§ The Earl of Hardwicke
proceeded to address their Lordships. He observed, that in rising to move the Address of thanks to his Majesty, in answer to his most gracious Speech, he felt how much he stood in need of their Lord- 68 ships' kindest indulgence, that being the first time he had had the honour of presenting himself before them; and they must all be well aware that the nature of the pursuits connected with his profession (his Lordship is a captain in the Navy), was not favourable to the study of oratory. He therefore threw himself on their Lordships' kindness and consideration, being perfectly convinced that he should receive from a British House of Peers a fair and indulgent hearing. That feeling supported him at the present moment; and, were it not for his full confidence on that point, he was certain that he could not execute the difficult task which he had undertaken. He never remembered to have heard a Speech from the Throne which was likely to be so satisfactory to all classes of people as that which had been this day delivered. Whether, on the one hand, they looked to the statement which had been made as to the friendly situation in which this country was placed with respect to all foreign powers—whether they looked to the statement that had been given relative to the financial condition of the empire—whether they looked to what had been said with respect to the state of commerce—or whether, on the other hand, they directed their attention to the anxious wishes which had been expressed for the happiness and prosperity of the country, or to the strong desire which had been manifested to improve our ancient institutions, and, at the same time, the emphatic determination not to take any step by which those institutions might be endangered or broken down,— whether they looked to the right side or to the left, he felt satisfied that the British people would receive with grateful feelings the Speech from the Throne, containing, as it did, a declaration of the deep anxiety which his Majesty felt to promote their welfare and prosperity. The Speech itself entered into so many topics, that it would be out of all reason for him to express his sentiments on them at length, knowing, as he did, that every one of them would be brought before their Lordships in the course of the present Session. It was therefore his intention, as shortly as possible, to place the most prominent topics before their Lordships, and to conclude, by moving a dutiful Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne. It must be most satisfactory to their Lordships to find, that at the present moment, 69 we were on the best terms with all foreign countries. He believed that at no former time, peace was more generally preserved throughout the world, neither did he believe that at any preceding period, its blessings were more widely or more justly appreciated. This was the case more especially in Europe, where only one solitary instance of warfare, (that in the North of Spain,) now existed. Within a short time, Spain and Portugal had renewed their friendly relations with this country; and, with the exception which he had before stated—the civil war now carried on in some of the northern provinces of Spain—Europe was in a state of profound peace. His Majesty endeavoured, as their Lordships knew, by a recent treaty, supplementary to that of 1834, to put an end to that intestine struggle. With Austria, Russia, and Prussia, our friendly relations remained unchanged. His Majesty lamented that the disputed question between Holland and Belgium was not yet settled. In that sentiment he was quite sure their Lordships must participate. They must feel the deepest regret that this long-existing dispute was not yet adjusted; feeling as he did so much attachment to the House of Orange and his country,—to which Europe at large owed so much, —and to which we were indebted for the best liberties we enjoy. When he referred to what was stated with reference to the commercial and financial situation of our country, he thought that their Lordships should feel every reason to be satisfied. The estimates, it appeared, would be considerably reduced, and such was the improvement in the trade and commerce of the country, that, although there had been a considerable remission of taxes, still a surplus would remain more than sufficient to meet the interest of the debt incurred in consequence of the abolition of negro slavery. Although he was not one of those who felt sanguine of the success of the measure, he assured their Lordships that he felt the greatest delight when his Majesty acquainted them that the Colonial Legislatures had generally concurred in giving effect to that very important arrangement; and he could not avoid observing that. the Government was greatly indebted to a noble Lord present (the Earl of Mid-grave) for his exertions and assiduity, for his able aid and assistance, in successfully 70 carrying this important measure into effect. The next topic touched upon in the royal Speech, was the state of the agricultural interest. His Majesty had, in his speech from the Throne, lamented the present depressed condition of that interest, and he had recommended to their consideration, whether it might not be in their power, after providing for the exigencies of the public service, to grant to that justly complaining body a considerable degree of relief. Now, if he might venture to make a remark on this subject, it would be to recommend all persons to abstain from agitating the country on the subject of the Corn-laws. If they were able to keep off the consideration of that question; if it were allowed to remain untouched, t hat circumstance, coupled with a knowledge that his Majesty's Ministers would pay, as they were called on to pay, clue attention to the present situation of the agricultural interest, there was, in his mind, a certainty, that much might be, and would be, done for that interest. In his opinion, the mere agitation of the question to which he alluded was calculated to produce an unfavourable effect, and therefore he was opposed to it. He next came to that which he considered as by far the most important part of the speech—he alluded to that part which related to the Church. He believed there never was a time when it behoved every individual to stand forward more decidedly for the purpose of aiding and supporting his Majesty in his good and generous intentions. There never was a time when he more decidedly wanted that support. The Crown needed the support of all good and honourable men at this eventful hour. They ought, therefore, on this occasion to put an end to all party feelings. They ought to lay aside party tactics, and party prejudices, and doing so, they ought to proceed hand-in-hand to the Throne, and to thank his Majesty for his most gracious Speech. With respect to the tithe question in Ireland, his Majesty recommended the immediate consideration of the best means of finally adjusting it. On the subject of the commutation of tithes in England and Wales, he would say, he believed there was no question which more deeply interested the country than that; and he had no doubt, with reference to that question, that such a commutation might be introduced as would be considered just and equitable. Indeed, he stood himself a specimen (if he 71 might be allowed so to speak) of that very species of commutation to which his Majesty alluded in his Speech; for on the estate which he had the honour to hold, and which he believed ran into eight or ten parishes, for a great number of years no tithe had been paid; a commutation paid by the landlord was established, much to the satisfaction of all parties. With respect to that part of the Speech which related to Dissenters, he would say that no man was a greater friend than he was to religious toleration. There was, however, considerable difficulty in a country situated as this was, in dealing with the subject of marriage. It would be necessary, whatever alteration was made, that great publicity and notoriety should attend the solemnization of marriage, at the same time that the conscientious scruples of the Dissenters should be respected. As to the question of Church Reform, to which his Majesty's Speech directed their attention, he had only to hope that every one of their Lordships would enter into that view of the subject which his Majesty had taken; that they would exert themselves to support the Church, and so to extend its foundations as that it should embrace all those who were anxious to rest within its pale. It was perfectly easy to conceive, and as easy to prove, that the Church Establishment was not now equal to the increased and increasing population. As a proof of this fact, he would refer to the situation of Merthyr Tydvil. Some years ago it was a very small and poorly-inhabited place; it now contained 60,000 or 70,000 inhabitants. This would show the necessity of extending the Church Establishment in such a way as would embrace the growing population. But when he admitted this, he must admit also that there was prodigious difficulty in dealing with so important a question. It became, in truth, a difficult question how they were to take, on the one hand, from that which was already established, for the purpose of bestowing it on the working clergy of England, and, on the other, how they were to provide for an increase of the Church Establishment. In whatever they did, and however they might be disposed to act, he was sure their Lordships would agree in this principle, that in all they did, in every improvement they made, their great object should be to support the Church, and that they should be con- 72 vinced before they acted, that a great and practical evil had existed. He hoped that their Lordships would forgive him if, in elucidating his meaning, he quoted the words of Mr. Burke:—"We shall find," said Mr. Burke, "employment enough for a truly free and independent spirit in guarding what we possess from violation. I would not exclude alteration neither, but even when I changed it should be to preserve. I should be led to my remedy by a great grievance. In what I did I should follow the example of our ancestors. I would make the reparation as nearly as possible in the style of the building. A politic caution, a guarded circumspection, a moral rather than a constitutional timidity, were the ruling principles of our forefathers, even in their most decided conduct." He would only further say, that it was their duty to do everything, consistently with the safety of the State, to satisfy any call that might be made on them; but that, if they were asked to take a step which seemed likely to endanger the welfare of the country, then they ought, by every means in their power, to oppose and, if possible, prevent it. He would conclude in the words of the King. His Majesty said in his Speech—"I rely with entire confidence on your willing co-operation in perfecting all such measures as may be calculated to remove just causes of complaint, and to promote the concord and happiness of my subjects." That they would pursue that course he doubted not; and thanking their Lordships for the patient attention which they had given him, he should conclude by proposing a dutiful Address to his Majesty, in answer to his gracious Speech. The noble Earl read the Address, which was an echo of the Speech.
said, that he should ill deserve the indulgence which he felt at that moment he had but little right to claim, were he to attempt to occupy the time of their Lordships by entering into the detail of public affairs embraced in his Majesty's Speech, and which had been so ably treated in the speech of his noble Friend who had just sat down. His noble Friend had so fully entered into the topics of his Majesty's Speech, and into the affairs of the country, that he had left him little more to do than to declare that he most cordially concurred in the Address, and congratulated the country upon its general state of prosperity. He 73 could not but feel, at the same time, most anxious to express his opinion that the prosperity of the kingdom could be secured only by a line of conduct which recent events had proved to be most necessary, and which his Majesty's Ministers were determined to adopt. This brought him to a point which in his opinion might influence the unanimity of their Lordships' decision respecting the Address. It must be evident to every body that the die was cast, and that a Government was formed under which every man would have to fight the battle of loyalty against revolutionary movements, or otherwise the country would sink to rise no more, at least in its present political form. He knew that many persons were aiming at ideal perfection, and were broaching Utopian systems or theories: but he would ask all such persons whether they had looked at intermediate States, and had reflected upon the dangers that must be encountered, the ruin that must be incurred by their rash and treasonable experiments. Few, he trusted, could be prepared for such changes—few amongst their Lordships could bring themselves calmly to contemplate the destruction of a Monarchy to which their minds were attached by the association of their earliest days; few, he hoped, could bear the thoughts of subverting that Church which had been formed by their ancestors, and by the Ministers of which those whom he now addressed had been educated, and to whom they had intrusted the education of their children—a Church which, by its learning, piety, and rational doctrines, had kept in check some hundreds of sects and schisms. He would tell all cold reasoners to consider these facts, and he would ask them whether they had calculated the progressive ruin, the misery inseparably attendant upon change, as well as the restlessness of mind, and the natural, the unavoidable, weakness and instability of all new institutions amongst a divided people? He would ask all such persons whether recent experience had given them any encouragement to hope for a more favourable result, and whether they would, for the sake of a more experiment throw themselves into the arms of the enemies of the Throne, the hearth, the Church, and altar, rather than fight the battle of loyalty for the preservation of the Constitution? His Majesty had promised in the Speech of that day to 74 carry on all Reforms as far as reason could justify, and as far as was consistent with the safety of the institutions of the country, and he called on the noble Lords whom he had the honour to address, to rally round the Sovereign, and to resist the mad career of innovators. He appealed to noble Lords whether they would refuse to answer the call, or hesitate to express their attachment to the Throne they had solemnly sworn to defend? The Speech which they had the honour to hear that day was so thoroughly void of offence that for his part he could not imagine that any objection could by any contrivance be raised against it. He would ask any man that was an honest and sincere Reformer in his heart, and who was not an anarchist, or a revolutionist, what would he have? A Reform King had urged to the utmost extent all practicable Reforms; but he had likewise urged that they should be carried on through the instrumentality of Conservatives, who were actuated by some regard at least to the safety of the institutions of the country. He felt sure that no rational and honest Reformer could oppose a measure of Reform because it proceeded from a Conservative Administration. It might be asked, could his Majesty's present Government satisfy the people? All he would say in reply was, that if they could not, nothing but the bloody lessons of revolution could. The people—he alluded to that class of them who went on to the extremes in Reform, and whom it was the fashion or the policy of certain politicians to court, —the constant aim of that class was the bringing about of those times in which they were to have less to pay and more to receive. It would, he thought, be impossible for Government to please that class. Why, since the peace, the burdens of the country had been reduced to an immense amount, and the larger part of these reductions were made by a Tory Government. He would admit, for he was disposed to give full credit to the noble Lords opposite for what they had done in that respect, that the late Government had done all in its power to reduce the burdens of the country. But were the people still satisfied? He believed not. What further reductions, then, would satisfy them? Were noble lords to satisfy the people by talking about the reduction of the Pension List? His Majesty's present Government had given promise of every reduction which could be fairly made, and of every measure which 75 the circumstances of the country could require; but it would, he contended, be impossible even for Government to be carried on so as to satisfy the party to which he alluded. He begged noble Lords to reflect that the choice lay between his Majesty's present Government, and one of a directly revolutionary character. There was no medium. Between these extremes their Lordships had to make their choice. The question was, would they have the principles of Sir Robert Peel or those of that most honest (for he was honest with respect to avowing his principles) Reformer, William Cobbett? The choice must be on one side or the other. Let noble Lords reflect that when the artificial power of a State was once destroyed it could never be restored. He should give his cordial support to the Address.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said: My Lords, we have been led to suppose that the Speech from the Throne, on the present occasion, would state more clearly and distinctly than has been customary in a formal document of this kind, the views and intentions of his Majesty's Government. And it is undoubtedly true that the Speech now under consideration does advert to a great number of topics, but whether in a clear, distinct, or decided tone, it is for your Lordships to say. For my own part, I cannot forbear observing, that there are some considerable omissions in that Speech as well as in the speeches of the noble Lords who have moved and seconded an Address in answer to it. With the exception of a few of the general observations into which the noble seconder has thought fit to enter, nothing has been said which could lead any one to suppose that there has been a total change in the Administration of the country; and hardly, that there had just been a dissolution of Parliament. The last subject is but just mentioned, and the first is not in the Address adverted to at all. I do not believe that there is a precedent in your Lordships' records of events of so much importance, having been passed over in so light and imperfect a manner, as that in which these events have been treated in his Majesty's Speech and the proposed Address. Personally concerned as I am in these events, it must be felt that it is extremely disagreeable to me that I should be the individual first to bring them under your Lordships' notice. But considering the magnitude of those events—considering the 76 course they have taken, and the situation in which I have been placed, I trust it will not be thought egotism on my part to make a few observations upon them. With respect to the change of the Administration, I have nothing more to say than has already been said in public on many occasions. That step was determined upon by his Majesty, and approved, adopted, sanctioned, and carried into effect by the counsel and advice of the noble Duke opposite, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. For that change, therefore, that noble Duke is undoubtedly responsible. He advised it, and I apprehend that it is a constitutional doctrine which will not admit of doubt, that he is responsible for it. Whether that change were prudent or wise, it is certainly not for me or my colleagues to determine. It is for the country —it is for your Lordships—it is for the other House of Parliament to decide that question. But when I consider the situation in which we are placed—when I consider the position in which the noble Lords opposite have placed themselves—when I consider the position in which they have placed the country—when I consider our actual state, and our prospects for the future, I must say that I do not see any thing that justifies the prudence or the discretion of that determination. The dissolution of the late Government was followed by the noble Duke taking upon himself the whole of the offices of State. He was first Commissioner of the Treasury, and held the seals of the three chief Secretaries of State. I do not mean to state any thing more strongly than the case admits of; but the noble Duke must be as well aware as I am, that, according to the present course and manner of conducting the Government, those offices, if they were assumed with a view to exercise their functions, are entirely incompatible one with the other. The noble Duke must be aware, that if one person held for instance the situation of First Lord of the Treasury, and also that of Secretary of State for the Home Department, it would place in his hands, without any control, the appointment to every great office in the State. It would rest solely between him and the Sovereign. The noble Duke must be aware that a person so situated would have the pecuniary resources of the State at his disposal, without check or investigation. Perhaps, it is not too much to say—not that I conceive the noble 77 Duke had any intention to exercise the powers of those offices—that such an intention, indeed, would amount to a treasonable misdemeanour; but allowing that the assumption of those offices by the noble Duke was only provisional, was only ad interim, on account of the urgency and necessity of the case, it is for the noble Duke to show the necessity and emergency that compelled him to take the course he did. The noble Duke is bound to do that in his justification before your Lordships; and I beg to suggest it as being at least a serious matter for your Lordships' consideration, whether, even if the noble Duke justified the step from the urgency of time, a solemn step should not be taken in order to record the special circumstances, and prevent so great a breach of the Constitution, from being drawn into precedent, by being acted upon by some other Minister in future times for other and more criminal purposes, and without the same justification. But the Ministry having been dissolved, the present Prime Minister in course of time returned from the Continent, and on his arrival the Ministry was constituted as it now stands. They shortly came to a decision, which, in my mind, presents the strongest grounds of charge against noble Lords opposite, viz., the decision of dissolving the late Parliament. Your Lordships will be pleased to observe, that all this took place while the country was in an admitted state of peace and prosperity. That it was so, is evidenced in the Speech we have this day heard from the Throne, at least as far as a perfect tranquillity and an increasing revenue is proof of the prosperity of a country. My Lords, I will not trust to my own inadequate powers of description to state to your Lordships the. real condition of this country at that time. I will borrow the words of a person who, both from his position and his talents, must he considered of much higher weight and authority. The present Prime Minister, at a dinner given to him and others of his colleagues, at the Mansion-house, shortly after the formation of the Ministry, said, "It is impossible to deny, that since the occurrence of the important events that have taken place within the last six weeks, there has been calm and tranquillity in this country, which, after the political excitement in which we have lived for some time past, could not have been anticipated." Now it might be 78 supposed that the worthy Baronet meant to say, that the change to which he alluded had produced the calm and tranquillity of which he spoke. I apprehend, however, that that was not his meaning, but, he intended to say, that on his arrival, he found the country in a state of repose. I am afraid that he was deluded by that calm. I am afraid that noble Lords opposite put a construction upon the tranquillity similar to that of the right hon. Baronet, and are equally deluded and deceived. If they had estimated the situation and character of the people of this country truly, they would have considered the absence of anything like tumult an unfavourable symptom for them, rather than one on which they could rely with confidence. The right hon. Baronet after some eloquent sentences, proceeded to state. "Gentlemen, I believe, if the public feeling of this country could be embodied into expressions, it would speak in words, to some such purport as this:—We are tired of agitation; we are tired of that state of excitement which, in private life, withdraws men from their proper stations, and which, in public life, exercise the energies of public men in any other matters than their moral duties. We will not yield to the pressure from without; we will not have this domination; we are content that the public opinion and the public will should be expressed through the authorized public channels, and by authorized public means." Now, I ask your Lordships, how it is possible that, any man holding these opinions, having these feelings in his heart, with these expressions in his mouth, could at that time have contemplated the dissolution of Parliament? Why, we have here the strongest argument against such a step I ever heard in my life. Here is the exact statement of every evil that can arise from a dissolution of Parliament, of all the misfortunes which such a public contest as follows that act must produce. What tends to agitation, and takes men from their proper business so much as a dissolution of Parliament? What is a pressure from without if it be not a general election. Is it not bringing the influence of the people to bear immediately upon their recognized and constituted organs? If ever there were reasons for not dissolving Parliament, here they are in the speech of Sir Robert Peel, at the Mansion-house. But in what course are you embarking?