observed, that it had been usual to move the first reading of some bill previously to reading his Majesty's Speech.
§ Earl Grey
acknowledged that such was the practice of the House. The noble Earl then moved the first reading of the Select Vestries Bill. The Bill read a first time.
The Lord Chancellor
then read his Ma- 88 jesty's Speech, which was afterwards again read by the Clerk.
The Duke of Norfolk
said—" My Lords, in rising to move that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, expressive of the hearty concurrence of this House in the sentiments and views expressed in his Majesty's most gracious Speech, this day delivered from the Throne, I feel that I stand in need of your Lordships' kind indulgence which I trust will be extended to me. I claim it, my Lords, on stronger grounds than are usually alleged on such occasions; because till, by an act of justice of the Legislature, I was restored to the full enjoyment of the blessings of civil and religious liberty—the pride of Englishmen— I had been little accustomed to address any public Meetings, much less such an Assembly as that in the presence of which I now stand. Attached, as I have been from the earliest period of my life, to the institutions of my country, I have now, therefore, the additional ties of gratitude to support and defend those institutions. I take this occasion, my Lords, to give my cordial support to his Majesty's Ministers, by whom I am convinced those institutions will be faithfully supported and restored to their original purity. The first topic to which the Speech relates is the dissolution of the late Parliament—a measure rendered necessary by the constitutional desire of his Majesty's Ministers to obtain a thorough knowledge of the state of public opinion upon the great question of Parliamentary Reform. That opinion has been strongly—I may say irresistibly—expressed in favour of that measure. I will refrain, at present, from entering on any lengthened argument on this subject, but I must be permitted to express my firm conviction, that infinitely more danger is to be apprehended to the stability of our institutions by a pertinacious adherence to the abuses which time has introduced, than by a salutary and efficient reformation. To say that the people of England seek for revolution, is a most unjustifiable libel upon them. They seek for a restitution of their rights, and a restoration of the Constitution. The next topic in his Majesty's Speech to which I shall briefly allude is, the satisfactory assurance of his Majesty's Ministers of a determination to preserve peace, so long as peace can be preserved consistently with the honour of the country and the dignity of the Crown; to avoid interfering with the concerns of 89 other States, but to resist, with becoming spirit, any indignity offered to British subjects. To advert more immediately to our domestic concerns, it is satisfactory to learn that our finances, notwithstanding a great reduction of taxation, are in an improving state, and that a rigid system of economy will continue to be enforced in every department. His Majesty's kind promise, that it shall be the object of his solicitude to assist the industry, to improve the resources, and to maintain the credit of the country, will, I am confident, be felt and appreciated as it ought to be by a people already attached to him by his numerous acts of paternal care and beneficence. Another subject of great importance remains for me to advert to—I mean the state of Ireland—to which subject I am sure the most serious attention of the Legislature will be turned. It is impossible that a remedy can at. once be found for all the evils under which Ireland labours— evils so deeply rooted, as to be almost identified with the state of society there; much, however, may be done by the full determination of Ministers and of Parliament to probe those evils to the core, and to administer in every instance all the relief that legislative interference can bestow. To secure the affections of the Irish people by the mild administration of equal law, is the first object to be attained; and to its attainment, the steady endeavours of the noble Marquis at the head of his Majesty's Government in Ireland seem to be directed with consummate ability. I consider it no small merit due to the noble Marquis, as well as to those who conduct the Administration, that the constitutional authority of the laws has been vigorously and successfully exerted without the necessity of further powers being demanded." The noble Duke concluded by moving an Address which was as usual an echo of the Speech.
The Lord Chancellor
began to read it, and it commenced as follows:—"We, your Majesty's loyal and dutiful subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, humbly assure your Majesty—." The noble and learned Lord had no sooner pronounced these few words, when he was interrupted by calls to "Order," which were followed by cries of "proceed!" His Lordship discontinued reading, apparently in doubt as to the cause of the interruption which he had experienced.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that he had no objection to read the Address, but being ignorant of their Lordships' mode of. proceeding, he was at a loss to know how to act, while one noble Lord cried out "read," and another "no, no;" and a third "Order."
rose to order. The motion that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was reading was not a motion that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, it was the address itself. The motion made by the noble Duke opposite was, that an Address be presented to his Majesty. It was usual for all Addresses in answer to the Speech from the Throne to be referred to a Committee, and reported to the House; but the form and terms of the Address now moved being exactly similar to those which were presented to his Majesty after coming from the hands of the Committee, would, if adopted by the House, of course remove the necessity of a reference to a Committee.
§ Earl Grey
said, that an Address had been moved and proposed for their Lordships' adoption. That Address would, of course, be referred to a Committee, and he saw nothing in its form to prevent the Committee considering it, and reporting it for the adoption of the House, if they so thought fit. If, however, it were thought necessary, it would be very easy to alter the words of the Address] to the usual form.
said, that the usual form in which an Address was moved was, that "a humble Address be presented to his Majesty, assuring his Majesty, &c." The Address was then referred to a Committee, and by them converted into the ordinary language in which an Address was presented to his Majesty. The noble Lord concluded by repeating, that the terms of the proposed Address would prevent their Lordships from referring it to a committee.
The Earl of Shaftesbury
concurred in opinion with the noble Lord (Ellen-borough) as to the usual form of an Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne, and supposed the noble Duke opposite had, through mistake, moved the Address in a different manner.
The Lord Chancellor
wished to know whether he was to read the Address in the first person or in the third person?
objected to the reading of the Address, as originally commenced by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, because it was not according to the rules of the House.
The Lord Chancellor
would not enter into the discussion of a matter of which he was entirely ignorant. But if it was necessary for him to obtain instructions from their Lordships how he was to act, it was his duty to obey their Lordships, and he was only desirous to know what was their pleasure. There appeared to be, however, no very great concurrence among their Lordships as to the course which ought to be pursued. One noble Lord told him to read the Address in the first person; another said it must be read in the third person; and he no sooner began to read it than he was directly stopped; so that there was no possibility of his learning what he was to do. He would venture to suggest, that, without being called upon to change the language of the Address, he might be allowed to read it as proposed, and then put the question upon it. He understood that when adopted, it would be sent to a Committee to be considered and drawn up, and therefore he conceived, with great submission to others of their Lordships better conversant with the forms and privileges of the House, that no harm could arise from his reading the Address which had been moved, and put the question for its adoption to their Lordships. It would be then competent for any noble Lord who chose, to move any sort of Address in the more usual form, as an amendment.
did not understand how an amendment could be moved to an Address which their Lordships had not, as yet, heard.
again stated, that if the Address was put in its present shape, the appointment of a Committee would be needless.
§ Earl Grey
did not understand the objection raised by the noble Lord, nor did he think that a more unprofitable discussion than the present could have been entered upon. He saw no difficulty in adopting the form suggested by the noble 92 Lord. The whole question was one of mere form. The noble Duke had, it appeared, proposed an Address, framed in the way in which Addresses usually come from the hands of the Committee, but in doing so the noble Duke had no intention of limiting the right of the House to discuss the Address or to make such alterations or amendments as might be thought proper. He was sure that the noble Lord could not state that any inconvenience of that nature would result from the Address being discussed under its present shape. He was likewise at a loss to comprehend how a reference to a Committee would be precluded by the manner in which the Address was drawn up. There might be defects in the form, and inaccuracies in the expression, of an Address adopted by the House, which it would be afterwards the duty of the Committee to correct and report to the House. With respect to the error which had been pointed out in the proposed Address, he took upon himself the whole weight of it; for it had originated in him through inadvertence. He did not see any great difference in drawing up the address in one way or other; and taking the form of the proposed Address to be the form usually adopted by their Lordships, he had recommended his noble friend to follow it, as being, in his opinion, consonant with the rules of the House. If the noble Lord could show that any possible inconvenience would result from adopting the proposed Address, he (Earl Grey) would have no objection to withdraw it, and present it in another form. But in the state in which the matter now was," he put it to the candour of the noble Lord, and more emphatically to the candour of the House, whether it would be worth while to delay an important discussion for a mere matter of form, which no person in the House could say was of any importance whatever. Under these circumstances, he hoped that their Lordships would suffer the Address to be read in the way in which it had been pro-posed, so that every Member of the House might be enabled to form a judgment upon it. He trusted, then, that his noble and learned friend would be allowed to proceed to read the Address without experiencing any further interruption, which could not have any other purpose than that of creating delay, and which would not conduce to the dignity pf the House, or to the maintenance of its privileges.
regretted, that any cause should have been given for the present discussion. He thought it the duty of every noble Lord to adhere to the forms of the House. Those forms were all founded in reason. They maintained the privileges of the House, and by so doing secured the interests of the kingdom. He had not the least doubt that on the present occasion the noble Duke had erred from inadvertence. He had no doubt, that the noble Earl had likewise erred from inadvertence when he suffered the noble Lord on the Woolsack to commence reading his Majesty's speech without first proceeding to move, according to usual custom, the first reading of some bill. That was the second instance of inadvertence in one evening. Yet these things might be drawn into precedents, and in future times prove injurious to the interests and privileges of that House of Parliament. This was not the time when it was consistent with the duty of any Peer to allow those privileges to be infringed. With respect to the immediate subject of discussion, he must venture so far to differ from the noble Earl, as to think that considerable public inconvenience would arise from the course which, through inadvertence, had been taken by the noble Duke and noble Earl opposite. On all former occasions there had been afforded to that and the other House of Parliament two occasions on which to deliver their opinions by vote upon the Address to his Majesty—namely, first, on moving the address; and, secondly, upon the presentation of the report of the Committee; and it had very often happened that important debates had arisen on the latter occasion. But he asked their Lordships, how could they refer to a committee the consideration of that which they in the whole House definitely determined upon? If their Lordships agreed to the Address in its a present shape, they would preclude themselves from all further consideration of it. He did not care whether the form of the Address was adopted or not. All he wished was, that it might not be drawn into a precedent, and employed hereafter by some Minister desirous of using that House in a manner not consistent with the Constitution, as a means to attack its privileges and interests. His object was gained in calling their Lordships attention to the subject, and in concurrence with what he conceived to be the preva- 94 lent opinion among their Lordships he should make no further observation on it.
The Duke of Buckingham
wished to draw the attention of the House to an error, which, like the other two which had been already noticed, he supposed had proceeded from inadvertence. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had put the question from the Woolsack that the Address be read, and had declared the Contents to have it. That was not the way in which an Address ought to be laid before their Lordships. The noble Duke opposite had a right to have the Address read without any question being put by the Lord Chancellor.
The Marquis of Lansdown
thought it not possible that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had put any question to their Lord ships as to the reading of the Address.
The Marquis of Lansdown
admitted that it was the duty of the Lord Chancellor to read any motion which might be made, as a matter of course.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that he found the situation which he held in that House to be very different from that of the Speaker of the House of Commmons. The Speaker of their Lordships' House was only nominally a Speaker, He had no power to enforce order beyond what any one of their Lordships possessed. The duty he had to perform was very difficult to discharge when there were so many masters. He wished to read the Address, but he heard several Lords cry out, "No;" and then he heard others cry out, "Yes." Now it was very easy to say that such and such a thing was a matter of course; and that this or that must be done. "Must be done," he repeated, was easily sad; but when he heard noble Lords give different directions, he wanted to know which he must obey. He therefore thought it his duty to ask what the sense of their Lordships was, with respect to the terms of the Address, and with a view to obviate the difficulty which had been started, he had proposed to put before the words "we your Majesty's loyal," &c, "that an humble Address be presented to his "that Majesty to the following effect." But then it was suggested that that might be drawn into precedent; and he would, therefore, with their Lordships kind indulgence, endeavour to read the Address, converging it 95 from the first person into the third person as he proceeded. The noble and learned Lord then put the question, whether it was their Lordships' pleasure that he should read the Address in that manner.
The Earl of Carnarvon
said, that the noble Duke had a right to have the address read without any question being put thereon.
A noble Lord
thought, that the noble Duke who moved the Address was the most proper person to amend it.
said, that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack did not pretend substantially to alter the motion which had been put into his hand, but had asked permission of the House, in common with the noble mover of the motion, to make an alteration in point of form. If this matter was considered of prodigious importance, unquestionably any noble Lord might rise and say, that he would not agree to the proposition, and then, in order to effect the proposed alteration, the noble mover must make the motion in an amended shape. But unless any noble Lord should think the alteration pro-posed by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack of such portentous effect that the consequence would be put to the House to great inconvenience, and effect its privileges and interests, then the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack might at once, with the permission of the House, make the alteration which he had suggested. When a Peer made a motion, he was considered to read it as part of his speech, and afterwards to write it down at the Table. If any mistake occurred in the Motion, it was usual to permit the motion to be put in an altered state, which the mover and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack might think more consonant with the usages of the House.
thought the importance of the question arose from the manner in which it would appear in the Journals of the House. He therefore recommended the noble Duke to alter his motion in the manner which had been suggested. He considered it best to have the language of the Address altered, otherwise it would be needless to refer it to a Committee.
of Norfolk and the Marquis of Londonderry rose together, amidst loud and general cries of "Order."
rose to order. The noble Duke, he said, had made a motion, 96 which was under the consideration of the House. In the course of the discussion a doubt had arisen as to a matter of form. When such a doubt arose, it was the usual courtesy of the House to allow the person who made the motion to be first heard.
of Norfolk then withdrew the Address which he first proposed, and afterwards presented it in the customary form.
§ The Earl of Eldon,
after reading some extracts from the Journals, said it was apparent from them, that the Committee appointed to consider the Address had the power to alter its terms, but not its import.
The Marquis of Londonderry
hoped now to be allowed to make one observation. He thought it a most extaordinary circumstance that the members of that Government, who were so very tenacious in urging points of order on futile pretences at the close of last session, should find fault with the noble Baron (Ellenborough) for standing up, as he was bound to do, in defence of the principles of the House, which were infringed by the want of official knowledge or negligence on the part of the Government. The noble Duke had not been properly prompted as to the manner of shaping his motion.
rose to order. It. was a very trite and old saying, that nothing-was so unlike as a simile. So from what he had observed within the last hour, if he were to make any criticism on parliamentary proceedings he should say that nothing was so disorderly as a debate on a point of order. The noble Lord who had just sat down had drawn that observation more particularly from him, by carrying disorder to its complete summit; beyond which disorder could no farther go. The noble Lord had in the course of a single sentence contrived to commit three distinct breaches of order. He had alluded to what had passed formerly in debate. Their Lordships were aware that when matters once passed that House, it could no longer come within their cognizance; and that was a rule of much greater importance than the question whether the Address should be moved in a direct form, or be referred to a Committee; because if it were once admitted that a discussion might be entered into upon disorderly language used in former debates in Parliament, the stability of their Lordships' judicial decrees would be shaken, and even those Statutes which they passed as one of the Houses of Parliament. He would conclude 97 with the observation which he made before, and the truth of which he was not sure but he had confirmed by his own practice, that there was nothing so disorderly as a debate on order.
