Mr. Alderman Wood
presented a Petition from the City of London, agreed to at a meeting of the Livery in Common Hall assembled. He wondered whether the hon. member for Thetford, if he was in the House, would say that this was a foolish petition; but perhaps he would, for he had asserted the same thing of the petition of the Court of Common Council, who were not usually accustomed to send up foolish petitions to that House, or to any other body. Some of the gentlemen who had voted this petition, though not quite so rich as the hon. member for Thetford, were possessed of property, varying from 100,000l. to one million. That circumstance alone, he admitted, would not prevent them from sending up a foolish petition; they were, perhaps, quite as likely to do it as men of less property; but he did not think they had done so in the present instance. They had carefully considered the petition they had agreed to, and they felt strongly the same desire with the country at large, that the Reform Bill introduced by the late Ministry should be passed, as requisite to give public satisfaction, and ensure public 906 content; though the effect of that Bill would be, to limit the franchise possessed by some of the petitioners, as Liverymen of London, still they were ready to sacrifice that private and personal advantage, in order to obtain a measure which they thought would be beneficial to the country at large. The petitioners prayed the House to refuse any further Supplies to the Executive, till the Reform Bill was passed into a law—and with that prayer he most fully concurred. He could only say for himself, that he agreed with every word of the petition, and that he should certainly vote against all Supplies till the Reform Bill had become law.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
wished to say a few words upon this petition: it was one which had been passed at a full meeting of the Livery, in Common Hall assembled, and was, therefore, entitled to every consideration. He was convinced it was impossible for any Government to carry on the affairs of the country unless they adopted the principles of the Reform Bill; because, there was a vast majority of every class of the people who were in favour of it, and were most anxious that its enactments should become law. He should say but a very few words on the other part of the prayer of the petition, namely, with respect to the stopping of the Supplies. It was, undoubtedly, within the power of the House of Commons to refuse the Supplies, but it was a power that ought to be exercised with the greatest care and caution; as, whenever such a circumstance took place, it must disarrange all the transactions of commercial life, and be productive of the most dreadful consequences—of such consequences as it was the object of the Reform Bill to avert. Whenever circumstances arose that were supposed to call for resorting to such a measure, he should endeavour to act with all the discretion that it was possible could be used under the particular circumstances of the case; but he trusted it never would arise. With the other part of the petition he most cordially concurred.
§ Lord Ebrington
said, Sir—Upon the subject to which this petition relates I have a few words to address to the House—I allude to the reports which have this morning gained general publicity, and which have produced a degree of general excitement superior to any that we have yet seen connected with the passing of the Reform Bill, and which, I think I may add, 907 have also excited general consternation. I allude to the reports that his Grace, the Duke of Wellington has received his Majesty's commands to form an Administration; and if there be here any gentleman who has information that can satisfy the House of Commons upon this matter, I implore him to give us that information. It, as every gentleman well knows, is further said, that the Duke of Wellington has accepted office, on condition of bringing in the Reform Bill—I was going to say—but of carrying on the Reform Bill—that Bill, the heads of which were propounded by Lord Ellenborough, after the vote of the other House, which led to the retirement of the late Administration. Now, Sir, I stated on a former occasion that it was not my wish to throw any unnecessary embarrassments in the way of forming a Ministry; and I can truly declare, that, if the materials could be found from any parties in this country, whereby the Crown could form a Government that should not involve a departure from every principle that has been expressed by them throughout the discussions upon this question, though I should not have had that confidence in such a Government that I should desire to have in any Government that undertook to carry the Reform Bill; yet, if such a Government was formed on the principle of carrying the Reform Bill, I for one would not withhold from it my humble support. But I must say, that it is impossible for me to give any support to any Government that, under present circumstances, could be formed by the Duke of Wellington, because there is no pledge that he could give of his intentions in favour of a measure of Reform which can be stronger than those which stand recorded by repeated votes—by speeches—and by solemn protests—of an uncompromising hostility to that measure. Is it possible, Sir, that the Duke of Wellington can come down to the House of Lords with that Bill in one hand, and with his Protest in the other, and call upon the House of Peers to pass that measure, or to pass anything amounting to any portion of that measure, that can give the slightest satisfaction to this House or the people? Is it possible, too, for any of those noble Lords, who signed that Protest, to become his associates? Is it possible, especially, that he who denounced the vengeance of Heaven on the principles of this Bill, that he can 908 come round to support this Bill, or any bill that is founded on the same principle? I hope—though I do not know him—that he is not capable of adopting such a course. I hope, if political principle still continues to have any sway whatever over men—if anything like public morality still exists—that neither in this nor in the other House of Parliament will one Gentleman be found, who denounced this measure as nothing less than spoliation and robbery, to support it, merely because it is proposed under a new Administration; that none will be found who, at the bidding of any one man, can thus turn their backs on all that they have before so solemnly asserted. If, however, that should he the case, I shall console myself with feeling that the course which I have pursued—and which my hon. friends around me have pursued—has been far different, and that, though others may desert their principles, we have never betrayed ours. If the Bill, as propounded by Lord Ellenborough, should be brought into the House of Peers, and, after being carried there, should come down to this House, to that Bill, unless, in the interval, he should again change his mind, and depart from the principle of the Bill, to that bill, so far as it effects a disfranchisement of corrupt boroughs, at least as extensive as schedule A, so far, too, as it effects the enfranchisement of the large towns, and adopts the 10l. qualification, I shall give, and I have no doubt that my friends around me will do the same, my cordial and zealous support. However others may change, the principles of our action will still continue to be the same. But I must here be permitted to say, that, when the Reform Bill was proposed, it was well known that I gave up my opinion upon some further measures of Reform which I had before supported, on the condition of gaining for the country all that was proposed by that Bill. To gain that much at the least, we are all equally anxious now, and should anything short of that be proposed to us, though we should be ready to take that, yet I trust that we should, in that case, never rest satisfied till we had gained the full extent of our former demands. But it is in vain to hope that the satisfaction which would be derived to the country from the passing of this Bill, when received from the hands of the old and tried friends of Reform, will be equalled by the satisfaction with which 909 they will receive it when passed by the other party. What, Sir, will be the reflections of the country upon this extraordinary change, if indeed, it is possible to think such a change has taken place, for, till I hear of that change in a manner that leaves not the possibility of doubt, I shall not yield it my belief, in however various shapes it may appear? What is the consequence, I ask, that will be produced by such a change? I know not; but I trust that, whatever may happen, the people of the whole country will have the opportunity of expressing their opinions firmly and decidedly, but, at the same time, I hope that they will express them moderately and temperately—that they will bear in mind that the worst blow that can be given to the Reform Bill, the greatest injury that can be inflicted on the cause of Reform, would be the consequence of any attempt to carry the measure by any means but those which are strictly constitutional. I beg to apologize to the House for the length at which I have troubled them; and again I implore any Gentleman who may be acquainted with the matter, to satisfy us on the point to which I have alluded.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
I should be the last person to intrude myself upon the notice of the House, if I thought I should be injuring the interests of the Duke of Wellington; but I stand here in that situation that enables me, without impropriety, to make a few observations in answer to the noble Lord. I have received no proposal from his Majesty to take office, and therefore, when the Duke of Wellington is spoken of as guilty of a want of public morality, I, as a friend of the Duke of Wellington, feel called upon to state, that there is no act of his life that justifies any hon. Member in applying to him that imputation. The use of such terms and such expressions has alone caused me, humble as I am, to rise and protest against them, not in anger or irritation, but because I think they are not justified. If his Majesty, in consequence of the advice tendered to him by his late Ministers, is in that predicament that he has been obliged to call on the Duke of Wellington for advice, I am persuaded that the conduct of the Duke of Wellington will be, as it always has been, that of a loyal and devoted subject. With regard to any consistency or inconsistency on the part of the Duke of Wellington, I am aware that he has ex- 910 pressed in strong terms his opposition to the Bill, and that he has entered a protest against it. I have myself, in this House, used expressions equally strong in declaring my opinion of the dangerous consequences of that revolutionary measure: I still retain those sentiments, I think that the Bill is a dangerous and revolutionary measure, and that it will be so if only a little mitigated, while its essential qualities are retained. And while enfranchisement and disfranchisement, and an enlargement of the constituency form its basis—if such a Bill be brought down to this House, with those essential requisites which this House and the country expect, it is not for me to state who will bring down that bill, or whether it will be passed through the House of Lords by the Duke of Wellington, for of that I am ignorant. I know nothing of such a proceeding being about to take place. I say I have not accepted office from his Majesty—I am not aware of the details which are going forward; but when I hear the noble Lord opposite state what he has stated, I cannot remain silent, but must be allowed to assert, that the Duke of Wellington is incapable of doing anything, in private or public, that can subject him to the charge of being guilty of an act of public immorality.
The House, Sir, must have heard with great satisfaction, from the gallant Officer opposite, that the Duke of Wellington is incapable of an act of public immorality; because, the gallant Officer is a person who, more than any other individual, is capable of forming an opinion of the conduct which the noble Duke will most probably pursue; but he has made some little mistake in the answer he has given to the observations of my noble friend, for he has assumed that my noble friend has accused the Duke of Wellington of an act of public immorality. He did no such thing. What he stated was, that if the Duke of Wellington, having been the author of that Protest which has found its way upon the Journals of the House of Lords, is, at the same time, the author of a bill which he has already described as revolutionary, and which the gallant General still describes as revolutionary; if, I say, the Duke of Wellington, having been the author of that Protest, has formed an Administration on the principle of passing that bill, then the Duke of Wellington has been guilty of an act of public immorality. On the question put by my noble friend, 911 as connected with the subject of this petition, the gallant Officer has given no answer. I trust, however, that before the observations which have arisen on this petition shall have passed away, that some other person, who, though not equally in the confidence of the Duke of Wellington with the gallant Officer, will yet be able to make some communication to this House which shall satisfy the public, that the imputation on the conduct of the Duke of Wellington will never be deserved, and that, if his Grace does accept office, he will do it untainted with such conduct, which, if adopted, would most certainly be an act of public immorality. The gallant Officer says, that the conduct of the Duke of Wellington will be that of a loyal and devoted subject. I hope by that expression that he means nothing but that his Grace will show loyalty and devotion to the interests of the country, and not to the caprice of any man. If the gallant Officer means by that that there stands in these realms any human being before whom loyalty and devotion could call on any man to sacrifice his frequently-declared and solemnly-recorded opinions, the gallant Officer must entertain an opinion inconsistent with the safety and well-being of the country—an opinion that will put an end to the responsibility of Ministers, and, by so doing, will endanger the monarchy itself, which it has always been the policy of the Constitution to guard, by relieving the Chief Magistrate from all responsibility, and throwing that responsibility on the Ministers. I am sure, Sir, that it could not be the gallant Officer's meaning, when he used those words, that devotion and loyalty were compatible with a dereliction of principles, so distinctly, frequently, and solemnly recorded, or that true devotion and loyalty could exist in connection with that conduct which my noble friend has described; and which, if the Duke of Wellington were guilty of it, would justly render him liable to the accusation of having acted inconsistently with public morality.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
was understood to say, that the inference drawn by the noble Lord was unfair, and that he should not have risen but for the observation of the noble member for Devonshire.
said, it is not to be denied that the country stands, at present, on the brink of a great crisis, but I rise simply to call the calm attention of the House (if, at 912 such a time, and on such a subject, it can give me its calm attention) to the position in which we are placed. I do not attribute to hon. Members their eagerness or anxiety as a fault, but in proportion to the importance of the topics which engage us, is the necessity of giving a calm consideration to the circumstances in which we are placed. I say this, too, notwithstanding the sneer of the hon. Gentleman opposite; and the question really is, whether we have been brought into our present position by the fault of his Majesty, or of the Ministers? In, perhaps, more constitutional language, I may inquire, if what has occurred has been produced by the King's fault, or by the fault of some phantom adviser who has operated upon the Royal mind? All I wish is, that hon. Gentlemen should consider whether it is generous towards the Crown, whether it is common fairness towards the Crown, to irritate the public mind, from one end of the kingdom to the other, before the Crown is in a condition to make an answer? Although I venture to address the House on behalf of the Crown, I beg to say, that I am not empowered by the Crown. I have not had the honour to meet his Majesty; but I am entitled, like others, to state what I think is due from a mere sense of justice. The good sense of Ministers has, it is true, led them to abstain from any reflections; but I put it to their more immediate friends—the two noble Lords, for instance, who have addressed the House, whether it is not consistent with honour, good faith, and common decency, to wait, at least, until the King has the means of being constitutionally heard, before he is bandied from one end of the kingdom to the other, as a faithless person? The King was put forward as the advocate of a great measure, which was received with extreme favour by the great mass of the people; and now it is asserted that he has turned round to disappoint them. I do not say that this has been imputed by the two noble Lords, but that language has been held at public meetings [cheers, laughter, and cries of "no!"]. I trust hon. Gentlemen will give me leave to speak; and if they will so far conform to the rules of debate, I shall be most happy to listen to them in return. I assert that no person can have read all the libels that have been published, from one end of the kingdom to another without seeing that such is the sum and substance of the accusation against the Crown. It 913 was very properly stated by the hon. member for Preston, the other night, that although here and elsewhere there may be a great many persons anxious about the state of parties and individuals, the question with the country is, what is to become of the great measure of Reform? At least it is for the country to wait, and I hope it will wait without being agitated and excited by any observations, but especially by such as are made here. The country will be disposed to wait to see whether, in fact, the King has so broken faith, because, I admit, whatever may be the opinions of others, or of the humble individual now addressing the House, that the Crown has, undoubtedly, given a pledge to the country of an extensive measure of Reform, and no person could approach his Majesty with the advice, by forfeiting that pledge, to sacrifice his own character, and to sacrifice the monarchy. I repeat, that no man could advise the King deliberately to break his presumed faith with his people. No man could approach the Throne, under existing circumstances, with any other than this language:—"My own opinion is, that the Reform Bill will not promote the good of the country: the Constitution to arise out of it will not be so beneficial as that we are about to abandon; but dangers may arise—an emergency may occur—circumstances may present themselves requiring this concession." After what has proceeded from the Crown, no persons, whatever might be their private views, could give advice different from that, and the case must be governed by the peculiar difficulties attending it. I know not what the sentiments of the Monarch may be, but only such advice could for a moment be listened to: the determination once taken to grant Reform—the pledge for that purpose once given, it must be substantially redeemed and made good. At the same time, let not the House suppose that I am implicating any other, or that I am detailing anything that actually passed between his Majesty and others—I speak merely my own opinion—I have no right to speak for others; and the Duke of Wellington is perfectly competent to explain and justify his own conduct. With my right hon. and gallant friend near me (Sir Henry Hardinge), I am confident that the great mass of the people will feel that, after the great services of that distinguished individual, it is not upon light grounds that 914 confidence ought to be refused. Such being the case, I come to the question—Has this Ministry been broken up because the King has turned short round, and refused to make the Reform Bill law? I deny it. The situation is, undoubtedly, very serious and lamentable, but the Crown must be advised in some way by somebody. The Ministers retire—they refuse to perform their duties—and I admit, that to recommend the King not to pass a Reform Bill would be advice of a most pernicious kind, and the individual who gave it would be justly exposed to the reprobation both of the House and of the country. As far as I can understand (and my information is little beyond that of any other hon. Member, being mainly derived from what the noble Lord had said on a former occasion), the Administration was broken up on this simple ground—that the King had to deal, not only with the House of Commons but with the House of Lords; and in reference to the latter, he was required to establish a most dangerous and atrocious principle—that principle being, that every time the two Houses of Parliament differ on a question of legislation, the Minister of the Crown is entitled to force the House of Lords, by sending an immense number of Peers into it: on the refusal of the King to accede to this plan, the Ministers throw up their commissions in his face, and the country is to be told, because his Majesty has conscientious scruples in so dealing with a branch of the Legislature, that he is false and perfidious. As far as my information goes, that is a fair view of the case: but I do not pretend even to say, that my intelligence is correct, and still less do I call upon the House to pronounce any opinion. All this House and the country are expected to do is, to wait until the Crown is in a condition to tell its own story—to allow that justice to the King which every criminal has a right to when placed at the bar for trial. Whatever may be the feelings of the House, or whatever may be the popularity of the question out of doors, I think that the good sense of the country will revolt against any other mode of dealing with its Sovereign. Angry speeches and angry proceedings are at least ill-timed, until the Crown has the means of stating its own case. I have no intention of going further into the subject; I merely state what is my impression, and I have no wish to enter into the particular merits of this 915 or of any other Reform Bill; but this I will say, in reference to the charge of immorality so freely dealt out, that, although I have voted and spoken against the general principle of the Bill, and although I still maintain those opinions, yet I have had no sinister purpose to serve. I have done now, and I did, as the hon. member for Midhurst and others may remember, at a public meeting at the London Tavern, state, that, however objectionable the Bill was, there was such a feeling in the country in favour of it, that there would be no permanent peace until the measure was conceded. I used that expression twelve months ago—not in a corner, but at a public meeting—and of course without reference to what has now occurred. I have mentioned it, in order to show, that a man may be perfectly justified in adopting a measure he does not approve, for the purpose of averting dangers of a worse and more threatening description. This may be called public immorality; but I admit that I was guilty of it, and at a public meeting twelve months ago. Whether this may also be the opinion of the Duke of Wellington I know not, and I have no authority to state; but when it is imputed as an act of immorality, I feel bound to take my share of it; and, for one, I cone tend that, instead of being immoral, it is an honest and defensible proceeding. I repeat, that we ought to wait until the Crown has the means of explaining to the House and to the country what were the reasons which induced it to reject the advice of its Ministers, in consequence of which they refused longer to continue in its service. When the time comes, the country will hear and judge; and, however well-disposed, as I am myself, to give the right hon. Gentlemen who have retired credit for the best intentions, the country will then also respect the scruples of the Monarch in following advice of a description which an honest English King might justly hesitate to adopt.