— 79 you have had one dissolution, and you menace us with another ["Cries of No, no"]. Then you do not contemplate another dissolution? It is only a few days ago, however, that I was reading a speech addressed by a noble Lord, a relative of a noble Duke on the cross-bench, to his constituents in Buckinghamshire, in which there was a distinct denunciation of that intention on the part of the Government. Such declarations promulgated through the country by supporters of the Ministry, cannot but influence the people, for they appear entitled to credit. I know that there have been former dissolutions of this nature. I know that the dissolutions which took place in 1784, 1807, and 1831, may be quoted as precedents. They were bold, dangerous, desperate measures all of them, and they were admitted to be so by those who advised them. But they were all temperate, prudent, cautious, and sagacious, compared with the dissolution which the noble Duke and his colleagues have advised. What was the justification of the dissolutions I have mentioned? Why, success, constant success, and that is the only justification of those who dare such bold measures. The Ministers have now met with more success than they expected, or had a right to look for; but they have not met with enough to justify their conduct. I do not take so gloomy and alarming a view of the state of the country as the noble seconder of the Address; but if there be any truth in the picture he has drawn, any reality in his apprehensions, in my conscience I believe to the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers, and especially to those of them who advised the dissolution of the late Parliament. the imminence of our danger is to be ascribed. Your Lordships will recollect that it is admitted, that the dissolution took place when the public mind was in a state of calm and trapcptillity—when the country was approaching to that state of quiet and repose which, it is to be hoped, we are some clay or other to enjoy. If so, the Parliament which has been just elected must be taken fairly to represent the opinions of the people. You cannot appeal from it with success. I recollect that the noble Lord, the Keeper of the Privy Seal, said, that the Parliament of 1831 was elected under excitement, and that the people were deluded by the name and authority of the King, Now that last topic has 80 been employed pretty liberally upon the present occasion, but it has been employed on the side of the Government, and that Government cannot pretend to allege that the present Parliament does not represent the will of the people. Now what is the character of the House of Commons? Under what banners have its members obtained their seats? Every one of them under the banners of Reform. Some have said, that they are willing to go further than others; but all have Reform in their mouths. Must we not conclude, therefore, that the country is in favour of the principle thus recognized? The King's Speech is also, we are told a Reforming Speech. Why then was it not pronounced to the former House? Former dissolutions had definite and important objects in view. That of 1784 prevented the meditated change in the government of the East Indies; that of 1807 changed the policy of the country, most unfortunately, with respect to the Roman Catholics, and measures which we are ruing to this day were adopted. The dissolution of 1831 carried the Reform Bill. But what is the object of this dissolution, if the same measures are to be pursued, the same language held, as would have been held without a dissolution? There has been no object in view but a change of men, by a wanton act of power. No reason can be seen for the act, except the introduction of a certain number of Tory supporters of the Ministry into the House of Commons, dragging them through the dirt, making them desert their old principles, and act against all the professions of their former lives. I can imagine no other motive for the conduct of the Government unless it be embarking us in dissolution upon dissolution—a desperate and fearful game, of which I see no end unless it be the fulfilment of the predictions of which you were so lavish at the passing of the Reform Bill, that it would be impossible for the Government of the country to be carried on under that dispensation. I might, perhaps, go into some personal attack upon the consistency of persons, who having opposed the Reform Bill, now profess themselves Reformers; but it is not my intention to rake up old debates, or make personal reflections upon the conduct of individuals in the Government. All I will do is to desire generally that your Lordships will read this Speech, and consider the list of persons by whom it 81 has been framed and produced, and say, whether it is consistent with their former lives, characters, and professions. As may be supposed from the observations I have made, it is my intention, of course not with any hope of success, but as a duty, for the purpose of giving your Lordships an opportunity of showing that your feelings are in unison with those of the country, to move an Amendment to the Address. That Amendment will express disapprobation at the dissolution of the late Parliament; but that disapprobation will be in terms perfectly respectful to his Majesty, and not at all trenching upon the just exercise of his lawful authority. The rest of the Amendment points to certain Reforms which are mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, but which are not to my satisfaction, nor, I think, to that of the country, pointed at in so distinct a manner in the Address moved by the noble Lord opposite as they ought to be. As some apprehension has been expressed in the country, in consequence of the change in his Majesty's Councils, with respect to the security of the Reform Act, in the Amendment I propose I wish your Lordships to declare that you will stand by and govern according to the principles of the Reform Act. It will, also, be somewhat more distinct on the question of the Reform of Municipal Corporations than is the Address moved by the noble Lords opposite. Your Lordships may be assured that this is a question which must be speedily settled on the principles expressed in the Amendment I hold in my hand. The noble Viscount concluded by moving the following Amendment:—"That we acknowlege with grateful recollection, that the Act for Amending the Representation of the people was submitted to Parliament with Your Majesty's sanction, and carried into law by your Majesty's assent. That, confidently expecting to derive further advantages from that wise and necessary measure, we trust that your Majesty's Councils will be directed in the spirit of well-considered and effective Reform; and, that the liberal and comprehensive policy which restored to the people the right of choosing their Representatives, and which provided for the emancipation of all persons held in shivery in your Majesty's Colonies and possessions abroad, will, with the same enlarged view, place without delay our Municipal Corporations under vigilant popular control, remove all the 82 well-founded grievances of the Protestant Dissenters, and correct those abuses in the Church which impair its efficiency in England, disturb the peace of society in Ireland, and lower the character of the Establishment in both countries. That we beg leave submissively to add, that we cannot but lament that the progress of these Reforms should have been interrupted and endangered by the dissolution of a Parliament earnestly intent upon the vigorous prosecution of measures to which the wishes of the people were most anxiously and justly directed."
The Amendment having been read from the Woolsack,
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, their Lordships would admit, that, after having been personally called on as he was by the noble Viscount who had just sat down, he should feel anxious to take the first opportunity which was open to him to offer a few remarks on what the noble Viscount had stated. The noble Viscount had directed a great part of his speech to show that the dissolution of Parliament was not necessary; and that he (the Duke of Wellington) was responsible for the dissolution of the late Government. He must beg the noble Viscount's pardon, and deny that he was responsible for those measures which caused the dissolution of the late Government and led to the formation of the present. That which led to the dissolution of the late Government was the absolute impossibility that it could go on longer without a noble Lord, who had ceased to be a Member of the House of Commons, by his removal from that to be a Member of their Lordships' House. He would beg to call to the recollection of their Lordships what had been stated by a noble Earl, who had for nearly four years been at the head of the Government, when Lord Althorp had resigned his office of Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House of Commons. The noble Earl stated, that he could not, under such circumstances, continue at the head of the Government; for, by the resignation of his noble Friend, he had lost his right hand; and it would be impossible to carry on the Government with advantage from the time that that noble Lord had quitted power. But that was not all. The noble Viscount (Melbourne) had himself stated to their Lordships, as one of the grounds on which he had been induced to take office, that he 83 had been assured that his noble Friend was willing to go on in office with him, and, therefore, that, with his assistance, he would consent to undertake to carry on the Government. But even that was not all, for he happened to know that, when the noble Viscount felt that he was likely to lose the aid of Lord Althorp, he declared that he should feel himself placed in great difficulty, for that the noble Lord was the very foundation on which the Government stood, and when that was removed, it was impossible to go on. When, then, the question of the Government came before his Majesty, he found it fairly put to him whether he would seek for other councils, and whether he would consent to other arrangements for the formation of a Government, or whether he would be content to abide by the particular Administration which at that moment existed. Let their Lordships only observe the situation in which the King was placed, and ask themselves, what he was to think in the new position in which he found himself. The noble Earl had been under the necessity of resigning when the noble Lord, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, had sent in his resignation. The noble Viscount, too, had declared that he considered the noble Lord's assistance essentially necessary to him. But when his Majesty was left by the noble Earl, and when Lord Althorp was removed from the other House, his Majesty, forsooth, was not to be permitted to consider whether his position was not materially altered by these events, and whether it would not be expedient for him to make some other arrangements for carrying on the public service. Everybody, indeed, but his Majesty was to be allowed to take into consideration the alterations which had taken place in the power of the Government by the loss of Lord Althorp in the House of Commons! Their Lordships, however, he was convinced, would not acquiesce in such a decision. They would see and declare that the Sovereign was fully entitled to take into consideration his own peculiar position, and the state of public affairs, and to deliberate whether it would be advisable for him to make other arrangements with respect to the existing Administration, or, if not, whether it would not be better for him to form a new Government altogether. Under the circumstances in which his Majesty was placed, he had thought proper to send to him (the Duke of Wellington); and he 84 was happy to find that all those histories and stories which were propagated respecting Court intrigues—[Viscount Melbourne:" Not by me."]—He was quite certain of that. But all those idle stories were now entirely laid aside. It was now fully admitted on all hands that there never was any such thing. For his own part, he had had no communication of any description with the Court for two—ay, he might say, for three, months previous to the communication from his Majesty. He was then at his house in Hampshire; and it was as much a matter of surprise to him at the moment as it possibly could be to any of their Lordships. Certainly, he was previously satisfied that some great change in the Administration must be the consequence of the removal of Lord Althorp from the House of Commons; but when the communication reached him, it was as much a matter of surprise to him as it could be to many of their Lordships, if they were to receive a similar summons tomorrow. When his Majesty sent for him, he might have accepted the offer his Majesty was graciously pleased to make to him. He might have come down to their Lordships in a higher situation; but he did not recommend that course to his Majesty, which would have been accessory to the gratification of his own ambition. He did not act as if he had a personal object to serve. He recommended to his Majesty that line of proceeding which he conceived would be most advantageous for his service, which was, that he should send for the right hon. Gentleman then in the other House of Parliament as the individual in the present times most fit and capable of discharging the duties of the King's first Minister. That right hon. Gentleman was then in another part of the world, at a considerable distance from England; and it appeared advisable to his Majesty, and to him that he should take possession of the Government for Sir Robert Peel; and absolutely necessary, at the same time, whoever might carry on the Government until the right hon. Gentleman's arrival, that he should exercise no patronage, and take no step whatever which should in the least tend to diminish the full and free authority of the right hon. Gentleman when he might come to act. His advice to his Majesty, accordingly, had been to put him provisionally at the head of affairs as Secretary for the Home Department and First Lord 85 of the Treasury. But the noble Viscount (Melbourne) accused him of holding the Seals of the three principal Secretaryships of State at the same time. But this, although gravely urged, was not a very serious charge. Having been appointed to any one of the Secretaryships, a man was competent to hold the Seals of the other two, in the absence of those to whom they might be confided. It was true, that he had, as Secretary for the Home Department, held the Seals of the three Secretaryships; but he had exercised no more authority than he should have done if he had been one of the three principal Secretaries, and his colleagues were absent. And was there, he would ask, no precedent for such a proceeding? Why, Mr. Canning, while he was yet Secretary for the Foreign Department, was on the 12th of April appointed First Lord of the Treasury, and he did not resign the Seals of the Foreign Department until the 30th of the same month; consequently, during the whole of the intervening time, he was both Secretary for Foreign Affairs and First Lord of the Treasury. He knew very well the difference that there was between the two cases. There were two Secretaries who had resigned their offices but had not given up the Seals. But before the noble Viscount proceeded to blame a transaction of this description, he should have shown that some inconvenience had arisen from it. He said that no inconvenience had resulted from it. He might say, too, that during the whole time he held the Seals, there was not a single office disposed of, nor an act done, which was not essentially necessary for the service of the King and of the country. Moreover, he might add, that Sir Robert Peel on his arrival found all things, as nearly as possible, in the same situation as upon the 15th of November. The noble Viscount (Melbourne), however, had observed, that the office of First Lord of the Treasury was incompatible with the other offices which he held. It might be true, if those offices were held for any length of time by the same individual. But, in the first place, he only occupied them provisionally; and, secondly, he would remark that constitutionally the First Lord of the Treasury had no more power than any other Lord at the Board. It was perfectly understood too, by all men, that the arrangement was not permanent, and that he only held the 86 Government for another individual, who had been sent for by his Sovereign. Next, the noble Viscount (Melbourne) blamed him highly for having attended his Majesty, and facilitated his arrangements for the formation of a new Administration; and yet, strange to say, the noble Viscount himself it was, if he were not mistaken, who brought to town the order in consequence of which he had waited upon his Majesty. If there were anything criminal in attending his Sovereign, and assisting in carrying into execution the plan for the formation of a new Administration, what should be said of that Minister who brought a letter to town the object of which was to secure that attendance and co-operation, that Minister well knowing at the time what were the contents of that letter? Was the noble Viscount, then, the man to bring him forward as a criminal for having attended to the wishes of his Sovereign, when he himself was the bearer of those commands which carried him into the presence of his Majesty, and to the performance of those services which the noble Viscount now repudiated? If he were disposed so to argue, he might contend that the fact of the noble Viscount being the bearer of this letter showed the animus with which the noble Viscount had waited upon his Majesty, and the animus of the transactions between them, and also the animus of the communications between himself and his Majesty; but it was not necessary. He would only repeat that he never was more surprised than at the mode in which he had understood the arrangement was afterwards received by the noble Viscount. He trusted that he had stated enough to justify him in assisting to form a new Ministry. The next charge to which he had to advert was, that the Ministers had dissolved the late Parliament. With respect to this, it was true, that whatever Ministry advised the dissolution of a Parliament was liable to be called on for some reason which might have induced them so to do; but he had seldom heard of such a course of proceeding as that Ministers should be called upon on the first day of the assembling of Parliament, and told, "Give me some reason why you thought fit to dissolve; and justify your dissolution of Parliament, by showing that the effort you have made has been a successful one." But the noble Vis- 87 count, after heaping his censure upon them for dissolving, added, that in all cases where Parliament was dissolved it was success which justified the measure. If, then, they had made an experiment which was to depend upon so peremptory a criterion, surely he ought, at least, to allow them a short time to wait and see fairly what had been the result. The noble Lord and his friends had dismissed in June a Parliament which was chosen in November. Their experiments he acknowledged was perfectly successful. He hoped, that the present experiment would also prove perfectly successful. At all events, it would be but fair to give them some little time for the prescribed justification, and not to assail them on the first day of the Session. And now as to this success, he wanted to know, after all, how great was that measure of success which the late Ministry enjoyed in the late Parliament, when it appeared to rest solely and exclusively on the shoulders of a single individual; so, that when he was removed to the upper House, the Government to which he belonged had found it impossible to go on. As to himself, he was convinced that the course he had pursued was correct, and by it he was ready to stand or fall. He believed that a great number of persons was disposed and determined to support the Administration, and he hoped the House would have the patience to wait and see what were the measures the Ministers had to propose. He was not aware that there were any other topics on which it was necessary for him to speak. He had, he should think, said enough to show that there was no reason why their Lordships should see it expedient to adopt the Amendment of the noble Viscount. He ought, perhaps, to say, as to the Municipal Corporations, that it was not the intention of Ministers in any way to thwart the Commissioners, and they were unwilling to pledge themselves to any particular system of legislation without knowing what the Report of those Commissioners would be. In that mode of proceeding, their Lordships must he was sure, be disposed to acquiesce, as his Majesty informed them that the Report would be laid before them in a short time.
in explanation, said—I rise to explain the fact to which the noble Duke has alluded, of my bringing from Brighton the letter which led the 88 noble Duke to the presence of his Majesty. After I had had my audience of his Majesty on the 14th of November, I went into the room of Sir Herbert Taylor, and he requested me, as I was going to London immediately, to convey a letter from him to Sir Henry Wheatley, at St. James's Palace. I will not deny that I knew that that letter enclosed a letter to the noble Duke; but when so requested, would it not have been the most captious, churlish, ungracious conduct, if I had refused to allow my servant to carry it, and if I had said, No! send a messenger of your own?' and can any approbation of the act of sending for the Duke be implied from the manner in which I acted upon that occasion?
—I have risen, my Lords, thus immediately after the noble Duke, because I thought that he manifestly misunderstood the sound constitutional proposition of my noble Friend (Lord Melbourne), and the consequences which flow from it—namely, that for the dismissal of the late Government—(for, like the noble Duke, I come at once to that measure, and to the dissolution of Parliament, as the grave charges against the present Administration).—the noble Duke, by accepting office on our dismissal, incurred the whole responsibility. This proposition the noble Duke thought that he met, relieving himself from its consequences, by solemnly protesting—and I, for one, my Lords, readily and perfectly believe in the sincerity of that protest—that he knew nothing, previously, of the circumstances of the dismissal,—that he never had been consulted about the matter—that he was wholly ignorant of the intentions and motions of the Court with regard to it,—and that he had no communication with any such quarter for above two months before the change took place.
