The Earl of Camperdown
presented himself to the House, and said, he rose to move an humble Address in answer to his Majesty's most gracious Speech. He begged to observe, that no man ever presented himself to address their Lordships, who was under greater necessity to in treat a large share of that indulgence which their Lordships were so kindly wont to bestow upon those who stood in a similar situation to that in which he now appeared before their Lordships. He deeply felt the importance and arduousness of the task which he had had the temerity to undertake, when he rose to propose to their Lordships an humble Address, in reply to the gracious Speech which they had just heard. No man could be more sensible than himself how unequal he should be to such a task, even under ordinary circumstances; but he felt, that upon the present occasion he had to encounter peculiar difficulties, for never, in his belief, was Parliament assembled at a more momentous crisis, nor was it ever called upon to discuss topics of higher importance than those adverted to in the Address from the Throne. It was accordingly his most anxious wish, that their Lordships should approach the consideration of the subject he had to propose to them, with calmness and moderation; and, for himself, he should certainly deem it necessary to abstain from all indulgence in party feeling, 6 and to divest himself, as far as possible, of all party prejudices. Such conduct, on their Lordships' part, was peculiarly called for now, when the public eye was so intensely fixed upon their proceedings, and when the nation was waiting for their decision with such breathless anxiety. Therefore, in calling their Lordships' attention to his Majesty's most gracious Speech, as it would be his duty to do, and in making the observations which he should be called upon to make, he would openly, honourably, and fairly, state his own opinions; but he would, at the same time, abstain from any expressions which would seem to convert disrespect to the opinions of those noble Lords with whom he differed. He was well convinced, however their Lordships might differ among themselves, that they had but one common object, and that was, to come to that conclusion which should be, in their opinions, most conducive to the honour and interest of the country. Without further preliminary observations, then, he would come to his Majesty's Speech, the first topic in which was one of the very highest importance—the all-engrossing topic of Reform. His Majesty said, "I feel it my duty, in the first place, to recommend to your most careful consideration the measures which will be proposed to you for a Reform in the Commons House of Parliament. A speedy and satisfactory settlement of this question becomes daily of more pressing importance to the security of the State, and to the contentment and welfare of my people." He thought they owed a debt of gratitude to his Majesty. He thought that both they and the country owed a deep debt of gratitude to the noble Earl at the head of the Government, for having advised his Majesty to call Parliament together, and bring forward that question, upon the speedy and proper decision of which the prosperity of the country depended. He would not trespass upon their Lordships' time by going into any lengthened history of the proceedings with respect to the measure of Reform brought before the House during the last Session. Suffice it briefly to say, that Ministers had entered upon office pledged to introduce an efficient measure of Reform; and in redemption of that pledge, they brought in a Bill, which, whatever might have been its merits or demerits, had these advantages—that it reconciled the conflicting opinions of all Reformers—it fully satisfied the great mass of the people—and it was passed by overwhelming majorities in the House of 7 Commons. It was next brought before their Lordships, and they, in their wisdom, thought proper to reject it. He regretted that they had done so. He was one of those who had, upon that occasion, voted in the minority, but still he would be the last man in the world to question the motives which dictated that decision. He thought then, as he continued to think now, that it was an unfortunate one for their Lordships and the country. It was a decision which was received throughout the land with dismay and dissatisfaction, and to what extent this might have proceeded it would be impossible to say, if the people had not entertained entire confidence in the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Councils. They had known him as a long-tried and able advocate of their rights, and felt, that so long as he retained office these rights would not be overlooked or evaded; and the noble Earl had fully and amply justified that confidence, by re-assembling Parliament thus early, and giving their Lordships an opportunity for reconsidering the great question of Reform. As to the measure which Government intended to propose, it would be premature in him to speak of it; suffice it to say, that they had the assurance of his noble friend, that however much he might be inclined to meet any suggestion for altering and amending any minor details, the whole measure to be brought forward should be the same in principle, and equally as efficient, as the last. He (the Earl of Camperdown) was happy to hear this, for he was convinced that a Bill not the same in principle, and not as efficient in detail, would give no satisfaction to the country. Most earnestly did he trust, that it would prove to be such a measure as their Lordships would think proper to adopt, regarding it as calculated to uphold the just prerogatives of the Crown, and the constitutional privileges of their Lordships. He trusted, that it would be a measure like the last, which, in his opinion, strengthened those rights, confirmed those privileges, and renovated, renewed, and strengthened, all the institutions of the country, by giving to the people the free choice and control over their Representatives, and thereby putting an end to that corrupt nomination-borough system, which no man was hardy enough to defend. He wished to speak to their Lordships in the language of prudence, not of intimidation; but let them not deceive themselves. He implored them to pause before they again rejected a measure of Reform. 8 They would take upon themselves an awful responsibility in a second time disappointing the hopes of the people, who only desired to have the choice of their own Representatives. Under these circumstances alone he should have felt himself justified in calling on their Lordships to concur in an humble Address to his Majesty in reply to his gracious Speech; but there were likewise other topics of the highest importance for their consideration, to which his Majesty had drawn their attention, and they were bound to express their gratitude. First, there was the distress which had led to the perpetration of such enormities last year. His Majesty declared his deep affliction at the occurrence of these, in the following words: "I deeply lament the distress which still prevails in many parts of my dominions, and for which the preservation of the peace, both at home and abroad, Will, under the blessing of Divine Providence, afford the best and most effectual remedy. I feel assured of your disposition to adopt any practicable measures, which you will always find me ready and anxious to assist, both for removing the causes, and mitigating the effects of the want of employment, which the embarrassments of commerce, and the consequent interruption of the pursuits of industry, have occasioned." He felt confident, that their Lordships would take into their consideration some means for the alleviation of this distress. He was sure it would be both their interest and duty to do this; but he doubted whether the evil could be met by any specific legislative measure. The maintenance of peace and order—the restoration of tranquillity—would, however, in all probability, have the effect so much to be desired, of opening new channels for the employment of capital and industry. His Majesty went on to say, "It is with great concern that I have observed the existence of a disease at Sunderland, similar in its appearance and character to that which has existed in many parts of Europe. Whether it is indigenous, or has been imported from abroad, is a question involved in much uncertainty, but its progress has neither been so extensive nor so fatal as on the Continent. It is not, however, the less necessary to use every precaution against the further extension of this malady; and the measures recommended by those who have had the best opportunities of observing it, as most effective for the purpose, have been adopted." Upon this he would merely observe, that the only course to 9 pursue was, to meet this terrible dispensation with calmness and firmness; and he could not but hope, that from the numbers and skill of the medical profession in this country, and from the great precautions adopted, that something might be brought into operation which would arrest the progress of that dreadful pestilence. His Majesty further said, that "In parts of Ireland a systematic opposition has been made to the payment of tithes, attended, in some instances, with afflicting results: and it will be one of your first duties to inquire whether it may not be possible to effect improvements in the laws respecting this subject, which may afford the necessary protection to the Established Church, and at the same time remove the present causes of complaint. But on this, and every other question affecting Ireland, it is, above all things, necessary to look to the best means of securing internal peace and order, which alone seem wanting to raise a country, blessed by Providence with so many natural advantages, to a state of the greatest prosperity." Their Lordships would, doubtless, pay due attention to this gracious recommendation, and look well to the tranquillity of Ireland; for they should consider that the tranquillity of that country was not alone of importance as it regarded itself, but also as it affected the whole empire. Another topic to which his Majesty's gracious Address to their Lordships referred was, the foreign relations of the country. On the prospects arising from these, he begged to congratulate their Lordships, as it appeared from the feeling of foreign Powers that there was every hope that the tranquillity of the world would be preserved. His Majesty observed, "The conduct of the Portuguese government, and the repeated injuries to which my subjects have been exposed, have prevented a renewal of the diplomatic relations with that kingdom. The state of a country so long united with this, by the ties of a most intimate alliance, must necessarily be to me an object of the deepest interest; and the return to Europe of the elder branch of the illustrious House of Braganza, and the dangers of a disputed succession, will require my most vigilant attention to events, by which not only the safety of Portugal, but the general interests of Europe, may be affected. The arrangements which I announced to you at the close of last Session for the separation of the States of Holland and Belgium, has been followed by a treaty between the five Powers and the king of the Belgians, 10 which I have directed to be laid before you as soon as the ratifications shall have been exchanged. A similar treaty has not yet been agreed to by the king of the Netherlands; but I trust the period is not distant when that sovereign will see the necessity of acceding to an arrangement in which the Plenipotentiaries of the five Powers have unanimously concurred, and which has been framed with the most careful and impartial attention to all the interests concerned." There was every reason, however, to suppose, that Holland would accede to the wishes of the other Powers: and he must say, that he thought the greatest credit was due to his Majesty's Government for the prudence and ability with which it had conducted these very difficult negotiations, and thereby bringing about the desired end of a final arrangement. His Majesty went on to say, "I have the satisfaction to inform you, that I have concluded with the king of the French a Convention, which I have directed to be laid before you; the object of which is the effectual suppression of the African Slave Trade. This Convention, having for its basis the concession of reciprocal rights, to be mutually exercised in specified latitudes and places, will, I trust, enable the naval forces of the two countries to accomplish, by their combined efforts, an object which is felt by both to be so important to the interests of humanity. Regarding the state of Europe generally, the friendly assurances which I receive from foreign Powers, and the union which subsists between me and my Allies, inspire me with a confident hope that peace will not be interrupted." This last part, which related to the Convention recently concluded between this country and France, for the abolition of the slave-trade, was, in his mind, for many reasons, highly gratifying. It showed that the time was, probably, not far distant, when the abominable traffic in human flesh would be completely abolished. It was gratifying, too, for another cause: and that was—the good intelligence and friendly feeling which it evinced between France and England—a feeling which he hoped to see cherished and promoted: so that the natives of those countries, instead of, as formerly, considering themselves natural enemies, would henceforth regard each other as natural friends. The assurance of a strict regard being paid to the economical expenditure of the public money, which they now had the gratification of hearing from the Sovereign personally, must be also a source of 11 considerable satisfaction. He must also acknowledge, that he had received satisfaction from that part of his Majesty's Speech which related to the late deplorable riots at Bristol. It was as follows—"The scenes of violence and outrage which have occurred in the city of Bristol, and in some other places, have caused me the deepest affliction. The authority of the laws must be vindicated, by the punishment of offences which have produced so extensive a destruction of property, and so melancholy a loss of life; but I think it right to direct your attention to the best means of improving the municipal police of the kingdom, for the more effectual protection of the public peace against the recurrence of similar commotions." Every honest man and good citizen must assent to the propriety of this declaration, for there could be no doubt of the necessity of vindicating the offended laws by their own strong arm; and he trusted, therefore, that the perpetrators of the late outrages, would be punished with the utmost rigour which the frame of our judicial system would admit of. Such tumults must be wholly suppressed, and he also felt confident, that the recommendation touching a municipal police was well worthy their Lordships' consideration. His Majesty concluded his gracious Speech by a passage well deserving their Lordships' most serious attention. "Sincerely attached to our free Constitution, I never can sanction any interference with the legitimate exercise of those rights which secure to my people the privilege of discussing and making known their grievances; but in respecting these rights, it is also my duty to prevent combinations, under whatever pretence, which in their form and character are incompatible with all regular government, and are equally opposed to the spirit and to the provisions of the law: and I know, that I shall not appeal in vain to my faithful subjects, to second my determined resolution to repress all illegal proceedings, by which the peace and security of my dominions may be endangered." In these gracious and most constitutional sentiments, as expressed by his Majesty, he was certain all their Lordships entirely concurred; for while the people's privileges and rights were to be protected, the executive should be at the same time supported. He was confident, therefore, that whenever or wherever such political combinations as had been alluded to, showed themselves, his Majesty would not appeal in vain to their Lordships, and 12 his loyal subjects, but would find them ready, in their several places, to assist in suppressing such political unions. At the same time, how much better would it be, to inquire into and remove the alleged grievances, which gave a pretence to the institution of such societies, which, although within the letter, if not within the spirit, of the law, were to be regarded with sorrow and alarm, for their existence proved some disease in the body politic. He feared, that they were the effect and not the cause, and until the cause was removed, their Lordships could not hope that they would disappear. But of whatever character these combinations might be, they had not originated in any act of the present Government. Long before the noble Earl took office, the greatest of them all—the Birmingham Union—flourished in all its gigantic strength. It arose from the refusal of the Legislature to grant Members to 100,000 men, who prayed for Parliamentary Representation. The same cause led to the same effect throughout the country. The refusal of Reform created these Associations. They existed when the present Ministry came into power; and so long as they entertained hopes that the late Reform Bill would pass into a law, they were innoxious—they were comparatively little heard of; but when the Bill was rejected, they burst forth with increased vigour. They were like eruptions on the human body, which could only be removed by constitutional remedies. Such a remedy he hoped they would soon have, in a Reform Bill sent up from the other House. If their Lordships should pass that Bill, all Associations would cease to exist. In passing that Bill, too, they would give to the people that which they had so long and so eagerly sought, and on which they had fixed their undivided affection—he meant a full, fair, and free Representation in the other House of Parliament, which should represent their wants, and be an echo to their opinions. The noble Earl then moved an Address, embodying, as usual, the substance of the Speech.