§ Lord Althorp
I do not rise for the purpose of entering at large into this discussion; but the hon. Gentleman has attributed to my noble friends sentiments and opinions which were neither uttered by them, nor, to my knowledge, uttered by any Member of the House. I did did hear any body make the sort of observations, regarding his Majesty, attributed to my noble friends by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman calls upon the House 916 to suspend its judgment until his Majesty's constitutional advisers are in a condition to explain. I hope and trust that the House will do so, and that it will not run away with any mistaken feeling regarding his Majesty's conduct, where it was possible to give it a fair interpretation. What my noble friends alluded to was, not the conduct of his Majesty; they alluded to what might have been the conduct—I say, what might have been the conduct—of any individuals, who, having opposed the Reform Bill in its principle and in its details, were, nevertheless, ready to accept office with a view to carry the very measure they had so strenuously resisted. To that state of things their observations applied; that was the public immorality to which they alluded; and I cannot think that the expressions they used were stronger than were merited by the occasion. With respect to the Reform Bill, whatever may be my feelings with regard to such a line of conduct, I may truly say, that I have heard, with considerable gratification, the hon. Member admit, in the strong terms in which he did admit it—first, that the general feeling of the country is in favour of the measure, and, secondly, however I may differ from him in the inference he draws from the circumstance, that a large measure of Reform is necessary to the peace and welfare of the kingdom. I rejoice that an hon. Gentleman of his influence should at length have arrived at that conclusion; and, although it may not be our lot to be the Ministers who carry the Reform Bill, we shall have the satisfaction of knowing, by the consent of all parties, that we have done a public service in introducing it. By our exertions, a Reform Bill—and a large Reform Bill—will undoubtedly be adopted. The hon. Gentleman says, and says most truly—at least, from hearsay, I can confirm his assertion—that, many months ago, he was of opinion it would be necessary to grant a measure of Reform. I know also, that although he was of that opinion, undoubtedly, in this House, he did not express it. I saw none of the effects of that conviction either in the hon. Gentleman's votes or speeches. Nevertheless, I am glad to hear, although he always spoke against the Reform Bill, that he always wished it well, and that, however he might have denounced it, he did not really think it unjust, revolutionary, or inconsistent with good government. He tells us, indeed, that he still thinks it 917 will not be an improvement; but what he says regarding his future intentions is, undoubtedly, a great improvement. We may hope, therefore, as he has begun improving, that he will go on in the same course, and that, ere long, we shall see our Reform Bill carried, to the great satisfaction of the people, and, as we think, to the amelioration of the Constitution.
§ Mr. Duncombe
Within these few minutes, I have heard that a declaration has been just made in another place, by Lord Carnarvon, that the new Administration is for accepting some of the minor parts of the Reform Bill, and that it has been postponed until Thursday, in order that it may then be taken into consideration by the other House of Parliament. We know that the Duke of Wellington was appointed on Saturday last. We know also what was his first act. His first act was to insult the people of Birmingham. He sent back their petition, and refused to lay it at the foot of the Throne, on the idle pretext, that he knew of no such body as that from which it emanated. We are now to understand, that the Administration has been formed, and as the Bill is to be taken into consideration on Thursday, I suppose that the next we shall hear will be, that public principles, like public meetings, are "a farce." If the Duke of Wellington did not mean to pursue the Reform Bill, instead of postponing it until Thursday, the motion would have been, to discharge the order for taking it into consideration. Where he has found Ministers to fill his Cabinet, I know not; but we all know who was the noble and learned individual first employed to compound the Administration, and we now find, that that Administration is about to adopt the very Bill which it denounced only a few hours ago as revolutionary. I cannot say, that the measure has fallen into hands more worthy of it, or more worthy of the task of passing it. I do not deny the noble Lord's learning or talents, but his whole life has been one scene of political prostitution and apostacy. Again I say, of what materials the Administration will be formed, it is impossible yet to guess; but if it is to be composed of the opponents of the Reform Bill, their principles must be like certain vehicles, like crane-necked carriages, the advantage of which is, that they turn round in the smallest possible space. In such a vehicle must the Duke of Welling 918 ton go down to the House of Lords. What will be the beasts that draw him, who the charioteer that drives him, or who the pensioned lacquies that stand behind him, I know not; but this I know, that, under such circumstances, I would rather be the tailor that turns his coat than the Duke of Wellington with all his glories. But if the temporal Lords have no consciences to be consulted, what is to become of the spiritual Peers? Are the Bishops to be hung upon crane-necked carriages too? Are they of a sudden to fling up their mitres, and halloo for "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." One of these right reverend Prelates made a most solemn appeal to the House upon the subject, and, as it has since been published from authority, in the shape of a pamphlet, I may be excused for quoting a passage from it. It was a speech delivered on the question that the Reform Bill be read a second time. My Lords," said the Bishop, "but one thing is clear and bright, and one thing only—to walk uprightly is within your own power. As for consequences, they are in the power of God. Will you distrust that power? My Lords, you will not."* I say to the House of Peers—"My Lords, you will distrust that power, unless the Duke of Wellington and place are your God." The hon. member for Thetford has talked about the creation of Peers, forsooth—that it would degrade the House of Lords; but this base violation of public principle—this base violation of a public protest—will do more to degrade the House of Lords, than the creation of a hundred Peers.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
rose to order. Before he noticed the harshness of the expressions of the hon. member for Hertford, be wished to know whether he meant to say, that the Duke of Wellington had—[cries of "order," and "spoke."]
§ The Speaker
remarked, that he did not consider it a question of order, nor did he require to be made alive to points of order when they occurred. It was quite evident, whether the gallant and hon. Member's opinion were correct or not, that he could not be in order in directing a question in that personal manner to any hon. Member.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge was again about to speak, but he was again interrupted by the impatience of the House.
said, it appeared to him,* Hansard, vol. xii., (third series,)p. 287.919 that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was himself out of order in the interruption he had occasioned.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge again rose; but the disturbance was so great, that he could not be heard; and, after standing for a few moments, he resumed his seat.
§ Mr. Duncombe
proceeded. I repeat, that if the House of Lords be guilty of the base violation of public principle and a recorded protest alluded to, it will do more to lower them in the estimation of the people of England than the creation of a hundred Peers. I agree also with the right rev. Prelate I have already quoted, in another sentiment contained in his speech, where he says of the Lords, and let that House look to it:—"My Lords, if this House shall fall from its palmy state, it will fall by corruption from within. It will fall by the folly or the guilt—by the cowardice or the treachery of some—if there shall be any such—of its own degenerate Members."* [say, that they cannot be so degenerate; I do not believe that there are any such; that they will not so grossly violate the pledges they have given in the face of God and their country. But we are told, by the hon. member for Thetford, that the Duke of Wellington has, at last, heard the imperious call of the people for Reform; that the voices raised at those "farces"—public meetings—have, at length, reached him; and that the Duke of Wellington means to give us Reform. Reform from the Duke of Wellington! Reform from the Tories! We are to be taught Reform by these hon. and right hon. apostates. The people are to learn the value of Reform, as Dean Swift tells us the ancients learnt how to prune their vines; they found that when asses had browsed upon them, they throve more vigorously, and produced better fruit; so, in this case, because the Tories have, at last, nibbled at Reform, it is now to thrive vigorously, and to produce excellent fruit. I say, that what comes from so polluted a source must be corrupt, and that we ought never to distrust the Tories more, than when they affect to be liberal. But if this Administration be formed, what, I want to know, are they to do with this House? Will they dissolve the Parliament which the King called in order that it might speak the sense of the people? It has been said, that we have connected the* Hansard, vol. xii. (third series) p. 286.920 King's name with Reform. Let me ask the hon. member for Thetford this:—Will dissolving the Parliament separate the King's name from Reform? Will dissolving the Parliament separate the names of other members of the Royal Family from Reform? I will give the House the titles of some of those members—the illustrious Cumberland and the sapient Gloucester [cries of "Order."]
§ The Speaker
called the hon. Gentleman to order. It was irregular to mention any names, and not less those of the royal Dukes.
§ Mr. Duncombe
expressed himself sorry that he should have trespassed on the Orders of the House. I will, however, add, he continued, that if the new Ministry should venture to dissolve this Parliament, they may depend upon it they will not better their situation, and the inevitable result will be, their defeat, disgrace, and dishonour. You may reject the petitions of Political Unions, but it will be in vain: the people will, and ought to be heard. On Saturday I heard that the petition of the Birmingham Union had been sent back. I had never before belonged to any of those bodies; but the moment I learnt that fact I enrolled my name. You may talk as you please about putting down Political Unions. I should like to see the question tried whether Political Unions can be put down. I maintain that you cannot put them down but by granting Reform. A Political Union is quite as legal and constitutional a body as that Political Union known by the name of the Cumberland or Conservative Club. I shall trouble the House at present no further; but in sitting down, I think it right to say, that I will oppose and defeat the new Administration by all the means the forms of this House allow. Out of doors I will adopt every possible constitutional measure to resist and embarrass them—by agitation, if you like to call it so, or in any other way, until I see those who have been the prime movers of this base outrage upon the nation's feelings hurled from their lofty station, and biting the very dust of Reform, amid the curses of an insulted people, and the execration of an indignant Parliament.
§ Mr. Beaumont
referred to the recorded Protest of the Duke of Wellington, and remarked, that if a tree were to be known by its fruits, little reliance could be placed upon the disposition of the author of that 921 Protest in favour of Reform. The surrounding of the metropolis by military, and the rejection of the Birmingham Petition, were the first acts of the new Government, and distinctive of its character. But if the Government were to be destructive in its nature, he must call upon the House of Commons to stand forward as the conservative body of the State. It was his most anxious desire to remove the enemies of the people from the Councils of the King, and he certainly would do everything that was legal and constitutional in the way of agitation and resistance. From this moment he considered that there were only two parties in the kingdom—the party of Reform, and the party of the Duke of Wellington, and those who were not avowedly for Reform were, of course, to be reckoned in the number of its worst opponents.
§ Mr. Macaulay
only wished to say a few words; and complained, in the first place, that the hon. member for Thetford had himself improperly introduced the Royal name for the sake of influencing the decision of the House. With all respect for the services and talents of his hon. and gallant friend (Sir Henry Hardinge) he must fairly and frankly, in the language of Parliament and of Gentlemen, and without the slightest admixture of personality, express what he thought of the conduct of the Duke of Wellington. Two evils grew out of the present state of affairs—one the danger of losing the Reform Bill, and the other, the deep injury inflicted upon the characters of public men—above all of one public man for whom he had entertained feelings of such high veneration that he would almost rather the disgrace should have fallen upon any other individual, however near or dear to him. He could not contemplate without the most acute pain, the possible degradation of perhaps the most illustrious name in British history. On the 16th of April, the Duke of Wellington, with the utmost formality, had declared, that the disfranchising clauses of the Reform Bill were shocking to all notions of justice—that the principles of the measure were destructive of the monarchy; and yet before the 16th of May, be had jumped to the conclusion, that all he before resisted was right, and all that he had declared needless was necessary. The Duke was now, it seemed, alive to the perils of the State—to the agitation of the public mind—to the earnest 922 wishes of the vast body of the King's subjects—but did not all these exist before the 16th of April, or were his Grace's eyes only opened when he saw an opportunity of again obtaining office? If the recent division against the Reform Bill were the cause of the change in the public mind—if the Duke thought that it had produced it, it had been in his power to prevent it; and not having prevented it, he ought not to be allowed to take advantage of his own wrong. In signing the Protest, when he knew the state of excitement out of doors, the Duke had been guilty of one act of public immorality; and he was guilty of a second act of public immorality, if, having signed the Protest, he now at once abandoned its principles. What difference was there in the state of the question between the 16th of April and the 14th of May, excepting that at the first date the Duke of Wellington was in Opposition, and at the last date in place? If the characters of such eminent public men were to sustain this disgrace, it became the Representatives of the people to let their constituents see that the stain did not belong to them—that somebody might yet be trusted—that all were not ready to sacrifice principle to place. If those who had so repeatedly and so unanimously declared against Reform, now called themselves its advocates, it became doubly the duty of the House of Commons to take care of the Bill, and of its most minute details. If, when it was returned from the Lords, he saw that it still contained any important public good, he should readily support it. He thought that no pledge could be stronger than that which the Duke of Wellington made in his protest against the Reform Bill, and if that pledge should have been violated within one month, no other pledge of an Administration formed of those who subscribed to the Protest could hold out long. Therefore, he would say, that he should give no confidence to such a Ministry, coming into power upon principles directly contrary to those to which, in the protest, they had pledged themselves. He should, indeed, always support the Reform Bill, through whatever hands it might be carried; but on the day after the passing of the Bill, he should take such measures as might be the best calculated to show that the House could place no confidence in, and could give no support to, such an Administration. To state at once that he would take that 923 course, was a duty which he owed to himself; for the present was a time when the character of public men required, above all things, to be carefully looked to; and he believed that the time was not distant when character and power would be synonymous. Therefore, if others wished to have infamy and place, let the House of Commons, at least, have honour and Reform.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
attempted to address the House, but cries of "Spoke, spoke," completely drowned his voice.
§ The Speaker
said, that although the hon. and gallant Gentleman had already spoken upon the question before the House, yet, if he had anything to explain, or if he conceived that anything had been said which was contrary to the order and usage of the House, the House would hear him.
§ Mr. Macaulay
said, that he believed he should be able to put an end to the discussion, if the House would allow him to say a few words. He would assure the hon. and gallant Baronet, that in anything which he had said he had no intention to swagger, as the gallant Baronet supposed. The gallant Baronet himself was not more aware than he (Mr. Macaulay) that it was absurd to use swaggering language in that House. But in what he (Mr. Macaulay) had said, there was nothing like menace or swaggering. All he said was, that if others—and he did not particularly point at any person—consented to have infamy and place, he hoped that the House of Commons would preserve its honour, and adhere to the Reform Bill.
