§ Lord John Russell
Mr. Speaker since I last had the honour of addressing this House, the right hon. Gentleman opposite received from her Majesty authority to form the plan for a new administration, to be submitted for her Majesty's approval. The attempt of the right hon. Gentleman to form an administration having failed, her Majesty has been graciously pleased to permit the right hon. Gentleman to state the circumstances which led to that failure. What I propose now, therefore, is, that the right hon. Gentleman should state to the House what he may think it necessary to state, in pursuance of the permission thus granted to him by her Majesty, and I will then inform the House of the reasons which have induced her Majesty's advisers to resume the offices which I declared on the former occasion they had resigned into her hands. The course which I now propose to take, is to move that the House on its rising this evening do adjourn to Wednesday next, giving notice that when it meets on that day, I shall move that, on its rising it adjourn till Friday se'night, for the Whitsuntide Holidays.
§ Sir Robert Peel
spoke as follows:* Mr. Speaker, I have reserved for this place, and for this occasion, the explanations which feel it my duty to offer with regard to the circumstances which have induced me to relinquish the attempt to form an administration for the conduct of the public service. Sir, I need scarcely say that I disclaim any sanction for any other statements which may have appeared of these circumstances; that for them I am wholly irresponsible; and that they have been made without my authority, and contrary to my wishes, if those wishes could have prevailed.
Sir, if I were willing to forego all personal considerations—if I were content, which I am not, to be the victim of misrepresentation and obloquy,—still I apprehend that the public interests are so deeply* From a corrected report.980 involved in any question relating to a total change in the Government of this country, and the practice has so long prevailed of informing the public mind with respect to the circumstances which may have led to the interruption of such negotiations, that I apprehend private feelings would not be permitted to prevail; and that this House and the country would expect, that explanation should be freely given in the face of Parliament. I ant aware of all the difficulties which attend explanations of this nature, and of the peculiar difficulties which attend them under existing circumstances. From a part of those difficulties (in themselves insuperable without such permission) I have been relieved by the gracious permission which I have received from her Majesty to give an explanation of the circumstances under which I relinquished the attempt to form an administration. I applied yesterday to Lord Melbourne for that authority: I need not read my own letter, as it is embodied in the reply which I received from his Lordship, dated "South Street, May 12;" and which communication I will now beg to read to the House.South. Street, May 12, 1839.Lord Melbourne presents his compliments to Sir Robert Peel, and having already, in expectation of such a request, taken her Majesty's pleasure upon the subject, feels himself authorised at once to signify to Sir Robert Peel her Majesty's full permission to explain the circumstances under which he recently relinquished the attempt to form an Administration; and, with that view, to make use of the correspondence with her Majesty which took place on the 10th of May.Every one probably will acknowledge, therefore, that I am equally authorized and called upon to give this explanation. In giving it, Sir, my chief anxiety is, that I may be fully mindful of the sacred obligation under which I am placed, to do entire justice to that illustrious Lady who has been a party in this transaction. Sir, I hope that, under any circumstances, I should have felt the full force of that obligation; but if anything could add to my sense of the imperativeness of it, it would be the relation in which I have so recently stood to my Sovereign, and the intercourse which I have been permitted to hold with her. Of course, Sir, much communication must have passed with respect to the formation of a Government, which does not immediately bear upon the particular point 981 upon which explanations are required; but if, in the course of my statement, I should omit anything which others in possession of the facts think ought to be stated, I invite the noble Lord to call for further explanation on any point whatever, and I will most willingly give it. Let him put any question that he may think material, and I will, to the best of my power, give a clear and full answer to it. I will now proceed to a statement of all those facts which appear to me to have the slightest reference to the necessity for the present explanation. I waited upon her Majesty by her Majesty's desire, at 2 o'clock on Wednesday the 8th of May. Her Majesty had previously seen the Duke of Wellington, and had invited him to assist her Majesty in the formation of a Government. The Duke of Wellington had informed her Majesty, that, in his opinion, the chief difficulties which a Government would have to encounter would be in the House of Commons; and therefore, partly upon other considerations, but chiefly on that account, the Duke of Wellington advised her Majesty to send for one who would have the advantage of appearing in the House of Commons as her Majesty's Minister, and at the same time suggested my name as the person best qualified to undertake the task. I waited upon her Majesty, and was asked by her Majesty whether I was willing to undertake the duty of forming an Administration? Her Majesty observed to me, that she had parted with the Administration which had just resigned with great regret. Her Majesty said, that her late Ministry had given her entire satisfaction; but that it had become necessary, in consequence of their resignation, that her Majesty should take some steps for the formation of a new Administration. I do not think it necessary, to enter into minute details of what passed on this occasion. It is sufficient to say generally, that it is impossible, that any one could express feelings more natural and more becoming than her Majesty did on this occasion, and at the same time principles more strictly constitutional with respect to the formation of a new Government. I informed her Majesty, that I was not insensible to the enormous difficulties with which I had to contend; but I stated, that having been a party to the vote and proceedings of the House of Commons which led to the present difficulty, nothing should prevent me from tendering to her Majesty every assistance in my power. I thought 982 a paramount obligation was imposed upon me to take that course, by the fact that I was the cause of the difficulty in which her Majesty was placed. I undertook, therefore, the duty of forming an Administration, and proposed to her Majesty, that I should return on the following day, hoping, that I might be enabled, even in that short interval, to present such a general arrangement for the formation of a Government as should ensure the Administration of the chief executive offices of the State, and give an assurance to the public, that I was determined promptly and energetically to execute the duty I had undertaken. Sir, I conferred, in the course of Wednesday, with some friends whom I had the more immediate opportunity of summoning to my aid, and requested from them permission to submit their names for her Majesty's approval to constitute a part of the Government. Those to whom I refer were eight in number, and were the following:—
