HL Deb 11 November 1830 vol 1 cc365-70
The Earl of Radnor

wished to ask the noble Duke opposite (Wellington), one or two questions arising put of the expressions which fell from the noble Duke in the Debate on Monday evening. The noble Duke then stated, that he took the determination of advising his Majesty not to visit the City on other grounds and on other information, some of it anonymous, and some of it authenticated, than that he had obtained from the communication of the Lord Mayor, He certainly, at that time, gave the noble Duke credit for having inquired and received good information before he advised his Majesty to adopt a course so calamitous to the metropolis and the country, as to abstain from dining on that occasion with the citizens of London, but he had since learned that the noble Duke had no other information than that to be found in the letter of the Lord Mayor, and that no inquiry had taken place. So little trouble, indeed, did the Government give itself to ascertain the credit due to the statement of the Lord Mayor, that it is now reported that the person who carried the letter of the Secretary of State, postponing his Majesty's visit, was directed to make himself certain that the communication of the Lord Mayor was not a hoax before he delivered the letter of the right hon. Secretary. It was impossible, therefore, under such circumstances, not to feel that the Government betrayed its duty to the Throne and to the people, if it adopted its determination on no better information than that which the noble Duke alluded to; and one of the questions he now wished to ask the noble Duke turned on that very point. The first question was, whether the noble Duke possessed any other information than that communicated already to the House? The second was, whether it was now intended to lay that additional information before their Lordships? The third question was, did his Majesty's Ministers send the letter to the Lord Mayor in the name of his Majesty, without having previously consulted the King on the propriety of the course which they adopted?

The Duke of Wellington, before he answered the noble Earl's questions, took leave to express his regret, that the measure which his Majesty's Ministers felt themselves called on to adopt should be characterized by any noble Earl as a calamity. He believed, on the contrary, that the determination taken by the Government on that occasion was now approved of, not only by the majority of the opinions of the Members of both the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament, but by the infinite majority of the population of the metropolis and the country! The noble Earl had put to him three questions; he would take leave to answer the last before the others. The noble Earl asked if his Majesty was consulted before the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Home Department, wrote a letter to postpone his Majesty's visit to the City? He (the Duke of Wellington) distinctly stated on a former evening, that his Majesty's pleasure was taken with respect to the propriety of going to the dinner before the letter was written; and he, for one, certainly could not have allowed such a letter to be sent without his Majesty's permission. Another question the noble Earl had been pleased to ask him was this, "whether his Majesty's Government relied on the Lord Mayor's letter as the principal reason for recommending his Majesty not to go to the dinner, or whether they had other information?" Now he stated on Monday evening, that he had received, for many days before that on which the letter of the Lord Mayor was written, a number of communications, some anonymous, and some with signatures, conveying information of intended disturbance, but he certainly had not paid much attention to them until he received the letter of the Lord Mayor. That letter reached him on Saturday, and he certainly felt it his duty to send it immediately to his right hon. friend, the Secretary for the Home Department, who felt it of importance enough to require his immediately entering into a communication with the Lord Mayor respecting its contents; and on the following day his Majesty's Government came to the determination to advise his Majesty to decline going to the dinner. On the evening of the day on which the Debate took place in that House, he received still further information on the same subject, and he stated that he had received it, at the time he explained to the House the course pursued by the Government. The noble Earl, however, asked, if it was the intention of Government to lay that information before the House? He begged, on the part of the Government, to decline laying information of that description before their Lordships. If Parliament had disapproved of the course adopted by the Government, that would be quite another thing, but the Houses of Parliament had not thought proper to censure the conduct of the Government, and therefore he did not think it incumbent on him to produce the information which the noble Earl required. The noble Earl had made some observations respecting the inquiry as to the Lord Mayor's letter being a genuine one. It was perfectly true, that the gentleman deputed to carry the letter of the Secretary of State to the Lord Mayor had directions to make the inquiry; because the circumstances were so extraordinary, that the right hon. Gentleman, although he had had several communications with the Lord Mayor on the subject before, did feel that, on an occasion of so much importance, it was necessary to avoid all possibility of imposition. The question was accordingly asked, and it was established that the Lord Mayor had himself both written and signed the letter. The noble Earl in speaking of the necessity explained by the Lord Mayor of obtaining military assistance, in the event of tumult and disorder, had exclaimed, "Good God! what necessity could there be for military assistance in a city which possessed 40,000 constables?" Why, did not the noble Earl see the City in a state of uproar and confusion throughout the whole of the night, even with their 40,000 constables? The noble Earl was mistaken in the way in which he (the Duke of Wellington) alluded to the possibility of bloodshed. The use he made of the term bloodshed was this: He said, that if there was a riot and confusion in the City, it would become necessary to reestablish the public peace, in order that his Majesty might pass in safety to his Palace; and that for such a purpose he feared that blood must be shed. On all these considerations he felt that the Ministers were fully justified in recommending his Majesty to abstain from incurring the hazard of witnessing such a contest; and he thought they were entitled to as much approbation for sending the letter which the noble Earl condemned as for any other determination ever adopted in the course of their Administration; and for his part, he rejoiced that he had been one of those who recommended his Majesty to avoid the danger which his visit to the City might have produced.

