§ Sir Robert Peel
rose and spoke as follows:— 562 "Sir,—The deep and unfeigned respect which I owe to this House induces me to take the earliest possible opportunity of publicly stating, here in my place, that, in consequence of what occurred last night, I have felt it my duty to wait upon the King, and humbly and respectfully to inform his Majesty, that I perceive it is no longer in my power to undertake the administration of public affairs, so far as the administration of those affairs depends upon me, either with satisfaction to my own feelings, or with perfect advantage to the country. Sir, his Majesty has been graciously pleased to accept the resignation thus tendered on my part, and I have to inform the House, therefore, that I consider myself as holding the Seals of the Home Department only until his Majesty shall have been enabled to appoint a successor to me in the office which I have resigned. The same, Sir, is the case with the other members of the Government. They all consider themselves as holding their respective offices only until their successors shall be appointed."
§ Lord Althorp
said, in consequence of the communication which we have just received from the right hon. Baronet, I am sure that every Gentleman will feel that it would be most improper and most incorrect to undertake any serious and important debate under such circumstances. There is no longer any Administration in existence, and I hope that my hon. and learned friend (Mr. Brougham) will not submit to the House this evening a question of so much importance as that of which he has given notice. In my memory, no important question has ever been discussed under such circumstances; and I trust, therefore, that for this reason, as well as for the advantage of the question, my hon. friend will comply with the suggestion I now make to him.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, I am sure that the respect which I feel for this House is, on all occasions, fully equal to that which has been so fitly and so gracefully expressed by the right hon. Secretary. I do, however, feel the greatest repugnance to putting off the motion which stands for this evening. My noble friend (Lord Althorp) near me is quite right in saying that no question of so much importance has ever before been brought forward when there was a deficiency in the effective government; but my difficulty is this—namely, that no question of so much importance — no 563 question involving such mighty and extensive interests—has ever yet been discussed at all, under any circumstances, within the walls of this House. Sensible, therefore, of the deep responsibility which I have incurred in undertaking to bring forward a question of such vast importance, I cannot help feeling the difficulty in which I am placed, in being called on by my noble friend to defer it,—especially as the suggestion of my noble friend has been backed in some degree by the expression of similar opinions on the part of others. I am anxious, of course, both from the respect I owe to the House, and out of regard to the interests of the question itself, to defer to the declared sense of the House, both as to the shape in which I shall bring forward the motion, and as to the manner in which I shall bring it forward, as well as in respect to the time at which I shall bring it forward. I throw myself, therefore, fully, freely, and respectfully upon the House. If the motion be put off, I own it will be contrary to my opinion, and to my wishes; the House may be right or it may be wrong; I may be right, or I may be wrong; but I think that I am right, and I beg it, therefore, to be understood, that what I do, I do in deference to the wishes of the House. And further, as no change that may take place in the Administration can by any possibility affect me, I beg it to be understood that, in putting off the motion, I will put it off until the 25th of this month and no longer. I will then, and at no more distant period, bring forward the question of parliamentary Reform, whatever may be the condition of circumstances, and whosoever may be his Majesty's Ministers.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, I feel it necessary, in order to guard against misunderstanding, to trespass again for a few moments upon the attention of the House. I am not apprehensive of anything I have said being misunderstood here: but in order to guard against any misapprehension going forth to the country, I may be allowed to notice one expression which fell from the noble Lord (Althorp) opposite. I know very well what the noble Lord meant, but out of doors the expression to which I allude may possibly be misconstrued. The noble Lord said, "There is no longer any Administration in existence." This is, no doubt, in effect true; but it ought to be generally known and understood, that until my successor is appointed, I am in 564 full possession of the authority of the Secretary of State for the Home Department; and that I am quite prepared, if public necessity should require me, to exercise that authority to its utmost extent, being quite confident that I shall receive the support of this House and of the country if I exert that authority in any case in which the public welfare calls for the exertion of it.
§ Lord Althorp
said, I assure the right hon. Secretary that I did not misunderstand him. God forbid that I should have imputed to him any disposition to allow the public service to suffer injury in consequence of the changes which are about to take place. All I meant was, that under such circumstances, motions of so much importance as that of my hon. and learned friend, have never been discussed in Parliament.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, my explanation was intended to prevent misconception out of doors. I was well aware that the noble Lord had not misunderstood me.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
rose amidst loud murmurs, and so much noise, that for some time he was totally inaudible in the gallery. When the hon. Member's voice could be heard, he observed that the Petition from the City of London had met with more complete concurrence than any other petition he recollected.
§ The Petition read, and ordered to be printed.