I waited upon her Majesty, the following day, at one o'clock, and submitted those names for her Majesty's approval. I mentioned to her Majesty, that while the Duke of Wellington placed his services entirely at her Majesty's disposal, yet his own inclination would be gratified if he were permitted to be in the Cabinet without any office, and take the lead in the House of Lords. Her Majesty expressed a particular wish that the Duke of Wellington should hold some important office. I told her Majesty I should, of course, submit that wish, on the part of her Majesty, to the Duke of Wellington, and I could not doubt, that he would forego any private inclination of his own, and consent to undertake any office, however important. No question arose as to the formation of the Administration, or as to the principles on which the Government was to be formed or conducted, to which it appears to me to be necessary to refer; but again I remind the noble Lord, that if I am omitting any thing which he thinks material, I will supply it—if he has any question to put, eliciting more ample information, I will instantly reply to it. It was not until Thursday that that difficulty or misconception arose which led to my relinquishing my attempt to form an Ad- 983 ministration. Sir, that difficulty related exclusively to that portion of the household which is filled by the Ladies in her Majesty's service. Her Majesty conceded what could be wished or expected with respect to that part of the household which is filled by Noblemen or Gentlemen holding seats in either House of Parliament. The difficulty arose with respect to certain portions of that part of the establishment which is filled by the Ladies of the household. Sir, I think it infinitely better on this point—the one on which the difficulty arose—I think it infinitely better, after mature consideration, that I should not enter—in the first instance, at least, nor unless invited by the noble Lord—into any statement whatever of impressions on my own mind with respect to what took place, but that I should refer exclusively to the letters which passed on the subject; because, if I were to state here impressions of my own, I must detail verbal communications that passed where two parties only were present; and myself, one of the party, being alone in this House to offer explanations of what occurred. I approach, then, that point with respect to which the difficulty on this occasion arose; and for the purpose of enabling the House to form a judgment with respect to the nature of that difficulty, I shall confine myself altogether to the written documents which passed on the occasion, in which are conveyed the impressions on the mind of her Majesty, and the impressions on my own mind with regard to the purport and effect of the communications that passed between her Majesty and myself, in respect to certain appointments in the household which are held by Ladies. Now, whatever blame may attach on account of imperfect explanations, I am content to bear it; whatever consequences may result from misconception, let them be visited upon me: but as to my intentions in regard to the Ladies of the household, I must not only state them, but I must prove them by the most unequivocal testimony. On the Wednesday evening—that is, the day before I saw her Majesty on this particular point—I had an opportunity of conferring with all those whom I proposed to submit to her Majesty as Ministers. I saw them on Wednesday night at my own house about ten o'clock. I then stated to them—and there are four of them now present who heard the communication, and can give their evidence upon it—my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. 984 Goulburn), the Member for Launceston (Sir H. Hardinge), the Member for Pembroke (Sir James Graham), and my noble Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Lord Stanley); I stated to them, and to the Peers whom I have before named, the course which I meant to pursue with respect to the household had very little information with respect to the household, and had very little considered the matter (I am speaking of the female part of it); I really scarcely knew of whom it consisted. I took the "Red Book" into my band, and saw there the different appointments of the household. I said to those who were intended to be my future colleagues, that, with respect to all the subordinate appointments—meaning every appointment, without exception, below the rank of a Lady of the bedchamber—I should propose to her Majesty no change whatever with respect to those. With respect to the superior class, I stated, that those Ladies who held offices of that class, and who were immediate relatives of our political opponents, would, I took it for granted, relieve us from any difficulty, by at once relinquishing their offices. But I stated, at the same time, that I did think it of great importance, as conveying an indication of her Majesty's entire support and confidence, that certain offices in the household, of the higher rank, if not voluntarily relinquished by the Ladies holding them, should be subject to some change. Even with respect to the higher offices, namely, the Ladies of the Bedchamber, I did state, however, that there were some instances in which, from the absence of any strong party or political connexion, I thought it would be wholly unnecessary to propose a change. My noble and right hon. Friends will confirm what I assert. This passed on the evening of Wednesday; and I mention it only in complete proof of my intentions, being perfectly willing, as I before observed, to have transferred exclusively to me whatever blame may attach to the imperfect explanation of my views. I saw her Majesty on Thursday, and verbal communications took place on this subject. As I stated before, into the nature of those communications I shall not now enter in the slightest degree. I shall merely read the two letters which passed; one conveying the impressions of her Majesty, and the other my own. The letter which I had the honour of receiving from her Majesty is dated May 10, 1839. I received it at an early hour on Friday morning, and it is as follows;— 985
Duke of Wellington, Lord Stanley, Lord Lyndhurst, Sir James Graham, Earl of Aberdeen, Sir Henry Hardinge, Lord Ellenborough, Mr. Goulburn.Buckingham Palace, May 10, 1839.The Queen, having considered the proposal made to her yesterday by Sir Robert Peel, to remove the Ladies of her Bedchamber, cannot consent to adopt a course which she conceives to be contrary to usage, and which is repugnant to her feelings.Immediately—that is, in two or three hours after having received the letter from her Majesty, I addressed to her Majesty a letter, of which this is a copy, dated Whitehall, May 10:Whitehall, May 10, 1839.Sir Robert Peel presents his humble duty to your Majesty, and has had the honour of receiving your Majesty's note of this morning.In respectfully submitting to your Majesty's pleasure, and humbly returning into your Majesty's hands the important trust which your Majesty had been graciously pleased to commit to him, Sir Robert Peel trusts that your Majesty will permit him to state to your Majesty his impression with respect to the circumstances which have led to the termination of his attempt to form an Administration for the conduct of your Majesty's service.In the interview with which your Majesty honoured Sir Robert Peel yesterday morning, after he had submitted to your Majesty the names of those whom he proposed to recommend to your Majesty for the principal executive appointments, be mentioned to your Majesty his earnest wish to be enabled, with your Majesty's sanction, so to constitute your