§ Sir George Murray
said, that the hon. Gentleman had used strong expressions, which he had no wish to imitate. For his part, he was always desirous to avoid the use of language which might give offence; and he thought that if at all times it was desirable for the Members of that House to proceed with temper and moderation, the present times especially required that they should do so. The hon. member for Calne had spoken of infamy being incurred by persons accepting places; but surely the hon. Gentleman must be aware, that in the present circumstances of the country, place could not be very desirable. But there might be an emergency which should induce men of honour and principle to take office, notwithstanding the difficulties with which they might have to contend. As to the course which it was 924 supposed the new Administration meant to adopt, he must say, that it was the duty of public men to follow at any time the course which the public good, according to the circumstances of the times, required. It was too much to accuse Statesmen of inconsistency, because they adopted that course. But if the persons who were to constitute the new Administration were accused of inconsistency, he would take leave to ask, was there no inconsistency upon the other side? Had there been no inconsistency on the part of the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces? It was always unpleasant to him to make charges against any one; but he now felt justified in asserting that the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, had both in his speeches in that House, and in pamphlets published under his name, expressed himself hostile to those very principles upon which he had since framed his Reform Bill. Besides, several colleagues of the noble Lord had frequently expressed themselves hostile to the principle of Reform altogether. When the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, whom he did not then see in his place, was on one occasion defending some of those Gentlemen from a charge of inconsistency, he said, that it was most improper and unjust to accuse Statesmen of inconsistency when they were induced to alter their policy, foreign or domestic, with the altered circumstances of the country. He recollected that, on that occasion, his right hon. friend beside him (Sir Robert Peel) joined with the noble Lord in repelling the charge of inconsistency which was cast upon public men for having altered their policy upon a particular question. It was, evidently, the wish of some persons in that House, and it was expressly the object of some who spoke to-night, to cramp the Sovereign in the choice of Ministers. He was very glad to observe that the noble Lord opposite (Lord Althorp) had assumed a tone different from that adopted by the persons to whom he alluded. That noble Lord had said, that if any measure was brought forward by the new Ministry, be they whom they may, which should seem to him to be beneficial to the country, he would give them so far his assistance and support. As to what had fallen from the hon. member for Hertford, who gave an illustration respecting the vine, he could not help smiling, for the Tories were not the persons who had browsed in the spot to 925 which the hon. Gentleman alluded. The noble Lord, the member for Northamptonshire, had drawn a distinction between loyalty and that sort of attachment which induced men to bend to all the caprices of the Sovereign, but there was yet no reason to accuse any persons of that sort of blind devotion. Without the fullest information, the House ought not to be persuaded that the King had acted with caprice. There had been no proof that his Majesty had abandoned the principles to which, in his Speech from the Throne, he had before pledged himself; or that he did not still entertain the sentiments which he was known to have expressed. All they knew was, that his Ministers made to him a proposition with which he did not think it right to comply. But they did not know what were the circumstances which induced his Majesty to think that he ought not, at the time, to do what his Ministers advised him to. Under these circumstances (and he spoke there only as an individual, and without authority from any quarter whatever)—it appeared to him, that the only line which it became the House to follow was, to support the Crown.
said, that heretofore he had always doubted that it would be a wise or expedient course to create new Peers, for the purpose of carrying a particular measure. But now all his doubts were removed. The occurrences of the last week had convinced him that new Peers ought to have been created. As that had not been done, it remained for the House of Commons to send up to the Lords a Bill of Supply in company with a Reform Bill. He did not think that, in such a case, the House of Lords would venture to separate what the Commons had joined. The speech of the hon. member for Thetford had been alluded to already by several speakers, and he also would advert to one topic introduced by that Gentleman. Coming into town that morning, he saw several detachments of the army on their march. Now, certainly it might be, that they were merely changing quarters; but the appearance of troops moving from place to place at the present conjuncture was enough to "fright the isle front its propriety." He agreed with the observations of the hon. member for Calne, and would join with that Gentleman in taking measures to show that they had no confidence in the men whom it was under- 926 stood the King had taken to his councils, and he was sure that the country would also show that it reposed no confidence in those persons.
Lord John Russell
felt himself called upon, on an occasion like the present, to show that the conduct which was said to be borne out by his example was in every respect dissimilar to everything that he had ever done. He thought it to be his duty, in such a case, to lay before the House his own conduct and that of the Gentlemen, whoever they might be, who were about to take office as Cabinet Ministers. It had been said, that he had changed his opinions on the subject of Reform. His opinions had at all times been expressed just as he entertained them at the time; and yet all that could be brought home to him on the subject of change of opinion was, that, from having been a Reformer twelve years ago, and that not of the most moderate class of Reformers—from being a Reformer who proposed to take 100 Members from places now represented in that House, and to give them to the counties and great towns—from being such a Reformer, he had come to be the advocate of that Reform which for a long time he had endeavoured to render unnecessary—namely the total disfranchisement of the nomination boroughs. But that change in his conduct had been brought about, first, by the obstinate resistance which had been made by the Government now coining into office to the most moderate Reform; secondly, by the altered condition of the country; and, thirdly, by the opinions of many persons of the highest authority, differing from each other on the question of Reform. He would mention two of those persons, by whose opinion he had been influenced, and it would be admitted that they had few opinions in common upon the general question of Reform—Lord Grey and the late Mr. Canning. It was the opinion of both those statesmen, that, if any measure of Reform was to be carried, it ought to be founded on such principles as would render it final, so far as it was possible for the Legislature to make it so. On these three considerations it was, that he had come to the opinion, that, if a Reform were effected, however extensive it might be in other respects, but which should leave seats in that House avowedly at the disposal of individuals, the question would still be left open to discussion, and there 927 would still be a call for further Reform. Such was the nature of the inconsistency which could be charged upon him. But it could not be said, that, like some, he had changed from a Reformer to an Anti-Reformer, nor had he, like others, changed suddenly from determined hostility to all Reform to the support of such a measure as that House had passed. He had changed only from moderate to extensive Reform, that change being effected in him by the necessity, as he had said, brought on by Gentlemen opposite—by the change in the condition of the country—by the opinion of the great men to whom he had alluded—and, above all things, by the effect produced in the country by the declaration of the Duke of Wellington, that no Reform was necessary—that the system of Representation was as perfect as the wit of man could devise, and that he (the noble Duke) would never consent to any Reform of any kind whatever. Such were his reasons for agreeing with his noble friend (Earl Grey) in the interviews which he had with him in the commencement of his Ministry, that any Reform which they should determine to produce ought to be of so decided a character, as to give a hope of a resting place on this subject. But he would put it to the candour of Gentlemen opposite, and of the right hon. Gentleman who had appealed to him (Sir G. Murray), whether the change which had taken place in his opinions in the course of twelve years was equal in amount to the change which had taken place in the opinions of some Gentlemen within the last twelve days. In twelve days those Gentlemen had changed from opposition to all Reform as revolutionary, to the support of that Reform which they denominated as the most revolutionary that could be devised. It was now a matter of boast with their friends, that those persons who signed twelve days ago a declaration that they opposed the Reform Bill as revolutionary, subversive of the Constitution, and dangerous to the Crown, were now taking office pledged to carry that same measure. He trusted that, having said so much on the appeal which had been made to him, the House would indulge him whilst he said a few words respecting the crisis in which the country was placed at present. In doing so, he should not be induced by the artful attempt of the hon. member for Thetford to drag the King's name into the discussion. 928 He should not be provoked, by that hon. Member's taunt, to lift the veil from before the Throne, and bring the King's personal character into the debate. According to the Constitution, there was no doubt that the King had the prerogative to reject any advice which his Ministers might offer to him, and it had been the usual indulgence of the Kings of this country to their confidential servants, to accept the resignation of any man who felt in his conscience that his services could no longer be performed for the good of the country. But it was no less undoubtedly the right of that House to withhold its confidence from any Ministry which his Majesty might be advised to call to his councils. At the present moment there were two great questions in which the country was deeply interested. The first was Reform; the second was the composition of the Administration by which the country was about to be governed. In the latter question the character of public men was deeply involved. As to the Reform Bill, he would say, with his hon. friends who had spoken before him, that he was prepared to give it his utmost support, whoever might be the persons that should conduct it through that House provided only that they carried it through untouched in its principles. But he would own that he felt a difficulty in trusting much to the future prospects of the Bill, and that difficulty was not diminished by what had fallen from the hon. member for Thetford. He could not see what the reason was wherefore that hon. Gentleman had not professed the same sentiments a week ago, and declared himself ready to support the Bill. Was the sentiment with which hon. Gentlemen had acted to be expressed in these words:—"We will not object to the Bill if you give us your places; give us your offices and we shall carry your Bill." Well, if they had plainly and honestly avowed that sentiment, or if they had given an intelligible intimation that they entertained such views, Lord Grey would have willingly given up his office and the Bill together into their hands. He would have said, that office was to him an occasion of pain, a pillow of thorns, and that he would give up the Bill to them if they would carry it as it was; that is to say, if they would revoke every pledge which they had ever given, and retract every sentiment that they had ever uttered. But, if the sentiments of those Gentlemen had not 929 undergone the change which was supposed to have taken place in them—if they were determined to mutilate the Bill, or to introduce clauses into it which would deprive the people of the power to control their Representatives, in that case the Reform Bill would be essentially different from that which it was when sent up from that House, and it would be such as might account for those Gentlemen's support. He was, indeed, very doubtful that they would carry the Bill without making alterations to suit it to their opinions, unless they should be induced to preserve it as it was, for the sake of obtaining office, which really seemed to them, even on such terms, an object of ambition. But if they should not mutilate the Bill—if they should send it back to that House with alterations only in some minor points not affecting the principles, or the more important of its provisions, he would make no objection to such alterations. Now, there was another question—no less important than the question of Reform—respecting the character of public men. When he attached so much importance to that question, he was only uttering the sentiments which the Duke of Wellington had expressed in stronger terms, on the question respecting the retirement of Mr. Huskisson from office, and when that gentleman made it the condition of his remaining in the Administration that the Duke of Wellington should solicit him to remain. The Duke, thinking it below the dignity of his station to make such a solicitation, said, "However sensible I may be of this loss, I am convinced that, in these times, any loss is better than that of character, which is the foundation of public confidence."* Such being the sentiments of the noble Duke, he would never place himself in a situation in which the people would be able to say to him, that he had violated his pledges, and falsified his opinions, and that, in future, with whatever solemnity he might pledge himself to any line of conduct—with whatever earnestness he might state his opinions, the public could never have confidence in the man who could sweep away in one day the most solemn protestations of his whole life. If the Duke of Wellington should place himself in this situation, there was not a person in the country who would not* Hansard, vol. xix. (new series) p. 927.930 exclaim against it, except, perhaps, the hon. member for Thetford, who seems to think and to express surprise that they did not—"overcome us like a summer cloud—But he could assure the hon. Gentleman that the people attached considerable importance to the characters of the persons to whom the affairs of the country might be intrusted. The Duke of Wellington himself was no ordinary person. He was one in whose character the whole country was interested. Having said thus much, in reply to the hon. member for Thetford, he would beg leave to say a few words in reference to the right hon. member for Tamworth, who had been alluded to in connection with the present subject, and respecting certain reports which were in circulation. It was said, that the right hon. Gentleman was not about to take place in the new Administration. To that rumour he did not hesitate to give credence. He had ever spoken of the right hon. Gentleman with respect; and, indeed, he had regretted, solely from the respect he had for his public character, that he had consented to remain in office whilst another great question, to which the right hon. Baronet was known to be opposed, was carried. But he believed that the right hon. Gentleman was so entangled that he could not escape, and that his conduct was influenced by the purest motives. Therefore, and from all that he had seen of that right hon. Gentleman, he readily gave credence to the statement that he would not take office in the present conjuncture, and he was sure that the right hon. Baronet would not form part of a Cabinet, into which honour could not enter. But, perhaps, as had been suggested, the right hon. Gentleman might yet think himself placed in a situation in which he ought to give his support to the Administration, although he would not consent to take part in it. But the right hon. Baronet had often before expressed his sentiments on the question of Reform, and it appeared to him that those sentiments were such as must prevent hint the right hon. Baronet from giving his aid to such an Administration, and from bringing to its support that eloquence which, strengthened by his high character, had so often gained the support of the House to the measures which he favoured. The right hon. Baronet's sentiments on this subject had been recorded on a very late 931 occasion, and he would venture to read the terms used by the right hon. Baronet. But he would first premise that, last year, very much to his regret, the right hon. Baronet stated, that he could agree to some measure of enfranchisement, as that was altogether a matter of expediency, but that to disfranchisement he could never assent, as that involved a question of justice, and that to an act of injustice nothing should force him to be a party. On the third reading of the Reform Bill the right hon. Baronet having enumerated all the evils which he believed the measure would produce, and having supposed some liberal and enlightened individual in future times sighing after the blessings which the nation had enjoyed under the present Constitution, and breathing forth bitter reproaches against those who had forfeited for him his bright and precious inheritance, concluded with these words: "That he might not be summoned to the bar of posterity, to answer these questions; that his name might be exempt from the reproach which they involved; that, in every vicissitude of public and private fortune, he might be enabled to cling to the consolation of having struggled in this contest with perseverance, and of having resigned it without dishonour, his last vote should be given like his first—in opposition to this Bill."* Such were the sentiments of the right hon. Baronet at the time when last he gave a vote upon this question. He presumed, therefore, that, having given his vote, and upon those grounds, the right hon. Baronet could not be induced by anything that had since occurred to vote in another way under another Administration. But he understood that there were others who, on the same occasion, gave their last vote on the same question, and who were now ready to give another last vote in direct contradiction to all their other votes. It was not for him to regret that they should do so. On the contrary, let the Bill be passed, and be should rejoice. He should gladly accept the boon, by whatever hands it might be conveyed. The Bill would be a great and permanent benefit to the country. It would secure peace and good Government; and such a measure was not to be rejected on account of the party from from which it might come. But he would say now, once and for ever, that, after that*See Hansard, (third series) vol. xi. p. 764.932 measure should have been passed, he could give no support or confidence to those who, in carrying that measure, would stand in the face of the country publicly dishonoured.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, that it might be very well for Gentlemen to speak of infamy and dishonour attaching to those who accepted office; but Gentlemen must be aware, that he for one could not accept office, without incurring loss and inconvenience, and could, therefore, be influenced only by a feeling of public duty. He had not come down prepared for the present discussion. He had not brought with him, like the noble Lord, carefully selected quotations, to enable him to cast imputations upon others. He was sure that nobody would deprecate more than hon. Gentlemen opposite, the reading of partial extracts from one of their speeches, without giving them with the context. He would ask the noble Lord opposite, if he did not, upon one occasion, say, that he should look upon the disfranchisement of Gatton and Old Sarum to be as great an infraction of the Constitution as anything that had been clone by King James 2nd?