Lord King

said, that the noble Earl (Radnor) had required further information, and the answer of the noble Duke left their Lordships just as much in the dark as ever they were. The noble Duke could affirm, no less poetically than truly, Gentlemen, I do declare, I know no more than the Lord Mayor. The noble Earl had called the writing of the letter a calamity, and he (Lord King) thought that its effects would prove it to be one. Those noble and hon. persons who composed the Council who sat to deliberate on the occasion seemed to him to be sadly deficient in prudence or common sense, and indeed far below the Council of the City of London. For his own part, he preferred the temperance, the judgment, and the discretion evinced by the Common Council of the City to that of the whole of the ten or twelve Ministers who at present formed the Council of his Majesty.

The Marquis of Clanricarde

thought the House should not take the bare assertion of the noble Duke, that he possessed further and better information with respect to intentions to disturb the public peace, as being sufficient to justify the Government in giving advice to his Majesty to send a letter which was very little else than an insult to the inhabitants of the City of London. He said, at once, that it was not the King, but the Duke of Wellington, that was likely to receive insult; and what necessity was there that his Grace should accompany his Majesty on such an occasion? Where, too, was the necessity of calling in the new police, which was said to be so much disliked? When the Lord High Admiral visited the City there was no disturbance. There would have been none if the King had visited the City, and if any was apprehended, why could not the King be accompanied by the household troops? For what other purpose was that force kept up? He had visited the City during Tuesday night, and walked through the crowd, and he confessed he saw no disturbance or tendency towards disturbance, except where the new police were stationed. Of disloyalty to the Sovereign, at all events, no trace was to be found at any period of the tumults which he had seen or heard of in any part of the metropolis.

Lord Wharncliffe

said, he for one must tell the noble Marquis that he gave all approbation and applause to what the Government had done, with reference to the night alluded to. The noble Marquis and others had spoken of the popularity of the King. No man doubted that the King was popular, and that he deserved to be so; but the proceeding which the noble Marquis found fault with had no reference to his Majesty's popularity. The real question was this. Tumult and confusion were expected, and the Government was driven to the necessity of em- bracing an alternative. They were compelled either to postpone the visit of the Royal Family to the City, or allow it to take place, and adopt measures for the suppression of disorder; but at the same time they would be under the necessity of subjecting the Sovereign and his Consort to the pain of witnessing a conflict between their guards and their subjects. That alternative his Majesty's advisers would not risk, and he approved of their determination. He had witnessed some of these conflicts at other times, and he dreaded the necessity at any time of having recourse to the military power. He was satisfied that it ought never to be employed until the last extremity. Every means should be taken to avoid it; and when it was resorted to, every friend of his country and humanity must regret the necessity.

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