Majesty's household that your Majesty's confidential servants might have the advantage of a public demonstration of your Majesty's full support and confidence; and that at the same time, as far as possible consistently with that demonstration, each individual appointment in the household should be entirely acceptable to your Majesty's personal feelings.On your Majesty's expressing a desire that the Earl of Liverpool should hold an office in the household, Sir Robert Peel requested your Majesty's permission at once to offer to Lord Liverpool the office of Lord Steward, or any other which he might prefer.Sir Robert Peel then observed, that he should have every wish to apply a similar principle to the chief appointments which are filled by the Ladies of your Majesty's household; upon which your Majesty was pleased to remark, that you must reserve the whole of those appointments, and that it was your Majesty's pleasure that the whole should continue as at present, without any change.The Duke of Wellington, in the interview to which your Majesty subsequently admitted him, understood also that this was your Majesty's determination, and concurred with Sir Robert Peel in opinion that, considering the great difficulties of the present crisis, and the expedi- 986 ency of making every effort in the first instance to conduct the public business of the country with the aid of the present Parliament, it was essential to the success of the commission with which your Majesty had honoured Sir Robert Peel, that he should have that public proof of your Majesty's entire support and confidence, which would be afforded by the permission to make some changes in that part of your Majesty's household, which your Majesty resolved on maintaining entirely without change.Having had the opportunity, through your Majesty's gracious consideration, of reflecting upon this point, he humbly submits to your Majesty that he is reluctantly compelled, by a sense of public duty, and of the interest of your Majesty's service, to adhere to the opinion which he ventured to express to your Majesty.He trusts he may be permitted at the same time to express to your Majesty his grateful acknowledgments for the distinction which your Majesty conferred upon him, by requiring his advice and assistance in the attempt to form an administration, and his earnest prayers that whatever arrangements your Majesty may be enabled to make for that purpose, may be most conducive to your Majesty's personal comfort and happiness, and to the promotion of the public welfare.These are the letters that passed, and I add nothing to the simple reading of them. But though I shall not now enter into any further verbal explanation as to the nature of the communications which I had with her Majesty, I hope I may be permitted to notice some misrepresentations which have been circulated with regard to my conduct. I have heard, even since I came into this House to-night, that I made some proposal to the Queen, as to the noblemen and gentlemen of her household, which ought not to have been made. The only names I submitted to her Majesty for situations in the household (besides that of Lord Liverpool, whom her Majesty herself mentioned, as one whom she was anxious to select for office), were those of Lords Ashley and Sidney. I said to her Majesty that I thought it probable, that the appointment of Lord Ashley would be personally acceptable to her Majesty, and that if this were the case, I would entreat Lord Ashley to forego for the present any object of political ambition, and accept a place near her Majesty's person. I solemnly declare my sole object in naming either Lord Ashley or Lord Sidney, was to do that which I thought would be most agreeable to the Queen. I have also heard it stated, that I called for the dismissal of the whole of the ladies of the household. It has been 987 said, that even the earliest friend of her Majesty, the Baroness Lehzen, I insisted should be removed. I heard this rumour on the evening of Friday; and my answer to the person who informed me of it was, "This is the first time for the last four days that the name of the Baroness Lchzen was ever uttered by me, nor did it ever occur to me that she was one of the Ladies whose removal I ought to seek." I must refer once more—still charging myself with all blame for any misconception which may have been occasioned by imperfect explanation—to the testimony of my noble and right hon. Friends near me, as to the exact truth of the statements which I have now made. Sir, I did decline to undertake the duty of forming an administration, on the express understanding that the whole of the appointments held by Ladies of the Court should without exception be continued: but I did so on public principles, and from a sincere belief that it was impossible for me to encounter the difficulties by which I was encompassed in attempting to conduct public affairs, unless I had the fullest and most unequivocal proof that I possessed the confidence of her Majesty. It appeared to me that there never was a period when the demonstration of that confidence was more absolutely necessary for a Minister. The duties of the office of a Prime Minister are, I conceive, the most arduous and the most important that any human being can be called on to discharge: it is the greatest trust, almost without one single exception, in the civilised world which can he devolved upon any individual. Sir, I was ready to undertake the performance of those duties; but could I look around me, at the present condition of public affairs—could I look around me and not see that it was ray absolute duty to this country, and above all to her Majesty, to require that every aid that could be given me should be given? What were the questions which would immediately press for my decision? The state of India—the state of Jamaica—the state of Canada—would all require my immediate consideration; and with respect to some of them, the proposal of legislative measures. I considered the internal state of this country—I saw insurrection in the provinces—I saw the letter of the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell), inviting the respectable part of the population of this country to form themselves into armed societies for resisting outrage. Surely, Sir, 988 in addition to the ordinary difficulties besetting the course of a Prime Minister, there are circumstances which render that position at the present moment peculiarly onerous and arduous. I had a strong impression that it was my duty to make every effort to conduct public affairs through the intervention of the present Parliament. I did not think it was desirable to follow the course taken in 1834, and commence the Government by a dissolution. After the frequent dissolutions that have taken place, and in the balanced state of parties, it was my deep conviction, that it was my duty to make every effort in the first instance to conduct public affairs through the intervention of the present Parliament. But what is my condition in the present Parliament? I should begin the Government in a minority. I did not shrink from the difficulty; but considering the questions that press for decision—considering the internal state of this country, could I overlook this important fact, that in the House of Commons I should not commence my career commanding a majority?