§ LORD J. RUSSELL
Sir, in moving the postponement of the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Ecclesiastical Titles Assumption Bill, I will take the opportunity of stating to the House what has occurred since I asked the House on Monday last to consent to an adjournment to this day. Before doing so, however, I think it necessary to notice a contradiction which I received to a statement I made on Monday. I stated that Lord Stanley, having been sent for by the Queen, had stated to Her Majesty that he was not then prepared to form a Government, and that thereupon I was required to repair to Buckingham Palace. I received from the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire a contradiction to that statement in terms very peremptory, and in a manner not very courteous. I feel it due to my own honour to state, in the first place, that nothing was further from my intention than to mis- 1030 represent the conduct of Lord Stanley. For Lord Stanley I have the greatest respect. I have fought Parliamentary battles side by side with him; I have fought face to face against him; and in every situation I have ever had occasion to admire his spirit, his courage, and his honour. Therefore I should be sorry indeed if anything which fell from me did not convey a correct representation of what he had stated on the subject. But the House will recollect that it was my duty not to go into details—not to allude to particular circumstances—not, above all, to narrate what I had heard of conversations, but to present what appeared to me to be the general result of what had passed. It was quite necessary I should state a reason why, after having taken leave of Her Majesty, I was required to repair again to the Palace. That this was necessary, I say, is obvious from the various statements that were circulated—some previously to the contradiction given by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, and some subsequently—statements which represented that Lord Stanley was anxious to form a Government, and represented me as having endeavoured to force my way uninvited to the presence of the Sovereign, while Lord Stanley was engaged in negotiations for that purpose. Now, what occurred was this: His Royal Highness Prince Albert wrote me a letter on the afternoon of Saturday, which, with Her Majesty's and His Royal Highness's permission, I will read to the House. I will read the whole that is contained in the note:—Lord Stanley has, after a conference of more than an hour, declined undertaking the formation of a Government at present, until it should be clear that no other Government could be formed. The Queen has sent for Lord Aberdeen and Sir James Graham, and wishes to see you immediately.I could do no other on that representation, than conclude that Lord Stanley had declined, for the present, to form a Government, until he had seen that no other Government could be formed, and could not have imagined that two days after it would be a misrepresentation of Lord Stanley to say that he had not then been prepared to form a Government; for it will be recollected that I used the words "not then prepared." Every one who has ever been admitted to the presence of Her Majesty is aware of the accuracy of her memory, and of the precise view She takes of all that comes under her observation. But although 1031 I received from the Queen, in some detail, what had passed with Lord Stanley, I do not rest on any such statement in what I now say; but on a written account of the interview between Her Majesty and Lord Stanley, which Lord Stanley sent to the Queen in the course of the same evening, and from which Lord Stanley has permitted me to read to the House extracts containing all that bears on the point in question. Let me observe that if I go into these particulars, it is in consequence of the contradiction of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. I was satisfied to leave the case with the few words which I stated on Monday, without going beyond that general representation. Lord Stanley thus reports to the Queen what he had stated in her presence:—After stating to Your Majesty the position of the three main parties into which the House of Commons is divided, Lord Stanley observed, that the policy of the present Administration had met with the general approval and support of the most distinguished men of the party which adhered to the late Sir Robert Peel, and that they had never yet met with a defeat from Lord Stanley's political friends; that a very important Member of that party, Sir James Graham, had publicly declared his opinion of the necessity of 'closing their ranks' to resist the presumed policy of Lord Stanley's friends; and as Your Majesty had been pleased to inform him that no communication had been made to any one previous to that with which Your Majesty honoured him, he ventured to suggest that, in the first instance, Your Majesty should ascertain whether it were not possible to strengthen the present Government, or partially to reconstruct it by a combination with those who, not now holding office, concurred in the opinions of those who do, and professed their opinion of the necessity of union; that, failing such a combination, a portion of that third party might be willing to combine with Lord Stanley, whose difficulties in such a case would be greatly diminished; that if it should appear that both of these arrangements were impracticable, and if personal considerations stood in the way of the formation of a Government of those whose opinions appeared to prevail in the House of Commons, Lord Stanley, not undertaking the extreme difficulties which he would have to encounter, would, if honoured with Your Majesty's confidence, prefer any responsibility, and even the chance of failure and loss of reputation, to that of leaving Your Majesty and the country without a Government; and he added, that he believed an Administration formed under such circumstances would be more likely to meet with support, even from moderate opponents of their views, than one which should be hastily formed without giving time to show the impracticability of a different arrangement.I ask the House whether these passages do not bear out my statement that Lord Stanley was not then prepared to form a Government? At the close of his letter Lord Stanley says:— 1032He feels highly honoured by being allowed to submit to Your Majesty unreservedly his whole views, and while he would be sorry that this paper should fall into any other hands than those of Your Majesty, he has that entire confidence in Lord John Russell's honour, that he is sure no ungenerous use will be made of any portion of it which Your Majesty may see fit to communicate to him.I have the gratification of being able to state, that after I made my statement in this House, Lord Stanley, while he informs me that he does not agree in that statement, does not wish to qualify in the least degree the last portion of his letter. It is satisfactory to me to be able to make this statement to the House, and to say that the extracts I have read to the House have been read with the entire consent of Lord Stanley; indeed, Lord Stanley wished them to be read in any statement which I might make. Having thus explained what I said on a former day, I have now to state that, having been desired by Her Majesty to attempt the reconstruction of the Administration, Her Majesty was pleased, as Prince Albert states in his note, to desire the Earl of Aberdeen and Sir James Graham to attend at Buckingham Palace. By Her Majesty's desire I met the Earl of Aberdeen and Sir James Graham at the Palace, and afterwards had communications with them on the subject of the formation of a Government. After the extracts which I have read from Lord Stanley's letter, I feel it right to say that no persona] considerations stood in the way of the formation of a Government representing the opinions which seem to prevail in this House. If the Earl of Aberdeen and Sir James Graham did not concur in the formation of a Government, it was not because personal considerations stood in the way. With respect to several points of public importance on which we communicated, although there was not any particular agreement, yet there was not such diversity of views as might not, by further communication, have been reconciled; but there was one point on which it was felt impossible, either for the Earl of Aberdeen and Sir James Graham, or myself, to give way. That subject was the Bill I introduced relative to the assumption of ecclesiastical titles. I stated—and I will presently explain what I meant in so stating—that I was willing to agree to considerable alteration and modification of that Bill; but that I thought it necessary to persevere with the measure. The Earl of Aberdeen and Sir James Graham, however, declared 1033 that in their opinion any legislation on the subject was unnecessary. This, therefore, was a point on which we differed so widely, that in our opinion it was impossible to form a Government by our junction. As soon as I found that the objections of the Earl of Aberdeen and Sir James Graham to legislation on this subject were insuperable, I again repaired to Buckingham Palace, and humbly laid before Her Majesty the commission with which I had been intrusted. It has been erroneously stated in the public papers that in the course of the same evening I met the Earl of Aberdeen and Sir James Graham at the Palace. After laying down the commission I had received, I did not again meet them at the Palace, and we made no further attempt to form an Administration. But from the communications which had previously taken place, I have at least derived this satisfaction—that I have renewed with the right hon. Member for Ripon those ties of friendship by which we were formerly connected, and which, until during the struggles and difficult circumstances that occurred on the dissolution of Earl Grey's Government, and led to the resignation of the right hon. Gentleman, it was my pleasure and my pride to enjoy. It is therefore a pleasure and a comfort to me to renew the relations of friendship in which we formerly stood towards each other. I will not proceed to give any narrative of what occurred subsequently to my resignation of the commission with which I was intrusted by Her Majesty. The right hon. Baronet himself can state what occurred with respect to anything of that kind. The result was, as the House well knows, that Lord Stanley was again sent for by the Queen; and yesterday evening I was informed that Lord Stanley had resigned his commission into the hands of Her Majesty. Of course, with respect to the reasons of his so doing I am entirely ignorant, and will not pretend to conjecture; but this morning, I was informed that Her Majesty had been pleased, in these difficult circumstances—so many and such various attempts to form a Government having failed—to command the attendance of an old and faithful servant of the Crown—one whose wisdom in civil affairs is hardly less than the glory which he has derived from his militury achievements—I mean the Duke of Wellington. Her Majesty—I think most