§ The Address having been read,
said, that his noble friend, who, with such excellent taste and discretion, had introduced the subject then under consideration, and who had moved an Address to his Majesty, in answer to the gracious Speech from the Throne, had apologised for the temerity with which he might be charged, in taking upon himself such a duty upon an occasion like the 13 present, and at a time so pregnant and so full of danger. If his noble friend was justified in making such an apology in a speech which disproved the necessity of any apology upon his part, how far greater must be the necessity for him (Lord Lyttleton) to ask for the indulgence of their Lordships, while he seconded that Address? Having, however, been called upon by his noble friend at the head of the Government, to take upon himself that duty, he should attempt to acquit himself, to the best of his ability, of the difficult and arduous task he had undertaken. When he said, that his noble friend had called upon him to undertake this duty, he did not mean thereby to intimate that the duty was imposed upon him, he being at the same time reluctant to undertake it, in any other sense than that he was afraid of his own incapacity properly to perform such an important task. That alone was the feeling which caused in him a reluctance to second the Address, for otherwise he could have no possible objection, entertaining, as he did, the most perfect confidence in the wisdom of the principles adopted by his noble friend (Earl Grey), and having the most perfect reliance upon his prudence, with the most confident assurance, that his noble friend was advocating and supporting measures strictly consonant with the Constitution of the country. In that sense, therefore, he was not, he could not be, reluctant to undertake the duty. Lest there should be any misunderstanding of what he had said, he thought it right to enter into this explanation, and he would take that opportunity of adding, that he was perfectly disinterested in what he advanced in support of the present Government, for he owed nothing to the noble Lords behind him (the Ministers) except respect to their high station, and he expected nothing from them but good government, tending to the welfare of his country. He appeared before their Lordships, it was true, in support of the Address, in reply to that which was usually called the Speech of his Majesty, but which constitutionally must be considered as the speech of his Ministers; but, like his noble friend who had moved the Address, and who had said, that he divested himself, on the present occasion, of all party feeling, so he (Lord Lyttleton) would, he hoped, also be able to divest himself of all such feeling, and he trusted, that in what he had to offer to their Lordships' consideration, he should be influenced by no political animosity towards those who had 14 opposed the great measure of the present Administration—that measure to which it was his intention principally to advert in the present discussion. In supporting the Address which was before the House, and in speaking of the difficulty of the times in which that Address was submitted to the consideration of Parliament, he thought he might safely say, that in the memory of no man had so much anxiety prevailed and so universally obtained—as at the present moment. He was scarcely old enough to remember the breaking out of the French Revolution, but he did not believe, that even at that time there existed in this country the same lively degree of interest and anxiety as was exhibited at the present moment. At that time the people were happy, flourishing, and united; they were confident in the vigorous government under which they lived, and they were prepared to repel all and every danger by which they might be threatened from without. At present, however, the general state of Europe wore no aspect, calculated to excite apprehension in this country. It was by internal dangers alone that the people were excited; and he believed he might fearlessly assert, that a period more fearful, more pregnant with danger than the present, had not existed in England since the time of Charles 1st. Indeed, that House of Commons which was termed the Long Parliament, had met under one point of resemblance to that which was now assembled. The people and the House of Commons were indignant at the rejection of their just rights by the Crown and by the Lords; and he believed, if timely and proper concessions had at that time been made, and the grievances of the people redressed, the Crown and the Peers would have continued in the enjoyment of their authority. At that time the House of Commons and the people had to contend against the Crown, the Peers, and the Prelates, armed, be it remembered, with much more powerful prerogatives than were known in modern times; and he entreated their Lordships to recollect, and be warned in time, by the result of that contest. Their Lordships should consider, that they were at present contending against the Crown, against the House of Commons, and against the people—fearful, desperate odds—making the situation in which their Lordships stood, a subject demanding the most anxious consideration from those who wished that it should disclaim its power and prerogative ["No, no."] He was stating 15 peculiar circumstances about the state of the present Parliament, which, in his opinion, rendered it in some respects similar to the Long Parliament. Perhaps he had gone beyond the point he was aiming at, and should, therefore, at once put himself into the facts referred to in his Majesty's Speech. The first and most important question was the proposed Reform in the Representation of the people. Considering that the subject had already been debated in that House by persons of high talent and ability, it would ill become him to go into the details of that measure; but he might, perhaps, be permitted to call their attention to one or two points connected with the conduct of that House with respect to that Bill. That Bill was rejected by a majority of their Lordships, on the ground that a change had taken place in the sentiments of the people upon the question of the Reform Bill. It was upon that supposed change of sentiment, that their Lordships grounded their contumelious rejection of the Bill ["No!" from the Opposition side.] If he was mistaken he would gladly withdraw the expression, for he was anxious to avoid any word that might be in the least offensive. He would, therefore, pass over the matter, merely assuming, that the Bill was rejected on the ground that the people had altered their opinions upon the subject ["No, no, no," from the Opposition benches]. Then noble Lords must have it their own way. His memory was perhaps bad, but he had thought it had been rejected on the pretence that a re-action with regard to it had taken place in public opinion. He had understood it had been argued that, when the people should have had further time to consider of the errors into which they had been led by agitators and demagogues, they would no longer adhere to the opinions which they had at first professed in favour of the Reform Bill. If his memory was correct, that argument was put forward as the ground upon which the Bill was rejected. He would not take up their Lordships' time by going further into the reasons which had influenced their Lordships in rejecting that Bill, but he would just ask the question, whether any of them could now say, that any great change had taken place in the sentiments of the people upon the subject. He would even ask whether the people were not now more anxious than ever for that measure which had been so unfortunately rejected last Session, and whether their sentiments upon the subject 16 had not been more generally and more loudly expressed than heretofore upon that important subject? He would go further, and ask their Lordships if there was any chance of satisfying them with any thing less than a measure similar in its principles to that of last Session? He could bear his own testimony to the fact, that the people would be satisfied with nothing less. The Speech from the Throne referred to Political Unions. He lived in a populous part of the country, and he had felt it his duty to ascertain the sentiments of the people, and rather to learn the opinions of those of Birmingham than those of East Retford. He had attended several public meetings, and he could, from all he witnessed, pledge his honour to their Lordships that the attachment of the people to the measure of Reform had increased in a very great degree. He was sorry, that in the course of his observations he had touched upon what appeared to be a sore subject, and he wished that he had touched it with a gentler hand. He begged now to be permitted to offer a few general observations, and, without going at all into the details of the Bill, he would just ask whether that measure, which was called by some a revolutionary measure, was not, in fact, a moderate one? Whether it was a measure which went to the extent which theorists in Reform would lead the public, if that public were left to their guidance? The measure did not extend the franchise so greatly as to cause alarm for the safety of the institutions of the country, nor was there such an enormous disfranchisement as could at all justify its rejection. Without, however, bringing this question to an issue, he would venture to observe, that that which the opponents of the Bill resisted, was an increase of popular influence in the House of Commons. That was what they most dreaded. Now he would ask what sort of popular influence existed at present, and to what degree? He would ask their Lordships whether popular influence and popular indignation did not at present exist in the very place in which the noble Lord would impugn them? Did not popular influence exist to a greater degree now than at any time heretofore? Could it by possibility be diminished in the House of Commons? On the contrary, would it not increase? If those noble Lords who had opposed the measure of Reform would not show some alternative, which, while it would satisfy the popular attachment to Reform, would not add to 17 the supposed undue influence of the people in the House of Commons, they would, in his opinion, do well to take the Reform Bill once more into consideration, with a view to its adoption, rather than leave the country in the dangerous predicament it had been for some time placed in. He would now proceed to