—Now, I ask this plain question:—Being invited to take upon myself the responsibility of conducting public affairs, and taking it without the confidence of the House of Commons, could I ask for less, than that I should have, at least, the demonstration of the entire and unqualified confidence of the Crown? Her Majesty's Ministers retired on the question of Jamaica, being in a majority of five; I should have had to undertake the settlement of the Jamaica question, being in a minority of five, and that minority including ten Gentlemen on whose support I could not calculate probably on any other question which I should have occasion to bring before the House. The first conflict I should have to fight would be on the selection of a Speaker. On the very first day that I took my seat in the House of Commons as Minister of this great country, I should have to risk the fate of Government upon the choice of a Speaker. These considerations, Sir, impressed me with the clearest conviction, that it was a public duty on my part, an indispensable public duty, which I owed to the country, and which I owed especially to the Queen herself, as the Sovereign of that country, to seek for every possible demonstration that I possessed her Majesty's entire confidence, And I do confess to you, without reserve, and without hesitation, that it appeared to me, that if the 989 chief offices of the Queen's household were to be held by the immediate relatives of those Ministers whom I displaced—the relatives of my future opponents and rivals for political power—it did appear to me, that I never could impress the country with the conviction, that I, as a Minister, was possessed of the entire confidence of my Sovereign. Sir, let me take that particular question on which my chief difficulty would arise. Who can conceal from himself that my difficulties were not Canada; that my difficulties were not Jamaica; that my difficulties were Ireland? [Ironical Cheers.] I admit it fully, and thank you for the confirmation of my argument which those cheers afford. And what is the fact? I, undertaking to be a Minister of the Crown, and wishing to carry on public affairs through the intervention of the present House of Commons, in order that I might exempt the country from the agitation, and possibly the peril, of a dissolution—I, upon that very question of Ireland, should have begun in a minority of upwards of twenty Members. A majority of twenty-two had decided in favour of the policy of the Irish Government. The chief Members of the Irish Government, whose policy was so approved of, were the Marquess of Normanby and the noble Lord opposite, the Member for Yorkshire (Lord Morpeth). By whom are the two chief offices in the household at this moment held? By the sister of Lord Morpeth, and the wife of Lord Normanby. Let me not, for a moment, be supposed to say a word not fraught with respect towards those two ladies, who cast a lustre on the society in which they move, less by their rank than by their accomplishments and virtues; but still they stand in the situation of the nearest relatives of the two Members of the Government whose policy was approved by this House, and disapproved by me. Now, I ask any man in the House, whether it is possible that I could with propriety and honour undertake the conduct of an Administration and the management of Irish affairs in this House, consenting previously, as an express preliminary stipulation, that the two ladies I have named, together with all others, should be retained in their appointments about the court and person of the Sovereign? Sir, the policy of these things depends not upon precedent—not upon what has been done in former times: it mainly depends upon a consideration of the present. The household has been al- 990 lowed to assume a completely political character, and that on account of the nature of the appointments which have been made by her Majesty's present Government. I do not complain of it—it may have been a wise policy to place in the chief offices of the household ladies closely connected with the Members of the Administration; but remember that this policy does seriously tend to the public embarrassment of their successors, if ladies, being the nearest relatives of the retired Ministers, are to continue in their offices about the person of the Sovereign. I do not say that there would be the slightest use made of unfair means; I might be confident that these ladies would confine themselves to the duties of their proper situations; but observe, that is not the question. That remark will apply equally to the Lords of the bedchamber; for the presumption is, that they do not interfere with public official duties. But the question is, would it be considered by the public, that a Minister had the confidence of the Crown, when the relatives of his immediate political opponents held the highest offices about the person of the Sovereign? My impression decidedly was, that I should not appear to the country to he in possession of that confidence; and that impression I could not overcome; and upon that impression I resolved to act. Who were my political opponents? Why, of the two I have named, one, the Marquess of Normanby, was publicly stated to be a candidate for the very same office which it was proposed I should fill, namely, the office of Prime Minister. The other noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) has been designated as the leader of this House; and I know not why his talents might not justify his appointment in case of the retirement of his predecessor. Is it possible—I ask you to go back to other times; take Pitt or Fox, or any other Minister of this proud country, and answer for yourselves this question—Is it fitting, that one man shall be the Minister, responsible for the most arduous charge that can fall to the lot of man; and that the wife of the other—that other his most formidable political enemy—shall, with his express consent, hold office in immediate attendance on the Sovereign? Oh, no! I felt it was impossible that I could consent to this—that I could contend successfully with the difficulties that encircled me, unless I had the proof which I required of the entire confidence of her Majesty. As I stated before, I was to 991 begin almost hopeless of commanding a majority in the House of Commons. I was to begin, having nothing to rely upon but an appeal to their good sense, upon an appeal to their forbearance—to their political forbearance—for the hope of support in the present House of Commons; being perfectly prepared, however, on the failure of my attempt to govern with the present House of Commons, to advise her Majesty to resort to the only alternative which might present itself to enable me to maintain my post, namely, that of dissolution. But if the agreement—if the express condition upon which I was to enter upon office, was to be, that the ladies of the Ministers who preceded me, of the Ministers whom I had just displaced, of those men with whom I was about to enter into daily conflict as my rivals for power, were to continue in immediate contact with the Queen,—then I felt, yes, feelings more powerful than reasoning, or than precedents, told me, that it was not for my own honour, nor for the public interests, that I should consent to be the Minister of England. The public interests may suffer nothing by my abandonment of that high trust; the public interests may suffer nothing by my eternal exclusion from power;—but the public interests would suffer, and I should be abandoning my duty to myself, to the country, and, above all, to the Queen, my Sovereign, if I were to consent to hold power on conditions which I felt to be—which I had the strongest conviction were—incompatible with the authority and with the duty of the office of Prime Minister. Sir, I have attempted to give this explanation in as fair and unexceptionable a manner as I could; and I owe it to truth to state, that intervening reflection has only served to confirm every impression under which I acted.
