§ Lord Wynford
presented a Petition from the Members of the Corporation of Arundel, to which he was anxious to call the attention of their Lordships. Their Lordships were aware that Commissioners had been appointed to regulate the limits of boroughs in certain cases. The petitioners complained of the arrangement of those Commissioners by which the town of Little Hampton was included in, and was henceforth to form a part of, the borough of Arundel, so that the inhabitants of the former were to have equal right of voting with those of the latter; and the ground on which they rested their objection was, that the greater part of Little Hampton being the property of a Peer of the realm, the voters from it would turn the whole district into a close borough. He (Lord Wynford) was no enemy to what were called close boroughs, but he would say, that if they were abolished on the one side, they ought to be so equally on the other. The petitioners stated, that there were twenty places much nearer to Arundel than Little Hampton, and, from situation and other causes, equally entitled to share in its franchise; but all these the Commissioners had passed over, and gone four miles out of their way to include that place. In these places the noble Duke in question had no property, but nearly the whole of the town and neighbourhood of Little Hampton was his; so that he would have an overwhelming influence, if that town were included in the borough. So strongly did he (Lord Wynford) feel the impropriety of this decision of the Commissioners—so much was he impressed with the facts stated in the petition, and other facts which had come to his knowledge on this subject—that he now gave notice, that if the Reform Bill should be read a second time, he would on Tuesday next move, that before it proceeded any further, the Reports of those Commissioners be referred to a Committee, with power to examine as to the grounds of their decision, in order that equal justice might be done to boroughs in the south as well as in the north; and to see that no unfair distinction was made between Whig and Tory influence.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, that, when the Bill should be in Committee, he thought he should be able to satisfy the noble and learned Lord, that the decision of the Commissioners in unit- 107 ing Little Hampton with Arundel would not have the effect which he anticipated. In the noble and learned Lord's anxiety to prevent what he seemed to fear would be the overwhelming influence of a Peer in Parliament in the borough as it was proposed to be in future constituted, he had wholly overlooked the sort of influence exercised in the borough by those very parties from whom the petition came. This petition was from the Corporation, who were no doubt extremely unwilling to lose the power and influence which they now possessed in the return of the Members for the borough. The persons who got up the petition were seven resident gentlemen belonging to the Corporation, who felt that, if this Bill should pass, the influence which they now possessed would be shared amongst the inhabitants of Little Hampton and Arundel generally. They were, therefore, very naturally opposed to any extension of the franchise either to Little Hampton or to any other place. For his own part, if it could be made apparent that any arrangement as to the franchise would have the effect of making the place a close borough, he would oppose it. He pledged himself, and he was sure his noble colleagues would give him credit for the statement, that he would not be satisfied to have one close borough left. He would, therefore, not stop short at the number of fifty-six in schedule A, but would go on to sixty or sixty-three, if that number of close boroughs should be shown to exist. He could by no means believe that the objection to the extension of the franchise to Little Hampton was well founded. That place was the port of Arundel. The whole trade of the latter place was carried on through it, and it was, therefore, very natural that the Commissioners should make a selection of a place so intimately connected with the borough, to be included in the extension of its franchise. But it was said, that the town of Little Hampton was the property of a noble Duke (the Duke of Norfolk). It was not exclusively his property. It was true, that the noble Duke was owner of many of the houses there, but they were let on long building leases, so that the noble Duke could not possess that influence which the noble and learned Lord seemed to apprehend. However, when they should come to the question as to that borough in the Committee, if the noble and learned Lord should make out a 108 case against the borough as one which would still be under undue influence, and would move that it be transferred to schedule A, he would pledge himself to second the motion.