The noble Duke was then evidently going on to say, that he was "astonished" at the event, when he recollected that astonishment would not be quite consistent with the previous expression of his opinion—an opinion by which the whole question was begged; but an opinion, which the noble Duke represented himself as having all along entertained, in common with the world at large,—that the elevation of Lord Althorp to the* From a Pamphlet published by Ridgway.89 Peerage must, at whatever time it occurred, lead to the destruction of the existing Administration. The noble Duke, therefore, drew back and qualified his astonishment, and, in effect, only stated, that he was no further aware of what was about to take place, than every one must have been who had heard of the death of Earl Spencer. But he entirely misunderstood the doctrine of constitutional law, on which my noble Friend founded his argument,—that the noble Duke was responsible for the dismissal of the late Government. My noble Friend never asserted, that the noble Duke was, de facto, the adviser of that dismissal. No such thing! But am I, my Lords, at this time of day, to teach the noble Duke, who has been so long a Cabinet Minister, and who for three years and a half was First Lord of the Treasury,—notwithstanding his previous declaration, that he should be insane to think of occupying such a post—(but your Lordships well know that men very often find themselves in situations to which they never aspired, and discharging duties for which they never could conceive themselves qualified:)—am I, I say, to teach the noble Duke, after all his official experience, that for every act of the Crown, some Minister of the Crown is responsible by law, not only although he never counselled it; but, although even he was ignorant of that act in point of fact? The proposition of my noble Friend is the simple and constitutional principle, that the King can do no wrong; and therefore, for what he does, he must have advisers, and consequently responsible advisers. If that be the case with respect to all ordinary acts of the Crown, how much more emphatically must it be the case in reference to an act of such paramount importance as the dismissal of an Administration? Well; the noble Duke stands in this very position. He is peculiarly, he is emphatically responsible for this change of his Majesty's advisers. For such an act, who, in any case, can be responsible but the persons who come into the places of those who are thus turned out? If the King take the Seals with one hand from one person, and with the other give them to another person, I defy any man who has read but the A, B, C of the Constitution, to deny, that he who comes into possession is responsible by law, for the act by which the other has been dispos- 90 sessed. But he is responsible in fact, as well as in law. The noble Duke has attempted to defend his conduct by reasoning; but, my Lords, I must take leave, with all respect for him, to declare that more inadequate, not to say flimsy reasoning, I have never heard.
I repeat, that the noble Duke is responsible in point of fact, as well as in point of law. Without the noble Duke's assistance, the act of dismissing the late Government could not have been accomplished. If, indeed, instead of being dismissed, the Members of the late Administration had resigned, or if, asked to return, they had declared that they would not come back to their places, that would have been another matter. But, if, instead of resigning, they were dismissed against their will, and were asked to resume office, then those who took office after them became accessories after the fact to the dismissal; nay, before the fact, and actual accomplices in the fact itself, for without their acquiescence, that act of dismissal could not have been perfected. If any man to whom the King tenders an office, from which he has dismissed some other man, refuse to accept that office, the Crown is rendered incapable of carrying the dismissal into effect. It is only an inchoate act until the office of the individual dismissed be filled up. The Constitution is so cognizant of this principle, that it has been successfully asserted, that even when an individual resigns office, if no person can be found disposed to take it, the individual dismissed, and restored, is still to be considered its possessor, and that without any intermission, in consequence of his temporary removal. This was evinced in the well-known case of Mr. Pelham. Mr. Pelham having resigned the Seals of his department, one person after another was applied to by the Crown, in vain, to become his successor; and he was then re-appointed. The question arose whether Mr. Pelham, although he had given up the Seal of Chancellor of the Exchequer, was not, in consequence of that circumstance, still virtually its possessor? It was discussed in the House of Commons; and it was determined that, as the resignation of Mr. Pelham had not been completed by the appointment of a successor, that Gentleman was still in possession of the Chancellorship of the Exchequer; that even his again receiving the Seal, after he had given it up, could not vacate his seat, or 91 render necessary a new election, his resignation not having been perfected. My noble Friend, therefore, is perfectly right (as I think I have shown) in maintaining that, both in law and in fact, the noble Duke is responsible for the dismissal of the late Government. There is, in truth, but little substantial difference between the noble Duke and myself; for, regardless of his responsibility, he has, with his usual manliness, defended that dismissal. He has admitted in substance what he may have appeared to deny in terms, and has taken on himself the responsibility in question.
Your Lordships have it now on the noble Duke's own authority, by public and solemn avowal, that he was the chief party in the whole transaction. You have his own positive, distinct, and articulate avowal; and he has assigned the only reason, as he furnished the only means, for changing the late Administration. I see, too, that in the Speech from the Throne, which we have heard this day, all other reasons for the dismissal are excluded for ever, because the grounds for the defence of the late Ministry are laid down in every line in the Speech, which is known and felt to be, as it constitutionally should be, the sole production of his Majesty's responsible advisers. In that document I see, throughout, one prevailing strain—it may have been extorted by the mighty force of truth—it may have been torn forth by the irresistible necessity of the case; but still, one strain of justification, if not of actual panegyric, on all the measures or their predecessors in office, pervades the whole composition. All abroad is tranquil—all abroad is at peace—except in one only spot of earth; this we learn from one passage. All our Alliances have been strengthened and improved; of this we are informed by another passage. Therefore, except in one case, has there been accomplished that most difficult of all tasks, as it was when we came in proclaimed to be, the maintenance of peace abroad; and that, not for a period of four months, which we were then told would be next to a miracle, but of four years. When I see that this great object has been achieved everywhere—with the single exception of a little corner of Spain—I am sure that every man must feel that no grounds can have existed for the dismissal of the late Government on account of their Foreign po- 92 licy. I think I could tell what kind, liberal hand it was that penned those eulogistic passages—the hand of one who was once in all respects liberal, and who would still it should seem, retain his kindly and liberal feelings towards all his enemies. When I remember, my Lords, what fell from the present right hon. President of the Board of Trade,—formerly my esteemed Friend, now my respected adversary.—what fell from him, not in those days when that right hon. Gentleman discussed the Corn Bill in the other House of Parliament, night after night, with patriotic pertinacity, in exact conformity with the opinions which the mob out-of-doors held, with an obstinacy as pertinacious, if not as patriotic, endangering out-of-doors, the life and property of my noble Friend, (Lord Western,) whom the right hon. Gentleman only argued and declaimed against within the walls of Parliament—but at a later period, when the right hon. Gentleman, at the commencement of our Administration, declared that, unless by the intervention of a miracle, the tranquillity of Europe could not be maintained for four months; and, when I remember that it has been preserved by that very Administration for four years and a half, I cannot doubt that the eulogy on this subject, which his Majesty's Speech contains, proceeded from that just and liberal quarter, wrung from the President of the Board of Trade by the disappointment of his own prophecy. I cannot but suppose that the right hon. Gentleman,—not in a truant fancy for panegyrizing the by-gone Administration,—but from the strong pressure of truth upon his mind, has made it a point to have those passages inserted, wherein he records our success, and congratulates the country upon the performance of an infinitely greater miracle even than that to which he had looked forward.
This Speech, too, felicitates the country upon the happy results which have attended the emancipation of the negroes, upon the settlement of a question in which not only the prosperity, but the very existence, of our Colonies was involved. I had wished, I had longed, I had prayed, for this result; but I confess, now that it has arrived, the description of it, in the Speech, surpasses my most sanguine expectations. It comes fully up to my anxious wishes and desires, to find that not only there should have been no mis- 93 chief, but that there should have been a vast amount of good easily and safely effected by it. Much of this is undoubtedly to be attributed to the spirit and capacity of my noble Friend,—whom I ought to have thanked sooner,—the late Governor of Jamaica; much also to the admirable arrangements and great talents of the distinguished individual who lately filled the office of Secretary of the Colonies; but of these praises, certainly, the Cabinet to which my noble Friend (Lord Stanley) belonged, must have its share, for having considered and digested a measure which had been wrought out with a degree of success that is all but unexampled,—crowning our hopes, and surpassing our expectations.
There is another topic touched upon in the Speech, to which I may also naturally be expected to advert. On the subject of the Report on the Municipal Corporations I will say nothing in detail, as it is not now before your Lordships; but I rejoice to hear that Commission spoken of no longer in the terms in which the act of advising the issuing of it was formerly described. The Ministry under whose Councils that Commission was issued, are no longer to be represented as spoliators of public and private property. Not much, indeed, is said upon the subject; but, at all events, the Commission is not characterised as one involving a violation of chartered rights, and an unheard-of and unexampled pillage of all property. I thank God that I have lived to see the day when it is acknowledged, not only with the assent, but amidst the unanimous plaudits of the Ministers of the Crown,—that the law upon the subject, as I had laid it down, is the law of the land,—that there is no illegality in the Commission which has been issued, and that I am not liable to impeachment for having advised that great measure. It is true that, from such corporations as Leicester and Norwich, and other haunts of corruption, appeals were made for the preservation of those ancient bodies, as the very pillars of the Monarchy, and the especial blessings of the Constitution. But all those appeals,—all the denunciations on the subject by learned council, and more learned recorders, seem to have "vanished into thin air," before the lights which the Cabinet has lately received. Whether their present path had been rendered clear to them before the late dissolu- 94 tion, or was lighted up by the results of the election, or made obvious by what has since occurred—among other things, by the event of the discussion as to who should be the occupant of the Speaker's Chair,—(that brilliant proof of the successful exertions of his Majesty's present Government, that sweet foretaste of the triumph which the enemies were to enjoy over the friends of Reform,) at what time this light first broke in upon his Majesty's Government, I neither understand, nor can I now stop to inquire. It is sufficiently gratifying to find that the present Government approve of that which may be deemed the most important measure, and must be admitted to have been at least one of the most important measures of the late Administration. I am also entitled to felicitate my noble Friends and myself upon the testimony which the Speech from the Throne bears to the success wherewith our domestic, as well as our foreign and colonial affairs, have been administered during the last four years; nor is there the least exception made against the late advisers of the Crown in reference to the commercial concerns of this great country. The revenues are flourishing,—trade is most prosperous,—congratulations are delivered upon our happy internal state,—and the clearest evidences are afforded! of the general prosperity of the country, without a particle of blame being attached to—without the least imaginable imputation being cast on—the policy of the late Government; in both these particulars, nay, even as tried by the severest test of all, our success, we are abundantly acquitted.
Such being the character of the Speech, from the Throne, such the description of our foreign, domestic, and colonial situation, of our trade and our finances, it is not for a single moment pretended that. the dismissal of the late Administration arose from any incapacity on their own parts;—it was for no want of capacity in forming their measures, or of vigour in executing them,—it was not from any want of success attending them,—it was not from any failure of any description, that, on the 14th of last November, the late Administration was dissolved. Then, my Lords, how has the noble Duke opposite endeavoured to account for that dissolution? He tells you that a noble Lord, now a Member of this House, had previously to the month of November, enjoyed, in an eminent degree, the confidence of 95 the late House of Commons. Now, this is an argument which, for my part, I wish to put even more strongly for the noble Duke than he himself has put it. The argument amounts to this—that Lord Althorp possessed, to an unprecedented degree, the confidence of the House of Commons; and it is most undoubtedly true, that there never was bestowed upon any Minister more of the love, the respect, the confidence of the Representatives of the people, than were given to the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. The prodigious oratory of Pitt,—the unrivalled eloquence and gigantic powers of every kind possessed by Fox,—the Court favour of Addington,—the long experience of Sir Robert Walpole, and the many high qualities which secured to that Minister such power in the House of Commons—failed to realize for any one of those distinguished men any thing like the pre-eminence, in the partiality of the House of Commons, to which Lord Althorp had attained. My Lords, in classing Sir Robert Walpole with those whom I have named before him, I am not giving that Minister more than his deserts; true, he occasionally spoke lightly of matters which, in a purer age—an age of improved political virtue—are looked upon seriously; he has, therefore, laid himself open to the animadversion of those who are not, perhaps, more honest, though they be more decorous; but he was a great minister, and worthy to be named with the greatest; yet not even he—with all his great services to the Crown, which he saved for the House of Brunswick,—with all the favour he obtained and deserved from the country—not even he (and not one of his successors, whom I have now ventured to name) ever attained a larger share of the confidence of the House of Commons, than that which was enjoyed by Lord Althorp. If I did not fear that my saying so might be imputed to the influence of private friendship, I would even assert that Lord Althorp personally enjoyed more of the confidence of the House of Commons than any of his predecessors. My Lords, I know that in saying this, I am putting the argument very strongly for the noble Duke—as I said I should—and now what does it amount to? The noble Duke affirms that, without him, the late Ministry could not go on. By what tenure did they hold their offices? Did they hold them pour autre vie? Had they no estate in them, 96 but for the life of another, and that other having no connexion with them? According to the noble Duke, it was not an estate for the life of the King, nor the life of the Parliament—they did not hold their places during good behaviour, nor during pleasure, nor as long as they were efficient, nor upon condition of their measures being attended with succes—not quamdiu vixerint or quamdiu se bone gesserint—no such thing; it was quamdiu J. S. vixerit—they held them, simply, during the natural life of the late Lord Spencer, and no longer that noble Earl being i n the seventy-eighth year of his age. The position contended for on the other side is this, that the moment Lord Spencer ceased to exist, that moment the Administration must cease to exist likewise. The conclusion arrived at is, that because the Commons had so much confidence in the present Earl Spencer, then Lord Althorp, therefore, they would have no confidence in anybody else, on his retirement—not merely that they trusted him, but that they could trust nobody but him. Upon whose authority does that statement rest? The House must have been surprised to learn, that this assertion has been made upon the single authority of Lord Grey; I regret to name him—I regret that his not having yet taken the oaths and his seat permit his being named in this House. I know of no event which I ever more regretted than the resignation of Earl Grey; it was an event which filled me with sincere sorrow when it took place, after the earnest endeavours of Lord Althorp and myself to prevent it. Yet, my Lords, am I delighted to find that one good has resulted from it—(the only good which I feel it possible to conceive, under any circumstances, it would be productive of)—it has caused the noble Duke, of a sudden to become partial to my noble Friend's policy. Your Lordships cannot fail to have observed that, all at once, the noble Earl has become a great and paramount authority on the other side of the House. He has been spoken of by the noble Duke as "the noble Earl who had so worthily filled the office of Prime Minister," the noble Duke forgetting how often that noble Earl had been charged with nothing less than a scheme of revolution and ruin—how often he had been threatened with impeachment—of what exaggerated accusations he had been made the subject—with what invectives he had been assailed 97 out of doors, and how he had been systematically, and without measure, vituperated for each act of his official life within the walls of this House. What, my Lords? Have we not heard that noble Earl denounced as the author of a revolutionary Bill—as responsible for the revolutionary dissolution of Parliament—as having sown broad cast, the seeds of revolution—as having aimed, by means of popular excitement, at the destruction of all legitimate Government, the ruin of the House of Lords, and demolition of the Monarchy?—Yet now, my noble Friend is no longer a rank innovator—no longer a revolutionary schemer; he has become, in a moment, an authority of the highest order, and from which there can be no appeal. All those topics of vituperation—all those causes of animosity, are laid at rest—pulveris exigui jactu, as if the event of his removal from the world (far distant, I hope and trust) had already happened. All faults are now buried in oblivion, and my noble Friend's authority is held to be paramount, and, according to the noble Duke, must decide the question; the argument standing thus, because Lord Grey said, that Lord Althorp was the right hand of the Administration, it was, therefore, instantly concluded that the Government, without him, could no longer be carried on. It seems to have been held by the noble Duke, that I and my colleagues were guilty of great presumption in attempting to carry on the Government a moment after Lord Grey had pronounced it to be impossible, which, by the way, he never did. Your Lordships must recollect, the authority of Lord Grey was quoted on behalf of this most remarkable argument. The noble Duke, resting on Lord Grey's dictum, says:— I was right in taking the responsibility of changing the Government, and in advising the Crown to make me and my right hon. Friend succeed the late Administration, because I had Lord Grey's opinion distinctly declared that they could not go on.' How strongly does such a mode of discussion remind me of the way in which texts of Scripture are quoted and twisted to serve the temporary purpose of an argument. Now, if the authority of the noble Lord is good for anything, it is equally good throughout—if wise, he could not be wise on one question only, and of no value upon all the others. If the noble Duke may quote him, so may I. The noble Duke is vastly 98 ready to quote my noble Friend when his words help him to turn us out and take our places. When my noble Friend's name serves the purpose of the other side, they deify it; but if his name be made to serve the purposes of one side of the House, why not those of the other? I shall most unhesitatingly use the authority of my noble Friend also. I shall quote Lord Grey's authority to your Lordships repeatedly this Session. I, for one, shall not allow that there is a "single exception"(to cite the words of the Speech) "to the general tranquillity" which prevails, and to the alliance which has been cemented between the argument of the noble Duke and the authority of Earl Grey. [The noble and learned Lord was reminded by the Duke of Wellington of something he had omitted.] Lord Brougham: I will speak to that; let not the noble Duke be alarmed. The noble Duke may be alarmed at many things; he may be alarmed at the state of the House of Commons—at the vote, for example, to which it came the other night.
—Ay, I dare say, that the noble Duke rather liked it; and if the Address be rejected by a larger majority than voted on that occasion, he will, of course, like it much better. If a majority of ten was a pleasant thing, a majority against him of forty, must be four times as good. But let not the noble Duke be alarmed at my passing over for the present the part of the argument to which allusion has been made,—I shall, with your Lordships' permission, come to it, but I must take my own time. To resume, however, the course of my observations,—I was about to quote Lord Grey when I was interrupted. The noble Duke will only use Lord Grey's authority, when it will operate to justify the turning out of the late Ministry, and the coming into office of the present Ministry. Now, Lord Grey is everything with the noble Duke and his supporters,—he is their glory, their decus et tutamen; but the moment I shall remind the noble Duke of another expression of Lord Grey's, I have no doubt he will break the image of his god, and cast it from him.