§ Lord J. Russell
I feel, on addressing the House on this occasion, most peculiarly that difficulty to which the right hon. Gentleman has adverted—namely, that he has been obliged to give explanations with reference to conversations held with her Majesty (for the letter which he has read is, in fact, a summary of his impressions with regard to those conversations), and that he is the only person who in Parliament can state what passed on those occasions. I am, therefore, rejoiced to find, that the right hon. Gentleman has avoided, as much as possible, all allusion to particular parts of conversation, and that al- 992 though there appears to be some misconception as to what took place, on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, I am glad to find it is not a misconception on a point on which the right hon. Gentleman thought it necessary to insist, and to which her Majesty was not willing to accede. I feel, that it is a great consolation to me to be able to say this, because I am sure, that it is far better, whatever may be the opinion of the Parliament or of the country, that the difference should be, not as to a misconception of conversations and of facts that tool; place, but a difference as to the principles on which an Administration should be formed during her Majesty's Reign. I will state some points to which I am authorised to refer, and I will mention one particular instance in which a different impression appears to exist on the mind of her Majesty from that which the right hon. Baronet has stated to the House, leaving it to him, if he think proper, to re-assert or explain anything he has already said. The last time I had the honour of seeing her Majesty before I addressed the House on Tuesday last, I informed her Majesty, that the Members of the Cabinet had determined to tender their resignations to her Majesty. Lord Melbourne had not then seen her Majesty, and it was through Lord Melbourne that the resignations were to be officially tendered and formally accepted. On taking leave of her Majesty, Lord Melbourne, on that occasion, thought proper to mention to her Majesty some things which were usually done on changes of Administration (what seemed, in fact, to be the established practice), and likewise advised her Majesty, that the best course she could pursue would be to send for the Duke of Wellington, and to take his advice respecting the steps that she should take. It has been stated, that Lord Melbourne gave that advice. It is perfectly true that he did so. It has been also stated, that I gave similar advice. Such, however, is not the fact, because, considering the situation I held, I did not consider, that it was competent to me to offer any advice to her Majesty on the subject. Her Majesty accordingly sent for the Duke of Wellington, and he referred her Majesty to the right hon. Gentleman. There has been a statement made on which I have asked her Majesty what was the impression on her mind, and the right hon. Gentleman has stated nothing in contradiction to it. It was, that in the first interview with the Duke of Wellington and the right hon. Baronet, 993 the right hon. Baronet alluded to the formation of her Majesty's household. Her Majesty's apprehension of what took place was this: that Lord Melbourne informed her Majesty, that it had been usual in later times, when an Administration was changed to change the great officers of the household, and also to place at the disposal of the person entrusted with the formation of a new Administration those situations in the household which were held by Members of either House of Parliament. With respect to the Ladies of the Bedchamber Lord Melbourne did not tender any advice whatever, nor offer any suggestion as to what he considered to be the usual practice upon that point. It did not occur to Lord Melbourne that there was likely to be any question upon that subject. The right hon. Baronet has observed, that there had been many things stated to the public, and that many incorrect impressions have obtained in the public mind with respect to the transactions of the last few days. Under such circumstances I really believe it will be better, that I should state the bare facts, as far as they have come to my knowledge, being perfectly convinced, that in the end, between the right hon. Baronet and myself there will be no material difference as far as those facts are concerned. The right hon. Baronet saw her Majesty, I believe, on the Wednesday. He has stated what took place upon that occasion, and also what subsequently transpired between himself and his own political friends. He has further stated, that he again saw her Majesty on Thursday, and mentioned to her the names of some persons whom he proposed to form part of her Majesty's new Administration. Now, I am informed, that her Majesty having in the first instance expressed (as the right hon. Baronet has stated) regret at the necessity which compelled her to change her Administration, at the same time declared her determination to deal with him with perfect openness and frankness; and that, I am sure, would be the nature and character of the treatment which any gentleman admitted to the same high and distinguished honour as the right hon. Baronet would be certain of receiving at the hands of her Majesty. The right hon. Baronet has stated, that with regard to the political offices of the Administration, and with regard to the great offices of the household, and other offices in the household held by Members of either House of Parliament, her Majesty's concessions were all that he could desire, in 994 order to impart efficiency to his Administration. There, then, occurred the question with respect to the ladies of the household. The right hon. Baronet has stated in his own letter what took place upon that point, and I shall beg again to call the attention of the House to it, omitting that part of the letter which refers to Lord Liverpool. I am anxious to do this, that the House may see more clearly and distinctly the principle upon which the right hon. Baronet proposed to act. The right hon. Baronet, in his letter, says:—In In the interview with which your Majesty honoured Sir Robert Peel yesterday morning, after he had submitted to your Majesty the names of those whom he proposed to recommend to your Majesty for the principle executive appointments, he mentioned to your Majesty his earnest wish to be enabled, with your Majesty's sanction, so to constitute your Majesty's household, that your Majesty's condential servants might have the advantage of a public demonstration of your Majesty's full support and confidence, and that, at the same time, as far as possible, consistently with that demonstration, each individual appointment in the household should be entirely acceptable to your Majesty's personal feelings.After this came the paragraph which referred to Lord Liverpool, and with which I do not feel it necessary again to trouble the House. [Sir Robert Peel requested that the paragraph might be read.] Then I will read it. It is as follows:—On your Majesty's expressing a desire, that the Earl of Liverpool should hold an office in the household, Sir Robert Peel requested your Majesty's permission at once to offer to Lord Liverpool the office of Lord Steward, or any other which he might prefer.These two paragraphs of the letter certainly showed the principle on which the right hon. Baronet was disposed to act, which appeared to be this—that whilst he must claim the privilege of recommending to the chief offices of the household persons who were attached to his own party, he would not press the appointment of any who were not personally acceptable to her Majesty. The wish expressed by the right hon. Baronet was so to constitute her Majesty's household that her Majesty's confidential servants might have the advantage of a public demonstration of her Majesty's full support and confidence, and, that at the same time, as far as possible, consistently with that demonstration, each individual appointment in the household 995 should be entirely acceptable to her Majesty's personal feelings. This was followed by the paragraph which related to Lord Liverpool, and afterwards came a passage to which I must call the attention of the House.