§ Lord Sandon
rose to move an Address, in answer to the King's Speech. His Lordship commenced by in-treating the indulgence of the House. And then proceeded to the following effect.—However painful or onerous to my mind, the task I have undertaken, however alien or uncongenial to my Parliamentary habits, which have never led me to trespass at length on the attention of the House, or to take a very prominent part in its discussions, yet, when the question was put to me, whether I would discharge this duty, I did not hesitate for a moment as to my answer. I felt it was my duty to show, that having at all times supported the extension of civil and religious liberty to every class of my fellow-subjects, I was not yet prepared to identify myself with those who are the open and avowed enemies of the Established Church. I was anxious to show, that having supported the Reform Bill in all its main stages, I was yet not inclined to put upon it that construction which it has of late been the fashion to force upon it; viz. that it was not so much intended to give to 152 public opinion a useful and efficient control over the measures of the Ministers of the Crown, as to decide who those Ministers should be. I felt that that doctrine, however convenient to a certain party, would not be convenient to the public service; and as I had supported that measure in every important stage, I was anxious to show that there was one at least of its friends who did not join in that construction. I was anxious, too, to support that claim which the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government has made upon his country, that the present Ministers shall have a fair trial and a full hearing. I felt that the prerogative attempted to be assailed was as essential to the liberties of the people as to the dignity of the Crown, essential to protect the liberties of the people from the domination of a faction, whose interests would be served, by extinguishing, without cause, that right of trial which I now vindicate. Never having either professed or entertained any confidence in Lord Melbourne's Administration, I was certainly not curious to inquire how it happened that that Administration was dismissed and the present substituted in its place. No doubt that inquiry will be made by other Gentlemen, who are in that respect in a different situation from myself. It is quite fit that it should be made, for the exercise of so high and important a prerogative can never be a matter of indifference, to a British Parliament. But, as I before said, never having myself professed any attachment to, or confidence in, Lord Melbourne's Administration, and seeing on the face of the facts themselves, that the change bad not been accomplished by intrigue, I do not feel myself called upon to make very curious inquiries into the causes of the charge. If upon these general grounds I felt disposed to take the part I am now taking, painful as it is to me, the Speech we have just heard from the Throne confirms me fully in the propriety of the course I have pursued. As one who for a time at least was connected with the Administration of Lord Grey, and who is conscious to himself of having never deserted the principles on which he made that junction, I have looked to the King's Speech to see whether the principles of Lord Grey's Government are likely to be endangered by the present Administration. The great principles which Lord Grey emblazoned on his political 153 standard were these—peace, economy, and Reform. With regard to peace, so far from its being perilled by the present Administration, I find that while they are equally friendly with some States, they are more friendly with others. While they have ripened and strengthened the connexion with the newly-formed free Governments of Europe, those powerful States which do not yet enjoy the benefit of liberal institutions, feel so much confidence ["Cheering from the Opposition benches"]; yes, feel so much confidence in the maintenance of peace, that two of them at least, Austria and Prussia, have already considerably reduced their vast military establishments. ["Cheers from the Opposition benches"]. I suppose I am to understand by those cheers, that it is not considered advantageous to be at peace and on terms of confidence with these powerful States. If so, this is not the doctrine of the Whigs of old; it was not the doctrine of Mr. Fox, who expressly repudiated it as unworthy the consideration of a British Minister. He maintained that whatever might be the form of Government of a foreign State, whether free or despotic, it was the interest of Britain only that ought to be considered in the choice of our alliances. To think otherwise seems strange indeed, in those who have proclaimed so loudly, whatever may have been their practice, the doctrine of non-interference. With regard to the second point—economy—perhaps the name of the Duke of Wellington and his connexion with the present Administration—his exertions in the cause of economical Reform, which were the subject of deserved eulogy from his successors in office, might serve as a sufficient guarantee; but the fact announced in the Speech from the Throne, that the estimates of the year will be lower than in any recent year, relieves us from the necessity of resting on any hypothetical conclusion, and cannot fail to be satisfactory to the House and to the country. In this state of the public revenue after the charge shall have been defrayed which that great act of national justice and humanity—the abolition of slavery—has brought upon the country, we may hope to see it relieved still further from the burthens which now press upon it. Though I am myself, by representation, more connected with commerce than with agriculture, I cannot but share in the condolence ex- 154 pressed in the Speech upon the state of agriculture, and express my satisfaction that some hope is held out that assistance may soon be afforded to that interest, with the prosperity of which all other interests are connected. The third topic, perhaps the greatest—no doubt the greatest, is Reform. Lord Grey, on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, made a larger concession to the public feeling than he himself originally contemplated or any Reformer expected. He went so far, avowedly for the purpose of going no further; and I must do his Government the credit of saying that, during their tenure of office, they did resist all further attempts to travel farther on the same road. They did oppose all the farther changes in our Parliamentary system, which were brought forward from time to time, and pressed upon them and against them by the hon. Gentlemen who are now sitting by their sides. Therefore, as regards Parliamentary Reform, I may appeal to those who formed part of Lord Grey's Administration—to those who supported the Reform Bill on the principle on which it was propounded—whether anything more was to be expected, from the Government of Lord Grey? Will any man stand up in this House and say, that he thinks the Reform Bill, proposed by Lord Grey, and carried into full effect by him, is in any danger from the present Government? [Cheers from the Opposition benches.] I suppose I am to understand that cheer as an acquiescence in my proposition. ["No, no!"] I did not expect, in an assembly pretending to common sense, and where absurdities will be refuted as often as they are advanced, that such an assertion would have been ventured even in a cheer. I thought that hon. Members on the other side would have been content to leave such assertions behind them in the taverns, or on the hustings for which alone they are suited. I know it has been said, that the present Ministers, as they resisted the principle of Reform, would not be true to their own principles if they did not attempt to repeal the Reform Bill when in power; but I do not think that in this House, though I may be deceived in my expectation, such a doctrine will be held—that no man who has opposed a measure because he thought it dangerous, after it has been formally adopted by the Legislature, can be true 155 to his own principles unless he endeavour to repeal it. The measure of Catholic Emancipation was considered one of great importance to the liberties and constitution of the country; but I never heard it asserted of any man who objected to it and who took office since, that he was a traitor to his principles because he did not use all his exertions to obtain the abrogation of that law. I say, then, that in Parliamentary Reform no practical difference can be discovered between the present Administration and that of Lord Grey. [Cheers from the Opposition.] I say practically, and with regard to the future, there will be no difference. Lord Grey would have given no more; and the present Ministers will take away none or what he gave. But it will be said that the Reform Bill is not to be left a mere barren measure of constitutional law; what, then, are to be its fruits? Perhaps that which has most attracted public attention, is the Reform of Municipal Corporations. No doubt much in those Corporations does require correction, much both in the management of the funds and the constitutions of the various bodies; but it is a question of great complication, and one on which Lord Grey's Government thought it necessary to institute a minute inquiry before it proceeded even to suggest a remedy. If the Report of the Commissioners has been too long delayed, it is the fault of the Commissioners appointed by Lord Grey; and it is not to be expected of this Government more than of that of Lord Grey, that they should proceed to Reform before they have arrived at the result of that investigation. At the same time I have full confidence that as soon as it is complete, the present Ministers will not be slow in applying an effectual remedy. With regard to the practical grievances under which the Dissenters labour, perhaps the second only in importance of all that have been alluded to in his Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne, I do not conceive that any difference in opinion as regards the principles of any measure upon that subject can exist between the members of the present Administration and those Gentlemen who composed the Administration of Earl Grey. When I look at the three points involved in that question, namely the rite of marriage, the registration of births, and Church-rates, I cannot help recollecting 156 that the measures upon each of those important questions which were introduced by Lord Grey's Government were not opposed by the Members of the present Administration. The measures that were introduced by that Government, if opposed at all, were opposed only upon points of detail, and not upon the principles upon which they were founded. With regard to marriage a measure is announced as already in preparation. With regard to Church-rates, I conclude from the language which the right hon. Baronet now at the head of his Majesty's Government. has recently held to his constituents, as well as from the sentiments expressed by him upon that subject in the last Session of Parliament, when he ranked among the Members of the Opposition, that the only difficulty that can occur to him as to the mode of achieving a settlement of the question must be mere difficulty of detail. It must be remembered, that Church-rates constitute one of those burthens which fall upon the land; and as the burthens which bear more exclusively upon the agricultural interest have been especially alluded to in his Majesty's Speech, it is not. improbable that the burthen of Church-rates is included amongst those for which some provision is to be made. I cannot take upon myself to say, that it is so; but knowing that the burthen of Church-rates is one of which the agriculturists complain, I cannot help regarding it as likely that, under that head, it will come under the consideration of his Majesty's Government. With regard to the admission of Dissenters to the Universities, which is another grievance of which the Dissenting body think they have a right to complain, I have no doubt that the right hon. Baronet will still, as heretofore, oppose any Parliamentary interference with those bodies; but the grievances arising from that exclusion, which formed the original subject of complaint, are either already removed, or in the course of removal, by other means. The measures of Amendment in our legal institutions which the right hon. Baronet now at the head of the Government commenced many years ago, and which drew down upon hint from all parties and from all quarters of the House such an unanimous tribute of praise, it appears from his Majesty's Speech, it is the right hon. Baronet's intention to continue. Another important subject, which has occupied the 157 attention of every succeeding Government for a considerable period of time,—namely, the question of Irish tithes, we find has not escaped attention. In his Majesty's Speech the King's Ministers announce their intention of introducing some scheme filially and satisfactorily to settle that question. And when I remember that, even when in opposition, the Members of the present Administration co-operated warmly and ardently in the measures proposed by Lord Grey's Government upon that subject, I do not doubt that the measure that they will introduce upon this occasion will at least not subject them to the charge of indifference upon that great and vital subject. If I recollect right, the Bill introduced by my noble Friend who filled the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland wider Lord Grey's Administration, was fully supported in every part by the right hon. Baronet now at the head of affairs; and I hope that. the measure which that right hon. Baronet will now introduce will be such as to afford satisfaction to all parties. Unlike the Bill of last Session which was left by Lord Melbourne's Administration to be moulded by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, I hope it will not rob both the Church and the State, for the purposes of putting an inordinate advantage into the pocket of the Irish landlords. One important point, as connected with the question of tithes in Ireland is their appropriation. Upon that point, a wide difference of opinion certainly did exist between the majority of the last House of Commons (perhaps it may exist also between the Members of the present House of Commons) and the Members of the present Administration. This is not a fit or convenient occasion to enter into the discussion of so large and extensive a question. Thus much, however, I will say, that I think the question is never fairly stated by hon. Gentlemen in this House. They interest our feelings by a recital of all the miserable consequences which certainly do flow from the present system of tithes in Ireland; and, when our feelings are excited we are then told, that those evils can only be removed by the removal of the Protestant Establishment. They tell us also of the injustice of leaving the poor peasant, after he has paid this tithe to the Protestant Church, the burthen of supporting a Church Establishment of his own; and there is much 158 truth in that picture also. But they omit to tell us, that that portion of the evil, which arises from the collection of tithes in small fractions from a pauper peasantry is quite independent of the question of appropriation to one Church or another; that to it all parties are equally anxious to find a remedy, and that that is not the question in dispute, and they leave equally out of sight, the other portion of the evil, that which arises from leaving the poor peasant burthened with the maintenance of his own priest, with all its attendant mischiefs, was as little prepared to be remedied by Lord Melbourne's, as by the present Administration. Now, if it were proposed to take away the revenues of the Protestant Church in certain parts of Ireland, and to transfer them to the Catholic Church, thereby relieving the peasantry from the support of their own Establishment, and rendering the Catholic clergy independent of the ignorance, and passions, and vices of their flocks; although to such a scheme there are grave objections; yet, at least some argument may be held upon it, some advantage would be gained. But we must recollect that the Members of the late Administration disclaimed the intention of giving one shilling of the Protestant revenues to the Catholic clergy. Their measure of conciliation consisted solely in this; that a certain number of Protestant clergymen, after all that is odious or offensive to a Catholic population, in the mode of their maintenance, is got rid of, should cease to be found in the Catholic parts of Ireland. Now, in, my eyes, the plunder of Church property has no such abstract charms as to make me desirous of committing it at least without the inducement of some great advantage, an advantage, which I cannot see in the plan of the late Administration. In their plan, I see nothing but injury to one party, without advantage to the other; nothing but triumph to one party, stimulating them to farther struggles, and defeat and discomfiture to the other; but to the peasant, the poor miserable peasant, of whose wretched condition so much has been said within the walls of Parliament, it would afford no benefit whatever. In the next place, his Majesty announces to us, that his Ministers have in contemplation a measure for the commutation of tithes in England and Wales. This is a question much less complicated by questions, both of pro- 159 perty and religion than that of tithes in Ireland; but, at the same time, it is, undoubtedly, of high importance to agriculture; and doubly important as it tends to promote that harmony and good feeling which ought to exist between the people and their spiritual instructors. But of all measures of Reform which the present Government arc prepared to introduce, the most important, the most acceptable to the people, is the measure of Church Reform; and this Reform, at least, will surely not come improperly from the present Administration, since the first measure for a better disposition of the revenues of the Established Church in England came from the same party; I cannot but recollect, that a measure which distributed 300,000l. a-year more than was distributed amongst the working clergy of the Establishment,—and first secured their rights,—originated with Mr. Percival, and from a noble and dear relative of my own, his intimate friend and colleague. I am not aware that any charge of inconsistency has been brought (I do not think it will be brought) against the members of the present Government, on account of the measures of Church Reform that they propose to introduce. It is hardly necessary for me to enumerate those measures. They are enumerated in his Majesty's Speech,—they are enumerated in the Commission which has some time been issued; and I think it would be difficult to find any one object connected with Church Reform which is not alluded to more or less distinctly in that Commission. I will only say, that I concur most cordially in that Commission. The object is one that I have always looked to with great anxiety—which has long been desired by a large portion of the Church itself, and which, coming from a quarter favourable to the Church, will not be looked upon with jealousy by any within its fold. I am glad to sec that his Majesty has recommended to us farther extension of the means of attending religious worship to the poorer classes of society in Scotland; inasmuch, as recent investigation has established the existence of greater deficiency in that respect in parts of that country, than even in almost any parts of England. I rejoice to see in it the assertion of the principle, that it is the duty of a State to provide for the religious instruction of its people, a principle, by the way, which it. now seems as necessary to 160 assert in favour of the poor and the unassuming Church of Scotland, the revenues of which are equally distributed, as of what is called the proud and wealthy Church of England, with all the unequal distribution of her revenues. I know that these reforms are not of a nature to touch the minds of some gentlemen in this House. I know they are not of a nature to receive the support of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin and his friends. I am afraid that there are some Gentlemen, also, Representatives of my own country, whose feelings will not be affected by them; but, at the same time, I know that these are the reforms which do touch the feelings and affections of a great majority of the country. It is not in vain that we come here fresh from the elections,—that we come fresh from a direct and close intercourse with large bodies of our fellow-subjects; it gives us an opportunity of knowing and stating the real feelings of the people.—[Cheers from the Opposition.]—Ay, Sir, it does give me an opportunity of knowing the real feelings of the people, and, representing as I do, one of the largest, wealthiest, and most intelligent communities in the empire, I can state, that I have found the bold and open avowal of my intention to support the Government in their claim for a fair trial, of my attachment to the Established Church, and of my anxiety for judicious and wholesome reforms in that Church, for the purpose of extending her spiritual influence, has been my surest passport to their confidence and esteem. Judging, therefore, from what I have personally witnessed, and from all the organs of public opinion, I am satisfied, if the present Government proceed in the measures which are indicated in his Majesty's Speech, they will secure the confidence and affection of the people. For myself, having undertaken this task, in the full assurance that the Government would go on in a spirit of wholesome, temperate, constitutional, not of speculative, Reform, I feel that the Speech which his Majesty has this day delivered from the Throne fully justifies me in the confidence which I felt. I feel that the reforms which are intimated in that Speech give the King's Ministers a claim to the support, not only of their own immediate friends, but even of many Members of the opposite side of the House. I do not see in what way those Gentlemen who 161 formed a part of Earl Grey's Administration, or the Gentlemen who supported that Administration, can object to give a fair trial to those whose principles of prospective Reform are so much akin to Lord Grey's. I do not know what reforms they themselves (I am not speaking of Lord Melbourne's Administration, but of Lord Grey's, to which the public feeling was attached—to Lord Melbourne's it was not)—I do not know what reforms the supporters of Earl Grey's Administration could introduce which are not to be proposed by the present Government. I think I may fairly appeal to those Gentlemen, whether reforms of the description that I have alluded to, are not such reforms as Earl Grey would himself propose? Indeed, I cannot help asking the Friends of Earl Grey's Administration whom I see opposite, whether they feel very comfortable in the company of the Reformers by whom they are now surrounded? I allude not, of course, to the personal character of any gentleman—I speak purely of his political principles, but I ask again whether they feel very comfortable in the midst of those by whom they are now surrounded? I have heard the word "apostacy" applied to those who promise the measures of Reform to which I have alluded in the course of my observations, and which are announced in the King's Speech; but would there be no danger of apostacy in a combination of those Gentlemen who oppose all further changes in our Parliamentary system, with those who are prepared to carry change after change to an extent to which no one has pretended to affix a limit? What is the grand public principle that can induce them to form a confederacy of which it is impossible to perceive the guiding or leading principle? Is it possible that those who regarded the Reform Bill as a final measure of Parliamentary Reform, can unite with those who are for the Vote by Ballot, Universal Suffrage, and short Parliaments? Is it possible that those who are for leaving the privileges of the Lords untouched, can unite with those who are for converting the House of Lords into an elective chamber, if they allow it to exist at all? Is it possible that those who with Earl Grey maintained the importance, the vital importance, of the Established Church, can unite with those who regard the Established Church as a curse, and who avow, that they will 162 never rest till that Church is destroyed? Can those who are so strongly attached to the integrity of the empire, long unite in safety with those who avowedly at this moment suspend the agitation of its dismemberment, only because they think that suspension for a short period will ultimately advance it the more. I shall be curious to know what is the common principle, what is the great overwhelming public principle, that can induce these parties to unite. Whatever that principle may be, I am not sure that it will induce them—certainly there are some whom it will not induce—to unite in this one common confederacy against his Majesty's present Ministers. This is not a time for party-struggles. Party connexions are good and useful at certain periods; but there are times when every man is bound to think for himself, to look around him, and to see the responsibility which rests upon his own head. If, in a great public crisis like the present, every Member of this House will discard all party considerations, and will act only from the conviction of what he believes to be best for the welfare and advantage of the kingdom, I shall have a strong and confident expectation that at least a great proportion of the respectable Gentlemen who supported Lord Grey's Administration will not unite in the opposition to the present. I do not think they will find it consistent with their character, their respectability, or their own feelings of what is right, to lend themselves to such a confederacy. I will not intrude further upon the patience of the House. If, in the course of the observations I have made, I have in any case expressed myself too strongly, I assure the House it has arisen from any cause rather than from intentional disrespect to any one. I have mixed largely with individuals of every party, and have a friendly feeling towards many of them; but at the same time a sense of public duty would not allow me to express my opinions less fully and decidedly than I have. I conclude, Sir, by moving, "That a humble address be presented to his Majesty."