It is fit, then, that I remind the House of what the noble Earl said in the presence of 2,800 persons who heard his declara- 99 tion, and by whom it was echoed with vehement applause. At that time, be it remembered, that Earl Spencer was three months older than on the occasion when Earl Grey spoke of Lord Althorp as the right-hand of the Administration. I should not have ventured alone to quote his authority, had not the noble Duke already made it his oracle. The partiality of friendship might be thought to lead me too far. But the noble Duke has set me the example; he has bottomed his justification of all that has taken place on the authority and words of Lord Grey; and I myself, am therefore justified in using the language of the same eminent individual. Now, he spoke to this effect, in the month of September last year:—"These Tories, who are now ashamed of their name, who choose to shelter themselves under the new title ofl Conservatives."—I think, my Lords, that these, or something like these, were my noble Friend's expressions. I hope that the noble Lords opposite are not ashamed of their new name,—I see nothing wrong in it. I believe, that they will continue to be Conservatives, not withstanding their present Reforming mood; and that, when they come to particulars, they will be found as much anti-Reformers as ever. "These Tories," said Lord Grey, "do they fancy that they can take the Government of the country into their hands?—let them only try it." I plainly perceive, from the movement of the noble Lords opposite, that they are ready to argue, that this phrase of Lord Grey's was an advice given to them, that they should take the Government. If they were to advance that as a reason for the course which they have pursued, I must admit, that it would be a much better reason—a much more logical one than that adduced by the noble Duke; at least, it would be quite of a piece with the argument by which it is attempted to make my noble Friend near me (Lord Melbourne) responsible for the change of the Government, because he allowed his servant to bring a letter to town, in which there was enclosed another letter to the noble Duke, unknown to my noble Friend. [Cries of "No!" "No!" from the Ministerial side.]
But I say "Yes." That was the statement given by my noble Friend,—that Sir Herbert Taylor asked him when 100 he was leaving Brighton, if he would allow his servant to take a letter to Sir Henry Wheatley? To which my noble Friend answered, that he could have no objection; and that circumstance, it appears, is to make my noble Friend liable for what was contained in the letter, of which he could know nothing; and this is given as a proof, that my noble Friend could not go on with the Government, and was anxious that the noble Duke should turn him out. The expression of Lord Grey's which I was just quoting is, however, as good authority as that adduced by the noble Duke; and what were his words? "They take the Government!"—alluding to the Tories or Conservatives; "let them try it, and they will see what the country will do—what the House of Commons will do;" and then Lord Grey proceeded to give his reasons for considering such an event—an event in his view so calamitous, as absolutely, hopelessly, and ridiculously, impossible.
MY Lords, I trust, that after what I have said respecting my noble Friend's services in the House of Commons, of the rank which he held in the confidence of his fellow-members (all of which Lord Grey by no means overrated, when he spoke of his retirement), and after stating, what I ought to have added before, that if it were possible for him to have had a more cordial support out-of-doors than he enjoyed within the walls of Parliament, that support Lord Althorp did possess,—that he was the idol of his countrymen, as he was the most approved and confidential servant of the Crown in the House of Commons:—I trust that no man will accuse me, no man will suspect me, of underrating the importance of the loss which the late Government sustained in the noble Lord's removal hither on occasion of Lord Spencer's unfortunate, but in no wise, unexpected decease. We had looked early to that event—repeatedly we had our attention called to it—long before the public were aware of Lord Spencer's serious illness, we had canvassed it, and regarded it in all points of view; we had contemplated all its probable results, and no one can doubt that as men of prudence—of ordinary prudence—in regard to the management of our own concerns, his Majesty's late Ministers must have felt., as they did feel, most deeply the loss of Lord Althorp,— not a total loss such as the noble Duke 101 seems to think, and which alone would have made the present case similar to that adverted to by Lord Grey, but simply the loss of his services in the House of Commons, occasioned by his being removed from that House, and transferred to this. But had it been the loss of Lord Althorp to the Cabinet altogether, I am prepared to state that even great as it. would have been to us, individually, as his Colleagues, and also to the King's service and the country, we were ready to meet the exigency of the occasion which must from thence have arisen; and we were prepared, without his great assistance, to have carried on his Majesty's Government. On this subject there was no hesitation,—on this point there was no doubt,—on this resolution there was no difference of opinion,—and, still worse, (for it is still falser—" if falser thing than false can be,") they who have represented, who have Glared to represent, in the face of the fact, which all concerned intimately and thoroughly know, that my noble Friend ever expressed to his Majesty a shadow of a doubt of being able to go on with the Government, if his Majesty chose to continue him in it; those persons, I say, if they have been deceived; have been grossly deceived,—if they have fancied what they have asserted, they have imaginations approaching to unsoundness of mind,—if they have invented it, then, I know no language in which, in the presence of your Lordships, I could venture to express my opinion of their bad faith. My belief is, that those inventions, be they fictions of the brain, or be they the fabrications of falsehood, or be they the errors arising in the ordinary progress of a tale, in which, from the little additions that each tale-bearer makes, being himself the bearer of a part and the inventor of the residue, the responsibility is so divided that it is difficult to say where the fabrication takes place; whatever be their source, my belief is, that they all arose in London; and that not a shadow, not a vestige, not a colour of a pretext for the fable has been ever afforded from any quarter out of the city in which I am now addressing your Lordships. What, then, becomes of the argument, that the King was obliged to break up the late Government, because those who advised him so to do, always thought that if Lord Althorp went from the House of Commons, that Government could not go on; and because they 102 chose to say, "though it did continue to go on, that it ought not to have done so;" and that Lord Grey had predicted it could not do so, under totally different circumstances, and alluding to a perfectly different event, the loss of Lord Althorp to the Cabinet.
The noble Duke asks, however, "Were not other persons as well as Lord Grey to judge of the effects of Lord Althorp's removal—was the King himself not to judge?" I am perfectly ready to meet the noble Duke on the point involved in that observation; it is, indeed, my Lords, one essential to the present question;—I mean the nature of the Crown's prerogative of choosing and changing its servants. It is the undoubted, the unquestioned, power of the Crown to do so: that I set out with; but, let us examine what is the meaning of this proposition, in order to apply it, and let us see how that prerogative is founded, in order to perceive how it is limited. In every State the public service must be provided for, and officers must be appointed by some one. Our Constitution—that of a limited and hereditary Monarchy—will not allow the principle, generally speaking, of election, either as regards the highest office of all, or as regards the inferior offices of the Ministry; descent provides for the one, selection for the other; and, accordingly, in some one power of the State the nomination to those offices must be vested. In whom is it vested? In the King. But it is a power exercised for the good of the people; it is not to be dealt with capriciously—it is not to be used as an amusement—it is not to be played with—not to be employed as a man would the power which he has of sending off one servant without notice, to gratify his own whims, and choosing another. A man might exercise this power of arbitrary dismissal if he pleased, and he would be the worse served; he would be the loser; but he alone would be the injured party; his interest alone would suffer. But the King holds the power in question, not for his own gratification—not at all for his own purposes. It is not he that is to be injured or to be benefited by the exercise of it. He is not a party to the risk—he is not a party to the gain or to the loss attendant on the exercise of the power—he is a trustee—he is himself a public servant—he is appointed and empowered for the benefit. of his people. The trust which he 103 exercises is wholly for their sake. It is not because some one should say "turn out this person and get another," that his power is to be therefore put in operation. He is not to place and displace his servants, because somebody may say—"Lord this is better than Lord that," or because somebody else may cry—"Oh! do turn out these men, and just let us have the Duke again." That is not the theory of the Constitution—that is not the condition on which the power exists—that is not the tenure by which the power is holden. So long as this power is exercised as it ought to be, it will be safely holden; and no one would think of questioning its foundation or objecting to its existence, or of wishing to restrict it; but it must be exercised soundly, publicly, and on stateable grounds. No Sovereign of this country has a right by the Constitution—(and, your Lordships will be pleased to observe, that in speaking of the Sovereign, I speak of course, only of his advisers, using his name merely to avoid circumlocution; and in reference to the present occasion, be it always remembered that those who succeeded my noble Friend were, in point of fact and of constitutional law, the advisers of the Crown, as I have already shown)—the Sovereign, I say, has no right—by the Constitution it is illegal—it is prohibited to the Crown—it is a wrong, an unlawful, a criminal act—to exercise that high function of dismissing its Ministers and choosing others, unless on grounds capable of being stated and defended. Now, my Lords, I ask, in what way has this prerogative been exercised on the present occasion? First, it has been exercised while Parliament was not sitting. In what manner has the prerogative been similarly exercised on former occasions? Since the Revolution there have occurred, I believe, but two instances of the Ministry being changed while Parliament was not sitting: both were in the reign of King George 3rd. One of them, in the year 1765, was a dismissal of Ministers after the prorogation of Parliament, in consequence of a quarrel with Mr. George Grenville, respecting the Regency Bill. The other case of dismissal was that of the first Rockingham Administration, in 1766; which having been formed while Parliament was prorogued, was dissolved likewise in vacation; and in both of those instances there was much of that kingcraft which George 3rd. 104 began early, and practised late. These cases were not similar to the present; in each of them there was a distinct difference between the King and his servants; a difference irreconcilable—not one of a merely personal nature, but one of principle; and there was also this circumstance, in the latter instance—that it was then thought desirable to secure to the Crown and the country the services of the great William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. It may be true, that there are those who think that celebrated man may be parallelled in the present day, and that some such motive existed now, though for my part, I know not who their Chatham can be. Be that, however, as it may, Lord Chatham took an earldom, and left the House of Commons, which no one ever did voluntarily, without bitterly ruing the step when he found the price paid, to be the loss of all real power. Accordingly the great Prime Minister was soon turned out; the King was advised to take advantage of his want of weight; his well-known Administration, which Burke has described as "a piece of tessellated pavement, with here a bit of black, and there a patch of white," was soon broke up. I hold, my Lords, that if it ever becomes necessary to dismiss a Ministry in vacation—and I would not go the length of saying, that such an occasion may not arise,—Parliament ought to be assembled immediately.
I will now defy my opponents to give—unless in the times of the Tudors or of the Stuarts—a single instance where there has been any great Ministerial change, otherwise than on assignable, constitutional, and public grounds. If Ministers resigned that was a sufficient cause. if they were torn among themselves by endless dissensions,—if they differed from the Sovereign,—if they differed from the country at large,—if their measures were evidently ruinous,—if dishonour abroad and disaster at home, marked the whole tenour of their Government,—any of these might have been constitutional grounds of dismissal;—and, above all, if there happened to be a general feeling of distrust and disapprobation throughout the country, that would form a sufficient ground for such a procedure. But I confidently ask your Lordships whether any one of these reasons, or any particle of any one of them, applies, in the slightest possible degree, to the present case? The King's 105 Speech answers the question decisively, so far as regards any difference between the late Ministry and the country, and so far as regards the merits and the success of measures, Ecclesiastical or Civil, and whether connected with the Administration of affairs at home or abroad. As to any difference among the Members of that Ministry, I will say, my Lords, that from the change which took place when the Administration of the noble Viscount was first formed, till it went out, there never was the shadow of the shade of a difference of opinion among them, even as to matters of detail. There was no one point of disagreement in regard to any line of policy—no one instance of hesitation in any one person respecting the opinion formed by another. Difference with the Sovereign there was none; no question had arisen which could occasion any such disagreement.
Thus, then, not any one of the reasons which I have enumerated existed for changing the late Ministry. I have stated that George 3rd. was a Sovereign well-practised in changing and making Administrations; and that measure of experience which had been little in 1766, and which, being so limited, led him in those days to commit some errors, forty years afterwards (that is, in 1806), combined with the lesson of the American war and its necessary consequences—induced him to adopt a prudent and successful course, being then advised by the friends of the present Cabinet, by a noble and learned Lord (Lord Eldon) now in this House, by the late Lord Liverpool, the late Lord Londonderry, then Lord Castlereagh, by Mr. Perceval, Mr. Canning,—all of whom succeeded the Administration which was then turned out. What took place on that memorable occasion, puts the stamp of authority on all I have stated, and vindicates the opinion I have expressed of the limits within which the King's prerogative should be exercised of dismissing his Ministers. Observe the course pursued by George 3rd. The Ministry was not dismissed without tangible and producible reason; and it was dismissed during the sitting of Parliament. There never was a greater desire entertained, either at Court, or by a party—the Conservative party, then called Tories—to get rid of a Government, than there was to get rid of the Government of the Whigs, after the death of Mr. Fox,— 106 and all the parties well knew, no doubt, the importance of that extraordinary man to his Administration. But how differently were things done then, by wiser men, and in better times! The Whig Administration had no favour at Court; the King's favour they had certainly not enjoyed since the coalition in 1784, nor had they, I presume, the favour of the Tory courtiers. Well, Mr. Fox died on the 13th of September, 1806, there being ample notice of his approaching end for two months before, in consequence of the operation he was obliged to undergo. There was no hurry,—neither public nor secret advisers, nor illustrious Dukes were taken by surprise. Did his Majesty then, on the 14th of September, on the death of Mr. Fox, act as his present Majesty on the 14th of November last was advised to do on the death of Earl Spencer? Did those great Statesmen who counselled George 3rd.—experienced, sage, eminent, and discreet men as they were,—so well versed in the theory and practice of the Constitution, so skilled withal in the arts of Cabinet-making,—ever think of advising him, because Mr. Fox was dead, instantly to turn out the Whig Administration? No such thing; no such advice was given; the Ministers were allowed to remain in office till the end of March following; not from any want of inclination to turn them out—on the contrary, there was every inclination steadily, unremittingly, uninterruptedly manifested, to employ any opportunity that could be taken advantage of for dismissing them; but they were allowed to remain in office six months longer, because the Constitution would not allow them to be turned out without some assignable cause. Nay, the King even allowed them to dissolve the Parliament after the death of Mr. Fox, although he very plainly must have foreseen that a second dissolution would thus be soon rendered necessary; and he only removed them in March, when the Catholic question occurred to create a disagreement. Such, however, is not the course which his present Majesty has been advised to pursue. It is thought that an opportunity offered, through the loss of Lord Althorp, for turning the late Government out, although no charge whatever had been urged against them—although no difference of opinion upon any question existed among themselves,—no disagreement with their Royal Master,— 107 and although they were still prepared satisfactorily to go on conducting the Government of the country.
I now, my Lords, approach another part of the proceedings—the dissolution of Parliament which followed. And here I cannot but crave your attention to the gross, glaring, and almost incredible inconsistency of the argument of the noble Duke—I do protest, that if I had not heard it with my own ears, I could not have believed that such an argument would be hazarded. The Ministers (says the noble Duke) "were turned out because Lord Althorp was taken from the House of Commons. "That was his argument. After Lord Althorp, who so deservedly and so eminently possessed the confidence of the Commons, left the lower House of Parliament, what reason, argues the noble Duke, had the noble Lord (Lord Melbourne) to believe that the House of Commons would continue their confidence under another leader? "Therefore," he says, "the late Ministry was dissolved." Crippled as they were by the loss of Lord Althorp, the Commons could no longer confide in them. That is the noble Duke's reason. But then, unfortunately, the next thing he did was to dissolve the House of Commons too. "I turn out the Ministers," says the noble Duke, "because the loss of Lord Althorp will prevent the House of Commons from following the Ministry enough; and then I turn out. that same House of Commons itself, because it would follow them too much—though they have lost Lord Althorp." There is, in truth, but one reason for turning out that House of Commons. You may disguise it as you will—you may wrap it up in boisterous expressions—you may cover it over with flimsy pretexts—you may turn periods upon it in the Speech and in the Address, and then follow them up, in debate, with a cloud of similar periods, endeavouring, as it were with smoke, to veil it from our eyes; but we pierce through the cloud—we blow it away—we know that there could be but one reason for turning out the late House of Commons. And what was that? That it did not confide sufficiently in the late Ministers? That. the late Ministers had lost the confidence of the House of Commons, having lost Lord Althorp? 0h, no, no! But the late Ministers still had the confidence of the House of Commons, though they had lost the inestimable services of Lord 108 Althorp; and that House the new Ministers would not allow to remain, because they knew what its first vote would be,—not that it could not follow the late Ministers, but that though it regretted the loss of Lord Althorp, it would still confide and trust in them. My Lords, men ought to be consistent in their pretences—if I am forced so to term their arguments. The ratio suasoria and the ratio justifica are not always the same; the one is often found to be utterly irreconcilable with the other. But, when men put forward a justifying argument, they should take care at least that it is not grossly irreconcilable with their conduct; for this discrepancy is like a rent, through which the real reason is descried. The noble Duke and those who support him, might have argued that the loss of Lord Althorp to the House of Commons caused the change of Ministry, because the Commons would no longer support the Government; they might have rested on that ground; but when the noble Duke follows up that change by dissolving the House of Commons, there is an cud at once of the whole reason; it merely occupies the place of a pretext, and cannot for one moment deceive any man of sound and sober logical understanding.
