power to the east and south of the Mediterranean".
Although initially curious about Disraeli when he entered Parliament in , Victoria came to detest him over his treatment of Peel. Over time, her dislike softened, especially as Disraeli took pains to cultivate her. He told Matthew Arnold , "Everybody likes flattery; and, when you come to royalty, you should lay it on with a trowel". When Disraeli returned as Prime Minister in and went to kiss hands , he did so literally, on one knee; and, according to Richard Aldous in his book on the rivalry between Disraeli and Gladstone, "for the next six years Victoria and Disraeli would exploit their closeness for mutual advantage.
Victoria had long wished to have an imperial title, reflecting Britain's expanding domain. The Queen prevailed upon Disraeli to introduce a Royal Titles Bill, and also told of her intent to open Parliament in person, which during this time she did only when she wanted something from legislators. Disraeli was cautious in response, as careful soundings of MPs brought a negative reaction, and declined to place such a proposal in the Queen's Speech.
Once the desired bill was prepared, Disraeli's handling of it was not adept. He neglected to notify either the Prince of Wales or the opposition, and was met by irritation from the prince and a full-scale attack from the Liberals. An old enemy of Disraeli, former Liberal Chancellor Robert Lowe , alleged during the debate in the Commons that two previous Prime Ministers had refused to introduce such legislation for the Queen. Gladstone immediately stated that he was not one of them, and the Queen gave Disraeli leave to quote her saying she had never approached a Prime Minister with such a proposal.
According to Blake, Disraeli "in a brilliant oration of withering invective proceeded to destroy Lowe", who apologised and never held office again. Fearful of losing, Disraeli was reluctant to bring the bill to a vote in the Commons, but when he eventually did, it passed with a majority of In July Serb populations in Bosnia and Herzegovina , then provinces of the Ottoman Empire, rose in revolt against their Turkish masters, alleging religious persecution and poor administration. The Turks suppressed the Bulgarian uprising harshly, and when reports of these actions escaped, Disraeli and Derby stated in Parliament that they did not believe them.
Disraeli called them "coffee-house babble" and dismissed allegations of torture by the Ottomans since "Oriental people usually terminate their connections with culprits in a more expeditious fashion". Gladstone, who had left the Liberal leadership and retired from public life, was appalled by reports of atrocities in Bulgaria , and in August , penned a hastily written pamphlet arguing that the Turks should be deprived of Bulgaria because of what they had done there.
He sent a copy to Disraeli, who called it "vindictive and ill-written Disraeli wrote to Lord Salisbury on 3 September, "Had it not been for these unhappy 'atrocities', we should have settled a peace very honourable to England and satisfactory to Europe.
Now we are obliged to work from a new point of departure, and dictate to Turkey, who has forfeited all sympathy. Disraeli and the cabinet sent Salisbury as lead British representative to the Constantinople Conference , which met in December and January Salisbury ignored these instructions, which his biographer, Andrew Roberts deemed "ludicrous". He spoke only once there in the session on the Eastern Question, stating on 20 February that there was a need for stability in the Balkans, and that forcing Turkey into territorial concessions would do nothing to secure it.
The Prime Minister wanted a deal with the Ottomans whereby Britain would temporarily occupy strategic areas to deter the Russians from war, to be returned on the signing of a peace treaty, but found little support in his cabinet, which favoured partition of the Ottoman Empire. As Disraeli, by then in poor health, continued to battle within the cabinet, Russia invaded Turkey on 21 April, beginning the Russo-Turkish War. The Russians pushed through Ottoman territory and by December had captured the strategic Bulgarian town of Plevna ; their march on Constantinople seemed inevitable.
The war divided the British, but the Russian success caused some to forget the atrocities and call for intervention on the Turkish side. Others hoped for further Russian successes. The fall of Plevna was a major story for weeks in the newspapers, and Disraeli's warnings that Russia was a threat to British interests in the eastern Mediterranean were deemed prophetic. The jingoistic attitude of many Britons increased Disraeli's political support, and the Queen acted to help him as well, showing her favour by visiting him at Hughenden—the first time she had visited the country home of her Prime Minister since the Melbourne ministry.
Gladstone, who had involved himself again in politics, opposed the measure, but less than half his party voted with him. Popular opinion was with Disraeli, though some thought him too soft for not immediately declaring war on Russia. With the Russians close to Constantinople, the Turks yielded and in March , signed the Treaty of San Stefano , conceding a Bulgarian state which would cover a large part of the Balkans.
It would be initially Russian-occupied and many feared that it would give them a client state close to Constantinople. Other Ottoman possessions in Europe would become independent; additional territory was to be ceded directly to Russia. This was unacceptable to the British, who protested, hoping to get the Russians to agree to attend an international conference which German Chancellor Bismarck proposed to hold at Berlin. The cabinet discussed Disraeli's proposal to position Indian troops at Malta for possible transit to the Balkans  and call out reserves.
Derby resigned in protest, and Disraeli appointed Salisbury as Foreign Secretary. Amid British preparations for war, the Russians and Turks agreed to discussions at Berlin. In advance of the meeting, confidential negotiations took place between Britain and Russia in April and May The Russians were willing to make changes to the big Bulgaria, but were determined to retain their new possessions, Bessarabia in Europe and Batum and Kars on the east coast of the Black Sea. To counterbalance this, Britain required a possession in the Eastern Mediterranean where it might base ships and troops, and negotiated with the Ottomans for the cession of Cyprus.
Once this was secretly agreed, Disraeli was prepared to allow Russia's territorial gains. The Congress of Berlin was held in June and July , the central relationship in it that between Disraeli and Bismarck. In later years, the German chancellor would show visitors to his office three pictures on the wall: "the portrait of my Sovereign, there on the right that of my wife, and on the left, there, that of Lord Beaconsfield".
By one account, the British ambassador in Berlin, Lord Odo Russell , hoping to spare the delegates Disraeli's awful French accent, told Disraeli that the congress was hoping to hear a speech in the English tongue by one of its masters. Disraeli left much of the detailed work to Salisbury, concentrating his efforts on making it as difficult as possible for the broken-up big Bulgaria to reunite. Nevertheless, the Cyprus Convention ceding the island to Britain was announced during the congress, and again made Disraeli a sensation.
Disraeli gained agreement that Turkey should retain enough of its European possessions to safeguard the Dardanelles. By one account, when met with Russian intransigence, Disraeli told his secretary to order a special train to return them home to begin the war. At the door of 10 Downing Street , Disraeli received flowers sent by the Queen. In the weeks after Berlin, Disraeli and the cabinet considered calling a general election to capitalise on the public applause he and Salisbury had received.
Parliaments were then for a seven-year term, and it was the custom not to go to the country until the sixth year unless forced to by events. Only four and a half years had passed since the last general election. Additionally, they did not see any clouds on the horizon that might forecast Conservative defeat if they waited. This decision not to seek re-election has often been cited as a great mistake by Disraeli.
Blake, however, pointed out that results in local elections had been moving against the Conservatives, and doubted if Disraeli missed any great opportunity by waiting. As successful invasions of India generally came through Afghanistan, the British had observed and sometimes intervened there since the s, hoping to keep the Russians out. In the Russians sent a mission to Kabul; it was not rejected by the Afghans, as the British had hoped. The British then proposed to send their own mission, insisting that the Russians be sent away. The Viceroy , Lord Lytton , concealed his plans to issue this ultimatum from Disraeli, and when the Prime Minister insisted he take no action, went ahead anyway.
The British installed a new ruler, and left a mission and garrison in Kabul.