Mr. Bramston rose to second the Address. If, he said, his noble Friend entered upon the subject then before the House with a feeling of embarrassment—if he found it necessary to appeal to the indulgence of the House during the observations which he had just concluded, how much greater must be his embarrass- 163 ment—how much greater his claim to the indulgence of that House, in thus offering himself for the first time, and a few weeks after his election, to their consideration? Those who heard him might be assured that it was with no common feeling of embarrassment that he now felt himself called upon to address them. He was, however, so far relieved, inasmuch as the observations which he should feel it his duty to submit to their attention world be very brief, because his noble Friend, the Member for Liverpool, had already directed their attention to almost every topic which it would be necessary to bring under their consideration. In the Address which it was proposed should be presented to his Majesty, in reply to his most gracious Speech, there were many topics upon which he felt assured both sides of the House would cordially agree. He was sure all would agree in thanking his Majesty most cordially for the promptitude with which he met the difficulties of both Houses of Parliament arising from their accustomed places of meeting having been destroyed by the late calamitous fire. They must, likewise, all feel gratified at meeting so soon after their election, not only because that House, but also because the public at large were interested in knowing why his Majesty had called to his Councils different men from those who directed them when Parliament was last assembled. Another subject on which he thought that they would all agree, was in the satisfaction expressed at the intelligence which had been received from the Colonies of the probability, after the heavy pecuniary sacrifice of this nation, of a successful issue to that measure which religion and pure benevolence had suggested for the abolition of slavery. He was also sure that they would all agree in rejoicing at the likelihood of the continuance of the blessings of peace, and at learning that the accounts which his Majesty had received from his allies, and, indeed, from all Foreign Powers, led him to believe that he had no occasion to fear any interruption of the general tranquillity. That peace was at all times desirable, and that it was most especially desirable now, was a point which he thought no man would dispute. The attention of the House had also been called to the strict economy which Ministers were prepared to enforce. He was sure that the House would rejoice to hear that the estimates for the present 164 year were upon a lower scale than they had ever been since the termination of the war. He would next refer to that paragraph in the King's Speech which relates to the agricultural interest, and the depression under which it labours. If, but a short time since—namely, in August, 1833, the agricultural interest was considered at so low an ebb that it was deemed necessary to appoint a Committee to inquire into the causes of its depression, and into the best mode of relieving it; and if, at that time, the average price of wheat was 54s. per quarter; if, in 1834, the King alluded in the Speech from the Throne to the continuance of that distress, and expressed his sympathy with that suffering interest; and if, at that time, the average price of wheat was 42s. a-quarter, was it possible to say now that its condition was much improved, when the average price of wheat was only 45s. a-quarter? This was a subject of great importance; and he trusted that, in conformity with his Majesty's most gracious Speech, a method would be devised for mitigating the pressure of those local charges which bore heavily on the owners and occupiers of land, and for distributing the burden of them equally over other descriptions of property. Among the various measures which came under the consideration of the last Parliament was the state of the tithe question in Ireland. If he did not allude to it more particularly, it was because the question had undergone a long discussion in the last Parliament, and the opinion of the Ministry was well known upon it. He was glad that it was the intention of Government to propose a measure for the commutation of tithe in England and Wales. That was a measure on the expediency of which he was certain that they would all agree. He must also praise the caution of Government in waiting for the report from the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of Municipal Corporations. The Church Commission appointed by the present Government, he considered likely to be the parent of ninny great and salutary reforms. In conclusion, he observed, that if Ministers followed up the principles which they had laid down in the King's Speech—a Speech which he characterized as worthy of a British monarch to make, and of an English Parliament to hear—if they would only determine to foster and protect the agricultural interest, on the prosperity of 165 which the prosperity of the country so much depended, he should consider that be should only be doing his duty to himself and to his constituents in giving them his humble but independent support. He cordially seconded the Address.
The Address having been read from the Chair,
§ Lord Morpeth
rose and said—In ordinary times I do not know that there would have been much room for criticism, and, perhaps, still less for positive opposition in the gracious Speech which we have this day heard from the Throne, and which, if it stray into greater length than is ordinarily to be found in similar documents, I think cannot be accused of departing, in any of its material features, from much of their accustomed vagueness. But so far from being ordinary, I conceive the present to be such special circumstances and times, that those at least in whose behalf we are here assembled—I think I can speak for the large bulk of my own constituents—will expect us not to confine ourselves to that formality, and to those courtesies which, at an ordinary period might have been more congenial to our own dispositions; but to express in language, calm, respectful, and not to be misunderstood, the impressions which the present state of affairs excites in our own minds, and to convey them in the accredited and accustomed manner to the foot of a paternal Throne. In venturing, Sir, to give this advice, I am far from saying that his Majesty's gracious Speech, and the Address, which has been ably moved, and seconded by the hon. Member for Essex, and my noble Friend—whom nobody can know without most highly esteeming—do not contain much matter calculated to give high satisfaction to all those who combine with a fixed attachment to the institutions of their country an anxious wish to see them disencumbered and purified of all their remaining imperfections, and abuses. The Speech lays peculiar stress upon the state of the Church Establishment of England. I can assure my noble Friend that I entertain, and shall go along with him in a resolute determination to receive, any suggestions on that most important subject, come from whatever quarter, and from whatever Administration they may, with a sincere and single wish to adapt them to the most real and solemn interests of the establishment of 166 the country and of religion. But I cannot stop here; I cannot dissemble that I think we might reasonably have expected—whether considering the nature of its internal organization, or the circumstances, the more recent circumstances, of its position—some more direct allusion to the bearing which the Church of Ireland has upon the condition of that much-harassed country. I do not mean to say, that I would invite the House into any specific detail or specific plan upon that most arduous and complicated subject; but I think we ought at least to show that it does not wholly escape our recollection. His Majesty has adverted to the Commission which is now sitting upon the state of our corporations; and it is certainly a gratifying thing that these subjects have been adverted to, because I believe the country is most eagerly and most properly intent upon the speedy and effective correction of the abuses that infest them. But I must again add, that I think it would have been desirable on this occasion that beyond the matter-of-fact information that the Commission may soon report, and that that report is to be communicated to us, some hint should have been given of the principle which ought to guide the adjustment of a question so notorious in its general features—that principle being, as I conceive, an adequate superintendence and control on the part of those for whose collective benefit the privileges ought alone to exist. His Majesty has also been graciously pleased to notice the claims of his loyal Protestant dissenting subjects; and in acknowledging this mark of his Majesty's gracious condescension, I own that I think we ought not to let it be inferred that the whole circle of those grievances may be confined to the single article of marriage. My noble Friend charitably suggested that other matters—Church-rates he particularly named—might be contemplated by the Ministerial mind. Those items, however, Sir, do not appear upon the record. Now, Sir, with respect to these and other topics of consideration, and subjects for Reform, while we gratefully acknowledge the notice which we are graciously assured shall be bestowed upon them, I own I think it is difficult to look back upon the events which have occurred since the last Parliament sat in Westminster, without a wish to couple with the assurance of our readiness to 167 enter upon the reformation of abuses, some precise and defined indication, which, referring to the past, that it may throw a light upon the future, will sufficiently mark the mode and the spirit in which we both consider the abuse, and meditate the reformation which may prove, in a word, to the people of this country that though persons whom they believe to be Tories are in place, we are to have nothing like Tories in power. Now, Sir, I do not think that the events themselves to which I have thus cursorily alluded are entitled to dismissal without some slight remark. I have not to remind an audience like this of the nature and order of those events. His Majesty in the exercise of his undoubted prerogative was pleased to dismiss the Government of which Lord Melbourne was at the head. No one admits the lawful exercise of that high prerogative with more entire deference than I do; nor will I be more slow, though perhaps in point of form I may be less correct, in stating my sincere belief, that his Majesty is incapable of exercising it but with the most upright and single-hearted intention to promote the true interests of his people. But, Sir, with an earnest and equal assurance, I ask whether any one within these walls will deny the right of this House to call in judgment, not the inherent and unalienable right of the King of these realms, but this particular exercise of it, so far as to accept, or to reject, the measures or the administration of those servants of the Crown, and therefore servants of the people also, to whom his Majesty has confided the conditional superintendence of the national affairs? My noble friend seemed to wish to infer that one of the new claims put forward on behalf of the Reform Bill is, that it is to lodge with the people the power of deciding who the Ministers of the Crown are to be. Sir, I humbly submit that in this respect the Reform Bill has made no difference whatever; but, whether before or after the passing the Reform Bill the power must reside with this House—and through this House, with the people of this country—of deciding who the Ministers of the Crown are to be. With the causes of the dismissal of the late Government it is yet reserved for us to become acquainted, and of course it would be premature to pronounce any opinion upon them. Even a curiosity, much 168 more lively than that which my noble Friend has professed upon the subject, must, I think, have found it very difficult to obtain any gratification. We know, Sir, that the late Administration was one of very recent appointment; we know that it commanded, to an unprecedented degree, even by the admission of its political opponents, the confidence of the late House of Commons; we know that it was in a time of complete tranquillity—of comparative and of growing prosperity—It was not in the battle—no tempest gave the shock.With the causes of that dismissal, then, we hope yet to become acquainted; and with them we may have to discuss where lies the responsibility of its removal. Sure only I am that it does not lie with our constitutional Sovereign. Sir, these causes themselves would, at first sight, appear to have been of a very grave nature indeed, for instead of the usual courtesy of allowing the dismissed occupants of places to retain them until the appointment of their successors, there came that most unusual, and, I must add, most unseemly huddling of offices in the single person of the Duke of Wellington. Of that noble Duke I always must wish to speak with the deference due to his imperishable renown; but, at the same time, with that freedom which his large and extensive superintendence of civil and political matters imperatively requires from the citizens of a free country. Now, I am using no hypocritical pretence of any harm having been done upon this occasion. No! But I ask if this be a precedent—a precedent which is not to be noticed, and may be followed, what harm might not have been done? Owing, apparently, to the admirable regularity and order in which every thing had been left, and of which fact, if I wanted any confirmation, I should refer to the Speech itself, confirming as it does, in every particular, all the acts of the late Government,—the fact of its being clearly before Parliament, that no change is intended to be made in those measures, affords most ample confirmation of the remark I have ventured to make. Owing, therefore, I boldly repeat, to the regularity which I believe prevailed in every department of the State on the dismissal of the late Administration, everything on that occasion did go on smoothly; nothing, indeed, appears to have been changed— 169 no deviation seems to have been made from their arrangements either at home or abroad. It thus fortunately happened that no harm was done; but let me just inquire if any serious emergency had arisen in any of those multitudinous departments—if in the Foreign Office a case for Continental quarrel or war—if in the Colonies an insurrection of the newly-liberated negroes, according to the sanguine calculations of certain Conservative publications—if at home, in Ireland there had been any spread of those unhappy tithe disputes (and I am not going to use any proper name which might suggest topics of irritation)—if they had been carried on on a wider scale, or had spread over a greater area, I ask what single shoulders could have sufficed for so immense a responsibility? The modern Whigs are often reproached with being unlike their predecessors; but I have reason to believe that there is hardly an old Whig of the Rockingham school whose hair does not stand on end at this unconstitutional concentration of responsibility and power. However, Sir, at last came the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and in mentioning that right hon. Baronet, I am the last person to do injustice either to his consummate talents, or to what I believe to be his high and honest aspirations to be of use to his country. My only ground of difference with him is, that from the principles he has maintained through life, and from the associates with whom he is surrounded in office, he has put himself in a situation—I do not say (Heaven forbid that I should be guilty of the absurdity) of eternal exclusion from the public service—for who can answer for the hundred thousand modifications of political circumstances?—but I do say that he seems to me, at the present time, to have put himself at variance with the political inclinations of his countrymen. But, Sir, what we have to deal with are his acts. What was the right hon. Baronet's first overt act? The dissolution of the late Parliament. Sir, I propose that we should respectfully state to his Majesty our disapprobation of that dissolution. What misdemeanours had that Parliament committed? It cherished a spirit of loyal attachment to the Crown—it had exhibited a most inviolate adherence to the maintenance of the public credit—it had enforced economy—it had abolished slavery—true, it had mani- 170 fested a desire to facilitate the admission of Dissenters into the Universities, and it had shown symptoms of an inclination to accommodate the secular dimensions of the Irish Church to the spiritual exigences of its flocks. But, Sir, that Parliament was dismissed in the middle of the recess, pending no collision with the other House of Parliament, after no hostile vote against any Administration; and while affairs of the greatest moment were still pending, this Parliament, by the enemies of short Parliaments, was thus unceremoniously dismissed and cashiered. Now, have we any precedent for inserting in an address to the Throne an expression of our disapprobation of a preceding dissolution? I find, that when the new Parliament met in the year 1784, the Speech from the Throne conveyed an approbation of the preceding dissolution. This was, naturally enough, objected to by Mr. Fox, and was made the subject of an Amendment; but it was stated, in reply by Mr. Pitt, that, "he was not for purchasing a hollow unanimity by blinking a great constitutional question, and passing over the dissolution of the last Parliament, when it was clearly established that it had given the most entire satisfaction throughout the kingdom." His Majesty's Ministers have not been hardy enough on the present occasion to insert in the Speech from the Throne any intimation that the dissolution of the last Parliament has given the most entire satisfaction throughout the country; but all who draw directly the contrary inference have, at least, as much right to say in 1835, as Mr. Pitt said in 1784, that we are "not for purchasing a hollow unanimity by blinking a great constitutional question, and passing over the dissolution of the late Parliament," when we believe that it gave the contrary of satisfaction throughout the kingdom. In making these remarks upon the points which come fairly and openly before our notice, I have no wish to trespass further upon the time of the House in making comments upon points which are not now fairly developed, still less in allowing myself to be led into any acrimonious reflections on individuals. I had almost omitted to say, that of course concurring in the satisfaction expressed in the Address at the prospect we have before us of a continuance of peace, I also warmly coincide with my noble 171 Friend in thinking, that it is not the policy of this country to adjust its friendships with other States according to the particular circumstances of their political constitution. The point, however, where I should be tempted to draw the line of difference from the argument of my noble Friend is this:—I fear the superior confidence reposed, or apparently reposed, in his Majesty's present advisers by some Statesmen on the Continent is exhibited by those who, so far from abstaining from, have a constant itch for interfering in the internal affairs of other and freer States. My noble Friend has asked, whether the friends of Lord Grey's Government—of whom I profess myself to have been one of the most steady and sincere—can bear to join in any project which they, in common with my noble Friend, have often reprobated, and still continue to reprobate? I only ask my noble Friend to wait until we have incurred the. guilt of desertion from our principles before he brands us with its mark. I do not affect to conceal that I think there are perplexing and embarrassing circumstances in which, turn as we may, we seem to be involved; it is some gratification to me, however, to believe that they are not my own political friends who have mainly involved us in them; and it is a further gratification to feel assured, that even under all the difficulties and exciting scenes through which the people of this country have passed, it has been demonstrated that there is neither hostility nor indifference to any of our really valuable, and venerable institutions, to the constitutional Throne, or the honoured person of our Sovereign; to the maintenance of order, or to the rights of property—or at least, that none such is to be found in any intelligent or prominent class of the community. There is, however, a keen and irresistible demand for the reformation of all abuses, and a proportionate call upon all those who wish to represent the opinion of their constituents, to hold fast to the principles which won their original support; and to re-assure them, that though Parliaments on which they trusted may have been dissolved, and although Administrations, of which upon the whole they approved, may have been dismissed, those principles still live and flourish; that they will not be compromised, that they will be intelligibly laid down, unhesitatingly asserted, and consistently acted upon. It is under 172 this view, Sir, thinking that something is due from us to the late Parliament—something to the late Government—much to the opinions and wishes of our constituents—much to the unchanging interests of justice, fidelity, and honour, that, not eager for the station, I have not declined to come forward on this occasion. I must leave the issue in the hands of the House, merely adding my humble hope that all we plan and all we execute may be so overruled as to promote the real and lasting welfare of the country. I have now, Sir, the honour of proposing an Amendment. It is not my wish to omit any portion of the Address which has been moved by my noble Friend, inasmuch as I believe it pledges us to nothing to which we can conscientiously object; but as I think we wish for some more marked demonstration of opinion, I am desirous to move, that after the words, "To promote the concord and happiness of my subjects," in the last paragraph but two, these words be inserted:—"To assure his Majesty, that his Majesty's faithful Commons acknowledge, with grateful recollection, that the Act for amending the representation of the people were submitted to Parliament with his Majesty's sanction, and carried into a law by his Majesty's assent; that, confidently expecting to derive further advantages from those wise and necessary measures, we trust, that his Majesty's Councils will be directed in a spirit of well-considered and effective Reform; and that the liberal and comprehensive policy which restored te the people the right of choosing their Representatives, and which provided for the emancipation of all persons held in slavery in his Majesty's Colonies and possessions abroad, will, with the same enlarged views, place, without delay, our Municipal Corporations under vigilant popular control, remove all those unfounded grievances of the Protestant Dissenters, and correct those abuses in the Church which impair its efficiency in England, disturb society in Ireland, and lower the character of the establishment in both countries. To represent to his Majesty, that his Majesty's faithful Commons beg leave submissively to add, that they cannot but lament that the progress of these, and other Reforms, has been interrupted and endangered by the unnecessary dissolution of a Parliament earnestly intent upon the vigorous prose- 173 cution of measures to which the wishes of the people were most anxiously and justly directed."
§ Mr. Bannerman
rose to second the Amendment. After the able and eloquent manner in which the noble Lord had proposed it, he felt some apology was necessary for his intrusion on the patience of the House. He was proud to say, that he represented a large constituency, though not so large a one as the constituency of the noble Lord; he was still prouder that they had returned him to that House free of expense, and that even the expense of the hustings on which he had stood before them had been defrayed; and it gave him still more pride to say, that he was sent to Parliament completely unfettered and unpledged on any of those questions or subjects that were likely to come under discussion. Regretting, as he did, the late dissolution, he could not help saying, that so far as he was personally concerned, he should not care if another took place tomorrow, unless, indeed, as it might tend to endanger the peace, prosperity, and happiness of the country. He trusted, therefore, that he should not be accused of any factious motives in supporting the Amendment of the noble Lord, and giving any opposition he might think it necessary to offer to the present Government. As a Scotch Representative he would say, and in so doing he felt certain he should be fully borne out by a large majority of his hon. Colleagues in that House—that his countrymen felt that they owed a deep debt of gratitude to those Englishmen and Irishmen who had so nobly fought the battle of Reform, and given to Scotland its present political existence. They would ill repay that debt of gratitude if they did not cordially form an alliance—unholy as the noble Lord opposite might consider it—for the purpose of endeavouring to procure those Reforms which he (Mr. Bannerman) was quite sure the late Government would have granted, and which he was pretty certain the present Government had no intention whatever of conceding. There were, he knew, some Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House, who might consider that the Amendment savoured rather too much of a milk-and-water nature. When it was put into his (Mr. Bannerman's) hands a short time ago, he certainly was under a similar impression; a little reflection, however, convinced him that he was in the 174 wrong, for he considered it the duty of the Representatives of the people to banish all political prejudices, and to consult only the benefit and welfare of their common country. He felt bound to say that he could repose no constitutional confidence in his Majesty's present Ministers, and he hoped they would excuse him for saying that he should be highly gratified to see them dismissed as unceremoniously as their predecessors in office had been. It they would honestly and fairly follow up and carry into effect those Reforms which the country expected, and which the country would have, he would withdraw his Opposition; for lie considered it of little importance who his Majesty's Ministers were, so long as they acted in accordance with the just and legitimate wishes of the people. There was one point to which, as a Scotch Representative, he felt peculiarly desirous to call the attention of the House—he meant Municipal Reform. He had had opportunities of observing the working of the system in Scotland, and be hoped and trusted the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) would inform the House during the course of the debate whether he was inclined to vest the election of English corporators in 10l. householders in the same way as in Scotland. He could assure the right hon. Baronet, that nothing short of this alteration would satisfy the country.