I now come, my Lords, in the natural course of the argument, to the Ministers who have succeeded the late Government, and to the grounds on which the noble Duke expects the confidence of the country. He says, that the course which he has pursued, of dissolving Parliament, is to be justified by the event, and he has expressed a hope of still enjoying the support of the new House of Commons. He looks upon my noble Friend (Viscount Melbourne) as very unreasonable, for calling on him to take the experience of this the first night of the Session, as a test of success. The test has been, however, applied, and I will venture to say, in the most remarkable manner ever recorded. I have never heard of any one instance since the Revolution of 1688, in which the Minister was defeated on the first day of the new Parliament to which he had appealed, after "recurring," as the King's Speech expresses it, "to the sense of the people." I suppose that the sense of the people is to be obtained by the votes of their Representatives assembled in Parliament; and the sense of the people has been now, in this way, shown, by leaving the present 109 Ministers in a minority, on the very day of the return of the writs, upon the question who should be Speaker? But there is a strong ground, it seems, why the present Ministers should enjoy the confidence of the people, They are, all of a sudden, now become—though ex-Tories and Conservatives formerly—Reformers; and we are told that, if we are consistent, we ought to second the Address; that if we really wish for Reform, and for good measures, we ought to give countenance and support to the present Government, for they are as good Reformers as ourselves. Since when? Is it, my Lords, since the testé of the writs, or since the result of the elections; or has it been, peradventure, since the vote with Mr. Ley in the Chair, when they saw the minority in which they stood? When, I ask, did the reforming spirit come upon this Government? They are now for Reform in corporations—in the law—in the Church—in the State—in tithes—and in the law of marriages. They are going to make marriage a civil contract, and to abolish all bans, for the sake of the Dissenters. All these things we are to have from those who, a few months ago, would not listen to any Reform,—who told us that, in proposing it, we were pulling down the Church about our ears,—who inveighed against its as revolutionists,—who challenged us as rebels,—who exclaimed that we had either fool's heads on our shoulders or traitor's hearts in our bosoms. Since when, I repeat, has this miraculous conversion taken place?—whence has it been derived? My Lords, I hope that my experience of men has not made me too distrustful of their good intentions, or induced me to entertain a worse opinion of the honesty of my fellow-creatures than I ought to cherish. I hope that, having lived so long in the world as I unfortunately have, I have not, therefore, arrived at an unkindly or uncharitable estimate of their honesty. It is, however, a result not more, perhaps, of reason and experience, than of a sort of instinct which I have in me—an instinct which I believe to be a property of our common nature—that. I feel an invincible mistrust of sudden, unaccountable, miraculous conversions. That men should at once—from being the enemies of Reform—from being the opposers of all improvement—from being the vituperators of all change—from being those who confounded Reform with revolution, anarchy, disaffec- 110 tion,—with political insanity, if not the worst political depravity—who would not touch any of the outworks of our venerable institutions of Church or State—who signalized their opinions, year after year, by uninterrupted, unabated, and pertinacious hostility to all species of Reform—regarding it as synonymous with destruction—whose conduct has recorded their opinion in the eyes of the world, and whose speeches have rung it in all our ears—whose protests have stigmatized Reform in worse language than I have to use—for I cannot forget the invectives against it with which they have so often loaded your Lordships' Journals—that these men should all at once, on the 14th of November, in the year of Grace 1834, without any intermediate event happening—any change of public affairs—with nothing but twenty-four hours' experience added to their former stock—without any time given for reflection except what elapsed between the opening and the reading of the letter enclosed to Sir Henry Wheatley, and brought by the servant of my noble Friend, without being allowed—spatium requiemquo dolori;having no time to mourn over the destruction of our venerable institutions, to grieve over the loss of former opinions, to balance conflicting emotions, and weep over the cruel reflection that that ruin was to be all the work of their own hands—that these men should all at once become Reformers,—this, my Lords, does appear to me (I use not a harsh, but a very temperate expression) one of the most unaccountable phenomena in human nature which I was ever yet called on, either as a statesman, as a philosopher, or as a man of the world, to contemplate. But it is said, "You may trust us in our conversion—this is not the first time we have changed our opinions, and sacrificed our principles, and become converts, in twenty-four hours, to the faith of our opponents." That is, it seems, their title to trust! The people have been appealed to, and they have stated the amount of confidence they are inclined to repose in the new Government. The noble Duke has appealed to your Lordships I suppose on the same grounds on which the appeal was made to the country. These Ministers say to the people anxious for Reform, "Oh, you may well trust us; you may be sure that we are really converted, because. we did the same thing before with the Catholic 111 question. Could any men, they ask, be more strenuous in their opposition to Emancipation than we had been for thirty long years? Which of us for ever opposed Reform more bitterly than all of us did toleration? Trust us, then, that we shall change our principles now as completely as we did then." To be sure this is an odd kind of ground upon which to claim trustand confidence. Nevertheless I cannot deny the facts. No doubt they were vehement in their opposition to the Emancipation within a few months of their bringing forward the measure themselves. I can bear witness to their zeal. I well recollect hearing the noble Duke and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack—my predecessor as he is my successor there—vying with each other, late in the Session of 1828, in their resistance to that great measure of policy and justice; and arguing, each in his several manner, that to repeal the penal code, was to destroy our Protestant Constitution in Church and in State. This was the view of both, at the end of one Session; and they both opened the very next Session, with declaring that the selfsame measure of destruction to the State, must be carried, because it was necessary to save the existence of the State; and, further, that theirs must be the hands to carry it through, because none but themselves could do the deed. To be sure, they begged the question here—as, indeed, the noble Duke does on all occasions; it is the mode of argument by which he is uniformly and plainly distinguished. Others have recourse to it more covertly—using it with temperance skilfully, dextrously, eloquently—I should perhaps rather say oratorically—for the noble Duke is eloquent—but, bred in other pursuits, he is not rhetorical. In them the method is always recognized, though often with some difficulty, as a begging of the question. They are like the whining, coaxing, cunning mendicants, who often gain their point before we are aware of their arts; of this sort is the noble and learned Lord. The noble Duke goes to work more roundly—less artfully; he speaks out plainly and bluntly; he begs the question stoutly—what the law calls sturdily; but though sturdy, he is still a beggar of the question all the same. Thus, to-night he tells us, "It was clear, every one knows, you could not go on without Lord Althorp in the Commons; therefore, 112 it is proved, that on Lord Spencer's death. the Government was at an end;" and so, too, in 1828 and 1829, he and the noble and learned Lord, each after his several kind, assumed at one time, that emancipation was ruin, and that they were bound to prevent it; at another, that it was salvation, and they were bound to effect it, and no one else could do so.
My Lords, I know how sonic of you will be trying to answer me,—I know it by experience of this House. By the self-same species of logic, when the arguments cannot be repelled, or the statements denied, it is thought more convenient, and it is no doubt more easy, to say,—"Oh, we have heard a very amusing speech." That is often times said, when I have exposed some ridiculous sophistry to the satisfaction of your Lordships, however I might fail to gain your voices upon the exposure. When your Lordships have been made sensible of the absurdity of reasonings too flimsy to bear handling—the grossness of pretences too hollow to stand a single glance—the glaring inconsistency of men's stories with each other—and the astonishing repugnancy of their conduct with their professions of principle—when the complete sense of such discrepancies—such self-contradictions—has forced itself on your minds, and you have felt the force of this unquestionable truth, that manifest error in argument and utter abandonment of principles in conduct become ludicrous if pushed to excess—and when I have perchance assisted you in arriving at the clear view of such mistakes and such misconduct which clothes the sense of truth and of honesty in ridicule of their opposites, ridentem dicere verum, then a feeble, a pitiable attempt is frequently made at defence, and it ends in saying that the exposition was amusing. Amusing to the parties exposed, I have not frequently observed it to prove.
In 1828, I was proceeding to say, I well recollect the speeches of the two noble Lords against emancipation. The noble Duke's was far less violent against the measure; the noble and learned Lord was, in point of vehemence, complete: that both had equal success I will not assert. There is nothing of which retain a livelier recollection than the inferior impression made by the noble and learned Lord. The opinions he then urged—the alarms he expressed—the fate he foretold to our 113 Protestant establishment from the grant of toleration, I Well remember drew forth the deepest expression of astonishment unmingled with admiration, from all who heard him, and who had been taught to expect so different a result of his former liberal and enlightened principles. Even as samples of speaking and of reasoning, neither being remarkably excellent in argument, the Duke so entirely eclipsed the Chancellor, that I felt for the credit of our common profession at seeing the soldier outdo the lawyer in his own line. But, whatever might be their relative success in resisting the question then, their conversion to it was equally complete a few months after. The noble and learned Lord was among the most nimble in that quick movement of sudden transition. He vaulted in good company—a right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), the nominal head of the present Ministry, as the noble Duke is its real chief, and a distinguished friend of his and of the establishment (Mr. Goulburn), had with others been long known for their unremitting efforts against the measure, proportioned to their ardent zeal in behalf of the Protestant cause, whose great champions they were admitted to be, and by whose support they had risen to power—all of them, noble Dukes, learned Lords, worthy Baronets, and hon. Gentlemen—all came round, or rather rushed over at once, and not only agreed to the measure of emancipation, not only withdrew their opposition, but tendered their services to carry it through, and were actually the men who did it. Now, this passage of their lives is what their friends appeal to with exultation and pride upon the present occasion, crying out—"Only see what men they are! can you doubt they will reform by wholesale? What avail all their professions and pledges? True it is, that no politicians ever pledged themselves so solemnly against all Reform—true, that none ever so deeply committed themselves against all change—true, that none, at all times since the dawn of their public lives, ever thwarted so habitually, so pertinaciously, each measure of improvement, until beaten by majorities of the Commons. But never mind—don't doubt them—they are capable of doing again what they did before—by deserting all their old supporters, abandoning all their former principles, becoming converts in four-and-twenty hours to the faith of their 114 adversaries, and carrying into execution, with the proverbial zeal of recent conversion, all the measures to resist which they had devoted their past lives." Such is the argument urged in support of the present Ministry, and to make out their title to the confidence of the country. I do not deny that there is a great deal in it—I do not question that it has an immediate bearing upon the question of confidence; it seems to me that it does go a great way, indeed, to settle that question, and to decide for ever what trust they are worthy of. But let the appeal for confidence on such grounds as these not be made to us—go make it to their old allies, the enemies of the Catholic question—let them appeal to the noble Baron on the upper Bench (Lord Kenyon), who does not so easily change his opinions—to the noble Earl near him (Lord Mansfield), who sticks by his principles though abandoned by his political leaders—to the illustrious Duke opposite (Duke of Cumberland). Those noble and consistent persons have had experience of the present Ministers; they have tried them; they know what they are made of; they can form—perhaps they have formed—an estimate of their trust-worthiness from recollection of their past conduct; and to these noble persons I refer all who prefer a claim to support on the ground of that conduct. But for me, my Lords, I am not to be duped a second time by such pretensions. Let me not be misunderstood; there was a time when I viewed the conduct of these no-popery converts with other feelings—I rejoiced sincerely in their conversion to the opinions which I had always maintained. But I now confess, and I am bound to state this qualification of my former opinion, I freely confess that I was a dupe on that occasion. Not on the Catholic question, on which my opinions never varied—not on the excellence of that measure, though unhappily too long delayed to produce its full effect—delayed until it had no grace of voluntary concession, and every semblance of being extorted by force, still I hailed it with delight; but I am bound to retract the assent I then justly and fairly gave to the defence urged by those noble and right hon. persons who had brought it forward, for the sudden, and as their adversaries said, most unaccountable—most suspicious change of opinion. Themselves said, they had become convinced 115 that emancipation was necessary in order to save the State. I had never doubted that; but they declared that they had at length arrived at a knowledge of its truth; and they added, that no persons could carry the measure except themselves; and that they retained office solely in order to carry it into effect. Not that they had changed their opinions to keep their places; but that in their places, they, changing their policy, could, and alone could, carry that measure which, at the eleventh hour, they had discovered to be necessary to the safety of the empire. I listened candidly, and not only candidly, but willingly, to that excuse. Anxious for the success of the measure, I did all I could to further it, and, in fact, I did more than I could be called on to do, as a party man, upon that occasion. No doubt, it is said that Whig leaders arc always factious, and look only to the turning out of a rival party; but I will venture now to make this statement, which I have never made in public before—that the late Mr. Huskisson and myself, at five o'clock on a Thursday evening—a very remarkable clay in the recollection of some present (seeing that they were said to have been then dismissed from his Majesty's service on account of the Catholic question)—we, having had the statement of what was going on at Windsor purposely communicated to us by a friend still living, and in a high station, took our measures accordingly. Mr. Huskisson, with that honest love of truth, and steady devotion to whatever line of policy he thought it his duty to pursue, which ever marked his course, got up in his place,—myself acting in concert with him,—both took occasion to make avowals in Parliament, for the purpose of its being known elsewhere, and preventing the dismissal then contemplated—avowals which proved that no power on earth could induce either of us to take office, or be accessory to any arrangement for succeeding those who were about to be expelled on account of the Catholic bill. I felt then, as I do now, and have already declared,—that the individual who takes an office from which another Minister has been removed, in law and in fact renders himself responsible for the dismissal, and on that principle I acted. I showed plainly that I should refuse to take office, and announced that office would be offered to me in vain, because I knew that no man could then be 116 accessory to any new Ministerial arrangement, without incurring, by that fact, the fearful responsibility of producing remediless evil to the State. I knew that. office would have been offered, not so as to render us odious in the eyes of all men if we accepted—not on the condition of abandoning our principles—not that we should succeed those who insisted on carrying the question in order to prevent it being carried—no such thing, but I knew if office were tendered at all, with what professions it would be offered. It would not be asked of me that I should come into office, and be disgraced for ever by the sacrifice of my principles. It would be offered in the same way as I know it was threatened to be offered when that most disgraceful of all proceedings, the Princess of Wales' affair was to be forced upon the Ministry, and I should be told that I need not give up my principles, and that we could carry that great measure instead of our adversaries. I, however, would be a party to no arrangement which would have the effect of removing that Government from office upon any such grounds. I steadfastly and decidedly declared that determination, and the illustrious Duke and the noble Lord kept their places to carry that measure, which they felt to be indispensable for the safety of the empire, and which they said they felt also that they could most effectually carry. Their conduct at least was suspicious, it was surrounded with equivocal circumstances. All appearances—all facts were clearly against them; and suggestion, and argument, and declaration only for them. There is, in truth, always cause for suspicion, when there is a sudden and an unaccountable change of principle, and reverse of conduct.
It is always suspicious when people change their principle and gain something—although, certainly, it may be a proof, in some cases, of magnanimity and honest devotion to the public well-being. But that is a case which should occur only once in a Statesman's life. A man may once get himself into that false position, he may once expose himself, with impunity, to such a load of suspicion; but he must beware of trying such an experiment a second time; for assuredly, no weight of reputation, no amount of public service would ever enable any one with impunity to play the same game twice. At all 117 events, circumstances now are materially changed; and if the noble Duke thought he alone could carry the Emancipation Bill before by remaining in office, and was therefore justified in resolving to carry it, assuredly he is not the only one who, in the opinion of the country, is competent now to carry into operation the principles of Reform. There might, in fact, be some excuse for the course taken with respect to Emancipation. It could then be said by the noble Duke, "I have always been opposed to Emancipation, but I am now willing to concede it, because I feel it necessary for the safety of the State." Such an apology might be offered then, but there is a wide difference, indeed, between that case and the present. How can a man say that he is an opponent of Reform—that he has done all in his power to defeat the measure—that he has assisted in procuring the dismissal from office of the men by whom that measure has been carried, but that still, now he is in office, he is willing and anxious to carry into effect the principles on which that measure was founded? Would any one place faith in such a conversion?
It is well for such men to say, "give us a trial; don't be uncandid; don't refuse your confidence until you have given us a trial." To that I will take upon myself to answer, that they have been tried all their lives; that they have been upon a constant course of trial, and their long series of trials, there many years of probation, have ended in a course of convictions—not of being the friends, but the bitterest enemies of Reform. Let me put a case to your Lordships.—Who would take his servant, in this way, or under those circumstances? A set of servants, whose conduct and whose character are known by experience, come and offer themselves for employment in a situation from which they had been turned off; they are told by their former master that he cannot employ them, as he has no confidence in them, "What," exclaim they, "won't you give us a trial? Surely you won't send us away without a trial?" "Ay, but (the master replies) you have been in my service at least a dozen years, and during that time I have for ever had to complain of your mal-practices. I have found your accounts irregular, and that the mistakes have always been in your own favour; you never would see 118 that the needful repairs were done; you let the furniture go to ruin; and the house was ready to tumble about my ears; therefore I have had trial of you sufficient; but if you want places, why don't you go to the honest gentleman that used to live over the way, and is now settled at Prague, having gone back in the world; he wants a set of servants, having lost his late ones, whom you so closely resemble, that it is a matter of doubt which will suit him best; go to him and he'll be glad to have you; but for me, I have had enough of you." It has been said, again and again, place confidence in the Ministry till you see reason for withdrawing that confidence; but does not this appear to your Lordships a joke too stale to last? What confidence can be placed in a Ministry like the present, who have come forward as Reformers? They, indeed, Reformers! But it is said, they have turned over a new leaf, they will reform the law, they will reform Municipal Corporations, they will reform the Church, they will give the Dissenters all they ask, save that which they ask most, nay, they will make marriage a civil contract, repeal the Marriage Act, and abolish publication of bans. But are not your Lordships prepared to ask, if these were their objects, why so hastily turn off the Reform Parliament? The reformed Parliament was ready made to their hand, if reform was their object. It was the child and champion of the Reform Bill—the produce of its youthful vigour, before excess had enervated, or intrigues reduced, or time enfeebled; yet, the very first act which they did was to extinguish that reformed Parliament; and why? Why, because they were Reformers, and because they wished to give Reform to the people. The real fact is, they dissolved that Parliament because it was a reformed Parliament, and because they wanted another. Again, what has been the conduct of the present Government at the election which has just taken place? Whenever it happened that a gentleman appeared on the hustings to support violent Reform measures, I can very well understand why the noble Duke should say, "Don't let the Government give him their support," for although the Government is composed of Reformers, yet it is of moderate Reformers; but where a moderate Reformer and an anti-Reformer have appeared on the hustings, I will only ask the House which of those men Government have supported? 119 Nay, they actually brag that they have got ninety or ninety-five anti-Reformers into the present Parliament, and that this was the sole purpose of the dissolution.
Is this, my Lords, a specimen of their new-born zeal for reform—is this a retracing of their steps? Alas! I fear that all that has been urged as to the inconsistency between their preceding conduct and their sudden change of opinions, will vanish into air when put in contrast with the first act of their Administration in dissolving the reformed Parliament; and their second, in opposing every Reform candidate who has appeared on the hustings. I fear that all this zeal is but of a piece with all that the same men did in reference to the Catholic Emancipation Bill. Nevertheless Parliament has been dissolved; I care not, my Lords, for all their professions; but I do agree with my noble Friend lately at the head of the Government, that anything louder or more solemn as a warning, descriptive of the feelings of the people, could not be given than the crash which has been given to the new Ministry by the results of the late elections. No man, save in the small towns where close corporations predominate, and in one or two counties peculiarly circumstanced, has ventured to come to the hustings except under the colours of Reform; the only exceptions have occurred in some county where undue influence prevailed, or in some borough where corruption existed, that required to be reformed. I shall be curious to see what Government do in reference to these places. If the Ministry are sincere I expect that the first step they take will be to reform those Municipal Corporations, where corrupt practices even thus recently have been carried on, and Members returned in direct opposition to the principles of the Reform Bill. I shall be anxious to observe, whether or no they will propose to disfranchise the boroughs from which they have obtained their anti-Reform Members. I shall reckon upon their giving up to the knife of the. Reformers, their only borough supporters. But to let that pass, I will confidently assert, that these exceptions, with regard to the character of the late returns, only confirm the general rule.