—Sir Robert Peel then observed, that he should have every wish to apply a similar principle to the chief appointments, which are filled by the ladies of your Majesty's household; upon which your Majesty was pleased to remark, that you must reserve the whole of those appointments, and that it was your Majesty's pleasure, that the whole should continue as at present, without any change.That is, in point of fact, the main statement contained in the right hon. Baronet's letter—it is the statement upon which he rested the relinquishment of the trust confided in him by the Queen. The right hon. Baronet now states, that the terms in which the sentence is expressed, may not be such as sufficiently to explain his meaning. He tells us that his meaning was not to interfere with the inferior offices of the household, but merely to extend the principle for which he contended, to the chief appointments in the household. The impression upon the mind of her Majesty certainly was, that the right hon. Gentleman requested the power to constitute that part of the household which related to the ladies of the bedchamber, and that those offices, as well as other inferior appointments, should be subject to change at the recommendation of the Minister. Her Majesty not being disposed to concede that point, the right hon. Baronet continued his letter in these terms:—The Duke of Wellington, in the interview to which your Majesty subsequently admitted him, understood also that this was your Majesty's determination, and concurred with Sir Robert Peel in opinion that, considering the great difficulties of the present crisis, and the expediency of making every effort, in the first instance, to conduct the public business of the country with the aid of the present Parliament, it was essential to the success of the commission with which your Majesty had honoured Sir Robert Peel, that he should have that public proof of your Majesty's entire support and confidence which would be afforded by the permission to make some changes in that part of your Majesty's household which your Majesty resolved on maintaining entirely without change.These words referred to a conversation which the right bon. Gentleman had with the Duke of Wellington; but, as I before stated, although this might be the impres- 996 sion on the right hon. Baronet's mind, which was not sufficiently explained, or which, if explained, was not sufficiently understood by her Majesty, I think there was at once an end to any proposal for either an entire or a partial change, by her Majesty's declaration, that she wished the whole of them to remain. After the right hon. Baronet had declared his wish to be so authorized, and her Majesty had declared that it was a concession she could not make, her Majesty again sent to Lord Melbourne, and consulted his Lordship as to the form of the answer which she should make to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. Lord Melbourne, finding her Majesty not disposed to yield to the proposal of the right hon. Baronet, or to submit to the removal of any part of the household, with the exception of those connected with Noblemen and Gentlemen of either House of Parliament, sent for his colleagues, in order to take their opinion as to the advice they might give her Majesty as to the form of the answer she should give. The answer given by her Majesty, which has been likewise read by the right hon. Gentleman, is in these terms:—The Queen having considered the proposal made to her by Sir Robert Peel, to remove the ladies of her bedchamber, cannot consent to adopt a course which she conceives to be contrary to usage, and which is repugnant to her feelings.Now, Sir, the question as I conceive is, whether it was essential, to enable the right hon. Gentleman to form a government, that her Majesty should accede to the proposal made by the right hon. Baronet. In the view of her Majesty, whether that proposal had been for a total change of the ladies of the bedchamber, or whether it was for a partial change, the principle would have been equally repugnant to her feelings and destructive to her comfort; because it appeared to her Majesty, and as I think, most truly, that if, in pursuance of the powers granted to him, the right hon. Gentleman should propose the removal of some of the ladies of the household, and that afterwards any one or two other ladies should be proposed, this right hon. Gentleman, being then Prime Minister of this country, and that principle having been conceded, it would have been utterly impossible for her Majesty to say that, for the sake of any one particular lady, or for the sake of any one particular friend of her Majesty, she would risk the breaking up of an administration in con- 997 testing the principle, to the practice of which she had given her assent. The question then is—her Majesty feeling so strong an objection to this proposal, whether her Majesty was authorized in saying, that it was a course which she conceives to be contrary to usage, and repugnant to her feelings. Now I cannot on this occasion admit—I do not think that I should be in the least justified in admitting, that if the practice proposed by the right hon. Baronet is contrary to former usage—if the Kings and Queens of this realm have not acted in conformity to it, I am not prepared to admit that her present Majesty is to assent to a course repugnant to her feelings, if former usage does not justify the request. What has been the usage in this respect? It will be difficult to find cases exactly suited to that of a Queen Regnant, a case which, since the death of Queen Anne, has not occurred in this country. In 1710, however, Lord Sunderland having been removed from the office of Secretary of State, and Lord Rialton from the office of Comptroller of the Household, the ladies of those Noblemen, both daughters of the Duke of Marlborough, remained ladies of the bedchamber from the month of August, 1710, when their husbands were dismissed, till December, 1711, when they—their father the Duke, having been removed in a manner which they thought was unjust to that great man—resigned voluntarily situations. Since that time we certainly have not had any precedent exactly in point. There have been from time to time changes in the household consequent upon changes in the Administration; hut all those changes have been far more limited in extent than the change proposed by the right hon. Baronet. In 1782 Lord Rockingham allowed the Duke of Montagu to remain Master of the Horse, and none of the Queen's household were changed. Again, in 1783, the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Steward, with the Lord Treasurer, were removed: but all the ladies of the bedchamber remained. In 