§ The Amendment having been read,
had some observations to address to the House, which he would bring within as narrow a compass as possible. On the other side of the House, there was no Gentleman who more admired the eloquence of the noble Mover of the Amendment than he did. But he admired still more the temper displayed by the noble Lord—he would endeavour to imitate it; for he was desirous, in discussing the present question, to avoid all irritating topics, all annoying observations, which could tend to exasperate animosities, and widen differences between public men, which were already too great. He was sure that Gentlemen around him, upon both sides, must feel that the real purpose of the Amendment was not to express to the Crown or to the public any particular opinions; but to express a preference of the late to the present Administration. Knowing that that was the real import of the question, he should endeavour shortly to explain why 175 he preferred the present to the late Administration, and, should, therefore, vote for the Address rather than the Amendment. With respect to the Amendment itself, however, he would say, that if, as had been alleged, the Address was vague and uncertain, that was a defect which the Amendment did not tend much to remedy. Considering the quarter whence that Amendment emanated, and the individuals by whom it was supported, he could not but think that the topics it omitted to notice were more important than those on which it expatiated. There were individuals on the other side of the House who were known to entertain opinions with respect to the maintenance or dissolution of the Union at variance with those of the great majority of the House. He should have thought, then, that those who proposed and supported the Amendment would have endeavoured to guard themselves against the possibility of being supposed to concur in the opinions entertained by those who aided and assisted them on the present occasion. The noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) had told them, that he was quite at a loss to imagine the causes which had led to the dissolution of the late Government, and he entirely concurred in the hope expressed by that noble Lord, that all the circumstances which led to their dismissal would sooner or later be made known. He confessed, however—knowing only what was known to the public generally—that he did not feel that utter ignorance of those causes which the noble Lord had avowed. Looking to the constitution of that Ministry, and to the sentiments known to be entertained by its members, he (Mr. Pemberton) could not help thinking, that that Ministry fell from internal disunion and weakness. He was very far from imputing it to any suicidal intention; but when he remembered the great and important topics on which a notorious difference of opinion existed among its members—when he remembered that on the important questions of the appropriation of Church property in Ireland, and the extension of the principles of the Reform Bill, by shortening the duration of Parliaments, and introducing the Vote by Ballot, they differed; that it was in the power of any individual among them to bring, and that one of their own supporters had brought, the most important of those very questions to the test, and thus occasioned the dissolution of 176 Lord Grey's Government; it seemed to him impossible to doubt that there was contained in that Cabinet a principle of dissolution, which sooner or later must have led to its breaking up. Independently of these considerations, when he recollected the severe losses Lord Grey's Government had sustained, and that Lord Althorp's removal to the House of Lords occasioned a vacancy in two most important offices—Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House—he could not much wonder that at the end—when there were not more than two or three of the original Members of Lord Grey's Government remaining—the Cabinet. should have fallen to pieces of itself. Of the Gentlemen who had succeeded to that Cabinet he would wish to speak with all possible respect, but he could not do so great a violence to his own feelings as to say, that he thought they possessed sufficient weight either with the House or the country to enable them to carry on the Government without assistance. He could not see from what quarter that assistance could have been sought, except from one where it could be obtained only by endangering, in his opinion, at least, the most valuable institutions of the country, and the integrity of the empire. With respect to the formation of the new Government, the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) had complained of the unconstitutional conduct of the Duke of Wellington in assuming all the offices of the State, and from the cheers with which the remark was received, he (Mr. Pemberton) presumed it was in accordance with the opinion of a large portion of the House. It seemed to him, that before they came to any conclusion on that point, they ought, in fairness, to take into consideration the peculiar circumstances in which his Grace was placed. There was one among many of those circumstances connected with the dismissal of the late Ministry, and the formation of the present, of which he thought some explanation was imperiously demanded. He believed that when the dismissal of the late Administration took place, there were not a few persons both in Parliament and the country, who would have been well satisfied to see the more moderate Members of that Government associated with some of their former Colleagues, and supported by the conservative party, so that the movement might have been arrested, 177 and a liberal, but, at the same time, Conservative Government, constituted. But was any opportunity allowed by the late Government for effecting that association of parties? Had Gentlemen forgotten the mode in which, after that dismissal had taken place, it was announced to the public. He should have thought, after Lord Melbourne had received his dismissal, that a feeling of delicacy towards his Sovereign, and a consideration of what was due to himself, to his colleagues, and to his country, would have required that some interval should have been allowed during which the King might have had an opportunity of consulting with the Duke of Wellington; and he himself, might have had an equal opportunity of advising with his colleagues as to the course which under the circumstances was proper to be pursued; and that some opportunity might have been afforded for providing for the public service, so as to have prevented that event of which the noble Mover of the Amendment had so loudly complained, and which he had been pleased to designate as an unconstitutional assumption of all the offices in the State by the Duke of Wellington. But if Gentlemen would refer to the public records of that time, they would find that it was on Friday night, the 14th of November last, that Lord Melbourne arrived in town after having received his dismissal, and that he bore with him a summons to the Duke of Wellington to attend his Majesty, and which summons was not received by the noble Duke at Strath-field say till Saturday morning, Lord Melbourne having summoned a Cabinet Council for twelve o'clock on that day, for the purpose, be presumed, to receive from the noble Viscount a communication of the dismissal of his Administration. Now, what took place in the interval? On Saturday morning before the King's summons could have reached the Duke, before the result of Lord Melbourne's interview with the King could be officially communicated to his colleagues, a manifesto was issued through the public papers, not only announcing to the public the dismissal of Ministers, but accompanying that announcement with two statements which were notoriously untrue. Both those statements were not only untrue, but extremely mischievous. One of those statements was, that the dismissal of Lord Melbourne's 178 Administration was owing to the Queen,—this was stated in so many words. The other statement was equally untrue, and in its tendency still more mischievous—namely, that the Duke of Wellington had already been to the King, clearly inferring that the Duke was a party to that dismissal. Now, the author of these statements must have been a Cabinet Minister, for to none others was the dismissal of the late Government at that time known, and being so, he must have known, that so far from the Duke of Wellington having been to the King, he had not even received the summons to attend his Majesty. After this, I think (continued the hon. and learned Gentleman), that it is not doing any great injustice to the individual who communicated the dismissal of Lord Mebourne's Ministry to the public, to attribute to him the comments which accompanied that announcement. Whoever chooses to refer to the columns of the Morning Chronicle of that morning, will find that there was not merely this announcement, accompanied by the two untrue statements which I have mentioned, but there was a long and elaborate article designed and calculated to inflame in the highest degree the feelings of the people and to embarrass the King in the formation of a Government. Every member of the late Government was denounced as a traitor who should join a comprehensive Administration, and an attempt was made by public clamour to force back the late Ministers into the Cabinet before the King could provide any successors. Now, it was under these circumstances that the Duke of Wellington was called upon to advise his Majesty. I rejoice in believing, from what I have since heard that this most indecent and improper proceeding was not adopted with the concurrence of Viscount Melbourne's Cabinet, but that, on the contrary, many Members Qf that Cabinet were actually ignorant of the fact of their dismissal till they read the statement in the newspapers. But, Sir, was it possible for the King to suppose that any individual Member of the Cabinet, especially of a Cabinet so unanimous, could have ventured upon such a step without the concurrence of his colleagues. In such circumstances, when his Majesty found that his late Ministers were, at least to all appearance, appealing to the people against his decision, was he alone to be prevented from making an appeal to the people in his turn, and desiring to know from them, 179 whether they wished that he should submit to this dictation? He sincerely believed that there was not one among the hon. Gentlemen whom he saw before him, of any shade or colour of opinion that would, if called upon under such circumstances, have given any other advice to the King than that which the Duke of Wellington had given; but of all men in England, was the Duke of Wellington bound to the country, by the strong ties of so many favours received from it, bound to the Crown by what, to a mind like his are the still stronger ties of so many and such signal services performed to it; was the Duke of Wellington to give that counsel to the King which the meanest man amongst them would have blushed to offer? He judged otherwise of his duty. He felt that the Prime Minister of a Conservative Government should be in the House of Commons when the great battle was to be fought. The absence of the only man capable of forming such a Government from England at the time prevented the immediate formation of such a Government. The conduct of the late Ministers made it impossible to leave the Seals of office in their hands. Under such circumstances, the Duke of Wellington did as the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) had stated, adopt an unprecedented course. He undertook and accomplished a task which, like most of his exploits, was without precedent or parallel in history. He did take upon himself all the offices of the State; he did take upon himself all the risk and all the labour, all the odium and all the responsibility,—everything but the patronage and the emoluments of office. He did accept the supreme power in the State; but for what purpose? Why, to hold it as a sacred deposit only until he could place it into those hands in which it was now intrusted. The noble Duke laid down that power at the earliest possible period; he laid it down as the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) had acknowledged, without a single complaint from a single quarter, of any interest, public or private, having suffered neglect or detriment while he held it. He laid it down without having, in a single instance, great or small, employed it to the advantage of himself, or to any one depending upon him. He laid it down, not as other men before him had done, for the purpose of retiring from the fatigues of public life, but in 180 order that he might tender himself to the service of the country in any situation in which his services could be useful, and he had, accordingly, accepted a subordinate office in the very Government which he himself had formed. And this was the despot—the usurper—the Mayor of the Palace, whom newspaper editors and mob-orators reviled, and insulted day after day, and week after week, as if they had forgotten to whom under Heaven it was owing that they had a free country left to agitate, or a free press to abuse. When he looked to the composition of the present Administration, he was ready to admit that several names were absent from the list which he would gladly have seen there. No man who respected integrity and honour in public and private life; no man who respected the lofty in station, and the still loftier in abilities; no man who was desirous of seeing in a Minister a regard for popular rights, and a love for liberal institutions, united with a firm attachment to the institutions of the country in Church and State, the old hereditary loyalty of the house of Derby, could fail to regret the absence of such a name from the present Administration, or could fail to wish that the distinguished individual who bore that name had felt himself at liberty to discharge that debt of service to his country, which the possession of such qualifications imposed upon him. But no complaint on that score could be cast upon his right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer.) There could be no impressment of men into the civil service of the State. It was notorious that the noble Lord was invited to join the Government, and it had never been suggested that there was anything either in the terms or mode in which that invitation was made, that was inconsistent with the high character of the individual who made, or the individual who refused it. He could not, however, but believe, that, in the present state of affairs, the Government of this country must rest for support more upon the character of its measures, than upon the Parliamentary talents of its Members; and he must be more an ardent than a wise lover of change who would be desirous of greater measures of reform than those which were held out to the country in his Majesty's gracious Speech. They would satisfy all who meant by Reform the 181 practical remedy of acknowledged abuses, and the practical improvement of erecting institutions, and who did not use the word as the war-cry of a party, or as a pick-lock to the Cabinet. It had been said, that it was impossible for any Administration, the Members of which were opposed to the Reform Bill, to desire or to effect good Government. He confessed himself then at a loss to understand this mode of reasoning. Surely the Reform Bill was desired and carried only as a means of good Government. He could not understand why Gentlemen, who differed as to the means, should not agree as to the end. There was no mystery in the Reform Bill, whch required the skill of the original projectors to write it, though Gentlemen argued as if it were a machine, to the use of which the inventors had a sort of patent right of monopoly. If there were any reason to suppose that the Reform Bill was in danger under the present Administration, one might well understand the jealousy that was felt upon the subject. But if there were any real danger to that great measure, it was notorious that the danger arose not from those who, having once opposed it, were contented, now that it was law, to adhere by it, but from those who, having once been its warmest friends, and having once insisted on the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill, now insisted upon anything but the Bill; and agitated questions merely speculative, the tendency of which, if obtained, would possibly be the very reverse of what was expected from them—he alluded to the Vote by Ballot, Triennial Parliaments, Household Suffrage, and he knew not how many other projects. Independently of the objection which he had stated to the argument, that none but its originators should carry out the Reform Bill, he thought that the present Administration possessed some advantages for carrying the Bill into effect beyond their predecessors. He was aware that there were some who thought it not an advantage, not a recommendation, but directly the reverse, that the present Government possessed in a greater degree than the last the confidence of the other branch of the Legislature. He knew that there were many who would consider it the strongest recommendation of any measure that it should produce that collision which should end in the destruction of that branch. He 182 would only add, that it was his most earnest wish, whoever was Minister, that we should at least have a permanent and settled Administration; a Government which would maintain undissolved and indissoluble the union of the empire; a Government which would maintain unimpaired the full enjoyment of all the constitutional privileges of King, Lords, and Commons; a Government which, while it carried on improvement with a firm and steady hand through the various Establishments, Civil and Ecclesiastical, in the country, would at the same time maintain order, and enforce the authority of the laws, without which order could not exist, nor could there be encouragement to industry or protection to prosperity. Strong as his own predilections were in favour of the right hon. Baronet, yet he could declare with great sincerity, that he would gladly give those predilections to the winds if he believed that, from any other quarter, an Administration could be formed which would secure the attainment of those important objects with greater efficiency. But feeling as he did, that the dissolution of the present Administration would be the signal for discord among the various elements composing the Opposition; fearing that such a change would only be the first of a series of changes, which would in all probability lead to confusion, he should cheerfully give his vote in favour of the original Address, because he believed that he should thereby give stability to the Administration, and inspire confidence in it throughout the country.
§ Mr. Ewart
most cordially agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just addressed the House, that it was impossible for any Government to continue long in power that would not conduct the public affairs in accordance with the principles of Reform; and he most sincerely united with him in thinking that the Government of this country must in future be open to men of all parties. But while he made this avowal, he most strenuously entered his declaration against the doctrine, that the furtherance and promotion of the great measure of Reform were to be intrusted to those very persons who, a few short months ago, were its most violent opponents. Those who should consider this as a sound and wholesome distrust, would stand vindicated with their constituents and the country for withholding their confidence from men 183 who so recently declared hostility to that Bil1 which they now seemed disposed to assume as the great charter of English liberty. He was much astonished that the hon. and learned Gentleman, himself a lawyer, should have so manifestly violated one doctrine of the British law, by having presumed a man to be guilty before he was tried. The hon. and learned Gentleman made that presumption against the Melbourne Administration. He said that it contained elements of difference, and that it was on that ground just and right to dissolve it. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also alluded to differences of opinion existing on the Opposition side of the House. But such differences were inseparable from all opposition; nor did he think that the present Ministry were the most harmonious Cabinet that ever existed, although that seemed to be a sine qua non with the hon. and learned Gentleman in the construction of an Opposition; for were not some of the Members of the present Cabinet formerly among the advocates of Ecclesiastical Reform, so far as the Church of Ireland was concerned; and so far, also, as the extension of political privileges to the Catholics of Ireland; while there were others among them as strongly opposed to those measures? The hon. and learned Gentleman, in imitation of his (Mr. Ewart's) noble colleague, (Lord Sandon) had thrown out certain expressions, by way of decoy to some of the Members of Earl Grey's Administration. He trusted that those noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen would not listen to the seducing language of his noble friend and colleague, nor to that of the hon. and learned Gentleman; but that they would turn a deaf ear to their voices, charm they never so discreetly. They knew them too well already:Sirenum voces et Circes pocula nâsti.They would at once decline the magic philtre with which his noble Friend and the hon. and learned Gentleman had endeavoured to entrap their senses. His noble colleague had stated, that the people were not to decide whom the Ministers of this country were to be. Now, he would appeal to the pages of the most elementary writers on the British Constitution, to Blackstone or Hallam, to say whether the ultimate decision of that question did, or did not, reside in the discretion of the 184 people? Yet this declaration of the noble Lord was at variance with another statement which he made—for the noble Lord asserted, that the prerogative of the King was only given for the good of the people. It had been said by his noble friend, that Lord Grey's Administration was opposed to all amendment of the Reform Bill. But it was utterly impossible to suppose that they would refuse such Amendments as would give greater consistency to its spirit. Such a supposition would contradict every day's experience even in the private Acts of this House; for it was known that in subsequent Sessions, other Bills were constantly introduced to alter and amend private Acts for the purpose of giving them their genuine and original application. It had been said, that it was impossible that the House could determine on Municipal Reform before the report of the Commissioners had been received. But the Ministers might at least have stated the principles of that Reform. The right hon. Baronet might have so far raised the veil of mystery, as to have told the House that he would give Municipal Reform on the principles of representation and of publicity, without which it was impossible that any Reform could subsist. It had also been stated, that the present Administration was entitled to confidence because it had adopted Earl Grey's measures for the relief of the Dissenters; that was a most unfortunate title to the confidence of the House; for if any one thing did a more decided injury to Earl Grey's Government than another, it was because the Bills brought in relating to the Dissenters were not adequate to effect their objects; for this irresistible reason—that they were not just. He lamented that his noble Colleague should have been reduced to the necessity of seeking for such an apology for the Speech from the Throne as he did. He stated, that many things were omitted which he had no doubt had been intended to be introduced, and that there was a kind of political elleipsis on this occasion which the House were bound to supply. But after the most favourable construction he (Mr. Ewart) could put upon the Speech, he thought the House could not extend to it so unusually charitable an interpretation. The right hon. Baronet, the Chancellor of the Exchequer) must be ultimately responsible for all that had been omitted. He would farther state, that in the dismissal of 185 Lord Melbourne's Ministry, and in the dissolution of the late Parliament, the right hon. Baronet had not, in his opinion, acted as a real friend to Monarchy. Such a course was calculated to call into action those elements of discord and agitation which were injurious to the Crown, and ought not to be sanctioned by any one who wished well to the established institutions of this country. His (Mr. Ewart's) noble colleague had stated, that opinions such as those which he had this evening uttered had been approved of by his constituents; at least that the result of their votes had been much in his favour. The noble Lord had unquestionably a majority; but it was only a majority of votes, not of public voices.