There was another class of exceptions, which, for the character of English Gentlemen and the honour of the country, I hope comprised but very few cases, I 120 allude to those candidates who outbid their opponents (when asked by their constituents what their sentiments were with respect to the present Government), in supporting extensive Reform, and in strenuous opposition to the present Ministry, and who were returned to Parliament solely on account of such professions. These men who thus outbid men less liberal of their professions, have yet had the audacity to come forward in the House of Commons, to turn sharply round and violate all those promises—forfeit those very pledges by which they had succeeded in defeating honest adversaries who did not bid so high. There is no other example of so vile a trick ever being practised on the people, and the people, I trust, will never forget or forgive it. Upon the whole, my Lords, I confess that my expectations from the present Government of anything like Reform, are very limited; and although they expect, as I hear, some support from the present Parliament, the statement of that expectation has been accompanied with very plain indications, that if they do not receive it, they will have recourse to the desperate expedient of a second and immediate dissolution. Now, although there was a sort of clamour raised a little while since when my noble Friend mentioned his understanding to that effect,—although such a scheme was not permitted to exist, and it was said that the Ministers had never held out the threat,—yet the noble Duke, when on his legs, took, I remarked, no opportunity of denying it. My own apprehension is, therefore, that some such rash attempt as that will be resorted to if necessary; an attempt, my Lords, which I will boldly say, would be an invasion upon the Constitution of the country, a direct attack on that Constitution, and a fatal inroad on the best, and only security of the Throne itself. This, I would have your Lordships observe, is far from being a chimerical notion, and I would exhort the country well to mark it. But, then, will nothing really be done against the Reform Bill? When I recollect the language with which that measure was received by some parties, on its first introduction to the Legislature,—when I know that, in one House of Parliament, it was denounced, in distinct terms, by the present Ministers and their friends, on various discussions as a measure of the most desperate tendency—when I heard them 121 describe it as planting in this country the worst despotism that ever existed in any part of the civilized world;—as a measure that would bring into the House mobdemagogues, while it excluded all the wise and good,—that would confiscate all the property in the funds,—effect the abolition of the nobility, and the destruction of tithes, and would tear the Crown from the brow of the Sovereign:—when, in one House, it was thus described, and when, in the other, it was, (perhaps not in such set terms, but in language of similar import,) characterized in a protest on the Journals, as inconsistent with the safety of the monarchy, and the best institutions of the country—nay, as fatal to them all;—when I remind your Lordships that these were the opinions, and this the language, of the present Ministers regarding the Reform Bill; am I, in your dispassionate judgment, entertaining a vague, a groundless, a chimerical, a fantastic, apprehension, when I own, I believe, that the Bill will not be safe in their keeping? I do not think that they will be doing justice to their own consciences, if they do not attempt something to thwart the working of that Bill, and proceed, as soon as they have the power, or can muster the courage, to repeal it. Why, then, I ask your Lordships to regard the question in this point of view, and to consider what ought to be—and if they are in the least degree consistent or honest—what must be the conduct of Ministers the instant they can obtain a Tory majority in the Commons? Are they not bound to work it against a Bill which they so depicted? I only know how I should feel, and how I should, as a matter of course, act, were the case mine. I will for a moment suppose myself placed in a parallel situation;—I will suppose that, contrary to all my strongest opinions, deeply-rooted principles, and powerful feelings, politically and as an individual, a clamour should arise in this country against the policy of the Slave Trade Abolition Act, and the late Emancipation, and their supporters,—I will imagine that there is a violent change in the public mind on the question—that massacres have taken place in the West India Islands—that the West India interest in this country has become depressed and about to be overwhelmed, in consequence of the ruinous state of the Colonial markets—I will suppose that so complete a reaction, as it is called, has 122 taken place on the subject of slavery, and even the slave-trade, as to be deemed by some to furnish a sufficient reason to bring in a Bill immediately to abolish the great measure of negro emancipation,—if I should unhappily live to see that day, my Lords, under the pressure even of such a dire emergency, I can answer for myself. There would be no language that I could use, which I should fail to employ, in deprecating such a step, or in raising the country, and rousing Parliament and the Government against it; nor would I refrain from agitating the empire, and even attempting to exasperate mankind against so horrid an iniquity. But supposing such a measure were to be carried by a majority of forty-four, (the majority on the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts), should I, think you, be the person to come down the next day, and say, "Here am I, ready to help you in this work of wickedness! A vote has passed against me, and I—yes I—am the man to carry that vote into operation?" Never, my Lords,—never! If the country were so sunk, so brutalized, as to repeal sacred laws founded (like the Slavery and Abolition Acts) on justice and mercy, I would say, let them try; but mine should not be the unholy hand to assist, in any way, in destroying a measure of such wise and generous policy. I might, if madness and wickedness were to triumph, be reduced for a time to despair, but I would live on in the ardent hope of being able, in better times, to undo a proceeding of such frightful iniquity. Whether I were in or out of office, I should never cease to protest against such unrighteousness, or to maintain, through good and evil fortune, that cause which I have ever supported, not for the sake of place, but from the immutable principles of humanity and justice. Supposing, on the other hand, that I had come into office again, and were once more clothed with power to make my principles effective, I should feel myself bound in sound principle—in honest sentiment—in common consistency and good faith—to labour night and day to remedy so enormous an evil as the re-establishment of a system of cruelty against which I have striven from the beginning to the end. While, therefore, my Lords, I feel that I should be bound myself to act in that way, can I suppose that the noble Lords opposite would or could do otherwise than I 123 have assumed that they would in the case I have put—as to them—in regard to the Reform Bill? Really, I am only giving them credit for acting with the same integrity that I, myself, would display in the like circumstances. It is, then, for these reasons that I am confident the noble Lords opposite would, if they obtained a majority, conduct their proceedings in a spirit opposed to the security of the Reform Bill, and seize the first opportunity after obtaining the power, to repeal the Bill. I will not undertake to say, what would be the course of the present Government, if such a reaction could he obtained as should return a Parliament to their mind; but I ought in justice to give the existing Ministry credit for consistency, and for common honesty; and I ask whether if, by wearing out the patience of the people with repeated dissolutions, or by force, or by corruption, if by these, or by other practices, they could get a majority in their favour, whether (giving them credit for consistency, and bearing in mind their denunciations against the Reform Bill)—they would not try again to reconstruct the representative system; and introduce, haply, among other improvements, a part of the old Constitution, which was declared by the noble Duke to be so perfect that the art of man could invent nothing to equal it,—namely, the department of rotten boroughs? I have heard the noble Duke and the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government declare, that the Reform Bill was now part and parcel of the Constitution. That may be all very true; but still the melancholy case is, that six years ago, the Protestant Establishment was just as much in their eyes, part and parcel of the Constitution, and just as often on their lips as sacred and inviolable; yet they passed the Catholic Emancipation Bill, which they had declared would pull down the Protestant Establishment. So when they now acquiesce in the Reform Bill, which they formerly said would destroy the Constitution introduce mob-demagogues, abolish nobility, and pluck the Crown from the Sovereign's head, why may not they hereafter set it aside as they did the penal code which they had never once blamed, but always covered over with their praises? The very same would be the result, if, some fine day, a general election were to take place, and a feeling to be prevalent 124 against the Reform Bill. Away, then would go all their professions about that Bill being a part of the Constitution. Could it be wondered at, if (a Conservative majority being once obtained,) it should be pretended that the alteration first, and then the repeal of that Reform Act had become necessary to save the empire, that the people were now against it, and that none were so fit as those Ministers themselves to abrogate it? Observe the consequences of thus taking up and laying down opinions so lightly on great questions of policy! See the result of that course which these men have been pursuing—whose principles hang about them like their clothes, who put on a belief in some great constitutional point, as a man does a cloak, to disguise or to shelter him, and then throws it aside the moment it begins to impede his walking where he wants to go. Mark, too, how convenient the testé is by which these men discover when it is right to change their doctrines! Necessity for the safety of the State—general opinion in the country! Why these arc things that we can have no standard for ascertaining, and each person may and will judge for himself; that is to say, when his interest suits, he will readily find the necessity to be urgent, and the people to be convinced. To-day the penal code alone can keep us Protestant, and all the people are anti-Catholic; tomorrow emancipation is your only panicæa, and the country has come round against the Orange party. Now Reform is part of the Constitution, and no man thinks of rescinding it; and now the evils they had all along foretold have come to pass from that ill-omened innovation; Schedule A is our sheet-anchor, and the country are tired of the Bill. All hues from orange to green, all shades from revolutionary to conservative, can, upon these principles (am I to call them?) be made familiar as the purpose of the day requires, and the country can have no security in any pledges or in any professions. But the country has a security in its own hands, God be thanked, and if it be wise that security it never will part with. To the people I will turn, (among whom there remains some value for consistency and public principle), and I will tell them,—"Never be the dupes of untried men—but never give your confidence to those who have betrayed you—stick fast by them that have been your firm friends, 125 your constant supporters—trust the men who, standing by you through good and through evil fortune, have fought by your side the battles of the Constitution—cling to those who have ever maintained, at all hazards to themselves, the rights which are dearest to you—the policy which your most sacred interests and fondest wishes have made your own—nor ever for an instant dream that the Reform Bill which they gave you, and the constitution with which it has blest you, and the valuable improvements which have already flowed from it, and the yet more precious fruits which it has still to produce, can be safe for an hour, in the keeping of those professing-politicians, now so fair-spoken, who, from the hour that the name of Reform was first pronounced, have never, till they turned the authors of it out of their places, ceased, by day or by night, to curse it and to resist. Above all, listen not to men's promises who have before forfeited their pledges; and trust not their professions of favour to a system they detest, when they destroyed, with their own hands the system they once loved, and had vowed and sworn for ever to maintain."
What may be the issue of the conflict into which the noble Duke has thought fit voluntarily to enter, as regards either the country or the different branches of the Legislature, it is not for me to say. He has often been in desperate situations, or all but desperate, and having been extricated by feats of fortune almost miraculous, he is not unnaturally sanguine in his views of things, and has a reliance upon his good star. So, for aught I know, he may be reckoning upon a majority in the House of Commons, although that Assembly would not even wait till there was a Speaker in the Chair, but declared at once against him, and rejected his candidate for the place, and made choice of ours. He will, however, try again, and I doubt not, more than one defeat he will bear and continue confident. But of one thing I am absolutely certain, if any desperate attempt be made to overawe the people of this country by force and power, or to wear out their patience by repeated appeals to their sense, as it is called, but which will speedily prove appeals to feelings and to energies of a very different kind, or I greatly mistake the nature of my countrymen—if any audacious attempt is made to set at nought the result of the 126 appeal already made, and already responded to through the people's Representatives—if that appeal, made in circumstances the most favourable to those who tried the rash experiment, shall be passed over as if it had never been resorted to—and if the Government shall now no longer be carried on as in all past times, our wisest, and ablest, and most honest, ay, and our most firm-minded Statesmen were content to wield it, I mean in respectful deference to the sense of the people, in compliance with their wishes; declared regularly and constitutionally by their Representatives in Parliament assembled; if, on the contrary, the executive Government is now, for the first time, to be administered in direct opposition to, in open defiance of, the opinions and the feelings of the people—then woe be unto them, whosoever they be, that. shall recklessly attempt to rule in despite of the Commons, and set up the Lords in their stead. For they will then set up, in this once free country, and in place of its limited and popular Government, the domination of an aristocracy universally, proverbially allowed to be, of all forms of misrule, the most execrable, while it fails even of claiming respect by its power.
My Lords, I feel bound, by a deep sense of public duty, to express my apprehension of the perils that are approaching us. In certain quarters, where power now resides, I believe that the design exists of despising the sense of the Commons, and of running counter to it, while this house stands by the Ministers. The weightiest matters are disregarded as frivolous because transacted in the other House; the most threatening indications of distrust are set at nought, because they proceed from the Representatives of the people. Your Lordships are significantly reminded that majorities in the Lords are to be considered as well as majorities in the Commons; and the declared want of confidence in the one branch of the Legislature, is to be overbalanced by the overflowing favour shown in the overpowering majority of the other. I solemnly warn you, that this is not a wise resolution—not a judicious course—not a safe principle of action. If any one thing more than any other could make this House utterly hateful to the country, it would be the fatal step of the Crown retreating from the distrust of the Commons, and seeking shelter in the protection of. the Lords— 127 relying upon the support of the nobility—while it ceased to prize, and neglected to win, the approbation and the affections of the people.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that he rose, not for the purpose of answering all the details which the noble and learned Lord had entered into, and still less of taking notice of the threats which he had so plentifully dealt in. But as the noble and learned Lord had made a charge against him which was utterly without foundation, he rose for the purpose of meeting that charge, and for the purpose of defying the noble and learned Lord to a proof of his statement. He (the Lord Chancellor) asserted most positively, that the noble and learned Lord had maligned him in the statement he had made. It was true, that he had on a former occasion opposed the Roman Catholic Bill; it was true, that at a subsequent period he supported that measure to the utmost of his power. The grounds upon which he had adopted those different courses he had upon former occasions stated; they were matters of history, and he would not enter into them. But the noble Lord (continued the Lord Chancellor) has dared to say, that I pursued the course I took for the purpose of retaining my possession of office. I deny peremptorily the statement of the noble and learned Lord. I say, if I may make use of the expression, he has uttered an untruth in so expressing himself. My colleagues at that time, some of whom are now in the House, know that we were at the time when that measure was brought in, in firm possession of the Government. My friends who are present, know the accuracy of my statement, which is this—that we were satisfied the tranquillity of Ireland could not be preserved unless we adopted that measure and changed our policy; and so far from that measure having been brought forward and supported by us with a view to preserve our places, it must be well known that we hazarded our places by pursuing that course, and that we actually resigned our offices in consequence of the course that was then taken. What right, then, has the noble and learned Lord, in his fluent, and I may say flippant manner to attack me as he has dared to do? But I pass this subject over. The noble and learned Lord has misrepresented, as I understood, the noble Duke. The noble Duke said, he 128 did consider himself responsible for the dismissal of the late Ministers; and the particular statement into which the noble Duke entered was for the purpose of satisfying your Lordships, and for the purpose of satisfying the country, that he knew nothing of the fact of the dismissal until after it had taken place; but that having acted afterwards in the way in which he did, by the law and the constitution of the country he considered himself responsible for the act. The view given of that statement was a misrepresentation by the noble and learned Lord. his quickness and his sagacity roust have caused him to understand the noble Duke, and I can ascribe what he stated only to an intention to pervert the noble Duke's statement. [Cries of "Order?"]
said, as soon as silence was obtained—I will just use the same language to the noble and learned Lord that he uses to me, if he chooses to make this an arena of indecency. When he says that I perverted what the noble Duke said, I can only say, that he has misstated every word that I have used from beginning to end, and that he has no right to say I intended to pervert.
The Lord Chancellor
said, perhaps I had no right in strictness to say, that the noble and learned Lord intended to pervert, but I have stated my reasons for the conclusion to which I came; those grounds were satisfactory to my mind, and the noble Lord has not denied the correctness of my statement.