§ Lord Wynford
said, he was not sufficiently acquainted with the place to know whether the noble Duke was correct or not in his statement as to the influence of those whom he described as the resident electors; but he thought that all who knew the borough of Arundel were aware that the influence in the return of its Members did not belong to the Corporation, but to a very different party. The noble Duke had not, in his opinion, given anything like a satisfactory answer to the objection—that the town of Little Hampton, which was distant four miles from Arundel, should be selected as a proper place for the extension of the franchise of the borough, while twenty places of equal importance, which were much nearer, were overlooked. The noble Duke had said, that the land belonging to the Duke of Norfolk was let out on building leases. It was a fact, that leases of seventy years were given, but it was also a fact that the noble Duke in question was also the owner of much uncovered ground there, by building on which he might so extend his influence as to overwhelm all the other voters. But he would ask, when the noble Duke talked of long building leases having been granted, whether it was not a fact that there was a clause in each of those leases by which the transfer of them was prohibited, unless with the consent of the noble owner of the soil? If that were the case, could it be denied for a moment that the noble Duke would, by this extension of the franchise to Little Hampton, become possessed of such an overwhelming influence as would give him entire dominion over the return for the borough? He owned he was not convinced of the fitness of the extension of the franchise to this port by what had fallen from the noble Duke. Little Hampton, it seemed, was the port of Arundel, and the site of its Custom-house; but what necessary connexion was there between the owners of ships and the franchise? Others, who resided nearer to Arundel, were as much entitled to the franchise as the ship-owners of the port of Little Hampton; and, as to the Custom-house, he saw no claim on that ground, for no Custom-house officer could vote at all. On the whole, he must say, he had heard nothing 109 from the noble Duke which at all altered his opinion. He had waited with impatience to hear some explanation on the subject from the noble Duke, but he had heard nothing which satisfied him.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, he would not follow the noble and learned Lord into this rather irregular conversation, but would content himself with repeating, that, if the noble and learned Lord should be of opinion that the borough would be under undue influence, let him move that it be placed in schedule A, and he would support the motion.
§ Lord Wynford
would not adopt the suggestion of the noble Duke, by moving that the borough be placed in schedule A. He thought the only fair and impartial course would be to draw a circle round the borough, and let all places within that circle be equally included. This would be a much more impartial course than that of selecting a town four miles off, and leaving the intermediate places excluded.
The Earl of Falmouth
said, that he had hitherto remained silent on this subject, but he could not refrain from offering a few words, to express his astonishment at the great change which the opinions of the noble Duke had undergone within a short time on this important question of Reform. He remembered well, that when, in the year 1829, a noble Earl (the Earl of Winchilsea), indignant at the decision of Parliament with respect to the Catholic Question, had declared himself a Reformer, the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond), who agreed with the noble Earl on the subject of the Catholic Question, took care not to have it inferred, that, because he concurred with the noble Earl in the one point, he also agreed with him in the other, and he distinctly disclaimed being considered as a Reformer. Then came the companion of the Catholic Relief Bill—the bill for disfranchising the 40s. freeholders in Ireland—and he well remembered the earnestness with which the noble Duke denounced that measure. He also remembered the protest which the noble Duke had aftewards placed on the Journals, and that it was, if possible, still stronger in its denunciation of the principle of the disfranchising bill than the opinions he expressed in his speech on that occasion. He would not now do more than invite the attention of their 110 Lordships to the speech and the protest of the noble Duke on that occasion, and to contrast them with the new-born zeal which he now evinced on the question of Reform. He did not mean to deny the sincerity of the opinions which the noble Duke now avowed, but, having noticed that important change which had taken place in them within so short a time, he could not refrain from inviting the attention of their Lordships to the great contrast between the noble Duke's opinions as to disfranchisement then and at the present time.