said, he must be reluctant to occupy the time of the House, when, to other considerations, he superadded the consciousness he felt that, though a sincere Reformer, he, on this occasion, differed from many of his constituents. He, however, claimed the indulgence of the House whilst he stated the grounds upon which he should vote for the Address. He did not mean to say, however, that he differed widely in opinion from the noble Lord who had proposed the Amendment. There were many parts of the Amendment which he would cordially support. Really, amongst many of his hon. friends near him there seemed to have arrived a sort of political millenium. He begged to say that circumstances altered cases. It certainly appeared to him that the political millenium had arrived—that the time had come when the lion and the lamb were lying down by each other. The question, which it appeared to him, best deserved the attention of the House was, what would be the consequence of rejecting the Address proposed? For his own part he could not blind himself to the consequences which must result from such a proceeding, if it were possible, as that of the dismissal of his Majesty's Ministers. Feeling, then, that such dismissal in the present state of parties would be injurious to the country, he came forward, in spite of obloquy and censure, to say why it would be injurious, and why it was, he would support the Address. He had said, that circumstances altered cases, and though the expression of this sentiment excited a smile on the part of hon. Gen-*See Appendix.186 tlemen near him, he could not help recollecting that many of them had, on previous occasions, been opposed to each other in political hostility. He did not mean to censure them for now going on in harmonious concord, but he did mean to say, that he was attached to no party but that which might best conduce to the safety and happiness of the country. In respect to his Majesty's Ministers, no man would say, that they were not men of integrity; no man could impugn their honour; and he would say, that no man, looking to the altered circumstances of the case, would forget the fact that there was a tendency in men always to look to their own individual interests. Did hon. Gentlemen mean to say, that they did not take an enlightened view of the matter? They could not mean this. Then, he claimed for his Majesty's Ministers the consideration that, being actuated by a view to their own interests, they would promote measures of Reform. Before the Reform Bill was passed into a law, it was manifestly the interest of the King's Ministers of the day, whether Whig or Tory, to consult the holders of boroughs, whereas now they must consult the opinions of the constituencies; and he did really believe that hon. Gentlemen on the other side would no longer take a narrow view in reference to their own interests, but would look to the public interest in the measures which they would bring forward. What he meant to establish was, that they would be obliged to maintain the great public interests, and no Ministry could do otherwise, except, indeed, a Whig Ministry, who, in the manufacturing of the Reform Bill, gave the preponderance of power to their own friends. No party except a Whig could be insensible to the feelings, the views, and the wishes of the majority of the House. The Whig party, indeed, they had seen dared not (he used the term respectfully) look at the feelings and wishes of the country, and they who sat upon the Opposition benches had alienated from them the opinions of the House and of the country. They had, indeed, succeeded in raising that sympathy which mankind feel for each other under certain circumstances. It was certain that they had brought upon themselves the dislike of the people. What were they to expect from his Majesty's Ministers, placed in the circumstances in which they were? He addressed himself to real Reformers 187 —not pseudo Reformers,—who talked of Reform, but who, with a sort of Janus face, turned first on one side and then on the other. That patty who had talked against Reform, now spoke in favour of all Reforms, and made the word a trading article. He would ask, whether many of their measures which had been introduced had not been met by opposition from the Whigs? Were not the measures of men who were sincere in the cause thwarted? He would ask the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Lambeth, (Mr. Tennyson,) what had become of his Motion for shortening the duration of Parliaments? He would ask the hon. Member for London, in what way his Motion for the Vote by Ballot had been met? Again, he would ask, how the Member for Southwark had been received when he brought forward his Motion fur an inquiry into the Pension List? Were there not amongst hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, many who were now so loud in their protestations, who, upon the occasion to which he referred, opposed those Motions most strenuously? True, they had now joined the ranks of the Member for Southwark; but perhaps it was done from a desire to occupy the places of the Reformers. Looking to the altered circumstances of the case, he did not place much confidence in the Whigs, as he believed the same results would arise if they were again placed in power. He referred to the talents and integrity which characterised the right hon. Baronet, and observed, that, whatever faults had been ascribed to the Tories, they had never shown a double face. He would ask, whether it might not be expected, that having the Aristocracy with him, but not the House of Commons to such a degree as his predecessors had, the right hon. Gentleman would not find it his interest to conciliate the favour of the Reformers of that House, and thus enable himself to carry out all those measures of Reform which were necessary? At least that was his view, and on this account he would rather the present persons should remain in office as his Majesty's Ministers; and he would much rather have the Whigs to act in opposition. That seemed their proper place. It was in human nature to be actuated by views of its own interest—men must look to their interest, and it 188 must be the interest of the Government to grant every safe and practicable Reform. If a Whig party should come into power again, they would be weak with the Crown and with the constituency; and would, therefore, be found currying favour with the Aristocracy, and bearding the House of Commons. He would ask the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, whether he had not called the measures of the Whigs "wicked and bloody measures?"—and if the hon. and learned Member had so called the measures of the Whigs, was it possible, he would further ask, to forget such language? Had he not heard the hon. Member for Middlesex say, that he would even rather see those who now formed the Government in power? What motive could have induced him to say this, but the consciousness that the Whigs were not acting consistently with the views of the people, and that the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) would be consistent in his measures, and give such as were safe and serviceable; not at one time talking of Reformers in the highest terms, and then denouncing them as Revolutionists. He would wish to ask what must be the consequence of rejecting the Address and adopting the Amendment? He took it for granted that they could expect nothing else than that his Majesty's Government would immediately give in their resignations. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to applaud this sentiment; but he would beg to ask, of what materials were they to form a better Administration? Would they get an unmixed Whig Government? He had known what that was, and he knew that it had lost the confidence of the country. He would ask whether they were to have a union of Whigs with those who were denominated Radicals? He could imagine nothing more disorderly. What could it be compared to but chaos?Frigida pugnabant calidis, humentia siccis, Mollia cum duris, sine pondere habentia pondus.And who was to be the leader of such a party?—But such a person could only rule for a moment. There would be a constant clashing where a good object was to be effected, although they were in harmonious concord on this occasion. His conscientious conviction was, that the dismissal of the present Ministry would entail a signal calamity upon the country, 189 and he should not think himself worthy of a seat in that House if he did not state this broadly. He had been a Reformer for twenty-five years, and because he would not agree to an attempt to turn out the Ministry for party purposes, he was not to be branded with being an opponent of Reform. He wished for Reform, but such Reform as should promote the happiness of the country, and not a revolution. He wished not to compromise the safety of life, and the security of property. As far, however, as all Reforms went which were necessary to the well-being and happiness of the country, he yielded to no individual.
§ Mr. Grote
said, that be, like the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, ever was a sincere Reformer, but his Reform principles conducted him to very different conclusions from those arrived at by the hon. Member, and inspired him with different remarks from those which he had made. He could not consent, Reformer as he was, to look for a Ministry in the ranks of those who were and ever had been much more opposed to Reform than any other party of their day. He could not agree with the hon. Gentleman, that carrying the Amendment would compel the removal of the present Ministers. But having often expressed regret at the dismissal of Lord Melbourne's Administration, and having throughout a large constituency, met with an uniformity of sympathy with that feeling, he could not refrain from expressing it in this House, and from adding (without meaning any discourtesy), that if his vote would have the effect of removing the present Government, he should consider it an additional reason for giving it. The hon. Member for Knaresborough had commented with some severity on the conduct of Lord Grey's Government in regard to the Motion made by himself (Mr. Grote), as well as in regard to measures brought forward by other hon. Members. Whatever might be said as to the slowness of the Reforms made by Lord Grey's Administration, against that of Lord Melbourne, nothing could be said. For how much or how little good might be contemplated by Lord Melbourne's Administration could never have been known, since they had been denied that fair trial for which the advocates of the present Government were now so clamorous. They had the evidence on all sides of the 190 great political excitement which late events had created; and he thought it would not be fair to the country if no notice were taken of the events which then brought them together. It would not be fair if they did not allay the excitement by assuring the country that the cause of Reform should not suffer by the late changes in his Majesty's Councils. The Amendment went to this. It complained that the Melbourne Administration, which had the confidence of the country and contemplated several Reforms, had been dismissed, and that, therefore, the country was likely to be disappointed of those improvements which were so ardently desired. The second reformed Parliament. should certainly, and he hoped would, go at least as far in its desire for Reform as the first reformed Parliament. The Speech delivered to-day, if it had come from a Ministry in which he (Mr. Grote) had the fullest confidence, would not give him satisfaction; but coming as it did from a Ministry in which he had no confidence at all, was still more objectionable. Its defects really needed to be supplied by an Amendment at least as full and as strong as that proposed by the noble Lord, and he had no hesitation in saying, that he himself should be inclined to make the Amendment fuller and stronger. He did not know what the hon. Member for Knaresborough meant by saying, that he was sure the present Ministers would follow up Reform, but he knew that all their past acts and declarations had been quite contrary to such an idea; and these were acts and declarations not here or there, not on one particular question or another, but apparent in all they did, and forming a part of their system of management. He could not forget their acts previous to the year 1830, or their feelings and conduct when the Government of the Duke of Wellington was upset by the voice of the people. Had anything happened since which gave evidence of their having become converts to Reform? How could he believe, that they had become Reformers when he remembered their opposition to the Reform Bill, and to every other measure of Reform which was ever mooted? Believing, then, that they would still continue to act on the same principles upon which they had hitherto acted, he could not give them his support upon this occasion; and it would not prevent him 191 giving his vote for the Amendment that he had been told by the hon. Member for Knaresborough, that a defeat upon this question would lead to the resignation of Ministers. He could not but feel surprised at the line of argument pursued by the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, in comparing Earl Grey's Administration to the present Government. In his opinion the Government of Lord Grey was never equalled by any Government which preceded it. It was the first Administration which openly approved of and acted upon the principle of Reform. It was the first Government which looked into our institutions for the purpose of improving them, and never touched them but it left them better than it found them. If in the years 1833 and 1834 Lord Grey's Government did not act quite up to the wishes of some Reformers (and he confessed their acts did not always come up to his wishes), still it should be recollected that they were the best Ministers the country had ever had; and, though they did not do everything that could be wished, still they ought not to be lightly rejected, nor ought Reformers because they could not get everything they wished, throw themselves at once into the arms of the worst enemies of Reform. However slow the Reform might be under such a Government, it would be gradually advancing, and would never stand still, and slowness was better than restiveness. The noble Lord who moved the adoption of the Address had been pleased to make several remarks as to the ardent spirits now abroad, and the restless and morbid desire of change which existed among the people. He, for his part, was in daily intercourse with a large portion of the numerous constituency which he had the honour to represent, as well as with other men throughout the country, and he could not discover any such morbid desire for change among the people. But though there was no morbid desire for change, he acknowledged that he found a very strong wish for the improvement of the institutions of the country to exist among them. There was no wish, however, to get rid of the valuable parts of our institutions. There was nothing in the wishes of the people which menaced the stability of our social order. There was nothing inconsistent with the continuance of all parts of the law, and all the restraints which the good government 192 of the community required. Whoever asserted the contrary was guilty of calumny upon the body of the people. In spite of all the taunts thrown out by the hon. Members, who spoke on the other side of the House, as to the want of unanimity among the Members upon this side, hon. Members would find that they had a little more sense and reflection than they obtained credit for, and that they could pursue the stream of Reform peaceably and calmly, without even allowing the impediments they might meet in their course, to force them out of the accustomed channel, or to make them fret and foam with vexation. That it would be the fate of Reformers to meet with obstructions while the present Ministry remained in power, he believed, and to lessen them he would vote in favour of the Amendment. He could not but think that those who introduced the name of the Monarch into a discussion of this nature, and who, when they were asked to defend the dismissal of a Ministry which had the confidence of the Parliament and of the country, answered by a reference to the King's prerogative, acted injudiciously; and, indeed, a measure which required to be defended upon such a ground must be injudicious. Of this, at all events, he was sure, that if all changes in the King's Ministers were to be answered by referring to the prerogative of the King, the prerogative itself would soon come to be questioned. He would, in conclusion, again say, that he would give his vote and cordial support to the Amendment; and if it led to the event predicted by the hon. Member for Knaresborough, it would be one of the most useful Amendments ever made.
Mr. Milnes Gaskell
expressed his intention of supporting the Address. He felt that this was an occasion upon which no man, however humble his abilities, had a right to shrink from the avowal of his opinion. He felt too, that he should not be doing justice to the constituency which had sent him to that House; and which, though not so numerous, was as independent and respectable as that of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Grote), any more than to his own feelings and opinions, if he did not protest in their name as well as in his own against the tone and spirit of the opposition to which his Majesty's Ministers had been subjected. He could nut believe that this 193 Amendment would be successful—but if did not, what became of the recorded it was—and if it was to be followed by resolutions still more strongly expressive of a want of confidence in the Government, he asked, again and again, to what was all this to come? What did the Gentlemen opposite intend to be its result? Was it to lead to the return to office of the late Administration? if so, by whom would it he supported? Not by the Gentlemen upon his side of the House, and by a very small proportion of the Gentlemen upon that, unless it included names for which the people of England were not yet prepared, and gave its sanction to projects which his noble Friend, the Member for Yorkshire, at least, deemed to be incompatible with the existence of the Monarchy. It had been said, that the late Government was dismissed without that fair trial which the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had demanded. Now he must venture to think that the fact was not so. The late Government had been tried; it had been tried upon the Irish Tithe Bill, and on the Coercion Bill, and in the issue of its Church Commission; and by the very circumstance of its having been so tried, a satisfactory reason had been furnished to the country for its dismissal. The country too would recollect that this very Government, for which a fair trial was so loudly claimed by the Gentlemen opposite, had been pronounced to be totally undeserving of public confidence by many of those who now surrounded them; and it he (Mr. Gaskell) remembered rightly, this impression was so strong upon the mind of one very distinguished Member of the Opposition, the member for Southwark, (Mr. D. W. Harvey), that he expressed his conviction to the House that if any serious misunderstanding should arise among the Members of the late Ministry, the people of England would derive consolation from the same source that the master-tailors did during the strike of their journeymen, for that old women could conduct the Government with as much credit, and as much success. What prospect of unanimity was afforded by such a coalition as this? The Members of the old Government must oppose the Member for London, when he came down with his proposition for the Ballot, and the Member for Lambeth, when he proposed a recurrence to Short Parliaments; but if they did, of whom would their party consist? And if they 194 did not, what became of the recorded opinions of the Whigs, and of their declarations in 1831—that the Reform Bill was to be a final measure, till large docks sprang up in the Hebrides, and large towns in the wilds of Galway? He had no doubt the Government of Lord Grey intended the Reform Bill to be a final measure, but a party had sprung up in that House which they had no power to control, and they must either withhold their support from that party, and follow the manly course which had been pursued by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire (Stanley), or they must depend mainly upon their assistance, and swallow the bitter pill of a virtual coalition. He should vote against this Amendment; in the first place, because he thought it most unjust as well as most unusual to interfere in the ordinary course of the Administration before any proof had been given of its abuse; in the second place, because he would not consent to impair the just prerogatives of the King, by fettering him in the free choice of his confidential advisers; and, in the third place, because he, for one, was prepared to mark the choice which his Majesty had made with his deliberate and unqualified approbation.
§ Mr. Poulter
said: Without the slightest personal hostility to the present Administration, and without even a personal acquaintance with the Members of the last, I am at a loss to understand how the carrying into effect just measures of improvement can be safely intrusted to those who have invariably declared themselves the stern and conscientious enemies of Reform. I question not the prerogative of the Crown—I question not the perfect right of the King, though he must confer with his recognized advisers upon public questions to ascertain directly or indirectly the sentiments of others, or even, in an anticipated event, to act accordingly to these sentiments. To refuse this would be to deny to the King of England a right of intercourse which belongs to every private individual in the kingdom. I admit the excellence of intention; I doubt nothing but the political wisdom, of what has taken place. To continue Governments which are acting inconsistently, the individual Members of which are strongly at variance with each other upon great national questions, and to select, as a good opportunity for the most abrupt dismissal of which there is any 195 record, the precise moment when inconsistency had ceased, and when a united Administration was preparing to submit to Parliament and the country the measures which, to them, appeared essential to the improvement of our institutions, does seem to me most extraordinary indeed. I can only judge of the probable benefits to be received by the country from its present Ministry, by recollections of the past; I cannot blot out from my memory the language used since the passing of the Reform Bill, that it was an act which had thrown down the great barrier against the predominance of mere physical force. If this be true, it ought to be repealed. Every Commission which has been issued to procure that specific information which is so necessary to precede important legislative changes, has been stigmatized as unconstitutional and arbitrary, and compared with the acts of despotic Sovereigns, and the jurisdiction of the Star Chamber; and, as such, worthy only to be resisted. Every proposition flowing from the Reform Bill has met with the same reception. The admission of Dissenters to the Universities, which many enlightened and good men warmly supported, was most powerfully resisted here, and defeated elsewhere. The same ultimate fate attended the Bill for the settlement of the tithe question of Ireland upon a fair and equitable basis. This has been our experience; this is the key which is to unlock the prospects of futurity, and from which alone we can form the remotest idea of the probable conduct of the existing Administration. Looking then to past conduct, I must ask, are the Ministers the men most likely to acknowledge that a man whose single vote may be the means of returning two Members to this House, ought to have some concern in the municipal government of the city or town in which he lives. Are these the men who are to see, under the influence of a new light, the vast benefits likely to be conferred on religion by a commutation of tithes—by a just law of pluralities—by a deliberate and wise revision of the whole temporal condition and state of the Archbishops and Bishops of this country—by putting an end to translations, commendams, and the difference between a good and a bad bishopric—and by the application, so long as the present state of religious opinion may continue, of the Ecclesiastical sinecures of Ireland to 196 some great national purpose? But if the present Ministers were to do all that they promise, is it not an irresistible suspicion that everything these great Reformers propose will spring, not from any great principle of Reform, but merely from the possession of office? I ask that question, because, during the two years that I have had the honour of having a seat in Parliament, I have never heard one word from them from which I can draw any such principle. What a glorious opportunity the Bishops had of reforming themselves. Though they threw out the Bill for the admission of Dissenters to the Universities; still they might have said that they would agree to the largest Ecclesiastical reformation. What ease it would have given to the late Ministry if they had had the assistance of these concessions. What an immense assistance to the House and the country if they had had the assistance of such valuable friends. But suppose they granted these Reforms, is it not reasonable to imagine, if these new Reformers are allowed to get warm in their seats, that some atonement will have to be made—that some sacrifice will be required to the offended spirit of the old system. It is no party feeling that makes me say this, but a real conviction of the probable result. I do not mean to compare the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Robert Peel) to the prince of darkness; but I cannot help reminding the House of an old couplet—The devil was sick, the devil a saint would be; The devil got well, the devil a saint was he.I will forget for a moment the particular concerns and interests of this country, awl will look abroad: I ask upon what foundation our hopes are to be built, that the spirit of our foreign policy will be such as to secure the sympathy and affections of England to the new Representative Governments scarcely formed in the west of Europe? I say, that we have no better hope than that which is to be derived from the proposed recognition of the usurper Don Miguel, if he would but have published an amnesty—from the precious legal argument on the Dutch embargo—from a constant antipathy, expressed over and over again, in all times and places, to those who were struggling for the possession of representative institutions, and from as constant a leaning to the side of the military despotisms of the Continent. This Administration has nothing to offer but sorrow and despair to the free States 197 of the European community; or to such as, at no very distant period, are destined to become so. The very advent of such an Administration, without a single act done—without a single word uttered—announces to the nations of the earth, that the great moral and constitutional example of their admired England, was withdrawn from them for ever.Hujus in adventu jam rune et Caspia regna Responsis horrent Divûm, et Mæotica tellus Et septemgemnii turbant trepidi ostia Nili.There is a great issue now pending between two large classes of men, of equal respectability in the country, of equal attachment to its institutions, and which has not yet been tried; it is this, whether the spirit of the Reform Bill, may not be fully applied to our establishments, not only without injury to them, but with the most beneficial effects. I recognize no other principles in all Reforms of the Church, either of England or Ireland, than religion and revelation; I follow no other monitor than truth, and reason, which is the minister of truth. It is a truly singular feature in the present crisis of public affairs, that a large portion of the most distinguished persons in this kingdom are strongly opposed to that system and course of public measures, of which others equally honourable and good, feel themselves bound to be the warmest and the firmest supporters. I can only attribute this unfortunate state of things to the fear of imaginary dangers, which the ultimate issue of these events will prove to have been without foundation. Without waiting for the event, it might have been foreseen à priori that the age which would be most remarkable for the spirit of just improvement would also be remarkable for some extravagant speculations. When the human mind is excited, it is difficult, in all instances to keep it within due bounds. It is a curse incident to the most beneficial changes, that such changes will be supported and advocated by those who in every large and populous community are always to be found, the unprincipled and desperate; I will not be deterred by such considerations—I will put myself upon the intelligent portion of a reflecting people.—I will go forward boldly—we are far, very far, indeed, from the utmost limits and end of human improvement, whose centre is everywhere, and whose circumference recedes 198 indefinitely as mankind advances. If this leads to destruction, I will take my share of the punishment—if it leads to prosperity, I will claim my share of the result; I support these principles in that temper and spirit in which I shall wish to be in, in the last moments of my life.