speak of the popular influence which would exist in the event of the Bill being passed into a law. Their Lordships would remember, that there was in existence another and a powerful engine, which might be either a useful ally, or a formidable enemy. He meant the public Press. Could their Lordships argue, that the influence of the Press would diminish, while agitation was kept up by the maintenance of that which was considered as a gross public grievance? The very dangers which their Lordships appeared to fear, they had actually increased by the conduct which they had pursued in the last Session of Parliament. He hoped their Lordships would now be convinced, that their best chance of carrying their own point was by conferring upon his noble friend (Earl Grey) the power of acceding to the wishes of the people, by granting them a Reform in the Commons House of Parliament. He would just suppose, which he could by no means anticipate, and which he felt assured was by no means probable—he would just suppose, that their Lordships should again reject the Bill, and he would ask, what would be the consequences? There could be no other alternative but that of adding to the numbers of that House—a measure which every one must deprecate if adopted from any other motive than that of giving strength to the Constitution [a laugh from some noble Lords on the Opposition benches]. What he had said, he perceived, with regret, had excited the mirth of noble Lords opposite. He would now however proceed to allude to other parts of the Speech from the Throne. His Majesty spoke of the distress which existed; and it was unfortunately too true, that wherever they turned their eyes, it presented itself to them to a most alarming extent. In the agricultural districts the peasantry were in deep distress, and in the manufacturing towns the citizens and operatives were similarly circumstanced. There was, in fact, no part of the realm in which there was not a great deal of poverty and distress; and in Ireland particularly, that country which was confessedly a monument of misgovernment, a most fearful agitation prevailed, to which there was no prospect of a termination, 18 until this grievance relative to the Representation should be removed, to say nothing of the popular topic of Tithes, and the abuses of that system which gave such room for agitators and demagogues to inflame the public mind. In Scotland also it must be admitted that there existed a deep-seated discontent. He would ask, if he was not right in saying, that it was only reasonable to suppose that that discontent existed in a greater degree than it otherwise would do in consequence of the illusory Representation of the people? Surely the discontent in that country was closely connected with one of the subjects adverted to in his Majesty's Speech. He would not take up the time of their Lordships further on that topic, but would proceed to say, with respect to another subject alluded to in that Speech, that, if any one was disposed to find fault with the Government for the course which it had adopted with regard to our foreign relations, he would contend that in all that had been done there had been no sacrifice of national honour, but quite the contrary. By the exertions and great talents of his noble friends, the peace of Europe had been maintained under very difficult circumstances. With respect to what had been done towards the abolition of the Slave-trade, by the recent convention with France on that subject, he would say, that he believed it would be hailed by all parties in the country with one common feeling of satisfaction; and he would venture at once to congratulate their Lordships upon an arrangement which must lead to the extirpation of that odious and inhuman traffic. He should be wanting in gratitude to his noble friend at the head of the Government if he did not state, that in 1806 and 1807, when his noble friend was in office with Mr. Fox, the first decisive measure had been adopted towards abolishing the Slave-trade, and it was now his singular good fortune to give real effect to the benevolent intentions of the Government of that day upon this important question. There was only one other subject to which he would advert—namely, the Political Unions which had recently been formed; and upon that he would just say, that his noble friend who had preceded him had so fully expressed his (Lord Lyttleton's) sentiments, that he had left little for him to say. There could be no manner of doubt, in his opinion, but these Unions would cease if the Reform Bill once passed the Legislature, but he could not help looking, notwithstanding, with fear and jealousy to their continuance, 19 to their extension, and to their organization; which was such that, unless they were dissolved, Government could not act with effect. Still he would ask, were they to overlook the cause which brought these Unions into existence? Certainly not. His noble and learned friend on the Woolsack had pointed out the cause, in his very able speech of last Session, when he said, "This monstrous growth is the produce of a soil which, when purified will no longer yield such noxious herbs." In the same manner he would say, that if the Reform Bill were passed, the people would confide in their Representatives, and those Unions would offer no resistance to a just Government. He believed, that there was, upon the part of the leaders of these Unions, a disposition to dissolve them as soon as the grievance which they complained of could be redressed. He would say, with respect to these Unions, what was said by the celebrated and great Lord Chatham, when our colonies in America, now the United States, first rebelled—"Let justice be done, or let discord flourish for ever;" and he would add, that if justice is not done, discord will flourish. He gave his most unfeigned support to the Address proposed by his noble friend. With respect to that House, he would say, that it would be in vain for their Lordships to hope to maintain themselves without the aid of the people. If he were to quote from Mr. Burke, he was aware that he might be told, that he was quoting from an author who would furnish quotations applicable to any kind of arguments; but there was, at least, one portion of his works which was approved of by noble Lords opposite, and from that he would take a short passage. The portion he would quote from, was a letter addressed to the Duke of Portland, on the conduct of the minority. In that letter Mr. Burke said—"The House of Lords is by itself the feeblest part of the Constitution—they know that the House of Lords is supported only by its connexions with the Crown and with the House of Commons."He (Lord Lyttleton) would ask how their Lordships were now situated? Were they not isolated, not only from the people, but from the Crown and from the House of Commons? and could they hope to have any chance of preserving their existence under such circumstances? Were they not precisely in that situation in which Mr. Burke had given it as his opinion that they could not exist even for a year. As to the fear of innovation, the great Lord Bacon had, 20 in a high and philosophical way, in a passage which he had no doubt was familiar to many of their Lordships declared, that "time was the great innovator," and it was impossible for their Lordships to resist its efforts. It was necessary, therefore, to alter even the best institutions occasionally, to accommodate them to altered circumstances; and certainly the course of time had now brought about such changes in society, that it was necessary for their Lordships to consent to improve the institutions of the country. There was yet time for their Lordships to recover their lost ground in the affections of the people, and enter once more into a friendly alliance with them. A great portion of their Lordships lived in the affections of the people. Even many of those who were opposed to the Reform Bill, stood well in public estimation. Let them, then, now only agree to the great measure of Reform, on which the people had set their hearts, and they would secure themselves in their affections; while, if they rejected it, they must feel convinced that no Government could act effectively for the benefit of the country. These considerations, he trusted, would have their due weight in influencing the decision of their Lordships. He would also entreat the right rev. Prelates to consider what might be the consequences if this Bill were to be again rejected. He disliked any thing like cant, and thought he might say, that he was sincerely attached to the Established Church, he was anxious to see that Church reformed. He would most respectfully solicit the attention of the rev. Prelates to a little book on Church Reform, written by a Churchman. He would, with great humility, ask them if they would take his testimony to the fact, that the extent was incalculable to which not only their own interests, but the interests of religion also had suffered by their conduct on one particular occasion during the last Session of Parliament. If they would accept of advice from him, he would intimate an opinion that they should review the vote they had then given upon the Reform Bill, and consider whether it was good for the interests of the million and of the State also, that they should persevere in opposing Reform; or whether the welfare and peace of the country did not call upon them for a different line of conduct under present circumstances. Unless the measure of Reform about to be introduced were conceded, that House could not recover the ground it had lost by its unfortunate deci- 21 sion of last Session. Every one at this moment was in a state of anxiety, dreading the dissolution of the Constitution itself as the result of the inflexibility, if he might use the term, of the noble Lords opposite, should they indeed adhere to their former opinions. He had but a few words more to add. It must be admitted, that the settlement of the Reform question was in effect the settlement of the country; for as long as that important question remained unsettled, the Government could not act with advantage. There was, and would be, a sort of interregnum; all measures would remain, as for some time past, impeded. No measure could be adopted for improving the condition of the suffering part of the community, or of giving an impulse to trade or commerce, until the Government became settled; and Government could not become settled until the question of Reform was disposed of; and that again could not be done, unless a measure the same in principle and extent as the former one were agreed to. He entreated of the noble Lords opposite, that they would consider that the business of the State was at a stand-still, and would continue so until a Reform should take place. When that was accomplished, the ground-work would be laid for the removal of many present evils, and then he trusted the people would continue long attached to the Constitution, and would again resume their natural feelings of respect towards the aristocracy of the country.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