The Earl of Mulgrave
rose to second the Address. If he rose before somewhat prematurely, it was not with any intention to violate the orders of their Lordships' House. His ideas of order had been acquired in another place, and he hoped this would be his apology. Certainly, neither he nor any of his friends on that side of the House had any intention to violate the rights and liberties of the people through a disregard to the privileges and orders of the House. As to the observation made by the noble Marquis (Londonderry), he would, at the risk of incurring the indignation of his noble friend (Lord Holland) behind him, venture to call to the recollection of the noble Marquis, that there was at one time in the course of last Session a degree of disorder in this House, which was by no means calculated to keep up that deference and respect, which ought always to be preserved, if possible, for the manner in which the proceedings of their Lordships' House were conducted. He would say no more on that point, but he hoped that the proceeding of this night would not turn out to be only the first symptom of a frivolous and factious opposition to his Majesty's Government. As for himself, there were two principles particularly which he had considered it his duty to advocate as far as lay in his power. The one was the principle of religious liberty, or that of putting an end to all civil disabilities depending on difference of creeds. He congratulated their Lordships and the country, that a great Reform in that respect had taken place, the consequence of which was, that the noble Mover of the Address had that seat among them now which he ought to have had long ago. No one who heard the noble Duke could fail to sympathize with him, when he made the touching allusion to his want of practice in parliamentary speaking, which was the effect of the unjust exclusion, and no one could help deploring the cause of the noble Duke's embarrassment when so explained. It was a proof that the settlement of the Catholic Question had been delayed too long. The other principle to which he alluded was the great principle 98 of efficient and substantial Reform in the Representative system of the country; and with reference to that, he could not help adverting to the very disinterested conduct of the noble Duke, who, at a great sacrifice of personal and family interests, was the zealous supporter of Reform. It was in itself a great argument in favour of Reform, that the first nobleman in the land was a strenuous supporter of the measure, and that nobleman being one who would never violate his conscience to gain his proper situation in that House, and who never would act in opposition to its dictates, even if the consequence should be the loss of the situation which he had at last attained. They who advocated the cause of Reform were accused of entertaining indefinite views, and of promoting indiscriminate change; but that was an accusation which did not apply to any of those in this House who were friends to Reform, and least of all to the noble Duke. He hoped the House would pardon what he had said, which might be considered in the light of a digression. He would now, however, proceed to consider the several points of the Address. He most cordially echoed the congratulation in his Majesty's Speech on the preservation of peace. Whoever had cast even a cursory glance on the state of Europe must be aware that his Majesty's Government had a delicate and difficult task to perform for the preservation of peace; but they had been successful in that great object, and their success hitherto afforded a happy presage of ultimate and complete success. The success which had hitherto attended the exertions of his Majesty's Ministers was, in all probability, greatly to be attributed to the circumstance, that they were well known to have been always the strenuous and consistent advocates of peace, when peace could be preserved in consistency with the honour of the country. The influence of their character had been in this respect fully appreciated in settling the Belgian question, and he fully concurred in the principle of non-interference on which the negotiations concerning that had been conducted as recognised by the Speech and the Address. He concurred, therefore, in what, in one view, might be considered as an exception to the rule; namely in the interference, so tar as the settlement of the internal affairs of Belgium might be connected with the interests of other powers. He did not think that any Ministers 99 of England would venture to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries beyond the limits which he had mentioned; but yet he could not help considering it a fortunate circumstance that the conferences were not conducted, on the part of this country, by those who, while they commended the principle of non-interference, in the same breath pronounced judgment on the question at issue. The part, of the Speech relating to this subject was in these terms:—"The principle on which these conferences has been conducted has been that of non-interference with the right of the people of Belgium to regulate their own internal affairs, and to re-establish their own Government according to their own views of what might be most conducive to their welfare and independence, on the sole condition sanctioned by the practice of nations, and the principles of public law, that in the exercise of that undisputed right, the security of neighbouring nations should not be endangered." He concurred both in the general principle and in the condition annexed to it. It might happen that the people of a particular nation, when they came to choose a Sovereign, might choose one so connected with another Power as to endanger the independence of other nations, and this was a case for interference. There was a great precedent for this in the Address presented to his Majesty King William 3rd, just before what was called the War of the Succession, praying that he would interfere to prevent Louis 14th from placing his grandson Philip on the Throne of Spain. He was not prepared to say, however, that there might not be times and circumstances in which even intervention only to that extent might not be inexpedient and unadvisable. But the example which he had mentioned at least afforded a distinct precedent for this interference. Objections, indeed, had been made to any intervention in regard to the question of boundaries. It appeared to him, however, that that question came naturally under consideration in the Conferences, and the advantage of its having been taken up by the five Powers was, that the matter might be settled without any recourse to arms. Of all modes of settling a national question, the mode of having recourse to arms was the worst, and therefore, that mode ought to be avoided if possible. It was injurious to the real interest of the contending parties, and 100 also injurious to the interests of all the neighbouring nations. Before leaving that part of the Speech and Address which related to Belgium, he thought it right to observe, that the character of the distinguished individual who was spoken of as the future Sovereign of Belgium would afford a strong guarantee for the preservation of peace as far as respected that country. That individual, by his long residence here, had received lessons of tolerance, and had probably acquired a prudent and temperate, but, at the same time, energetic mode of meeting occasional violence, which would render him a most valuable Sovereign for Belgium, and he thought from the connection of that noble person with this country, combined with his entire independence of its Government, that he was remarkably well qualified for the office. With such a Sovereign he had no doubt that Belgium would take her rank among the scale of European nations, guarding with jealousy their common privileges which she was called upon to share. With respect to our transactions with Portugal, though they had not led to the re-establishment of our diplomatic relations with the government of that country, he thought that the result was such as he might congratulate their Lordships upon, for satisfaction was as promptly given, as it was decisively demanded. The course adopted by his Majesty's Government, was that which the late Government ought to have followed. On this, however, he would not now enter further, as he had taken an opportunity of going at length into the subject on a former occasion, in another place. There were two other points connected with our foreign policy—or, he would rather say, with foreign politics—on which he would only say a single word. The first was, as to the disturbances which took place in several of the continental States. Some of these were in the States of absolute Sovereigns, who, he hoped, would see in time the necessity of making some concession to the wants and wishes of their subjects. The other point related to a question which had excited the feelings and sympathies of nearly the whole of Europe. There was scarcely any society in which one mixed, whatever might be its complexion, in which he did not hear an expression of sympathy at the unexampled sufferings, and of admiration at the unbounded heroism, of a people who were 101 now making a powerful struggle for the recovery of their national independence. Even the Ministers of absolute Governments could not help expressing their wishes that this protracted contest should be terminated in a manner satisfactory to all parties, and they felt and expressed the most unbounded admiration of the excellent conduct of the people to whom he alluded. He would not enter further into the subject, as it dad been only incidentally alluded to in the Speech from the Throne, though, at the same time, he must say, that the same reasons which might justify a Government for not entering upon the subject did not prevent an individual from stating his own opinion respecting it; but for that a more fit occasion would occur hereafter. He regretted that his Majesty's Government had not been enabled to carry its intentions with respect to re- d action to the extent at first contemplated; but he hoped that the disturbances in some parts of the kingdom, which made it necessary to keep a greater force than would otherwise have been required, would yield to the due administration of the law, and that the necessity for an extra force would thus be removed. His Majesty's Government would then introduce that extensive economy it was their wish to promote, but which, owing to these circumstances, they had not carried so far as they desired. With respect to the revenue, it was matter of congratulation to learn that it was in a comparatively flourishing slate, and that the diminution of 4,000,000l. of taxes had been felt as a financial decrease to only the extent of 2,000,000l., thus in effect doubling the; amount of relief given. Of the taxes thus taken away, there was none the repeal of which called more for admiration than that of the duty on coals. In his opinion sufficient attention had not been paid to the influence which cheap coals had upon the character and condition of the people. It was found that where coals were cheap, it had the best effect on the domestic habits of the humbler classes, making them seek those enjoyments at home, to obtain which the want of fuel often drove them to the ale-house. He augured, therefore, the best effects from the reduction which had taken place in the duty on this article. He was sorry that he could pot congratulate their Lordships on the same good effect on the reduction of the duty on another article of 102 very general consumption—he meant the duty on beer. That reduction was wise in principle; but he regretted that it had not been productive of the effects intended on the moral habits of the people. In speaking of the condition of the people, it was melancholy to reflect that so large a portion of them in some districts in the western parts of Ireland should be reduced to a state of starvation. This called for some immediate measure of relief; and while he thought that it should not be on such a scale as might hold out extravagant hopes, he felt that the distress was of such a character, that the power to relieve should be synonymous with the duty of granting relief, for it was impossible to look at the frightful extent to which misery, from the privation of common necessaries, prevailed, without taking some immediate steps for its alleviation. A stronger proof could not be given of the extent of the distress, than the dreadful resort of the poor to the seed already in the ground for food, thus cutting off at once their only chance of a future supply. It was impossible that such a state of things could long exist with any hope that the tranquillity of those places thus visited with this terrible infliction could be preserved. He would not enter into the causes to which much of this distress was to be attributed. Indeed, he took shame to himself, that, as an Englishman, he knew so little personally of the state of Ireland; but from the accounts he had received from others, he had reason to believe that much of the distress endured by the peasantry in many parts of Ireland was owing to the great neglect of their condition. In many places the peasant had no means of subsistence but a wretched patch of land, not sufficient to yield enough for the support of his family for half the year. He had also heard that in many instances the condition of the peasant was greatly affected, and his distress caused, by the character of his landlord. Without, however, going into the cause, he thought their Lordships were bound to give their best attention to some measure of relief; and it was in this respect consolatary to learn, that his noble friends around him (the Ministers) were disposed to adopt such measures as would afford some permanent security against the recurrence of such distress in future. Another topic to which the Speech from the Throne alluded, was one on which he did 103 not feel himself competent to enter—it was that which adverted to what, he should hope, was the very improbable chance of the visitation of a dreadful malady, which had already made its appearance in countries not very remote from our shores, and with which we kept up a constant commercial intercourse. While on this subject he did not wish to say anything to create alarm; yet he hoped, as the geographical progress of the disease was ascertained better than its cause, that such measures would be adopted as, under the divine blessing, might render the probability of such a visitation still more remote. Having thus adverted to the principal topics of the Speech, he would beg leave to call the attention of their Lordships to the important question referred to in its first paragraph. His Majesty, with the dignity which became him, offered no opinion on the measure, on account of which Parliament had been dissolved, but earnestly recommended it to the consideration of Parliament. His own opinion was, that the discussion of the question of Reform was one of expediency. However, he would not go into any details of the measure. He would only request the indulgence of their Lordships for a few moments, while he cleared himself and those noble friends who took the same view of the subject as he took, from the unfounded imputations which had been cast upon them with respect to this measure. They had been accused of a disposition to favour a revolution. Those who took up this opinion went upon an argument with respect to the elective franchise, which he must say was altogether fallacious. The elective franchise was given to particular bodies for the benefit of the whole community, and not from any claim of right of certain parties individually, or as a body; and if in the course of time the franchise so placed, failed of its intended effect, it was not only the right but the duty of Parliament to modify or extend it as it might think proper. Another accusation against the advocates of Reform was, that the Reform which they proposed would overthrow the Constitution. To this he should not feel it necessary to reply till he heard it proved that the House of Commons was not intended to be a House of Commons representing the people, but the property of some few of their Lordships, or other individuals of considerable influence. If any attempt 104 were made to prove this, it would call for some reply. Another objection was this— that the system of Representation as it now existed, was coincident with the prosperity of the country. The argument of these coincidences was most fallacious, when the prosperity of the country was assumed as a sort of consequence of the existence of such places as Gatton and Old Sarum. When they referred to the prosperity of the country, let them look at the manufacturing districts which had grown up since the franchise had been given to particular towns which had long since gone to decay, and then say whether that franchise should be confined to such places, and the rich and populous districts be left unrepresented? Nothing was more conclusive as to the question of Reform than this,—that though the measure was opposed by a large and powerful party, there was not one of them found to stand up and say he was not a reformer. Every one now admitted the necessity of Reform, though the kind of Reform was different in each individual case, and all differed from that which was proposed by Government. But as most of those reformers held that the franchise was inviolable, there was an end at once of all Reform, except they waited for that slow and tedious kind of Reform which was to result from the discovery of the corruption of particular boroughs. But the period at which such Reform could be rendered efficient was, at best, extremely remote, and at all times undefined. Amongst the other arguments used against the measure was this, that it would expose the property of individuals to danger; but there was a vast distinction between that property which might be alionated, and that which it was unconstitutional even to call private property. The right of sending a Member to the House of Commons was not a private right conferred for individual advantage, but a public trust delegated for the public good, and removeable if that good required it. There was an immense difference between the right which was conferred on a Member of the other House and that enjoyed by a Peer. The great privilege of a Peer was its individuality, and though, it was like other rights, supposed to be conferred for the public good, it was limited to the individual; but there were two parties to the right conferred on the Members of the House of Commons,—the party choosing and the person chosen— 105 and the one held his right only by the right of the other to send him. The right of the one might be taken away by expediency, but that of the oilier could not be taken away without a revolution. There was no foundation, then, for saying that the right of the elective franchise in particular bodies was as indefeasible as that of the House of Peers, or that the modification of one was only a step towards the destruction of the other. One great argument to which he objected was, that the battle of the aristocracy was to be fought by their nominees in the other House. He had taken occasion to advert, in a former part of his speech, to the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries; but he must say, that the worst kind of interference which their Lordships could adopt was that of interfering in the internal concerns of the other House of Parliament. They would find, as had been found by certain ambitious States, that the worst security they could have for the continuance of their influence in another country, was that of an army of occupation. They would find their rights and privileges hest maintained by their own exertions in their own proper sphere. He would not detain their Lordships by entering into any of the details of the Bill. [Hear, hear.] He would defy any noble Lord to rise in his place, and say that he had gone into any details of the Reform question. He should be ready, on the proper occasion, to enter into the details, and to state his opinions upon them; but he had studiously avoided doing so at present, because he was unwilling to increase the hostility which existed against it. [Hear, hear.] He was perfectly -borne out in the use of the term "hostility," after having heard the debate which had that evening been got up on a most insignificant subject,— a debate which showed, if not a strong prejudice, at least a very strong feeling, against the measure on the Opposition side of the House,—so strong, indeed, that they were threatened with an amendment by the noble Lord on the cross-bench who had interrupted him. [Cries of "no no."] He certainly had understood the noble Lord to intimate that an amendment would be moved.
said, the noble Earl had mistaken him. He had asked how an Amendment could be moved to that which was not heard.
The Earl of Mulgrave
said, if the noble Lord denied the intimation, there was an end of it. He certainly had no wish to misrepresent what the noble Lord had said; but he had so understood him. To revert to the subject of Reform, he must repeat, that he In; J not gone into any details of the measure, for the reasons he had stated. He had confined himself to the general question, and on that his mind had long been made up. He had embraced the opinion at great personal sacrifice, because he was convinced of its necessity. Many years had elapsed since he began to entertain opinions favourable to Reform; but many, very many more had passed by since the necessity of such a concession was acknowledged by some of the wisest and most patriotic men in the country. He would remind their Lordships of the remark of Lord Bacon, that time was a great Reformer; but he would also add, that he was a most unsparing creditor, and that in proportion as his demand was delayed, his demand for compound interest became exorbitant; in such demands he was a very usurer, and those who looked to time for Reform did not seem to take into consideration the extravagant interest they should have to pay for the delay. Had Reform been granted at a much earlier period, it might have been satisfactory and sufficient on a less extensive scale than was now required, and was necessary. In conclusion, he would ob- serve, that in the dark ages, and when the people of this country were not able to do any thing for themselves, the Barons of England came forward and wrested for them, from the hands of a tyrant, that liberty which they had so long enjoyed. Let him hope that now, when the rights of the people were advocated by a patriotic Prince, the Barons of England would not be the only obstacles to their complete restoration. He hoped that their Lordships would adopt the recommendation made that clay to them from the Throne, and agree to a measure of Re- form, by which "the acknowledged principles of the Constitution, the prerogatives of the Crown, the authority of both Houses of Parliament, and the rights and liberties of the people, might be equally secured." Satisfied that his Majesty's Government was pursuing a course at once politic and constitutional, he had felt it his duty to second the Address moved by the noble Duke (Norfolk), and he concluded by 107 thanking their Lordships for the attention with which they had favoured him.