§ Mr. Arthur Trevor
looked upon the Amendment as not founded upon public principles, but intended to drive from his Majesty's Councils those who had been called thereto, and on that ground he felt himself bound to oppose it ["No, no!"]. Hon. Gentlemen might say "No," but he insisted that it was so, and to act upon such a motive was not only contrary to sound sense but in opposition to every principle of justice. Was it just, he would ask, to refuse a fair trial to a Ministry who had arrived at power by no unworthy means? What circumstance had been adduced to show, that they had attained to office by any base or underhand intrigue? Could any one have the hardihood to say, that if his Majesty discovered internal dissensions in his late Ministry, he was not warranted in dismissing them; and having so dismissed them, and having thought fit, upon their dissensions, to call others to his Councils—men who only took office because of the discrepancy which drove others from it—was it fair to attempt to drive an united Administration from their seats at every hazard? If such would be the result he was very much deceived in his estimate of that House. The Speech from the Throne was characterised by sound sense and justice, and the positions which it laid down were such as the circumstances of the times required. He confessed he looked with alarm upon the present design, but not as one attached to any party in that House, for he came into it independent and unshackled, and prepared to vote as his conscience should dictate. He should be ashamed to act in that House as a party man, and without intending any offence he could not help saying, that he looked upon the conduct of the Gentlemen opposite not as arising out of a desire for the removal of existing abuses, but as intended to drive from the Ministerial benches their present possessors. Admitting that they were likely to succeed in their object, who was prepared to assume the reins of Government? Would the late Ministry undertake the task? It had been stated by the hon. Member for Middlesex, in a discussion which took 199 place in the last Parliament, that the late Administration owed the greatest part of its support to the right hon. Baronet and those who acted with him. Would the right hon. Baronet and his friends support the late Administration should they be again recalled? For himself he had little doubt that the present. Administration, if they proved true to the principles put forward in the Speech from the Throne, and pursued a straight forward course, would hour by hour, and, day by day, grow stronger and stronger in the good opinions and sound sense of the country. They would be supported by the shipping and agricultural interests, who looked with despair to the course pursued by their predecessors, and who were beginning to hope for brighter prospects through the accession of the right hon. Baronet. He had to apologize for trespassing on the time of the House; but he looked upon the present as a crisis when it was the duty of every man, however inferior in talent or humble in position, to declare his opinions. He was no blind follower of any party; his intention was to support measures not men. He came into the House unpledged. He came to watch its proceedings, and act as his conviction prompted him, and he therefore felt it his duty to support the Address, because, in doing so he resisted a factious opposition. Under these circumstances, and without pledging himself to continue his support to the Ministry, he gave his most unqualified approbation to the Address. If the Speech was acted up to he confessed he was at a loss to know how hon. Members could do otherwise than, in a spirit of fair play, accord an honest and impartial trial to his Majesty's present Government.
said, that it was quite time to get rid of the late Ministry, when they had been for two years the laughing-stock of the country. He said this without any political bias, for he maintained that lie was no party man. He could not forget the language which had been used by a lawyer and a judge in an address to his constituents—he alluded to the language used by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets. If the people of England, and even the constituents of that hon. and learned Gentleman, were not disgusted with the expressions then used, he must be much mistaken. Where was the respect which that hon. and learned Gentleman owed to 200 his Sovereign, whose money he was receiving? He (Colonel Sibthorpe) would fearlessly assert that the hon. and learned Member should have shown very different feeling towards illustrious persons who were not present to defend themselves. In his opinion the language of the hon. and learned Gentleman was neither becoming nor decent. He was not surprised at the language used by the hon. Member for Middlesex on several occasions with respect to the present Ministers, when he recollected that that hon. Gentleman had stated that he would vote black was white to keep their predecessors in office. It had been suited that the elections had gone against the present Ministers; but he knew that in his part of the country several of the supporters of the late Administration had lost their seats. He would not allude to his own case; but he would ask where was his old friend Sir William Ingilby. He was no longer in the House;—that staunch Reformer had lost his seat for his native county, and had been succeeded by a supporter of the present Government. He trusted that this would be a lesson to other staunch Reformers not to vote against the present Address, lest they risked their seats. On the present occasion, he thought common justice demanded that they should give what the right hon. Baronet demanded—namely, a fair trial. In conclusion, he (Colonel Sibthorpe) would only observe, that he was prepared to oppose all measures of Reform which were calculated to lead to the subversion of the Constitution. He was determined to fight to the last for the institutions of the country; and as long as the right hon. Baronet and his colleagues brought forward constitutional measures, they should have his warm and cordial support.
§ Mr. Clay
thought, that if one duty was more incumbent than another on the Members of the House, it was this, that now upon the first occasion that presented itself of expressing, their collective opinions, they should declare their sentiments so explicitly that the people of England could have no doubt as to the course they intended to pursue. The people watched their proceedings with the greatest anxiety—disappointed in their expectations or support—when they had reposed an unlimited confidence, they turned to their Representatives with increased anxiety, and looked to the steady devotion of that 201 House to their interests as the only security that the Government of the country should be conducted on those principles which were recognised by the great measure of Parliamentary Reform. With these feelings, he did not hesitate to press the Amendment of the noble Member for Yorkshire to the Address that had been proposed by the noble Member for Liverpool, not only because the Amendment was more clear and definite in its language, but that it supplied some remarkable omissions in the Address; it was also more stringent in its allusions to Reform, and it expressed the wishes of the people, as to the principles on which the Government of the country should be conducted. His Majesty in his Speech, had been pleased to allude to certain Reforms which it was intended to propose, but the words in which his Majesty had been recommended to convey his gracious intentions on this head, were too vague to satisfy the just expectations of the people. It, therefore, became the more urgently their duty to show by what principles they were actuated, and that they were determined to apply to the work of Reform with energy and good faith; that, whatever other changes might take place, they would remain the same, convinced alike of the justice and necessity of sound and well-considered, but progressive Reform. These considerations would suffice to induce him to prefer the Amendment to the Address; but he had a yet stronger motive for the preference; this was not the time for any ambiguity in the expression of opinions, and he thought that it was the duty of the House to vote for the Amendment; as, by so doing, the House would express respectfully, but significantly, to his Majesty the extreme disappointment they experienced at the recent exercise of the prerogative of the Crown, in changing its responsible advisers, and in the subsequent dissolution of Parliament. It was their duty to make their sentiments known to the Crown on this subject; and he thought that it would be done in an appropriate and respectful manner by adopting the Amendment. It was his (Mr. Clay's) deliberate opinion, that the recent proceeding, to which allusion had been made, was one of the most unwise and unjustifiable exercises of the prerogative of the Crown that had occurred since the Constitution of the country had assumed its present 202 form, by the Revolution of 1688. In its essence the late exercise of the prerogative was opposed to the spirit of the Constitution, and by its attendant circumstances amounted to a manifestation of contempt for the feelings and wishes of the people of England. If there was one maxim more clear than another as prevailing in our history—if one principle more than another obtained in our Constitution, it was, that the exercise of the undoubted prerogative of the Crown—the choice of its responsible advisers—should always be exercised with reference to obtaining the confidence of the people, such confidence being evidenced by the voice of the majority of the Representatives. What were the circumstances that attended the dissolution of the late Cabinet? Would it be denied by any Gentleman opposite that the Melbourne Cabinet enjoyed a large share of the confidence of the House of Commons? Would any Gentleman deny that the late House of Commons was dismissed because it placed confidence in the late Administration? Treatment so uncourteous no previous House of Commons had experienced from a Prince of the House of Brunswick. And upon what House of Commons, he would ask, was this experiment made? Was it a House containing a number of nominees of Peers and other persons? Was it an assemblage composed of the Representatives of rotten boroughs or corrupt constituencies? Was it a Parliament possessing little of the confidence of the people of this country? On the contrary, it was a House more truly representing the interests and hopes of all classes in the community, and enjoying a greater share of public confidence, than any House of Commons which had existed in this country for the last 200 years, or, perhaps, had ever assembled in this country. But was the dismissal of Ministers enjoying the confidence of such a House of Commons all?—by whom were they succeeded?—by men who had distinguished themselves by their unwearied exertions in opposition to that measure, which the people of England sought after with more earnestness than they did any other measure that had ever been submitted to the Legislature of the country, and which, when they obtained, they regarded as the second charter of their liberties? The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), in his address to his con- 203 stituents, asked, whether himself and colleagues were to be considered as lying under a "moral disqualification" for taking office? He (Mr. Clay) answered distinctly in the affirmative. There was no moral disqualification greater than to have been the defenders of Gatton and Old Sarum. He meant to say nothing personally offensive to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues; and he believed that he had abstained from doing so out of the House as well as within its walls; but their opposition to Reform was too recent to enable them now to serve the Crown effectively. He repeated, that they did not possess the confidence of the people of England to an extent to enable them to be effective Ministers of the Crown. He would say more; it was almost an insult to the people, who demanded a restitution of rights too long withheld, to offer to them as Ministers the very men by whom that restitution had been so pertinaciously resisted. ft had been urged by the noble Lord who proposed the Address, that the time had come when it was a matter of necessity, that the right hon. Baronet and his colleagues should take office. He (Mr. Clay) denied the validity of such a plea, and contended, that the appointment of the present Ministry was both unwise and unnecessary. He knew that it had been urged in another place, that such divisions existed in the Melbourne Cabinet, that it was likely to encounter constant defeats in Parliament even if it could hang together until the period of meeting. He did not know of the existence of any such divisions; and it was sufficient to lead him greatly to doubt the truth of that assertion, to know that the Members of the late Cabinet did not resign, but were dismissed. The House had been told, that they would be defeated in the measures which they brought forward; but did the right hon. Gentlemen who were sitting on the opposite benches believe that they would have an easier task than their predecessors in office, in bringing forward measures which would meet with the approbation of the House? It was the general belief of the majority, both in and out of the House, that the Members of the Melbourne Cabinet were sincere Reformers, and the people were therefore disposed to make some allowances for them, if they did not proceed so rapidly as could be wished. It had been stated, 204 that the late Cabinet, after the various changes it had undergone, and after its numerous re-constructions, had lost its efficiency, and did not continue to possess the public confidence. He (Mr. Clay) denied that this was the case. This circumstance had been alluded to by various hon. Members; but he was of opinion, that so far from the changes which had been alluded to having diminished the confidence of the public in the late Administration, it had had a contrary effect, and this opinion had been confirmed by a recent avowal of opinions in that House by a noble Lord. He believed that only one opinion prevailed throughout the country as to the late change in the Administration—namely, that the Ministers had been dismissed because they were determined to bring forward an efficient measure of Reform on a great vital question—on a question on which the late Ministry and the House of Commons were agreed in opinion. He was really tempted to ask, did they still retain their old form of Government—did they live under the Monarchy of England, in which the Crown could only act by responsible advisers, who were answerable for their conduct to the Representatives of the people? or were they in the same circumstances as the people of some neighbouring countries? where the Government was conducted by pulling the wires of a set of ministerial puppets. He need not say, that an attempt to establish such a state of things in this country would not be endured by the people of England, or their Representatives in the House of Commons. But, perhaps Ministers were disposed to get rid of so troublesome an appendage to Government—perhaps they intended again to risk a dissolution, and it was possible, after two or three experiments of this kind, three was the number of experiments for which there was a precedent, that they might attempt to get rid of the House of Commons altogether. Such, at least, was the result to which the recent most unhappy course of policy inevitably tended. When he recollected that the late Ministry was dismissed untried, and before any instance of malversation had been brought against them, and before any reason had been assigned which could justify the withdrawing the confidence of the Crown; and also, when he remembered that the late House of Commons was dismissed for no other crime than placing confidence in the late 205 Administration; he could not help feeling, that the prerogative of the Crown had been exercised in a manner dangerous alike to the interests of the Crown and the people, and which they could not at too early a period stamp with the decided expression of the disapprobation of the House; but, in addition to the taint which attached to the Cabinet of the right hon. Baronet, from the circumstances of its origin, its elements were of such a nature as to justify the withholding the confidence of the House. The only ground now urged for placing such confidence was, that the right hon. Baronet had altered his opinions. He now came forward and asked for a fair trial, as if he was new to them and untried. The right hon. Baronet then would sink his brilliant career—he would wish them to forget the prominent station which he had filled in that House in past days, and was anxious that they should look to him as to a man who was untried; he was not willing to recur to the past as a security for the future, but he desired that they would refer to his future conduct for what was to merit the confidence of the people. If, however, the right hon. Baronet was willing to forget his past conduct, let him not suppose that the House of Commons would follow his example. It would be most unfair not to judge of the future by the past, and to form an estimate of what he was likely to do from what he had already done. There was an impassable gulf between the right hon. Baronet and the advocates of Reform; and whatever course he might promise to pursue, after what had occurred, it was impossible, that they could expect measures of adequate and efficient Reform from him. It had been stated, that the time had arrived to make a stand. He (Mr. Clay) would give the party opposite some credit for making a stand, if they had ever shown a disposition to do more. They had been for nearly seventy years, with little intermission, in the possession of power, and they had ever been making what they called stands, and it was really difficult to say which of their stands was the most disastrous for their country. Their first stand was to tax the American Colonies; their next stand was to interfere in the internal Government of France. In more recent times they made a stand against the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts; then against Catholic Emancipation; and their greatest stand of all 206 was against the Reform Bill. They now believed that they were in a situation to make a new stand; and however the subject might be misrepresented and disguised, it was against the Reform of the sinecure Church of Ireland, that they were now to make another mischievous stand. He asked the House, whether this incessant disposition to make stands did not savour less of statesman-like prudence than of a blind and unreasoning instinct of opposition to all which wore the appearance of an enlargement of popular rights? He need hardly add, that to such men as he had alluded to, he was determined to give a sincere and open, but, at the same time, an uncompromising opposition. The party with whom he acted had been taunted with being actuated by factious motives by Gentlemen opposite. No man had hitherto kept more aloof from party than himself, but these were circumstances under which Members of that House could in no way render such good services to their Constituents or their country as by combining to render impossible the tenure of office by those to whom power could not be safely or beneficially intrusted. Complaints had been made of a combination of all parties against the present Ministry; but did they recollect the combination that had been formed against the Administration of Lord North? All the distinguished men of that time joined in opposition to that Administration; and happy would it have been for the country if the warnings of Burke, and Fox, and Pitt, had then been attended to. He (Mr. Clay) conscientiously believed, that the reasons were as cogent to remove the present Ministry from office, as they were to get rid of the Government of Lord North. At present, they had more to look to than time loss of extended empire—they risked, by the continuance of the present Ministry in office, the severance from the Crown of the affections of the people—which the present Sovereign had possessed in a stronger degree than any of his illustrious predecessors. As the representative of a large borough he felt called upon to declare his opinions on the present occasion, and he had no hesitation in saying, that the large body of intelligent voters which he represented were almost unanimous in their feelings against the present Government.
§ Mr. Cressett Pelham
intended to vote for the Address, as he thought that it was 207 a delicate and dangerous thing to interfere with the prerogative of the Crown. He considered it to be just as much a part of the prerogative to dissolve the Parliament as to dismiss the Ministers.
§ Sir Samuel Whalley
remarked, that it was singular the noble Lord who moved the Address could not flatter the House with a prospect of unanimity, on topics of vital interest, even amongst the Members of his Majesty's Government. Where then were they to look for it? This want of unanimity obviously arose from the Cabinet being constructed of heterogeneous materials. One avowed he was and ever had been a Reformer; the other bad lately become one; and a third hated the very name of Reform, like the hon. Member for Norwich, whose consistency was remarkable in times like the present. They were not now called upon to say, whether the prerogative of the Crown had been exercised for the benefit of the country, or to serve the purposes of party. It was enough to know, that it was exercised in defiance of those principles which placed the House of Brunswick on the throne, because it went to put at the helm of affairs an Administration which was notoriously obnoxious to the people. Where was the Parliament to look for the real grounds ads whereon the Crown had dismissed the late Ministry from office? He thought they would do right to look for it where Mr. Fox in a parallel case sought for it in 1783, when he said, "This had been the most barefaced Government ever witnessed, accomplishing by the irresponsible advice of merely secondary agents and unimportant individuals under Government, the objects of setting the Crown to stand forth, and take measures directly in defiance of the people and the Parliament. "It was the laudable custom of their predecessors in this place to tack the redress of grievances to money bills; but he trusted that the House would improve upon this custom, and not even entertain the question of Supply, till it had ample reparation for the injury it had suffered. He repeated, not even entertain the question of Supply; yes, he trusted tile House would not even entertain the question of Supply, until ample atonement had been made for the outrage which had been offered to the country. When they saw that there had been a dismissal of a Parliament grateful to the people, and which had been elected by a full and free constituency—when they 208 saw that without any apparent ground but party reasons that Parliament had been dismissed, it was their imperative duty to demand the fullest information on the subject, and to require the advisers of a measure so fatal to the Crown. Was it to be contended, that because the late Administration did not give satisfaction to every party in the House, that was a sufficient reason fur their dismission? and why in this unceremonious way they should be ejected from office?—an unconstitutional act which has astonished the whole civilized world—and that one individual, too, should occupy for some time all the important offices of the State? Although he (Sir S. Whalley) acknowledged the great public services which that illustrious individual had rendered to the country, the greatness of the man might make the example more dangerous; and though he had abdicated many of the great offices he had held, and so did another great general abdicate the dictatorship, it was no less the bounden duty of he House to denounce the act, which would be recorded on the page of history, lest otherwise the precedent, hallowed by time, might be acted on hereafter. When that individual went from the Horse Guards to the Colonial-office, and from the Colonial-office to the Home-office, he must have sunk under the weight of his Seals, and the load of his diplomacy. It would be difficult for the Administration which had now joined the opposite benches to explain the grounds upon which they looked for the confidence of the House or of the country. If they took the declaration of the right hon. Baronet, they would learn with astonishment, but with joy, that not only had the present Administration settled down to that measure which they had so loudly denounced as revolutionary in 1832, and "a final settlement of a great constitutional question," but that they were prepared to carry out its principles. Arrayed as he was with those pseudo-Reformers on that side of the House, it must be grateful to the late Government to find their policy and principles were likely to find in the right hon. Baronet so powerful an advocate. But he thought, that the people of this country would be inclined to doubt the genuineness of the right hon. Baronet's conversion; and, for the sake of his character, he should advise the right hon. Baronet to take a little care of his political consistency, and not to be in- 209 duced to change the line of policy which he had hitherto so ably advocated. He was far from thinking that the right hon. Baronet could be induced by the love of place to change his former line of policy. He said this with perfect sincerity, for he believed that, had the right hon. Baronet been in England, he would not have been a party to a measure which was so likely to end in defeat. He had had a foretaste already of what they would be in a few days, receiving continually recurring examples. It could not fail to be distasteful to the country to see Gentlemen, so long hostile to the measure of Reform, now running a race who should be the first in that measure, merely to gain public opinion. Persons who had been bitten by the tarantula, it was said, were cured of the excitement caused, by the exercise of dancing; and so, he supposed, those who had been newly bitten by Reform would be trying the mazy evolutions of the Reform galopade. He had thought, as a concession had been made to the demand of the country, they might not unreasonably expect a sacrifice of the whole hierarchy; but this was not to be expected; his eyes had been opened by the composition of the Church Commission, and even by the appointment of a Commission at all by a set of Gentlemen who had so loudly denounced the conduct of their predecessors in issuing Commissions on no less important subjects. He saw nothing in the terms of his Majesty's Speech which gave him any confidence. If he saw no hopes of a satisfactory and full Reform, of the application of such a large measure of Municipal Reform as had been introduced in Scotland to Ireland, he only expressed the opinion of a majority of the people out of doors. He cordially supported the Amendment, and would support it more cordially if it had been more warmly and fully expressed. The House should carry to the foot of the Throne their opinion, that his Majesty had been fatally advised to plunge the country into political excitement, by dissolving a Parliament which had given no substantial ground for distrust. It had been darkly intimated by an hon. Member, that if, by the vote of this House, the present Government was expelled from office, be knew not what would be the consequence of that line of conduct. Did the hon. Member mean to insinuate that they would again he seat to their constituents, and to terrify them 210 with a threat of the prerogative? Was the sword of Damocles to be suspended over their heads to awe them into submission? If so, he despised all such threats. He and his Friends felt secure from any such attack, shielded as they were in the full panoply of public approval. Lord Keeper Williams had, in a similar case, very appropriately reminded Charles 1st., "that the love of your Majesty's people is the palladium of the Crown. Beware of dissolving this Parliament, for if your Majesty does, surely another swarm will come forth from the same hive." And Lord Clarendon remarks, that after the Parliament, had been on this occasion dissolved, a change was observed very generally in those who had been before moderate men, but who now spoke in a very different tone and temper both of men and things. He warned Ministers against attempting to secure to themselves power by urging into reckless measures a Monarch who, until now, had only been known by his benevolent acquiescence in every thing which was for the benefit of his people. But it would well become the present servants of the Crown to count the cost of the last dissolution, and set against it how much they had gained numerically by the late general election. For his part he lived in hopes of seeing the present Ministers hissed off the stage. The object of these servants of the Crown was to dishonour the Crown by severing the Sovereign from the people; the object of which he and his Friends had in view, was to make him the beloved, glorious, and patriotic Monarch of a happy and contented people.