wisely—means to take counsel from that eminent man, and to pause for a while before She again commences the task of forming an Adminis- 1034 tration. I therefore end this narrative, as far as I am concerned, by desiring the House also to pause until some further step be taken. I cannot, however, well omit this opportunity of making some remarks, if the House will allow me, on the most important of the subjects which have been brought into discussion within the last few days. Let me say, in the first place, that the statement which I made on a former day does not seem to have been understood by all who were present on the occasion; for I was informed by a right hon. Gentleman, that I was understood to say that those Members of this House who voted in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for East Surrey had thereby given a vote of want of confidence in the Government. Now, what I said was directly the reverse of that. I said that, no doubt, the Members who voted for that Motion gave a vote upon the merits of the question before them; but that, nevertheless, the effect of the vote was the weakening of the Government; and I will say now, that, had it not been for the event which immediately preceded that vote—I mean the division on the Motion of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, and divisions which I have every reason to expect on other subjects—I should not have thought the division on the Motion of the hon. Member for East Surrey alone a sufficient cause for the resignation of the Ministry. It was, however, impossible to avoid seeing that the Ministry must sustain a harassing conflict, terminating, it might be, in defeat; and I thought it better to resign in the first instance than to remain at the risk of the loss not only of power, but of character, to the Government. There is one charge which I could hardly have expected to be brought against me—I allude to the charge that, foreseeing the difficulties of the present circumstances of the country, I shrank from the responsibility of conducting public affairs. Such motives might, perhaps, have been imputed to me if, when Ireland was afflicted with a dreadful and almost unprecedented famine—when 3,000,000 of her people were fed by public charity, and when it was doubtful whether, in those circumstances, life and social order could be preserved, I had shrunk from the difficulty of the case. It is possible such motives might have been attributed to me if, at a later period, when the whole commerce of England was in a state of disturbance and confusion—when we heard 1035 every day of failing banks and broken merchants—when the principal bankers of London came to me and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask us to suspend the law, and to seek an Act of Indemnity for its suspension—I had shrunk then from the difficulties of my position. Such motives might have been imputed to me if, at a later period, when the whole of Europe was shaken by revolution—when there was every prospect that the treaties which bound Europe together would be broken up—when the example of revolution tempted to the violation of public order in this country, and when the Irish clubs were organised and prepared to spread rebellion over the land—under such circumstances, Sir, I might, perhaps, have shrunk from the difficulty of the crisis. But I do say that, not having shrunk under those circumstances and under those difficulties—that, having met those circumstances, and having passed over and overcome those difficulties, it was not likely that, in the present circumstances of the country, when commerce was flourishing, when the people were prosperous, when the only difficulty with the Exchequer was, that it was flourishing more than was convenient for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor—when, in fact, the country has been placed in a state of prosperity and of peace equal to any other time—I say, it would have been impossible that I could have shrunk from my duty under the present circumstances. But I wish to state some opinions with respect to three questions which have occupied the public mind. One of these, and the most prominent one, is the question of free trade and free imports of corn. Now, I claim no credit whatever for establishing the present law upon that subject. The system which the Government of Lord Melbourne proposed was a system of a different kind, viz., a system of moderate duties on corn, and of differential duties on sugar and timber. That System was, rejected by the House of Commons find the country. In 1845 the circumstances of the country had assumed a very different shape. On the 1st of November that year, Sir Robert Peel proposed to his Cabinet that, at no distant period, the corn laws should be repealed. In that same month, without any communication with any one, I published my opinion that the time was come when the corn laws could no longer be maintained, and that the only safe course was, to pro- 1036 ceed to their repeal. Sir Robert Peel gave the honour of that change of public opinion, and of the final step in our legislation upon that subject, to the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire; and undoubtedly the benefits which the country has derived from that change, although due in great part to Sir Robert Peel, are likewise due in a great part to the hon. Member for the West Riding. I claim—I cannot say no share—but I claim the smallest share in the change of the commercial policy of the country; but that change having been effected in 1846, and having supported that change to the best of my ability, I believe that its effects have been most beneficial to this kingdom. I believe that the great mass of the people of this country are enjoying benefits from that change which they will not consent to see endangered. When the reins of power fell into our hands, it was our endeavour to proceed with that policy; and on two very important questions—the duties on foreign sugar and the navigation laws—questions of the greatest interest to the well-being of the country, we were successful in carrying changes into effect in conformity with the, commercial policy of 1846. I reckon that we were fortunate in being able to carry those changes into effect with the willing concurrence of the two Houses of Parliament. I have never thought that it was any matter of reproach, but the reverse, that Members of the other House of Parliament were willing to concur in the plan which had been proposed by the Administration of which I was the head; for it appears to me that while we are endeavouring to carry into effect great changes, we should endeavour, as far as possible, to carry them into effect without disturbing the institutions of the country. I will now proceed to the next subject, and that is, the Bill on the Assumption of Ecclesiastical Titles. I still concur in the opinion which I expressed on the introduction of that Bill. It is still my opinion that the assumption of those titles was an assumption of power on the part of a foreign Prince, and of those commissioned by him, which it was impossible for the Parliament of England to overlook; but I will say this, that I thought, and still think, that the main object to be attained was the vindication of our national independence upon that subject, and the assertion of the supremacy of the Crown and the people of England as against any foreign Power whatever. But with respect 1037 to the Bill which we have introduced—although great pains were taken in framing it—we have been told by persons who are competent authorities, that, looking to the proceedings in courts of law in Ireland—that, looking to what has been the practice both before and since 1829, this Bill would, in its second and third clauses, interfere, perhaps, with the ordination, certainly with the collation, of priests, and with bequests which have been allowed by various decisions of courts of law. I will say at once that it was not our intention so to interfere; and that, so far as regards anything which belongs to the regular order of the Roman Catholic Church, so as to permit the Roman Catholics to have their worship and their ecclesiastical functions undisturbed—so far we were anxious to maintain the religious liberty which has prevailed in this country; and therefore, if this Bill were proceeded with, I should be ready to make all such alterations in it as might prevent any interference of the kind which I have now stated. I own that when I see a man of such moderation and so justly respected as Archbishop Murray, objecting to the provisions of the Bill, I cannot refuse to examine and go over its provisions, with the view of seeing whether the objections thus stated are really well founded. My persuasion was, and I was confirmed in that persuasion by very high authorities, that on those points the Bill did not interfere, as it is now alleged it does. Therefore, if the Bill is proceeded with, we shall be ready to carry into effect the intentions we originally entertained—neither departing from, nor going beyond the intentions which I stated to the House upon its first introduction. There is another question, of very great importance, upon which on the occasion on the debate on the 20th inst., I made some statement to the House—I mean that very important subject, the extension of the suffrage. Now, it is fit I should state to the House—and I do so with the full consent of my Colleagues—that the extension of the suffrage was the subject of many deliberations in the course of the autumn, and previous to the meeting of Parliament. I had prepared an outline of a measure which I thought might have been proposed to Parliament on the subject; but a preliminary question naturally occurred, whether or not it was for the welfare of the country that any Bill should be introduced upon the subject in the course of the present Session; and, looking to the 1038 probable duration of the present Parliament—looking to the circumstances of the country at the present time—after various discussions, we all concurred in the opinion that it would not be advisable to introduce a Bill in the course of the present Session upon this subject. I came to the conclusion—having previously, I must say, held a different opinion—but I came to the conclusion, with all my Colleagues I believe, that it would be far better for the interests of the country not to introduce a Bill of this kind in the present Session. But at the same time I stated that I should, if my Ministry continued, lay before the Cabinet in the recess a measure which I should still further mature and prepare for the purpose of extending the right of voting for Members of Parliament. It is obvious that if such a Bill is to be introduced at all it should be introduced in the next Session, because the year 1853, according to the usual course of proceeding, would be the time when the dissolution of Parliament would arrive; and in questions of this kind we ought not to introduce a measure immediately before an inevitable dissolution. The Reform Bill took two years for its consideration; and therefore the year 1852 appeared to us the latest