The Earl of Winchilsea,
before he addressed their Lordships on the question then before them, felt it his duty to state, and hoped the House would favour him with their indulgence when he did so, why it was, that he rose on that(the Opposition) side of the House, and why it was, that he had withdrawn that support which he had desired to afford to his Majesty's present Administration. In stating the grounds which influenced him in withdrawing his support from the noble Earl, and from those professing what are called Whig principles, but which he was now convinced were opposed to the best interests of the country, he begged to be understood as entertaining the greatest respect for the noble Earl at the head of that Government, who had through a long political life preserved his political consistency, and supported his political character with a grace and earnestness which belonged to few. In making this declaration, and in stating the grounds on which he was compelled to withdraw his support from the Administration of the noble Earl, he was influenced by no opinion that his support or hostility could be of any great consequence to any one holding the high situation of the noble Earl in that House. He was well aware that the slight public and political weight which he possessed, either in that House, or in the country, arose not from his talent, but from his reputation for honesty. It was on that reputation, and on his character for consistency, that he was well aware all his power and influence depended. On that he was prepared to stand or fall, and he thought he should be wanting to himself, to his station, and to a sense of public opinion, if he refrained from declaring the reasons which induced him to withdraw that support he had tendered to the Administration, of which the noble Earl was the head. His opposition to the Government was not founded on their proceedings with respect to Reform—years ago he had stated his opinion on that question, and declared himself favourable to it. It was not, therefore, the Reform Bill which had changed his opinions, although, when that Bill was introduced into the other House, and its details became known, he had written a letter to a noble Lord opposite, stating that he disapproved of parts of that Bill, and those parts he would oppose. The opinion 108 he expressed then he still entertained. To the principle of the Bill he was friendly, but there were parts of it, which, after the best consideration, he was still determined to oppose. His change of feeling was not, therefore, to be attributed to this, but he would honestly and fairly say, that he perceived the differences said to have once existed between Whigs and Tories were not wholly at an end. He would honestly say, that after the passing of those two great measures—the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, and of the Roman Catholic disabilities—he had thought that all distinctions of Whig and Tory had ceased to exist, and that both parties having professed themselves anxious for the maintenance of the Constitution, they were now thoroughly united in their desire to support it. He had thought that all parties were now actuated by one mind, namely, the best means of upholding the honour and interests, and prosperity of the country; and that no difference of broad political principle continued to exist. He thought, of course, therefore, that the men who came into Government would act from no other feeling than what they considered the good of the country, and in that opinion he still continued, as far as the noble Earl and his friends in the Cabinet were concerned. He hoped that they would get that credit in the country, to which men having only the good of the country in view, were entitled. The noble Earl and his friends, however, were connected with, and supported by, a very large party, who entertained opinions very different from those which he considered him to entertain. One great difference which existed between him and the great body of those who supported the Government of the noble Earl, and which, as a party, he was led to believe would cease to exist, was this—that they advocated the extension of the rights and privileges of the people to a degree which would destroy that equilibrium in the State which made the Constitution of this country the envy of surrounding nations. Another great objection to his support of the Government of the noble Earl was, that the great body of his party advocated principles which would destroy that connexion between Church and State, which had been productive of so much advantage to the Constitution. Another objection was, that when he declared his confidence in the Government of the noble Earl, he thought 109 they would have upheld Protestant principles, and what he called Protestant ascendancy—for the maintenance of these he looked upon as the truest foundation of the great principles of national freedom. The great distinction which prevailed between the parties was, that a large portion of those men now in power had not set a true value on sound Protestant principles; and when their Lordships passed the Bill to which he had alluded, he had done what he could to remind them of the great importance of those principles. With such feelings he would ask their Lordships to call to mind the daring and impious attacks which during the last two months had been levelled at the Throne, the Church, and the Members of that House. He was confident that no language of menace or intimidation, however violent and incessant, would ever deter their Lord- ships from pursuing that course which they conscientiously believed to be the right one: but when he saw attacks of this description levelled from day to day at all our most valued institutions, and when he saw those attacks countenanced, if he might say so, even by sonic Members of the Ministry, how could he do justice to the principles of the noble Earl, or to the measures of his Government, or how could he avoid connecting these attacks with the principle of Reform, when he found they had been persisted in, with unceasing violence, by those who, for the last two months, had been zealously advocating the cause of Reform? Could he, without indignation, see these attacks made and countenanced by many, who from their rank and station in the country, ought to have followed a different course:? No man was a greater friend to the liberties, but none would be found a bitterer enemy to the licentiousness, of the Press, than he was. He had seen these attacks committed by that part of the Press which professed to be Ministerial. He felt he owed it, therefore, to himself—he felt he owed it to his character, to oppose those who, under the mask of attempting to correct abuses—abuses which he acknowledged did exist, and which he was as anxious as any man to see removed—were trying to avail themselves of their present measures for the purpose of overthrowing all the most venerated institutions of the country, and introducing that degree of anarchy and confusion on which they hoped to erect the government of a re- 110 public. This was the object these persons had in view, and it was through the means of the course of policy pursued by the Government of the noble Earl, that they hoped to be able to accomplish it. Under these circumstances, he could not, however humble his support might be, consent to give it to a party, the great body of which upheld such principles. Another ground of objection was, that the Government had as yet allowed to escape with impunity, though he could scarcely yet bring himself to believe, that the determination in this respect was final on the part of the Government—but as yet they had allowed to delay and to postpone judgment, until the Act under which he was prosecuted, expired, a man whom he would call one of the most unprincipled agitators that had ever disturbed the peace of a country. He wished that his words might be wafted far abroad, for he spoke of that which was his honest conviction, and which he would never retract. He hazarded no observation with respect to the Act of Parliament itself, but he must say, that in allowing the Act to expire before they called up for judgment one of the most unprincipled agitators that ever disturbed a country, they had grossly neglected their duty. It was that agitator who had instigated the people to set the laws at defiance. To him was due the greater part of the miseries of his countrymen. It was owing to the language used by him, that the Government now saw the people in rebellion against its authority. They were told in his Majesty's Speech, that these disturbances were unconnected with political causes, but it was well known, that the peasantry of the greater part of the South of Ireland were under a regularly organised system of obedience to those who, under the pretence of procuring an equalization of civil and religious rights, were desirous of the means of overturning all our present civil and religious institutions. He would not say, that they were headed by the Catholic gentry, for he hoped they had good sense to see what had followed in another country—the overthrow of a Monarch and his Ministers. Looking to what had taken place in this country and Ireland—looking at the principles which had been avowed by the party supporting Government, he was induced to relinquish his support of a Government which relied on the aid of men who were hostile to what he considered the pure 111 principles of the Constitution—and to return to those persons, who, though they forgot these principles for a season, were yet attached to them, by which what remained of our institutions could be preserved. He felt on this subject as a Protestant nobleman, who was anxious for the support of Protestant principles; and if he set a high value on those principles, it was because he continued to believe, that it was to them the country was indebted for all the advantages it possessed. Having said thus much in defence of his own conduct, he would not detain their Lordships with any observations on the Speech from the Throne, further than this, that lie was happy to perceive that Ministers were determined to abstain from all dictation to the people of other countries with respect to the form of Government which they should adopt. He was convinced, indeed, that the more this country kept aloof from all interference in the internal affairs of others, so much the better it would be for the people. Another topic of the Speech in which he must express his cordial concurrence was, the recommendation of some measure for relieving the distress in Ireland. On this he thought there could be only one feeling in the House. He would not occupy their Lordships' time at any greater length. On a future occasion he would take an opportunity of expressing his opinions on the Reform Bill when it should come before the House, and he would fully and fairly-state what he considered objectionable in it.
§ Earl Grey
said, it was with great reluctance, and not without some feeling of hesitation, that he felt himself called on to address their Lordships at that period of the evening. He certainly should have wished to have heard something more from those noble Peers who were understood to be inclined to adopt an active—he had almost said violent—opposition to his Majesty's Government, before being called upon to address to the House some statement in reply to the grounds on which the noble Earl objected to the conduct of Government, or rather refused his confidence to them without much reference to their public acts. However, as no one seemed inclined to follow the noble Earl, he was compelled, even at that moment, disadvantageous as that might be to himself and his colleagues, to endeavour to set himself and those colleagues right 112 with their Lordships and the public. He regretted—for nobody had a more sincere respect for the character of the noble Earl than himself—he deeply regretted that the noble Lord had found, as he thought, sufficient grounds for withdrawing from his Majesty's Government that confidence which he appeared before disposed to place in it. He admitted he had heard the noble Lord's declaration with pain, and he had waited anxiously to hear the grounds on which the noble Earl had withdrawn his confidence from Ministers, and having heard them, he must say he thought the greater part of the noble Lord's observations and statements applied to circumstances and facts for which the present Government was not accountable. On one great measure he was still entitled, knowing the noble Earl's declared sentiments, to expect, to a certain extent at least, the noble Lord's concurrence and support—he alluded to the question of Parliamentary Reform. The noble Earl stated, that he withdrew his confidence from Ministers partly because he conceived that they contemplated measures which would destroy the due weight and preponderance of their Lordships' House in the Constitution. He could have wished that the noble Lord had stated more distinctly to what he alluded when he charged the commission or contemplation of such an error in politics upon the present Government. The noble Lord could not well have referred to Reform, because on a former occasion he had taught their Lordships to expect that he would support his Majesty's Government in their project of Parliamentary Reform. Not in reference to Reform, then, could the noble Earl have refused his confidence to Ministers, but, as it seemed, because he thought there were certain persons who, under the mask of Reform, and under the pretence of supporting his Majesty's Government, aimed at the destruction of the Constitution. ["Hear, hear," from the Duke of Cumberland.] The noble Duke, the illustrious individual who echoed that sentiment, how could he unite with the noble Earl? for that illustrious personage was one who did not think any Reform necessary; on the contrary, he prided himself on his consistent opposition at all times, and under every circumstance, to any extension or improvement of the rights of the people.
The Marquis of Londonderry
rose to 113 order, and submitted that it was irregular in any noble Earl to attack an illustrious personage on the score of his imputed principles, he not having himself stated them to the House.
§ Earl Grey
doubted that it was inconsistent with order? Was it not the right of any Earl, of any Viscount, or any Baron, in the House to state what he thought of the public conduct of any Peer of Parliament? He was certainly betrayed into some degree of warmth by the interruption of the noble Duke, who, when he (Earl Grey) stated the charges, implied or expressed, that Ministers were about to subvert and overthrow the Constitution, cheered as if he thought the charge well founded. He had met the charge by a direct and unequivocal denial, as he always should meet such a charge, come from whom it might. How did the noble Earl suppose the Constitution was to be undermined? Was it under the mask of Reform that persons aiming at the destruction of the Constitution were to effect their object? The noble Earl himself was a convert to the doctrine of Parliamentary Reform; their Lordships had heard him declare his opinion, his deep conviction, that Reform was absolutely indispensable. Suppose, then, that the noble Earl, convinced as he was of the necessity of Reform in Parliament, had proposed his plan of Reform, would it have afforded less opportunity than his (Earl Grey's) project to those whom the noble Earl denounced as Revolutionists, to attack the Constitution under the mask of Reform? and if not, would not the noble Lord complain, and justly, of any individual who should therefore take occasion to declare that he withdrew his confidence from Government, especially if the party almost went the length of denouncing Ministers as joining with those who aimed at anarchy and confusion, by the destruction of the Constitution, and of all the ties of social order? But there was nothing conclusive in the noble Earl's arguments and statements. Ministers had proposed Reform on a conservative principle—they did so because they thought it necessary to the support of the Constitution—they did so for the purpose of defending those institutions which, said the noble Lord, others sought to destroy. They had proposed a plan of Parliamentary Reform on such principles and. to an extent which they thought 114 calculated to satisfy the reasonable wishes and expectations of the people. But after the adoption of a measure upon that principle, and to such an extent, there was not a more determined opponent than himself to any attack upon the rights and privileges of either House of Parliament, upon the power or prerogative of the Crown, or upon the general integrity of the Constitution. The noble Lord alluded with disapprobation to the principles of the Whig party, with which he (Earl Grey) had all his life acted; those principles were exactly the same at present as when the noble Earl first offered his support to his Majesty's Government. For himself he was not ashamed to say he had been educated in Whig principles,—he had learnt the political principles which he now and at all times professed, under Mr. Fox, whom he venerated as one of the greatest statesmen and most virtuous politicians that ever existed; at the same time, he firmly believed, if that great man's advice and recommendation had been attended to, all the difficulties and dangers with which we were at present surrounded would have been prevented. But unhappily for the country, Mr. Fox's advice was not taken, and here we were in the situation in which we now stood to consider of the means by which our institutions could be best preserved, and the country saved. He had proposed Reform for this purpose, believing, as he did, that it afforded the only means of putting the Constitution on a sound footing; and to a great extent, he believed, would that principle be now admitted, even by those who had formerly set their faces the most strenuously against all change. When he came to town, previously to the meeting of the last Parliament, he found many noble Lords who were before adverse to Parliamentary Reform, ready to admit that it could no longer be opposed with safety. He well remembered the effect produced by the declaration of the noble Duke, then at the head of the Government, when he asserted that he should oppose all Reform whatsoever; and he believed that it was principally upon the ground of that declaration that the noble Duke's Administration was overturned. He was then, unworthily he admitted, called upon by his Sovereign to form a new Administration. He had said unworthily, because he sincerely thought so, and those little knew him who supposed that he sought or had 115 received with joy and satisfaction this commission. He did not rejoice, because he knew too well all the difficulties of the situation with which he should have to contend—because he was too well acquainted with his own inadequacy (which experience had subsequently proved) to perform aright the duties which his situation imposed upon him. But, not withstanding all this, he felt it to be his duty to his Sovereign, who gave the important commission to his hands in such a gracious manner and with such expressions of confidence—he felt it to be his duty, not seeing the means, if he declined the offer, by which his Majesty could form an Administration that could proceed with advantage to the public service, to accept office. He did so on the gracious concession of his Majesty, now known, that he should be allowed to act according to those opinions and principles which he had ever expressed and felt, and by which he had been always governed. He had repeated the expression of those opinions in debate in their Lordships' House shortly before his acceptance of office, and he could have undertaken the Government on no other terms, and with no other purpose, than to carry his frequently-avowed principles into effect; no other principles of Government would have been safe to him, or, as he thought, advantageous to the public. But perhaps he was saying rather too much of himself; however, he made the statement with a view to show the circumstances of the moment, which rendered some Reform necessary in the opinion of all men; and he put it to the noble Lords opposite, whether they all, except the noble Duke, did not admit the expediency and necessity of some concession to the public wish, in the shape of Parliamentary Reform. With the firm conviction that Reform was necessary— that there existed a strong feeling in its favour—a feeling such as could not be very safely repelled—and subsequent events had proved the correctness of this conviction—he undertook the formation of a Government on the principle of Reforming the Parliament on such principles as would not overthrow the Constitution, but preserve it—a Reform constructed, not with a view to court the favour of Revolutionists, or assist the objects of parties hostile to the Constitution, but calculated to enable the Government to support the prerogatives of the Crown, the rights and 116 privileges of both Houses of