Lord John Russell
begged to explain, that what he had said upon the occasion referred to was, that the franchise of Gatton or of Old Sarum was a trust, as the Crown was a trust, and that when the Legislature deprived those places of the trust, that ought not to be done except upon as good grounds as those upon which King James had been expelled.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
would not then go into the question as to whether Gatton and Old Sarum ought to be disfranchised; but when the noble Lord thought proper to attack Gentlemen upon his side of the House for having changed their opinions, he thought it right to remind the noble Lord that he himself was liable to the same charge. He never was more surprised than when he came into that House, and heard it complained, of that Gentlemen upon that (the Opposition) side of the House had mixed up the King's name with this discussion. He would ask the House, whether it was not by the Gentlemen opposite the name of the King was first brought forward in this question? They united it with the name of the people; and he would desire nothing more earnestly than that the King's name should always be united with the name of the 933 people, only that from that union the aristocracy should not be omitted. The noble Lord had said, that the present was a question of character. Well, in what way was the character of the Duke of Wellington compromised by the course which he had adopted? He was sure that his right hon. friend (Sir R. Peel) could not be pleased to hear himself lauded at the expense of the noble Duke. He was sure that his right hon. friend placed confidence in the noble Duke, as did also a great portion of the people. So far as the character of public men was concerned, he thought that the reproach was to be cast on others, not upon the Duke of Wellington. During the debate upon the second reading of the Bill he had paid particular attention to the speech of the noble Duke, and to the reply; and the only thing which he at that moment had in his pocket was an extract from that reply. The noble Earl (Earl Grey) said to the House of Lords, "Pass the second reading of the Bill, and then the Bill will be in your hands, and not in mine. If you interfere with its principle, I will oppose such interference, but still it will be for you to decide whether or not you will make the alterations." He (Sir E. Sugden) declared solemnly, that when he heard the noble Earl use these words, his full conviction was, that Lord Grey meant to convey, that there would be no creation of Peers, and that, after the second reading, the Bill would be altogether in the hands and at the discretion of the. Peers: for what other sense could be given to the words of the noble Earl, than that it was his intention not to interfere with the House, but leave the Bill entirely to their Lordships' discretion. But now his firm conviction was, that the Ministers had determined that neither the House of Lords nor that House (the Commons) should in any way modify the Bill, otherwise than as they (the Ministers) should think best suited to their own purposes. Did not the country know, that the principles of the Bill had been altered by the Ministers, without any good reason having been assigned? The qualification had been altered. An alteration had been made in the schedules, both of disfranchisement and of enfranchisement; and in other respects the original Bill had been departed from in its most important principles. But these changes were made by the Ministers themselves, and yet they refused to both Houses of Parliament the 934 right to interfere with the Bill in any respect. What was the advice which was understood to have been given to the King on the present state of the Reform Bill? Nothing less than to deluge the House of Lords by the creation of sixty or seventy new Peers. Was there any man, acquainted with the past history, or the present political state of the country, who could for a moment doubt that the adoption of such a course would give to the Constitution a fatal stab? What! seventy Peers to be brought into that House pledged to a particular measure? He believed there was not a man of sane mind throughout England, or, he might add, throughout Europe, who would for a moment hesitate to admit, that such a measure would have the instant effect of degrading the House of Lords far below anything which even its worst enemies could devise. He was at a loss to imagine anything more calculated to degrade the House of Peers than the sudden introduction of seventy Peers to the House of Lords—introduced, as it was intended they should he, for the purpose of drowning the opinion of the House of Peers. If he were right on the point to which he had just before been alluding, the matter that they had then under their consideration resolved itself into this, the late Ministers must have carried their point, or have been defeated; they had been defeated, and they said to their political adversaries, "You must pass the Bill as we left it to you, and so destroy your own characters for consistency, or you must reject and incur the utmost possible hazard to the country from the state of excitement in which we have left men's minds." He had no difficulty, then, in saying, that being in possession of the Government at such a crisis, the noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were not justified in abandoning the guidance of public affairs, and leaving the King, the Country, and the Legislature, in the position in which they had been placed—they should not have abandoned the Government for the sake of destroying the party opposed to them in politics; neither should they have endeavoured to swamp the House of Lords for any such unworthy purpose. With respect to the conduct of the Duke of Wellington, which had that night been made the subject of so much animadversion, it did, he confessed, appear to him, that the Duke of Wellington was perfectly justified in the course which he had taken 935 —with the prospect before him of seeing the House of Lords swamped, he could scarcely have taken any other—and in the exercise of a sound discretion, and under the influence of an exalted patriotism, he took the commands of his Majesty to form an Administration, and thus at least avoid the evil of destroying the House of Lords. There was one truth, however, established beyond any possibility of dispute, namely, that the present Government of the King found nothing but a choice between two evils. If hon. Members believed, as he did, that the Duke of Wellington was not influenced by any desire of place—he knew how difficult it was, to reconcile all opinions and unite all voices; but if they believed, as he did, that the Duke of Wellington, as a public man, stood far above all mercenary considerations—above all motives arising out of a mere desire of place, they must feel that, in accepting office at the present moment, he was making one of the greatest sacrifices which it was in the power of any public man to make for the good of his country. Yes, he would repeat, that the sacrifices which that noble person made, admitted of no limitation or qualification. That which he had done, or was about to do, constituted one of the basest acts of which any man was ever guilty, or an act of the greatest magnanimity and public virtue; an act which, as it would surpass anything that our past history afforded, so it would eclipse the glories of future ages. He would repeat the expression, and appeal to all impartial men, and to posterity, for the truth and justice of the sentiments which he thus conscientiously expressed, that the noblest act of the long and distinguished life of the Duke of Wellington, was the acceptance of office at a crisis dangerous to the Constitution, and one which carried with it enough of difficulty, delicacy, and hazard, to deter all ordinary minds from grappling with it. Such were his sentiments of the conduct of the Duke of Wellington, and if they were well founded, and the noble Duke could not be proved to have been guilty of the basest and most disgraceful conduct a public man had ever fallen into, then he deserved, and ought to receive, universal approbation; and more for that than for any act of his public life.
§ Viscount Palmerston
I should certainly not have risen to take any part in the present debate, had I not been personally 936 alluded to by the right hon. and gallant member for Perthshire. I have been charged with changes of opinion upon great public questions. Against such charges I feel that no defence is necessary in this House. I have no difficulty in saying, that I have changed my sentiments, and that I have done so from having become wiser. With respect to my own public conduct, I should greatly regret being compelled to defend it upon any grounds that might involve an accusation against others—accusations which it would be no less painful to me to utter than it would be to the right hon. and gallant Member himself to hear. It is known both to the House and the public, that I have retired from office for the sake of preserving the free expression of my opinions, and freedom of action, on political questions upon which I felt deeply interested. It might also have been known to the right hon. and gallant Member, that it has happened to me, when out of office, to decline the service of the Crown, when I felt that, in accepting that service I should have incurred the hazard of not being at liberty to assert my own sentiments as I felt I ought. With respect to the concluding part of the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member, in which he blames the late Administration for having abandoned office at a moment when it was peculiarly their duty to have remained in the service of the Monarch, there was not a man in the country who thought that they could, with anything like honour, have remained in power—no men of honour could have done so under the circumstances. We are told that we have been guilty of a violation of the Constitution, in the advice given to his Majesty to create a sufficient number of Peers to carry the Reform Bill—advice in which I fully participated. Now, I deny altogether that the advice referred to was any violation whatever of the Constitution; though, at the same time, I am perfectly ready to admit, that it was advice which should only be given in extreme cases; out what I contend for is, that that extreme case had arrived; and I have no doubt that the country, as well as posterity, will ratify that decision. The majority in the House of Lords against the Bill was so large, that it was obviously impossible that we could have remained masters of the measure. The right hon. and gallant Member opposite stated a de- 937 claration made by my noble friend at the head of his Majesty's Government as to the course which he intended to pursue in the event of the Bill having been read a second time in the House of Lords. His declaration was, after the second reading of the first Bill had been lost, that he would remain in office so long only as there remained a rational prospect of carrying the measure in a satisfactory shape—that pledge he certainly redeemed, for he did not retire from office till all prospect of that sort had totally disappeared. For the purposes of the argument which had been carried on upon the other side, it was said that the division in the House of Lords, which drove the late Administration from office, was a division upon a subject of no real importance. But that made no difference in the real state of the case. If the House of Lords had chosen to place the Government in so decided a minority, upon a question of no importance, and upon a point of mere legislative pedantry, as to which of two clauses should have the precedence, the hint was a broad one, and the Government could not pretend to misunderstand it. If on the contrary, the question was one of importance, and involving a principle of the Bill, which I contend it was, then equally the Government had no option left as to what it should do; but I believe that it will be now universally acknowledged by all candid and impartial men, that the division in question was really one of importance, and of the highest importance; for here was a measure upon which the existence of the Government as a Government was staked, and suddenly we find ourselves in such a situation that we lose all command or control over the measure, and we are outvoted by a very large majority of the House of Lords. It is almost instructing the House upon first principles, to tell them that no Government can carry on the business of the country, if it do not possess the confidence of both Houses of Parliament, and yet, in order to answer the arguments from the other side, I am compelled to remind the House of that fact. Really, it is almost too absurd to say that the question upon which the House of Lords divided the other night was not one involving an essential principle. They told us that they would proceed with enfranchisement first; and why?—because they thought it might be possible that the necessity for dis- 938 franchisement might be greatly diminished, or altogether removed by a previous inquiry into the amount of enfranchisement; that, at all events, a less amount of disfranchisement would suffice. Surely that involved the very principle of the Bill—to alter the detailed arrangement for such a purpose, and in such a manner, was to alter its most important principle, for the very essence of the Bill was the disfranchisement of the nomination boroughs; failing to carry the principle of disfranchisement, nothing remained for us but resignation. We must have either abandoned the Bill or resigned our offices. We had no choice between these two.
§ Sir George Murray
wished to say a few words in explanation. The noble Lord had made his speech on a total misconception of what had fallen from himself. He had never accused the noble Lord of inconsistency of opinion. He did not wish to drive the noble Lord into the discussion of the conduct of others, but as far as he was himself personally concerned, he could assure the noble Lord that he did not fear such discussion.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that he would not be provoked by any taunts from the other side to express opinions which would be as painful to the gallant Officer to hear as they would be to himself to express.
The Attorney General
, after bearing his testimony to the able manner in which his hon. and learned friend (Sir Edward Sugden) had stated his objections to the measure of Reform in the Committee in that House, proceeded to observe, that he would release his hon. and learned friend from the difficulty in which he might hereafter be involved from the construction put upon some words which had fallen from him. He did not understand him to say, that he would not consent to hold office at the present crisis—but only that office and the emoluments of office had to him no attractions, on account of the loss of private practice which it must entail upon him, and would not compensate. He was satisfied that his hon. and learned friend would not then or at any time accept office, without a thorough conviction that he could do so with honour. He rose, however, not to observe upon what his hon. and learned friend had stated; his object was, to reply to the hon. member for Thetford—the defender of a 939 Government—or rather let him say, of the phantom of a Government, or perhaps more properly of a something, which like the White Lady of the romance, was now growing under our eyes into the consistency of a phantom.
The Attorney General
The hon. Member disclaimed the new Administration, which he had undertaken to represent—
again interrupting.—The hon. and learned Gentleman ought not to describe him as speaking for those whom he had no authority to represent. He had no authority to speak there for any body but himself.
The Attorney General
The House had understood the hon. member for Thetford to be so kind as to inform it that he had no connection with the Administration now forming, but in that case, he knew not by what pretence or authority that hon. Gentleman had taken upon himself to read to Members of the House, and especially to the noble Lords who needed them the least of all men, those lectures upon good faith, upon honour, upon what common decency even required! Volunteering his uncalled for censures, if not as the Representative of a phantom Government, then, doubtless, as the intended representative of some future more substantial Government. He could not help congratulating the House on the benignant manager, the courteous leader, it was about to possess, in the hon. Gentleman. He could not help, as a humble individual, offering to the hon. Gentleman his grateful thanks for the great kindness with which he had treated him (the Attorney General) the other day in his absence. He had been told, that, during his absence, one of his hon. friends had called the hon. member for Thetford to account for having spoken of him as a mob-courting Attorney General, and that the answer given by the hon. Member was this—"If I did call him the mob-courting Attorney General, it was a long time ago, and, therefore, I am not bound to explain that phrase now." Admitting that excuse to be valid, he had still another point to settle with that hon. Member. He had been told, or he had read, or he had heard something uttered by the hon. Member to this effect—that atrocious libels had lately been published 940 regarding the Queen and other members of the royal family, and there was no Attorney General to put them down. Now, this charge was made in consequence of an article which appeared in a newspaper on the day after that on which the Attorney General sent in his resignation. He asked whether, under such circumstances, the proceeding of the hon. Member was generous—nay more, whether it was just? Was the imputation which he had cast upon the Attorney General one which he was justified in casting? He had no doubt that those somebodies and somethings, of which the hon. Member had spoken, whom nobody knew, and who were busy some where, but nobody knew where, had made the most of that imputation. He was ready, whenever he should be called on in a distinct and manly way, to defend his conduct against all who questioned it; but, on this occasion, he would confine himself to saying, that if he had consented to undertake such a prosecution as the hon. Member approved, he might have gratified some of the somebodies, but he should have rendered no real service to the Crown. What man was ignorant that the execution of the libel law rested entirely upon public opinion, and that any unfortunate interference with the Press would have recoiled upon the heads of those for whose pleasure it might have been made? But twice before had the hon. member for Thetford designated him as an individual incapable of serving the Crown as Attorney General, because, forsooth, he was the Representative of a popular place, and was known to entertain popular sentiments. He had taken the liberty of asking the hon. Member in private whether, when the hon. Member had the opportunity of observing his conduct before the Special Commission in Hampshire, there was any betrayal of his duty as Attorney General; and the answer which he had received from the hon. Member on that occasion was both courteous and satisfactory. He was really led to believe, that the hon. Member felt some personal kindness towards him, and was therefore, surprised to hear him that evening condescending to quote placards from the walls, and reports of violent sayings at public meetings, and dilating into a mock importance, those ebullitions of the public mind, which great excitement must ever produce, in order to fix upon him the charge of deserting his public 941 duty. The hon. Member's ability, his knowledge of the world, his habits of thinking, made it impossible for him to believe that prosecution must put down such attacks, or adopt that vulgar opinion that an Attorney General and a libel could not exist at the same time. For the last fourteen months the hon. Member had been daily exercising his powers of sarcasm against the reforming Ministry, and he doubtless thought, that the strongest point of attack and insinuation was, the imputed negligence of their law officers with reference to these offences. In another particular, he would protest against the unfairness of the hon. Member's proceedings. The hon. Member had thought proper to say—"Don't force the Crown into this hostile discussion with its late Ministers; wait till the new Government is formed, and can give an answer, before you attack the King." This may be very convenient language for those who desire to enter at the breach; but the noble Lord who made the Motion, had not attacked the King nor the Ministers who had been compelled to state their resignation. The King's name was introduced into the debate by the hon. Member, and he was alone responsible for any mischief that might follow. But that was not all that the hon. member for Thetford said, for he went on to observe" You have informed the people that there has not been fair dealing between the Crown and the Administration,—you have stated, that the Crown has acted not honestly, but treacherously, by it." Into that question he would not enter at present; for what had the question of whether the Crown had or had not given a promise to the late Administration to do with the question respecting the formation of a new Administration? The hon. Member well knew that these two questions had nothing in common; and yet he had joined them together in the same artful and invidious way in which other unions were attempted by the enemies of Reform. It was like the wisdom of the rotten boroughs, which menaced the downfall of the Church as sure to result from their own: but how great would be the folly of the Church, if it linked its fate with that of the rotten boroughs. So the aspirant to lead a new Administration, would bind the King's personal feelings to his schemes, and make a defensive alliance with the Crown, which never had been 942 assailed, the pretence for an irreconcileable warfare against its late servants. With regard to the new Administration he would not say much, as it was still in a state of generation. The sooner suspense was at an end the better, that we might understand the nature of the power placed over us. Our present ignorance and uncertainty, resembled that of the Indian philosopher respecting the foundation of the world. He could teach that the world rested on a huge tortoise, and the tortoise on a monstrous elephant; but deeper he could not go; perhaps his third conjecture would have placed the elephant on the shoulders of a gigantic rat. Time, however, would bring these and all other hidden things to light He was happy to have had this opportunity of replying to the attacks which had been made upon him in his absence by the hon. member for Thetford, and which he must say were neither candid nor parliamentary. On the public measure now under discussion he would only say, that he went fully along with his hon. friends, who had expressed a hope that the country would not disgrace itself, nor mar its prospects, by turbulence or violence. He hoped that the people would give no excuse to those who were ready to calumniate and provoke them, and not unwilling to exhibit the sword,—which once displayed, might not so easily be replaced in its sheath. He was sure that there was not a single Member of the late Administration who would not willingly forego all future hopes of place for the satisfaction of seeing the Reform Bill carried through Parliament in an unimpaired and unmutilated form. An hon. Member had said, that the Reform Bill would be carried, even though the King's name should now be given to the Anti-Reformers. Ah, but how much better were it, if the King's name should have gone down to posterity in company with this great healing measure of which the necessity is now admitted on all hands. If that moment were his last, he would say to the House—"Care not for the men, but care for the measure, and benefit yourselves and your country by passing this Bill of Reform." Yes, if the House of Lords would only pass this Bill, he would never consider who the Ministers were that conducted it to a successful issue. The Bill itself was what the House had to look to, and what they must support in whosoever hands it might be. He could 943 not conclude without making one observation on what was called the light and trifling nature of the circumstances, which it was said ought not to have induced Ministers to resign. Now, first of all, was the question raised by that amendment a question of their seeking? Next, was it not avowed by the waverers that a defeat on that question was a piece of humiliation which it was useful that Ministers should suffer? Lastly, was it not also avowed that this punishment was to be inflicted more than once upon them, to make them feel the advantage which they derived from such hollow support? Under such circumstances, what could they do but resign? And which of those who now blamed their arrogance, would have abstained from insulting their mean compliance, had they submitted to the humiliation for the sake of office? For his own part, he thanked the Ministers for the clear course they had pursued, not that he affected indifference to the advantages and emoluments of office—"Quis negat hœc esse utiliœ?" but he would gladly resign them all, provided he could see the success of this Bill, which, when passed into law, would render us the most free, the most happy, and the most contented nation on the face of the globe.