said, that he was extremely desirous to avoid every thing which might tend to create a difference of opinion, or to disturb that unanimity with which, excepting so far as regarded one topic to which he would presently allude, he was anxious their Lordships should adopt the Address now under their consideration; and such being his sentiments, he should not have risen to address their Lordships, if it had not been for the speech of the noble Lord who had seconded the Address. When, however, he said, that the speech of the noble Lord had induced him to rise, he hoped their Lordships would not expect that he was called upon at present to answer any one of the topics which the noble Lord had introduced. No; it was for the purpose of deprecating the introduction of such topics on the present occasion, and not for the purpose of answering them, that he had risen. With one exception only, he perfectly concurred in the Address. He liked the Speech from 22 the Throne, he approved of the topics which were alluded to in it, and he thought that these topics had been treated in the language of temper and propriety. There was nothing which he could wish to add to the Speech—nothing he could wish to take from it. It was, of course, naturally to be expected, that the consideration of a measure of Reform should be recommended in the Speech from the Throne; but then, of the nature of that measure their Lordships at present knew nothing. When their Lordships were made acquainted with the nature of the new Reform Bill, it would be their duty to take it into their most serious consideration, and this was all which the Speech from the Throne recommended, or the Address pledged their Lordships to do. Upon that subject, therefore, he would only express his ardent and anxious hope, that the new Reform Bill would be found to be such a measure as their Lordships might deem it their duty to entertain in detail, and ultimately to adopt—such a measure as might be attended with a result that would accord with the expectations of those who proposed it, and not with the gloomy prognostics of those who had felt it their conscientious duty to oppose the last Reform Bill. He did hope—if their Lordships wished the country to have confidence in their deliberations—that their Lordships would not allow themselves to be drawn into discussions upon what had passed, but that they would bring all the powers of their minds to the consideration of the new measure which was to be brought before them, and, approaching that measure without party views or feelings, earnestly endeavour to bring the subject to a satisfactory settlement, if it were possible for them to do so, consistently with their conscientious sense of duty. No temptation ought to induce them to go into a general discussion of the principles of Reform, or to revert to past discussions upon the subject. He must say, that the speech of the noble Lord who moved the Address was marked by that temper which he should wish to see pervade all the discussions of their Lordships on this subject; though, of course, he could not concur in the political sentiments which that noble Lord had expressed. He had said, that there was one topic in the Address which he did not concur in, and he would now call their Lordships' attention to it. He alluded to that part of the Address which related to the king of the Netherlands, and he hoped that the manner in which it was 23 worded was the result of inadvertence only. Indeed, he was persuaded it was, for he was sure that his Majesty's Ministers could have no intention to commit that House to an opinion upon a transaction of which the House at present knew nothing. The Address, as it stood, was thus worded:—"We beg to express to your Majesty our satisfaction, that the arrangement which your Majesty announced to us at the close of the last Session, for the separation of the States of Holland and Belgium, has been followed by a treaty between the five Powers." Now these words seemed to imply an approbation of the treaty, which, however, the House had not yet seen. Then the Address made the House say, in the words of the Speech, "We trust that the period is not distant, when the king of the Netherlands will see the necessity of acceding to an arrangement in which the Plenipotentiaries of the five Powers," &c. This was liable to the same objection, as the House did not yet know what the arrangement was. Further on, the House was made to say, following the Speech, that the "arrangement had been framed with the most careful and impartial attention to all the interests concerned." This, again, was a matter not yet within the knowledge of the House; and for this reason—and not because he desired to express any opinion, or even the shadow of an opinion—he trusted, that the amendment he had sketched, or one similar to it, would be agreed to. He called it an amendment, but he would rather use the word alteration; and he should be glad that it were adopted by the noble Mover himself, in the place of the passage which now stood in the Address, because, as he had before observed, he was anxious to see the Address voted unanimously. The passage, as he had altered it, would stand thus:—"We beg to express our thanks to your Majesty for the information, that the arrangement which your Majesty announced to us at the close of the last Session, for the separation of the States of Holland and Belgium, has been followed by a treaty between the five Powers and the king of the Belgians; and for the direction your Majesty has given, that that treaty be laid before us as soon as the ratifications shall have been exchanged. We thank your Majesty for having communicated to us, that a similar treaty has not yet been agreed to by the king of the Netherlands; but that your Majesty trusts the period is not distant when that sovereign will see the necessity 24 of acceding to an arrangement in which the Plenipotentiaries of the five Powers have unanimously concurred, and which, we are assured by your Majesty, has been framed with the most careful and impartial attention to all the interests concerned."
§ The Earl of Eldon
said, he trusted their Lordships would permit him to remark, that he had felt extremely distressed at the speech of the noble Seconder. They had nothing at all to do with the Reform Bill of the last Session. He believed, that all noble Lords had, as he was sure he himself had, voted upon that Bill conscientiously. There was nothing in the Speech from the Throne which could lead them to suppose that the same Bill would be proposed again; but, if the same Bill should be once more brought in, it would be the duty of that House to reconsider it, and if, on such reconsideration, any noble Lord thought that he had mistaken his duty when the Bill was last before the House, that noble Lord would be wanting in his duty if he did not retrace his steps. Such was the course which even the humble individual who was now addressing them, though he had so strenuously opposed the Bill, should feel it his duty to pursue, if, upon reconsideration, he should feel that he had taken a false step when the Bill was brought in last Session. He must contend, however, that, under the present circumstances, it was most irregular to allude to that Bill. When, by his vote, he concurred in rejecting that measure, he was satisfied, perhaps improperly, that he did his duty towards that House, and towards the Crown; but he begged noble Lords to recollect, that when he had stated that his sense of duty would not allow him to consent to that Bill, he had expressly declared, that he would not pledge himself to any other, or concerning any other, measure of Reform, that might hereafter be introduced. He repeated, that if the self-same measure were again introduced, it would be the duty of their Lordships to consider whether it was to the advantage of the nation that it should be passed, or that it should be again rejected. Again, however, he would say, that the Speech from the Throne contained nothing about that Bill, and, therefore, such a speech as that which had been made by the noble Seconder of the Address 25 was totally out of order. He had no doubt that the Bill which would be proposed would be such a one as the framers of it conscientiously believed ought to be proposed; and he had no doubt, also, that Parliament would dispose of that measure according to what it felt to be its conscientious duty. He had no disposition to say other than "Content" to the Address. He must, however, take that opportunity of stating, that transactions had taken place which, if he had not seen them, he could not have believed would be endured. There never had been so great an insult passed upon that House, as in a publication to which he felt it his duty to allude. He did not speak of the newspapers, for in them, it must be confessed, they did meet with reasoning; but the publication he meant was called The Black List. He was put forward in that list as receiving 54,000l. a-year out of the taxes. He wished the publisher of The Black List would be obliging enough to make good this charge. Then, again, a noble person, who was eighty-seven years of age, and his elder brother, was called his nephew, and was put in The Black List as receiving a pension of 4,000l. a-year. The noble Lords who had voted against the Reform Bill in the last Session were represented, in the same paper, as receiving millions of money among them out of the taxes, although they themselves must be tolerably certain one doit did not go into their pockets from this source. At the same time, he felt bound to notice, that some of the friends of Reform were also included in the same paper. He thought it was a just ground of complaint, as he understood many thousand copies of this Black List had been sold, that some means should not have been taken to prevent its circulation.