§ The Duke of Richmond
regretted that the noble Earl had not deferred these remarks on his conduct, until a time, when, according to the forms of the House, he could rise to defend himself. After having already risen twice on the same question, he could not now, without the indulgence of their Lordships, proceed to make those observations which the remarks of the noble Earl called for. If, however, their Lordships gave him permission, he would address himself to what he must consider a most unjustifiable attack upon him. The noble Earl had charged him with having changed his opinion on the question of Reform. If he were only now a Reformer never having been so before, he might use the language which many of their Lordships had addressed to the House, and defend himself by stating that the times had changed, and that that which might not have been necessary some time ago was now become essential. If he looked to the speeches of those who were never before Reformers, but who now wished to be thought so to some extent, he should find it admitted by the great majority that the time was now arrived when some general measure of Reform was necessary. As to the circumstances that took place at the period to which the noble Earl (the Earl of Falmouth) had alluded, he begged leave to remind their Lordships that a noble Earl (the Earl of Winchilsea) had declared that the Catholic Bill having been passed, he considered a Reform of Parliament necessary. The noble Earl said, that he would even go further, and if a motion were made that the right rev. the Bench of Bishops should no longer have a seat in that House, he would support it. Hearing these strong sentiments from the noble Earl, he had then stated, that, however much he concurred with the noble Earl on the subject 111 of the Catholic Question, nothing should induce him to vote for Reform, because the House of Commons had passed the Catholic Bill. He had not the paper by him in which his opinions on that occasion were stated, for he certainly had not expected to be called on his legs in this manner to defend himself. The noble Lords opposite fancied that their opponents had been too tame yesterday, and, acting on the forbearance shown, they now came forward with charges of inconsistency. It was objected to him that he had opposed the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders in Ireland. He had so; but what then? If he were inconsistent in having then opposed disfranchisement, and in supporting it now, what became of those noble Lords on the opposite side who voted for that measure, and who now opposed this Bill? Why was disfranchisement to be supported then, and to be opposed now? Why was the principle of vested rights to be held sacred when it applied to St. Mawe's, and Gatton, and Old Sarum, and to be set at nought when it affected the franchises of 250,000 freeholders? He would beg to call the recollection of their Lordships to what he had said on the occasion of the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders. It was true, that he had strenuously opposed that measure; but he said that, if that bill passed, a year would not elapse without some general measure of Reform being called for. He begged to deny that he was inconsistent in having opposed that measure, and in supporting the present, for he defied the noble Earl—he defied any man—to say that he ever spoke against Reform. On the contrary, since he had a seat in Parliament, it was to him a matter of surprise how any man could get up and defend the system of nomination boroughs.
The Earl of Falmouth
wished merely to observe, in reply to the noble Duke's remark with regard to the 40s. freeholders, that he had not voted on that occasion to which the noble Duke had alluded, and, therefore, was free from any charge of inconsistency on that head, however the noble Duke himself might be affected by the charge.
The Marquis of Salisbury
said, that, when he saw the noble Duke with whom he had acted in opposing the 40s. Freeholder Disfranchisement Bill, which he had ever considered as one of the grossest spo- 112 liations that had ever been attempted—when he saw that noble Duke now defending his consistency in supporting another attempt at spoliation, he wished to ask was there not a great difference in the two cases? He would ask him whether the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill was not supported on the understanding that it was to be accompanied, or followed, immediately by the 40s. Freeholder Disfranchisement Bill? and was not the Catholic Bill considered, at the time, to be a full compensation for any loss which might be sustained by the disfranchisement measure? Did the 40s. freeholders themselves complain of the measure as an act of injustice, or rather did they not gladly receive the one as a compensation for the other? But let him ask the noble Duke, did any thing like the same circumstances exist with respect to those whom it was now proposed to disfranchise? If he saw the expediency of the proposed measure, he might concur in it; but no expediency could justify such a robbery as had then been committed. Such was, in effect, the language of the noble Duke, in his address to the House on that occasion; but, in the protest which the noble Duke had entered upon the journals, his language was still stronger. Indeed, to such a length did the noble Duke carry his opinion about the invasion of vested rights in that protest, that, though he (the noble Marquis) had come down to the House for the purpose of joining in it, he found it went to such a length in that respect, that even he, concurring as he did in many of the noble Duke's objections to the measure, could not consent to affix his name to it. But the noble Duke, who was so tender with respect to the franchise of the 40s. freeholder had no such scruples with respect to the franchises of the freemen of Arundel and other boroughs, which, without mercy, he would consign to schedule A. He had no doubt of the noble Duke's sincerity in the opinions he now entertained, for he presumed he would not be sitting where he was if he did not enter cordially into the opinions of his colleagues; but he owned he should like to hear from the noble Duke the grounds of the distinction which he now made between the Irish 40s. freeholders and the freemen of the borough of Arundel. It was singular that the noble Duke should have so different an opinion on that subject which all his colleagues had supported. 113 However noble Lords might have changed their opinions on the principle of expediency, he had not changed his, and he could not express too strongly his feelings in favour of claims which, it appeared, the noble Duke was prepared to throw overboard.
