The Marquis of Londonderry,
in rising to present Petitions against the Reform Bill from the freemen of Durham, from Shields, Newcastle, and other places in the county of Durham, said, that he trusted he might be excused by their Lordships for taking that opportunity of alluding to observations which were made at Reform dinners and meetings in the county of Durham. He had a deep interest in that county, and was well acquainted with it, and he therefore, take upon him to assert, that the doctrines held at those Dinners and Meetings were by no means congenial with the feelings and wishes of the constituency of Durham. And he also considered himself free to state, that if the hon. Gentlemen who now represented that county in Parliament had promulgated these opinions previous to the election, they would not now enjoy the high honour of the position in which they stood. The doctrines promulgated upon the occasions to which he alluded, were decidedly levelling in regard to the Church, and subversive of the Aristocracy: and much was it, in his opinion, to be regretted, that personages occupying the station of those hon. persons should hold forth doctrines which 494 were fraught with danger to the settled orders of society, and to the institutions of the State, since they could not fail to produce popular excitement. As none of those hon. persons were present, he would refrain from reading any extracts, or particularly referring to them or their speeches, nor would he enter upon any discussion respecting the doctrines they set forth and advocated, unless some noble Lord connected with Durham, or some other of the noble Lords opposite, would stand forward and undertake to promulgate and defend those doctrines in that House. He would only say, that he, at least, hoped the expression of these opinions and doctrines would not be made the passport to the honours of that House. He was sorry that any expressions reflecting on the Church, and directed against it, should have been made in Durham, over which a Bishop presided, who was surpassed by none in learning, piety, benevolence, and truly Christian feeling, and in which the religious establishment generally was so deserving of all praise; and he could confidently assert, that the universal feeling had been one of sorrow and regret that such sentiments should have gone forth. He could not accordingly suppose, that the professed opinions of those hon. persons were such as to recommend them to the honours of that House; and he hoped the Government would soon see the expediency of not availing themselves of any portion of the borough influence possessed by the promulgators of these doctrines to obtain a seat for their Foreign Secretary. Very much advice had been given to their Lordships within the walls of that House touching the course they were to pursue in respect of the Reform Bill, and even a | greater quantity of advice was given them | by individuals from without, so that in the multiplicity of their counsellors, they stood a chance of being sadly puzzled. But amongst the various kind pieces of recommendations given to that branch of the Legislature, there was one to which he wished to advert; and he begged to ask the noble and learned Lord on the Wool sack whether he had seen or heard of a brochure, (he would not, most probably, have the courtesy to tell him whether he had written it), entitled "Friendly advice most respectfully submitted to the Lords on the Reform Bill." Now, with their Lordships' permission, he would read an extract from this pamphlet, which referred 495 to those noble persons who were not favourable to the Ministerial plan of Reform. The noble Marquis then read as follows:—"These may not venture to attack the Reform Bill openly in front; but they will try to take it in flank. They will not oppose it, or move anything against it; but they will certainly vote against the Government on everything else, in order to throw out the Government and the Bill also. They will hardly move an Amendment on the Address to the King; but they will get up little motions against the Ministers—they will try to throw out whatever is proposed by the Government —they will oppose the Chancellor's Law Reforms, and Lord Melbourne's Subletting Act, and whatever else they can hope to defeat. Let the Lords beware of all such tricks, for tricks they are. All of their manœuvres mean only one thing—hostility to the Reform Bill. The meaning of everything the Opposition will say, is 'Throw out the Bill.' The meaning of every question they will put is 'Throw out the Bill.' The meaning of every vote they will give is 'Throw out the Bill.' They may affirm, and vow, and swear, and smite their breasts, and shed abundant tears, and heave deep sighs, and call God to witness, that they have no enmity to the King's Government, and are not prepared to give any opinion upon the Bill until it comes before them. Heed them not—turn away the ear from their cry. All they do really mean, is to get your votes against the Ministry; and they reckon on the Bill—the hateful Bill, being lost for ever. All who wish well to the House of Lords and the Constitution must carefully be on their guard against such devices." It was well for persons within or without the walls of that House to give their Lordships such advice, but let them not propose measures, and support those measures by declarations which were calculated to raise the mob. When the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack declared that the mandate of the Secretary of State, could not prevail against an assemblage of 600,000 persons, it was only stating, in other words, that a mob of 600,000 was more powerful than the Government. For himself, however, he had an example—an example which he well remembered, and on which he was determined to shape his conduct in the present arduous juncture. It was given at the period when a right hon. Gentleman, now 496 no more, assumed the guidance of affairs. They had then the head of the Whigs at their side of the House; and that noble Earl then delivered a speech, to which he felt great pleasure in referring. He had read it the other day with great delight, and had determined to shape his own conduct by what was there laid down. The noble Earl wished to have placed upon record his opinion of a bill coming up to that House, which, it was believed, the power of their Lordships would be exercised to reject; and which it was also believed, from the popular clamour that prevailed, and