said, the observation to which the hon. and learned Gentleman alluded, was quoted by an hon. Member as having been uttered by me more than twelve months ago. The hon. and learned Gentleman also says, that I have imputed blame to him for not prosecuting those persons who have been libelling the Queen. Now, I brought no charge against the hon. and learned Gentleman. What I said was, that there was a general tendency to vilify and degrade persons in power; and, amongst the rest, the Royal Family, who formerly used to be under the especial protection of the law, but who now seem to have no one to defend them. Whether the Attorney General ought to prosecute under such circumstances I will not say; but I chiefly quoted it as a specimen of the altered state of the times.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
said, after the long discussion which had taken place on this petition from the city of London, he should detain the House but with very few observations. The Corporation of London having expressed their sentiments upon the subject which now agitated the nation, the Livery of London, in this peti- 944 tion, followed the example it had set them. He trusted that this petition would be read distinctly, because he was satisfied that it not only spoke the sense of the people of London, but the sense of every large, intelligent community in the kingdom. A great deal had been said in vindication of the persons who were to form the new Ministry, and a more futile vindication he never heard in his life, and such was the general feeling of the House, for the announcement of the Duke of Wellington having accepted the office of Prime Minister did not excite a single cheer even from his friends. With respect to the resignation of the late Administration, it was the general opinion of the people that, consistently with honour and character, his Majesty's Ministers could not take any other course than they had done. That had been the sentiment simultaneously expressed by the public voice from one end of the kingdom to the other; and if the Government were undertaken by any of the persons who had signed the protest against the Reform Bill in the House of Lords, they would be universally considered as having no pretensions to public character hereafter. In the opinion of the public, which was also his, there could not be a greater demonstration of political apostacy than in the acceptance of office by those persons. Either they meant to give the Bill entire, or they did not. In the latter case, it was needless to say what would become of them; and in the former, he was sure they could not have the confidence of the country, and without that confidence it was impossible for any Government to be carried on. If the House of Commons now stood by the people, it would prevent a violation of the public peace, but if the people found they were abandoned by those whom they had sent to that House to protect their rights, there would be no answering for the public tranquillity.
Sir Robert Inglis
said, he never rose under a more reluctant and painful sense of public duty. But there were times when public men ought to make an open profession of their principles before the country, and the present was a crisis of that kind. In the phrase "public men," he did not mean to assume more to himself than was due to every one within those walls; and, in that general sense, as one who, however humbly and inadequately, yet still actively and zealously, had for 945 some years taken a part in the proceedings of that House, he would state the principles which would lead him to act differently, he feared, from some of his friends. But public character was the best possession of a public man: it was the richest appanage of a nation; and, in proportion as a nation contained public men in whose principles their countrymen might feel a just confidence, in that proportion it had one of its best human resources, in times either of prosperity or of adversity. During all his public life, he had been opposed to the Whigs, but his objection had not been to them as a body, but to their measures. Least of all did he object to them as individuals, for to many of those now on the opposite benches he was bound by ties of early association and long intimacy, and their personal character he respected in the highest degree. His objection had been to the principles and tendencies of their public measures. If he might be permitted to say one word about himself, he would say, that he had endeavoured never to compromise any political opinions within that House, and never to carry a political enmity out of it. He had not said this to gain the cheers which had followed it, but to shew to the House the principles on which he desired to act now, as he had hitherto tried to act. His objection, then, was not to Lord Grey as an individual, but to the system of his Government. His opposition to the Reform Bill had not been an opposition to his noble friend, the Paymaster of the Forces, who introduced it, or to the noble Lord, the Chancellor oldie Exchequer, who, with so much talent and temper—temper, without which no talent would have availed—conducted it through that House. His objection was to that Bill itself, by whomsoever adopted and supported; nor could he foresee any change of circumstances or of men which could induce him to give any vote in favour of it. It was a great evil in itself, and the source of incalculable evils. As such he had opposed it; as such he should continue to oppose it. Some passages in the speech of the hon. member for Thetford, and of the hon. and learned member for St. Mawes, had induced him to rise; and to which, therefore, he would call the attention of the House. The hon. member for Thetford assumed that such and such were the opinions of the King; and that no man, called to his Councils, could 946 accordingly now approach his Sovereign, and advise him to act in any other manner. Now, in the first place, this assumed what might or might not be correct, as to the personal opinions of the Sovereign, upon which, he maintained, the House knew nothing; but it involved, in the next place, a great and unconstitutional error. While he held that the Sovereign could do no wrong; while he held, as an old Tory, that the King, as an original and inherent branch of the Legislature, had the same right to exercise his decision on any measure which might pass the two Houses—as either of those Houses—he could not forget also this other great constitutional truth, that the opinions and wishes of the King were known to the House in no other way than by his public acts, for which his known confidential advisers were responsible. When, therefore, he was told of the King being pledged to this or to that measure, and yet could not find it in his public acts, he must be permitted to consider that there was no constitutional authority for the assumption. Accordingly, any man now called to the councils of the Sovereign was, in his opinion, not only at liberty, but bound, to give his own opinions, and to act upon them only in the awful responsibility which he must himself sustain. He knew that the doctrine which he was about to advance would not be acceptable to the majority of that House; but, as he was not in the habit of qualifying his opinions, he would, without scruple, say, that, in his judgment, the clamour for Reform had, from the beginning, been greatly exaggerated, and that, whether or not there might be what was technically called a reaction, there was, at least, and certainly, a subsidence of the flood: the current was no longer so strong or so deep as it had been. Under these circumstances, he could have wished that the noble Duke, when summoned by his Majesty to his assistance, had, with the deepest respect for his Majesty, but with a just respect for himself, said to his Majesty—"The question of Reform which your Majesty submitted to the consideration of Parliament has undergone the most anxious and laborious deliberations. The experiment has been fairly tried; and, after fifteen months of discussion and agitation, during which time every branch of the industry of your people has been paralyzed, and greater discord has arisen than ever before divided England, there is no man who will say 947 that this experiment is to be the last—there is no man who will point out to you any spot on which you can find rest for the sole of your foot. If, indeed, you can find in this measure, or in any other, any spot on which you may stand without the certainty that you will be driven from it by the wave of next year—if you can find any point where you can say that you will be safe, there take your stand; but, of all those who have surrounded your Majesty, there is not one who will satisfy your Majesty, that you will be able to make that stand at the present Bill. Say, then, to your people: 'I return to the Constitution under which I found you, and under which, whether in defiance of its alleged corruptions, or even, indirectly, through the means of what are called its corruptions, this country has been permitted to advance to its present unexampled greatness.'" This was the advice which he should have wished the noble Duke to have tendered to his Sovereign. But, without presuming to give any opinion upon what the advice actually tendered might have been, there was too much reason to believe, from what had passed here, and in another place, that a very considerable concession had been made, if not to every detail of the Bill, certainly to its essential provisions; and that, in fact, the new Government was actually to take charge, and had, indeed, already taken charge, of the Reform Bill. He did not pretend to know more or less than other Gentlemen on the subject; but it would be affectation to deny that they had all heard reports, confirmed by what had just passed in that House, which fully justified this belief. If this were so, he could not but regard the measure with the greatest pain, as one of the most fatal violations of public confidence which could be inflicted. He was willing to make the greatest allowance for changes of opinion in young men; hut when he was told of men of mature age—statesmen, who all their lives had been opposed to a particular measure, who had in April protested against it as revolutionary, adopting it and making it their own measure in May, he must own, that he could imagine no consideration which could justify such a change of conduct. He did not accuse any one of love of pelf, or even of power; he did not say that ambition, that last infirmity of noble minds, had misled any one; but the conduct itself, from whatever motive, he must 948 deprecate as fatal to that singleness and consistency of public character, which, as he had already stated, he considered to be the best property of public men, and, in them, of their country. He could not admit the necessity, because he saw, as he had already said, an alternative of safety. The noble Lord, the member for Northamptonshire, and his hon. and learned friend, the member for Calne, had accused the right hon. and gallant Officer, the member for St. Germain's (Sir Henry Hardinge), of having dragged into these discussions a name not to be mentioned here—the name of the King. Now, so far as he had understood, the noble Lord himself introduced the subject; and, in reference to the expression of the gallant Officer, as to the devotion and loyalty of the Duke of Wellington, desired that "such devotion and loyalty might not be submitted to the caprice of any man." He should be happy to be corrected if he had misunderstood the noble Lord; but to his (Sir R. Inglis's) apprehension, and to the common sense of all who heard him, those words could have but one meaning: and unless the noble Lord should deny that meaning, he could not but continue to believe, that the one man, of whose caprice he spoke, was the Sovereign. He thanked the House most sincerely for the indulgence with which they had heard him, in discharging a very painful duty.
The hon. Baronet does not seem exactly to have understood what I said. My expressions were these; I hoped that there was in these realms no human being so high as to induce another to sacrifice to him, through loyalty or devotion, his own solemnly recorded opinion; and I must say, that I think the hon. Baronet himself has sanctioned, by his speech, every tittle of that sentiment.
Sir Robert Peel
I must say, that I have a strong feeling, that the House has this evening engaged in a discussion which, for many reasons, is injudicious. We are not in possession of that information which is essential for the purpose of forming a correct judgment on many subjects which have, in consequence, been argued hypothetically. Now, Sir, I take the liberty of suggesting to the House to consider the position in which the King of this country is placed. His Majesty has recently accepted the resignation of those who were his confidential servants. I can undertake to pronounce no opinion as to the 949 course which they have assumed, because no explanation has been given in detail of the circumstances under which their advice was offered, so as to enable me to form a satisfactory judgment on the course which they have pursued. I certainly infer, that the case is this: that, in order to carry a certain measure through the other House of Parliament, the Ministers advised his Majesty to create a number of Peers. What that number was I know not. Some say, the power demanded was, to create an indefinite number; others have named thirty, forty, sixty, or seventy; but, at all events, to such an extent as would have proved fatal to the authority of the House of Lords. His Majesty declined to accede to that advice, and the consequence is, that the King is now attempting to form another Administration. Now, it appears, in the course of these debates, on this very day, that there is no one who has authority in this House to speak on the part of that Administration. The hon. member for Hertford, referring irregularly, but perhaps necessarily, to what has taken place in another House, has told us, that there a declaration was made, to the effect that another Administration was formed. If the hon. Member himself heard that statement, it is, of course, unlikely that there can be any mistake on the subject; but it certainly does seem strange, that an Administration should be formed, and that there should be no one in this House to give any explanation on the subject. If, therefore, the hon. Member has only spoken from report, I should be inclined to think, that that report must be erroneous. If the declaration alluded to was only to the effect that the King was occupied in attempting to form another Administration, without any explanation as to the principles on which that Administration was to be formed, I put it to the House, whether declarations of determined hostility to a hypothetical Administration, are not somewhat premature?
§ Mr. Duncombe
In what I said relative to what has taken place this evening in the House of Lords, I referred to what one of the Reporters had taken down. The passage that was read to me was to this effect—that Lord Carnarvon had risen in his place to say that an Administration was formed, except in some of its minor details; after which he went on to move that the Order of the Day for the 950 Committee on the Reform Bill should he postponed till Thursday, thereby evincing that that Bill had now got into other hands.
Sir Robert Peel
. The noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, thought proper to refer to me with respect to the course I might pursue at this juncture. Now I will tell the noble Lord fairly, that I do not think that prudence or respect to the House requires me to make any answer to his observations on the present occasion. I think that the noble Lord's reference to me was entirely unnecessary; and I will tell the noble Lord further, that some time ago, when office was not within my reach, I stated that it was no object to me: now that it is within my reach, I will again repeat that observation; so that it will be seen that I claim no credit for any supposed sacrifice. If the noble Lord's inference is correct—that I feel unable to enter into the service of the Crown—I will at all events add this to it—that I bitterly regret, that in the situation in which his Majesty is now placed, I am not able to accept office; and that the greatest regret that attends my refusal of office is, the possibility of its affording an opportunity for sarcasm being pointed by contrast against those who feel themselves able to join the new Administration. Whatever course my noble friend (the Duke of Wellington) may pursue—whether or no I may he able to pursue that course too—this I will say, that I never felt a more perfect confidence of anything in my life, than that that course (be it what it may) will be dictated by the highest courage and the purest sense of honour that ever influenced the actions of, any public man, either in accepting or in retiring from office.
Lord John Russell
I can assure the right hon. Baronet, that in what I said I had no intention of casting any imputation on him whatever. On the contrary, it was my sincere belief, when addressing the House, that the right hon. Baronet was not going to accept office; and, therefore, the words that I used could not be intended as any reproach to him. I conceive that the right hon. Baronet is much too careful of his public fame to accept office under present circumstances.
Sir, I wish to put a question to you, which seems to me of no little importance. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether the Address of this House has been presented to the King: and if any answer, 951 whatever to that Address has been made? Four days have now elapsed since that Address was voted. The House, it appears, knows nothing of the matter; and it will be extremely satisfactory if you, Sir, are able to give us any information of any answer that may be expected.
§ The Speaker
The only explanation that I am able to offer is, that the Address was transmitted, and that it has come to the hands of the King's Establishment, into whose hands such Addresses are usually delivered, for the purpose of being presented. The reason for there not being any answer to that Address at the present moment I can only guess at like the hon. Member, or any other Gentleman. It may be, that the King feels, that not having responsible Ministers, it is better to delay his answer. For any certain reason, however, the hon. Member must not ask me; for I do not know more about the matter than any other hon. Member of this House. I only know that the Address was sent to his Majesty's household—that it is in the hands of the King—or that at least his Majesty has been apprised of it.
Am I to understand that the Address of the 10th of May is not yet in the hands of the King?
§ The Speaker
The hon. Member must be aware, that I am utterly unable to answer this question; and if he draws the inference that I mean so and so, I beg to inform him, that I meant nothing but to assure him and the House that the Address was regularly conveyed in the usual manner—that I have no doubt that it is in the proper channel—and that I presumed the reason for there being no answer vet, was the difficulty that there is as to the channel through which that answer is to be conveyed.
§ Petition brought up.
