§ The Duke of Wellington
stated, that he had a Message, signed by his Majesty, to lay before their Lordships. His Grace then placed the Message in the hands of the Lord Chancellor, who read as follows:—GEORGE R.His Majesty thinks it necessary to inform the House that he is labouring under a severe indisposition, which renders it inconvenient and painful to his Majesty to sign, with his own hand, the Public Instruments which require the sign manual.His Majesty relies on the dutiful at- 987 tachment of Parliament, to consider, without delay, the means by which his Majesty may be enabled to provide for the temporary discharge of this important function of the Crown, without detriment to the public service.
§ The Duke of Wellington
then rose, and spoke to the following effect:—My Lords, I consider it will be the anxious wish of your Lordships, to take the earliest opportunity of returning an answer to the Message which I have just had the honour of communicating to your Lordships by the King's command. I am confident that your Lordships will feel that sorrow which is common to all his Majesty's subjects on account of the lamentable indisposition with which, it grieves me to say, he has for some time past been afflicted. My Lords, I propose to defer to a future opportunity the motion that his Majesty's Message be taken into consideration, with a view to deciding upon the mode in which the desired relief may be afforded to his Majesty. I am convinced it will be your Lordships' wish not to allow a moment to pass, without expressing your Lordships' sorrow for his Majesty's indisposition, and your anxious hope that his health may be re-established at an early period. I am also satisfied that your Lordships will be anxious to express to his Majesty, your earnest desire to relieve him from the pain and inconvenience he has informed you he labours under in signing those public instruments and documents which require the sign manual. I do not apologize to your Lordships for bringing this matter now before you; but rather take credit to myself for seizing the earliest opportunity of proposing to your Lordships to concur with me in an humble address to his Majesty, in answer to the Message he has intrusted to me. My Lords, I will not take this opportunity of entering into a discussion as to the measure which his Majesty's Government may deem it advisable to propose, for the purpose of affording his Majesty that relief which he requires. This will be done by the Lord Chancellor to-morrow, and I shall accordingly now content myself with moving "That a humble Address be presented to his Majesty, to assure his Majesty that this House deeply laments that his Majesty is labouring under severe indisposition, and to assure his Majesty that this House earnestly and anxiously hopes that by the favour of Divine Providence 988 his Majesty's health will be restored at an early period; that this House will proceed to consider, without delay, of the means by which his Majesty may be relieved from the pain and inconvenience of signing with his own hand those public instruments which require the Royal sign manual, and may be enabled to provide for the temporary discharge of that important function of the Crown, without detriment to the public interests."
§ Earl Grey
said: Your Lordships will hardly imagine that I rise with the intention of opposing in the slightest degree the Address we have just heard read—in every word of which I sincerely and painfully concur, so far as it relates to the expressing of our deep regret for the lamentable indisposition of the Sovereign; and in saying this I am well assured I speak the common sentiments and feelings of this House; for the regret experienced in consequence of his Majesty's illness is deep and universal, and the hope of his recovery is cherished with the utmost earnestness by all ranks and classes of his subjects. So far I concur entirely with the Address; and I also concur in the course proposed by the noble Duke, of giving an immediate answer to his Majesty's Message, expressing those sentiments respecting his illness to which I have already alluded, and declaring our readiness to proceed as soon as possible to the consideration of the important measure which is to follow. My Lords, I feel the deepest and the most poignant regret for the illness of his Majesty, and I entertain sincere disposition to relieve his Majesty from everything which might render painful the last moments of his life, or which might in the least tend to throw any impediment in the way of that recovery to which all Englishmen so anxiously and earnestly look; but we are to consider that we have a very important duty to perform towards the public. I do not now mean to question the noble Duke as to the mode of proceeding which he means to adopt, to comply with his Majesty's request. This, we are informed, will be stated by the Lord Chancellor to-morrow. I cannot, however, help declaring, that I shall consider it my duty to take the first opportunity that presents itself of explaining my views upon the subject. The question is one which should be entered upon with all due feeling and respect for his Majesty, but at the same time we must enter upon it with a strong impression of its deep importance 989 to the interests of the people. It is, in fact, neither more nor less than in some degree to delegate the Royal Authority. In providing then, my Lords, for the convenience and comfort of his Majesty, with that affection and reverence which we all undoubtedly feel, we must take care not to establish a precedent which might be dangerous to the future interests of the country. I, therefore, call on your Lordships to consider the question as one deserving of your most anxious attention. I do not know what course will be pursued by his Majesty's Ministers, nor do I wish to ask the noble Duke what it is; but I wish to observe, that in a matter of this importance—(which, by the way, has come in some degree unexpectedly on me, so that I have not had time to look into the precedents)—in a matter of this importance it behoves us to proceed most carefully, and I have no hesitation in saying, that the first point to which our attention should be directed is, to search for precedents respecting the delegation of the Royal Authority, if any can be found—and, perhaps, our first step should be to appoint a committee for this purpose. I shall not trespass longer on your Lordships' time; I only think it necessary to say thus much. I shall now conclude by repeating what I said at the outset—and it is, that however anxious may be the desire we entertain to afford all possible convenience and comfort to his Majesty, that we must yet, in devising the mode by which it may be best done, take care not to establish a precedent respecting the delegation of the Royal Authority which might be of dangerous consequence hereafter. My Lords, I felt it necessary to throw out these suggestions as to the grounds on which I may, on a future occasion, feel called upon to act.
§ The Address, as moved by the Duke of Wellington, was voted unanimously.