time that such a Bill could be introduced. With respect to the question itself, I have to say, that having, ten years before the Reform Bill was introduced, devoted my attention to the subject—having made several Motions upon it between 1821 and 1831—having had a principal share in framing the Reform Bill—I am perfectly satisfied with the general working of that measure. I see that it has produced none of the consequences which were foretold of the overturn of the constitution of the country. I think it has materially assisted both in the progress of useful measures, in introducing valuable reforms, and likewise in satisfying the public mind in times of discontent and insecurity. But I think that if you can increase the number of people enjoying the right of electing Members of Parliament—if you can do that with benefit to the representative system—if you thereby improve the representation, you at the same time gain this great advantage, that you place the representation upon a wider basis, and give an interest to a greater number of the subjects of the Queen in maintaining our laws and institutions. I think, however, that the greatest caution should be used by Parliament with regard to any measure to be adopted upon the subject. I think the 1039 general distribution of the Reform Bill has produced a fair representation of the intelligence, wishes, and interests of the people; and I should regret any change in the representation which deprived the House of Commons of those conservative elements which ought to belong to it. I cannot conceive that a House of Commons merely representing numbers would act in harmony with a monarchy, an hereditary House of Lords, and an Established Church. I think it ought to be the object of every man who approaches the subject not to create a House of Commons which should be a separate and independent power jarring with all our institutions, but that it should be the object of any one who introduced such a Bill to do as we, I think, did in 1831. Our object in 1831, was to give the people a greater interest in our institutions, to improve the representation generally, but at the same time not to hazard the spirit and frame of our constitution. Sir, these, therefore, are my views which I have ventured to lay before the House upon these three important subjects. It is at the present time, of course, a matter of entire doubt into whose hands may be committed the power of officially presenting any measures to the House, but I feel that upon all such great subjects as these—more especially upon the question of Parliamentary Reform—it is not for Ministers—it is not for official persons alone, to look to the solution of these great questions. They interest us and our posterity; they interest every Member of this House; and, therefore, every Member of this House is bound to watch carefully and to judge cautiously with respect to any measure that may be proposed. I have considered that in the course of my Parliamentary conduct—whether in the days when I was proposing reform to a small minority, and amidst the apathy of the country, or when I was urging a reform of Parliament amidst the enthusiasm of the whole nation, and with every prospect of success, I felt that my great comfort was that I was acting with men in whom I had the utmost confidence, on whose judgment I could rely, and in whose integrity I felt the most perfect faith. Perhaps the House will allow me to quote a few sentences from a great statesman, who used frequently to be quoted in this House, and who was often referred to as a guide to our deliberations. He is certainly much less referred to now, but his sentiments nevertheless are pregnant with much wis- 1040 dom. I allude to Edmund Burke. Burke says—The only method which has ever been found effectual to preserve any man against the corruption of nature and example is a habit of life and communication of counsels with the most virtuous and public-spirited men of the age you live in. Such a society cannot be kept without advantage, or deserted without shame. For this rule of conduct I may be called in reproach a party man: but I am little affected with such aspersions. In the way which they call party, I worship the constitution of your fathers; and I shall never blush for my political company. All reverence to honour, all idea of what it is, will be lost out of the world, before it can be imputed as a fault to any man that he has been closely connected with those incomparable persons, living and dead, with whom for eleven years I have constantly thought and acted.Adopting these sentiments, I have to say that for far more than eleven years I have thought and acted with some of the most eminent men in this country. When I first came into Parliament I benefited by the counsels, and followed the examples of such men as Romilly, Mackintosh, and Horner. When I first entered office I did so under the auspices of the lofty patriotism, the calm temper, and large experience of Earl Grey; and with the unostentatious public spirit and incorruptible disinterestedness of Lord Althorp. With such men it was my pride and fortune to act. I will not speak of the living; but so long as it is my fate to take a part in public affairs it will be my endeavour to consort with such men as Burke speaks of, with whom I agree in public principle, and from whose wisdom I can learn the best path to the public welfare. So long as this country endures, that I believe will be found to be the best course to pursue. Some men may think that the standard of public virtue has risen higher than it was in the time of Burke, and some may think that it has sunk lower. My belief is, that from such men as I have mentioned, both this country and the world derive benefit, and that future ages, not only in this country, but in the western world, will thank them for the humanity they have inculcated—for the freedom they have enlarged, and for the just principles they have taught to the world; and as long as I take part in public affairs, whatever my station may be, I shall endeavour to follow the example of such men as my best guide to the public welfare.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Mr. Speaker, I request the indulgence of the House whilst I briefly endeavour to remove a misapprehension which exists in the mind of the 1041 noble Lord with reference to what fell from me the other night. The state of the case is very simple. It was assumed by Lord Stanley that on Monday last no reference would have been made to anything that had occurred as to the attempt to form a new Government. I happened to see Lord Stanley almost immediately before I entered the House. He expected that the noble Lord opposite would come down to the House; would, of course, as was his duty, state that his Government had been dissolved; of course state that Lord Stanley had been sent for; and would conclude, without any observation, by informing the House that Her Majesty had again sent for him. Under these circumstances, it would, of course, have been perfectly unnecessary to make any observation; but Lord Stanley authorised me, in case it should happen, by any chance, which he thought utterly impossible, that it should be mentioned that he had stated to Her Majesty that he was not prepared to form a Government, he wished such a statement not to pass unnoticed. Now, what occurred? The noble Lord, instead of merely mentioning the circumstance of Lord Stanley having been sent for, thought proper to state to the House that Lord Stanley was not prepared to undertake the task of forming a Government. It was not possible for me, circumstanced as I was, to have offered any detailed explanation. It was not in my power to make any reference to the transactions in which Lord Stanley had been engaged; but at the same time I was told that it was not proper that an unqualified statement, such as made by the noble Lord opposite, should be permitted to pass entirely unnoticed. That was the reason why my remark may have appeared to be so abrupt. Some physical oppression, under which I was suffering, may have made my phraseology less appropriate than the circumstances demanded; but I certainly did not intend to be either peremptory in my language, or discourteous in my manner. When I referred to the statement made by the noble Lord opposite, I never could have imagined that any one could have supposed I was commenting on any expression which might have fallen from the highest quarters; nor do I think my remark fairly susceptible of any such construction. I thought that the noble Lord was at the time in possession of Lord Stanley's letter, and that he had 1042 conceived and conveyed an erroneous impression of that letter—and to that opinion I still adhere; and I am warranted in saying that it is still the opinion of Lord Stanley himself. The noble Lord lately at the head of the Government did me the honour last year to say that I had conducted the Opposition in a fair and honourable spirit. [Lord J. RUSSELL: Hear, hear!] I appreciate such words from the noble Lord. I desire to deserve such commendation. But I must take leave to ask the House, with regard to the letter of Lord Stanley, now read, whether the impression which I formed respecting it, and the remark which, however uncouthly I uttered with respect to the noble Lord's interpretation of that document, do not turn out to be perfectly justified by the fact? The statement of the noble Lord, however unintentional, certainly conveyed to the Members who were sitting in my immediate locality, and, I believe, to the House at large, that Lord Stanley had announced, that although summoned by his Sovereign to do so, he was not prepared to attempt the construction of an Administration. It is right that the House should observe that the noble Lord opposite did in this matter that which was not done in the other House of Parliament. He connected the dissolution of his Government with my Motion on the subject of agricultural distress, and therefore it came to this—here was a political party, advocating certain principles, and making certain declarations, who take the earliest opportunity to declare that they are unwilling to reduce their principles to practice. If that representation were true, the political party in question would have been trifling with the country, the Parliament, and the Sovereign. But for such an imputation, there is not the smallest foundation in fact. I hope that the noble Lord opposite now understands my intention, and appreciates the motives which induced me to offer an observation, which, however unhappy I may have been in my method of expression, was necessary under the circumstances of the case. Sir, it is not my intention to offer any remark on the efforts in which Lord Stanley engaged with a view to form a Government. It is wholly unnecessary that I should do so, for at the moment I am speaking, Lord Stanley is explaining all the circumstances connected with that transaction. But I will express my conviction, that when that statement shall 1043 have gone forth to the public, the character of my noble Friend will, if possible, stand higher than ever.
