Rare 8pp ALS on the Politics of “Hares & Rabbits”

Signed by Benjamin Disraeli

Item: 19519
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DISRAELI, BENJAMIN. (1804-1881). English author and politician; confidant of Queen Victoria and prime minister in 1868 and from 1874 to 1880. ALS. (“Beaconsfield”). 8pp. 8vo. Hughenden Manor, August 10, 1880. On two folded sheets of his black-bordered monogrammed stationery to British aristocrat and ornithologist THOMAS POWYS, 4TH BARON LILFORD (1833-1896), and marked “Confidential.

“Both the bills you mention, I agree with you, are ‘abominable,’ & no one is more opposed to them, than myself. Lord Aveland who is giving up the whole of his time & thought to organizing a successful opposition to ‘Hares & Rabbits’ came down here yesterday to consult & confer upon the best means to attain the discomfiture of our active enemies.

It was impossible to resist the second reading of ‘Hares & Rabbits’ in the House of Commons as more than half of our County Members, tho’ th[ey] abhor the bill, w[oul]d have been obliged to vote for the measure, or abstain. The result w[oul]d have been disastrous, & sensibly affected any materials of resistance that we are collecting in the Lords.

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.

Thomas Powys, 4th Baron Lilford

Gilbert Henry Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby

Lilford was an animal lover, ornithologist and falconer who contributed much to the scientific literature of his day including articles in The Zoologist and Proceedings of the Zoological Society. His posthumously published Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands totaled seven volumes and his research is even mentioned in Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man: “When birds gaze at themselves in a looking-glass (of which many instances have been recorded) we cannot feel sure that it is not from jealousy of a supposed rival, though this is not the conclusion of some observers. In other cases it is difficult to distinguish between mere curiosity and admiration. It is perhaps the former feeling which, as stated by Lord Lilford, attracts the ruff towards any bright object, so that, in the Ionian Islands, ‘it will dart down to a bright-coloured handkerchief, regardless of repeated shots.’ The common lark is drawn down from the sky, and is caught in large numbers, by a small mirror made to move and glitter in the sun. Is it admiration or curiosity which leads the magpie, raven, and some other birds to steal and secrete bright objects, such as silver articles or jewels?” Lilford was a conservative member of the House of Lords and would likely have been opposed to the legislation both from an animal welfare point of view and because it eroded the rights of land owners in favor of their tenants.

Gilbert Henry Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 2nd Baron Aveland (1830-1910) held the office of Deputy Lord Great Chamberlain from 1871 to 1901 and was a member of the Privy Council beginning in 1880. Inheriting titles from both his father and mother, he became 25th Baron Willoughby de Eresby and 1st Earl of Ancaster.

Folded and in very fine condition. Content letters by Disraeli are unusually rare.

Rare 8pp ALS on the Politics of “Hares & Rabbits”

Signed by Benjamin Disraeli

$1250 • item #19519

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