The Earl of Camperdown
said, he should have great pleasure in moving the Address in the terms of the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said, although he concurred in the Address which had been amended according to the suggestion of his noble friend, yet he could not forbear troubling their Lordships upon one or two points mentioned in the King's Speech. He was really at a loss to conceive upon what grounds his Majesty was made to express an opinion and belief that the king of Holland would agree to the treaty which the five Powers had concurred in. Although the terms of the treaty were not yet known, the articles upon which that 26 treaty was founded were matters of perfect notoriety; and, upon that topic, he should address a few observations to the House. He was greatly surprised to hear it said, that the king of the Netherlands would consent to that article which granted a free navigation of the canals of his kingdom to the Belgians. That article appeared to him so unjust, so unreasonable, that he thought it impossible the king of the Netherlands could ever give his consent to it. In the first place, it was entirely foreign to the subjects properly brought under the consideration of the Conference; and, in the next place, it was unjust. By that article, the king of the Netherlands was told, that his former subjects, who had acted in violation of their allegiance to him, and who were now his enemies, should have free navigation through his canals. It might as well be insisted, that they should have a right to enter the palace of the monarch. The canals were private property, and ought to be respected as such. By that article, the Conference placed the king in a worse situation than he was in before the union of those provinces with Holland which the Conference had now declared to be independent of him. He was not only confined within the most narrow limits, but even these were not sacred from intrusion. He could not but view this proceeding as both impolitic and unjust. With regard to the rest of the treaty, so far as the partition of territory and the settlement of the debt were concerned, it might be reasonable to expect that it would meet with the concurrence of the king of Holland; but the insertion of that most unjust and obnoxious article made it impossible for the King to assent to the treaty as a whole, and the people were united with him in resisting the adoption of conditions so truly unjust. By this course the minds of the people had been inflamed, and they concurred with their King, fully and entirely, in deprecating the measure. As he (the Earl of Aberdeen) had already intimated, it appeared to him to be a most unwise proposition—it placed arms in the hands of the king of Holland, and gave him the unanimous support of his people. Never, indeed, were people more united with a Sovereign than the subjects of that King were united with him in resisting the article which appeared so highly objectionable. For his own part, he must again be permitted to repeat, that he thought it impossible the king of Holland could give his assent to that article of the treaty. 27 He concurred in the amendment proposed to that part of the Address which had reference to the States of Holland and Belgium, as it did not call upon their Lordships to express any decided opinion. There was another part of his Majesty's Speech to which he begged to call the attention of the House, although he did not dissent from the Address now moved—it was that portion relating to Portugal. He could not tell what was meant in the Speech respecting the "repeated injuries" to which the subjects of this country had been exposed. It was not his intention to enter upon the question affecting the relations of Portugal with this country—there would be other and more fit opportunities of doing so, as he should feel it his duty to bring that subject forward—but he wished to hear some explanation given of that part of his Majesty's Speech, in which it was said, that "the conduct of the Portuguese government, and the repeated injuries to which my subjects have been exposed, have prevented a renewal of the diplomatic relations with that kingdom." Now, in the last Session the House had been informed, that redress would be afforded to British subjects for the injuries they had sustained. Were the injuries alluded to in the King's Speech new ones, or were they those which existed at the period that the House was told redress would be afforded? He believed, and he had some reason for entertaining such an opinion, that the injuries which were said to exist, and for which the government of Portugal had been blamed, were injuries respecting which that government had nothing whatever to do. It had existed four years with the approbation of the people, and yet it had not been recognised by the renewal of diplomatic relations with this country. He thought that such a government had a right to have a renewal of diplomatic relations. Then, again, his Majesty was made to say—"The return to Europe of the elder branch of the illustrious House of Braganza, and the dangers of a disputed succession, will require my most vigilant attention to events, by which not only the safety of Portugal, but the general interests of Europe, may be affected." What was the meaning of this? Their Lordships would recollect, that this return to Europe of the elder branch of the House of Braganza, had happened during the last Session of Parliament. There was nothing new in this: yet the Ministers had made his Majesty express his regret that he could 28 not renew his diplomatic relations with Portugal in conjunction with that return. Had other prospects been presented since Don Pedro's return to Europe? That Prince had now, it appeared, found means of placing himself in a different position, and had undertaken an enterprise, for the execution of which he had believed no reasonable chance of success could be contemplated. But with English money, and English and French men, he would not undertake to say what might now be the result. By the purchase of ships of war, and military stores, with other means to which recourse was had, no doubt could exist but something might be effected. He would say, that if the measure should be executed in the manner contemplated, it was a course most undesirable; and if the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government thought it was merely a question between two Princes, he would find himself in error; for it would prove to be a question of far greater extent—it would become a question between the two countries, and would weaken the probabilities expressed by his Majesty, of a confident hope that the peace of Europe would not be interrupted. For his part, he believed it would lead to a general war. It was quite impossible, that the Spanish government would quietly look on, and allow a revolutionary faction to be established in Portugal. What was the object of that revolutionary faction? Their plan was, to establish a revolutionary Monarchy over the whole of the Peninsula; but the whole of the Spanish people would rise up in arms against such an attempt. Therefore, it became a subject of considerable moment, involving no less than the probability of disturbing the peace of the world. He felt it right to make these observations with reference to the topics to which he had alluded, although he did not entertain, as he had already stated, any objection whatever to the Address which had been moved; and in the amendment suggested by his noble friend near him, regarding the States of Holland and Belgium, he most cordially concurred.