The Marquis of Cleveland
My Lords, after what has fallen from some of the noble Lords opposite, and from my noble friend near me, in this conversation—for I cannot call it discussion—I cannot allow the subject to drop without adding a few words. As the subject of nomination boroughs has been mentioned, I may say that there are few individuals who have had a greater interest in that description of borough than he who now has the honour to address your Lordships. My interests in such boroughs has been as great as those of any other noble Lord, and greater than those of most others; but I may appeal to those who have known what my political life has been, whether I have not been, throughout the whole of that life, a stedfast Reformer. Ever since I have had a seat in Parliament, and more particularly ever since I have had the honour of a seat in this House, which I have now had from a date so far back as the year 1792, I have been a steady supporter of the cause of Reform, and, at the same time, an anxious acquirer of parliamentary influence. From the period which I have mentioned, though I was then young in age, and scarcely advanced beyond the threshold of political existence, I saw those who were in the same rank in life with myself, and in possession of the same means, busily engaged in appropriating to themselves all the parliamentary influence which they could possibly acquire. I, too, endeavoured to obtain similar influence from a conviction that it was necessary to counteract the influence of intriguing and designing men. I state this frankly and broadly to your Lordships, and I am happy to have this opportunity of doing so. I saw the individuals to whom I have alluded regularly engaged in supporting measures which I deemed detrimental to the best interests of my country. From the year 1792, when a mad crusade was preached against the liberties of mankind, and when an unjust and unnecessary war was on the point of commencing for the restoration of the Bourbons to the throne of France, which they have again lost, by their imbecility, bigotry, and oppression—from the year 1792, I date 114 the origin of all the great misfortunes of the country. That is my humble opinion, be it right or be it wrong; I think that to that period the origin of our enormous debt, our heavy taxation, our immense establishments—in a word, the origin of all that creates and aggravates our present distress—may be clearly and distinctly traced. At that period I first entertained the thought of acquiring that parliamentary influence which I was afterwards so successful in acquiring. Enjoying, then, as I do, considerable borough property, I differ widely from those noble Lords who call this Bill, which aims at its destruction, a Bill of robbery and spoliation. I conceive that the desire of acquiring property of this description arises from two motives—either from the desire of obtaining and exercising parliamentary influence, or from the desire, of which I am sure that your Lordships could not support the bare idea—I mean the desire of deriving pecuniary advantage from the sale of seats. This latter motive is so indefensible, both in practice and in theory, that I am convinced that it is unnecessary for me to urge a single reason in proof of its impropriety. As to the former motive, the desire of acquiring parliamentary influence, I have only to say, that if it be a crime, I must plead guilty to the commission of it. I did seek parliamentary influence, and that, too, with great anxiety; but I sought it with a view of counteracting the measures of men, whom from that day to this I have continually, and without any exception, opposed to the uttermost. A noble Baron (Lord Ellenborough), who spoke with great ability yesterday, in reply to my noble friend near me (Earl Grey), took occasion, in the course of his observations, to assert, that the Whigs had gone over in a body, or, at least, with the exception of a very small portion of them, to support the Administration of a right hon. Statesman, whose loss I sincerely deplore—I mean the late Mr. Canning. I frankly avow that I was one of those Whigs who supported the Administration of Mr. Canning. I do not regret, I am not ashamed of, that circumstance. I gave my support to Mr. Canning on principle, because I thought that, when that illustrious individual stepped into office over the wreck of the preceding arbitrary Administration, the dawn of liberal principles was beginning to shine again upon the country. In consequence of that impression I did sup- 115 port Mr. Canning. When his death took place, and the noble Duke succeeded to the helm of state, which was then vacant, I was proud to give the same support to the Administration of the noble Duke. I thought that the noble Duke had conferred such essential benefits upon the country by many of the great political measures which he had brought forward, that it was the duty of every man who loved his country to continue him in office. I need not enumerate to your Lordships the benefits which the noble Duke has conferred upon the country, for they are recorded in the hearts of his countrymen, and can never be forgotten. I know that the noble Duke will admit to me, that when I told him that I intended to support his Administration, I also told him that I should, upon all occasions, when it was mooted, support the cause of Parliamentary Reform; and, on that occasion—for the noble Duke had granted me a conference—the noble Duke told me as candidly that he would oppose it. I have always, upon every occasion, voted in favour of Reform; and, as long as my life lasts, I shall continue to vote in the same manner. I, therefore, beard with feelings of inexpressible satisfaction that my noble friend before me, who has honoured me with his friendship for so many years, was appointed to the head of affairs in this country; for I knew that under his auspices the cause of Reform must go on prospering