Parliament, and the institutions of the country—a Reform establishing the liberties of the people on a firm and secure basis, and constructing a House of Commons which would pass measures beneficial to the community. He and his colleagues acted upon these principles, and had nothing to do with those designs and projects which induced the noble Earl to withdraw his confidence from the present Cabinet, designs and projects, to the suspicion of entertaining which the noble Earl would have been equally exposed, and liable to an imputation of a connexion with them, if he had been the individual to propose a plan of Reform such as he thinks necessary. But the noble Earl insinuated that the Government was connected with persons adverse to the Protestant interest, and opposed to the Church establishment. The noble Lord almost hinted, that some members of the Government entertained a hostile feeling that way. Who were those individuals? For himself he was heart and soul a Protestant, an affectionate member of the Church of England, believing it to be the very best Church that had ever existed in the world. But when the noble Earl stated his opinion of the necessity of what he called an intimate union and connection between Church and State, he begged to know precisely what it was that the noble Lord meant by the expression, which was too vague and general for him to grapple with it. If the noble Earl meant by an intimate union between Church and State, that support from the Government to the Church which might be reasonably looked for with a view to a due performance and exercise of religious rites and privileges, and that support which the Church could afford the Government by the inculcation of such maxims of morality and religion as might render the people obedient to the established authorities, and happy and contented in their respective situations, he perfectly concurred with the noble Lord in his view of the union that ought to subsist between Church and State; and to such a connexion he was a firm friend as well as the noble Earl. But if the noble Earl meant by his expression a political union between Church and State, with a view to the political support of the Government, through the agency of the Church, he dissented from the noble Earl in his approbation of such a union, and thought that 117 when the church interfered in politics, it seldom interfered with advantage to itself, and often with great detriment and injury to the public. He hoped the noble Earl would acquit him of any disaffection to the Church, and extend the acquittal to his colleagues. He did not think the noble Earl could have intended to accuse him; if not, which of the members of the Government did the noble Lord mean to accuse of views dangerous to the Established Church and Protestant ascendancy? With respect to Protestant ascendancy (a phrase of which he disapproved), he wished the religion of the Established Church to be supported and extended by the means by which it could best be extended by the affection of the people, and by the exemplary conduct of its Ministers. For this purpose he deprecated as much as any man could, all religious distinctions, which he considered calculated to impair the interests of the Church; and in that consisted, he believed, the great difference between the noble Earl and himself. The noble Earl had not yet got over his objections to the great and healing measure that was carried through Parliament three years ago, the intent of which was, to abolish all religious distinctions and animosities. On that principle he (Earl Grey) had supported the measure in question—on that principle he thought no sacrifice too great which seemed likely to conduce to the success of the bill for the relief of the Catholics. If the noble Earl thought to support Protestant ascendancy by keeping alive religious distinctions and religious discord, such as had been long fatal to the peace and well-being of Ireland, he was very much mistaken. The object could not be effected by means such as these, which too many, oh, short-sighted men! had employed to promote the interests of the Church, but in vain; for in this way more had been done to injure and depress that Church than by the efforts of its worst enemies. He was not a friend to attempts at maintaining Protestant ascendancy by such means as tended to continue feelings of separation and animosity between the members of different religious sects. He did hope he should not hear it asserted that there was anything, on a fair and enlightened view of the question of Reform, to subject him or his colleagues who supported the measure to any imputation of indifference to the true interests 118 of religion, or of the Church of England, any more than the noble Lord himself. The difference between the noble Lord and himself consisted in this, that the noble Earl would support the Church by restrictions on those who did not belong to it, while he wished to support it by means which would tend to extinguish religions animosities and dissensions, and enable the Establishment, by the truth and purity of its doctrines, and by the affectionate assiduity of its ministers, to conciliate the people, and he believed that measures such as the noble Earl appeared to contemplate would have a directly contrary effect. But, according to the noble Earl, Ministers were not only favourable to the designs of persons who, under the mask of Reform, entertained views dangerous to Protestant ascendancy, hostile to the Established Church, and subversive of its best interests, but they also sought to destroy the influence which the House of Lords ought to possess in the balance of the Constitution. In this respect also he j took a totally opposite view of the measure from that which was taken by the noble Earl. He thought that the best way of preserving the ascendancy of the House of Lords—he did not think that an appropriate expression, and recalled it— the due influence of the House, and its fair preponderance in the balance of the Constitution—was, to adopt a measure of Reform such as had been proposed by his Majesty's Government. From interest from habit, and from various causes he was as much a friend to that influence as the noble Earl, or as any one of their Lordships, and would be one of the last men to injure or lessen it; but he thought the Reform measure more calculated to support the House of Lords than a different course. He did not think that the interests of that House would be consulted by rendering it obnoxious—he had almost said odious—to the people. He could not think if, instead of allowing Peers to nominate Members to rotten and corrupt boroughs, they were placed in a situation to gain a fair share of proper influence by their rank and virtues, that the peerage would be lowered in public estimation, or impaired in its real interests. He did not think that the act of taking away power which was obnoxious from some Members of the House, and giving to the peerage that species of influence which was wholesome and salutary, could be fairly considered as 119 being dangerous to the House or to the just balance of the Constitution. Was it the House of Peers as a body that would be affected by Reform in Parliament? By no means; but a certain number of individuals, comparatively small, in that and the other House of Parliament, would be deprived of unjust privileges which they now possessed and exercised with no advantage to the country, and to the prejudice of the other Peers. Such persons, aiming at distinction which they did not merit, at power which they could not wield, or at places and pensions for themselves and their friends which it was unfit to grant, hampered the Government in all its proceedings and brought it into discredit with the people. These persons would, in future, be rendered unable to obtain power or place for themselves or their friends by borough influence —they would be no longer able to go to a Minister and say, "We are seven;" they would no longer carry their point by threats if their demands, perhaps exorbitant and unreasonable, were not instantly complied with. That species of influence, it was true would be destroyed by Reform; but instead of it, the aristocracy would enjoy the wholesome influence of rank, station, great property, and those public virtues which it would become their interest to cultivate, supported by proper attainments and by the performance of good offices to their neighbours. This state of things would not diminish but renovate the influence of the aristocracy, and make their Lordships' House what it ought to be in the system of the Constitution; and make it cease to be that anomalous body which it now seemed to be from influencing the votes of Members of the other House of Parliament. Was it not singular, indeed, while the regulations of the other House of Parliament positively declared, that Peers ought not to be allowed to interfere in or influence elections, because such interference was highly unconstitutional, that it should be contended that the safety of the Constitution depended on the right of the aristocracy to nominate Members of the lower House? He had stated the principles on which he had given his support to a measure of Reform, with the desire to render it as effective as possible, and now that it had been recommended from the Throne, he might add, that this measure had received the sanction and authority of the Sovereign. There was one other subject on which the noble 120 Earl had said something, but perhaps it would be better that he should leave the point to be answered by others. The noble Lord complained of the indecent attacks which had been made upon the House, the Monarchy, and the Church, and certainly it was not for him to attempt to palliate the malignity of many publications. But the noble Lord appeared to think, that the Government acted wrong in not prosecuting those attacks. He would appeal, however, to the noble Earl on the cross benches (the Earl of Eldon) as to the difficulty that surrounded the subject of prosecutions for libel. It was not always enough to say, "This is a libel calculated to excite the feelings of the people against existing authorities;" there were many other things, particularly the expediency of prosecuting for libel at any particular time—to be taken into account. He thought he had heard the noble Earl speak of the difficulty of libel prosecutions before now, and apologize for his abstinence from proceeding against libellers on that ground. Let it be remembered, it was not now for the first time that libellous attacks had been complained of; such publications were not now commenced, they had been going on for many years. The noble Lord himself had tried to put down such publications by state prosecutions; did he always succeed? Sometimes when libels were left unnoticed, they comparatively subsided: after a lapse of time they broke out again; and it was always a question of prudence as to prosecuting or not. All he could say was, that when a lit opportunity arose in the opinion of the law advisers of the Crown, the powers of the law should be properly applied. He was not one to abstain from libel prosecutions where necessary, but it must be recollected that prosecutions some times did more harm than good; but where they appeared likely to contribute to the peace and good order of the country, he should not be backward in resorting to the powers of the law for the suppression of libellous attacks. He congratulated the House on a topic referred to in the Speech and Address— namely, that through the promptitude, good sense, and vigour, of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the ordinary powers of the law had effected the repression of disturbances, which might not have so easily subsided if proceedings for strengthening the executive Government, so loudly called for, had been resorted to. The noble Earl 121 had alluded to the case of an individual in terms, which it might have been as well to abstain from applying to any person in his absence, and seemed to say that in this instance there had been something like an evasion or compromise of a prosecution instituted by Government. Now Ministers had certainly instituted a prosecution against that individual at a time when they thought such a course necessary, and most certainly, if the dissolution of Parliament had not intervened, the prosecution would have been allowed to take its course; but at the dissolution of Parliament the law under which the prosecution had been instituted expired, and the opinion of the law officers of the Crown in Ireland and in this country being decided that the prosecution after the dissolution, could not be maintained, and that the individual in question could not be brought up for judgment, the prosecution was necessarily abandoned. He denied that there had been any compromise; nothing of the sort was ever contemplated, nor any approach to it. He did not know that the noble Earl's speech rendered it necessary for him to trouble the House with any thing further. The noble Earl had not objected to the general policy of the Government; even with respect to Reform, Ministers might to a certain extent expect his concurrence; and on the subject of the late dissolution, which was not noticed in the speech from the Throne, the noble Lord had said nothing. If he had adverted to it, he should have been ready to answer the noble Lord, but he would not anticipate objections. He might however observe, that in framing the speech and address Ministers had felt desirous of raising as few objections as possible, and they had therefore omitted all debateable matter that could be avoided. He had not heard any general objections to their foreign or home policy—there appeared no intention of proposing an amendment in any quarter; and he should now sit down, declaring his conviction that the measure of Reform, revolutionary though it had been called, was demanded by the necessity of the times,—that if carried, it would be productive of peace and tranquillity—and that if rejected, evils which all must deprecate would ensue.
The Earl of Winchilsea
said, in explanation, that he did not accuse the noble Earl individually of being connected with 122 a revolutionary party; he had merely stated, that there existed a party which supported Government on the Reform question, with very different views and expectations of the measure from those entertained by its projectors. When he was challenged, however, to point out measures and expressions of a revolutionary tendency on the part of the members of the Government, he would to God that there were no facts by which he could answer such a challenge. But had not a noble individual, a relative of the noble Earl, and a member of the Government, attended at a public dinner where one of the toasts was, "The sovereignty of the people—the only source of legitimate power." And had not another noble Lord, a member of the Cabinet, got up at a public entertainment, and given "The liberal clergy of England," following up the toast with "The Dissenters of England." That he much disapproved of, and he maintained that principles of that description, countenanced by his Majesty's Ministers, could not but do harm. He had a great respect for the Dissenters as a body, he would always advocate their rights, but he must say, in the Ministers of the Crown it was most injurious to make a distinction between members of the English Church, and place one body of them as liberal, on a par with the Dissenters, marking out the other part as the objects of public odium.
§ Earl Grey
complained of the course taken by the noble Lord in making a personal attack on him, by endeavouring to implicate a near relative of his in some supposed election proceedings. It was hardly consistent with the usual candour of the noble Earl, or the dignity of that Assembly, in a grave Debate to lay a part of the foundation of dissent from Ministers in a toast given at an election dinner, particularly when that toast was not what the noble Earl supposed. The toast was not "the sovereignty of the people, the only source of legitimate power," but "the people, from whom all sovereignty was derived." This was a very different thing; and if the noble Lord went back to the period of the Revolution, he would find that the principle involved in the toast had been distinctly asserted and recognized on the abdication of James 2nd. The dethronement of James was founded on his breach of contract, expressed or implied, with the people—a contract which signified that power was. derived from the 123 people for the general advantage, and that when power was abused to a certain extent, such means of redress as had been then resorted to were legitimate. However, he did not think it convenient to refer at all times to abstract principles of the Constitution, and he objected to such toasts as the one in question on the ground of its being unnecessary, and perhaps susceptible of misapprehension. No one objected to the introduction of the toast more strongly than the individual alluded to, who though present had not dictated the proceedings of the day, and was very much disappointed and vexed at its being given. With respect to the toast of "The liberal clergy," he did not know by whom it had been given: it was the first time he heard of it—a noble Lord had just informed him that it was proposed at an election dinner at Northampton—it had escaped his observation—however, he never heard of a more innocent toast. If some of the clergy had proved themselves in their sermons, &c, adverse to liberality, he was sorry for it, but hoped they did not form any material party in the Church, the best interests of which could not be supported by violence or illiberally.
The Duke of Cumberland
would not have obtruded himself on their Lordships' notice, had not the noble Lord opposite chosen to charge him with being adverse to the liberties of the people. He denied the charge, and now stated, before their Lordships and the country at large, that no member of that or the other House would fight more strenuously for the liberties of the people than the individual who now addressed them. In what act of his life, during the thirty years he had been in the House, had he ever shown a spirit of hostility to the liberties of the people? He trusted his warmth of manner would be excused, but in the situation in which he was placed, and acting with the friends around him, who were all strenuous friends of liberty, he felt it necessary to vindicate himself from the charge of being an enemy to freedom. He was for maintaining the Constitution as it then stood, and for preserving to the King, to the Aristocracy, and to the Commons, the enjoyment of just and equal rights and privileges. With respect to the Reform Bill, he took a totally different view of it from the noble Lord opposite. Whenever another measure on the subject should be brought forward, he neither pledged himself to op- 124 pose nor support it; he would listen with attention to the arguments, and make up his mind impartially on the merits of the case. He trusted their Lordships would excuse him for protracting the discussion, but he could not allow the noble Earl's assertion that he was the enemy of the liberties of the people, to pass un contradicted.
§ Earl Grey
was not aware that he had spoken of the noble Duke as an enemy of the liberties of the people. What he thought he said was, that the illustrious Duke prided himself on his consistent opposition to every measure for improving the rights, consolidating or extending the liberties of the country; and that on this ground he concurred in the opposition to the Reform Bill, which had been designated as revolutionary. Those, he believed, were the words which he had used —he was in the recollection of their Lordships—and these words he could neither retract nor deny. Every measure that had been brought forward, whether for the extension of religious or civil liberty, had uniformly met the decided opposition of the illustrious Duke.
The Earl of Falmouth
complained, that the noble Earl opposite had revived a scandalous story relative to one of his ancestors, who, it had been stated three days ago in the newspapers, offered to tamper with the then Prime Minister, whom he promised, on certain terms, to support, commencing with the declaration "We are seven." Now had this piece of scandal merely been confined to libellous journals, which sought, for private reasons of their own, to cast obloquy and disgrace upon his family, he should have treated the calumny with sovereign contempt; but when the First Lord of the Treasury repeated it in his place in Parliament the case became widely different, and he would at once denounce the entire statement as an infamous fabrication. It was nothing more than a malicious falsehood, raked up from the licentious newspapers of the period when the event was supposed to have occurred; and he trusted that the next time the noble Earl ventured on assertions calculated to implicate the honour and affect the reputation of others, he would at least take the trouble to investigate their authenticity.