§ Viscount Castlereagh
would meet the hon. Member on his own grounds. The intelligence, the rank, and property of the empire responded to the appeal made by the King at the recommendation of his Ministers. He was not merely speaking from his own knowledge, but from what he derived from other sources of information, to which no doubt or discredit could be attached. The voice of constitutional liberty and loyalty was heard in this country and in the part of Ireland with which he was connected, and in which devotion to the Monarchy and the settled institutions of the State was a practical principle with the people. The people of England and of Ulster had testified by the result of the elections their disposition to support the prerogatives of the Crown, the rights of property, the blessings of social order, 211 and the stability of the State. They were called on to exercise their high constitutional privileges as electors at a critical period, and they did exercise them in a way that showed their sense of their value and of the importance of the issue. The hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir S. Whalley) illustrated his argument by the story of the tarantula; he would adopt another illustration and express a hope that the Government would not allow themselves to be caught in the spider webs of those heterogeneous parties who would form an unnatural confederacy in order to work their destruction. As an Irish Member he was glad of the overthrow of the late Government and the appointment of the present, for he believed great and beneficial measures would result to his country from their Administration. Something was necessary to be done to allay the fever of popular discontent and disaffection that was wasting her energies find maddening her people. He was convinced that some practical remedy would be adopted, and speedily too, to set the people at rest, check the current of seditious agitation, and remove the causes of complaint and dissatisfaction. It was the duty of that House to put asideall party feeling, to abandon all ground of personal differences and factious animosity, and induce all to unite in support of the institutions of the country. The measures the Government intended to propose were a guarantee of their anxiety to advance the tranquillity of the country. The question of tithes they were about to adjust satisfactorily and finally, consistently with a regard for the prosperity of the country. That question which had been such a fertile source of disturbance would be set at rest for a long series of years, and surely that was an advantage. The people of England and the loyal people of Ulster had shown that they respected the privileges of the Monarch, and were determined to stand by his Government; and he hoped that the Ministers and the Representatives of England would not be borne down by Ireland and Scotland. He considered it incumbent on every impartial, right-minded, and independent man to give the present Ministers a fair trial, and he (Lord Castlereagh) would be wanting in his duty to his constituents and the country if he did not give them his assistance and vote for the Address.
would not have troubled the House but for the observations of the 212 noble Lord who had just sat down. He represented as large and quite as intelligent a constituency as did the noble Lord. It was certainly not a constituency which had entered into an unnatural coalition to force two noble Lords upon that House, but one of the most free in Ireland, not hampered by landlords', or any other extraneous influence, but who voted by right of their own property, freely and without coercion. He gave them no pledge; but at the hustings he made a simple declaration of his hostility to the men now in power, and that was enough to secure his triumphant return. The same want of confidence in those men, exhibited by his election, was felt by nineteen-twentieths of the people of Ireland, founded upon the past acts of those men. Talk of a fair trial! why, had they not been on trial for twenty years last past? Their principles were detested in Ireland, and it was only necessary in that country for a man to offer himself to a free constituency in and upon the single principle of hostility to the present Ministry, to be returned. What confidence could be placed in the men they had employed in Ireland, who were sworn Orangemen? He had been told that he was a Destructive. He was a real Conservative, and those opposite the real Destructives. He wished to drive out the owls and bats from the British Constitution—ay, and the rats too. He would place at the porch of the Constitution an Irish wolf-dog, with the British lion; and the imperial eagle on the house top, to pounce upon the enemies of the country.
§ Mr. Kearsley,
addressing himself directly to the Speaker, observed, that it was probably expected, that he rose to avail himself of the earliest opportunity to offer to the right hon. Gentleman those compliments upon his elevation to the Chair which were so justly his due. That, however, was not his intention. He rose to advert to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Shaftesbury (Mr. Poulter), who had thought fit to bring up an angel from below to influence the Debate. Now what he had to say was this:—he would most cheerfully give his vote for that Being, upon condition that he would take the late Pay-master of the forces and all his tag-rag-and-bobtail away to sup with him that night.
§ Dr. Bowring
denied, that the representation made by hon. Members, in the course 213 of the Debate, as to the influence possessed by the present Ministers upon the Continent, and the advantage of that influence to this country, was a correct representation. This was a subject which had fallen within the sphere of his observation, and he could speak with confidence upon it. When the power of corruption was broken by the enactment of the Reform Bill, amid the shouts of concurring millions, this country took up a new position in the civilized world. It was felt that she was identified with the progress of liberty. The advent of the present Ministry to power had totally changed the prospect; and he feared that opportunities had been lost of benefiting the country which never would be regained. When called upon for a vote of confidence in the present Government, he could only answer, that he was not ignorant enough of the past, or credulous enough as to the future, to place power in such hands. They were willing to recognize the Reform Bill. Doubtless they were as an historical fact; but not as a living principle, from which it was intended by the advocates of that measure, and expected by the people of England, that much benefit was to accrue. His Majesty had told them, that the diplomatic relations between him and other courts were uninterrupted, and that the spirit of peace and harmony prevailed. He (Dr. Bowing) hoped that this country was looking to something better than mere relations of friendship and diplomacy between kings, princes, and courtiers. Such alliances were not durable. No alliances were likely to be permanent which were not based upon the broad foundation of national interests—upon the common sympathies, the common hopes, and the common prosperity of nations. Such alliances could not be formed by an anti-reforming Ministry; for such he must call a Ministry composed of men who, individually, and as a party, had never lost an opportunity of throwing impediments in the way of improvement. The noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool (Lord Sandon), seemed to have delivered himself over to a strange delusion, when he said that this country had gained the confidence of the despotic, and not lost the affections of the free. But no art would amalgamate hostile principles, and we had to choose between (for we could not possess both) the esteem of the oppressors or the oppressed. Under many of 214 the despotic and nearly barbarous governments of the world, it was true, there were to be found some generous and freedom-seeking men, who looked to the course of events in intelligent, influential, magnificent England, as the guide by which their own efforts in the cause of liberty should be directed. He desired to see this country afford sources of hope and confidence to the inhabitants of those kingdoms who were endeavouring to better their institutions, for he was satisfied that in proportion as we attained the blessings of freedom for ourselves, we were interested and encouraged to spread them through the world, not by violent interference, but by ennobling example. He was aware that, in certain courts, the appointment of the government would be hailed with shouts of congratulation; but he would not on that account shrink from asserting that, notwithstanding the homage which might be paid by many individuals in this country to the right hon. Baronet opposite, there were certain Representatives sent to some courts who were neither popular enough to have their nomination sanctioned by the approval of the great majority of the people of this country, nor wise enough to aid us in any emergency in which the interests of England might be exposed to the machinations of those Governments over whose proceedings they were appointed to watch. [Calls of "Question."]
Strangers were ordered to withdraw, and the Gallery had been half cleared, when
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
rose to address the House*:—I feel, Sir, that in the situation in which I stand upon this occasion, it might seem to argue a disrespect towards this House, totally alien to my feelings, if I were to allow this debate to close, and the division to be taken, without availing myself of the opportunity which is presented of giving the House those explanations which have been required during the preceding discussion. However my opinion may have occasionally differed from many of those whom I have the honour to address, I trust that I have never, upon any occasion, or under any circumstances, shown a disposition to treat with disrespect any portion of the Members of this House, or to shrink from giving an explana-* From a Pamphlet Published by Roake and Varty.215 tion, either as to my conduct when acting in a private capacity, or when called upon as a Member of his Majesty's Government to give those explanations, or to express those views, which in the performance of my public duty I am bound to submit to the House.
I shall, therefore, with the permission of the House, trusting to the continuance of that indulgence which in former Parliaments I have so frequently experienced, and relying upon their consideration of the position in which I stand, charged as I am with the important duties which have fallen to my lot—I shall, I repeat, under these circumstances, confidently reckon upon their patient and indulgent attention whilst I proceed to recapitulate and review the matters which have been alluded to in the course of the debate—the doubts expressed, and the explanations demanded.
I shall, in the first place, refer to the circumstances under which the present Government was constituted; I shall defend the course which I thought it my duty to advise the King to pursue at the period of its formation; and give accurate delineations of the measures which it is the intention of his Majesty's Government to introduce; those explanations the House has a right to require, and I should shrink from that duty which is imposed upon me if I did not avow a willing disposition to afford them. I stand here as the Minister of the Crown—placed in this situation by no act of my own—in consequence of no dexterous combination with those to whose principles I have been uniformly opposed, and with whom I might frequently have made, had I been so inclined, a temporary alliance for the purpose of embarrassing the former Government. I stand here in fulfilment of a public duty, shrinking from no responsibility, with no arrogant pretensions of defying or disregarding the opinions of the majority of this House, yet still resolved to persevere to the last, so far as is consistent with the honour of a public man, in maintaining the prerogative of the Crown, and in fulfilling those duties which I owe to my King and to my country.
In vindication of the course which I have pursued, it is necessary that I should refer to the circumstances which preceded the dissolution of the last Government. I have been asked whether I would impose 216 on the King in his personal capacity, the responsibility of the dismissal of that Government? In answer to this question, I will at once declare, that I claim all the responsibility which properly belongs to me as a public man; I ant responsible for the assumption of the duty which I have undertaken, and, if you please, I am, by my acceptance of office, responsible for the removal of the late Government. God forbid that I should endeavour to transfer any responsibility which ought properly to devolve upon me to that high and sacred authority which the constitution of this country recognizes as incapable of error, and every act of which it imputes to the advice of responsible counsellors. But whilst I disclaim all intention of shrinking from that responsibility, which one situated as I am, must necessarily incur; I must at the same time unhesitatingly assert, what is perfectly consistent with the truth, and what is due to respect for my own character,—namely, that I was not, and under no circumstances would I have been a party to any secret counselling or instigating the removal of any Government. But although I have not taken any part in procuring the dismissal of the late Government, although I could not from circumstances which are notorious to the world, hold communication with any of those with whom I have now the honour to act, much less with the highest authority in the State, as to the propriety or policy of that dismissal, still I do conceive that by the assumption of office, the responsibility of the change which has taken place is transferred from the Crown to its advisers; and I am ready—be the majority against me what it may—to take all t he responsibility which constitutionally belongs to me, and to submit to any consequences to which the assumption of that responsibility may expose me.
I do not, then, hesitate to express it as my opinion, that the act by which the last Government was removed was an act perfectly justifiable. I will, for the purpose of proving this proposition, take a review of the state of the country for some time past. Looking back to the meeting of the Reformed Parliament in February, 1833, it will be seen that the Government which was formed under the auspices of Lord Grey, and which had carried the Reform Bill, continued in a successful course for a certain period. Was I one of those who refused to recognise and submit to the great 217 change which had then recently been effected? Was I not the first to avow, in 1833, that the old tactics of party were no longer applicable to the new circumstances of the Government of the country, and that I would give my support to the Administration of Lord Grey as long as that Government attempted to act upon the principle of maintaining the institutions of the country, and in maintaining—not excluding the improvement of them? Did I seek for opportunities to embarrass that Government? How many occasions were there of which I might not have availed myself, if I had been solicitous to obtain power, to obstruct the course of the Government of Lord Grey? When the House of Commons determined by a vote of one night to repeal the malt-tax, and I heard that that vote would be followed by the removal of Lord Althorp from his place in the Government, by his immediate resignation, in consequence of his declared inability to concede on this point to the demand of a majority of this House, consistently with the maintenance of public credit—did I seek any plausible pretext of joining those who were upon that question opposed to the Government, and thereby increase its embarrassment? Did I not tender my advice that this House should reconsider that vote, and did I not share the unpopularity of rescinding the resolution for the removal of a tax to which many of my own friends were decided opponents. Again, when the noble Lord (Stanley), then Secretary for the Colonies, brought forward the measure for the settlement of the great question of Slavery, when the noble Lord had at first proposed a loan of 15,000,000l. to slave proprietors, and afterwards, to the surprise of a large number of this House, as well as the public generally, found it necessary to change his proposition into a grant of 20,000,000l., although I differed from the noble Lord as to that measure in some matters of detail, was I not the first to support the noble Lord in his proposition for the increased vote, and to do all in my power to persuade the House of Commons to sanction it, as a vote essential to the success of the measure, and deeply involving the public honour? During the whole of the years 1833 and 1834., so far from showing any disposition to resume power by a combination with men to whose principles I was more opposed than to those of the Government, my constant efforts were directed to maintain that Government against the 218 attacks of opponents more eager for innovation for than Ministers themselves, and I have ever given them my cordial support and assistance upon every question on which the course of the Government was in accordance with my own principles.
I will now refer to the circumstances which led to my being placed in the position I now occupy. In May, 1834, the Government of Lord Grey lost the services of those of its Members in whom the country reposed the highest confidence, and it will be in the recollection of the House, that Lord Grey was so sensible of the loss he had sustained from the secession of those colleagues as to resolve upon retiring from the Administration himself. When prevailed upon to retain office, Lord Grey reconstructed the Government; but he was fully sensible of the loss his Administration had sustained from the retirement of those who had quitted it, and to whose assistance he had attached the greatest importance. He was also aware of, and felt most srtongly, the embarrassments which threatened the Government from what his Lordship called "the pressure from without." In a letter to Lord Ebrington, Lord Grey said,—'Founded on the principles of Reform, the present Administration must necessarily look to the correction of all proved abuses. But in pursuing a course of salutary improvement, I feel it indispensable that we shall be allowed to proceed with deliberation and caution, and above all, that we should not be urged by a constant and active pressure from without to the adoption of any measures, the necessity of which has not been fully proved, and which are not strictly regulated by a careful attention to the settled interests of the country, both in Church and State. On no other principle can this or any other Administration be conducted with advantage or safety.' Who can doubt that the loss of the four Cabinet Ministers who seceded on the occasion I am referring to—Lord Stanley, Sir James Graham, the Earl of Ripon, and the Duke of Richmond—had a material tendency to weaken the authority of Lord Grey's Government, and to shake the confidence of the public in it? However, the Government proceeded, severe as was the shock it had sustained—but scarcely one short month elapsed, before Lord Grey himself, and those immediately connected with him, Lord Carlisle and Lord Howick, retired from the Administration. It was upon that occasion that his Majesty, anxious 219 alone for the public interests, alarmed at these repeated secessions, seeing that they proceeded, not from hostile combinations, but from internal dissensions, or intrigues, expressed an earnest wish that a Government should be formed upon some new foundation, combining men of different parties in the public service. I believe it is no secret, that a communication was made by Lord Melbourne, at his Majesty's desire, to the noble Lord (Lord Stanley,) the Duke of Wellington, and myself, with this view. I feel bound to state, that Lord Melbourne discouraged the plan, and was not desirous that the negotiation should be entered into, because his Lordship saw no reason to hope that it would end in a satisfactory result. The other parties, too, I must mention, were as little sanguine as Lord Melbourne, that by the means projected an efficient and permanent Administration could be formed at that period. I refer, however, to this transaction, as showing how deeply sensible his Majesty was of the difficulties in which the country was involved, and how anxiously he desired, by every means within his control, to obviate those difficulties. The Government was again reconstructed—reconstructed under the auspices of Lord Melbourne; but I now publicly assert, in the face of Parliament and the country, that the foundation of that Government rested upon the continuance of Lord Althorp as Chancellor of the Exchequer with the lead of the House of Commons; that the consent of Lord Althorp to resume these functions was the cornerstone upon which the Government of Lord Melbourne was built, and that had Lord Althorp withheld that consent, Lord Melbourne would not have attempted to form an Administration. Let me also refer to the public declaration of Lord Grey as to the importance of Lord Althorp's continuance in office and in the House of Commons. On the 9th of July, Lord Grey said, referring to the communications with Mr. O'Connell respecting the Irish Bill:—'But this new state of affairs deprived me of the assistance of my noble Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the leading Member of the Government in the Commons, the individual on whom my chief confidence rested, whom I considered as my right arm, and without whose assistance I felt it impossible for the Government to go on. Former breaches had considerably weakened the Government, this new breach placed it in a situation in which I could not well hope to retain 220 my place at its head, with any view to serve the Crown or the country for any useful purpose.'
Thus, then, it appears that the retirement of Lord Grey was determined by the retirement of Lord Althorp, and that the basis on which the Melbourne Administration was founded, was this, that Lord Althorp should return to office, and, contrary to his own declared wishes and inclinations, resume the leadership of the House of Commons. The Melbourne Government was thus constructed, but the Session, though nearly at a close, did not terminate without a difference between the Houses of Lords and Commons on the Irish Tithe Bill. I will put it to the House whether, under such circumstances, it was not perfectly natural, on the necessary retirement of Lord Althorp from the Chancellorship of the Exchequer and the lead of the House of Commons, that his Majesty should review the position of public affairs, and should anxiously consider the question, whether he should continue the Government, shattered as it was to its foundation, or seek for an Administration constructed on a new basis? Was there any hope that compensation could be found for the successive losses the Reform Government had sustained—the loss of Lord Stanley, of Sir James Graham, of the Duke of Richmond, of Lord Ripon, of Lord Carlisle, of Lord Grey, and lastly, of Lord Althorp? From what quarter of the horizon did the ray of light and hope proceed? If there were a chance of success it must have been in the single expectation of the consistent and unanimous support which the Government would receive at the hands of those who held extreme opinions upon popular questions. But what hope of support had the Government from that quarter? Was it not the fact, that it was to the series of attacks made one after another from that quarter that the weakness of the Government was to be attributed?—Who was the Member of the new Cabinet best entitled to claim support from the popular party, and especially from the popular party in Ireland? Was it not Lord Duncannon, named to the office of Secretary of State from his especial connection with Ireland? Now mark the indications of gratitude for this appointment, and the prospect that Lord Duncannon had of cordial support from the only party on which he could place a reliance. On the 11th of October last, a month preceding the dissolution of Lord Melbourne's Government, 221 the hon. and learned Member for Dublin addressed a letter to Lord Duncannon, having for its motto. "Hurrah for the Repeal," and the authority given for the motto was, "Wild Irish cry." The following is an extract from that letter:— "My Lord, I write more in sorrow than in anger, more in regret than in hostility. It is true that you have deceived me—'bitterly and cruelly deceived Ireland, but we should have known you better. You belong to the Whigs, and after four years of the most emaciating experience we ought, indeed, to have known, that Ireland had nothing to expect from the Whigs but insolent contempt, and malignant but treacherous hostility." This, it might be supposed, was an ebullition of ardent and heated eloquence, delivered under circumstances of strong excitement; but no, it was no such thing; it was written from the hon. and learned Gentleman's calm retreat at Derrynane Abbey, and when the hon. and learned Gentleman was in the most tranquil vein possible. The hon. and learned Gentleman said so himself. It is,' continued the hon. and learned Gentleman, 'my duty tranquilly but firmly to declare to the people of Ireland that they have nothing to expect from you; that you are as deeply steeped in the old system of misgovernment, as if you never proclaimed liberal principles, and that we must have a change of men before we have any chance of a change of measures. Still I do confess, I have arrived at this conclusion with regret. I feel nothing of the passion of anger; I cherish no hasty or violent resentment. But I do feel strongly the impulses of that duty which commands me to struggle unremittingly to procure for Ireland a domestic Legislature, where, and where alone, a sympathy between the Irish and their rulers can originate and be fostered'. So much for the opinions of the hon. and learned Gentleman respecting the constitution of the Melbourne Administration and Lord Duncannon, whom the hon. and learned Gentleman had at first hailed as a most popular acquisition to that Ministry. The House will see that, according to the hon. and learned Gentleman's own showing, no change of men could possibly prejudice the interests of Ireland, that the Melbourne Cabinet was so bad, that even the present is far preferable to it, and that the hon. and learned Gentleman himself is bound, therefore, to give it at least comparative support.