§ [Here Sir J. Graham was loudly called for.]
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
I wish to state, Sir, why I waited for some intimation that the House expected from me some explanation before I—a private Member—thought it consistent with my duty to intrude myself Upon your notice on this occasion. I was afraid lest it might be deemed presumptuous in me, who have no official character whatever, to offer any observations on the present critical juncture of affairs, when an unguarded or imprudent expression might aggravate the difficulties which, from my heart, I wish to see removed rather than increased. But I regard what has just passed as an intimation that some explanation is expected from me, and I will endeavour to make that explanation as succinctly and as plainly as it is in my power to do. I hope the House will bear with me while I state as accurately as I can so much of the case as is open to me consistently with my duty to my Sovereign, and with the desire of not increasing the difficulties which have been stated to the House. On Saturday evening, Lord Aberdeen and I received the commands of Her Majesty to wait upon Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace; and there we were honoured with an audience of Her Majesty, who informed us that Lord Stanley not being then prepared to form an Administration, Her Majesty had empowered Lord John Russell to endeavour to reconstruct a Government; and Her Majesty intimated to Lord Aberdeen and myself Her command that, laying aside personal differences, we should meet Lord John Russell in a spirit of amity and conciliation, for the purpose of seeing if it was possible to form a Government upon a more extended basis, with due regard to our private convictions of what was necessary for the public service. That command Lord Aberdeen and I cheerfully obeyed; and it is superfluous, I hope, for me to say that, haying received such a command from the highest quarter in the realm, I should have been wanting in faithful obedience to my Sovereign—I should have been wanting in gratitude for the marks of condescension I had received from a Sovereign I had served for many years—knowing as I did, too, that the object nearest to the heart of that Sovereign was the welfare, contentment, and happiness of Her people—I say I 1044 should have failed in my duty if I had not done my utmost to meet Her injunction to act with the noble Lord, in the spirit of conciliation and friendship. The noble Lord has used some expressions with regard to me for which I am most grateful. He said that, although the communications which have lately passed between us, had been abortive in bringing us into closer conjunction on public affairs, they had renewed the feelings of kindness which formerly existed between us in private life, and which it was most painful to him to think had ever been interrupted. I most cordially reciprocate every sentiment of kindness which the noble Lord uttered; and with his permission I would gladly renew the terms of friendship which formerly so long existed between us. The noble Lord and I have been contemporaries in public life—we were at one time intimately associated in the bonds of kindness—I had almost said of affection—and I now beg to express a hope that I may be permitted again to call him in all sincerity my noble Friend. With respect to what the noble Lord has said in relation to public affairs, I do not wish on the present occasion—although I must touch lightly upon some of the topics—to raise an adverse, discussion, because probably the House will be of opinion with me that at the present juncture such a discussion would not be advisable. I will, however, advert to the three leading points to which the noble Lord referred; and upon these it is not to be expected that upon principle there could naturally be much difference of opinion between us. When the history of the past thirty years shall be recorded, there are three leading transactions which will fix the attention of the historian. I would say that the first is the triumphant advance of civil and religious liberty, as exhibited in the repeal of the Test and Corporation Act, and the emancipation of the Roman Catholics. The next is the extension of the suffrage, as manifested in the Reform Act; and the third is the establishment of a more liberal commercial and financial policy, which for the sake of brevity, I will call free trade. These three transactions will be found to mark the history of the past thirty years; and upon all these questions, sometimes as his colleague and sometimes, though in opposition to him, it has been my good fortune to agree with the noble Lord. When we came on the late occasion to the discussion of the terms 1045 of agreement, the first question raised by the noble Lord was this, "Shall we agree to free trade?" Why, upon this point there can be no difference of opinion between the noble Lord and me. This was the policy which was transmitted to him by the late Sir Robert Peel; it was the policy I advocated as the Colleague of Sir Robert Peel; and on a recent occasion, in the execution of what appeared to me to be a sacred duty and trust, I did my utmost to uphold that policy, giving ample credit to the Government of the noble Lord for having, by a faithful exercise of power, done their utmost to uphold it likewise. Therefore, with respect to the future, I shall say that upon every measure that was so shaped as to give effect to the extension of that principle, there could be no doubt or difficulty that the noble Lord and I could easily and naturally act together. Again, as regards the extension of the suffrage, the noble Lord and I are, I believe, now the only surviving Members of the Committee of the Grey Cabinet to whom the preparation of the Reform Bill was referred. Upon principle, therefore, there could be no difficulty between the noble Lord and me upon that subject. I agree with him, that so much having been conceded and so large an extension of popular privilege and democratic influence introduced into the constitution, it is necessary, in order that the balance of the constitution may be preserved, and the existing form of government upheld, that there should be a great caution in the next advance. Up to the present time, or at all events until recently, I thought there was safety in resisting any change whatever; but I am bound to say, that upon the whole, I am now not unwilling on principle to entertain the question of some extension of the franchise, guarding myself with the reserve, as I have already stated, that I can concede no extension which in my conscientious judgment I do not believe to be consistent with the maintenance and strengthening of the form of government under which it is still our happiness to live. The noble Lord said he had prepared an outline of a measure. I have not seen that outline; and, as in the preparation of a measure of this kind the utmost caution is necessary with respect to details, and as I have no knowledge of the details of the noble Lord's measure, and have had no share in its preparation, it would be rash in the extreme for me 1046 to pledge myself to support it. But again I say that to the principle of the extension of the suffrage, on my part, there is no insuperable objection. It now remains for me touch upon the last point—the question connected with the emancipation of the Catholics in 1829. And I am bound to say, that notwithstanding all that my noble Friend has said with respect to his readiness to introduce modifications and extensive alterations in the Bill now before the House, I cannot reconcile it to my sense of public duty to be a consenting party to that legislation. That it has been found to involve extreme difficulty my noble friend has stated in what he has just addressed to the House. He says, that with all his anxious desire, in legislation of this description, not to affect the free exercise of the Roman Catholic religion within the realm, having the ablest legal advice, having proceeded with the utmost caution, he has now, even since he has introduced his Bill, reason to doubt whether the clauses, as now framed, do not interfere with the power of ordination, with collation to benefices in the Catholic Church, and even, as I understood him, with the enjoyment by bishops, and even parish priests in succession, of endowments destined for their support. Now, if my noble Friend has really found such difficulty, with all his caution, in framing such a measure, it points out to me that I am justified in regarding with apprehension—I had almost said with extreme dislike, and I cannot use a weaker term—legislation naturally involving consequences to which I so much object—legislation, which if these objections be removed by the diminution of the measure, even so as to leave it for all practical purposes really inoperative, will be regarded by Her Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects as penal and offensive, and will undo altogether the policy which for the last twenty or thirty years it has been the object of the best, the wisest, the greatest men of this country with difficulty to build up and to establish. It would not be expedient at present to involve the House in a debate upon this subject; to give effect to my opinion would require a greater enlargement on various topics than would be at all consistent with the view which I take of the public necessity on this occasion; but it is necessary for me to say that the opinion which I had formed with respect to this Bill has not been formed hastily, and is not inconsistent with the 1047 principles I have heretofore enunciated. Having for one moment thus rather glanced at the extent of my objections than the nature of them, it is necessary for me to proceed to the next point in what I have to state to the House. I had no communication with Lord Aberdeen upon this subject until the first day of the Session of Parliament, when I had just arrived in London from the north. It so happened, that during his residence in Scotland, and mine in the north of England, for four months, we had not exchanged a letter. No correspondence had taken place between us upon the subject. With my habits of strict confidence and sincere friendship towards that noble Lord, it was natural that, upon my arrival in London, before coming down to my place in Parliament, I should seek an interview with Lord Aberdeen; and I asked him what his opinion was upon this subject; and I found, to my very great joy, that his opinion was confirmatory