The Lord Chancellor:
With respect, then, to the dismissal of the late Ministers, allow me to recall to your Lordships' recollections the circumstances under which that took place; and I am quite sure your Lordships will feel that if we had actually been the advisers of that measure, as we really were not, the course that was pursued was the correct and proper one. The noble Duke has directed your attention to the circumstances which took place at the time of the secession of four of the most efficient and leading Members of the late Government, and also to those which took place at that period, when the noble Earl at the head of the Ministry left it. The noble Earl was desirous of resigning in the first instance; he doubted whether at that particular moment he could carry on the Government, and in your Lord- 129 ships' hearing, he declared it was only at the urgent solicitation of his colleagues he continued in office. That was the first breach made in the Government, to use the noble Earl's language. Afterwards (continued the noble and learned Lord) Viscount Althorp retired for a time; the noble Earl then came down to the House and stated the circumstances in which he was placed, and said, that he considered the position of Lord Althorp in the House of Commons to be essential to the continuance of the Government. He stated, that that was the second breach which had been made in the Government, and that he was quite confident he could not, in the due discharge of his duty to his King and to his country, attempt any longer to carry on the Government, Lord Althorp being so essentially necessary in the other House. Everybody who heard the noble Earl, knew that he referred to the position of Lord Althorp in the House of Commons, where he possessed the confidence of the House. The noble Earl stated, that in consequence of that noble Viscount's retirement, he felt compelled to tender his own resignation at the same time that he tendered the noble Viscount's to his Sovereign. Why did he (the Lord Chancellor) allude to these facts? Because they must all have been well known to his Majesty. His Majesty well knew the position of the noble Earl; he had great confidence in the noble Earl, and he considered the position of Lord Althorp in the House of Commons as an essential part of the Government. Lord Althorp was afterwards induced to resume office, and it was in consequence of that resumption that the new Cabinet was formed. It was based upon the continuance of Lord Althorp in the other House of Parliament; and when the noble Viscount was subsequently removed from the other House, the noble Lord (Melbourne) went to his Majesty, and said, the foundation on which the Cabinet had been formed had been taken away, and it was for his Majesty in this new and altered state of circumstances to say, whether he would refer to other council, or whether he (the noble Lord) should endeavour to continue the Government. What was the point, therefore, for the consideration of the Sovereign? And when he (the Lord Chancellor) said the Sovereign, he talked of the Ministers who had succeeded the late Government, for they were the parties 130 who were responsible. Was it not competent for his Majesty to consider whether the Government proposed to be formed again by the late noble Lord at the head of it was likely to be permanent; and if his Majesty was satisfied that it would not be likely to be permanent, but might be broken up at a time when it might be productive of much more mischief than the breaking of it up at that moment was calculated to occasion, was his Majesty not justified in changing his Ministers, as he had done? He had had an opportunity of considering the circumstances, and he was satisfied in his judgment and conscience that if he had been called upon to act in such circumstances, he should have acted exactly as his Majesty had acted; he considered himself as one of the Ministers who were responsible for what had been done, and he should have been ashamed of himself if he had been called upon to advise his Majesty, and he had not advised him to dismiss the late Ministers; not to dismiss them as a matter of reproach, but because under the circumstances, and after the repeated breaches that had taken place in the Government, there could be no good ground for supposing it would be permanent if made up again, but rather for believing that it would break up at a time when it would produce the greatest inconvenience. But the noble and learned Lord had talked a great deal of the Government having had the confidence of the House of Commons and of the country. Where had the noble and learned Lord been? Where was he when Parliament was dissolved? He (the Lord Chancellor) thought he could say from his own knowledge, there never had been a measure adopted by the Crown that gave more entire satisfaction. One circumstance in proof of it occurred at that moment to his mind:—a meeting was called in Manchester, one of the most powerful and influential towns in England, to address the Crown in favour of the late Ministers; and what took place? An amendment was moved at the meeting, consisting of 10,000 persons, to address the Crown, thanking his Majesty for what he had done. Several such instances had taken place. He asked them upon what ground was it that noble Lords took upon themselves to say, that the late Government had the confidence of the House of Commons and of the country? The noble and learned Lord, as well as the noble 131 Viscount, had likewise been pleased to it charge the noble Duke and his colleagues in office with misconduct in recommending his Majesty to dissolve Parliament; but could their Lordships conscientiously say that that charge was sustained? If the change which it had pleased his Majesty to make in his councils was a proper change, and that it was an improper one remained yet to be proved; the dissolution of Parliament was but a necessary consequence, and one for which his Majesty's Ministers were in no wise reprehensible. The noble and learned Lord and the noble Viscount both admitted that it would have been unprofitable to carry on the new Government with the old House of Commons; and after making that admission, he confessed he was utterly at a loss to understand how they could, with any degree of justice, blame himself and his colleagues for advising the dissolution. His Majesty had been pleased to see a necessity for changing his confidential advisers, and if that change were necessary, it was equally necessary that a dissolution of Parliament should take place. The whole question, in fact, resolved itself into the one point: was the change in the Administration a right or wrong measure? In his opinion it was a right and most expedient measure; but, for argument's sake, supposing it were not, he asked their Lordships to say whether there was anything so very uncommon, anything so very improper, in his Majesty's determining to take the opinion of the constituency of England on the propriety of the change it had pleased him, in the exercise of his undoubted prerogative, to introduce into his Government? He hesitated not to assert that if their Lordships should come to the decision that such a course was improper or inexpedient, they would come to a decision unprecedented in the history of any deliberative assembly that ever existed. But did the result of the general election justify the noble and learned Lord in asserting that it was an unnecessary measure? Far, very far, from it. The result of that election was, that a proportion of those who were the supporters of the late Administration were rejected by their constituents, and their places supplied by Gentlemen who were known to be favourable to the newly-formed Government. Not only, therefore, did he assert that the appeal which had been made to the people was abstractedly justifiable, but that 132 it was justified by the event. So much as regarded those two points—the dissolution of the late Government and the subsequent dissolution of the late Parliament. Then as to the other charge urged by the noble and learned Lord and the noble Viscount against the Government, or rather against the noble Duke who formed a portion of it, he had a few observations to make. It could be scarcely necessary for him to remind their Lordships that, in consequence of the absence of Sir Robert. Peel in Italy at the moment it had pleased his Majesty to dissolve the late Administration, the noble Duke had taken upon himself the duties attached to the offices of First Lord of the Treasury and Secretary of State for the Home Department. This had been made a charge against the noble Duke; and, although, perhaps, the majority of their Lordships might deem them unnecessary, he felt called upon to say a few words in his noble Friend's justification. Placed in the peculiar situation his noble Friend found himself in, in consequence of the absence or Sir Robert Peel, he had to pursue one of the only two courses which lay open to him; he had to choose whether he should allow the old Ministry to remain in power until the return of Sir Robert Peel, or, without consulting that individual, to fill up the several offices of the State with other persons. Now he (the Lord Chancellor) left it to their Lordships to decide whether it would have been expedient, nay, whether it would have been proper, in his noble Friend to have left, for an entire fortnight, the management and control of public affairs in the hands of those Ministers whom his Majesty had thought proper to dismiss from his Councils? Why the adoption of such a course would have endangered every prospect of the new Government and consequently have defeated those intentions which induced his Majesty to call it together. The noble and learned Lord seemed surprised at his adopting such an argument, and therefore it might be as well he should state to them a somewhat singular fact, which he thought they would admit, not only fully confirmed his right to use it, but demonstrated that he and his colleagues had substantial grounds for apprehending the results he had stated as likely to ensue from the control of public affairs being left in the hands of the dissolved Ministry until the return of Sir 133 Robert Peel. The Great Seal, it would be recollected, had been left in the hands of the noble and learned Lord for some days after the dissolution of the Ministry. Now what was the use that noble and learned Lord made of his authority during those few days? It was, perhaps, unnecessary for him to inform their Lordships, most of whom, from their knowledge of the duties and privileges of Lords Lieutenant of the counties must be aware of the fact, that the Great Seal never named an individual on the Commission of the peace without consulting the Lord Lieutenant of the county on the propriety of the nomination. The contrary, at least, he knew had never been his practice, and he also knew that his practice closely followed that pursued by the noble and learned Earl who preceded him in the office of Lord Chancellor. But what would their Lordships suppose was the conduct of the noble and learned Lord who last addressed them as regarded that point? Why, subsequent to his dismissal from office, during the few days he was permitted to retain the Great Seal, with a view to the disposal of some cases in Chancery which had been heard before him, after he had virtually though not nominally ceased to be the Lord Chancellor, he sent for the Commissions of six counties, and not only without any application having been made by the Lords Lieutenant of those counties, but in declared and direct contradiction to the wishes of those Lords Lieutenant actually caused fiats to be issued, inserting the names of several individuals upon them. That was a fact which fortunately defied contradiction, inasmuch as the names of the individuals to whom he alluded were at the present moment to be found on those Commissions. He did not mean to say, that all this was illegal; but he heard it as an argument, and a strong argument too, against allowing the Seals of office to remain in the hands of a dissolved Administration until circumstances permitted the appointment of their successors. He maintained that it was perfectly advisable, perfectly right, and perfectly justifiable, under all the circumstances attendant upon the dissolution of the late Administration, that some person should take upon himself the duties of the principal offices of the State until the return of Sir Robert Peel from the Continent rendered a final selection of Ministers practicable. That position granted, who, 134 he asked, could be deemed more fit for that purpose than the noble Duke, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs? His Majesty confided in him the Great Seal, and in the Lord Chief Justice the Seal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; was there anything improper in that? Was it improper that the same person should at the same time hold the two offices of First Lord of the Treasury and Secretary of State for the Home Department? If so, Lord Liverpool, and, it he was not much mistaken, Lord Temple, were severally guilty of that impropriety. Were the two offices rendered incompatible by law? If they were made incompatible by law they could not be held by the same person, but if they were not so they might. Now, did the law of the land state that it was wrong for the same person to hold different offices? Certainly not. So far from it, the law provided that when the Chancellorship of the Exchequer was vacant the Seal of that office should be intrusted for the time to the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench. The law, therefore, did sanction the principle that two offices of State might be held by one and the same person; and, therefore, he contended that legally the noble Duke was justified in assuming the three offices on the dissolution of the late Ministry. Even in his own case there was a precedent for such a course, inasmuch as for some time after he received the Great Seal he retained the post and discharged the duties of Chief Baron of the Exchequer. Was there any incompatibility of duty, any impropriety of conduct, in his so doing? He would not, after the speech he had that night heard from the noble and learned Lord, take upon himself to say there was not, but if there was he was happy in having two matters to plead in his justification—first, the fact, that Lords Chancellor Eldon and Hardwicke had been guilty of similar impropriety; and, secondly—and he was confident their Lordships would congratulate him on the possession of so important a plea—the circumstance that it was at the suggestion and by the advice of the noble and learned Lord himself that he so undertook to hold the two offices. But to return to the subject more immediately under consideration; how he aked, did the noble Duke conduct himself while discharging the duties of the two offices he undertook for the time to fill? On entering upon them the noble Duke made a 135 voluntary pledge, that while he continued to hold the reins of power nothing should be altered, no office given away, no promise made, no act, done, but what was strictly and absolutely necessary for carrying on the business of the State. Now he put it to their Lordships to say whether or not his noble Friend had faithfully and fully redeemed that pledge? [Cheers.] Their Lordships by those cheers sufficiently decided the question, and therefore he would leave it, and proceed to reply to another part in the speech of the noble and learned Lord. Speaking of the measures recommended by his Majesty in his Speech, and, therefore, to be concluded as recommended by his Majesty's Ministers, the noble and learned Lord seemed to imply that Parliament might expect from the Government some measure of Municipal Reform founded on the Report of the Commissioners. Now, with all due deference to the noble and learned Lord's superior judgment, he begged to say he saw nothing in the King's Speech to justify any such conclusion. What he found stated in that document was, that the Municipal Commissioners had been conducting their inquiries; that application had been made for their Report, which was not as yet prepared; and, lastly, that as soon as it was received, it would be submitted to Parliament. There was not a syllable in the Speech to justify the supposition, that any measure which Government might propose, would be based on the recommendations of that Report. That measure would certainly depend, in a great degree, on the evidence taken before the Commissioners, and their Report as founded on that evidence; but as a Member of the Government he did not hesitate to say it was most unlikely they would feel themselves called upon to propose to Parliament a measure of Municipal Reform carrying out all the recommendations it was probable the Commissioners would offer. He did not feel, on the part of the Government, bound to give a pledge one way or the other, but he was sure their Lordships would concur with him in thinking that, a Commission having been appointed, all discussion on the subject would be both premature and impolitic until that Commission had terminated, and a Report was made. The noble and learned Lord asserted, that the present Government by alluding to the Commission in the Speech from the 136 Throne adopted it. He, as a member of the Government, denied that it did so. So far from adopting, he hesitated not to say he agreed with a noble and learned Friend of his (Lord Eldon) in thinking, that the Commission, to the extent it was carried, was illegal; and that its provisions gave to the Commissioners a degree of authority, which the Crown had no power to depute. Under those provisions the Commissions were vested with powers to inquire into the property of corporations, and to issue summonses to corporate officers to attend before them with the deeds, papers, and titles of the several corporations to which they belonged. He affirmed that to be an authority, and one which could not be acted upon consistently with the laws of property in this country. The next charge of the noble learned Lord was, that the Administration acted inconsistently with their former conduct and declarations in proposing the measures which they announced in the King's Speech. To this charge he would reply by calling upon their Lordships to look at their former speeches, and then to say what were the measures they now recommended which were inconsistent with their former conduct. First, he would take the question of Irish tithes. He begged of their Lordships to recollect if he had ever expressed an opinion adverse to the composition of those tithes. To the principle of such a measure he had been ever favourable, and if he had found it necessary to oppose the Bills at any time introduced for that purpose, his opposition had sprung altogether from objections to their details, and not to the principle on which they were based. But then the noble and learned Lord had accused the Government of not taking sufficient notice of other matters connected with the Church of Ireland. To that he answered, that a Commission was engaged in a course of inquiry upon the subject, and that until the Report of that Commission was made, it would be as premature as it would be impossible for the Government to state what it intended to do. As far, then, as related to the question of Irish tithes he denied the charge of inconsistency; and he would next proceed! to convince their Lordships, that it was equally unfounded as regarded the contemplated measures respecting English tithes. The noble and learned Lord bad been somewhat wholesale in his 137 charge of inconsistency on this point, gravely affirming that every member of the Government had on former occasions expressed themselves adverse to the principle of composition. Now, would the noble and learned Lord oblige him by pointing to any passage in any speech in which any member of his Majesty's Government ever expressed an opinion unfavourable to composition of tithes in England? For himself, he hesitated not to say he never expressed such an opinion; and he repeated, he challenged the noble and learned Lord to cite the speech in which he did.
—I never accused the noble and learned Lord with inconsistency on these points. What I said was, that the Speech from the Throne was generally inconsistent with the former conduct of the Members of the Government.
The Lord Chancellor.
—And I to refute the charge am going through the principal heads of which that Speech is composed.
—I merely stated, that the Ministers claimed the confidence of the country not as Reformers, but as persons prepared to carry Reform. I did not say that the Speech was a Reform Speech; and, therefore, the noble and learned Lord cannot with justice accuse me of implying, that his professions as contained in his Majesty's Speech are inconsistent with his professions of no Reform before he took office.
The Lord Chancellor.
—I never made any professions of Reform, but that contained in his Majesty's Speech from the Throne, and I shall prove that there is nothing inconsistent between that Speech, and any I may have made on any former occasion. The next point to which the Speech referred, were the Reforms in law, including the Ecclesiastical Courts, the Civil jurisdiction, and general Church discipline. Were these promised Reforms inconsistent with the course he had formerly pursued? Why, the very Commission which recommended those Reforms was issued while he held the Great Seal, and met with his cordial approval. Then, with regard to the claims of the Dissenters, how stood the case? The noble and learned Lord was pleased to sneer at the manner in which these claims were treated in the Speech, and had asked the question, "Is it thus you propose to remove the discontent 138 which prevails among that class?" Now, he would humbly recommend the noble Lord to reserve his sneers until the Government measures upon the subject came before the House, inasmuch as he exposed himself to their recoil, when levelling them against a Bill of the provisions of which he was of necessity perfectly ignorant. In the Speech from the Throne the Dissenters' disabilities were spoken of only so far as related to the subject of marriages; but he was authorized to state that the Government proposed going much farther, and intending to make every concession in their power, they looked forward to satisfy every reasonable claim that might be offered. He next came to the Church Commission, to which the Speech alluded. Was there anything, he asked, in the appointment of that Commission inconsistent with his former declarations? They had appointed that Commission with a view of ascertaining the practicability of several Church Reforms; but their especial object had been to ascertain in what way the produce of such Ecclesiastical sinecures as might fall in from time to time could best be applied to the substantial purposes of religion. As a practical illustration of what their intentions on that head were, he thought he was justified in referring to what the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had done on the occasion of an Ecclesiastical sinecure falling vacant since his accession to office. Immediately on his being informed that such was the case he applied to the Commissioners as to how its proceeds might be best employed for substantial religious purposes; and upon its being represented to him that the division of an extensive parish, containing upwards of 25,000 souls, would be found a great convenience and advantage to the parishioners, he at once gave directions that the division should take place, and applied the revenue derivable from the sinecure to the defraying of the expenses for performing the additional service. This was a practical proof of the sincerity of their intentions; and he might add to it that it was the determination of the right hon. Gentleman who presided over the Duchy of Lancaster, and of himself, as being the parties in whom a great portion of the Crown Ecclesiastical patronage was vested, to submit every sinecure that chanced to fall due within their jurisdiction to the disposal of the Ecclesias- 139 tical Commissioners, in order that they might point out how its funds might best be applied to the purposes of religion. This was the case he had to make out in reply to the attack of the noble and learned Lord. The charge of inconsistency, as well applied to him as to his colleagues, he denied—he denied it in toto. There was, he asserted, nothing in the King's Speech at variance with his former conduct and principles which the Government had professed. The charge was as unfounded as it was false. He repelled it as it ought to be repelled, and in doing so he could not refrain suggesting to those who brought it forward the propriety as well as the expediency of assuring themselves when about to make an accusation that they did so on something bearing the semblance of a solid foundation. What the result would be he would not presume to say; but he was sure their Lordships would do him and his colleagues thus much justice—they would wait to see what the measures they had to propose were, and judge them by their intentions and not by the speeches of their political opponents. The noble and learned Lord, as well as the noble Viscount who preceded him, had referred to the late decision of the House of Commons as conveying evidence of the sentiments of the nation. Notwithstanding that decision, however, he relied with confidence on that House of Commons for a full, fair, and impartial trial of the sincerity of the Government. But should it so happen that circumstances should prevent him from looking up with such hope to the ultimate decision of that House, he and his colleagues had another prop fully adequate to sustain and encourage them in the arduous task in which they were engaged. Need he say he alluded to the good sense and sound judgment of the people of England. That sense and that judgment directed and influenced the conduct of the House of Commons, and he felt sure that the gross factious principle so clearly developed on the occasion alluded to would never meet the sanction of the country; and if it did he felt an equal confidence that in the long run the House of Commons would see the necessity of deserting, and of following in that way which was alone consistent with those principles justice required at its hands.
said, the present Was the 140 first occasion on which he had ever heard any one beyond the merest wrangling clown, use language so confounding the difference between an erroneous opinion and a misstated fact. He denied positively having accused the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack of sacrificing his principles to retain office. What he did say amounted to this:—first, he stated the fact that the Orangemen of Ireland had accused the present Government, while in office in 1828, of passing the Emancipation Bill solely to retain office, and that he had risen in the House of Commons to defend them from what he believed an unmerited charge; and secondly, he stated, as a matter of opinion, that as a similar charge was now made against the same Ministers, he was justified in suspending the opinion or their innocence which he had formerly expressed.