and to prosper. With these feelings, then, upon my mind, I cannot refrain from congratulating your Lordships that this Bill is again laid upon your Table, from which I hope that it will not be withdrawn, until it shall receive, unshorn and unmutilated the Royal Assent. I beg leave also to offer to my noble friend at the head of the Government, and to my other noble friends who are his colleagues in the Administration, my grateful thanks for this Bill, which I look upon as the only means of rescuing the country from the abyss of misery into which the measures of former Ministers have unfortunately plunged it. It has been said that your Lordships should reject this Bill, because it is the offspring of popular clamour. My Lords, I deny the fact. The Bill is not the offspring of popular clamour: on the contrary, it is the foster-child of public opinion; and, though to popular clamour I attach but little weight, God forbid that I should not attend to public opinon. I likewise deny 116 that there is any reaction with respect to this Bill, unless it be a reaction in its favour among the noble Lords on the other side of the House. If there be a reaction on that side of the House, it is one of the most desirable events that can happen to the country.
§ Lord Howard of Effingham
said, that he could not agree with the noble Earl who had risen on the other side of the House (the Earl of Falmouth), in thinking that there was any thing extraordinary in the circumstance of any noble Lord supporting Reform now, who had opposed it three years ago. The circumstances of the country, and, indeed, of the world, were so changed in the last two years, that the question appeared at present in a very different light from that in which it had ever been previously exhibited. If the noble Earl meant to deny that proposition, he must be blind to the changes which had been occurring almost daily in Europe. There had been a Revolution in France; there had been a Revolution in Belgium: and the changes which had occurred in those countries had produced a corresponding change in this. As long as the nomination boroughs were the objects of popular acquiescence, so long they might hold good; but, as soon as popular opinion directed itself against them, they must totter to their fall. Property in them there was none—at least none that was legal; and, therefore, the destruction of it could not be justly entitled a spoliation. He would conclude by stating it to be his opinion, that the decisive expression of popular opinion was a fair and legitimate reason for consenting to this measure of Reform.
The Earl of Falmouth
observed, that, in the remarks which he had offered to the House, he had not meant any thing personal to any of their Lordships.
The Marquis of Londonderry
rose to notice the very extraordinary speech which had just been delivered by the noble Marquis, who had volunteered explanations wholly uncalled for. It was a strange exposition of the political power which the noble Marquis had acquired, and of the mode in which he, who professed himself to be a steady Reformer, had exercised it. It was to him (the Marquis of Londonderry) very remarkable, that with all those liberal principles which the noble Marquis declared influenced him, that he should have been the con- 117 stant and undeviating supporter of every Administration which had been in power for this many a-year. The noble Marquis then went on as follows—"If I were a Reformer, I should say that I did not want a proof of the necessity of destroying all borough property, after the monstrous case which the noble Marquis has this evening made out against himself. The appearance which the noble Marquis has cut before us his fellow Peers, is in my mind passing strange. He has formally come down to us for the purpose of stating his own disinterestedness, and of declaring his intention to sacrifice his borough property on the altar of patriotism. I don't mean to say, that the noble Marquis has not a patriotic object in view; I dare say he has: but if I were in possession of large borough property, which unfortunately I am not, and if I wished to make the most of it when the Reform question was before the House, I should certainly come forward like the noble Marquis and declare my intention of supporting this Bill. And I'll tell your Lordships why I would do this. If the Bill passes, and a noble proprietor parts with his boroughs, it is very easy to suppose that the noble Earl who dispenses the favour of the Crown, may act in some such way as this—for instance, a Viscount may be created an Earl, an Earl a Marquis, and so on to the highest station in the Peerage. It is possible that in some such way, if the Bill passes, the noble proprietors of boroughs may get a compensation for the property which they professed to sacrifice; but if we reject the Bill, as I hope, and trust, and believe that we shall, the noble Marquis will still retain his boroughs, and I do not despair of seeing him still seated on that side of the House in full possession of them, even though another noble Peer should then be Prime Minister. I think that if this Bill passes, I shall have greater parliamentary interest than I have at present, owing to my connexion with several large commercial towns: but I am not an individual to be influenced by such a consideration. The noble Marquis, however, is connected with the county of Durham; and when I look to that county, I see, that, if he has no other reward, he will have his reward there from the great preponderance of new boroughs created within its limits. I have great esteem and respect for the noble Marquis: but if this Bill goes into the Committee—where it 118 never shall go if I can prevent it—I shall have great pleasure in discussing with him the propriety of giving so many additional Members to the county of Durham, which I pronounce the most gross of all the Whig jobs in this disgraceful Whig-jobbing Bill."
