HC Deb 20 December 1852 vol 123 cc1709-16

Mr. Speaker, after the vote at which the House arrived on Thursday night, the Earl of Derby and his Colleagues thought it their duty to tender the resignation of their offices to Her Majesty, and Her Majesty has been most graciously pleased to accept the same. It has reached me that Lord Aberdeen has undertaken the office of forming a new Administration, and therefore it only remains for me to say that we hold our present offices only until our successors are appointed. I hope the House will not think it presumptuous on my part if, under these circumstances, I venture to offer them my grateful thanks for the indulgent, and I may even say the generous manner in which on both sides I have been supported in attempting to conduct the business of this House. If, Sir, in maintaining a too unequal struggle, any word has escaped my lips (which I hope has never been the case except in the way of retort) which has hurt the feelings of any Gentleman in this House, I deeply regret it. And I hope that the impression on their part will be as transient as the sense of provocation was on my own. The kind opinion of the Members of this House, whatever may be their political opinions, and wherever I may sit, will always be to me a most precious possession, one which I shall always covet and most highly appreciate. I beg, Sir, to move, that this House on its rising, do adjourn till Thursday next.


I rise, Sir, for the purpose, in the first place, of saying, I entirely concur in the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, and in the next place to say that I feel quite certain that if, at any time in the course of our debates, those flying words which will occur at such times have carried a barb with them, it is to be attributed entirely to the circumstances in which the House has been placed. For my part I can only admire the ability and gallantry with which the right hon. Gentleman has conducted himself on the part of the Government, and in behalf of the cause which he has undertaken, in the struggle in which he has been for some time been engaged. It is, perhaps, impossible to hope that those halcyon days will ever arrive in which, in the course of debate, an unpremeditated remark will not occasionally occur which will give rise to some unpleasant feeling; but if ever it should occur in future, feelings of that kind must be done away, if the person in the situation of the right hon. Gentleman imitates his example, and disclaims the intention with the same frankness which he has displayed on the present occasion.


Sir, with respect to the future I am altogether uninformed, hut with respect to the past, after what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I cannot refrain from saying one word. It would be impossible for me not to avow I was somewhat pained by an expression which fell from the right hon. Gentleman on Thursday night. If I had thought that the right hon. Gentleman, by premeditation, intended to wound me, my feelings would be far different, and it would be my duty to express them in a different manner. But I am not conscious that I have ever in the course of the debate said anything with the intentional purpose to wound the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman, and I could not believe that, without provocation, he gave expression to words intended to wound me. I was confident, therefore, that the expression that had pained me was without premeditation, and what the right hon. Gentleman has just said to-night has confirmed that impression. There is no Member of this House so deeply attached to freedom of debate as I am. In the course of debates here, I have certainly, myself, used unguarded expressions to others, and should, consequently, be the last person to feel resentment after receiving an explanation. At the same time I cordially join in what has fallen from my noble Friend the Member for the City of London. I have never failed to admire the talents of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I also must say, under great difficulties, he has conducted the cause of the Government in the last ten months in this House with signal ability. I shall not for one moment recollect the expression to which I have thought it my duty to refer, and I hope my conduct in this House will at all times insure some portion of its respect.


Some expressions, Sir, which fell from me the other night having been misunderstood, I should think myself wanting in that proper feeling which has marked the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman opposite if I did not say one word on this occasion. I can only say that, if I had been conscious of having used any expressions beyond the fair limits of debate, I should not have waited till now in order to retract or apolo- gise for them; but so little conscious was I that I had done so, that I remember, on the night when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke, asking the opinion of a right hon. Gentleman who sat near me as to what I had said. He assured me he did not think I had used any expression to justify the attack which was then made upon me. I think it fair to say this in my own defence; though, at the same time, I am ready to admit that, feeling strongly as I did on the question, I may in the heat of debate have been betrayed into a warmth of expression which it was far beyond my intention to use. Having said thus much in my own defence, I beg to add, that I accept the expressions which have just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the same frank spirit in which he has uttered them. He must, I am sure, feel with me that after the terms of reciprocal kindness in which we have always communicated with each other heretofore, it would ill become either of us to indulge in personalities. I will only say, further, respecting any expression of mine that may have given pain to the right hon. Gentleman, that there is no expression of courtesy towards him that I am not ready and willing to make. I am most anxious that our debates should be conducted with the utmost courtesy and good feeling, and I am sorry that anything should have arisen to give a different character to our proceedings.