The Lord Chancellor
thought that, as the noble and learned Lord had withdrawn his offensive imputation, he (the Lord Chancellor) was bound to apologize for the warmth he had evinced.
said, that with regard to one of the grounds stated for the dismissal of the late Government—the removal of Lord Spencer from the House of Commons, it must be evident to every one how different was the question of the formation of a Government, if, being still in that Horse, from political reasons he had seceded from it, or when from natural causes only he was removed to another place, from its continuance on the same principles. The noble and learned Lord had asserted, that the dismissal of the late Ministers was entirely satisfactory to the country, and he instanced a meeting at Manchester, which, however, he would remind him, consisted of the friends of Mr. Cobbett. The noble Lord, who seconded the Address, said, the people saw that there was no alternative but Mr. Cobbett or Sir Robert Peel, as they did not wish the return of the late Ministers. But there was no alternative in the question, Mr. Cobbett and Sir Robert Peel being both on the same side. The reason why Mr. Cobbett opposed the return of the late Ministry was one which the noble Duke would not wish to have urged against him—the passing of the Poor Law Bill. That was the reason why the adverse resolution was carried at Manchester. But what was the real opinion of the respectable 141 inhabitants, as displayed in the general election? They returned Mr. Poulett Thomson and Mr. Mark Philips by a triumphant majority, against the supporter of the noble and learned Lord's Government, who split his vote and combined his forces in favour of Cobbett. With respect to the interregnum, would the noble Duke have thought it consistent with his duty to take the unconstitutional course he had taken on a former occasion, when he had himself terminated the cause of misrule? Would he, or a much more popular man at that time, have ventured to take upon himself the awful and unconstitutional responsibility of holding all the offices of the State at once, and would the country have borne it? No one was more disposed to maintain the legitimate powers and prerogatives of that House than he, but God forbid that they should ever attempt to form a Government by themselves, because, if they did, they would find they had not the power to maintain it. If they looked back to the history of the country, they would find that, on every occasion, when a Government was driven from power by a majority of the other House, it was backed by a majority in this. The result of the elections in the City of London, the metropolitan boroughs, and the great provincial towns, had been entirely different to that which the new Government anticipated. Sir Robert Peel had declared, at the dinner given at the Mansion-house, that he must be supported by men on whom the country could also rely. But what had become of the men upon whose support he had calculated? What had become of Sir George Murray in Scotland, and of the newly-appointed Lords of the Admiralty, who sought to be returned to Parliament after they had accepted office? Why, they were as much scattered as ever a convoy was by a storm. It was quite true, as the noble Duke had mentioned, that we had suffered two defeats, but what would be thought of the chances of a game at chess, when against all these pieces captured on their side, they could only show the loss of one knight in Hampshire and a pawn at Chatham, the triumph of the principles of Reform was, notwithstanding, fully established by the result of the late elections. But then the House was told, that the present Government ought to have a fair trial. Had they not, however, been tried already and found guilty, four 142 years ago, of incapacity to guide the helm of the State? They were condemned by the country simply on the evidence afforded by their previous character; and if they were not fit to be trusted by the country, they were not entitled to the confidence of Parliament. Their only hope of acquittal could be grounded on the assumption of guilt, that stolen measures were to be shown as found in their possession. With respect to the question of the Irish Church, it appeared that his Majesty's Ministers had put into the mouth of the Sovereign something which implied an intention to effect a settlement of that important question. He hoped they were sincere in that intention, but he owned he felt no great confidence that they would fulfil the wishes of the country in that respect, particularly when he remembered the manner in which a majority of that House had acted on that same question at the close of the last Parliament, when a measure for the benefit of the Church of Ireland was brought in by his Majesty's then Ministers, and defeated by one of the most factious votes ever given in Parliament. The rejection of that measure had occasioned not only the greatest possible distress to the Irish clergy, but it had also produced party strife and bloodshed. With regard to the present Government, he thought, that the manner in which it was constituted was extremely objectionable, inasmuch as it was composed exclusively of men in whom the country could place no confidence; and when they declared their determination to follow up the principles of Reform, he could not but remember that the very men who so pledged themselves had, when in power, governed Ireland by coercion, and England by corruption.
§ The Earl of Ripon
said, it was his intention not to vote for the Amendment proposed by his noble Friend, but, on the contrary, to support the original Motion for the Address. But he thought himself bound in duty to state, that although he was prepared to take that course, he could not profess to take it upon the ground of giving an unqualified confidence to his Majesty's present Ministers. He certainly could not be expected to feel, with respect to the Government that was recently in power, in the same way as those who had belonged to it, or those who had felt it to be their duty to support it. He unquestionably had felt himself compelled, with great reluctance he could not deny, but 143 from a sense of positive duty, to withdraw himself from the connexion which he had formed with the Government of Earl Grey. It was impossible, having withdrawn from that Government upon a question of great public principle, upon which those who remained in it differed entirely from him, it was quite impossible that he could be prepared to give to that Government the full confidence which he had given it as long as he remained a Member of it. And he would not deny that the circumstances which subsequently took place, and which ended in Earl Grey's ceasing to be at the head of the Government, did excite in his mind still greater doubts as to the possibility of giving to the Government which succeeded anything but a very qualified support. But he was not prepared, with regard to that Government, to take any course of systematic opposition, by which the Members of it might be removed from office, unless the measures which they brought forward should have compelled him ultimately to adopt that course. Such being the state of his feelings with respect to the Government which had recently been removed from office, he could not honestly say that he looked upon the removal of that Government as such a grievance or calamity as to render it indispensably necessary for that House to express such an opinion with respect to its dissolution as was involved in the Amendment moved by his noble Friend. Now, although he was not prepared to give to the present Government that degree of confidence which he should always wish to give to those who were charged with the difficult task of administering the affairs of this country, he was not ready to declare that they were so utterly devoid of all credit for sincerity as to warrant him in taking the course proposed by his noble Friend. He must, however, say, that the course which he should ultimately feel it to be his duty to pursue with respect to the present Government, would depend entirely upon the manner in which they followed out the principles which were laid down in his Majesty's Speech, and upon the nature of the measures which they should call upon that House to sanction. His noble Friend had told them that it was preposterous so suppose that a Government the Members of which had taken so decided and unqualified a part in opposing the great measure of Parliamentary Reform could be sincere, or that they could really 144 intend to introduce any measure founded upon the principles of that great Act. Upon that he should say, in the first place, what indeed had already been said by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) himself, that be the disposition of the Government what it might, they must pass measures of that description. It was absolutely impossible for them to hope to retain their places for four-and-twenty hours (he was confident of it, from what every one knew to be the universal feeling of the country), unless they did really and bona fide make their measures such as should be conformable with the well understood wishes of the intelligent part of the public. He for one felt that it would be impossible for him to support their measures, unless they were founded upon those principles. But when his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham,) argued the absurdity of supposing that men who at a former period had objected to the adoption of a particular measure, or a particular principle, were fairly entitled at a subsequent period to claim even that limited degree of confidence which was involved in waiting to see what measures they would propose—when his noble and learned Friend urged that argument with the energy and vigour peculiar to him, he advanced an argument which would have rendered it absolutely impossible for his noble and learned Friend to have sat in the Cabinet of which he (the Earl of Ripon) was a Member. His noble and learned Friend was very well aware that he (the Earl of Ripon), whilst a Member of the other House, had over and over again voted against measures that were introduced for the purpose of procuring a Reform of Parliament. But his noble and learned Friend, and the colleagues with whom he had recently acted, never thought, that because he had been opposed to that question at former periods, it was therefore any degradation either to him or to them that he should be united with them in carrying the important measure of Reform which was passed during their Administration. In departing from the course which he had previously pursued with respect to that question, he had acted from the honest conviction of his mind. He thought that the time had arrived when the passing of an extensive measure of Reform became imperatively necessary, and he had made no trifling sacrifice of his own personal feelings and personal com- 145 fort to enable him to act up to the spirit of his conviction. But he never heard from any one of his colleagues that he was unfit to sit in the same Cabinet with them, because he had previously invariably opposed himself to every measure of Parliamentary Reform that had been brought forward. Then, again, with respect to what had been said with regard to the Roman Catholic question, the way in which the conduct of the Members of the present Government struck him was not at all the same as the way in which it had been represented by his noble and learned Friend. Indeed, when the measure of Catholic Emancipation was introduced the noble and learned Lord himself declared that he was disposed to give to the Government by whom it was brought forward all credit for abandoning their former mistaken opinions, because he was glad, upon any terms, to get that great measure carried. That was undoubtedly the feeling which at that time influenced his own mind. He did not mean to say that there were not some things associated with the carrying of that measure which brought painful feelings to his recollection, but, nevertheless, when he saw the Government of the day vehemently attacked by those who were adverse to the measure, on account of the change that had taken place in their opinions, he certainly was one of those who did with cordial good will support them as far as he could against what he thought the unreasonableness and injustice of those attacks. His noble Friend, the noble Earl lately at the head of his Majesty's Government pursued the same course. He recollected that, in the speech which that noble Earl made in support of the measure, he not only vindicated the change that had taken place in the opinions of the Government, and characterised it as wise, honourable, generous, and disinterested; but emphatically added that the conduct which the Ministers had pursued in bringing forward the question tended to confirm his previous disposition to think favourably of their general policy. Then he was entitled to argue, first, from the authority of that noble Earl; and, secondly, from what had occurred in his own case, that he was not necessarily bound to refuse to any Government an opportunity of producing its own measures, merely because, with regard to one particular measure, the Members of that Government had, at former periods, pursued a 146 different line of policy He would not enter into the question of the dissolution of the late Government, and of the late Parliament, further than to say, that it was quite clear, and seemed by every body to be admitted, that if the dissolution of the Government was necessary, the dissolution of the Parliament followed almost as a matter of course. One word upon the subject of the interregnum, as it has been called. He did not think that there was anything illegal in what took place at that time. But it had been said, that what occurred was unconstitutional, and in a certain sense he certainly should be prepared to contend that it was. Above all, he should say that it would be unconstitutional if it should be pressed to extremity in point of time; and he thought in any case, unless some such extraordinary exigency could be made out as would warrant the proceeding, it might be necessary that some Parliamentary record should be made of it to prevent its slipping into a precedent. In the recent instance he did not think that any practical grievance had resulted from it. As regarded the interregnum, therefore, he did not conceive the Amendment necessary. He came next to the measures that had been announced in his Majesty's Speech. Undoubtedly, the terms in which those measures were alluded to were indistinct, and far from being definite; and, for that reason, those who distrusted the Government might say that they were not contented with the Speech as it stood, and that on that account they wished to press the Government by interposing the authority of the Amendment moved by his noble Friend. But it was to be remembered that in a Speech from the Throne it was scarcely possible to do more than merely to refer to measures of such an extensive nature, and of which the merits after all, must principally turn upon the manner in which the principle was worked out. It, therefore, could hardly be expected that the measures proposed to be introduced by the present Government should be more distinctly shadowed forth than they had been in the King's Speech. But one thing was perfectly clear, that the measures brought forward by the Government must be such as would conduce to the harmony and contentment of the people. The public mind was set upon material and important changes, not involving, in 147 his opinion, ally mischievous principle of innovation, but upon the safe principle of remedying abuse wherever abuse was found to exist, and no Government could prudently attempt to withhold measures upon which the public mind was determinedly fixed. There was only one other point upon which he wished to address a few words to their Lordships, and that was connected with the report on Municipal Corporations. It was perfectly true as regarded that report, that his Majesty's Speech was very meagre. The Speech did not undertake to do anything at all with regard to Municipal Corporations. It left the House to guess whether any measure was to be brought forward upon the subject. He confessed that that part of the Speech would be very unsatisfactory to his mind, attaching as he did, and he believed the public would, great importance to that part of the Speech, if it were not for the peculiar circumstances in which the question stood. Those circumstances were not merely confined to the fact that there was a Commission then in force to examine into the nature of the subject, with a view to ascertain not only the extent of the grievance, but the mode by which that grievance might be redressed; but. that Commission originated in consequence of the Report of a Committee of the House of Commons which was specially appointed to suggest the means of reforming the abuses that were supposed to exist in the Municipal Corporations of the country. From particular circumstances, however, such as the necessity either of visiting the Corporations, or bringing the officers of the corporate towns to London, the members of the Committee felt themselves incompetent to the task of making all the inquiry that would he necessary before any effective measure could be introduced. They therefore recommended that an Address should be presented to the Crown, calling upon the King to appoint a Commission to prosecute the inquiry, and to report upon it. It was in consequence of that recommendation of the Committee that the Commission now in force was appointed; and amongst the members of the Committee so inviting the Crown to appoint the Commission was, he believed, the right hon. Baronet now at the head of the Government. He thought, therefore, that under those circumstances it was no matter of just blame to the Government, 148 if the King's Speech upon the subject of Municipal Reform, was not so distinct as it would otherwise be desirable that it should be. It was upon those grounds, which under other circumstances, and at an earlier period of the evening, he might have been disposed to enlarge upon, that he was not prepared to vote for the Amendment moved by his noble Friend, and that he should vote for the Address as it stood. He wished to see good measures. He was not one of those, who wished to overlook the principle of men as well as of measures; but he felt, that the very fact of having passed the great Bill which made so important a change in the Constitution of the House of Commons, placed any Government, however it might be composed, upon a footing totally different from that upon which any previous Government had ever stood. It would no longer possess the same certainty of being able to command a majority in the House of Commons; it must be prepared to expect defeat where formerly it could rely upon success; and it was clear that. under the operation of the Reform Bill, no Government, however popular, however much entitled to the confidence of the country, could now have the same degree of control over the House of Commons as in former times. If the present Government did not follow out the principles indicated in the King's Speech, they could not expect to maintain their situation, or to acquire that which they were so anxious to acquire, and which it was still uncertain whether they had acquired—the confidence of the country.
said, that his object in rising was to explain a point that had been alluded to by the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack. He (Lord Brougham) very well remembered that he had issued, or directed to be issued, four, five, or six fiats to the Lords-Lieutenant of different counties, for the selection of fit and proper persons to fill up vacancies in the commission of the peace. But those fiats were issued, or directed to be issued, about a fortnight or three weeks before the event happened which led to the dissolution of the late Government, and not, as the noble and learned Lord asserted, after that event had taken place. It was very possible, that some delay might have taken place in making the return to the proper office in London, but that delay was not attributable to him, What had 149 been said by the noble and learned Lord about the Chancellor holding the office of Chief Baron was perfectly correct. He had been called up by their Lordships, and would not sit down till he had said all he had to say. In giving the advice he had to his learned Friend, he was actuated by the fear of the Great Seal being put in Commission, which would have had the effect of closing the Court of Chancery.
§ The Duke of Wellington
begged to say, with reference to the appointment of Justices of the peace by the late Lord Chancellor, that the noble and learned Lord had made additions to the Gentlemen in the commission of the peace for the county of Southampton without any communication with him (the Duke of Wellington), who had the honour of being the Lord-Lieutenant of the county. Indeed, one appointment. had been made by the noble and learned Lord in direct opposition to his wishes. The patty was an excellent man, but he (the Duke of Wellington) objected to his being put on the Commission; first, because he was not qualified, and next because he was bound over to keep the peace towards one of the Magistrates of the very Bench on which be would have sat.
That was an instance of his rule. The noble Duke had shown cause against the individual in question; he had considered the argument, and had decided against the noble Duke. As to the party being bound over to keep the peace, so was he (Lord Brougham) himself; but that was no argument against his acting as a Magistrate. If the Gentleman in question was by some mistake appointed without being qualified, the Chancellor could remove him from the Commission; but he was induced mainly to appoint him by the good account the noble Duke (whose acquaintance he had been in India) himself gave of him.
§ The Duke of Richmond
rose to explain the grounds on which he intended to vote for the original Address, and against the Amendment of the noble Viscount. Ridicule had been attempted to be fastened upon those who wished to give the present Government a fair trial. Now, although he candidly acknowledged that he had no confidence in the composition of the present Administration—the fact of its Members having turned round upon the Catholic question, had never had his appro 150 bation, or been a cause with him for giving them confidence—but at the same time, when he found that the country had been appealed to by the King, and that his Majesty in his Speech, which was the speech of Ministers, had declared an intention of proposing to Parliament measures which he thought of paramount importance, he should feel himself to blame if he refused them the opportunity of laying their measures before Parliament. The country must gain something by such a course. If it were true, that parties were nearly balanced in the other House of Parliament, the Reformers there would have it in their power to extend the beneficial parts of the measures to be brought forward. Suppose, on the other hand, that a contrary course was taken, and that the Government was thrown out tomorrow, could a new one be framed without again agitating the country by a dissolution? If the division that took place in the House of Commons on the first night of its meeting was really a trial of strength could any one believe that any other party than that at present in power could carry on the Government? He would give no opinion as to whether it was right or wrong that the late Administration should have been removed, for he knew none of the particulars which led to its removal; still less would he give any opinion on the dissolution of the late Parliament. Whilst he was upon his legs, he begged to say, that there was one part of the Speech from the Throne which met his humble but warmest approbation. He meant that which related to the agricultural interest. From his own knowledge of one county of England, he could say, that the agriculturists had been for many years distinguished for loyalty to their Sovereign, and the patience with which they had borne a state of distress which was most alarming to the interests of the Empire at large. The King states, that he hopes Parliament will be enabled to relieve the agriculturists from some of their local taxation. They deserved this boon, which, indeed, would be only an act of justice; for he never could conceive why the whole expense of maintaining the police of the country, the jails, and discharging the costs of prosecutions, should be thrown, not upon personal property, forsooth, but on the unfortunate landowners and land occupiers. He hoped, therefore, his Majesty's Ministers would 151 lose no time in carrying that relief to the greatest extent that was consistent with public credit. He would add that he regretted there was nothing in the King's Speech, calling the attention of Parliament to the establishment of Poor-laws in Ireland; not the Poor-laws of England, but Poor-laws founded upon the principles of the 43rd of Elizabeth. That Act was based on justice and humanity, and he trusted that now the House of Commons really represented the people, it would take care that some provision was made in Ireland for the relief of the aged and infirm. He would say no more, as his chief object in rising was to prevent its being supposed that his vote in favour of the Address, implied confidence in his Majesty's Ministers. But he was prepared to give them a fair trial; he would judge them by their measures, and would not reject their boon because it did not come from the Cabinet of which he had had the honour to be a Member.
§ The Amendment was negatived; and a Committee appointed to prepare the Address.