The Duke of Buckingham
said, that the noble Seconder had begun his address to their Lordships by complimenting the noble Mover on his good taste, but had shown the value he placed upon the article, by taking care not to put any of it into his own speech. A more extraordinary speech, and one more calculated to provoke inconvenient discussion, he had never heard. If any one ever had occasion to say "Defend me from 29 my friends," it was the noble Earl (Grey) upon hearing the speech of the noble Seconder. That speech consisted of attacks upon noble Lords for their past conduct, and of advice to them for the future. The noble Lord had gone at some length into the history of the proceedings which had taken place on the late Reform Bill, and had also taken occasion to speak of the measure which was to be introduced. This was a most irregular mode of proceeding. He (the Duke of Buckingham) had justified the vote he gave on a former occasion, and would abide by that vote, but he would not "hark back" to a matter which was now settled. He did not recollect to have heard either the noble Mover, or the noble Seconder, open their mouths during the debate on the Reform Bill; but if they had favoured the House with their eloquence on that occasion, it would doubtless have produced a great impression—perhaps a triumphant one—causing the Bill to be carried, instead of being rejected. Their Lordships met now under a perfectly distinct state of things. It was almost a secondary consideration what measure of Reform should be introduced. Their first business was to unite in supporting Ministers in those measures which were necessary in order to make them a free deliberative Assembly, which they were not while the Political Unions existed. Until those Unions were put down, they would be constantly assailed by threats and intimidation. When noble Lords on his side the House were taunted with re-action, was it meant to refer them to the proceedings at Bristol and Birmingham as proofs that the people were prepared to consider the subject of Reform calmly? Those proceedings must be inquired into; it must be ascertained whether there was any connexion between them. He heartily approved of the Speech from the Throne; and he hoped that the Ministers would follow up what they had put into the King's mouth. As to Reform, he would only say that when the new measure of Reform came before them, he would pronounce upon it, but not till then. Every body must wish to see that question satisfactorily settled; and he fully concurred in the sentiment, that upon the speedy and satisfactory settlement of it, the quiet of the country, and the security of the State, depended. He, therefore, would consider it with a view to the feelings of the people—with a view to that spread of education and knowledge, which had rendered them both more alive to political matters, 30 and more competent to understand them; but he would so consider it always subject to the principles of the Constitution.
§ Earl Grey
would trouble their Lordships but with a very few words. He perfectly concurred with the noble Earl (Harrow by) in the recommendation which that noble Earl had made, respecting the tone and temper which ought to mark their proceedings; and if he had required, which he did not, any proof that the noble Earl would not allow himself to be swayed by party feelings, the speech and conduct of the noble Earl that night would have furnished that proof. The noble Earl had stated that there was nothing he desired to add to the Speech—nothing he desired to take away from it; and the noble Earl cordially agreed to the Address, after it had received an alteration, which was merely of a verbal nature. He confessed, that he felt much gratification—gratification the greater, perhaps, because unexpected—on the unanimity with which their Lordships were disposed to vote the Address. The alteration suggested by the noble Earl in the Address was doubtless an improvement, and the Address should have been so worded at first, for it was certainly never intended to pledge their Lordships to an opinion upon a treaty which had not yet come regularly before them. He should wish, therefore, that the alteration should be adopted in the construction of the Address, and not be moved as an amendment, in order that the Address might pass their Lordships unanimously. He concurred, also, with the noble Earl, that this was not the time for discussing the merits of a measure which was not yet before their Lordships, and still less the time for discussing the fate or the character of the measure which had gone by. That course had been called disorderly and irregular. He admitted that it was not convenient, but he must beg to deny that it was either irregular or disorderly. He freely admitted, however, that they were not now in a condition to examine into what ought to be the particular character of the measure about to be introduced, and he would, therefore, say no more about it, except that it was essential that it should be founded upon the same principles, and be equally as efficient as the last. He trusted, that every body would come to the consideration of it with a sincere desire to form a just opinion, not only of the character of the measure, but of what expediency called for; and that, unfettered by what had passed, every noble 31 Lord would approach the discussion of it firmly determined to deal with it in the way in which, all circumstances considered, he conscientiously believed would be most advantageous to the interests of the State, and most likely to lead to the permanent contentment and welfare of the nation. Having said thus much, he would not go further into that topic at present. He had no desire to detain their Lordships, but he felt it his duty to protest against the hasty conclusions to which a noble Earl (Aberdeen) opposite had given utterance. The noble Earl having expressed himself satisfied with the Address, and said, that he concurred in it, he must say he wished the noble Earl had abstained—not from arguing, for he could not call it arguing, but—from making assertions which it was difficult for him then not to repel as they deserved to be repelled. He would not, however, be betrayed into a premature discussion of the important topics to which the noble Earl had alluded, but he must protest against the noble Earl's unwarrantable conclusions. The noble Earl could not see how the king of the Netherlands could agree to the treaty; but he (Earl Grey) could see, in the situation of his Majesty, and in the general interests of Europe, many reasons which might induce the king of the Netherlands to come to such an agreement. Whatever suspicions the noble Earl might entertain of the Ministers, he begged to tell that noble Earl, that there were in the Conference none more desirous than the Ministers of England were to give Holland, our old ally, a safe frontier, and to put her in possession of all the advantages that would tend to make her a prosperous and flourishing country. With respect to that article of the treaty relating to the navigation of the canals, the noble Earl had told them, that proposition had inflamed all the people of Holland, who made common cause with their King in opposition to this particular part of the treaty. The noble Earl, in what he had said upon this subject, had, of course, demonstrated great anxiety not to add to that inflammation, as the noble Earl, in what he had said upon other topics, had evinced a strong desire to preserve the peace of Europe. Important, however, as the influence of the noble Earl and his opinions might be, he did not think the noble Earl any more likely to persuade the king of Holland, that he had a very large party in this country who would support him in resisting the treaty, than he thought the noble Earl likely to disturb the peace 32 of Europe. He did at the same time hope, that the noble Earl, however ill-formed his opinions might be, would abstain from the expression of them, until the whole extent of the transactions was before their Lordships, for, until these were perfectly examined and understood, the noble Earl could not be answered. The noble Earl would find, that if this stipulation respecting the navigation of the canals were an advantage to Belgium, it was an advantage which Belgium had purchased by yielding many advantages to Holland. The noble Earl had said, that the king of the Netherlands was reduced to narrow limits, and had been deprived of his provinces; but had the present Ministers done this? Was it not done before they came into office? and had not the noble Duke, who was at the head of the late Administration, openly declared that the two countries were so separated, that he looked upon the re-union of them as impossible? Under these circumstances, then, what better course could have been pursued than for the five Powers to take the settlement of the matter into their own hands, and make Belgium an independent country? This was all he then had to say with reference to the assertions, for they were nothing more than mere assertions of the noble Earl. He would await the opportunity promised them by the noble Earl of entering fully into the subject. The noble Earl would find him neither unwilling nor unprepared to discuss the policy pursued by Ministers, not only with respect to the affairs of Belgium, but with respect to other foreign countries, and he persuaded himself, he should not experience a very difficult task, in showing, that the noble Earl's insinuations were wholly unwarranted, and that the policy pursued was that most conducive to the peace of Europe, and, through it, to the permanent welfare of