§ On the question, that the petition be read,
§ Lord Ebrington
rose: After the allusion that has been made to me personally in the course of this discussion, I trust that I may be permitted to trouble the House with a very few words. The right hon. and gallant Officer who spoke early in the debate, and who I am sorry not now to see in his place [Sir Henry Hardinge immediately afterwards resumed his seat.] The right hon. and gallant officer has charged me with having made an attack on the Duke of Wellington for a breach of public morality. I beg, however, to say, that I only put an hypothetical case; and 952 upon that case I stated, as I now state, that, if it is true and correct, I can apply no milder term to the noble Duke's conduct. The noble Duke's friends are under a mistake if they suppose that there is anything in his great name, in his high situation, or even in his eminent services—which no one is more ready gratefully to acknowledge than myself—I say the noble Duke's friends are much mistaken if they suppose that there is anything in these circumstances which can screen his character, as a public man, from undergoing the same investigation, from being subject to the same discussion, from being judged on the same principles, and from being decided upon on the same grounds, with those of every other public man in this country; Sir, it is with this freedom and in this manner that I shall always assert my right as an independent Member of Parliament. I trust that I shall always do so with the respect that is due to this House, and in language becoming to myself as a gentleman; and, indeed, I do not believe that I am ever in the habit of bringing charge against my political opponents in any other language, notwithstanding what the hon. member for Thetford has been pleased to impute to me. That hon. Gentleman has thought proper to read me a lesson with respect to my supposed want of common decency, for such, I think, were the words that he presumed to apply to me. Sir, I will not bandy such terms backwards and forwards with the hon. Gentleman, but he must allow me to say, that, if there is any one in this House to whom I should be disposed to apply such language, it would be to him; rising this night, as he has done, to make a tardy defence of the political inconsistency, of himself and others, when I have heard him, time after time, in this House, raking up speeches made ten or twenty years ago, together with extracts from pamphlets; and, on the strength of these, applying to my noble friend terms of vituperation, which, until this Reform Bill was introduced, I never heard applied by anybody, in the greatest heat of political party, to any Minister of the Crown. Gentlemen seem this evening to have argued as if there was no alternative to be adopted by the noble Duke, in order to avert a forced creation of Peers by the King, except his taking the Government of the country, and dragging the Lords to the passing of the Bill. But, Sir, is there no 953 third course? Is it absolutely necessary that those who have so deeply pledged themselves against the Bill should now be compelled to eat their words and to support it? I think that the right hon. Baronet, and some of those around him, are aware of the course to which I allude. If the noble Duke himself could stand up and say that the impossibility he finds to conduct the affairs of the country would make him use all his influence among his friends to give up their attendance on the Bill, he would succeed, no doubt, in putting an end to further discussion. I will not say when that should be done, or when it would come too late. If a course of that description had been adopted within the last few days, even within the last forty-eight hours, much peril would have been avoided to the country. The character of the noble Duke would have stood a great deal higher, and he would have entitled himself to the lasting gratitude of the country. At the same time the conduct of the House of Lords would have not been subject, as under present circumstances I fear it will, to the bitter execration of the people.
I hope the House will excuse me for again obtruding myself upon its notice, after what has fallen from the noble Lord. I can assure the noble Lord and the hon. Attorney General that the look and tone which it has pleased them to assume—the taunts they have thrown out shall not make me swerve from my opinion, or prevent me from fearlessly discharging my duty in this House. The noble Lord—but he said so many things that I hardly recollect what I should first reply to; yes, if the noble Lord, getting up with a high hand, using expressions in the course of the discussion implying that I am disentitled to the ordinary courtesy of the House—if the noble Lord chooses to make me the butt to that sort of expressions, I can only tell the noble Lord, that I hold them in utter contempt. From the time I have been in the House, I am sure that my reputation will not suffer from any such personal observations on account of a difference of opinion. With the leave of the House, I will say a little more on the question, notwithstanding such remarks. The objections I made to the course lately adopted is the same as that stated by my right hon. friend (Sir Robert Peel), viz. that the subject is not yet ripe for discussion. Respecting the conduct of the late Government, I 954 avow that my opinions are made up; but the House has no evidence; it cannot know whom the Crown has employed to defend it. It is premature, then, to entertain the subject at present; but whatever situation I may stand in towards the House, when it can be fairly discussed, I shall fearlessly state my opinion. As to what the hon. Gentleman said about my inconsistency, or the inconsistency of a much greater man—for the Duke of Wellington, however much some people may now scoff at him, has a great debt of gratitude owing to him by the country—I must say, that neither he nor I have altered our opinions. We do not now say, that the Reform Bill, which we described as a bad Bill, is a good Bill. I do not hold any such opinion, and we have not changed. I am confident that we cannot be accused of inconsistency. The case, however, stands thus. His Majesty's Ministers, at a particular stage of that Bill, recommended a large addition to the Peerage. To that measure the King feels certain scruples, and these scruples will not allow him to do what is desired of him. It will not be said, that these scruples, at least, are not reasonable scruples, and that they are not conscientious; for the noble Lord at the head of the Ministry has stated repeatedly, in alluding to the creation of Peers as a measure that he might be compelled to have recourse to, that he should take the measure, about which the Crown has scruples, with reluctance—no, that is a weak term—but with the greatest repugnance. If that were felt by the noble Earl—and no man doubted his integrity—surely the scruples of the Crown were entitled to some respect. I know that, under whatever circumstances the name of the Crown and of the King is introduced in this House, it is unconstitutional; but, at present, it is impossible to do otherwise than mention them. The Crown has no confidential advisers in the House to make known its resolutions. A conflict has taken place between the Crown and its confidential advisers, and, therefore, at present, the King has no confidential advisers. The King did not choose to comply with the advice his servants have given, and the Ministers have resigned. I ask the House to consider what is the situation of the King since his Ministers have resigned? These scruples deserve some respect, and when the House recollects the persecution which they are exposed to, out of doors 955 and in that House, who entertain these scruples, is it not extraordinary that any body should be found to give advice to the Crown? The act of advising the Sovereign now is not done under ordinary circumstances, for every man must be aware of the excessive excitement which pervades the country. It may, therefore, be fairly supposed that no man would voluntarily go to the Sovereign, but that the Sovereign would call upon some person to give him advice in the dilemma in which he is placed. I suppose—I do not know what passed—but I suppose that the King might have called for some person, and might have said to him, "I have assisted my Ministers in bringing forward the Reform Bill, since I found that the Government could not be otherwise carried on; and I made a pledge to my people, which I will not give up; but, at the same time, I am so placed, that I cannot admit, according to the Constitution, that the other branch of the Legislature should be forced to agree with the Commons, unless some very strong case of necessity should arise, and I do not see that any case has yet arisen in which I can fairly be called on to interfere, and I want your advice." Suppose the Duke of Wellington was the person so called upon, and he says "I am very sorry your Majesty, but I cannot advise your Majesty to pass that Bill at all. I do not admit the principles of this Bill." Here, then, the King, under the necessity of passing this Bill by his own pledge, is abandoned by the person whose advice he asks; and this adviser must see that Bill passed in all its deformity accompanied by what the King dreads, and all admit to be the greatest violence to the Constitution. I put it then to the Howe whether a man placed in the situation I have supposed the Duke of Wellington to be placed in, and possessing as he does unflinching integrity, joined to great moral courage—to that courage which enables a man in the pursuit of a good object to despise taunts and sarcasms—I put it to the House, whether such a man might not honestly and consistently say, "I will not forsake the King; I know to what I shall be exposed for changing my conduct, but rather than not save the scruples of the King—rather than have the Bill passed by a grievous violation of the Constitution, I will give up my own opposition, and I will assist the King in redeeming his pledge in a 956 constitutional manner." I doubt not but the noble Duke may have come to some such conclusion; and what man can doubt the honesty and integrity of the noble Duke, or throw any suspicions on his consistency? I do not, any more than I doubt that the noble Duke possesses, as I say, much of that courage which enables a man to take such a bold and open part, and resist taunts and sneers and sarcasms. Against such sneers and sarcasms too, I shall support my opinion; and I have no doubt that the noble Duke would have, under such circumstances, the courage to give up his own opinions, and support the King in that conflict in which he is involved, because he does not choose to endanger the Constitution by committing a fatal violence on one part of it. That is, I take it, an honest view; and I shall say sincerely, that the noble Duke, without changing his mind—not seeing anything in the Bill to approve of, but seeing the state of excitement in the country—seeing the danger to which it might lead, supposing nothing else would end it—might resolve to stand by the King in this dilemma, and expose himself to all the difficulties of the situation, for the purpose of protecting his Sovereign. That appears to me likely to have been the course pursued; and that the noble Duke would not interfere to give his advice to the King till the King sent for him every man must be convinced. I will now say one word as to the necessity of such a resolution as was come to by his Majesty's Ministers. If the Ministers of the Crown had waited, they might have ascertained, in forty-eight hours after the Peers had given their vote, whether it was the intention of the Peers, by that vote, to defeat the Bill, or whether they meant to vote for the whole disfranchisement of schedule A. Upwards of one-half of the Peers who voted against the Ministers stated their intention of voting for schedule A. Now, schedule A was the key-stone of the Bill; and when that was the case, could the King not say, "the time is not arrived when I can be called on to exercise my prerogative: do not come to me with a vague report of what the Peers may do; put their intentions to the test—wait forty-eight hours, and see if they will vote for schedule A." It should be recollected that the Bill was safe in the Ministers hands after the vote of the Peers. It 957 could always be reinstated if injured, and it was not the same as if the Bill were actually in danger. I shall state fairly, that I have had many opportunities of knowing the opinions of the Opposition Peers, and I shall mention what I know of their opinions of schedule A. One of those Peers, who had a principal hand in managing the opposition to the Bill, told me, that he had no doubt that the Peers would pass the whole of schedule A. "My opinion is," said he, "after making my calculation"—I will mention no names—"my opinion is, that there will not be twenty votes against schedule A." That was before the question between the King and his Ministers had become the subject of public notice; and it was told me by one of the noble Lords who has undertaken to manage the opposition to the Bill. The measure proposed by the Ministers, is obviously one only to be resorted to in extreme cases: but there were no circumstances to justify such a measure, and the Ministers would not wait forty-eight hours to put to the test the opinions of the Peers. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Ebrington), said, he feared that there was no hope of accommodating these differences; but from some observations of the noble Lord, I hope the breach is not irreparable. I have had long experience in this House, and I never once saw a case, in which the Constitution was exposed to hazard, when the whole body of the landed Gentlemen d id not interfere as mediators, and bring out some understanding on the matter. The noble Lord says—or at least his words, I think, bear that construction, though his intimation was rather vague—that he should be glad if anything could be done to give an approach even to such a proposal; and that, if the Peers would vote schedule A, that might induce the Ministers of the Crown to relax in their determination, and not to advise that which they only thought a less evil than not risking the measure. I should think myself, that if Lord Grey goes back to the King, and, stating his unwillingness to employ those means which he had already admitted he entertained a great repugnance to perform, and stating that he expected, with great probability, that the Lords would not differ from him, except as to the details of the Bill; if Lord Grey would so state to the King, I see no difficulty in the Ministers again taking their places. I do not see any objection to this. It is with entire sincerity that I state this. I say that I wish not to inter- 958 fere in any Administration, and particularly in an Administration formed under the very difficult circumstances in which the country is now placed. To me, who never wished for public life, it would be a fatal thing, and nothing but the most urgent necessity should ever tempt me to take office in any shape. The right hon. Gentlemen opposite, whom I followed for twenty-five years, know that I never asked them for any place whatever. I shall not, therefore, be thought a person ready to do anything rash or base for the purpose of obtaining place. I shall state, that it would be with the very greatest reluctance that I should undertake any office, and that reluctance, great at any time, must be doubly great at undertaking it when I know, instead of having the House of Commons at my command, that the opposition I should meet with would make it a place of the greatest difficulty. At the same time, feeling the strength of my cause—feeling, in fact, that I ought not to abandon the King—there is no peril, no danger, no difficulty, I would not encounter, and nothing I would not undertake, which I thought conscientiously it was my duty, as an honest man, to undertake. But, as I said before, it would be much for the good of the country if the present Administration were not dissolved. That they should quit office would he one of the greatest calamities possible. When the Bill shall be passed, which has excited so many expectations in the country—and I see it is expected, as the result of this measure, as any hon. Member may learn by the canvass going on for the county of Kent, that it will lead to some great blessings—and with that expectation general in the country, it will be very unfortunate for the Government which shall be in office, when the expectations of the great advantages raised by this Bill—the extreme anticipations, indeed, shall be disappointed. The public will then say, if any other Ministry be in place—that if the Reform Government had remained in, something more would have been given to us. If I were looking to public life—and I am looking only to retirement—but if I were looking to public life, the last thing I should desire would be, to form part of an Administration to succeed the present Ministers. We have heard much of the blessings to be derived from this Bill; I wish, therefore, the present Ministry to have their full time 959 to realise them, but when the disappointment comes, as come it must, that will then give any succeeding Administration which may want it an easy triumph. If any man—for example, my right hon. friend (Sir Robert Peel)—who finds it as difficult to keep out of office as ordinary persons find it to thrust themselves in, were ever so desirous of power, and possessed even of a grain of common sense, he could not wish to get into place at this crisis. I repeat, that for the sake of the country it is very desirable, that individuals should try and heal the breach between the Crown and its Ministers; and I am not without hopes, in consequence of what fell from the noble Lord, that some communication may be made to his Majesty, and that his Majesty might be relieved from that which he so much deprecates, and which is known by one word—swamping the Peers. It is not possible to deny that the Bill may pass, that schedule A may receive the assent of the Peers; and if the Peers do not refuse to pass schedule A, there is nothing to justify the Ministers in giving up. I find myself in a peculiar situation, and I make this statement to the House with perfect sincerity; and if I could assist in bringing about a settlement, without any injury to the Constitution, I can assure the House it would be one of the happiest moments of my life.
§ Lord Ebrington
explained, that any thing he had said was entirely said as an individual, and that he did not know what was the determination of his noble and right hon. friends.