the feeling of the other House, would have brought the two Houses into collision. In the speech made by the noble Earl on this occasion, he said;—"I stand here one of a body which will always be ready, firmly and honestly, to resist such efforts—which will always consider, anxiously and feelingly, the interests of the people, even when it must oppose the people themselves, and which will never consent, under the influence of fear, to give way to any clamour. If I am told that we run the risk of having a worse bill, I shall never suffer myself to be intimidated by any such threat: and if a worse bill should be sent up, I am sure your Lordships would pursue the course you have pursued by the present bill. You would consider it, and you would amend it, and if you could not make it good, you would reject it. I am sure that any such measure shall be met by me with a firm opposition, and that I shall be prepared to do my duty to myself. I have said thus much, and I might say a great deal more. If there should come a contest between this House and a great portion of the people, my part is taken, and with that order to which I belong, I will stand or fall. I will maintain, to the last hour of my existence, the privileges and independence of this House."* [Cheers from the Ministerial benches.] He was glad to hear cheers from the noble Lords on the other side. He hoped the noble Earl would act on his own principle as stated on that occasion. He hoped that no new batch of Peers would be brought up to that House, and that their Lordships would be safe from a piece of the most extraordinary experimental philosophy that ever was attempted to be concocted by any Ministry.* Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, New Series, vol. xvii. p. 1260–1261.497 Having called the noble Earl's attention to the speech which he had made on a former occasion in support of his own order, he would conclude by saying, that in the sentiments expressed in that speech he cordially concurred, and he hoped the noble Earl would still adhere to them. He would say no more on the subject at this time, but would, without further comment, present the petition.
The Marquis of Cleveland
rose, and observed, that considering the relation in which he stood to the county of Durham, and the knowledge which that relation enabled him to acquire of the sentiments and feelings of the county, he was anxious to make a few remarks on the statements of the noble Marquis; but, as he was aware that these speeches on the presentation of petitions were irregular, he would be as brief as possible. He generally differed, whether right or wrong in doing so, on political questions from the noble Marquis, and so he did in this particular instance as to the sentiments and feelings of the county of Durham. The noble Marquis began his speech by informing their Lordships of certain speeches, purporting to have been made in the county of Durham, at election meetings, which speeches had appeared in all the Journals of the country, and the noble Marquis said, that these speeches were so derogatory to the Aristocracy, that no noble Lord in that House would venture to hear out the opinions there expressed.
The Marquis of Londonderry,
in explanation, said, that he did not mean to utter anything disrespectful to the individuals to whom he alluded, but only protested against the doctrines maintained in these speeches.
The Marquis of Cleveland
stood corrected: but the noble Marquis said, that the Peers of that House must be well aware of these speeches, since they appeared in all the Journals of the day. But he thought it rather improbable that the Peers generally should be well acquainted with these speeches, as they appeared in the Journals. He was not aware that the Peers felt very much interested about speeches that were delivered at election dinners. A few of the Peers, perhaps, did see these speeches, as published in the Journals. He did not feel himself called upon on the present occasion to stand up in defence of all that was said in these speeches, but be might take upon himself 498 to say, that some of the Journals gave a very incorrect account of the speeches, and, in certain particulars, very much misrepresented the words and meaning of the speakers. He had not been in the county of Durham lately, as the noble Marquis had been, but he was well acquainted with what had taken place in that county at the late election. The words to which he supposed the noble Marquis alluded were, "that the Peers were cyphers, and that the power of the Aristocracy was at an end"—words which were supposed to have been spoken at a meeting at Gateshead. But these words, if spoken at all, were spoken, as he apprehended, in relation to the canvass for the county, and alluded to the power and influence which had been supposed to have been exerted by the aristocracy in reference to the county elections. The words referred, not to the aristocracy of the country generally, but to the aristocracy of the county of Durham, which was a very different thing. He believed that he was well acquainted with the sentiments and feelings of the county of Durham, and he was confident that they were favourable to the Bill brought into the other House by his Majesty's Ministers in the course of the last Session. He, therefore, differed from the noble Marquis in that respect also. He knew that while that Bill was in progress, a meeting of the county of Durham, over which the High Sheriff presided, was held, in order to declare the sentiments of the county on the Bill; and at that meeting resolutions were passed, approving of the Bill, and of the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers, and an Address of Thanks to his Majesty was agreed to, which he (the Marquis of Cleveland) had the honour to present. The resolutions and the address were passed without a dissentient voice, so that there could be no reasonable doubt, but that the sense of the great majority of the freeholders of the county of Durham was favourable to the Reform Bill. He was confident in the opinion that the county of Durham was favourable to the Reform Bill; and if he had had any doubt about that matter, the doubt would have been most thoroughly removed by what took place after the late dissolution of Parliament. He was sorry to have troubled their Lordships so long, but he thought himself called upon to state thus much in opposition to the bold assertion of the noble Marquis.
§ The petition laid on the Table.