The Marquis of Cleveland
I rise once more to address your Lordships in consequence of the gross personal attack which the noble Marquis has just made upon me. I am averse to continue a conversation which is at all times irregular, and which, on the present occasion, ought on every account to have been avoided. When there is such an important question as that now on the orders of the day standing for discussion, we are improperly trespassing on the time of the House—and, I may also add, on the time of the public—when we indulge in these petty, and puerile imputations one against the other. At the same time, in consequence of the petulant remarks of the noble Marquis, in vindication of my own conduct, and in total contrariety of the assertions of the noble Marquis, I must stand forward for a few minutes in defence of my political character. With respect to any favours, grants, places, allowances, or honours, I disclaim before your Lordships, and before my country, any idea or conception that any will be conferred on me. I flatter myself that I am as independent a man in every respect as any one of your Lordships. I am independent in every respect—ay, as independent as the noble Marquis is, or as any of the noble Lords by whom he is supported. With respect to the support which I have given to Parliamentary Reform, I have acted independently, looking neither to the right nor to the left for compensation or reward, but keeping one object always distinctly in view—the advantage of my country. I am not obliged either to one Government or to another. I have not been the supporter of all Governments indiscriminately. In contradiction to the assertion of the noble Marquis, I beg leave to state, that I have been for many, very many years, a constant opponent of the Government. From the year 1792 down to the year 1827 I felt it my duty to act in constant opposition to the Government of the day. I am not accustomed to public speaking, and therefore may not address your Lordships as clearly as I wish. The noble Marquis may not have apprehended what I intended to say. I will, therefore, in contradiction to 119 the noble Marquis, who asserts that I have been the supporter of all the Governments under which I have lived, repeat that I have had the misfortune—for such the noble Marquis will consider it—to be in constant opposition to every Administration from 1792 to 1827, and that is no small interval in a man's life. I took my political principles early in life from my noble friend now before me. On these principles I acted with undeviating constancy, for more than a quarter of a century, through good report and through bad report. When Mr. Canning became Premier, I thought that the dawn of liberal principles was bursting upon us, and I therefore considered it my duty to support his Government. In the interval between 1827 and 1832 I supported the Governments of the Duke of Wellington and of my noble friend the present Premier, and as I have before stated the ground on which I supported them, I will not fatigue the House by restating them now. With regard to the influence which the noble Marquis asserts I shall possess in the county of Durham I beg leave to add a few words.—[Cries of "spoke, spoke," "Question, question."] I am sorry to detain your Lordships from the debate of the evening, which I admit is of far greater consequence than my character, or even that of the noble Marquis. But as I have been personally attacked, I trust to the candour of your Lordships to hear me in reply. As I seldom trespass upon your attention, I might claim your attention on this occasion. All that I have to say is, that I never have made any use of that influence to induce any Administration to bestow on me either place, government, or pension—that I never asked a favour of a Minister which induced him to leave, among his memoranda, the celebrated inscription of "This is too bad." I assure your Lordships that when I had the honour of being promoted by his late Majesty to my present rank, the honour was unasked and unsolicited by me. I sit on this bench behind my noble friends on this side of the House, because I look upon them as the statesmen best qualified to bring the nation through the difficulties under which it has long been labouring, and because I believe them to have the good of their country at heart. I support them independently and disinterestedly, and I shall continue to give them that support until I find them unworthy of it.
