Benjamin Disraeli

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Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881), the son of the author Isaac Disraeli, was a British politician and novelist who entered Parliament in 1837 as Tory MP for Maidstone. In 1842 Disraeli was prominent among the founders of the Young England group. Disraeli's opposition to (the then-Prime Minister) Sir Robert Peel's laissez-faire capitalism, and the repeal of the Corn Laws led to Peel's downfall and split the Tory party.

In 1852 Lord Derby appointed Disraeli Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1868 he finally became Prime Minister. He will be most remembered for the Reform Act of 1867 which enfranchised every adult male householder; prior to this legislation, a tiny proportion of the population was entitled to vote.

In 1876 he was made Lord Beaconsfield by Queen Victoria.

Disraeli had fine sense of humor, and enjoyed the ambiguities of the English language. When a tiresome aspiring writer sent Disraeli a manuscript to review, he liked to reply "Dear Sir: I thank you for sending me a copy of your book, which I shall waste no time in reading."

He is also responsible for at least one phrase that has entered the language: "on the side of the angels", which he first coined as part of a quip about his stance on the conflict between the good and bad in human nature ("Is man an ape or an angel? Now I am on the side of the angels.") Mark Twain also claims that Disraeli came up with the phrase "Lies, damned lies, and statistics", but it is unclear if this is actually one of that author's inventions (it was first popularized in Twain's autobiography, though attributed to Disraeli there); most who try to pin it down do award it to the prime minister.


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