§ Earl Grey,
in explanation, disclaimed all personal knowledge of the noble Lord's ancestors, who, for aught he knew to the 125 contrary, might deserve any eulogium which he might think fit to pass upon their memory. His own incessant occupation obliged him to be but a bad reader of newspapers, and the fact was, that he had not seen the story alluded to in any public journal. He did not know before that the story related to one of the noble Earl's ancestors, but he would inform the noble Earl that it was to be found in Doddington's Diary, and on the authority of that work alone had he quoted it.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
expressed a hope, as the subject which they should so soon be called on to discuss was of the most important nature that could possibly be proposed for their consideration, that all factious feelings on both sides would be forgotten, in order that the House might deliberate with that spirit of candour and single-mindedness of purpose which the momentous character of the question peculiarly required. Influenced himself by such considerations, and by such only, he could not but regret that so much of their time had already been exhausted in debating a mere point of order. At the same time he by no means agreed with the noble Earl in thinking that his noble friends near him had exhibited any undue warmth or violence of manner, for he had seen over and over again more indications of such a temper on the other side of the House, and he should protest against the assumption that that discussion was in any degree a proof that the noble Lords who acted with him were at all enamoured of questions of order. They had a sacred duty to perform, and from the performance of that duty they would not shrink, but they would endeavour to discharge it with temper and moderation. The noble Earl would therefore have no reason to dread violence from his noble friends in Opposition. The noble Earl, however, in the course of his speech, had made one allusion which appeared to call for observation. The measures of the last Parliament were now matter of history, and it was quite competent for any Member of either House to refer to them. With respect to the Reform Bill, if they intended to abide by the words of the King's Speech which they had that day heard, it was not again to be brought forward. He quarrelled with it, not because it would take a power from the Lords which it was contended they ought never to have possessed, but on account of its transferring to the 126 House of Commons a more extensive power than he thought it was possible for the House to exercise compatibly with the safety of our institutions. If a Bill so framed were to become a law, the House of Peers would be totally denuded of its authority, and must necessarily, on all occasions, succumb to the Commons. Of the King's Speech, which had just been addressed to Parliament, he was happy to say that it gave him perfect satisfaction; and he should, therefore, concur in the Address so ably proposed by the noble Duke opposite, whom he, in common with the noble Earl near him, cordially congratulated on seeing there that day amongst them. He rejoiced to see that noble Duke, the head of one of the produce stand oldest of our noble families, in his place in Parliament, though a Catholic Peer, taking part in their Lordships discussions, and upholding the dignity of his order and the interests of the State. He repeated, he had heard the King's Speech with pleasure because he saw nothing in it to call for an amendment, as it did not pledge their Lordships to an approval of the dissolution of the late Parliament. Had it, however, in any respect committed them upon that point, no power on earth should have prevented him from moving an amendment of a very different character. As he had alluded to the late dissolution, he presumed it would not be interpreted as a breach of order to notice the circumstances attending it as well in that House as elsewhere. Indeed, it was quite as regular now to refer to what had occurred during the last Parliament, as to any historical event in the reign of Charles 2nd. He disapproved then of the measure of Reform which Ministers had introduced, and he equally disapproved of the method by which they had endeavoured to carry it through the lower House. The dissolution to which they had resorted was, in his opinion, a step that equally merited censure. On the day previous to that memorable dissolution he had heard by the voice of common report that such a measure was in agitation, and that at a moment of peculiar interest, when the public service was likely to sustain injury from its operation. Under such circumstances, he felt it his duty to move an Address to the King, praying that his Majesty would abstain from the exercise of his Royal prerogative of dissolving Parliament, and accordingly gave notice of a motion to that 127 effect. The next day, when he came down to the House, he found that the dissolution (if he might so speak) was actually in progress. He nevertheless, with a view to have the Address which he had moved inserted in the Journals of the House, made a motion to that effect, and then it was, that he heard the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack assign a reason for the dissolution that seemed to have gained credit with himself, owing to some perversion of mind for which he could not account, but which, at the same time, was entirely contrary to the fact. It was, in reality, as untrue as any thing which had ever been uttered in either House of Parliament; and he had therefore looked forward with some anxiety to the time when he could legitimately call on the noble Lord for an explanation. "I never yet heard," said the noble and learned Lord, "that the Crown ought not to dissolve Parliament whenever it thought fit, particularly at a moment when the House of Commons had thought fit to take the extreme and unprecedented step of refusing the Supplies!"* Now this was decidedly untrue, for they were not even presented with an opportunity of refusing the Supplies. The Ordnance Estimates were, indeed, to have been brought forward on that day, but they had not come on prior to the division against Ministers; so that the imputation of such an offence (for an offence it would be if they were influenced by factious motives) was undeservedly prejudicial to the anti-Reform Members in its effects. To this assertion of the noble and learned Lord it was well known the success of Government at the elections was to be attributed; and the noble Lord himself was well aware of the consequences it would produce. He would say, even more emphatically than before, that the return of the Ministerial supporters at. many of the late elections was solely to be ascribed to that unfounded declaration of the noble Lord upon the Woolsack. Within his own knowledge, a number of cases had occurred in which it was cast in the teeth of candidates who in the division alluded to, happened to vote in the majority. But there were other parts of the conduct of Members at least equally objectionable. They contrived, for example, to introduce very unconstitutionally the Sovereign's name into the Debates, which, it might be remembered, had frequently been* Hansard's Parl. Debates, Third Series, Vol. iii. p. 1823.128 complained of before the dissolution. It had been continually urged that his Majesty was determined to carry the measure, and would inevitably dissolve Parliament if it refused its compliance. Neither did Government do their duty subsequent to the dissolution, as he believed it would not be difficult to prove. On the Monday after, the Lord Mayor of the city of London gave notice of illuminations, and it was at the same time announced that the King intended on a certain day to honour the citizens with his company to dinner. The illumination was attempted, but proved a failure, and a second illumination was consequently appointed for the Wednesday following. The riots which grew out of this celebration elicited a display of what he would call the greatest imbecility on the part of the Secretary of State. Certainly, the Lord Mayor, it must be owned, was a great personage in the city; but there was, nevertheless, a power vested in Government abundantly sufficient to compel him to act with prudence, even though he should be disposed to behave otherwise. He did not speak now of the damage to property occasioned by the tumultuous proceedings of the populace, nor did he notice the annoyance to respectable individuals which such riots necessarily produced, but he referred to them in order to observe upon the disposition of the present Ministers to identify themselves with the body that they designated by the general name of the people. Could they deny that such conduct had produced its effect? Could they deny that the assumption that the King was favourable to Reform had been one of the principal means by which they carried the elections? In fact, when the friends of the Constitution, or he would plainly say the High Tories, presented themselves to the electors, requesting their support, they were generally answered by a refusal couched in some such terms as these:—"We're for the King and the Reform Bill: he has shown us that he wishes to have it carried, and we shall therefore support it." Conduct such as this, he insisted, was sufficient to destroy every feeling" of confidence in the present Administration. They had evinced a willingness to make use of the excitement produced amongst the common people of the country, and were consequently, in his opinion, unfit to be intrested with the government of the State. He would now briefly advert to the terms of 129 the Speech itself, as expressive of sound sense and constitutional opinions. He alluded to that passage in which his Majesty recommended the Reform question to their "earliest and most attentive consideration, confident that in any measures which they might prepare for its adjustment, they would carefully adhere to the acknowledged principles of the Constitution, by which the prerogatives of the Crown, the authority of both Houses of Parliament, and the rights and liberties of the people are equally secured." So be it. From not one word of this did he differ, but he thought withal, that the prerogatives of the Crown, and the liberties of the people, were now secure; whereas the change which Ministers proposed, if effected, would destroy their security and endanger their very existence. One result of the late elections had been, that they had now returned to Parliament "a body of delegates, who were pledged to pass "The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." Some candidates had said, that they approved of the principle of Reform, and were ready to go great lengths in support of it, but could not bring themselves to countenance in all its details the precise Bill that Ministers had introduced; to which it was always answered, that nothing but the whole Bill, as then framed, would be accepted by the people. This certainly might have been a reasonable answer to anti-Reformers generally, but the same reception was given to many who had actually voted for the principle of Reform, and thus demonstrated their sincerity. In the ease of Yorkshire, the county with which he was more particularly connected, a gentleman, who was as well qualified as any man in England to represent its interests, had been summarily dismissed, merely because when voting for the Bill in its first stages, he had reserved to himself a right to dissent from some of its details in Committee. The result of the election was, that the Members now returned by that county stood already pledged to support the whole Bill in all its provisions as when originally submitted. A good deal of blustering language had been used to prove the determination of Ministers, under all circumstances, to adhere to the disfranchisement of the boroughs and the amount of the qualification: so that they had reason to conclude that by thus much of their Bill, at least, the promoters of it had pledged themselves 130 to abide. But he would not then enter into a discussion of the question, being rather willing to wait until the new Bill, whatever it might be, should be submitted to their consideration. He did not mean altogether to debar himself from offering an opinion on any of the provisions of that Bill, even before it should regularly come under their Lordships' notice; but he felt, nevertheless, that it would be most expedient in principle, and most consonant with the general course of their proceedings, to abstain from mooting any thing like a regular Debate, much less from calling for a vote upon the question generally, under any modification, until the Bill itself should be fairly laid upon their Lordships' Table. Should the measure pass the House of Commons, then he would say, God direct them; for never before was an assembly placed in so difficult and embarrassing a situation. There was no disguising the truth, that it behoved them to fortify themselves with temper, prudence, and moderation, as there was a body of men amongst them whose motives for opposition to the Reform measure were so liable to misconstruction. For his own part, he would rather forfeit ten thousand times the amount of property that he happened to possess, he would rather resign his rank, and descend to the station of a common English gentleman, than vote for this Reform Bill as now constituted. They had been threatened with manifold calamities in the event of their refusal; they had been told to look well to their possessions, their places, and appointments. It was true their properties might be endangered; but if so, a like fate, be it remembered, menaced the whole property of all the kingdom besides; and as for the emoluments of office and the dignity of rank, he would willingly forfeit either in preference to betraying his duty to God, his country, and his King. Whatever arguments the noble Earl might adduce in support of the measure, he trusted he should be ready to confute them, or at least to state his reasons for dissent. He had a duty to fulfil, and he doubted not that his strict discharge of it would command public respect, while, were he to support the Bill, entertaining those feelings with which he regarded it, he should only drag out a life of obloquy and merited contempt. It were better at once to wipe their Lordships out of the Constitution as a legislative assembly, than to leave them 131 the unreal mockery of a nominal existence, while their political authority was annihilated.
The Marquis of Lansdown
agreed with the noble Lord (Wharncliffe) in hoping that there would be no premature discussion of the great question of Reform. From all that he had heard and seen, and from all that he could collect abroad, some change must take place in the Representation of the country. Now if this were the opinion of the majority of the people of England, and if their wishes were responded to, and re-echoed from the Throne, he could not himself doubt that the measure must be successful. And as for the line of proceedings to be followed by their Lordships, if there was one duty more solemnly imposed upon them than another, it was that of applying their whole minds, without prejudice or passion, to the question which would be submitted to them, so as to decide it after such a manner as would secure the permanency of those institutions, wherewith, according to all authors, the prosperity of the country is inseparably connected. Never was there, he contended, in answer to the noble Baron (Wharncliffe), a more necessary measure than the dissolution of the late Parliament for the preservation of those institutions. What was the state of things under which that dissolution had been determined upon? A measure having obtained the pretty general approbation of the country, was introduced into the House of Commons, after a scries of events which had rendered the people perfectly acquainted with the arguments which could be adduced on both sides of the question. The result was, that a successful opposition was offered to the Bill, although there was no great preponderance of number, yet was the opposition such that there was no possibility of proceeding successfully with the measure. His Majesty's advisers then recommended him to take the sense of the people. His Majesty was graciously pleased to follow this advice. The sense of the people was taken, and it was most unequivocally expressed in favour of the Reform Bill; and if anything were needed to support the soundness and expediency of the advice which his Majesty's Ministers gave, it would be found in the history of the elections. In reply to the observations which had been made respecting the improper use of the private opinion and feeling of 132 his Majesty upon this question which had been made by his Majesty's Ministers, he begged to declare, that the private opinions and feelings of his Majesty had never been stated in any way, except to rebut the false and unconstitutional assertions which had been continually put forth respecting his Majesty's want of confidence in, and personal hostility to, the views and objects of his responsible advisers. When such assertions were made, it was essential they should be promptly contradicted, and that it should be clearly and publicly stated, that from the beginning to the end, the opinions, and wishes, and feelings, of the King had gone along, as they ought of right to go, with those of his constitutional advisers. It was necessary that this simple fact should be laid before the people; and the people believed the Ministers and not their adversaries—and they judged aright. They gave his Majesty credit for that frankness and sincerity by which he is so eminently characterised, and which was one of the most glorious ornaments of his Crown. He denied that any part of the just authority of the House would be taken away by the Reform Bill. No constitutional right or privilege would be taken from their Lordships by a Bill which only destroyed an improper practice of nomination. Montesquieu, who possessed one of the greatest minds that ever adorned humanity, had sedulously applied his attention to the British Constitution, and pronounced an eulogium upon it which spoke in the most exalted terms of its wisdom and character; but Montesquieu had not alluded to anything in the privileges of the House of Lords which would be taken away by the Reform Bill. On the contrary, the very alterations which were contemplated in the popular branch of the Legislature would make the Constitution more truly resemble that which had been described by Montesquieu, when he was enlarging upon its excellencies, explaining its several parts, detailing their powers and extent, and showing how they operated upon, and influenced each other. The Bill, he maintained, would do no more than restore to the House of Commons their just and constitutional privileges; it was nothing more than a recurrence to toe principles under which the Constitution of England had flourished. The extension of the franchise might be deemed an alteration; but it was one which was called for by the circumstances of the times. 133 Property had appeared in a new shape, and was thus spread throughout the country in all directions. The proportion of persons holding property in the funds of 100l. or under, was to those who possessed property to a higher amount as 200,000 or 300,000 to 20,000 or 30,000; and he submitted to their Lordships, it was not possible, it was not in human nature, that such a number of persons, so widely spread, should not be anxious, and even clamourous, for a share in that Government by which their property was disposed of. He felt convinced that the people would be satisfied when they observed that the other House had a fair share in the Constitution. With property, then, as it now existed, and with such a disposition as the people of England always had displayed to take part in public affairs, was it to be expected that large masses of the people, possessing at once property and knowledge, would be contented to remain deprived of their share of the Representative system? It was not in human nature that they should remain contented; and when the noble Lord denounced the Reform Bill as a bill calculated to deprive their Lordships of their privileges, he would beg leave to tell him, that the best security for those privileges was to admit the people into the Representation, and to teach them, that they, too, had a direct interest in supporting the institutions of the country. There was not one of the privileges of their Lordships,—to which he trusted that they would always cling, and from which he trusted that they would never shrink— that would not be augmented and enhanced by the creation of a feeling among the people that their Lordships claimed no privileges but. such as were fairly and legally their due. And when the noble Lord alluded to that state of difficulty in which they were to be placed when this Bill should be brought up to them from the Commons for their consideration—a state of difficulty which he had painted in very strong, if not in exaggerated, colours —he would only say this to the noble Lord in answer, that out of that stale of difficulty they had no way but one, and that way was, the temperate and conscientious discharge of their duty in applying themselves to the impartial consideration of the Bill; and if abandoning that claim—which he trusted that their Lordships would not raise,—that claim which had been so well described by the noble Lord who seconded 134 the Address, as a claim similar to that made by ambitious States to maintain an army of occupation in a country not their own—if, abandoning that claim, their Lordships stood only on their privileges as a branch of the Legislature, to give a calm consideration to every legislative measure that came before them, and appeared to be actuated by no other motive than a desire to preserve the institutions, and to promote the happiness of the country, he would promise them that all their difficulties would cease. The reverence which the people of England felt for justice would induce them to admit the merit of their Lordships' conduct, and, once admitting it, they would feel convinced that the conduct of their Lordships was actuated by no other feelings save those of conscience. His Majesty had distinctly stated his expectation in the Speech, that the Reform Bill would be such as would be consistent with the acknowledged principles of the Constitution, the prerogatives of the Crown, and the authority of both Houses of Parliament. Now these were not unmeaning words in his Majesty's Speech. It was the firm determination of the advisers of his Majesty—and certainly of no one of them more than himself—to consider the preservation of that House, in all its just privileges, as an indispensable condition of any change which might take place in the law; and if even at the eleventh hour he could be convinced that there was anything in the change now proposed to be made, calculated to weaken those privileges, or to deprive the country of the great benefit—for great it undoubtedly was—which it derived from the share which their Lordships took in the Legislature, and from the cautious prudence with which it examined all experiments in legislation, he declared solemnly to God, that he would come forward and declare himself in the wrong, and join with the noble Lords opposite in conspiring to defeat the Bill. He believed that their Lordships, by discharging their duty firmly, conscientiously, and without excluding the topics which they ought to take into their consideration—for no prudent Legislature ought to exclude from its consideration the changes which were taking place around it in society and in property—he believed, he said, that their Lordships would come out of the fiery trial—if it be a fiery trial —with improved estimation in the eyes of the people of England, and in the more 135 secure retention of their privileges, which, like the prerogatives of the Crown, were not given for the benefit of the possessor, but were intended for the benefit of the people of England, no less than the rights of the people themselves were. With those observations he should have sat down, had not the noble Lord opposite— unintentionally no doubt—misrepresented the conduct of an individual; for he was certain that their Lordships would feel the necessity of doing justice to all persons, even to a Lord Mayor. He was sure that the noble Lord opposite needed not to be told that the illumination did not originate with Ministers, and that even the Lord Mayor did not invite it. He gave some notice about postponing it from one day to another, but that was all. With respect to all the mischief which had been done by the mob in the city, and about which such a ludicrous outcry had been made, he had authority for stating, that the whole amount of the damages done in the city did not amount to 100l. What was the amount of damage suffered at the west-end of the town he did not know, but he hoped that it would be much less than was generally supposed.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, he was one of the most unfortunate of the persons whose property was on that occasion exposed to the outrages of the mob, and declared, that the amount of damage done to his house was much greater than that at which the noble Marquis had rated the damage done in the whole city. Ho had left his house unrepaired, as a monument of the species of protection, which under the existing Government, was afforded to the peaceable inhabitants of the metropolis; and he much wished the noble Marquis would be graciously pleased to inform him where he was to seek redress and indemnification for the damage which had been inflicted upon him? He desired to know whether he was to prosecute the noble Home Secretary, or whether the noble Marquis, whose own house was walled in, would undertake to pay the amount to which he had suffered? And before dismissing the subject, he begged to remark, that it was singular that all those noblemen and gentlemen who were known to disapprove either of the dissolution of the last Parliament, or of the Bill which had been submitted to it, had been marked out as objects of mob violence, and had had their houses attacked by the rabble which on that evening per- 136 ambulated the streets. So much as to the last part of the speech of the noble Marquis. Being on his legs, he was anxious to say a few words as to the position in which he then stood before the country. He felt great respect for the talents of the noble Earl then at the head of the Government. Though he differed from the noble Earl as to the propriety of the early part of his political conduct, he could not but admire the consistency of the latter part of it, and he was therefore gratified when the noble Earl was called by his Sovereign to the helm of State, and was disposed to give him his conscientious support for the views which the noble Earl avowed himself to have taken of the state of the country, when he was first called upon to administer its affairs. What, however, had the country seen since? The noble Earl had come into office with the words retrenchment and economy in his mouth. To retrenchment and economy, with moderation, all their Lordships were inclined to agree. But the noble Earl, instead of pursuing those objects with moderation, had lost sight of moderation altogether. Instead of moderation, the noble Earl had presented to Parliament a measure which was more than chimerical—a measure, of which it was impossible to conceive what might grow out of its accomplishment. He was quite sure, that the noble Earl was not the individual who framed the Reform Bill. It was well known in the country that that measure was proposed to the Cabinet by certain hired underlings in office, who, when they concocted it, knew not where it would lead. He called upon the noble Earl to say whether he had or had not framed that Bill. It was the disgrace of the Cabinet that that Bill had been handed up to them by their hirelings, and that for want of something better they had adopted it. [laughter on the Ministerial benches.] He would go through with what he had to say, without minding the derision of the noble Earl, for to the derision of his friends he had been accustomed. He regretted that on the last occasion in which they had met in that Mouse, he should have had anything like a difference with any of their Lordships. It was impossible for any of their Lordships to forget what had occurred upon that occasion. It was impossible not to regret what had then happened, but he must say, that all the intemperance which might have been ex- 137 hibited upon his part, and that of others, was owing to the example of the noble Lord on the Woolsack, who flung down His hat, and rushed out of the House, declaring that Parliament was to be dissolved in consequence of the stoppage of the Supplies. Now they heard in the Speech which was delivered a few minutes after, as well as in the Speech which had been delivered that day, that it was not on account of the stoppage of the Supplies, but from his Majesty's desire to call on the people to consider the question of Reform. Thus in the speeches which Ministers had put into his Majesty's mouth, they found a direct contradiction to the statement of the noble Lord; and, likewise, it appeared from what had been said by persons connected with the Government, who had sent to their partisans in various parts of the country, to announce that Ministers had determined upon a dissolution. Now this proved, that the noble and learned Lord had departed from what might be called the honest truth of the transaction; and when they observed this, and witnessed the intemperance of his conduct, they might be perhaps excused for having been in some degree misled by his example. With regard to the Reform Bill, he declared that never was there, in his opinion, a measure less called for, or more fraught with evil. It was only adopted to establish that dominion over the country and the Parliament which the noble Earl hoped to retain by means of it. He congratulated the Government upon the ingenuity they had displayed in the manufacture of the Speech from the Throne. The only tangible point in it—the only point of any importance was that about the cholera morbus: they were not threatened with the Reform Bill—they were not threatened with foreign or domestic war—they were only threatened with the cholera morbus. Never was there a Speech so satisfactorily-framed to disarm opposition. It was framed with great ingenuity — it challenged approbation for none of' the past measures of Government; for on which of their measures did the Government dare to challenge; the approbation of their Lordships? Their Lordships had recently heard something in the Gazette respecting the eminent and extraordinary services of the noble Earl opposite; but where, he would ask their Lordships, had they seen any thing of such services? He was glad to see the noble Earl in that House with 138 his blushing honours thick upon him, decorated with the ribbon lately conferred on the noble Earl; but he must say, that he was not able to see any of the eminent and extraordinary services which the noble Earl had rendered to the country since his accession to the Ministry. The Reform Bill of the noble Earl was most pernicious —his plan of a dissolution of Parliament was most uncalled for—and as to his foreign policy, when his conduct regarding the Belgian Congress should be fully developed, their Lordships would know what opinion to form. The proper time for discussing that question would be, when their Lordships knew all that had passed on that subject; but judging from the documents which had already appeared— and he believed the Belgic deputation now in London agreed with him in the opinion —more extraordinary proceedings than those of our Government never occurred in the whole history of diplomacy. There was not. a point of their whole policy, foreign or domestic, on which his Majesty's present Government could stand up and fairly claim the approbation of the country. With respect to the recent elections, could the noble Marquis, who had just spoken, deny that they had been improperly influenced by Government? In the Sister Island the most undue influence had been used. The Ministers had coupled the name of the Monarch and the Reform Bill together in such a manner as to induce the people of Ireland to believe that they would be guilty of high treason in voting against the Reform candidates. He was prepared to show that they had intimated to all the half-pay officers in Ireland, that if they dared to vote against any Reform candidate, they must do so upon pain of the Government displeasure; and they all knew what the displeasure of Government was to persons in certain situations. Such were some of the unworthy and improper means which had been resorted to. He would not detain their Lordships longer on the present occasion; but he could not conscientiously sit silent; for although the Speech was so couched that it was not possible for him to move an Amendment to it, he must say, that he thought the course which had been pursued by his Majesty's Government in the highest degree pernicious to the country.