The Marquis of Londonderry
One word in explanation. I can assure the noble Marquis that I meant no personal attack upon him. He opened his views respecting the exercise of parliamentary influence, and I made, as I had an undeniable right to make, my comments upon them. I did not speak of the whole political life of the noble Marquis. I spoke only of his political conduct during the last seven years. In that time there have been four different Governments; their opinions have been wide as the Poles asunder; and yet the noble Marquis has supported them, one and all.
§ The Duke of Wellington
did not rise to prolong a conversation which in every respect was irregular, and which could not in any way promote the business of the House. He only rose to say, in reply to the call of the noble Marquis opposite, that it was perfectly true, that he (the Duke of Wellington) had had the honour of the noble Marquis's support and assistance whilst in the Administration, and that nothing ever passed between them which was not highly honourable to the public and private character of the noble Marquis. He had no recollection of the particular conversation to which the noble Marquis had referred, though he had no doubt that it must have occurred; for in all the transactions which he had with the noble Marquis, he had found the conduct of the noble Marquis to be at once fair, candid, and manly.
§ Earl Grey
said, he understood the question before their Lordships was, whether a petition from Arundel respecting certain boundaries to be fixed by a bill not yet on the Table should be brought up or not. He had listened with the deepest regret for more than three-quarters of an hour to the turn which this discussion had taken, during all which time, however, he had not been fortunate enough to hear one word relating to the question really before their Lordships. On the contrary, he had heard nothing save that which appeared to him a most extraordinary fact—namely, that this petition had been made the peg on which to hang a debate full of acrimonious personalities and imputations as to the motives of the different Peers who had taken a prominent part in supporting and attacking the Reform Bill. It was not consistent either with the orders of the House or with the advantages of the public, that the motives of their Lordships should be 121 thus scrutinized and discussed. He wished their Lordships to consider whether this was the occasion on which a discussion of this angry and personal nature could be prosecuted with advantage, if indeed such an occasion could ever be found. For what was the question which stood for their Lordships' consideration? A great question of constitutional policy, in which it was possible, though he hoped that it was not probable, that their decision might not be in accordance with that of the people. On such a question he should think that it would be the wish, as well as the interest of their Lordships, that the decision should be devoid of every thing that savoured of personal irritation. And yet what was it that he had heard that evening, save crimination and recrimination, bandied from one side of the House to the other? So that it would appear that none of their Lordships would vote except from some personal motives. ["No," from the Earl of Falmouth.] The noble Earl said no: but what could be the object of the noble Earl's attack on his noble friend (the Duke of Richmond), if it were not to throw some imputation on his personal motives? [The Earl of Falmouth: "No, no."] No! what, then, was the object of his attack? Why was it made? A discussion had arisen injurious to the character of the House, and inconsistent with the calm and dispassionate consideration which it was their duty to apply to the grave and important subject which awaited their decision. He had hoped most earnestly and sincerely that their Lordships would have approached this subject without extracting from it the bitterness of useless personality. Why such an abortive produce should be forced from it now, he would not take upon him to inquire; but he must be permitted to say, that he held as highly objectionable a discussion of this nature preceding so momentous a question as that which they were assembled to determine—a discussion tending to impute to public persons in that House motives not consistent with the interests of the community, nor advantageous to their Lordships. He felt himself called upon to say thus much, which, as the discussion was likely to cease, was perhaps unnecessary. He must at the same time declare his feeling of the independent conduct of the noble Duke who had been made the subject of uncalled-for observations. While he stated that 122 no one could display more true independence of character than that noble Duke, he trusted that this mode of introducing irrelevant topics would not be persevered in.
The Earl of Falmouth
was not sure that he had committed a breach of regularity, for he had risen merely to remark upon the change of opinion which the noble Duke entertained, and not by any means to attribute motives to the noble Duke. For the noble Duke he entertained every respect, and should be ashamed to attribute to him any thing inconsistent with a course of uprightness and honour. He begged to disavow the use of observations more than were warranted by a wish to explain what he had before said; and even if he had trespassed a little on this score, he conceived that the last Member of that House by whom he should have been rebuked was the noble Earl who last addressed the House, to whose character and abilities so much and such frequent indulgence had been conceded in the way of explanation.
§ Petition laid on the Table.