of my own less perfect judgment, and that he entirely coincided with me. This difficulty, therefore, in regard to a junction with my noble Friend on the part of Lord Aberdeen and myself was insuperable. The noble Lord was willing to modify the Bill; but he could not, with his conviction of what was due to the public good, consent to abandon it. Lord Aberdeen and I, on the other hand, viewing all the circumstances of the moment, seeing no imminent danger from abstaining from legislation, and seeing, as we did, the most serious evils to be apprehended from persevering in this legislation, said we could not be parties to it even in a more modified shape. This difficulty was fatal to our junction with the noble Lord; it was insuperable; I believe agreement upon other points would not have been impossible; but this was a "cardinal" point, and the junction was impossible. Now observe, the objection to the junction was still more conclusive against any attempt on the part of Lord Aberdeen to form a Government; because I do not dissemble from myself, much less from the House, that the feeling of this country of Great Britain has been so excited that some authoritative proceeding on the part of any Government, however composed, would, I believe, be required, though I have known nothing so dangerous in my experience in public affairs as the demand for something to be done without any reference to the two considerations whether that something be safe or unsafe, practica- 1048 ble or impracticable. But 395 Members of this House, I think, in opposition to 63, had voted in favour of the introduction of the Bill; the feeling of the people of England and Scotland had been roused to the extreme, and evinced in county meetings and in every possible manner to be in unison with the view of Her Majesty's late advisers, and quite opposed to the view taken by Lord Aberdeen and myself. We felt, therefore, that the attempt to conduct a Government framed on the principle of not legislating upon the subject in the present Parliament would have been abortive, and an appeal to the people under present circumstances, on a policy adverse to such legislation, would, I am afraid, have involved Great Britain in a struggle of the most calamitous kind. We at once, therefore, advised Her Majesty that we could not undertake the responsibility of forming a Government on a principle which, I am bound to state, would not be consistent with the feeling of the great majority out of doors of the people of England. It will perhaps be said that this is an afterthought on my part, a mere subterfuge, to escape official responsibility. I wish to guard myself against any such misconception; and it does so happen, if the House will bear with me, I have irrefragable evidence to show that the fact is otherwise. In my own county of Cumberland, in November, a requisition was circulated for a county meeting. I have an intimate friend there, Mr. Howard, of Greystoke Castle, descended from an ancient Roman Catholic family, first cousin of the Duke of Norfolk, the near relation of the Earl of Arundel; and he, entertaining an opinion different from mine, was of opinion that it was expedient to call for a county meeting for the purpose of pressing for some legislation, in consequence of what is termed "the Papal Aggression." I addressed to Mr. Howard on the 23rd of November, a letter stating the reasons why I thought that course was inexpedient. I did not wish to aggravate the difficulties of Her Majesty's Government, which I knew were extreme, because I am bound to say that a step such as that which has been taken by the Pope of Rome, and more especially by Cardinal Wiseman, was of a character so offensive—[Cries of "Hear, hear!"] I must say "more offensive," because it was done with design and premeditation—that it was extremely difficult for any persons filling the offices which my noble Friend and his Colleagues then filled to allow such an insult to pass 1049 unnoticed. But, entertaining strong objections to legislation, I thought it right, not approving of any interference such as Mr. Howard contemplated, in my answer to him, to enter somewhat at large into my reasons for that opinion; and, although I am extremely unwilling to trouble the House with my private correspondence, yet, if they will bear with me, I will read that part of my letter which refers to this subject, having Mr. Howard's permission so to do. It is couched in these terms:—Netherby, Nov. 23, 1850.It would give me cordial satisfaction to cooperate with you on any public occasion in this county. But, although I am a sincere Protestant, and resent the haughty tone assumed by the Pope in his bull, and by Cardinal Wiseman in his pastoral letter, yet I am unwilling to join in the No-Popery cry, or to ask for the revival of penal laws, or for any new enactment which might fetter the Roman Catholics in the full and proper exercise of their religious discipline within the realm. When I supported emancipation I knew that the Roman Catholics acknowledged Papal supremacy, and would be guided in all spiritual matters by bulls from Rome. I knew, also, that their religion is episcopal; and when I fought on their side for perfect equality of civil rights, I was aware that the Pope might nominate in England, as in Ireland, archbishops and bishops. I did not attach much importance to the safeguard proposed by the Duke of Wellington, who did not himself place much reliance on it, that the Popish hierarchy so nominated should not assume the title of English or Irish sees occupied by Protestant prelates. I myself was a party to the recognition by statute of the dignity of Roman Catholic archbishops and bishops in Ireland; while I adhered, however, to the settlement of 1829, that the enactment prohibiting the assumption of local episcopal titles identical with Protestant sees should be upheld, I proposed in the House of Commons, on behalf of Sir Robert Peel's Government, the remission of the penalties which attached to receiving bulls or other similar instruments from Rome; and out of office I supported Lord John Russell's measure, which authorises the renewal of diplomatic intercourse with the Roman Pontiff. I took these steps deliberately, and I do not regret them. I believe them to have been necessary for the good government of Ireland, and I cannot believe that it will be possible to have one law for England and another for Ireland with respect to Roman Catholic discipline and worship.I might have added, as I do here, that on the part of Sir Robert Peel's Government I moved for the endowment of the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth—a measure which, I am bound to say, in my humble belief, shook the foundations of the strength of Sir Robert Peel's Government, but which nevertheless I believe to have been a debt in justice due to the people of Ireland, and which, whatever may have been its effects, is a measure I never can regret. Further, I was the organ of Sir 1050 Robert Peel's Government in moving the Bequests Act—an Act which recognised the authority and dignity of the Roman Catholic archbishops, bishops, and clergy of Ireland. It speaks of the Roman Catholic archbishop or bishop "officiating in any district," and Roman Catholic clergymen "having pastoral superintendence of any congregation." What is the meaning of "officiating in any district" but having a diocese? What is the meaning of "having pastoral superintendence of a congregation" but being a parish priest? And what does that Act do? It carefully gives to them in succession the benefit of charitable bequests made in trust for them subject to the expressed limitations. But I will proceed with my letter:—I am offended, indeed, by the arrogance and folly of the language which the Pope and his Cardinal have thought fit to employ in announcing an ecclesiastical arrangement which I believe to be lawful, and which I do not consider dangerous. But my displeasure will not induce me to treat with disrespect the religion of 7,000,000 of my countrymen, or to contemplate for one moment the revision or the reversal of a policy which, in defiance of the No-Popery cry, I have supported throughout my public life, which I still believe to be sound, and which is indispensable, unless by a melancholy necessity the vast; majority of the Irish people are still to be treated and considered as our national enemies. I have thus written to you without reserve my genuine sentiments. I am aware that they are not popular. I do not wish to obtrude them on public attention. The subject will in some shape probably be brought under the notice of the House of Commons; and then, in my place in Parliament, it may be my duty to declare the feelings and the opinions which I entertain. In the mean time I am desirous to avoid any premature or hasty pledge in a matter of such paramount importance. I am more anxious to extinguish than to add fuel to the flame of religious strife and animosity.I put those opinions and feelings upon record on the 23rd of November. I avoided giving undue publicity to them, because I was honestly of opinion that it would add to the difficulty of a moment full of difficulty without any such addition. I, however, did not conceal them. They were not unknown in quarters where they might have produced a timely effect. But, having put those opinions upon record, I appeal to the House—I appeal to the country—whether it was possible for me, entertaining deeply the conviction of the truth of these sentiments, either to be a party to the further progress of legislation to which the I conviction of my noble Friend is pledged, or to think of forming part of a new Administration based upon a pledge to persevere in such legislation. I know, if I were seeking popular power, I should have ab- 1051 stained from this course; I know the ground I take is unpopular ground; but what I have expressed is a conviction I strongly and deeply entertain. I am afraid, if you commence this course of legislation, step by step you will be dragged into the penal code which broke down under you in 1829, which brought matters to such a dreadful alternative that the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, without acknowledging a change of opinion, yet from the necessity of the case, admitted that a change of policy was indispensable. Thanking the House for their kind indulgence, I have nothing more now to add; but when the question of the second reading of this Bill comes before the House, I shall venture to offer some observations upon it.
