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Title: The Constitutional History of England from 1760 to 1860
Author: Yonge, Charles Duke, 1812-1891
Language: English
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from 1760 to 1860




Mr. Hallam's "Constitutional History" closes, as is well known, with the
death of George II. The Reformation, the great Rebellion, and the
Revolution, all of which are embraced in the period of which it treats,
are events of such surpassing importance, and such all-pervading and
lasting influence, that no subsequent transactions can ever attract
entirely equal attention. Yet the century which has elapsed since the
accession of George III. has also witnessed occurrences not only full of
exciting interest at the moment, but calculated to affect the policy of
the kingdom and the condition of the people, for all future time, in a
degree only second to the Revolution itself. Indeed, the change in some
leading features and principles of the constitution wrought by the
Reform Bill of 1832, exceeds any that were enacted by the Bill of Rights
or the Act of Settlement. The only absolutely new principle introduced
in 1688 was that establishment of Protestant ascendency which was
contained in the clause which disabled any Roman Catholic from wearing
the crown. In other respects, those great statutes were not so much the
introduction of new principles, as a recognition of privileges of the
people which had been long established, but which, in too many
instances, had been disregarded and violated.

But the Reform Bill conferred political power on classes which had never
before been admitted to be entitled to it; and their enfranchisement
could not fail to give a wholly new and democratic tinge to the
government, which has been visible in its effect on the policy of all
subsequent administrations.

And, besides this great measure, the passing of which has often been
called a new Revolution, and the other reforms, municipal and
ecclesiastical, which were its immediate and almost inevitable fruits,
the century which followed the accession of George III. was also marked
by the Irish Union, the abolition of slavery, the establishment of the
principle of universal religious toleration; the loss of one great
collection of colonies, the plantation of and grant of constitutions to
others of not inferior magnitude, which had not even come into existence
at its commencement; the growth of our wondrous dominion in India, with
its eventual transfer of all authority in that country to the crown;
with a host of minor transactions and enactments, which must all be
regarded as, more or less, so many changes in or developments of the
constitution, as it was regarded and understood by the statesmen of the
seventeenth century.

It has seemed, therefore, to the compiler of this volume, that a
narrative of these transactions in their historical sequence, so as to
exhibit the connection which has frequently existed between them; to
show, for instance, how the repeal of Poynings' Act, and the Regency
Bill of 1788, necessitated the Irish Union; how Catholic Emancipation
brought after it Parliamentary Reform, and how that led to municipal and
ecclesiastical reforms, might not be without interest and use at the
present time. And the modern fulness of our parliamentary reports
(itself one not unimportant reform and novelty), since the accession of
George III., has enabled him to give the inducements or the objections
to the different enactments in the very words of the legislators who
proposed them or resisted them, as often as it seemed desirable to do



Mr. Hallam's View of the Development of the Constitution.--Symptoms of
approaching Constitutional Changes.--State of the Kingdom at the
Accession of George III.--Improvement of the Law affecting the
Commissions of the Judges.--Restoration of Peace.--Lord Bute becomes
Minister.--The Case of Wilkes.--Mr. Luttrell is Seated for Middlesex by
the House of Commons.--Growth of Parliamentary Reporting.--Mr.
Grenville's Act for trying Election Petitions.--Disfranchisement of
Corrupt Voters at New Shoreham.


The Regency Bill.--The Ministry of 1766 lay an Embargo on Corn.--An Act
of Indemnity is Passed.--The _Nullum Tempus_ Act concerning Crown
Property; it is sought to Extend it to Church Property, but the Attempt
fails.--The Royal Marriage Act.--The Lords amend a Bill imposing Export
Duties, etc., on Corn.


Mr. Grenville imposes a Duty on Stamps in the North American
Colonies.--Examination of Dr. Franklin.--Lord Rockingham's Ministry
Repeals the Duty.--Lord Mansfield affirms a Virtual Representation in
the Colonies.--Mr. C. Townsend imposes Import Duties in America.--After
some Years, the Civil War breaks out.--Hanoverian Troops are sent to
Gibraltar.--The Employment of Hanoverian Regiments at Gibraltar and
Minorca.--End of the War.--Colonial Policy of the Present
Reign.--Complaints of the Undue Influence of the Crown.--Motions for
Parliamentary Reform.--Mr. Burke's Bill for Economical Reform.--Mr.
Dunning's Resolution on the Influence of the Crown.--Rights of the Lords
on Money-bills.--The Gordon Riots.