1806, the same principle was acted upon. In 1812, a question was raised with respect to the household by Lords Grey and Grenville. The question addressed by them to Lord Moira, was in these terms:—"Whether full liberty extended to the consideration of new appointments to those great offices of the household which have been usually included in the political arrangements made on a change of administration; intimating their opinion, that it would be necessary to 998 act upon the same principle on the present occasion." Lord Moira answered, "That the prince had laid no restriction on him in that respect, and had never pointed in the most distant manner, at the protection of those officers from removal; that it would be impossible for him, however, to concur in making the exercise of this power positive and indispensable in the formation of the administration, because he should deem it, on public grounds, peculiarly objectionably." Now, it would be observed, that the power asked by Lords Grenville and Grey, and upon the refusal of which their efforts to form an administration failed, was a power to change only the great officers of the household, and did not in any way apply to the Lords of the bed chamber, or to the smaller offices in the royal establishment. During the late King's reign, there were several changes of administration, and on those occasions, the great officers were changes but not other persons holding other offices; they were not changed, as in the case of Sir William Freemantle. It appears therefore, that the power claimed by the right hon. Baronet, at the hands of her Majesty, was a power greater than has ever before been conferred on any similar occasion; and that the power actually given, was equal to any power that was ever extended to a person charged with the formation of an administration, by any Sovereign on the throne of this realm. I cannot put out of the question these facts, with regard to usage, and I think, that her Majesty having, as the right hon. Baronet says, given him full power with regard to the political administration—having given him full power also with regard to the great officers of the household, and to those offices held by Members of either Houses of Parliamen—the failure of the attempt to form an administration cannot justly be laid either to her Majesty, or to those who have consented, upon the proposition being made to them, to support her Majesty upon this occasion. With regard to the other part of the question—to the course which her Majesty considers to be contrary to usage, and repugnant to her feelings, it certainly did appear, that the placing at the disposal of the person who was to form her Majesty's administration, and who was afterwards to be her Prime Minister, the appointment to those offices, held by ladies, with whom her Majesty was in daily and hourly converse and communication, would destroy her Majesty's personal comfort, and would lead to continual changes in those with whom she 999 was intimately connected. Upon this subject I certainly think, that the cases which, it is true, are not exactly and formally in point—namely, the cases of Queens consort of this realm, constitute precedents which, upon a matter of this kind, where the personal feeling and personal convenience of the sovereign is concerned, do immediately apply. In the late reign, as the right hon. Baronet is well aware, the ladies of Queen Adelaide's household were ladies whose husbands gave their votes constantly in opposition to the King's Government. I do not remember, except upon one occasion, ever hearing that there was even an idea that the ladies who held those situations should be removed. In 1832, when the ministry had resigned upon the Reform Bill—when there was a very strong popular excitement throughout the country, so strong as to induce those who had undertaken to form an administration, to resign the attempt; and when the ministry was restored, there was an apprehension that some of the ladies of the Queen's household would be removed by Lord Grey; but it was a most groundless alarm, because, neither that noble Lord nor his Government, ever entertained the slightest wish to interfere with the comfort of her Majesty. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, that he had great political difficulties to contend with, and he alluded particularly to the state of affairs in Canada, in India, in Jamaica, and more especially to the state of Ireland. That there were difficulties, upon all those questions was undoubtedly true; but I own, that it appears to me that the right hon. Baronet would gain no strength by imposing upon her Majesty a condition which was repugnant to her feelings. I do not say that the right hon. Baronet, in mentioning the proposals he meant to make with regard to an administration, might not have remarked to her Majesty that some of the places in the household, being held by ladies connected with those who were his immediate opponents, would be a disadvantage to him in carrying on his Administration; but I do think, that when the right hon. Baronet once found that such a change was repugnant to her Majesty's feelings, that so far from gaining strength by insisting upon such a change, it would have been a positive weakness in the new Administration. These are matters merely of delicacy of feeling. Supposing that her Majesty, against her will, had consented to the removal of certain of these ladies, and that others had been 1000 appointed in their places, it would have been quite impossible for the right hon. Baronet to insist that her Majesty should receive the new comers with the same grace and favour as she had been in the habit of receiving those who, contrary to her wish, had been dismissed. I think, therefore, that in point of policy, immediately that the right hon. Baronet found that there was an objection in the royal mind to his proposal, it would have been far better (I mean for the right hon. Baronet's own sake), if he had at once withdrawn it; because, I say this, that the knowledge that a condition had been imposed upon her Majesty with regard to the ladies of the household against her Majesty's consent must have been for a long time a source of irritation and discontent in the mind of the Sovereign with whom the right hon. Baronet would have to deal; whilst, on the contrary, if he had at once relinquished a proposition which he found to be so highly distasteful, it was more likely that her Majesty would treat him with the greater confidence, because her Majesty, being herself of a high and generous spirit, would have felt the generosity on the part of the right hon. Baronet which dictated such conduct. And this, be it remembered, was a proposition made to a Sovereign of no mature age, very young when she came to the throne, and of a sex which calls for the peculiar exercise of generosity. But I am sure the country and the world will be convinced that neither the sex of her Majesty will make her deficient of courage, nor will the age of her Majesty prevent her having a just discrimination and a sound and calm understanding. I say this, not because the right hon. Gentleman, either in the manner in which he conveyed his proposition to her Majesty, or in what be said to-night, has either said or done anything on public grounds which he is not entitled to state as a public man; but I am putting the case of a feeling which the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman might be expected to excite with those