England. But the noble Earl did not confine his innuendoes and quasi declarations solely to the conduct of the Administration which had succeeded that of which the noble Earl had been a member, as it bore upon the affairs of Belgium; he extended his fostering and enlightened, and, no doubt, disinterested care to Portugal; and, though the noble Earl admitted the present was not the proper time to enter into an investigation of our policy, in reference to the existing government of that country, yet the noble Earl had taken the opportunity to make strong assertions, without supporting them by a shadow of argument. He had arraigned the present Government 33 for not having acknowledged the sovereignty of Don Miguel. Now this was really a singular charge from the noble Earl. Did the noble Earl forget, or could their Lordships forget, that the Administration, of which the noble Earl was a member (no doubt a very important one), long since proposed to themselves to recognize Don Miguel on one condition (in his, Earl Grey's, mind a most unsatisfactory one), and that they did not carry their intentions into effect, because Don Miguel had not fulfilled the proposed condition? The Government, of which the noble Earl was a member, could not then, anxious as they were, recognize Don Miguel, because he had not fulfilled the condition of his recognition, as proposed by themselves; and yet he blamed the present Administration for not having recognized that individual's sovereignty, though that very condition was, as the noble Earl knew, as yet unfulfilled. But, asks the noble Earl in a tone of triumph, "Were not their Lordships told on a former occasion, that injuries had been inflicted upon the property and persons of British subjects in Portugal, and Ministers took credit to themselves for having obtained speedy redress for those injuries." Certainly that redress had been obtained, and the fleet had been consequently withdrawn. But the noble Earl went on to assert, more suo, that had Don Miguel's sovereignty been previously acknowledged, these injuries would not have been repeated. What were the facts of the case? Simply that the British residents in Portugal felt themselves so harassed by Don Miguel's officers, both in their persons and property, that they addressed the Government here, in the most urgent tone, for protection, and that, in compliance with their emphatic declaration, redress was peremptorily demanded from the Portuguese authorities, it being besides found necessary to send out several ships of war to the Tagus, in order to ensure the redress, and prevent a recurrence of the injuries. From that time to the present—such was the disposition of the government, of which the noble Earl was just now so much enamoured, towards the British residents in Portugal, that it was found necessary to continue a naval force in the Tagus for the protection of our fellow-subjects. But on this point he would not then say more. When the subject properly came under their Lordships' consideration, a detailed statement of grievances endured by British residents in Portugal—and that, too, let it be under- 34 stood, not at the hands of unofficial persons, in a moment of temporary excitement, for which the Portuguese government could not in fairness be accountable, but perpetrated under the very eye of Don Miguel's authorities, and by persons for whose conduct his government was in fairness responsible; grievances for which it would be found, that not even the strong language of the noble Earl himself against Don Miguel, on a former occasion, would be sufficiently expressive on the score of just denunciation: yes, he repeated, these grievances and injuries, he would undertake to show, on a future occasion, were committed on British subjects in Portugal, under the very eye of Don Miguel's government, and by persons for whom that government were justly responsible. This was all he would then say on this subject; on the occasion promised them by the noble Earl, he would enter fully into the discussion of it, in all its bearings, and hoped to convince their Lordships, that the passage in his Majesty's Speech which referred to our relations with Portugal, and which had given rise to the noble Earl's animadversions, was not framed without a due regard to the honour and interests of the country. He begged now to make a few remarks to their Lordships, with respect to what had just fallen from the noble Duke (the Duke of Buckingham) opposite. That noble Duke told their Lordships, in the same breath, that the riots of Bristol, and the proceedings of the Birmingham Union, must be forth with inquired into: and he added, the Birmingham Union, and all other such Political Unions, must be put down. Now, he (Earl Grey) hoped to be able to show, that Ministers had not neglected their duty with respect to the riots at Bristol, and such political combinations as were incompatible with a regular government, and were contrary to the law of the land, and, to use the words of the King's Speech, "the authority of the laws must be vindicated, by the punishment of offences, which have produced so extensive a destruction of life and property" as those which have recently occurred at Bristol. But while he stated this, their Lordships need not be told, that this was not the first time they had heard of political unions, nor need they be told, that such combinations were not so easily "put down" as the noble Duke's declaration would imply. The fact was, such unions had existed, in one form or another, at every period of the modern history of this country. There were many 35 such, and that, too, of a far more formidable character than any now in existence, particularly at the close of the American war, and at the outset of the French Revolution, which it was found the executive government did not possess sufficient authority to "put down," and which the Legislature found could not be suppressed without infringing on the rights and constitutional liberties of the subject. To such a proceeding he need not say the present Ministry would be slow in having recourse; it would be far from their inclination to prevent his Majesty's subjects from fully and freely expressing their grievances, in the most emphatic manner they thought proper. It should be borne in mind, when they were discussing the propriety of suppressing illegal combinations, that the existence of political unions was by no means imputable to the present Government. As his noble friend (the Earl of Camper down) had observed, the most formidable and influential of these unions, the Birmingham Union, was in active being before the present Ministers acceded to office. If, therefore, it was a crime in the present Government, not "to put the Birmingham Union down," what should be said to the Administration which permitted it to grow up? But enough on this head for the present. Before he sat down, he begged leave to say one word with reference to what had fallen from a noble and learned Earl (the Earl of Eldon), for whom he felt the most unfeigned respect. That noble and learned Lord had complained, that what he designated to be audacious libels, should have been permitted to pass unnoticed by the law officers of the Crown. Now he put it to the noble Earl, and to their Lordships, whether other considerations than the mere fact of being contrary to law, did not enter into the question, whether a particular publication should or should not be prosecuted. It might be that every word in that publication was written in a bad spirit—that it was a tissue of falsehoods—nay, that it was an atrocious libel; but still it was to be considered, whether prosecutions would be the most efficient antidote—whether, for instance, it would be wise to bring a matter before a jury which, if unsuccessful in obtaining a verdict, would only aggravate the mischief, and, in fact, create one where it did not exist. These considerations were not new to their Lordships, and had much influenced Ministers, with respect to publications of a calumnious tendency. With respect to the particular publication to which the noble and learned Earl had 36 alluded, The Black List, all he could say was, that he (Earl Grey) never saw more of it than appeared in extracts in some of the newspapers, and even in these extracts, he had not had the curiosity to read more than related to himself. That portion which related to himself quite satisfied him as to the character of the rest; for assertions so extravagantly absurd, so wholly unfounded, it had never been his fortune to meet in any publication, and they were, if possible, more groundless than those which the noble Earl had cited with respect to himself. But he never dreamt of prosecuting the silly ignorant writer. He felt, as he was sure their Lordships also felt, that the antidote was contained in the extravagant absurdity of the declaration, and that no intelligent or honest man in the community could be influenced by such stupid slander. Such was his feeling on this head, and he trusted it would be that also of the noble and learned Earl. He would not detain their Lordships further, but conclude by expressing his great gratification, at the unanimity of approval, which pervaded all parts of the House with respect to his Majesty's Speech, and the Address in answer to it.
The Duke of Buckingham
observed, that in the last Gazette, he had seen, that a Commission had been appointed to proceed and try offences at Bristol connected with the late riots. He wished to know whether a similar Commission was to be sent to Nottingham?
§ The Motion for the Address agreed to nemine contradicente, and a Committee appointed to prepare it.