§ Viscount Melbourne
hoped, that their Lordships would hear him at that period 139 of the Debate, as he was too indisposed to remain to a later period of the night. He must take the liberty of making a few comments upon the statement which the noble Lord (Lord Wharncliffe) had made to the House respecting what had taken place in London and Westminster on the 27th of last April. The noble Lord, as he had thought fit to make a speech upon those circumstances, should have informed himself accurately as to their real nature. The noble Lord had said, that on the Monday the Lord Mayor had originated an illumination in the city, and that, when notice of that illumination was first communicated to the Government, they had determined not to interfere, but to say, "It was no fault of ours—it was the fault of the Lord Mayor that it took place." Now, that was not true. He (Lord Melbourne) had never given any person authority to say any such thing.
§ Viscount Melbourne
would explain the transaction. He had learned on the Monday, from the Lord Mayor, that there was a strong and general desire among the citizens to have an illumination in the city, in consequence of his Majesty having dissolved the Parliament. That desire was notified to the Lord Mayor at the Mansion house; and in reply to that notification, his Lordship declared his readiness to illuminate the Mansion-house. This was to be on the Monday. It appeared, however, subsequently, that the preparations for the illumination could not be completed on the Monday: and then, at the desire of his fellow-citizens, the Lord Mayor issued a notice that the illumination should be postponed to the Wednesday. That was the only notice which was issued from the Mansion-house; and he made that observation for this reason, that there had appeared another notice, purporting to conic from the Mansion-house, in some of the public papers. And here he might be permitted to ask the noble Lords opposite, who wished to identify his Majesty's Ministers with the papers on their side of the question, whether they who were opposed to Reform wished to identify themselves with the libellous and obscene papers published on their side? To return, however, to the point from which he digressed. There had appeared in one of the papers, a proclamation, professing to be issued by the Lord Mayor, which, if it had been 140 issued by him, would, beyond all question, have been a flagrant dereliction of his duty. In that proclamation it was stated, as by the Lord Mayor, that the police of the city had received orders to give no protection to the property of those persons who refused to illuminate. That proclamation, be it observed, the Lord Mayor never issued; who did issue it was at present matter of uncertainty. The only notice that the Lord Mayor issued was that which postponed the illumination from the Monday to the Wednesday: and, that notice he issued upon the understanding that there was such a general desire in the city to illuminate, as to render it impossible for him to prevent it. The noble Lord had said, that if the Government had communicated with the Lord Mayor on the subject, it might have prevented that illumination. How did the noble Lord know that the Government could have prevented the illumination? He begged to inform the noble Lord most disstinctly, that he, as Secretary of State for the Home Department, had communicated with the Lord Mayor on this subject, and the Lord Mayor had told him, that there was such a desire in the city for an illumination, that he did not think that he should be able to control it, and that he, therefore, considered it better to yield to it. At the same time he was not aware that he possessed any authority to control or prevent the illumination. An illumination was not illegal: it was a ceremony he disliked to see; he disliked the arbitrary tyranny which generally took place during its progress. He had never seen any illumination without the same destruction of property which had taken place at the last; and he did not recollect that this morbid sensibility had ever been displayed about it before. When the windows of Mr. Cobbett's house were smashed to pieces by the mob, because he refused to illuminate after the peace of Amiens, he did not recollect that any sensibility was expressed by the noble Lord opposite as to the damage inflicted upon his property. The general observation was, that the damage was occasioned by the obstinacy and folly displayed by Mr. Cobbett. He was himself opposed to these violences of the lower orders, and wished much to restrain them. It appeared, however, to him to be quite impossible to forbid an illumination. He had given instructions to the police to protect the persons and property of all per- 141 sons who were unwilling to illuminate, and he had every reason to believe, that the police had performed that duty as well as circumstances and their numbers would permit. It was difficult to prevent windows from being broken, especially when there was some darkness in a neighbourhood, from a number of houses being unlighted. At the same time, with the difficulty of preventing the offence, the difficulty of securing the offender was increased. Whoever said, that he had not exerted himself, us Home Secretary of State, to protect the life and property of his Majesty's subjects on the night of the illumination, said what was false, and the noble Lord opposite should not have come down to make statements about the Lord Mayor without examination, as he gave them a weight by his character which otherwise they would not have possessed.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
said, that his noble friend, the Secretary of State, seemed to think that he had intended by his observations to make an attack upon him as Secretary of State. He had not, however, attacked the Secretary of State as originating the illumination; what he had said was, that the Secretary of State had not taken the means to prevent it which were in his power, by communicating with the Lord Mayor. The defence of his noble friend, though ingenious, was far from satisfactory. He had said, that no morbid sensibility had been displayed when Mr. Cobbett's windows were broken, in consequence of his refusing to illuminate when a general peace was proclaimed. Did the noble Lord then intend to compare the issue of a contest between two parties in the Houses of Parliament with the issue of a national contest with France, or with the proclamation of a general peace? If such were the opinions of his noble friend, as Secretary of State, he thought that they might bear reconsideration.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that he did not intend to compare the issue of two such contests together; but he said that, if upon the termination of either, or of both, there was a general feeling in the public mind that there should be an illumination, the cases were the same. If the illumination were for the recovery of the King's health, or for the proclamation of a general peace, or for a great victory, there might be some persons so perverse as to refuse to testify their sympathy with the rest of their countrymen. Some persons 142 might refuse to illuminate for a victory— others for a peace. One man might think the victory disadvantageous, another might deem the peace dishonourable. He said, that, however perverted such men might be in intellect, however obstinate in disposition, they still ought to be protected in their perverseness and their obstinacy. Therefore it was, that he said, that the breaking of Cobbett's windows some years ago was exactly the same case with that which occurred the other day. It was a mere quibble to say that they were different, and none but persons of perverted understanding could see that there was any difference between them.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
said, that it was unnecessary to introduce hard words into this discussion: but he must deny that he had ever said that Cobbett's windows ought not to be protected. He was as averse as the noble Viscount from using quibbles; and he would therefore say, that even upon an illumination in consequence of the successful issue of a national struggle, it was not fitting that the town should be handed over to a lawless mob, with permission to break the windows of all who refused to illuminate. Had he ever said that it was right to break Cobbett's windows because they were not illuminated? Certainly not: Cobbett had the same right to the protection of the police as any of their Lordships. He could not conclude, however, without stating, that as Secretary of State, the noble Viscount ought to have prevented a great part of the mischief which occurred on the night of the illumination.
The Marquis of Cleveland and the Earl of Mansfield
rose at the same moment; and for several minutes there were loud calls upon each noble Lord to proceed.
opposed the motion, not from any disrespect to the noble Earl, who | never spoke in that House without doing himself great credit; but because he had observed the noble Marquis make three ineffectual attempts in the course of the evening to be heard.
said, his reasons for wishing that the noble Earl might be heard were, because he had seen the noble Earl rise two or three times in the course of the Debate, and because he knew that the noble Earl wished to say something on a subject which had been recently introduced.
The Earl of Mansfield
proceeded, and observed, that if anything could add to the embarrassment with which he always addressed their Lordships, it was the unusual scene which had just occurred. He would first say a few words on the subject of the illuminations, with which he had been connected. Having heard that the city was to be illuminated, and that it was probable the illumination might be extended to the west end of the town, he had applied on the subject to the noble Secretary of State, who most distinctly stated his disapprobation of the intended illumination, but observed, that he had no control respecting it. He thought illuminations a tyranny, but as the order had been given by the Lord Mayor, the noble Secretary did not see how it could be recalled without creating more mischief than allowing it to be carried into execution. It did not belong to him to say, that it was part of the duty of the Secretary of Stale for the Home Department to give advice to the Lord Mayor on the subject. He had certainly heard that the Lord Mayor had said, he was not very sure if it would be possible for him to a fiord the protection which such an occurrence demanded. He had hoped, therefore, that, if possible, the noble Secretary of State would have prevented what had occurred, by his advice to the Lord Mayor. The noble Secretary said, that he had communicated with the Lord Mayor; but it was evident that he had not so thoroughly pressed his opinion as he might have done. Nor did it appear that his Majesty's Government were very averse to the illumination; since even some of the public offices were lighted up. As it was, great mischief had taken place; and it appeared that the sufferers had no means of redress against the hundred. On the general topics of the Speech and Address he would not trouble their Lordships at present. Not that he did not take a very different view from that which was taken of many points in that Speech and that Address. But there was nothing on which it appeared to him that Parliament was called upon to express decided dissent. If any approbation had been introduced of the measure which occasioned the dissolution, he should have felt it his duty to have supported, if not to have proposed, an amendment. In his opinion that dissolution was wholly uncalled for, and wholly unjustifiable on the pretences advanced in its de- 144 fence. The principles on which his Majesty's present Government came into office, were asserted to be non-intervention with foreign Powers, economy, and Parliamentary Reform. With respect to the first point, it did not appear on the face of the transaction that they had adhered to their principle in their conduct respecting Belgium; but that would be a subject for future discussion. With respect to the second point, it remained to be seen whether they knew how to strike the balance between prodigality and a just economy. With respect to the third point, the Bill which they had introduced was a sufficient specimen of their judgment. In the course of the discussions in another place on that Bill, many gross errors and imperfections were pointed out; but whether it was, that his Majesty's Government wanted talents or time, or whether they wished solely to redeem their pledge to Reform, without caring as to the means of redemption, to all those just criticisms they declared their intention of turning a deaf ear. The second reading of the Bill —the principle of the Bill—was carried in the House of Commons. But Ministers refused to agree to any delay by which the details of the measure might have been rendered less objectionable; they refused to inquire into the precise nature of that property, and of those rights, which they were everywhere attacking. They were told that the census of 1821 was incorrect, and, in consequence, there were particular towns affected by the Bill which ought to be exempt from its operation: and that, therefore, alterations should be made with reference to those places, unless it were wished to have another dissolution. Another object of remark connected with this question was what had taken place in Ireland. It was evident, that in the abandonment of the prosecution against Mr. O'Connell, an individual evidently more powerful than the Government, some political promise had been expressed or implied. It was said, that the boons required from Government by the hon. Gentleman for his support were a modification of the qualification of Catholics, and the payment of the Catholic clergy out of the revenue of the Protestant Church. And what was the object of the dissolution? It was an appeal to the people, not on the principle of the Bill, for to that the House of Commons agreed, but to its details. He would briefly ad- 145 vert to what had taken place at that dissolution. It being thought necessary to excite the people, his Majesty had been advised to dissolve Parliament with a haste and bustle, partly real and partly artificial, of which there had been no example since the days of Cromwell. What was the immediate reason for this hurried measure? A noble friend of his had given notice of a motion in that House. He should like to ask Ministers, whether, when they advised a dissolution, they communicated that notice to his Majesty? At three o'clock on the next day his noble friend's motion would have been brought forward, and there could be no doubt that it would have been carried by a considerable majority. He asked if Ministers communicated that notice to his Majesty? If they did, he would still maintain, that the advice to dissolve Parliament was unwise and impolitic: if they did not, they were unfaithful and deceitful servants. When the noble and learned Lord, on the last day of the last Session, suddenly left the Woolsack, darting dark glances at the party opposed to him, and looks of exultation at his own friends, he said he was obliged to go to attend on his Majesty. Now, undoubtedly, his Majesty's presence in that House was always constitutionally supposed, as it was in courts of law; but unless his Majesty was endowed with personal ubiquity, he could not be present at the time the noble and learned Lord spoke; for it subsequently appeared, that at that time his Majesty must have been at least as far from the House as the Horse Guards. The noble and learned Lord had also declared, that his Majesty had an undoubted right to dissolve Parliament'; and that it was necessary he should exercise that right, as the House of Commons had adopted the unprecedented step of stopping the Ship-plies. Of course he would not charge the noble and learned Lord with a want of historical knowledge; but how such a step could be called unprecedented, it. was difficult to conceive. When the House of Commons refused the Supplies, there was the alternative of dissolving the Parliament or dismissing the Ministry. Now really, considering how little support or countenance the existing Ministry had received in either House, it appeared to him that their dismissal would have been at least as natural as the dissolution of Parliament. It was very singular, that the 146 Ministers had grounded the dissolution on the only measure of the Session on which they had obtained a majority. He need not observe also, that there was great difference between what was ordinarily called stopping the Supplies, and the postponement of the Report of the Ordnance Estimates. But when it was stated that the dissolution was produced by the stopping of the Supplies, it ought to be inquired when the intention of Ministers to advise his Majesty to dissolve was circulated through the country. It appeared that the noble Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the right hon. First Lord of the Admiralty, had communicated that intention to their constituents at least six hours before the alleged stopping of the Supplies. He must also remonstrate against the most improper and unconstitutional use of his Majesty's name that had been made during the recent Elections. It was declared that his Majesty was a Reformer, and that he approved of the Bill, and the whole Bill. On what was this assumed? In his constitutional character, his Majesty had certain responsible advisers, in whom he reposed confidence. With his Majesty's permission, his present advisers had introduced the Reform Bill into Parliament. But what did that prove? Only, that if the Bill should be sanctioned by both Houses, his Majesty, as at present advised, would give his assent to it. But their Lordships well knew that the Royal permission to Ministers to bring in a bill had in various instances been recalled. When some of the present Ministers were the Ministers of George 3rd that had occurred. As soon as the tendency of a bill which those Ministers had introduced had been better explained to that Sovereign, he expressed his displeasure to them, ordered the Bill to be withdrawn, dismissed his Ministers, and dissolved Parliament. The introduction of any bill, therefore, with the sanction of the King, by no means implied that he approved of it so entirely that his Majesty would not, under any circumstances, desire any alteration in it. The Constitution declared that the King was infallible, because he could not perform any political act without the recommendation of responsible advisers. Yet Ministers had everywhere proclaimed that the Bill was popular, because it was approved of by the King, and that the King was popular because he approved of the Bill. It ought to be remembered that 147 the character of popularity was not always a good one; and that those were evil counsellors who availed themselves of what they asserted to be the Royal opinion, for the purpose of propping up their own power. If the opinion of the Sovereign were one day to make him popular, it might on another day make him unpopular; and that was a predicament in which he ought not to be placed. The true popularity of a monarch ought to arise from his being known to take a deep interest in the prosperity and happiness of his people. The violence of the people in the North, who were generally of pious dispositions and peaceable manners, had been on some recent occasions accompanied by expressions of blood-thirsty vengeance, which, in this country, we had hitherto attributed only to the French in the wildest moments of their Revolution. At Dumbarton and again at Lanark, there had arisen serious disturbances. In some parts, particularly the West of Scotland, the people were bent on spoliation, and all they wanted was a plan and a leader. They had flags and banners preserved from the old time of the Covenanters; they were formed into united bodies, their symbols were not those of order any more than was the tri-colour of the French, and it was to be apprehended that they looked to spoliation, and were prepared to effect it by violent means. Of all these preparations he believed the Government was informed, though, if it had taken any means to check them, he was unacquainted with them. In the West of Scotland, although the people seemed to expect much from the Reform Bill, yet, on looking to their acts, it would appear that they thought only of a division of property. The effect of the recent excitement had been, to turn all the animosity of the people upon the aristocracy, but the Ministers would, perhaps, recollect, that they themselves belonged to the aristocracy. With respect to plans of Reform, he must say, that many of the theoretical evils of the Constitution were corrected in practice; still he should always be ready to amend an acknowledged evil. He could not say that he belonged to the class called moderate Reformers; in fact, he decidedly objected to being placed in that class, for if he once began Reform he did not know how far he might go. He might be brought to approve of a scheme fabricated like the present, to give the appearance of fair- 148 ness to systematic injustice. He might be brought to say, that a charter was only a piece of parchment with a seal to it, though he held his estate by no other title; but as he was at that time disposed, he was not even a moderate Reformer, though he could not say that he had, in his early days, advocated schemes of a more extensive nature than the present. Certainly he should not, with his then knowledge, consent to a measure of the wildest innovation, such as he considered the projected Reform to be. As to the threats which had been held out to their Lordships by a licentious Press, they would not, he was sure, allow them to influence their decisions; but there was a more insidious means at work to warp their judgment, and provoke them to a hasty or an incorrect decision. The enemies of happiness, the great contrivers of mischief, were at work, and like the arch fiend were bentWith purpose to assayIf him by force he can destroy, or worse,By some false guile pervert.''But their Lordships would not be deterred from following the ordinary path of their duty by any excitement. If the Bill should be sent from the House of Commons, their Lordships would treat it like any other bill, and not, under the influence of the threats that were used, and the fears that it was attempted to excite, fret themselves like the chafed lion into unnecessary resistance. Their situation was undoubtedly critical, requiring great consideration, and no ordinary command of temper, but if they allowed themselves to be thrown aside from a calm contemplation of what was due to the public welfare, if they listened either to the voice of private interest, or to the threats of the people, they would be among the basest and meanest of mankind. In proportion as their station was elevated, so was the strict performance of their duty imperative. As to the threat, that the exercise of the King's prerogative would be resorted to in the creation of new Peers, for the purpose of annulling their decision, should they reject that Bill, he thought their Lordships were not so degraded as to be influenced by such a menace. If the Reform Bill should come to that House, he would give it his best consideration, and divest himself of his prejudices as much as possible. He admitted that a great number of excellent persons supported Re- 149 form; but it was to be borne in mind, that every plan which such persons proposed had at least this peculiarity, that it received the support of all those who were most disaffected to the Constitution, and that would account for, if it would not excuse, the prejudice which he had against the measure.