§ MR. HUME
said, that he was anxious at once to state the deep regret with which he had listened to the explanations tendered to the House that night. He certainly excepted the explanations offered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon. To that right hon. Gentleman he had listened with great satisfaction; and he was delighted at the consistent conduct of the right hon. Gentleman on the question as to the liberties of Roman Catholics. He (Mr. Hume) was confident the right hon. Gentleman had taken the proper view, and that what he suggested would turn out correct—that if we valued the peace of Ireland we would have to give way on the question of the so-called Papal Aggression. We could not re-establish a penal legislation; and the sooner that was confessed the better. What he said now, on this question, he had said on all similar question's ever since he had entered Parliament. There had never been, since he had been in Parliament, a single Motion in that House, which had for its object the removal of a civil or religious disability from any portion of his fellow-countrymen, which he had not most cordially supported. But he had heard the speech of the noble Lord with great regret, for it was impossible not to feel regret at finding that the formation of a Government had been dependent upon this narrow point in respect to the "Papal Aggression." The people of England would be surprised and offended on learning, that during all this time, in this Cabinet crisis, none of the really important questions had been raised, whether the budget should be abandoned, whether the income tax should be continued, and, in short, whether we were to have any relief from taxation. Ten days had been 1052 wasted, and it appeared that the finances had not once been brought Under consideration. Now, the future Government would find that attention must first be directed to these points; and he felt bound to say, for himself and on behalf of others around him, that whatever Administration was formed, whether by the Duke of Wellington or by the noble Lord, it could only be received by the Country on the condition that it would proceed to carry out the principles of that commercial policy as to which the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon were at least agreed, the benefits of which the country fully appreciated, and the blessings of which they would net readily resign. He would say, further, that no Administration would be trusted, unless it was prepared to extend the franchise. No Government which refused Parliamentary Reform, which hesitated to remodel our taxation, and which was not prepared to accomplish extensive reductions in the expenditure, could be stable or successful. Because he believed this, he should not have objected to an Administration for a short time under Lord Stanley. He should like to have seen how far that noble Lord's protectionist principles would have carried him; and he was pretty confident that Lord Stanley would have disappointed and undeceived those to whom the country gentlemen had promised a modification, if not a revocation, of the recent free-trade measures. Office would have been a dangerous trial for the noble Lord; but as the results would have been beneficial, it was a pity that that trial had not been made. The noble Lord had failed; and it would now be seen that the protectionist party were answerable for a great deal, in having held out hopes which they knew they would never be enabled to fulfil. What Administration was now to be formed, he (Mr. Hume) could not guess. They had heard that evening of there being three parties in that House. It was certain that the days were passed when it could be a mere contest between Whig and Tory. The time was now coming when the party of the people must have power, and when the interests of the whole community would constitute the only policy. The only Government which would now be endured was a Government which would adopt measures of unequivocal Parliamentary and financial reform: and he hoped that no party would be so foolish as to come forward at this juncture without being pledged, nay, without being ready, 1053 to afford immediate proof that they would consult the interests and satisfy the demands of the people. He was as anxious as the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripen, that, while they asked for reform, they should not seek a revolution, or accept any measures calculated to disturb the constitution. But he would tell the right hon. Baronet this—that the risk was in narrowing, not in widening, the basis of the constitution. No man in his senses could avoid seeing how enormous was the danger while they left six-sevenths of the population in a state amounting to slavery, and while the elective power was in the hands of but two or three hundred thousand persons. Whatever Administration might be formed, he would give them this advice—to look to the franchise, and to taxation, and not to this passing clamour about Catholicism. The Papal Bill was a trifling matter in comparison with the vast questions to which he had adverted. The people would become disgusted if such a matter were regarded by public men as the single difficulty, and if, in consequence of the obstacles raised on this point, we were left any longer without a Government. It was not creditable to see what was now going on. It showed a want of talent, as well as a want of union, that we should thus be driven from side to side in a manner which had been witnessed recently in France, bat which he had never expected to see in this country. If the noble Lord could give no better reason for having resigned the formation of the Government than the perplexity in which he found himself in reference to his Papal Bill, then the country would condemn him. But, in reality, all these difficulties had been occasioned by the budget—what he would call the abortion of a budget.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
said, that though the Motion before the House was the further postponement of the Order of the Day, yet hon. Gentlemen had assembled together rather to hear the statement of his noble Friend, than to discuss whether the Ecclesiastical Titles Assumption Bill should or should not be proceeded with. At the same time observations had been made, particularly by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon, which, if absolutely unnoticed, would, he thought, add much to the difficulties which that right hon. Gentleman, or any other man who was called upon to share in the administration of the Government, would have to encounter. Let not his right hon. Friend deceive him- 1054 self. His right hon. Friend had stated that 395 Members, being a large majority of the House, had voted in favour of some measure for resisting Papal aggression; and he did not deceive himself when he further stated that the great majority of the people of Great Britain were hostile to that aggression, He (Sir R. Inglis) trusted, therefore, that his noble Friend and his right hon. Friend would both well consider that even in this House they would not be able to carry on an Administration which was founded upon the principle of tamely conceding to an aggression, which he conceived to be characterised by as much audacity as could have been exhibited by the Church and Court of Rome in the worst times of Innocent III. or Gregory VII. The people of this country would value more than any other sentence in the noble Lord's speech that sentence wherein he stated that he retained, with unabated force, the feeling, the principle, and the opinion Which had first induced him to bring forward his measure for repressing the Papal aggression. Let his noble Friend be fully persuaded of this fact, that the people of Great Britain would not be satisfied with any measure short of that which he had introduced, the feeling expressed out of doors being, not that it went too far, but that, though it might literally meet the precise case of aggression, it did not meet the real grievance, of which the Papal brief and pastoral were only a part. Without entering further into the subject, he (Sir R. Inglis) thought it was but justice to those who entertained opinions similar to his own, that some one should rise in that House and state what he believed to be the almost unanimous feeling of the great body of the people of England and Scotland, that in the vain attempt to satisfy the Roman Catholic portion of the people of Ireland, they would alienate the affections of the people of England.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
said, that the agitation which had taken place on the question of Papal aggression had been got up by interested parties, by the clergy, who, in fear that their enormous possessions should be attacked, endeavoured to avoid the danger by setting up a cry of this nature. As an Irish Member he was anxious to state that the impression on the minds of the people of Ireland was that the majority of the people of England did not share in the hostility which had been denounced against them. The noble Lord took great credit to himself for not shrink- 1055 ing on a great many occasions of his life. There might be a pride and glory in not shrinking, but there was a pride in shrinking from evil deeds and evil courses. It would have been well for him if he had shrunk in time. He had boasted of not shrinking during the famine in Ireland. He did not say it with bitterness, but the noble Lord had not showed himself equal to the occasion. Having the resources of a great empire, he did not do what he might have done to afford relief to a dying people. In alluding to the year 1848, he stated that there was a general system of rebellion in Ireland, organised by clubs. There was no such thing; there were clubs in a few towns, but not a single association of the kind existed in the agricultural districts. The vast majority of the people were not engaged in rebellion. If the noble Lord would not give up his object, why did he stand in the way of others—why did he impede the progress of the empire? The right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon had showed his ability to promote the general interests of the country. Let not the noble Lord stand in his way. Now was the time, the people of Ireland were ready to be conciliated. They were ready to forget their grievances, if they reversed the disastrous policy they had hitherto pursued.