Sir Francis Burdett
said, that from the manner in which the hon. Gentleman who spoke last had expressed his sentiments, more than ordinary weight must attach to what had fallen from him. No man could feel greater anxiety than he did under the unpleasant circumstances which had arisen, perhaps, without any fault; but certainly without any fault at least on the part of his Majesty's Ministers, who were placed in such a situation that it was impossible for them to retain office a moment longer than they had done. Every Gentleman who had spoken upon the subject laid great stress upon this point, and considered that, amongst the various duties of public men, there was none more incumbent upon them, or which it was more fitting that they should attend to with the utmost care, than to preserve that character and honour 960 which, under the circumstances, was essential to their proper discharge of the trust confided to them. He had no doubt that his Majesty, in whose intentions and determination of fair dealing towards the public he, for one, firmly confided that every one must be satisfied, would fulfil the hopes that had been formed from the commencement of his Government: although his Majesty might feel himself placed in circumstances which were exceedingly difficult, and very much to be deplored, at the same time he had no doubt that the royal mind felt that, under the circumstances which had arisen, he was bound in duty to the Constitution to pursue the course which he had done. Still, however, he had no doubt that his Majesty felt that, under existing circumstances, his Ministers, by resigning, had not done any act of which he had reason to complain. He derived some consolation from the state in which affairs seemed at present to be placed. He trusted and hoped that some means might be found by which that measure might be brought to a successful issue, which was now become imperatively necessary. It was useless now to discuss whether that measure was right or not originally, or whether it could have been more wisely avoided, or more usefully adopted, for he believed that all were now come to this conclusion, that, under the present circumstances of the country, Reform had become inevitable. It therefore appeared to him, that the plain conduct and duty of an honest man to his country, and of a loyal man to his King, was to endeavour, as far as was in his power, to aid in such a course of proceeding as would most effectually tend to serve all parties, by accomplishing that object which was so much to be desired. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, had reasoned upon this part of the subject in a manner which suggested to his mind a kind of feeling, that it was precisely the way in which the royal mind was likely to have reasoned upon it. No man could for an instant suppose that his Majesty had any object in view but that which should be best for the country. He had no private views or wishes; so much the reverse, that he believed he was perfectly grounded in saying, that no wish of his had been ever expressed which did not tend to the advantage of the country, and that no subject was submitted to him, in any one department of the State, in which 961 he was not ready to forego his own convenience for the good of the country. He had said, "Act as you think fit and right; consider not my convenience. Pay every possible regard to economy, and whatever the country thinks good enough for me, I shall feel good enough for myself." It would be hard if such a Sovereign, willing to sacrifice all personal objects for the good of the people, and who, ever since his accession, had shown the most kind and beneficent heart; who had never manifested a feeling of encroachment upon the popular liberties, nor been known by a single measure of a harsh nature, but, on the contrary, had done acts of kindness of various descriptions to the public in every way—it would be hard indeed, he said, if such a Sovereign were to be deprived, by misapprehension, of the affections of his people, which no Monarch had ever more truly deserved. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, in what he stated with respect to the Duke of Wellington, seemed to consider that he was now brought in at the risk of the sacrifice of his high character, in the present dilemma in which the country was placed, to save it from what he considered might be a still greater misfortune. He must say it appeared to him, that the whole of this difficulty might easily have been avoided, unless there were other persons, of low, factious, intriguing natures, who interrupted the natural course of things. Were it not for such persons, these difficulties would never have arisen. When it was stated that the Bill, in the House of Lords, was not objected to upon any general principle, but upon a trivial point, he must say, that for any men to have taken up a trivial point, and to have acted upon it in a manner which had produced such consequences, was a course which did not appear to him deserving of any high commendation. His Majesty's Ministers being, as they were, men of high character, were bound to preserve that character, if not for the sake of their own honour, still for the benefit of the service to which they had been called, for even those who were opposed to his Majesty's late Ministers would admit, that the first duty of a Minister was, not to risk his public character. It was impossible for Lord Grey to have submitted to that vote, and ever again to have hoped to gain credit from the public for that high sense of honour and character which was so necessary to the situation in which he 962 was placed. But what said the factious band in the House of Lords, who were willing to risk all consequences? They must be allowed to be either the most short-sighted, blind, and factious men that ever lived, or men willing to risk every thing but the interests for which they were standing up, which were peculiar to themselves, and in opposition to those of the country. The hon. Gentleman talked of the vote in the House of Lords having nothing to do with the principle of schedule A, and said, that the Lords had declared their willingness to adopt schedule A; but he said, that the vote declared the very contrary. He was sure the right hon. Baronet opposite would never hold that proposition, but would agree with him that the point was of the most material consequence, and was a main feature and principle of the Bill. How easily might all this have been avoided! With grief he said that the Duke of Wellington had agreed in that vote. He could not conceive how that noble Duke could have satisfied his mind, if he had looked forward to the state in which the country would be placed by that vote, and by which he supposed he was now led to the tardy conviction that the measure was necessary. He was far from imputing unworthy motives to the Duke of Wellington; but he must say, that a want of foresight was exhibited which could not entitle an individual to assume the direction of the country, under the difficult circumstances in which the country was placed. If the Duke of Wellington accepted of the office of Prime Minister, it would not be sufficient to say that he would pass this measure. There must be an investigation into the nature of the previous steps which had been taken. He was responsible to the House and to the country for all that had taken place previously to his taking office, and would be responsible for the advice which had been given to his Majesty, and for all that had passed. His Majesty could take no step unadvised. It was true the Constitution said, the Crown could dismiss a Minister, and appoint another, but as soon as that appointment took place, the Minister, by accepting office, became responsible to the public for all the consequences of the change. If that vote had never been come to, and if the House of Lords had allowed the Bill to pass, not only in the regular way, but in the way in which it was necessary the measure should be settled, namely, 963 by beginning with schedule A, things would now be in a very different situation. As had been very properly said by the noble Lord below him, we might have avoided all inconveniences, if, at the time when the House of Lords were called upon to pass the Bill, they had withdrawn their opposition, instead of coming to the vote which had been the source of so much agitation and uneasiness. There would then have been no necessity for a creation of Peers, or for any change in the councils of his Majesty. The country would have been satisfied, and tranquillity and safety would have prevailed instead of discontent and excitement. Let Gentlemen consider what would be the state of the country if the acts of the Peers should interrupt the progress of the functions of the State. He had always maintained, and he was not inclined now to relinquish the opinion, that the old prerogative of the Crown, that of issuing writs to places which from their growing importance were entitled to representation, and not issuing them to decayed boroughs, was highly useful and necessary, and that, if it had been continued to be exercised, that House would not now be in the state in which it had got. That prerogative was now denied to the Crown. Some learned Gentlemen said that it was illegal, but how did they show that it was so? They said it had not been exercised for a long time. True. They said, that Committees of that House had reported their opinions that such a right ought not to be exercised by the Crown. But that did not take away the right if it belonged to the Crown. Where was the Statute, where was the Act of Parliament, which alone could defeat it? But supposing that disuse, or a general feeling of the country, admitted not of the prerogative being exercised, still, when some great measure was called for by the whole people, we had still a prerogative belonging to the Crown, and if a faction in the House of Lords left no other way to get out of the difficulty, could any man doubt that that prerogative must be exercised rather than throw the country into confusion and anarchy? But, amongst the intrigues which were carried on, one thing very much struck his mind: it was an extraordinary circumstance that a Judge of the land—a person filling a high judicial situation in the country—a criminal Judge—should mix himself up in political transactions. A Judge ought, by the nature 964 and character of his office, to be totally removed from the sphere of politics; and yet this noble Lord, sitting upon the bench of justice in the morning, did not consider it inconsistent to engage in the strife of political projects in the evening. Supposing that a stranger were to come to England, and see the noble Lord administering justice in the morning; he would probably admire the dignity with which he filled his office, his calmness and freedom from passion with which he discharged his functions; but how much would he be surprised, on going to the House of Lords in the evening, to find the same noble Lord transformed to a violent political partisan, and heading a virulent faction?
§ Lord Stormont
rose to Order, and objected to the terms in which the hon. Baronet spoke of the other branch of the Legislature. They owed to the House of Lords the same respect with which they would expect their proceedings to be treated elsewhere, and he considered that such expressions should not be further used as applied to the Peers. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair, if such language ought to be held in that House, if they wished to hold invulnerable their own privilege of being safe from attacks from the other House of Parliament?
§ The Speaker
said, if the noble Lord appealed to him, the only answer he could give him was, that all the principles which ought to regulate the observations of Members of that House, with regard to each other, were equally applicable to the other House of Parliament. It was true, the hon. Baronet had merely put the case hypothetically. If he meant it strictly, and did not mean merely to draw a picture to illustrate his argument, he was sure he would see that it was not strictly regular. If he meant it to apply, he would not put it by a hypothesis, and then he would say, that what would be disorderly of that House, would be equally so if said of the other.
Sir Francis Burdett
was not aware that he had committed any breach of Order. When he spoke of faction, he did not impute it to the House of Lords in general. There might be factions in the House of Commons, and he heard it perpetually charged against parties in that House. The charge did not affect the House as a body. The House was liable to that malady, if he might so call it. He trusted he was 965 not trenching on the privileges of the House of Lords, if he said, that there might be factious motives there as well as in the House of Commons.
§ The Speaker
again rose, and said, that such language might have been used in the warmth of debate, but it was impossible for any one to say, that because an irregularity was not checked at the time when it occurred, it therefore ceased to be an irregularity. The hon. Baronet must be aware that to impute personal motives was disorderly. The hon. Baronet would pardon him for this interruption. He had hoped that the matter would have passed without that notice which gave it a more serious character than, he was sure, the hon. Baronet intended it should have.
Sir Francis Burdett
said, he had been endeavouring all through to avoid showing any warmth on this occasion. He had put a hypothetical case, with regard to the functions of one of the branches of the Constitution being impeded by another. He was speaking of the conduct of a Judge filling a high situation. He was observing, that amongst the other misfortunes brought about by intriguers—he did not know by whom in particular, but by those who had undermined the King's late Ministers—it was a misfortune that a person, who ought to be free from such transactions, and, in short, from politics altogether—a person who was a criminal Judge, who filled a high situation, was the leader—he might not say of a faction, but of an opposition to the Government of the country—was the maker and unmaker of Administrations—a person whom one saw everywhere—who, under his Judge's robes, seemed to wear a harlequin's habit—one who acted so many different parts, not in seven ages, but in seven hours—In short he wasA man so various that he seem'd to beNot one, but all mankind's epitome"—who was doing everything, and who, it was said, expected the highest judicial situation in the country. That, he said, was a misfortune, and was to be deplored, and he spoke it without any warmth of temper. There seemed to be a rumour of some mistreated thing, "scarce half made up," but in that House he looked for information in vain. If anything were to happen, he did not know any one to whom the King could look for advice. He did not know any one to whom the King could look to preserve the peace, or to 966 give orders. The unreasonable Opposition Peers were now, he believed, frightened at the condition in which they saw the country placed, in consequence of their vote. The underminers found themselves undermined, and he would say, in the language of the poet—'Tis sport to have the engineerHoist with his own petard.The Opposition, in endeavouring to undermine others, were themselves undermined. For that House, it was their duty to see how the present difficulties could be got over, and how the affairs of the State could be placed in the only hands to which they could be confided with the public confidence, and how things might fall again into their natural course, when that House and his Majesty, and the other House of Parliament, would be called upon to do nothing else than simply to pass what, he said, would be a remedy for all the evils, and by objecting to which, on frivolous pretences, the Opposition in the House of Lords had thrown the country into its present unfortunate condition. How these things were to be brought about he was sure he knew not; but he was full of reliance upon the moderation of the country, and the wisdom of the people. He knew, at the same time, that a spirit was roused in England, which he assured the House it would be impossible to allay without satisfying the just and reasonable demands of the people. He saw no other way for that House to proceed than to adopt an Address to his Majesty, praying him to restore to his confidence and to public situations, those persons who, without any fault of theirs, were separated, but, he trusted, not disunited, from the country—who had been removed without fault or complaint on any side, but, at all events, without any fault on their part; and he trusted and hoped that the country would be again placed in a situation in which it could look to a speedy and happy termination of its present difficulties. A noble Lord, according to the member for Thetford (Mr. Baring), had declared, that the Lords would have passed schedule A without change or amendment. That might be so, but then their Lordships took good care not to let Earl Grey into that secret, and, therefore, his Lordship had no course left except that which he had adopted. He agreed, indeed, with the noble Earl, that it was the main and fundamental principle of the Bill, 967 and that, after the declaration of the noble and learned Lord, in moving the Amendment, that he wished to enfranchise first, and to disfranchise only according to the extent to which it might be found necessary afterwards, he thought the noble Earl was justified in considering the division as deciding against the principle of the Bill. He thought it would become the Duke of Wellington much more if, instead of getting together a Cabinet to carry the same Bill, and then, as it was reported, resigning immediately afterwards, he used his influence with the House of Peers to induce them to pass the Bill under the auspices of the Minister who had first proposed it to them. If he did so, he would have the gratification of seeing the Constitution again an object of veneration to the people, and the Monarch restored to the affections of his subjects.
said, he had never felt greater anxiety to address a few words to the House, than on the present occasion. He could not disguise the alarm he felt at the consequences which he foresaw from the events of the last eight days. He did not speak merely politically, but commercially, and with a view to every social tie in the country. He was glad to perceive a dawn or chance of reconciliation. He could not conceive a greater blessing to the country at the present moment, than anything which would furnish a means of restoring peace and quieting the agitation which pervaded the remotest quarters of the kingdom—the consequences of which no man could contemplate without dread. He, therefore, hoped, that what had fallen from the hon. member for Thetford to-night would not be lost sight of; and he declared, for his own part, that no phrase which could possibly produce irritation should fall from him, while there was a gleam of hope of bringing back affairs to a state in which they might be productive of peace, satisfaction, and contentment, to the country. He was sure that Earl Grey and his colleagues had too much at heart the object which had occupied their anxious attention for the last eighteen months, to think that they would for a moment object to an arrangement which would restore them to the confidence of his Majesty, and enable them to carry the great measure upon which they had so long laboured. From them he was sure there would be no objection; and, after what had been said by the hon. member for the 968 University of Oxford (Sir Robert Inglis) and the hon. member for Thetford, it was impossible to think, that there would be any objection on the part of the Duke of Wellington, and those who acted with him, to retrace the steps which they had taken, he was sure, from being thoughtlessly advised. If his Majesty was anxious, as he was sure he was, to fulfil those determinations which had placed him so high in the estimation and the respect and affection of his people, he could not suppose that he would, upon any principle of etiquette or form, be unwilling to afford the means of quieting the country, and settling the agitation which prevailed. He trusted, therefore, that all parties would join in this feeling, who were anxious to see good feeling restored amongst those who alone could complete this great measure to the satisfaction of the country, as well as to their own honour, and to that of the Duke of Wellington himself, who would thus have the merit of making a sacrifice for the public good. After what had passed, he hoped the House might adjourn, leaving matters to their own operation, and trusting that the country would be saved from the danger which otherwise threatened it. He was the more anxious that such an arrangement should be made, because every post brought with it remonstrances and expressions of impatience. He was desirous, therefore, that no time should be lost, but that the first post from London should convey the happy news to the remotest parts of the empire. He hoped in this he did no more than speak the sentiments of the 288 who voted the other evening. If so, he hoped that the sentiments expressed by the hon. member for Thetford were shared by those around him. Under the circumstances, he should he happy if, after disposing of the petition, the House adjourned, leaving it to the mutual good feeling of the parties to bring matters into their ordinary course, by which they might steer clear of mischiefs incalculable, and evils which every man must wish to avoid.
§ Lord Morpeth
rose to second and support this recommendation. He was confident it would have the effect of arresting the course of evils, and to restore that just confidence in the Crown and the Government, which but a week ago they so fully possessed. All who lent themselves to this great work, would deserve the blessings of their countrymen.
would add his voice to the same recommendation. There was no reflecting man who would not hear with joy of the glimmering of a hope of some termination to that state of things which all viewed with apprehension. Public men should, under such circumstances, bury all animosities, for the purpose of enabling Earl Grey to carry that Bill which all were now agreed should be carried, and which, if carried by any other hands, would not, in all probability, be received as a measure of peace or conciliation, which, by God's blessing, it was hoped it would have been; but, on the contrary, would lead to fresh animosities, and a restless desire of new changes, which every friend of his country must contemplate with the greatest dread. He trusted, therefore, that the independent Members of that House would use their just influence; and that those who had been Ministers, and those who expected to be Ministers, would, under the circumstances, abandon their intentions, and save the country from the three perils that threatened it: first, that the Reform Bill would not prove satisfactory to the people; next, that the character of all public men might escape the stain which would fall on it if those who had always opposed the Bill now carried it into a law; and, lastly, that the character of the Sovereign might not any longer suffer in the opinions of his people. The course now recommended would restore that Sovereign to their affections, which he believed none ever better deserved, and every true friend to the monarchy must desire to see that restoration take place as speedily as possible.
§ Lord Althorp
said, in consequence of what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, as well as from the members for Yorkshire and Middlesex (Lord Morpeth and Mr. Hume) he wished to recall the attention of those hon. Members and of the House who seemed to indulge in so many anticipations of good, to the real state of the question. Those who indulged in anticipations of the possibility of a compromise between parties should recollect what was the real state of public affairs. At the present moment, as they had heard that night from a right hon. Gentleman, doubtless well informed on the subject, the new Administration was completely formed in all its most essential points. The proposition, as far as he understood it, was, that in consequence of 970 the discussions which had taken place in that House, it was to be expected that some arrangement might take place, and that the House of Lords would withdraw their opposition to the Bill. Now, in his humble opinion, there was nothing more unlikely. He thought it was as unlikely a thing as any he had ever heard, that the Lords would withdraw their opposition to the Bill as it now stood, and that hon. Gentlemen were indulging in unfounded expectations. He believed the Reform Bill would be carried, and he was satisfied it would pass the House of Lords; but he did not believe, that in the present state of the House of Lords, it was possible for the late Administration to carry such a Bill. He rose to say this, because, when he found Members so sanguine in their calculations of an accommodation, he wished to recall their attention to the real circumstances in which they were placed, and to ask them, if they looked back to the events which had already taken place, what probability there was, that the House of Lords would allow the late Administration to carry the Reform Bill?
regretted as much as any man the events which had taken place, but he believed it would be found they arose wholly, in the House of Lords, from a misapprehension of the nature of the arguments, and a misunderstanding of the intentions of the Opposition—he believed this on his honour. He believed on his honour and conscience, that the motives of the opponents of the Government had been misunderstood—that having the Bill before them, it was their desire to make it as perfect as possible; and that they would have sent it back to that House in such a shape as that House would have gladly accepted it in. He believed, too, that this Bill would have been most satisfactory to the country. He cordially concurred in the observations of the hon. Member with respect to the necessity of preserving the character of public men free from taint; and he hoped, therefore, that a reconciliation might yet take place, and that all the difficulties at present in the way might be successfully overcome.
was disposed to think the vote of the other evening rather premature; but, after what had already taken place, and after what he had heard that night, he thought it the duty of every independent Member to concur in the recommendation that the contending parties 971 should endeavour to effect a reconciliation.