The Marquis of Cleveland,
having risen three or four times for the purpose of addressing their Lordships, in consequence of what had fallen from a noble Marquis opposite, he was happy that he had given way to the noble Baron, who was better qualified than himself to reply to those points to which he might have spoken. But he (the Marquis of Cleveland) had no wish to speak upon the Bill, which was not yet before their Lordships, and of the provisions of which they could know nothing. On the subject of the illuminations, he thought it necessary to reply to the statement of the noble Marquis, that no person supporting the Government, and friendly to Reform, had been on that occasion assailed by the crowds. But the fact was, that, although he (the Marquis of Cleveland) was well known to be favourable to Reform, and to be a supporter of the Government, he had been on that night one of the victims singled out as the object of that very unpleasant expression of popular resentment, and his mansion had been much injured.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, the noble Marquis had lately supported so many Governments, that the people probably still considered him as a friend of the Duke of Wellington's Administration, and had attacked his house, supposing him to be an enemy to Reform.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that although he had been alluded to from the earliest period of the discussion till the conclusion of the speech of the noble Earl (Mansfield), he had hitherto abstained from offering himself to their Lordships' notice, because he preferred rather to grapple with the important parts of the subject than to engage in controversy on matters of a personal nature: but, after having listened to the speech of the noble Earl, he found it impossible any longer to refrain from stating something for the candid consideration of the House and of the noble Earl himself, with respect to some points as to which the noble Earl—he must forgive him for saying so—had shown himself to be partly ignorant and partly forgetful. Notwith- 150 standing the tone of dignified deliberation with which the noble Earl's speech was commenced, and the candour which distinguished some small part of it, notwithstanding the great talent it displayed, there were parts of it which appeared to have been uttered without much premeditation, and had therefore the imperfections of an extempore harangue. He had heard something about illuminations, which he was not prepared critically or historically to discuss. Not that he objected to grapple with an antagonist who came into the field with his loins girded for the contest. He much preferred to engage with a speaker like the noble Earl, who opposed to him the deliberate efforts of his understanding, than with a mere phantom. It was of some importance that he should set himself and the noble Earl, and the noble Marquis also, right with their Lordships, as to some facts. For when he heard the very untrue—(he said it without any intention of offence)—the very incorrect account of facts which occurred so near him, he wondered how it was to be expected that the truth should be heard respecting occurrences that happened in distant parts of Europe, or some centuries ago. When they perceived numberless inaccuracies committed by those who had the rare advantage for historians of being present at the scenes they described, when they found discrepancies in the statements of the three noble historians whom they had heard that evening relate occurrences of their own time, how could they place any confidence in the assertion, for example of one of those noble Lords, speaking, as it were, ex Cathedra, and with a sort of hereditary authority, who denied the truth of Mr. Bubb Doddington's anecdote, at the same time that the noble Earl acknowledged that he knew nothing about it? If it were like one of the many stories that are running about the world, partly true and partly false, and that the noble Lord could, by authentic references, establish the true and disprove the false, it would be another matter; but here he said that it was altogether fiction. Now, he must ask, how could the noble Baron be positively certain that it was so, the occurrence being said to have taken place seventy years ago? Especially as noble Lords were not certain as to what passed in that House on the 22nd of April last. A noble Lord had charged him (the Lord Chancellor) with having stated to their 151 Lordships, that his Majesty had been advised to dissolve the Parliament in consequence of the vote of the House of Commons on the Thursday evening (21st April). If he had used the words attributed to him, he must have been a person devoid of common memory. If he did make that statement, he must have been the veriest dolt and idiot who ever rose to address a public Assembly. He must have forgotten what had taken place within the twelve hours preceding, for a debate bearing avowedly on the question of the dissolution had been going on for five hours on the preceding evening. The Commission for the dissolution had been prepared the day before, as was known to many of their Lordships, and certainly to him (the Lord Chancellor), who had given orders for its preparation, as the dissolution had become probable, and it was even doubtful whether it might not be rendered necessary the evening before. Under such circumstances, would any man with a head upon his shoulders make the statement attributed to him? He should now tell their Lordships what he did say [hear, hear]. Since he had sitten in that House, and before he crossed their Lordships' bar to enter it, their Lordships' had possessed abundant opportunity of knowing, that, whether right or wrong, he was not in the habit of shrinking from any thing which he had stated. The cheer which he had just heard would only encourage him to do that which he needed no excitement to perform. The words which he made use of were so obvious, their meaning was so distinct and plain, that it was astonishing they could be misunderstood. The only meaning which his words conveyed was, that the dissolution being a thing resolved upon, if any justification of that step were necessary, it might be found in the conduct of the House of Commons on the preceding evening. Although he was not bound to acknowledge reports, he would even adopt the words of the report to which the noble Lord had referred; and he would say, that in the construction which, in common candour, could be put on them—referring to the facts—known all over London—those words could not be understood as they had been explained that evening. He held in his hand the Paper referred to by the noble Lord, and he would read the words:—"he had never heard it disputed that the Sovereign had the right to dis- 152 solve Parliament, more particularly "— and here he would say, as those words "more particularly "had been commented on ["read, read"]—with submission he would say, that although he was Speaker of their Lordships' House, he would be treated with the respect due to any Peer. Placed by the favour of his Majesty in the highest seat in that House, he would not be interrupted by calls such as no person was assailed with in either House of Parliament, or in any public meeting. His Lordship proceeded to read: the noble Lord then read on "he had never heard it disputed that the Sovereign had the right to dissolve Parliament, more particularly when the House of Commons had adopted the unusual course of stopping the Supplies. "He would say, that if any twelve men were taken (and to that issue he would subject himself), knowing all the facts, they would interpret those words as he had used them. In another place, which it was not consistent with their Lordships' rules to name on such an occasion, an hon. Gentleman had been attacked a few hours before for an exactly similar expression, used in the same sense. Certainly it was true, technically and formally speaking, that the Supplies had not been stopped. The House of Commons had not voted that a certain number of thousands should not be granted to his Majesty for the Ordnance Estimates. But on that day the specific object for which the House of Commons had met, and for which Ministers had attended in their places, was to receive the Report of the Committee, and to vote the Estimates. On that occasion an adjournment was moved and carried: and what was it to them (the Ministers), who wanted the money for the public business, whether the majority, in coming to that decision, rejected their application to the House, or left them with empty benches? What difference did it make to the man who wanted money, whether the friend to whom he applied shut the door in his face, flatly refusing him, or coolly letting him into the house walked out, making a sort of adjournment without giving him any answer? He would now defend himself from the charge of having conducted himself disrespectfully towards the House on the day of the dissolution. It had been his constant endeavour on all occasions, to treat all men, be they his superiors, as their Lordships' were, or his infe- 153 riors, if be had any, or his equals, with the courtesy which one gentleman, or he would rather say, one man of right feeling, owed to another. He appealed to such of their Lordships as knew him, whether such was not his conduct? He would not, however, plead general character in defence against a particular charge. The story which the noble historians had related was untrue, from beginning to end. After the character which he had just given of himself, their Lordships might be surprised at his using those words. He, however, did not mean them in an offensive sense. It had been said that he threw his hat on the Woolsack, and flounced out of the House in an unbecoming manner, at a time when he well knew that the King was not nearer to the House than the Horse-Guards. He did not leave the House, however, until he received a positive order from the King, communicated to him by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod in these words:—"The King doth command the Lord Chancellor instantly to give his attendance upon his Majesty, who waits at the bottom of the staircase." It appeared to him that the only person who had any right to be offended on that occasion, was the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, who, finding him slow to obey the summons, pulled him, with his usual courtesy, by the sleeve, and added, "Did you hear what I said? The King has arrived, and is at the bottom of the staircase." So far from the King being then at the Horse Guards, he could assure their Lordships that he went as fast as he could to the bottom of the staircase, and found his Majesty there waiting for him. He thought it perfectly unnecessary to assure their Lordships that he would not have quitted the House upon any pretence of going to wait upon his Majesty. He would now come to the subject of the illuminations, and the domestic calamities of the noble Marquis, of which he seemed to entertain that clear recollection with which some, in remembrance of a distinguished battle, have cherished the wounds therein received, refusing to allow the torn garments or the trace to be removed. He would tell the noble Marquis, that at the present moment he was acting anything but a prudent part. It was well known, with respect to the alarming disease now ravaging some parts of Europe—the Indian cholera—that those who exposed themselves to the open air were the most 154 liable to be infected, and to suffer; but those, on the other hand, who eschewed open windows and spare diet—that, in short, the Europeans, who took care of themselves, and lived well, escaped; while the poor natives who lounged about in the open air, were the parties who suffered the most extensively and the most fatally. He should, therefore recommend the noble Marquis to avoid open windows, and largely to patronise the butcher and the wine-merchant. The next topic to which he should call their Lordships' attention was, what had been said with respect to the conduct of the Lord Mayor. At the time his Lordship was called upon privately to illuminate, he found the feeling in its favour so strong that it would at once have been vain and most improper for him to have resisted that feeling; and all that he did was, to issue his excuse for not illuminating on a particular night, stating that he would do so on a future day, to which the illumination was then postponed. The name of the Lord Mayor was in some minds' associated with a foul and atrocious hand-bill which had gotten into circulation. Now, were it possible for the Lord Mayor to have been the author of that hand-bill, no words would be too vituperative to describe his conduct, but he did all in his power, if that could be deemed necessary, to remove from himself such an imputation. He prosecuted the newspaper in which that hand-bill was re-published, and traced, or endeavoured to trace the author of it. The Lord Mayor of London had cautioned the late Government not to put its head into danger, and yet the adherents of that Government found fault with the present Administration for not compelling him to put his head into a nest of hornets. What would the City of London have said if the Lord Mayor had attempted to prevent an illumination? Would they have endured that their Chief Magistrate should have attempted to bridle the joy of the people of this great metropolis? Ought the Ministers to have required from him that he should restrain the feelings of six or seven hundred thousand persons? Oh, but then something might have been done by a communication from Government—some little portion of the dust of the Home Office might have been thrown in the eyes of the people.—hæc certamina tantaPulveris exigui jactu compressa quiescent!** 155 If he were to judge from the statements of noble Lords who had spoken before him, he must infer that Government had always interfered upon occasions of that nature, and always to prevent illuminations. He had lived through many illuminations, and he well remembered that upon such occasions the people dealt out impartial justice, or, if they thought proper so to call it, injustice; for they could smite the Whig as well as the Tory. It could not but be full in their Lordships' recollection, that a certain bill, some years ago, had been debated in their Lordships' House for the period of sixty-four days. He would not more particularly remind their Lordships of that bill than to say, that he was of counsel against that bill, and that, upon its rejection by their Lordships, such was the excitement prevailing in the public mind, that an illumination was determined upon. By accident he did not illuminate—not that he had any desire to conceal the joy which he felt at the abandonment of that bill—not that he had any desire to conceal the joy he felt that persecution had ceased against that most ill-used, and most unjustly-treated individual who was the object of that bill—not that he had the slightest desire to conceal the triumph felt—he would not say over whom—but it so happened that he did not illuminate, and he was hooted, and his house was pelted, and his windows broken; but did he appeal to the Government of that period, and call for protection, or did it yield any protection to persons so circumstanced? No; he had always held, that Government had no right to interfere for the purpose of preventing illuminations. Government or the Magistracy had only a right to prevent breaches of the peace, or whatever tended thereto, but it was not competent for any Government to tell the King's people that they were not to testify their joy in any legal manner which they might prefer. He would now make an observation or two on what had fallen from a noble Earl in the course of the present discussion—if discussion or debate it might be called. The noble Earl had spoken of disorder, and had clothed his remark in an epigrammatic dress, convinced that so gilded, the dart would strike deeper, and stick longer; but let the House observe the injustice of the noble Earl, for surely the noble Lords on the Ministerial side of that House lost more of the bad influence to be taken away by 156 the Reform Bill, than noble Lords on the other side of the House had to part with. Having made that observation, he would once, and for all, protest against the practice of that irregular and anticipatory species of debate, into which they had that night, as on many nights of the last Parliament, been betrayed. If he should hereafter fall into discussions of that kind, he hoped the House would remember that he had been dragged into them. But though he felt that reluctance which he had expressed, such reluctance did not arise from any want of preparation to meet noble Lords upon any branch of the question; for if he were before prepared, and anxious for the fight, why should he shrink from it now? But there was one reason which, with him, weighed above all others—it was the influence and authority of that House with the other branch of the Legislature. He thought it the more necessary to be abstinent and cautious, when he remembered that there never was a time when there were larger interests at stake, and those interests deeply affecting the constitution of the other House of Parliament; when he recollected, too, that respecting no measure did there exist throughout the country so vehement a desire for its completion; and yet all the while it was one upon which the Representatives of the people were unhappily divided; and respecting which even their Lordships, who might be called the virtual Representatives of the people, were also unhappily divided. He called them the Representatives of the people; for they were virtually so in blood, honour, property, and all that could make the Representatives of the people. Did not that consideration lead them to feel, that on the present occasion, there was demanded at their hands the utmost degree of deliberation and of caution? Did not that lead their Lordships to feel that they were bound to pause and to meditate? Did not that justify him in counselling them to bethink themselves well of the situation which God had assigned them, under the Monarchy and above the people? Should that House then allow itself to be wanting in any thing which could show deliberation, and caution, and candour? or should they leave any thing undone, which by a shadow of a shade, might tarnish their reputations as virtual Representatives of the people, or hereditary counsellors of the King? Should they, in such circum- 157 stances, permit themselves to indulge in any language rambling, desultory, or disorderly—should they not, on the contrary, avoid that unprofitable and worse practice of the last Parliament, and rather recur to that better, and more ancient practice of former Parliaments, to avoid all anticipatory discussions, and every; thing that was irregular and unparliamentary, leaving the discussion of the Bill referred to, to be taken up solely upon its own merits, when that Bill came regularly before them. If, however, after that caution they still persevered in pursuing the course recommended by the precept and example of the noble Earl, it would only be for him to take part in their discussions as he best might; and he assured their Lordships he should do so as readily as any man could desire, but at the same time as calmly as if he had not tendered the present advice. Much had been said of the use made of the Sovereign's name in the course of those discussions, and first with reference to what had been said relative to Government influence during the late general election. He could venture to say, that never since the Revolution of 1688 had Government interfered less in election proceedings. Here and there individuals might be found who might affect to speak of their intimacy or connection with a particular department. No one would be absurd enough to deny that such occurrences did always take place at general elections; but he would repeat his assertion, that from the Revolution of 1688 to the present moment, there never had been less interference at a general election. But the noble Marquis appeared to have been very sensitive on the subject of his parliamentary influence, and his parliamentary affairs. Now he would ask what business the noble Marquis, as a Peer of Parliament, had to talk of his influence and connection with the other House—what right had he to speak of his election interests?