who would be likely to take an impression of what had been done. The right hon. Baronet has referred to public impressions; there might have been a public impression which her Majesty would be very unwilling to receive. Her Majesty was pleased, on Friday last, after she had received the letter of the right hon. Baronet, resigning at once the commission with which her Majesty had honoured him, to order my attendance upon 1001 her. Her Majesty stated the circumstances to me very much as the right hon. Gentleman has stated them; with respect to herself, exactly as the right hon. Gentleman had stated them. But with regard to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, her Majesty certainly had not gathered the precise nature of the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to use the power which was to have been granted. Her Majesty, after making those statements to me, was pleased to ask whether I thought she was justified in making that refusal; and when I stated that I thought her Majesty was justified, her Majesty was then pleased to observe, that as her Majesty, in possession of the powers of the Crown, had hitherto given her support to the Administration, she hoped I would consider myself bound now to support her Majesty in return. On the next day, a cabinet was held in Downing-street, and her Majesty's confidential servants, after a consultation, expressed their opinion with regard to these matters in a minute, an extract from which I will take liberty to read to the House:—Her Majesty's confidential servants having taken into consideration the letter addressed by her Majesty to Sir Robert Peel on the 10th of May, and the reply of Sir Robert Peel of the same day, are of opinion that, for the purpose of giving to the Administration that character of efficiency and stability, and those marks of the constitutional support of the Crown, which are required to enable it to act usefully to the public service, it is reasonable that the great officers of the Court, and situations in the household held by Members of Parliament, should be included in the political arrangements made in a change of the Administration; but they are not of opinion that a similar principle should be applied or extended to the offices held by ladies in her Majesty's household.I have stated that what her Majesty conceded was as much as ever was conceded by any Sovereign to a person honoured with the task of forming an Administration. I have also stated that what was further proposed by the right hon. Baronet was not conformable to any usage, and that it was a proposal which was, at the same time, repugnant to her Majesty's feelings. The question then was, whether her Majesty's former Ministers, notwithstanding the difficulties which had made them tender their resignations, were willing so far to act as to state their concurrence with her Majesty in her refusal, and thus to become constitutionally responsible for that 1002 refusal [Cheers and laughter.] I see that hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think it a subject of great derision that her Majesty's servants should have come to the decision to support that refusal. They appear to treat it as a matter of lightness and gaiety. But I, for my part, am prepared to say that, great as those difficulties may have been, though compelled, as I felt myself by a sense of duty, to tender my resignation to her Majesty, I do conceive that it is no matter of derision, but matter of great public import, that those who think that her Majesty was justified in what she has done should not refuse to assume the responsibility which belongs to their opinion—that they should neither conceal nor evade the avowal of it, and that they should trust to the opinion of Parliament and of the country as to the result.
§ Sir Robert Peel
I can assure the noble Lord that he has relieved me from the greatest load of anxiety I ever suffered under during my whole life; I was so fearful that in the statement I might make upon this subject I should appear in the slightest manner to do injustice to my Sovereign. Notwithstanding some of the observations made by the noble Lord, I think there is so important difference in the statements we have made. Under these circumstances, although the noble Lord has invited me to enter into any further explanation I might think fit, I very much doubt whether upon the whole it would not be better to let the matter rest where it is. I think it will be more respectful to her Majesty. I will reply only to one point. The noble Lord inquired of me whether her Majesty did not state to me that it was her intention to act towards me with openness and fairness. Her Majesty certainly did state that I should find her act with perfect openness and fairness, and I thought I had conveyed my impression upon that point when I stated that nothing could be more becoming or more constitutional than the whole of her Majesty's conduct. Let me now, however, distinctly declare that her Majesty did treat me throughout with perfect openness and frankness.
§ Lord J. Russell
It will be as well that I should state, although it certainly is not necessary, but it may be satisfactory to the right hon. Baronet, that for my own part I have nothing to complain of in the statement he has made.
§ Mr. W. Duncombe
wished to know whether the noble Lord would have any 1003 objection to state his reason proposing that the House should adjourn till Wednesday, because, if he understood the noble Lord rightly, he proposed that the House should adjourn over to-morrow, till Wednesday, and from Wednesday to Friday se'nnight. Now it must be apparent to every one that Wednesday was an extremely inconvenient day, as it was usually a day on which very little public business was transacted. He was reminded also that it was the day of the Derby. The adjournment to Friday se'nnight was unusually long for the Whitsun holidays, and he wished to know whether the noble Lord had any reason to assign for that protracted adjournment. He did not complain of it, but he thought the country had a right to know why the uniform practice was departed from. He wished also to know whether the House would, on the Friday after the adjournment, proceeded to the important duty of the election of Speaker?
§ Lord J. Russell
replied that he certainly did not think that the course he had proposed was very unusal, although there were circumstances which would have justified him in asking for a longer adjournment. He believed that former adjournments had been for ten days. The Thursday in Whitsunweek was the Queen's birth day, therefore he would not propose that the House should adjourn to that day. As to the other question of the hon. Gentleman, he believed that it was necessary to have a message from the Crown, but if there were no objection to the election of Speaker on that day, it would take place on the Friday after the adjournment.
§ Sir Robert Peel
earnestly entreated that no objection should be made to the course proposed; but he would suggest whether, as private business was very pressing, the Muse might not meet to forward private bills, on the distinct understanding that nothing else should be proceeded with.
§ Lord John Russell
had no objection to to the House meeting to-morrow on the understanding that it met only for private business; but as matters of considerable importance required the deliberate attention of the Government, he should not be present to answer any questions.
§ The House adjourned.