§ MR. B. OSBORNE
should not follow the example of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford, and import into the debate a topic which would give rise to debate. The empty state of the benches showed that the excitement abroad was not keeping pace within doors. He rose on behalf of his constituents, after the explanations, in which so little had been told, to express his astonishment that, with peace abroad, prosperity at home, and an immense surplus, the Government should have gone down in a sunny sea. He must be permitted to doubt that it was the division on the Motion of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, or the division on the Motion of the hon. Member for East Surrey, that led to that event. In his mind it was episcopal rashness joined to financial imbecility, which caused the good ship to founder. Apres moi la deluge may have been a consoling reflection for the followers of a despotic monarchy, but it was none for the reputation of a great commercial statesman. He could not but think that the country had been reduced to a very low and fallen condition, when he saw the Government handed about between two or 1056 three noble Lords, and no attempt to call on some other party to assume the direction of affairs. Why should not a Government have been formed on the basis of the sentiments so ably expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon? Why had they not called upon that right right hon. Gentleman to take the helm? He would defy any statesman, whether he were the noble Lord, or even the noble Duke (then with the Sovereign)—he defied them to extend the operation of this Bill to Ireland. If they did, the taxpayers of this country must be prepared to add three per cent to the income tax. He defied them to carry out its provisions, whether they emasculated it, or struck out the provisions which formed the main strength and purport of the Bill. He took the liberty of telling the noble Lord, in attempting to bolster up his Government with a measure of this nature, that he was only tying a millstone round his neck. In perfect ignorance as to whether the noble Lord had really taken a farewell of office, or who was to succeed him, he would say that whoever attempted to frame a Government should do so on extended principles, no petty or peddling question should intervene; and if the noble Lord attempted it, in order to succeed he should shake out and unfurl the folds of his liberal banner. The House knew now, and the people ought to know it, that they had a man, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon, who, if called to the head of the country, would conduct it with honour to himself, and with satisfaction to the people.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Sir, the hon. Member for Middlesex has tendered his allegiance to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon, on the ground that no measure should pass into a law with respect to the aggression committed by the Pope of Rome upon the prerogatives of the Sovereign and the independence of the nation. Now that was tantamount to a declaration that the objections urged by the representatives of a certain section of the people of Ireland should prevail over the unanimous decision of the people of England. ["No, no!"] It was neither more nor less. And he (Mr. Newdegate), as the representative of an English constituency, begged to tell the hon. Member for Middlesex that the people of England would consider the attempt to prevent legislation upon this subject in no other light. The explanation of to-night had, 1057 to his mind, elucidated many important points. The explanation of the right hon. Member for Ripon showed him distinctly, that, however he might be opposed to the opinions of the noble Lord who was at present at the head of the Executive upon one most important point, he was much more likely to follow that noble Lord than the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet had explained to the House that the construction in favour of the assumption of titles from places and districts in Ireland by the prelates of the Roman Church, put upon certain measures passed by the Administration of which he was a Member, was not accidental. He (Mr. Newdegate) alluded to the Bequests and Dublin Cemetery Acts. The right hon. Baronet had owned that the construction put upon those measures with respect to the assumption of titles by the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland was his own act. He had declared that that was his intention. He (Mr. Newdegate) did not dispute the consistency of the right hon. Baronet in the course which he was now taking. It was perfectly consistent. But what was not understood at the time the right hon. Baronet presided at the Home Office was, that such was his intention. When the right hon. Baronet told them that he believed the conduct of the Government of Sir Robert Feel with respect to the increase of the public grant to Maynooth shook that Government to its foundation, he believed the right hon. Baronet stated a fact; and he (Mr. Newdegate) regretted that the circumstances which then existed to separate his friends and himself from those whom they were proud to consider, however mistakenly, the great exponents of their principles, were likely still further to sever them by the course which the right hon. Baronet now proposed to adopt.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, that the motto of the noble Lord opposite was, "Any port in a storm." He dared not appeal to the people to try what their opinion upon all these subjects was. The noble Lord reminded him of a large sheet of sticking plaster. He had been so long on that side of the House that those around him were sticking to him, and he could not venture to separate from them. He remembered an old saying of "Scratch me, and I will scratch you." That had been carried out to a large extent. There was a good deal of itching in Members sitting on different sides of the House. 1058 The more they scratched, the more likely they were to receive consolation from each other under that painful operation. For his part he had not the slightest confidence in the noble Lord. The excitement out of doors still continued, and would increase; and as far as he legally and constitutionally could excite, he would. The country would teach the noble Lord, if he did not know it, what was his duty to his Sovereign. The budget had been shown up in its true colours as a piece of humbug and deception to the people, and there was an end to that.
§ MR. P. HOWARD
said, that when the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire stated that the country was unanimous upon this question, he seemed to forget that in the capital of his own county—in Birmingham—a large meeting had been held, and a fair race run between the two parties, which resulted in a dead heat, so much so, that the presiding officer was unable to say which party carried the resolution. Unanimity should not, therefore, be talked of. He thanked the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon for his able speech and declaration; and he trusted that the statesmanlike opinions which he had enunciated would before long place him at the helm of affairs, and that he would see the principles of civil and religious liberty triumphant. For his part he was determined, whether the Bill was modified or not, to give it an unrelenting opposition. He was glad to see that the mist of prejudice upon this subject was passing away, and that the people of this country were not about to insult their Irish fellow-countrymen, or adopt the craven hearted policy of pursuing and persecuting a minority of their Roman Catholic countrymen in England. He was sure that any line of policy which should create an increase in the cost of the necessaries of life would not be acted upon for a week. Without wishing to revive the memories of past feuds, he would observe that the reflecting part of the country must feel that the policy of free trade and cheap provisions was one of the settled principles of the country. He was equally convinced that they now saw that the time was come when the enlightenment of the people admitted without danger of an enlargement of the elective franchise. He was quite willing to admit that in that course judgment, experience, and prudence were eminently necessary; but he was also persuaded that such was the general love of order that 1059 the franchise might be safely extended to a great number of his fellow-countrymen in the counties, and to a considerable extent in boroughs. By placing the representation on a broader basis, the prosperity of the country would be secured. With free trade, religious freedom, and progressive reform, they might hail the reign of Queen Victoria, not only for having increased the civil liberties of Her people, but for having confirmed and strengthened that religious freedom without which civil liberties were valueless.
§ MR. SPOONER
wished to correct an error into which the hon. Member for Carlisle had fallen with respect to the meeting at Birmingham, when he described the contest of parties on that occasion as a "dead heat." The hon. Gentleman was mistaken. There was a decided majority at that meeting in favour of the Protestant feeling expressed in the town. An amendment was proposed, recommending that no legislation should take place on the subject, and that amendment was rejected by a most decided majority; but owing to the parties who voted against the amendment having gone away under the impression that the rejection of the amendment affirmed the original proposition, the latter, when it was afterwards put from the chair, was lost in consequence of their absence. In proof of the earnestness with which the Protestant feeling of Birmingham resented the Papal aggression, he reminded hon. Gentlemen that the address which had been presented to the Queen by the right hon. Baronet opposite from that town, had 16,500 signatures attached to it. He was exceedingly happy to hear the noble Lord opposite still maintain the opinion he had so manfully and constitutionally expressed as to the propriety of a measure on the subject, though he (Mr. Spooner) doubted the propriety of his attempting to mitigate it. The country was not satisfied with his measure, because, as had been well observed by the hon. Member for the University of Oxford, it did not go far enough. The Protestant feeling of the country was raised, and nothing would satisfy that feeling but such a measure as should secure to the nation all these guards which formed part of the Bill of 1829. Nothing would satisfy that Protestant feeling but that the insult which had been offered to the Sovereign on the Throne and to the nation at large, should be repelled in a manner worthy of the noble Lord's speech, to which he fear- 1060 ed the proposed measure was not adequate.