Sir, I have listened attentively to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and also to what fell from the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) and the two right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side in reply to his observations. Sir, I have heard that you may knock a man down and then step forward with courtesy to give him a plaster. I neither quite subscribe to the knocking down, nor have I any faith in the sincerity of those who offer the plaster. I have heard from the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer that the noble Lord at the head of the Government has resigned, and I have learned, subsequently to my coming into this House, that there has been a meeting on the subject in Downing-street. I was not there, but my absence arose from no disrespect, for I declare, upon my honour, that I did not know that any such meeting was taking place. Sir, I do not hold any place, and I never will. I have lost no- thing, and have certainly nothing to grieve for; but I feel, nevertheless, for my country. I can enter into the feelings of the noble Lord the Earl of Derby, as an upright and an honourable man; and it is possible that, under similar circumstances, I might even have done the same myself; but I do not hesitate the less to say, that I deeply regret that that noble Earl should have given way to, in my opinion, a band-to a phalanx of conspirators. People talk of dog and cat, but that phalanx will be something worse. The cat and the dog will sometimes lie down together; but I venture to predict that there are feelings in the coalition opposite that will show themselves in the course of time— Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurrit. There will come a day when there will be as much dissension, as much jealousy, and as much undermining, as I believe has been practised in the attempt—the successful attempt, I regret to say—to overthrow a Government who have endeavoured, though before untried, to discharge their duty, and who have been actuated but by one feeling, namely, to promote the welfare of all mankind. It is true that I did not approve of the house tax, or the income tax—[Laughter] —I don't envy your feelings—but I felt it the duty one man owes to another to step forward and endeavour to rescue the Government from one of the most powerful conspiracies ever threatened. These are my honest feelings, and I trust I shall never prove a recreant to the duty I owe to my Sovereign and my country. I think there is no one that deserves better of the community than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and so long as I am permitted to hold a seat in this House I shall remember what has passed, and learn to be on my guard against the man-traps and spring-guns of hon. Gentlemen opposite.


said, he had no apology to make to any one, but he had an act of duty to perform towards Her Majesty's late Government which he had great pleasure in discharging, and that was to tender them his thanks for the facilities they had always given him for obtaining information upon all subjects on which he had asked it. He had met with nothing but courtesy from all the different departments of Government, and for that he felt most grateful to them. With respect to the Motion for adjournment, he begged to say that to his mind it involved matter for deep and serious consideration. Difficulties might appear to him, perhaps, which were not apparent to others; but he confessed he was fearful that, unless the new Ministry should adopt a wise and prudent course, the character of that House and the system of Parliamentary government, which had been so much eulogised in Europe, would be in danger of suffering. He begged to say that he had a great opinion of the prudence, caution, and discretion of the Earl of Aberdeen, who, he understood, had been sent for by Her Majesty; and, therefore, he was not at present alluding in particular to him; but he begged to say generally, that in the present state of Europe, in the present state of this country, and after the experiment they had had during the last ten months of an attempt to govern against the wishes of a majority of the people, as had been shown by the recent vote of the people's representatives, the future required great consideration, and that in the formation of a new Government care should be taken to have it formed on the broadest possible basis, so as to secure the support of the community at large, and at the same time to carry out that progressive improvement in every branch of the State which was demanded by public opinion: otherwise they would probably soon be put to the trouble of another change. It was on these grounds that he had ventured humbly to state his opinion, and he begged to say that it was his alone, for not a soul had he communicated with on the subject; but he had no hesitation in saying that, unless Her Majesty's Government, whoever they might be, should look more than had yet been done to principles and opinions compatible with the extension of the institutions of the country, so as to make them more efficient and useful for the purposes for which they were established, the consequences to the country would be exceedingly painful. The Government must be prepared to carry on the law reforms which had been so well begun; to continue and complete the system of free trade; and, above all, they must be prepared to purify and reform the system of representation, with respect to which, if there was one argument stronger than another, it was the 130 petitions which had been presented complaining of bribery and corruption during the late elections, and which were enough to throw discredit upon any representative system. Unless, therefore, those who succeeded to office were prepared to weigh well and consider how they could best carry out the wishes of the country in these respects, their time would be wasted, and they would all have reason to regret the result ere long. The noble Lord lately at the head of the Government was reported to have said that one of his objects in taking office was to stop the progress of democracy. He (Mr. Hume) could hardly believe that the noble Lord intended to use the phrase according to the interpretation that had been put upon it. The fact was that the constitution of that House was a democratic constitution. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell) had justly declared that in his opinion the mass of the people had their rights and privileges just as much as the Crown and the Peerage had their rights and privileges; and all he (Mr. Hume) asked was, that those who succeeded to the Government should take care that the democracy had their just rights, and he asked them to do this as the best means of preventing the evils which were alleged to arise from democracy—because in general he believed it would be found that those evils had arisen from withholding from the people their just rights. Now was the time, when the people were comparatively comfortable and happy, to make those changes which were necessary to place our institutions on a satisfactory footing to give an example to the whole world, and to carry on harmoniously the government of the country. He hoped to live to see those reforms realised, and he was confident that all attempts to prevent them would fail.


said, that in a great portion of the opinions which had just fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose he cordially agreed. He cordially agreed with him as to the manner in which the Members of the late Government had acted towards all those who had occasion to come in contact with them on matters of business. He thought the hon. Gentleman might have gone further, and said that in his recollection no set of men had ever administered the Government with more practical advantage to the country than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his Colleagues, who were now vacating their seats on the Ministerial benches. And he might even have gone still further, as the great redresser of grievances, and said that no man who had filled the office of Chancellor of the Exche- quer had ever held out more hopeful promises of redressing grievances than the right hon. Gentleman. As compliments seemed to be the order of the day, if the right hon. Gentleman would accept from so humble a person as himself his feeble tribute of admiration for the manner in which he had conducted, not only the business of his office, but the business of the Government generally in that House, he was ready and willing to pay it. The right hon. Gentleman had entered office with a high reputation; in his (Mr. Cay ley's) humble opinion, he would go out of it with a reputation, not only untarnished, but increased in a large measure in the estimation of the country. His belief was that the country would still look forward to the day when those measures which the right hon. Gentleman had propounded would be realised, and sure he was that they would not be satisfied until most of them were carried.

Motion agreed to.