The Marquis of Londonderry
rose to declare that he had never made use of the language attributed to him by the noble and learned Lord.
The Lord Chancellor
never heard words more distinctly than those to which he referred. He meant, that he thought he never heard any thing more distinctly; but he must now presume himself to have been mistaken; but if he were in error, he had erred with those around him, for 158 they all took notice of the expressions of the noble Marquis, as contravening a Resolution of the other House of Parliament. He was by no means prepared to say, that the other House had a right to adopt any such Resolution, or that their Lordships were bound by it, but this he would take leave to affirm, that the noble Marquis was supposed—however erroneously—by those noble Lords near the Woolsack, to have spoken in the terms which he had described. He would again recur to the use that had been made of the King's name. He (the Lord Chancellor) knew, that when his noble friends had been turned out of power, on the question of Catholic Emancipation, which had since been carried, some advice had been given to the Crown; but in the present case there were no secret advisers, or, if there were, they would be treated with scorn by an honest, upright, and straight-forward prince. If there had been any of these intrigues, all would have gone on smoothly, and there would have been no complaint of the use of the King's name. His Majesty might then have allowed his Ministers to have brought in the Bill, and when it had reached its last stage might have insisted that it should be given up, and that a solemn pledge should be given not to re-introduce it. When such an event had before occurred, his noble friends had resigned, and remained for many years out of office. That a similar course had not been pursued on the present occasion, that now there was no secret advisers, or if there were any, that they were treated with the scorn they merited, was the source of all the complaints their Lordships had heard.Hinc illæ lacrymæ.Had there been any back-stair influence, had there been any means of torturing into a doubtful sense plain British meaning, all would have gone forward smoothly, and the Ministers never would have been reproached with using the King's name. Was it not, however, most inconsistent in their opponents to twit them with the use of the King's name in favour of the Bill, when it was most largely used against the Bill? and when they were told over and over again, that the King would not dissolve the Parliament, was not that a much more unjustifiable use of the King's name? If he had no right to tell truth respecting the King's opinion, what right had others to titter the foullest falsehoods? At every comer of every street the King had been 159 printed about, talked about, sung about; it was said, "You talk of dissolving the Parliament, you cannot dissolve it, the King will not let you." Was not that using the King's name? But it was a perfectly false and most foul slander of our gracious and paternal, and most popular Monarch. The opponents of Reform committed the double crime of improperly using the King's name, and falsely using it; and on the principle that two negatives made an affirmative, so he presumed they thought that two parliamentary irregularities made one parliamentary regularity. His Majesty had proved himself a most gracious and paternal monarch, and had become, from the first moment of his reign, a most popular King, nor would he tarnish the virtues for which he was distinguished by allowing any use to be made of his name which he did not think would conduce to the interests and happiness of his people. But it was ridiculous to speak of there having been recently an improper use made of the name of the monarch; surely in 1784 and in 1806 the extent to which that liberty was taken was a thousand-fold greater. He had to apologize to their Lordships for having occupied so much of their time; but he was, fortunately, not tinder the necessity of encroaching further upon their indulgence than to express his perfect readiness to meet the discussion in case the House should be disposed to enter upon it in the manner recommended by the noble Earl.
said, that with respect to the dissolution of the late Parliament, he would put the question on this simple issue. Did the noble and learned Lord, or did any man in that House, believe that the House of Commons, by its vote, had intended to refuse the Supplies? It had struck him at the time that what had fallen from the noble and learned Lord was merely an ebullition of temper, and that on recollection, he would not be disposed to maintain what he had then said. With respect to the supposed confidence which the Government had placed in a certain portion of the press, it was a notorious fact that a morning journal of that day contained the whole substance of the King's Speech, when none but the Ministers could have been supposed to possess it. With respect to the Speech itself, how any one that knew the state of Ireland could have put into his Majesty's mouth to say that the disturbances which 160 had taken place there had not arisen from political causes, he could not conceive; for all their Lordships must be aware that they did proceed from political causes. The noble Lord then referred to a recent case of a clergyman in Ireland who being refused his tithes, and being told if he distrained he would repent it, did distrain, and on the day of sale was attacked by a mob. A battle had ensued; the yeomanry had been called out, and upwards of twenty people had been killed. The Government should put down these things by the force of law, and if the law was not strong enough, they might ask for new powers. What the Government ought to do was, to make the land protect itself, and not enter into any compromise; when he spoke of compromise, he alluded to Mr. O'Connell, whose case was at best suspicious; for if the Government had really wished to put the matter fairly, they would have left it in the Court of King's Bench to decide the law of the case, and not have left it to their own law officers. It might not be parliamentary for him to refer further to that gentleman; but suspicion might arise, and it was notorious that his power had been exercised in favour of Government at the elections, by writings, and by personal exertions. On another point he must observe, that never had he heard of as many acts of positive interference on the part of Government as during the last election in Dublin. He had documents to prove, not only that the Government had made direct applications, but that Police Magistrates were told the tenure of their offices depended on their voting for the Reform candidates. As there might be a petition on this election, he would not at present go further; but if that should not be the case, he would take an opportunity of bringing the whole subject before the House.
expressed his regret at being obliged to trespass on the House at so late an hour, nor should he have risen but for the observations of the noble Lord who had just sat down. These conveyed either assertions, or strong insinuations of matters of fact, to which he felt bound to give the most unqualified denial. It was always unpleasant when the assertions of two gentlemen were necessarily direct contradictions; but the language of the noble Earl (Winchilsea), and of the noble Baron (Farnham) left him no alternative. He testified to the worth of the noble 161 Baron as a landlord and a resident; but, unfortunately, the noble Lord had his mind deeply steeped in prejudice, which was worse than total ignorance, as it rendered him incapable of seeing any thing in its true light. This he said advisedly, and not with reference to any former debates, but with respect to transactions before the eyes of every one, and which were now matters of recorded history. In every one of his opinions, the noble Lord was more absolutely mistaken and more profoundly ignorant than could be expected of a nobleman living in Ireland; and the noble Lord did not apply himself to things as they were, but continually brooded over the measures carried by the wisdom of the Legislature in opposition to his wishes, and which had restored Ireland to a prospect of peace, while they put an end to the miserable state of government in that country, of which the noble Lord was so prominent a part. On the passing of that measure (the Catholic Relief Bill), animosities were about to be allayed, and differences to be forgotten; and why had this not happened? It was never said, that all these good effects could take place at once; but what was the reason of the delay? What was the reason that the agitators, and Mr. O'Connell, who was so much spoken of, had been able to do so much mischief? Not because the bill had been carried, but because it had been so long delayed. If it had been carried in 1825, how different would the state of the country have been! Then a bill was brought in to put down the Catholic Association, but with it was coupled a measure of relief. The penal Act was carried, but the relief was denied, and then came those declarations in that House which had fanned every flame of discord. What was the consequence?—Why for three years the Association went on with redoubled vigour, and a feverish excitement was produced, which was of the most violent kind. In 1829 the measure of relief was passed; but in what manner? In 1825 it would, though but an act of justice, have been taken as a boon; but in 1829 it was granted, as was alleged, to violence. The proposers of it gave Mr. O'Connell the credit of carrying the measure, and those who attacked him now gave him credit for having effected it, and thereby raised his consequence, giving him thus an increased power to do mischief if he were so inclined. But the fact was, that 162 the measure was carried by the people of England, whose minds were prepared and enlightened for it by his noble friend beside him (Earl Grey), and the many others who had combated for the rights of their fellow-subjects. He thought, that Mr. O'Connell had been one of the greatest foes of the measure. But, after ascribing to him the merit of the measure, he was shut out from its benefits by a clause introduced into the Bill. The order of canonization was inverted with respect to him; for, first, he was made a saint, and then a martyr. After accrediting him to the people of Ireland as their deliverer, the Legislature proceeded to exasperate him by declining him an outcast; and could it be surprising therefore, that he should have stirred up the people to take part in his own quarrels? Doubtless Mr. O'Connell had not acted as a true patriot would. He had not thrown aside all private consideration, and rejoiced at the public good effected, even at a sacrifice of his personal views. Neither could his conduct on any ground be justified; but still, when they had acted so towards him, they, at. least, had no cause to complain of what resulted from their own proceedings. With respect to the prosecution which had been entered into against Mr. O'Connell, it was on consideration deemed, that the violation of the Act of Parliament was a misdemeanor, and triable at common law. Indictments had consequently been preferred, and though ridicule had been thrown on the idea, yet, when the Court of King's Bench had charged the Grand Jury, that the offence was legally made out, Mr. O'Connell had thought proper to withdraw his plea of Not Guilty, and plead Guilty. Before Mr. O'Connell could be brought up for judgment, the Act of Parliament under which he had been indicted, expired. The question then arose, whether, after the expiration of the Act, the verdict obtained could be acted upon? Mr. O'Connell claimed the right due to all of moving in arrest of judgment. A case was laid before the law officers of the Crown in Ireland— gentlemen whose character was above suspicion; and they gave their opinion, that the expiration of the Act prevented the matter from going further. That opinion was transmitted to the Attorney and Solicitor General in England, and they entirely concurred in it. After stating their opinions, it might be presump- 163 tuous in him to say any thing; but if any noble Lord thought proper to bring the subject forward, he would be ready to meet him, and prove the correctness of the opinion. Every authority, from Lord Hale to the present day, concurred in it. A distinction had been attempted to be drawn, and it had been said, that this was a Common-law offence; but it was in fact, for the breaking of a Statute, and when that Statute was at an end, so also must be the offence. But the noble Lord had said, that the law officers ought still to have gone on. What! the public prosecutor was to go on with what he knew to be illegal! Could there be any thing more base or less to be tolerated? nay farther, if he had gone on he could only be considered as an accomplice to oppress an injured man. He had fully considered the subject, and was of that opinion; and if any legal person chose to make a question of it, he should be prepared to meet him. Being convinced that the law was at an end, it would not have been legal, constitutional, prudent, or wise, to have proceeded with the prosecution. But the noble Lord had asserted that the prosecution had been dropped in consequence of a compromise with Mr. O'Connell. If such a charge was true, it became the noble Lord to make it matter of impeachment; but he declared in that House, that it was absolutely and entirely false. He did not mean to say, that the noble Lord intended to abuse the House by making such a charge; but he complained that the noble Lord had brought it forward, unless he had documents to support it. Again, it was said, that the Established Church was to be despoiled, in order to make provision for the Catholic clergy—and never was there a grosser calumny. It had also been charged, that on Mr. O'Connell's interference, the cause of justice had been stayed with respect to the persons convicted in the county of Clare; but never did Lord Anglesey, or one of his Government, hold any communication with Mr. O'Connell on the subject, save once. Then Mr. O'Connell took the liberty of waiting on Lord Anglesey, as he, or any other person, with information on the subject, had a right to do; and when he commenced to speak about Carroll, the person whose case was meant, he was stopped, and told that was a subject on which there could be no communication received; and, in fact, the man's 164 case had been disposed of before Mr. O'Connell had the interview with the Lord Lieutenant. The noble Lord found fault with the King's Speech for saying that the disturbances in Ireland were not political; still the fact was so, nor had they any character but that of a servile war. The Magistracy of Clare had, it was true, appealed to the Irish government, stating the necessity there was for the Insurrection Act, to arm them with more ample powers to preserve the peace of the county. But the Lord Lieutenant had proved firm in his determination to act according to the existing laws, and the result proved that he was right; for the laws were found to be adequate to that desirable object, and there was a growing state of peace and improvement at this moment, which he trusted was an earnest of the confidence of the people of Ireland in the strict, impartial, and merciful administration of the law in future, and general improvement and prospective happiness of that country, under a wise and watchful system of Government. He, however, advised the House to look to the causes of the evils which afflicted Ireland. He knew the present Government was turning its attention to the subject. The principal cause of these evils he took to be superabundant population, and it was the duty of a wise Government to make the resources of the country available for finding employment for the population, without the introduction of Poor-laws, which would be attended with interminable difficulties. But no good would be done for Ireland, if they kept indulging themselves in prejudices which ought to be forgotten, and not converting, with the sagacity of ruminating animals, their food into wholesome nutriment, but, with the perverted sagacity of misapplied ingenuity, converting it into poison; going back to the past merely for the purpose of blighting the mercies of the Legislature, and looking to the future merely for the purpose of forming gloomy anticipations.
The Bishop of Ferns
defended the conduct of the Irish Administration. He believed that there had been found no disposition to resist the payment of tithes in those districts where the tithe-composition laws had been carried into effect.
The Earl of Roden
said, that the noble and learned Lord would not have spoken of his noble friend (Lord Farnham) as a man ignorant of Ireland, and blunted by 165 prejudice, if the noble and learned Lord had been acquainted with his character, and been himself acquainted with Ireland. With respect to Ireland, he did not think that the statements in the Speech from the Throne were borne out by the truth. He considered the tranquillity of the county of Clare to be merely the tranquillity of gunpowder—it needed only the application of the torch to make it explode with fury. A great part of the peasantry were arming themselves every day.
§ Address agreed to, and ordered to be presented to his Majesty.