§ MR. WYLD
complained that the subjects of taxation and fiscal regulations had not been adverted to. Throughout the country large meetings of the people had been held at which they had demanded alterations in certain matters of taxation; and he assured the noble Lord that unless some large and striking alteration were made in the system, the middle and labouring classes would not be satisfied. His belief was, that alterations in the franchise were also necessary; and he did hope that whoever was in power would give consideration to these matters.
§ MR. WAKLEY
had attended with great anxiety to the explanations furnished during the very gloomy debate which they had had this evening, and he must say that, having applied the most powerful efforts to the subject, he was now as much bewildered with regard to the right definition of the state of affairs as before it commenced. The question was, Was there any Government? Was there any Administration? Gentlemen on the opposite benches were smiling; but he must confess, it appeared to him as if he should have had to perform a very special duty upon them this evening, and he certainly had not anticipated their smiles under the circumstances. He asked again, was there any Administration? He had been told that the noble Lord had resigned, but had not quitted office. Who were his Colleagues, and what policy did he intend to pursue? Not a word had been said with regard to the Budget. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer was in the House; but not a word had been stated by him or any other of his Colleagues with reference to that subject. The House was left in a state of great perplexity. But why? Because those who possessed the confidence of the Sovereign were not prepared to take the correct course. He saw clearly enough that those who, in the first instance, brought in the Reform Bill, were not prepared to act upon its spirit, with reference to the Executive of the country. The influence of that Act had been felt in the country and in that House; but an obstacle seemed to be in the way of its being felt by the Executive Administration. It appeared that it was desired to govern by the fag-ends of the Whig and Tory Governments, and that the parties who had been returned to that House in consequence of the energy and ability they had dis- 1061 played in public affairs, were not to be admitted to the confidence of the Sovereign. But he would tell the noble Lord, that there was not the slightest chance of his forming an Administration if he persisted in the course which he had hitherto pursued. He would find that the people were completely tired of being ruled by Lordlings, of high aristocratic birth, but totally incompetent to perform the great business of the State. It was said out of doors, that there was a desire on the part of the present Administration to maintain those in power—in the places which had hitherto been possessed by two aristocratic factions. He feared that allegation was too true; but he did trust that the noble Lord would take this matter into his serious consideration; and he (Mr. Wakley) would say that, if another Reform Adminstration were constituted, it would be almost an insult to exclude a Gentleman who was sitting near him at that moment—he meant the hon. Member for Montrose. When they regarded his services to the country—when they reflected on the millions he had saved the people by the reduction of taxation, which he had advocated for so many years with so much ability and untiring energy, he (Mr. Wakley), as a reformer, should feel himself insulted and degraded, if younger men, who had displayed no such ability, were admitted into the confidence and counsel of the Sovereign. There were other parties to whom he could refer; but he would not do so. He was sure he had stated quite enough to induce the noble Lord who, as he was told, was at the head of the Administration, to reflect on the subject, particularly as the noble Lord wanted an Administration which should possess the confidence of the people. He would just briefly refer to the present position of things. They were the State Doctors, and it was their duty to consider what was the condition of the State Patient. Only a few days ago, a long debate took place in that House, the discussion was kept up for two or three evenings, in which eloquent speeches were made, on the Motion introduced by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, affirming that great distress prevailed among the owners and occupiers of land. He (Mr. Wakley) gave a hearty vote against that Motion; because he believed it was meant for mystification and delusion, and to inflict injury upon the Government. The House divided, and only negatived the Motion by a small majority of 14. What did the Doctors do on the 1062 other side? They stated that they had discovered the Patient in a most lamentable condition; that he was in a state which threatened dissolution; that, in fact, his afflictions were almost innumerable. But, at last, when they were called on, that very party stated that they were not ready to prescribe, and the other Doctors were called in; and who were they? Why, the very parties the other side had represented as having poisoned the Patient by improper medicines. He wished the hon. Member opposite could hear what the protectionist party were saying out of doors. They were saying that the Opposition Members in this House had pretended that they had measures of relief for them. They had now the opportunity; but what had they done? Their first act was to recall the parties whose previous prescriptions they had altogether condemned; they had abandoned the post, and thereby practically and virtually acknowledged they had no measures of relief. That was really what was said with reference to the protectionists. On the other hand, the people considered they had been unfairly dealt by; and, in his opinion, they entertained a well-founded belief on that subject. If a different course were pursued, they would be ready to support any Administration which desired to do them justice. But had justice been done? It was not fair of the noble Lord to leave them in doubt and apprehension as to the course which he intended to pursue. A budget had been brought forward; but, as to what would be done with it, they had heard no statement whatever even shadowed forth in the most distant way. He (Mr. Wakley) would say, that the noble Lord must reconsider his decision with reference to the window tax, and that the obnoxious proposal made in connexion with its repeal must be altogether abandoned; in fact, that the whole budget must be reconstructed.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
The hon. Gentleman appears to have misunderstood what I stated. I stated that the Administration of which I was at the head, had offered its resignation. There is, in fact, no Administration now existing, and therefore it would be impossible for me, in any event, to state what are the intentions of the Government upon the subject of financial measures. It would be improper that I, or any one else, should state what the budget shall be, until the formation of another Administration shall be intrusted to me.
§ MR. SCHOLEFIELD
said, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was in error in stating as to the Birmingham meeting, that the Protestant feeling was predominant, because it was impossible to ascertain which was the predominant party at that meeting.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SIDNEY
would venture to state to this House that whatever had been the agitation on the question of Papal aggression, it would be speedily followed by no less convincing demonstrations against the inequality and injustice of that abominable measure—the income tax. When the noble Lord again announced, as he trusted he would shortly do, that he had successfully formed an Administration, and came again to ask the House to continue for three years a tax which had been stigmatised with the injustice and oppression with which the income tax was now loaded, he (Mr. Sidney) would venture to predict that such an Administration would have a very short existence. He trusted, whatever Administration was formed, that subject would be taken into serious consideration. He should be sorry to see any Administration disregard the feelings of the people of England on the question of Papal aggression. Whatever might be the state of the case with our fellow-countrymen in Ireland, he felt compelled to state that the feeling was all but unanimous in England, that it was the duty of the Government to put a stop to the insolent aggression of a foreign Power. They believed that an inroad was attempted upon the constitution and the religious freedom of the people, and he was quite sure whatever advantages the right hon. Member for Ripon might be able to lay before the people, they would sink into insignificance compared with having that question fairly and expressly placed upon a legislative enactment. If there was to be a new budget, attention should be given to economising the collection of the taxation of the country in both Customs and Excise.
§ MR. BANKES
wished to address to the House a few observations on some remarks which fell from the hon. Member for Finsbury. That hon. Gentleman said, that the party to which he (Mr. Bankes) belonged had made a proposition to the House which was negatived by such a small majority that they were necessarily called on to prescribe for the benefit of the State. Now, that majority, though not large, was still sufficient not to put the protectionist 1064 party in the predicament in which the hon. Member affirmed them to be; and it appeared to him that the leader of that party pursued a most honourable course in recommending that others should be applied to to form a Government; but he might now add, as a comfort to the hon. Member for Finsbury, that if he were present in that House at the time when Members were sworn, he would find that night after night those who came to the table to be sworn were of the protectionist party, and even that two members of that party took the oaths during the present evening. Further, he would say, that though there was a small majority against them on the occasion referred to, yet that when that majority should be turned into a minority, they would not then forbear to offer those prescriptions which appeared to them suited to the state of the country. They had not shrunk, and they never would shrink, from performing any duty which they owed to the Crown and the people, either on the present or any other occasion.
§ MR. SLANEY
thought that the present circumstances of the country strongly demanded the exercise of mutual forbearance.
§ Second Reading deferred till Monday next.
§ The House adjourned at Eight o'olock till Monday next.