IN spite of many forebodings the landed interest survived the great trials of the first Reform Bill and the Corn Law controversy, ifnot unscathed, then unbowed, and in the calm waters of the age of Palmerston once more exercised an easy and comparatively untroubled political dominance. Much of this, admittedly, depended on Palmerston's personality and policies, bluR: easy-going and averse to any great changes. Lord Monson might be suspicious of Palmerston, a slippery politician who

~might one day throw over the Whigs if he could do without them' ; and in 1860 he observed, without any apprehension, ~there is little doubt but what Gladstone is the future Prime Minister'. It was more usual for the landed aristocracy to regard Palmerston as the prime bulwark of the established order. The fear that when Palmerston was gone the Whigs would revert to Whiggery and pernicious meddling with existing institutions, which was regularly expressed by the Marquess of Bath's political informant from 1862 onwards, must have been widely held. This was merely to anticipate the general reaction to Palmerston's death in 1865, for which Disraeli spoke in saying ·The truce of parties is over. I foresee tempestuous times, and great vicissitudes in public life'. They came, and Disraeli's own ·leap in the dark' was not the smallest of contributions towards a new age

of reform, which as early as 1859 Lord Monson had seen must lead to equal electoral districts and the end of those traditional ties on which landed influence rested. l

It was one of the fortunate paradoxes of English politics that as often as not an aristocratic individual presided over the demolition of aristocratic institutions, perhaps ensuring power for his own lifetime at the expense of the future of his order. Thus Lord Derby presided over the passage of the Second Reform Act, and in spite of Lord Cranborne reform was treated in these years as a question of relative party advantage, not as a question of the defence of the landed interest. Indeed the most searing opposition to reform in the years 1865-7 came not from aristocrats in defence of interests, but from an intellectual, Robert Lowe, arguing for rule by the intelligent against rule by the ignorant masses. Again it was the same Lord Cranborne, grown to be Marquess of Salisbury, who compelled Gladstone to introduce equal electoral districts, as his price for allowing the Third Refonn Bill to pass the Lords. It seemed that in succeeding to the leadership of the Conservative party he had succeeded to the idea that opportunist pursuit of immediate party advantage was the essence of politics, and that steady defence of established interests was no longer possible or desirable.