There will be a great effort in the Commons, when the bill is in Committee to draw [?] its teeth. I wish that, both in Lords & Commons, the opposition sh[oul]d be led, if possible, by a Whig.
Politics are very simple now, tho’ very serious. The present Ministry will not rest till the position of the Landed interest in our Constitution is either lessened or destroyed.
What will happen in the Lords about ‘Hares & Rabbits,’ to a certain degree, must depend on what occurs in H of Com: only one thing seems to be certain, that, if the Commons doesn’t succeed in their vital amendment & reserve the use of the gun to gentlemen, we must try to accomplish that in H of L.
I am clearly of opinion that it would be unwise in the Lords to attempt to throw out the Bill on 2nd Reading. I do not think the attempt would succeed if made.
My colleagues are scattered, but I shall certainly come up to town for the question & tho’ absent from Westm[inster] [?] shall be unceasing in my efforts quietly to gather together our friends. I count on you…”
Benjamin Disraeli & William Gladstone
Prior to entering politics, Disraeli enjoyed literary fame with such works as Vivian Grey, The Young Duke, Contarini Fleming, and Henrietta Temple. However, his literary accomplishments pale in comparison to his long political career, which began with his election to parliament in 1837. Starting in 1847, he represented Buckinghamshire. In 1868, Disraeli was elected prime minister and reelected again in 1874. He became Queen Victoria’s trusted advisor and confidant and she rewarded him by naming Disraeli the Earl of Beaconsfield and Viscount Hughenden in 1876. He was defeated, however, in 1880, by William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), the liberal who had preceded him and who is remembered as “The People’s William,” several months before composing our letter.
Disraeli, writing from Hughenden Manor where he returned after his defeat in the spring, discusses “the present Ministry” and what he perceives as Gladstone’s determination to undermine the position of the landed gentry as it pertains to the Ground Game Act 1880, colloquially called the Hares and Rabbits Bill. The legislation, in the House of Commons committee at the time of our missive, intended to allow tenant farmers to hunt hare and rabbits on their farms as pests, a pastime previously reserved only for the land owners and gentry. Especially interesting is that Disraeli directs that opposition to the legislation should be led by a Whig MP, as our letter is written during the waning days of Whig supremacy, a decline presided over by Gladstone.