222 And now for the hon. and learned Gentleman's opinions as to individuals connected with the Melbourne Administration. In the same letter from which I have just quoted, the following passages occur:— 'Of what value is it to Ireland that Earl Grey should have retired, if he has left to his successors the same proud and malignant hatred he appeared to entertain towards the Irish nation? Are the representatives of that, sentiment predominant in the Cabinet? I know that—(can I believe my eyes when I read it?)—that Lord John Russell cherishes feelings of a similar description. Ireland in the un just and disgraceful scantiness of her Reform Bill, felt deeply, and deplorably felt, that hostility.' With regard to Lord Melbourne, the hon. and learned Gentleman said, I know, and everybody knows, that Lord Melbourne wants sufficient powers of mind to be able to comprehend the favourable opportunities afforded him to conciliate the popular party—that is, emphatically, Ireland. In plain truth, my Lord, it is quite manifest that Lord Melbourne is utterly incompetent for the high office he holds. It is lamentable to think that the destinies of the Irish people should depend in any degree on so in efficient a person. Next came Lord Lansdowne, of whom the hon. and learned Gentleman said, Lord Lansdowne, too, is hostile to Ireland, with a hatred the more active and persevering because he is bound by every obligation, to entertain diametrically opposite sentiments.' I will trouble the House with but one quotation more from this deliberate and tranquil letter of the hon. and learned Gentleman to Lord Duncannon:— On this account, then, I repeat the chorus of that song called "The Wild Irish Cry"—"Hurrah for the Repeal." You arc a much better Repealer than I am. Your conduct, and that of your colleagues, has made more of the people inveterate for repeal than any arguments or exertions of mine could possibly do. Continue to govern Ireland under the special guidance of "the sage father of all the Hannibals," and you may possibly see the bench—but no, that is ground too sacred to be touched in public —but you will see Ireland sufficiently strong to laugh to scorn every malignant enemy, whether Whig or Orange Tory. Thus had the hon. and learned Gentleman disposed of Lord Duncannon, Lord John Russell, Lord Lansdowne, Lord Plunkett, and lastly Lord Melbourne himself. Is 223 it not then clear to demonstration that the Melbourne Cabinet had not the faintest hope of support from that party on which its main reliance must have been placed.
Let me then again ask, whether it were unnatural or unreasonable for his Majesty, in considering the component parts of that Administration, and the prospect of its being able to maintain its ground, weakened as it had been by the loss of the most powerful members of the Grey Government, and further embarrassed by the recurrence of that event, and which had caused Lord Grey's retirement, and would have prevented Lord Melbourne from forming any Administration at all—namely, the resignation of Lord Althorp and his removal from the House of Commons—let me, I say, ask whether it was at all surprising that his Majesty should doubt the propriety of continuing the reins of Government in the hands of men who, three months before, rested their exclusive hope of success on the aid of Lord Althorp.
I have already stated that I was no party in the remotest degree to the removal of the former Government, never having either advised or even contemplated it; yet I feel that the acceptance of office does impose upon me a full share in the responsibility which my noble Friend (the Duke of Wellington) has contracted. I am now here to answer under that responsibility. If my noble Friend has acted unconstitutionally—if my noble Friend has done any thing wrong in his assumption of the Government, I, by my subsequent acceptance of office, have contracted in an equal degree, the responsibility thus incurred. It has been said, that it was a most grievous crime and a dangerous precedent for any one man to monopolize so many offices. My first answer to this assertion is, that there is nothing unconstitutional in a man holding two offices, and that the propriety of their tenure depends upon the state of public affairs, and the intention with which they are accepted. The Duke of Wellington, it is true, held the offices of First Lord of the Treasury, and of Secretary of State for the Home Department, and had the power, in the last capacity, of performing all the duties connected with either the Foreign, Colonial, or Home Offices. The delivery to him of the Seals of the Home Office conferred upon him the right to exercise all the functions of the other two departments—the right to advise the Crown on foreign and colonial matters, contracting, of course, all 224 the responsibility which might attach to such advice. There might be inconvenience arising from the assumption of all these powers by one individual, but such an assumption is not unconstitutional. It is the constant practice that the secretary of one department acts for the secretary of another, during intervals of recreation, or periods of sickness; but I will not rest the defence of my noble Friend on any ground so narrow. My noble Friend assumed the double offices from the purest motives,—from his conviction that it was necessary for the public service. He had assumed them—not with the intention of arrogating to himself the supreme powers of the State, but for the express purpose of mere temporary occupation, with a view to deliver up those powers in their full integrity to another. The noble Lord (the Member for Yorkshire) has stated that this assumption was perfectly new in the history of this country, and has said (I believe I have taken down the noble Lord's words correctly) that if there should be an old Whig of the Rockingham school now alive, the hairs of that old Whig would stand on end on hearing that one man had assumed two such offices as those of the Secretary of State and First Lord of the Treasury. But I shall show that, in the good times of Whig predominance, an instance occurred when all assumption of equal powers took place in order to defeat the Jacobite party, and obstruct the views of the Pretender. The noble Lord is well read in history, and is doubtless acquainted with the events which occurred at the close of the reign of Queen Anne. The noble Lord may perhaps recollect that a short time previously to her death the Earl of Oxford had been removed from power, and Lord Bolingbroke speculated upon the assumption of supreme authority, and upon the means of constituting a Government consonant to his own views. The historian thus narrates the circumstance under which one individual did assume many high trusts, for the purpose of defeating the principles of the. Tories, and the views of the Jacobite party. "Lord Bolingbroke employed this awful interval (the sickness of the Queen) in regulating his political arrangements, and the most alarming apprehensions seized upon all the true friends and well-wishers of the country. The Whigs, however, were not inactive, the indisposition of the Queen increased, and the Committee of the Privy Council, sitting at the Palace of Kensington, began to make prompt and 225 effectual arrangements. The Duke of Shrewsbury was present, and saw the crisis had now arrived when a decisive course must be adopted, aided by the support of the Hanoverian party. The Dukes of Argyll and Somerset entered the Council-chamber, and the post of Lord Treasurer was filled up, the Council recommending to the Queen the Duke of Shrewsbury as the fittest person for that office. The Queen delivered to him the white staff, desiring him to use it for the good of her people. The same afternoon Lord Somers shook off his bodily infirmities, and repaired to Kensington, accompanied by several Privy Councillors of his party. The Duke of Shrewsbury desired to return to the Queen the Lord Chamberlain's staff, but she directed him to keep both, so that he was possessed at one and the same time of three of the greatest posts in the kingdom, namely, those of Lord High Treasurer, Lord Chamberlain, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland." Was there a whisper of objection to this on the part of Whig authorities? Did Lord Somers denounce the act as unconstitutional? On the contrary, he sanctioned it by his presence! It was the urgency of the crisis,—it was the intention of the act that vindicated it, and extracted all the danger from the precedent. Apply the same principles to this case. The Duke of Wellington was offered the situation of Prime Minister at a time of great difficulty. He believed it better for the interests of the King and of the country, that that post should be occupied by another person, and that person was not in England. The noble Duke stated in his letter to me, that he had advised the King to send for me as his Majesty's Prime Minister, and that he had determined to assume certain offices himself, because he thought nothing would be so unfair as to ask me to take upon myself the management of an Administration, the whole of which had not been left to my formation; and further, that, if he appointed other individuals to exercise the high duties of those offices, I might probably be under an embarrassment in advising the King to remove them. It was to obviate such an embarrassment and difficulty, and to leave the appointments to myself unfettered, that the Duke of Wellington thought it better for the Crown, and fairer to me to make an arrangement in its nature and character temporary. So much for that question.
226 I now come to the subject of the dissolution of the late Parliament. I have been asked whether I take upon myself the responsibility of that proceeding? and without a moment's hesitation, I answer that I do take upon myself the responsibility of the dissolution. The moment I returned to this country to undertake the arduous duties now imposed upon me, I did determine that I would leave no constitutional alba untried to enable me satisfactorily to discharge the trust reposed in me. I did fear that if I had met the late Parliament, I should have been obstructed in my course, and obstructed in a manner, and at a season, which might have precluded an appeal to the people. But it is unnecessary for me to assign reasons for this opinion. Was it not the constant boast that the late Parliament had unbounded confidence in the late Government? And why should those who declare they are ready to condemn me without a hearing, be surprised at my appeal to the judgment of another, and a higher, and a fairer tribunal—the public sense of the people? Notwithstanding the specious reasons which have been usually assigned for the dissolution, I believe it will be found, that whenever there has occurred an extensive change of Government, a dissolution of Parliament has followed. In the year 1784, a change took place in the Government, Mr. Pitt was appointed to the office of Prime Minister, and in the same year a dissolution took place. Again, in 1806, when the Administration of Lords Grey and Grenville was formed, the Parliament, which had only sat four years, was shortly after the assumption of power by those Noblemen dissolved. It was on that occasion urged, that a negotiation with France having failed, it became necessary to refer to the sense of the country, but I never will admit that the failure of the negotiation with France could constitute any sufficient grounds for the dissolution of a Parliament which there was not the slightest reason to believe was adverse to the continuance of the war, or dissatisfied with the conduct of the negotiation. In the year 1807, another change took place in the Government by the accession of Mr. Perceval to power, and then again a dissolution immediately took place. In the year 1830, Earl Grey was called into office as Prime Minister, and shortly after the vote in committee on the Reform Bill, the Parliament which had been elected in 1830, was 227 dissolved in 1831. Hence it appears that, in the cases of the four last extensive changes in the Government, those changes have been followed by a dissolution of the then existing Parliament. The present, however, I believe to be the first occasion upon which the House of Commons has ever proceeded to record its dissatisfaction at the exercise of the prerogative of dissolution.
I have been told, and indeed it has been implied in the course of this debate, that although I might have been no party to the dismissal of the late Ministry and although I was utterly ignorant of the intention to dismiss it, yet that I ought to have advised the Throne to recall the Government of Lord Melbourne, and that I should have considered myself disqualified from undertaking the Government of the country. The whole ground of objection to my possession of power is this, that, in consequence of the revolution in power which has taken place, and of the necessity of acting in the spirit and on the principles of the Reform Bill,—I am unfit to be in office, and therefore ought to have declined it. But I have never considered the Reform Bill to be a machine, the secret springs and working of which are only known to those by whom it has been constructed, or that its effect is to be the exclusion of any portion of the King's subjects from their Monarch's service. No sacrifice of principle was required front me by the King; on the contrary, I was desired to form an Administration such as seemed to myself best for the public service, to adopt such measures as I conceived most likely to advance the public interests; and I will, therefore, ask any man outside the walls of Parliament, and free from the contagion of party, whether he would not entertain a mean opinion of me, had I, under such circumstances, said to the King,—"I feel for your difficulties, but I decline your service; I never can propose measures that will satisfy the House of Commons, and I therefore advise you to resort to some other quarter for assistance."
It has been urged against me, that I and those with whom I have acted in the Commons Mouse of Parliament were at constant variance with the Reform Governments of Earl Grey and of Lord Melbourne, and that we have contended against those Administrations which, it was assumed, were supported by the unanimous voice of Reformers. Upon this 228 head there has been much declamation, which is certainly more captivating than facts, but facts arc a little more conclusive as evidence, and I will refer to certain notorious facts—facts upon record for the purpose of deciding the question whether or not I have acted as was alleged, in constant Opposition to the Reform Governments, and in continued hostility to the united body of Reformers. I reject with scorn the doctrine, that because a public man resisted the Reform Bil—lresisted a great change in the balance of political power, and in the constitution of the governing body—he must. be placed under a ban of perpetual exclusion—denounced as an alien from the institutions of his native land, and disqualified for public service as the patron of corruption and abuse. This convenient doctrine is founded on the assumption that the House of Commons, since the passing of the Reform Bill, has been divided into two parties—the advocates and the opponents of the Reforming Government. A reference to facts will show that such has not been the case, but, on the contrary, that I, an anti-Reformer, so far as the constitution of the House of Commons is concerned, have been the supporter of the Government, and that it is the Reformers themselves who have opposed them. To establish the truth of this I will review the principal domestic questions which have been discussed since the first meeting of the reformed Parliament in Feb. 1833. On the meeting of that Parliament an Amendment was moved on the Address—the "bloody and brutal address," as it was called by the Member for Dublin. The Government resisted that Amendment; I supported them, and was one of a very large majority. On the first reading of the Disturbances (Ireland) Bill, the Government were opposed by many, but I supported them. Next came Mr. Attwood's motion on the subject of the general distress; there I supported the Government. So also on. Mr. Harvey's motion relative to the Publication of the Lists of Divisions; on Mr. Grote's motion upon the vote by Ballot; and on Mr. Rippon's motion for the Exclusion of time Bishops from the House of Lords. The Government opposed also the repeal of the Malt-tax, and I lent them my assistance. On the motion for the alteration of the Corn-laws, and for a substitution a a Property-tax in lieu of the duties on malt; on the grant of pecuniary relief to the Irish Clergy; on Mr. 229 Tennyson's motion for the repeal of the Septennial Act; on Mr. Harvey's second motion upon the Pension List; on Sir William Ingilby's resolution for the Reduction of the Malt-duties; on Mr, Buckingham's proposition relative to impressment; on Mr. Hume's motion on the Cornlaws; on Lord Althorp's proposition with respect to the Church-rates; on Mr. O'Connell's motion for the Repeal of the Union—on every one of these occasions I have found myself in close connexion with the Government, and lending them my most earnest and zealous assistance and support.
Now take the other side of the account. I have differed from the Government on the question of the admission of Dissenters into the Universities; and I had also the serious misfortune to differ from them on the motion for a Committee for the persecution of Baron Smith. I voted also against them on the question of the Irish Church Temporalities, and against Lord Althorp's proposition to make Banknotes above the value of 5l. a legal tender. Now strike the balance. Look at the questions on which I have supported, and those on which I have opposed the Reform Government—compare their number, compare their relative importance, and then decide—whether I or the ultra-Reformers were the parties differing the most in views and principles from the Government of Lord Grey. At the same time I feel it my duty to declare, that I will not try to conciliate the support of the House by any false professions. After the passing of the Reform Bill I saw that a great change had taken place; that there had been a complete revolution in the possession of power, and that necessarily there must be on the part of public men, who meant honestly by their country, a spirit of accommodation in their public course to the altered circumstances of Government. I, however, cannot say that I intend in power, or as a condition on which to retain power, to adopt any course differing in principle from that which I pursued in opposition, subsequently to the passing of the Bill of Reform. On questions in which I opposed the late Government I intend still to maintain the principles which actuated that opposition. I do not mean to vote for a compulsory obligation on the Universities to admit Dissenters within their walls, but will leave that question to be determined by the Universities themselves. I also intend to main- 230 tain the same principles on which I acted with reference to the Church Temporalities Bill, and I will not consent to the diversion of Ecclesiastical property to other than Ecclesiastical purposes. If I differ from the majority of the House, I regret it; I differ from them with respect, but I will not make the sacrifice of my opinions on the two points to which I have referred for the purpose of gaining their favour or their support. I am no apostate; I am not deviating from any principles which I have ever professed. The rule of my conduct in office, will be that which I have taken for my rule out of office, to make no sacrifice of public principle, but at the same time not to stand in fruitless opposition to the operation of changes in our institutions, the making of which I certainly deprecated, but which when made I was among the first to recognise as final and irrevocable.
I hope that the House will allow me to take a view of the measures indicated by the King's Speech, as those hereafter to be proposed by the Government, and to afford the House the explanation respecting them which has already been required of me. I am afraid that I am trespassing on your attention at a length which may become wearisome to your patience, but I trust that you will make allowance for the situation in which I am placed, and that your possible disinclination to hear me as a private individual will not apply to me as a Minister of State. The first point noticed in the King's Speech, is our relations with foreign princes and states. The Government declares its earnest desire to cultivate the relations of amity with them. The Government states, that they entertained confident expectations of being able to maintain the blessings of peace. They already see a tendency to increased confidence in the British Ministry, on the part of some of the great powers of Europe, and that confidence has been manisfested by the commencement of a reduction in the military establishments of two of them. I allude to the fact, that Austria and Prussia have both begun to reduce their military force—the one in her Italian, the other in her Rhenish provinces. It has been argued on the other side, that it is an ill omen, a positive evil, that the military Governments of the Continent should have any confidence in the Ministry of England. There might he some foundation for this if the Ministers had contracted any engagements with those Governments which could 231 bind them to depart from the true principles of British Policy, and from their disinclination to interfere with the internal affairs of other countries. We have contracted no such engagements, but we are proud of the confidence of foreign powers, and wish to maintain their good will. And I must say, that nothing is more on unfortunate than the course occasionally pursued in this House of loading with personal obloquy and the severest vituperation those who possess the chief authority in countries, whose cordiality it is our interest to cultivate, even though they are governed by institutions less free than our own. What inconsistency is there in maintaining the principles of a free Representative Government, and yet, disregarding the difference of our institutions, in cultivating friendship with despotic powers? It would be well if those Gentlemen who profess liberal principles would imitate the example of a country with institutions snore liberal even than our own—I mean the United States, which sees no inconsistency and no dereliction of principle in courting the most friendly relations with foreign states, without troubling themselves about their forms of government. What advantage is there, I would ask, in alienating foreign Sovereigns from us by reflections which irritate their feelings, but do not diminish their power, and which prevent us from exercising a friendly and salutary influence over their councils? But it is said that this increasing confidence in the British Government on the part of certain foreign powers must be owing to our alienation from our powerful neighbour and ally—France. Now, why should that suspicion be entertained against the present Government? Who was the first to confirm the nascent power of Louis Philippe by an unhesitating acknowledgment of it, but the Duke of Wellington? Why should this Government view with jealousy the increasing prosperity of France? Why should it repine at advances in improvement, which re-act upon our own welfare, or entertain a lurking feeling adverse to the maintenance of that cordial good understanding with France, on which, in my conscience, I believe the peace of Europe mainly depends.