§ Mr. Hunt
thought it necessary to say a few words, although he was not one of the 288 who voted for Ministers; and the reason for that was, he did not wish to mix himself up with either party. He agreed with those hon. Members who asserted that the country was in such a state that there were very few persons, either in that or in the other House of Parliament, who could restore it to peace and good humour. Nor would he disguise the fact, that the only persons who were at all likely to succeed in tranquillizing the people, were the late Government. Whether they really could do so or not he did not know; but this he knew, that whatever was done must be done promptly; that it must be done without intermission or delay—otherwise, he would defy any man to say what might happen in the course of eight-and-forty hours. He had listened to the hon. member for Westminster, as he had often done before, with great pleasure. That hon. Baronet had spoken very justly of the impropriety of the interference of a criminal Judge in political intrigues. But he begged leave, for fair play was a jewel, to recal to the hon. Baronet and the Whigs a circumstance which occurred some years ago. He remembered that when Mr. Fox and Lord Grenville were in power, Lord Ellenborough, a criminal Judge, had a seat in the Cabinet; so that the same man might one day determine on the prosecution of any person, and the next day sit in judgment on him. He was certainly of opinion, that at all times Judges should attend to the bench, and not meddle with politics. They had heard a great deal about political immorality and political consistency; and he was certainly ready to admit, that should the Duke of Wellington, after the strenuous opposition which he had given to the Reform Bill, and after the protest which he had a few days ago made against it, now take office for the purpose of carrying the Bill, there would be a great deal of political inconsistency, and perhaps of political immorality in his so doing. He could not forget, however, that the Gentlemen paid an equal disregard to political consistency when they joined the Administration of Mr. Canning, the determined foe of Parliamentary Reform. In truth, as regarded either Whigs or Tories in such points, if they were all put into one bag, and shaken together, it 972 would be difficult to say who would come out first. Though he could not, the other night, vote that Ministers were entitled to his unabated confidence, he had now no hesitation in saying, that from one end of the country to the other the feelings of the people were so worked up, and so excited, that no Administration could possibly be found, except the late Ministry, calculated to satisfy and tranquillize the country. If any man had been that day at the Bank of England, as he (Mr. Hunt) had been, he would have seen a state of things that should be known to the House. He had been four or five times in one day at the Bank, during the panic in 1825, and the run then was not to be compared to what had passed at the Bank that day. He was detained full three-quarters of an hour that day at the Bank of England before he could get a 10l. note changed. There were placards stuck up in the city advising the people, should the Duke of Wellington come into power, to go for gold to the Bank; and a banker of eminence in London had openly that day expressed his approbation of such advice. What then would be the situation of London in forty-eight hours if such a state of things should be allowed to continue, and if that which had just occurred in the House should not have the effect which it was hoped it would have, oh its going forth, of tranquillizing the public mind? Whenever his Majesty's Ministers were in his opinion wrong, he had fearlessly opposed them; but this he did know, that if they were not to continue in office, the House would have petitions from all parts of the country, like the petition coming from Bristol, calling for a still larger measure of Reform; and he was quite certain that the people would not be satisfied with any Reform but from the hands of his Majesty's present Government. He was not disposed to interfere, in the slightest degree, with that conciliatory spirit which it was hoped would bring about such a state of things, but this he would repeat as his solemn conviction that there was no safety for the country unless in Earl Grey and his Majesty's Ministers carrying the Reform Bill.
Mr. O' Connell
expressed the satisfaction with which he should see a reconciliation between the Crown and the late Ministry; convinced as he was, that in that reconciliation alone could be found the means of tranquillizing the people and securing the Throne. He concurred in almost every- 973 thing which had fallen from the noble member for Liverpool, and especially in the result; namely that, whoever could replace us in the situation in which we were a week ago, would be a most bountiful benefactor to his country. The spirit of revolution was abroad; and if it were allowed to pass a certain stage, it would be difficult to check it. Like the pestilence with which the country had lately been visited, if it were not arrested at an early stage, cure might be impossible. At present there was still hope that means might he found to heal the body politic. Let but a little time elapse and he would be a bold man who would predict the event. Hundreds of thousands and millions of persons depended for their subsistence on the regular working of society; on receiving wages; on being employed. Let but the present state of things continue for a few days, and they must either starve, or do mischief. Let but a single week elapse, and revolution and the utter destruction of the beautiful fabric around us might be the consequence. And if this danger existed in England, was there no other part of the empire in danger? Did the House think that a change of Administration, which would give power in Ireland to those who did not possess it at present, might not be productive of frightful events, especially if that change were accompanied by disturbances in this country? We were in such a state; that every wise and good man must wish it to be speedily changed. Even those who formerly opposed Reform, on the ground that it led to undefinable change, now that the Radicals (of whom he professed himself to be one) pledged themselves to the late Administration, that if the proposed measure were passed, they would give it a fair trial as an experiment, must be disposed to yield the point. They were so pledged to the late Administration, but they were not so pledged to an Administration which might be formed by the Duke of Wellington. Let those, therefore, who desired to see the present change a final one, and who wished to stop the progress of a revolutionary spirit, endeavour to do so by restoring the late Government to office. He trusted that the temper manifested by that House to-night would have such a happy effect. They should not adjourn over tomorrow, and he hoped that, even by that time, the sense and feeling evinced by that House would have such an effect. To ac- 974 complish it, he, for one, would not stop at any thing short of a sacrifice of principle. He wished to see Reform instead of revolution; he wished to see the people's rights secured, and no one could be more anxious than he was, to see the security of the Throne firmly established upon the affections and the good will of the nation.
Mr. Fysche Palmer
said, he had just come from attending a county meeting, and that so strong was the feeling there expressed for the restoration of Earl Grey and his colleagues to power, that the meeting resolved, if such an event should not take place, to abstain from the use of spirits, and of all exciseable commodities, and instruct their Representatives to withhold the Supplies until the Reform Bill should be passed. Such was the feeling which was abroad throughout the country. He understood that the same feeling was general along the line of road on which he travelled to town. A meeting was to be held this day in Bradford, and there were similar meetings about to be held. immediately all over that part of the country. The general impression in the country was, that there had been a juggle, and that Lord Grey had been cajoled. From his own personal observations, from all that he had seen and all that he had heard, he would say, that there was at the present moment an excitement throughout the country which must be allayed soon, or it would burst out into a species of violence that he would not take upon him to describe. He concurred with the hon. member for Middlesex, that some arrangement should be at once made for the restoration of his Majesty's Ministers to power. Perhaps, in order to allow such an arrangement to be effected, they should adjourn for a few days. The people now placed their sole confidence in that House. Ever since the vote of Thursday last they knew that the House had done its duty, and he had never heard more confidence expressed in that House than he had heard that day; and he must add, that it had never been better deserved by it.
§ Mr. Alderman Venables
said, that he would not go into the general subject adverted to in the petition; but he would take this opportunity, in supporting the petition, to express his sentiments. He quite concurred in the recommendation thrown out by the hon. member for Middlesex, and he hoped that it came not too 975 late to have a good effect. When there were so many individuals in this country who had the means of easy access to the Sovereign, he trusted that some of them would carry that advice to the King, and show to his Majesty, that it was necessary for the peace of the country that his late Ministers should be restored to office. If, in the present state of public affairs, the Reform Bill should not be carried, it was his solemn conviction that the country would be torn to pieces from one end to the other; and if the Duke of Wellington and a Tory Government should, after so long opposing the Bill, at length on getting into office, carry it, their doing so would be such a dereliction of all public principle as to be productive of as much evil as the Reform Bill might be expected to produce good. The country would have no confidence in the measure coming from such a Government, and, instead of producing good, the only effect it would have would be, to accelerate the separation of power from property, and to end in revolution. He trusted that the Sovereign would attend to the wise recommendation of that House. If he should not, and if a crisis should arise, then he would be prepared to support the proposition put forward in the petition.
Mr. Davies Gilbert
wished to address a few words to the House on this occasion. He had certainly voted against the second reading of the Bill, and he had taken other opportunities to oppose it in the former Session. He had also voted against the Bill in one of its stages in the present Session, and he had voted against the metropolitan clause; but then, seeing that the opinion of the country was decidedly for the measure, he had not since voted against it. It seemed to be admitted by all parties, in the course of this discussion, that the Bill must infallibly pass. If the Duke of Wellington should take office, even after his opposition to the Bill, and after his recent protest against it, his friends were constrained to acknowledge that he must pass the measure. If that was the case, and if the Duke of Wellington could take office upon no other ground, then it appeared to him perfectly absurd that the present Ministry, who had brought in the Bill, should not also have the passing of it. In that case, he hoped to see those Ministers restored to office for the purpose of carrying the Bill; indeed the Members of the House 976 of Peers themselves must see that there was no other alternative left for the prosperity and the peace of the country but the carrying of the Bill. He begged pardon for thus obtruding himself on the House. Though a Member of it for thirty years, he was not in the habit of taking up much of its time, but seeing how the public feeling now ran, he conceived it to be the duty of every independent Member (and he believed he might reckon himself as one), to stand forward and declare his sentiments. He begged and entreated every independent Member to do so. He belonged to no party. He had frequently refused office under Government, and he, therefore, had a right to claim the title of an independent Member of Parliament. As such he now addressed the House. It was admitted on all hands that the Bill must pass, in order to avert the danger of a revolution, and that being the case, was it not better to pass it in a way so as to conciliate the nation, to establish peace, and to avoid all chance of a civil war? He, therefore, would earnestly entreat Gentlemen in that House to join together for the good of the country, and, as far as he could see, the straightest line for effecting that object consisted in restoring to office that Administration which had originally brought in the Bill, and which had so strenuously supported it up to the present moment.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, that without altering his opinions as to the Bill, he most decidedly concurred in the sentiment, that, as the Bill must pass, it should be passed by those Ministers who had introduced it; that it was but just that they should reap the glory and advantage of the measure, if it should prove beneficial to the country, and that if, on the contrary, it should be productive of evil consequences, the censure should alone fall on their heads. He could fancy no ground that could compel any individuals to give up their feelings and opinions, as those who, it was said, proposed to form his Majesty's Government must do, except a deep sense of the incalculable wound which the Constitution must suffer from the adoption of that advice which the late Ministers were said to have tendered to the Sovereign. The fear of such an irreparable wound being inflicted on the independence and constitution of the House of Lords, thus throwing it at the mercy of an ambitious Minister, and of an overbearing House of 977 Commons, might induce individuals to sacrifice their opinions to avert such a calamity, and to form an Administration, therefore, to carry a measure which they had all opposed. But they were not threatened with such a calamity at present, and that, therefore, rendered it very desirable that the conduct of this measure should remain in the hands of those who had brought it in, and who had staked their characters upon it.
could not see how the unfortunate differences to which allusion had been made could be brought to a conclusion by the prolongation of this discussion this night. He thought, that in order to afford time for something to be done to satisfy the country, the House should adjourn over to-morrow to Thursday ["no."] He was of opinion, after the discussion which had just taken place, in order to allow the arrangements which might be desirable to be effected, that that they should adjourn over to-morrow. ["No, no."]
was anxious to join his voice to that of the other Members who had spoken on this subject. He was competent to state to the House what was the feeling of a large body of persons on the subject in the county of Essex. He sincerely believed that the country had nothing more at heart than that the Bill should remain in the hands of Earl Grey and his colleagues. He had in his possession a petition to that effect from a large town in the county of Essex, and he had that morning received letters from various parts of that county, insisting on the necessity of maintaining Earl Grey and his colleagues in office. The country, he was certain, had nothing more at heart, next to the passing of the Reform Bill, than that Earl Grey should remain in power. The Reform Bill would be received as a boon from a popular Administration; but if it were extorted from an unpopular Government, it would not be received as a boon; it would not allay the popular excitement, nor would it produce general satisfaction and contentment. He trusted that the clear expression of the sense of that House that night would have the effect that was to be desired from it. He trusted, that after the manifestation of feeling that had taken place on both sides of the House, the breach which had occurred between the King and his Ministers would be healed 978 up, and that the Reform Bill would be carried through the House of Lords by the original introducers of it. He was, indeed, very sanguine in his expectations that that might be the case; and if, by the interference of the Duke of Wellington, the Bill could be again placed under the conduct of its authors, the Duke would acquire fresh claims to the gratitude of his country.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
belonged to no party or Administration, but acted and voted in perfect independence. Until he heard it from much higher authority than that by which the allegation had hitherto been made, he would not believe that the means proposed to carry the Reform Bill had ever received the Royal sanction. At present, however, there was no responsible person in the House from whom information could be obtained. Adverting to what had fallen from the hon. member for Preston, he denied that there was any such run upon the Bank as that hon. Gentleman had described. He had no fears upon that head. Nor had he any apprehensions with respect to the people, who were loyal and well-affected, except when they were deluded by false statements. Of this he was convinced, that the last Administration was one of the most incompetent that had ever held the reins of power in this country; and nothing could be more criminal than their holding out to the people the expectation that the Reform Bill would be the panacea for all the evils which they endured.
§ Mr. Wellesley
said, that this House ought to sit day by day till they knew that there was a responsible Government. He must say, that he had had doubts, and he still had doubts, as to there being any Government in existence at that moment, and, therefore, he wished that House to sit till there should be a Government able to acquaint them and the country with the facts of the various rumours that had been spread about. He said this, because he wished his constituents to know that nothing would deter him from doing his duty. He should receive in forty-eight hours a petition from his constituency to that House, which would enable him to go into that great question, whether they were to have the Duke of Wellington at the head of a Reform Government. During his connexion with Essex, he had never known any event that had made so great a sensation as the statement that the 979 Duke of Wellington was again in office. If he (Mr. Wellesley) were actuated by personal feelings alone, he should speak against the late Government; but he was not, and indeed he thought that the best friends of the Duke of Wellington would be those who most strongly advised him to pause before he took the Government of the country under present circumstances. He could assure them that on that subject the feeling of the county of Essex was strong, and that the feelings of the Tories were more strong than even those of the Whigs. There was no man who had the blood of the Duke of Wellington in his veins who would not say that the Duke of Wellington would not stain his honour if he took office under present circumstances. The Duke of Wellington was but a man; but he trusted that the Duke would not fall into that feebleness of mind, sometimes the unhappy lot of great men, and be again deluded as before in doing that which would lower his estimation among the people.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
, in reference to what the hon. member for Preston had stated with regard to the run on the Bank, observed, that the calls made on the Bank had not been by any means equal to the amount which the Bank was frequently called on to pay. It was true, that for the last three or four days a considerable number of persons had gone there with 5l. and 10l. notes to get them cashed, but that if it was supposed that the demand for gold was to be compared with that which took place in 1825, it was perfectly erroneous. The Bank Directors had no apprehension of inconvenience, much more of the safety and security of the establishment being endangered.
§ Mr. John Campbell
proposed that the House should adjourn to Thursday. By that time his Majesty's Answer to the Address of that House would have arrived, and he hoped that answer would be, that, in accordance with the wishes of that House, his Majesty had restored his late Ministers to his Councils.
§ Mr. Curteis
was also opposed to it. He had received, by express, a petition from Brighton, agreed to at a very large and respectable meeting there held this day. 980 That petition vowed the most determined hostility to every Government opposed to Reform.
Sir Charles Burrell
was opposed to adjourning over to-morrow. He thought that the difficulties in the way of carrying the Reform Bill were smoothed down; for the chief difficulty was in the necessity for the creation of Peers, and that difficulty now appeared, from the declarations made on the other side of the House, to be re moved, since it seemed from them that the Government now about to be formed were no longer opposed to the Bill.
Mr. Dominic Brown
objected to adjourning over to-morrow. The state of Ireland imperiously called on the Duke of Wellington to give, when out of office, the same support to the Reform Bill which it appeared, from the declarations of the other side, he intended to give it when he came into power. Such conduct would show him to be the best friend of his country.
§ Mr. Praed
had not understood any declaration to have been made by that side of the House, that they understood the temper of the House of Lords to be, that they were prepared to pass the whole Reform Bill, or to give up that freedom which, if it did not belong to the deliberations of the House of Peers, that House was, in his opinion, worse than useless. What he had heard was, that the House of Lords were likely to agree to the leading principles of the Bill. That had been said over and over again, and long before that vote on which the late Ministry had thought fit to retire from Office.
§ Petition read and ordered to be printed.