The next point noticed in the King's Speech is the necessity of economy. Ministers state the fact, that the estimates of this year will be the lowest that has been known since the peace of 1815. The 232 fact being so, they have stated it, but not with an invidious comparison between their acts and those of the former Government. They do not claim the reduction as their exclusive credit. They wish it to be shared with the Government which preceded their own; and as that Government, in its financial statement, had the liberality to admit the economy enforced by the Duke of Wellington in his former Administration, so the present Government, in its estimates, has the liberality to admit that it only continues to act in furtherance of the economical principles enforced by the preceding Government. But at any rate, the statement of this fact is an answer to those who said, that the appointment of a Conservative Government would lead to increased expense in all our establishments. Comparing the estimates of the present year with those of the last I entertain a confident hope that it will be possible to make a reduction, consistent with the due execution of the public service, to the extent of 500,000l. For that Ministers claim not an exclusive credit—it arises less from the reduction of establishments than from the enforcement of those wise principles of economy which were first laid down by the Duke of Wellington, and afterwards adopted by the late Administration.
I will now shortly advert to the measure for the Abolition of Slavery. There has been an impression that the success of that great measure will be impeded by the restoration of the present Ministry to power. It is true that they have not entertained the sanguine expectations respecting its eventual success that has been entertained by many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House; but this I will say, that if ever men were under a moral obligation to be scrupulous in promoting the success of that great measure of philanthropic benevolence, the present Ministers are under that obligation, for the very reason that they have been less sanguine than its authors. And what has been the practical course which Ministers have pursued respecting it? So far have they been from seeking any advantage from the patronage of the different appointments in the Colonies, that their first resolution has been to continue in their post all the Governors appointed under the late Administration. Those Governors being appointed by that Administration, are cognizant of its intentions, and arc therefore probably the 233 best instruments for carrying those intentions into effect. Lord Sligo, for instance, is the Governor of Jamaica. The first thing which Lord Aberdeen did upon his appointment to office, was to write to that noble Lord, and to request him to remain in his situation, as he was cognizant, from personal communication, of the views and feelings of the late Government. The present Government has sent out additional Magistrates to some of the Colonies (the only instance in which it has incurred expense without the knowledge of Parliament) but they have not hesitated to undertake the responsibility of such a proceeding, as the object of it is to further the success of that great measure for the Abolition of Slavery.
It has been said by hon. Gentlemen on the other side, that the Speech from the Throne is in its terms vague and inconclusive; that it is couched in the usual indefinite language; and that it leaves Parliament uncertain as to what is to be done. Now, of all the Speeches which have ever been delivered from the Throne, it does appear to me that this is the most precise as to the intentions of the Government, and as to the measures which it is intended to propose. I wish the House to recollect, that I returned from the Continent on the 10th of December, and that I am now speaking on the 24th of February. It is no slight labour in the interim to have constituted a Ministry, and to have given the requisite consideration to such measures as are announced in the Speech from the Throne. Among the first of them, in point of urgency, is the state of the Tithe question in Ireland. Government will propose a measure for its final and equitable adjustment. For the commutation of tithe in England and Wales, Government is also prepared with a measure. For the administration of justice in Ecclesiastical causes, Government intends to adopt a Bill, founded on the Report of the Commissioners appointed by the former Government of the Duke of Wellington; a Bill of which subsequently the right hon. Member for Cumberland has been the chief promoter; a Bill which will destroy all petty Ecclesiastical Courts, and will appoint Supreme Courts for the cognizance of all Ecclesiastical causes. Government also proposes to make provision for the more effectual maintenance of Ecclesiastical discipline—a provision which will enforce episcopal authority, not over the laity, but ever the clergy, and will check, if not 234 entirely prevent, those cases of scandal which occasionally occur, but the punishment of which is dilatory and ineffectual. Government also intends to propose a measure which will relieve those who dissent from the Church from the necessity of celebrating marriage according to its rites. I have been asked, "Is that all you intend to do for the Dissenters? You may relieve them from that grievance, but do you leave all their other grievances un-redressed?" Now I must remind these objectors, that great importance has been attached by the Dissenters to the redress of this very grievance. It is no new point. that I have taken up. The noble Lord opposite has failed before me; and the first point to which I gave my attention on my return to power, was the mode in which I could fulfil most satisfactorily the expectations of the Dissenters on this subject. It has been objected, that there is no mention in the King's Speech of any measure for establishing a general registry of births and deaths. That is a subject full of difficulties, which I am occupied in considering and attempting to solve; and it is not the practice of the Crown to indicate in the Speech from the Throne measures, until the details are all settled. Now, the consideration of these measures has occupied more time than it was almost possible to devote to them, paying due attention to the general business of the State. Any measure for establishing a general registry of births, will require long and mature deliberation. I candidly confess, that I am not at present ready with all the details of such a measure. I have not, however, any objection to the principle of it. Such a measure, well matured, would be of great advantage to the public at large, as supplying valuable statistical information, and affording better means than any that now exist, for establishing titles to property. But we are too apt to expect that we can in every case combine the advantages and facilities which despotic Governments have, with those of free institutions. It may be easy in Prussia or Austria to impose a penalty on any man who has a child born to him, and who does not register its birth within a given time. I doubt, however, whether such a regulation would be at once practicable and satisfactory in this country. On this subject I will at once avow my opinion, that I wish to see the registry of births and deaths, the registry, that is, of facts, as well as of religious rites, still in the hands of the 235 Ministers of the Church, first, because I think them the most competent to keep such a registry, and secondly, because a single register for all classes of the King's subjects would prevent much trouble and expense in ascertaining facts connected with birth or death.
Then, I am told that on the subject of Municipal Corporations the Speech is still more vague and inconclusive. On that point I will appeal to the fairness of the House. A Committee was appointed in the last Parliament, to inquire into the state of Municipal Corporations. That Committee, of which the present Speaker was Chairman, made certain inquiries. It found that it had not sufficient powers to conduct the inquiry satisfactorily, and it recommended the appointment of a Commission to conduct it. On his recent appointment to office a right hon. Friend of mine, to enable the Government to consider their report, to weigh the evidence which they had collected, and to examine the suggestions which they had proposed, wrote to the Municipal Commissioners for the information which they had collected. I can have no reserve with the House, and it will perhaps, be satisfactory to it to hear the answer of the Commissioners. It is dated the 27th January, 1835. The Commissioners state that their inquiries are now complete; that 293 Municipal Corporations have been visited by them; that241 reports have been sent in; that 182 have been printed; but that the remainder of them are at that time unfinished. The Commissioners further declare that they can not state when their general report will be ready, but they express a hope that it will be finished in the month of February. They likewise declare that it is not their intention to present a partial report on any branch of the subject unless they are specifically required so to do. Under such circumstances I contend that it would have been contrary not only to the practice usually adopted in such cases, but to the respect due to a Commission appointed by the Crown, if the Government had indicated in the King's Speech any definite measure of Municipal Reform. What would be the use of the Commission, if in the very month in which it proposed to produce its report, Government without even waiting to look at it, came forward with a measure of its own upon the subject? The report made by the Committee of the House of Commons, of which their Speaker was the Chairman, on the subject 236 of these Municipal Corporations, contains the following words. After expressing a decided opinion that a further and searching inquiry should be made, with a view to the adoption of a sufficient remedy, they Say—"Having come to this conclusion, your Committee are not enabled to offer any final suggestions as to the remedies which ought to he adopted; and being further of opinion, that from the defective nature of their inquiry, even those cases which they have examined ought to be subject to further scrutiny, they have thought it desirable, with very few exceptions, to abstain from pointing out particular defects, or animadverting on individual testimony, while there is a possibility that a different colour may be given to the case by future investigation." Is not this very passage a conclusive reason for suspending a judgment as to any specific practical measure. An hon. Gentleman has asked me, and insisted upon having an answer to his question, whether Ministers intend to give the Ten-pounders, as they are called, the power of electing to all offices in these Corporations? Now, to that question I must reply, that until I have had an opportunity of reading the report, and the evidence founded upon it, it would not be consistent with my duty to pledge myself as to what I will do upon any given point. If he were to ask me whether I have any conceivable interest in maintaining the abuses of Corporations, or any prejudice in their favour, I would reply at once that I have no such interest, and no prejudice that will prevent MC from giving a fair consideration to any plan for their amelioration, I will go the full length to which the Government of Lord Grey went in the Speech which they advised the King to make, after the appointment of the Commission, but when, as at present, its inquiries were incomplete. The Speech from the Throne, in the commencement of the Session of 1834, when Earl Grey was Minister, contained these expressions—"Many other important subjects will still call for your most attentive consideration. The reports which I will order to be laid before you from the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of Municipal Corporations, into the administration and effect of the Poor Laws, and into Ecclesiastical Revenues and Patronage in England and Wales, cannot fail to afford you much useful information, by which you will be enabled to judge of the nature and extent of any existing defects and 237 abuses, and in what manner the necessary corrections may, in due season, be safely and beneficially applied." I am prepared to adopt every word of that Speech. I will go the full length of it, and why should I be required to go farther? I am not prepared to name any definite measure on the subject at this moment, but I will give to the suggestions of the Commissioners every fair consideration. I will not, however, to conciliate a vote On this occasion, do that which is not only contrary to all usage, but also to my sense of what is the duty of a Minister of the Crown.
I have been told that in the Speech from the Throne not the slightest reference has been made to the subject of Church rates. It is well known that I supported the measure brought in by the late Government for the transfer of the Church rates to the public Revenue. That measure has met with great opposition from the Dissenters. I for one, cannot agree to the extinction of Church rates. I think that there is dln obligation on the State to provide for the repair of Churches, but I also think that the charge of providing for that repair bears very unfairly on the land, and that subject is one which I had in view when in the King's Speech reference was made to "a method for mitigating the pressure of those local charges which bear heavily on the owners and occupiers of land, and for distributing the burden of them more equally over other descriptions of property." An interpretation has been put upon that paragraph, which is by no means intended. No new mode of general taxation is meant by it. It has a special reference to the report of the Committee of last Session on county rates, and to the relief of the agricultural interest from certain local burdens, of which the Church rate is one.
I next come to that part of the King's Speech which relates to the Church Commission appointed by Government. The subject into which it has to inquire is extensive and complicated, and I cannot promise the House to bring forward a measure upon it at a very early period. I will, however, tell the House what I have already done. On the vacancy of the first of those appointments in the Church which are usually called—I will not say rightly or wrongly—sinecures, I have advised the Crown to make no appointment to it, but to allow all the circumstances connected with it to be considered by the Church Commission. The appointment to which 238 I allude, is a prebendal stall at Westminster, of the value of 1,200l. a-year. I mean to take the same course on every other Ecclesiastical benefice of the same class that may fall vacant, that is, I will not fill them up for the mere sake of patronage, but will refer each to the consideration of the Commission. Now, what is the practical course that has been adopted with regard to this prebendal stall? It has been found that in the neighbourhood of Westminster Abbey, dependent on its chapter, are two parishes, St. Margaret and St. John, with a population of 50,000 souls. In the first-named parish there are 28,000, and only one church; and it is an evident fact, that one minister must be inadequate to the due discharge of the duties of such a parish. The Government has advised the Commission to attach the stall to that living, making it a condition that additional spiritual instruction shall be provided for the parishioners. There is no house belonging to the minister of St. Margaret's. It is proposed to constitute the parish into a rectory, and to attach the prebendal house as a residence for the rector. This is the course which, on a future similar occasion, Government intends to pursue with regard to St. John's parish, and I hope that if any delay shall occur in calling for legislative interference on this point, it will not be supposed that that delay is intended to defeat the object of the Commission, but that it is required solely for deliberate consideration. I have not advised the Crown to appoint the Ecclesiastical Commission with any view to popular favour. I would not make the slightest sacrifice of the interests of the Church, to obtain such favour. I have advised the Commission for the single purpose of increasing the opportunities for divine worship, according to the forms of the Church of England, and of confirming and extending its legitimate influence among the people.
These are the general measures of Government, the indication of which is to be found in the Speech from the Throne. They are measures which, with the least possible delay, will be submitted to the consideration of this House. In rivalry to the Address, an Amendment has been proposed, and if the Address is vague and inconclusive, the Amendment is at least equally open to the same objection. It indicates no measure—it only states the hope of the House that the same principle which restored to the people the right of 239 choosing their Representatives, and which caused the Bill to pass for the abolition of Slavery, would be seen in the promised Church Reform, and would place our Municipal Corporations under vigilant popular control. What can any one collect from such an Amendment? What pledge is implied by a declaration, that the same principle which abolished slavery, should improve a Corporation? Is it not evident. that the Amendment was produced with some other view than its professed one? Is it not evident that the framers of the Amendment arc afraid to recognize in it those measures which are called measures in the spirit of the Reform Bill; but in respect to which—to every one of which they know that a difference of opinion exists among their own party? Why have they not inserted a word about the Ballot? Why not a word about the repeal of the Septennial Act? Why not a word about the Pension List? Why not a word about the Repeal of the Union? They know that on all those measures, being the very measures which have chiefly occupied public attention, there is not one on which they can express unity of sentiment. No, they must go back a distance of three or four years to find some point of common agreement—to the time when their party was united on the question of the abolition of slavery, and on the Reform Bill. They select the questions which are practically decided—which all the world admits to be finally disposed of, but the unsettled questions they dare not advert to. They shrink from a reference to the Ballott, the Septennial Bill, the Pension List, and the Extension of the Suffrage. They try to conceal their present differences, and dwell with vain regret on sympathies that once existed, and on agreements that can never be recalled,—Quo desiderio veteres revocamus amores? Et dudum amissas flemus amicitias?Oh, the time of their union and sympathy is now gone by. On this very evening, from ten different quarters, have notices been given of motions for carrying further the principles of the Reform Bill; but they shrink from the indication of any opinion on those motions in the Amendment, because they know that this would lead to an open rupture amongst them. No, the Amendment is proposed for the sake of involving in difficulty the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) and his friends near him, who, because they concurred in supporting the Reform Bill, and the Bill for 240 the Abolition of Slavery, it is hoped may be caught in this trap, so insidiously prepared for them—the trap of compliment to measures in which they concurred, and of which they were the most prominent promoters. I feel confident of this, that those whom the Amendment endeavours to embarrass, will have the firmness and good sense to see what is now the real question at issue. We know that this Amendment is a mere superfluous eulogium on the Reform Bill, and that for Slave Emancipation. If hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House ask whether I recognise those measures as measures which I should now support? I answer plainly, yes. But if they ask me further, if I mean to act on the principles involved in them, I will refer to their own party struggles of the last two years, and will tell them that they themselves do not know what those principles mean. I will not say whether I concur in the remainder of this Amendment. It was drawn up, I have no doubt intentionally, in such a manner that I should not comply with it. I know not what is meant by the phrase, "remove all the undoubted grievances of the Protestant Dissenters. Is this intended to exclude the grievances of the Roman Catholics? if so, my measure of relief in respect to marriage, will go beyond that of the framers of the Amendment. I request them not to hamper me and tie up my hands by their foolish Amendments—not to restrict my measures of intended liberality, and compel me to confine, what I mean for the relief of all, to the case of Protestant Dissenters. As to that part of the Amendment which speaks of correcting those abuses in the Church, which impair its efficiency in England, disturb the peace of society in Ireland, and lower the character of the Establishment in both countries, notice has been given of a direct motion on the subject. The words imply not that the Tithe Question, but that the Church of Ireland, disturbs the peace of Ireland. Now, this great question ought not to be disposed of by a vague and general resolution. I will frankly avow my determination not to accede to the Amendment. Indeed, I can not accede to it, without implying willing degradation on my part. I know the responsibility of the duties which I have recently taken on myself; but I will persevere in their discharge, because I fear the impossibility of constructing a Government which could have stronger claims on the confidence of the public, than the present. While any difference of prin- 241 ciple remains as to the mode of dealing with the Church of Ireland, it will be a difficult task to reconstruct the Government of Lord Grey. Indeed, no Government could be formed without a selection of individuals from each of those numerous parties which, though they are now acting in concert, have been but a few short months ago, and may be in a few short weeks again, in bitter hostility to each other. Take the question of Repeal of the Union with Ireland. Are there no differences of opinion on that point, which will prevent any lasting junction with the party by which the question was advocated?
The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) has constantly proclaimed that no consideration could induce him to accept office under any Government that did not consent to repeal the Union. But he now seems disposed to waive his scruples, and to consent to the cares of office, foreseeing the formation of a Government, two-thirds of the Members of which are, according to him, to be Radical Reformers. Suppose he is right in his anticipations. Suppose a Government to be formed, purified, as they call it, from Lord Grey, from the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) and their friends, rid of the incumbrances which are said to have obstructed the march of Reform—what prospect is there that they will be enabled to conduct a Government which will conciliate the good will of the intelligence, the property, the respectability of this country? You may try to overcome such obstacles, you may resort to the convenient instrument of physical force, but you will signally fail, and yourselves will be the first victims of the agent whose alliance you have invoked, but which you cannot control.
With such prospects I feel it to be my duty—my first and paramount duty—to maintain the post which has been confided to me, and to stand by the trust, which I did not seek, but which I could not decline. I call upon you not to condemn before you have heard, to receive at least the measures I shall propose, to amend them if they are defective, to extend them if they fall short of your expectations, but at least to give me the opportunity of presenting them, that you yourselves may consider and dispose of them. I make great offers, which should not lightly be rejected. I offer you the prospect of continued peace—the restored confidence of powerful states, that are willing to seize the opportunity of reducing great armies, and thus diminishing the 242 chances of hostile collision—I offer you reduced estimates, improvements in Civil Jurisprudence, reform of ecclesiastical law, the settlement of the Tithe question in Ireland, the Commutation of Tithe in England, the removal of any real abuse in the Church, the redress of those grievances of which the Dissenters have any just ground to complain. I offer you these specific measures, and I offer also to advance, soberly and cautiously, it is true, in the path of progressive improvement. I offer also the best chance—that these things can be effected in willing concert with the other authorities of the State—thus restoring harmony, ensuring the maintenance, but not excluding the Reform (where Reform is really requisite) of ancient institutions.—You may reject my offers—you may refuse to entertain them—you may prefer to do the same things by more violent means; but if you do, the time is not far distant. when you will find that. the popular feeling on which you rely has deserted you, and that you will have no alternative but either again to invoke our aid—to replace the Government in the hands from which you would now forcibly withdraw it—or to resort to that "pressure from without," to those measures of compulsion and violence, which, at the same time that they render your Reforms useless and inoperative, will seal the fate of the British Constitution.
Lord John Russell,
before the House adjourned, begged leave to ask the right hon. Gentleman two or three questions. One was, what course he intended to pursue with respect to the disabilities of the Dissenters? He wished also to know whether it was intended to bring on the question of the commutation of tithes at an early day? Lastly, was it the right hon. Gentleman's determination to lay on the table the Reports of the Commissioners of Church Inquiry in Ireland?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
replied that he had already stated that soon after he had entered the Cabinet, he had applied himself to the consideration of measures for the relief of the Dissenters; and that he hoped to be able to submit a proposition which, although it would not go to the admission of Dissenters into the Universities, would relieve them from the disabilities under which they laboured, with reference to the professions of law and medicine. Propositions, also, with respect to the marriages and the registers of the births of Dissenters, were under consideration. It had been alleged that the former 243 ought to be postponed until the latter was ready to be brought forward; but he did not see that the adoption of the one proposition, would be prejudicial to the subsequent adoption of the other. With respect to what the noble Lord called a Commutation, but which was, in fact, an Adjustment of Tithes, that was a measure which would be soon brought before Parliament. As to the reports of the Commissioners of Church Inquiry in Ireland, not above half of those inquiries were complete. He would not pledge himself with respect to any step on the subject, but he would pledge himself that the inquiries should be completed, and the Reports laid on the Table of the House.
§ The further debate was adjourned.