Changes of Administration.--The Coalition Ministry.--The Establishment
of the Prince of Wales.--Fox's India Bill.--The King Defeats it by the
Agency of Lord Temple.--The Ministry is Dismissed, and Succeeded by Mr.
Pitt's Administration.--Opposition to the New Ministry in the House of
Commons.--Merits of the Contest between the Old and the New
Ministry.--Power of Pitt.--Pitt's India Bill.--Bill for the Government
of Canada.--The Marriage of the Prince of Wales to Mrs.
Fitzherbert.--The King becomes Deranged.--Proposal of a
Regency.--Opinions of Various Writers on the Course adopted.--Spread of
Revolutionary Societies and Opinions.--Bills for the Repression of
Sedition and Treason.--The Alien Act.--The Traitorous Correspondence
Act.--Treason and Sedition Bills.--Failure of some Prosecutions under


The Affairs of Ireland.--Condition of the Irish Parliament.--The
Octennial Bill.--The Penal Laws.--Non-residence of the Lord-
lieutenant.--Influence of the American War on Ireland.--Enrolment of the
Volunteers.--Concession of all the Demands of Ireland.--Violence of the
Volunteers.--Their Convention.--Violence of the Opposition in
Parliament: Mr. Brownlow, Mr. Grattan, Mr. Flood.--Pitt's Propositions
Fail.--Fitzgibbon's Conspiracy Bill.--Regency Question.--Recovery of the
King.--Question of a Legislative Union.--Establishment of Maynooth
College.--Lord Edward Fitzgerald.--Arguments for and against the
Union.--It passes the Irish Parliament.--Details of the Measure.--
General Character of the Union.--Circumstances which Prevented
its Completeness.


A Census is Ordered.--Dissolution of Pitt's Administration.--Impeachment
of Lord Melville.--Introduction of Lord Ellenborough into the
Cabinet.--Abolition of the Slave-trade.--Mr. Windham's Compulsory
Training Bill.--Illness of the King, and Regency.--Recurrence to the
Precedent of 1788-'89.--Death of Mr. Perceval.--Lord Liverpool becomes
Prime-minister.--Question of Appointments in the Household.--Appointment
of a Prime-minister.


The Toleration Act.--Impropriety of making Catholic Emancipation (or any
other Important Matter) an Open Question.--Joint Responsibility of all
the Ministers.--Detention of Napoleon at St. Helena.--Question whether
the Regent could Give Evidence in a Court of Law in a Civil
Action.--Agitation for Reform.--Public Meetings.--The Manchester
Meeting.--The Seditious Meetings Prevention Bill.--Lord Sidmouth's Six


Survey of the Reign of George III.--The Cato Street Conspiracy.--The
Queen's Return to England, and the Proceedings against her.--The King
Visits Ireland and Scotland.--Reform of the Criminal Code.--Freedom of
Trade.--Death of Lord Liverpool.--The Duke of Wellington becomes
Prime-minister.--Repeal of the Test and Corporation Act.--O'Connell is
Elected for Clare.--Peel Resigns his Seat for Oxford.--Catholic
Emancipation.--Question of the Endowment of the Roman Catholic
Clergy.--Constitutional Character of the Emancipation.--The Propriety of
Mr. Peel's Resignation of his Seat for Oxford Questioned.


Demand for Parliamentary Reform.--Death of George IV., and Accession of
William IV.--French Revolution of 1830.--Growing Feeling in Favor of
Reform.--Duke of Wellington's Declaration against Reform.--His
Resignation: Lord Grey becomes Prime-minister.--Introduction of the
Reform Bill.--Its Details.--Riots at Bristol and Nottingham.--Proposed
Creation of Peers.--The King's Message to the Peers.--Character and
Consequences of the Reform Bill.--Appointment of a Regency.--
Re-arrangement of the Civil List.


Abolition of Slavery.--Abridgment of the Apprenticeship.--The East India
Company's Trade is Thrown Open.--Commencement of Ecclesiastical
Reforms.--The New Poor-law.--State of Ireland.--Agitation against
Tithes.--Coercion Bill.--Beginning of Church Reform.--Sir Robert Peel
becomes Prime-minister.--Variety of Offices held Provisionally by the
Duke of Wellington.--Sir Robert Peel Retires, and Lord Melbourne Resumes
the Government.--Sir Robert Peel Proposes a Measure of Church
Reform.--Municipal Reform.--Measures of Ecclesiastical Reform.


Death of William IV., and Accession of Queen Victoria.--Rise of the
Chartists.--Resignation of Lord Melbourne in 1839, and his Resumption of
Office.--Marriage of the Queen, and Consequent Arrangements.--The
Precedence of the Prince, etc.--Post-office Reform.--War in
Afghanistan.--Discontent in Jamaica.--Insurrection in Canada.--New
Constitution for Canada and other Colonies.--Case of Stockdale and


Sir Robert Peel becomes Prime-minister.--Commercial
Reforms.--Free-trade.--Religious Toleration.--Maynooth.--The Queen's
University.--Post-office Regulations.--The Opening of Letters.--
Naturalization of Aliens.--Recall of Lord Ellenborough.--Reversal of the
Vote on the Sugar Duties.--Refusal of the Crown to Sanction a Bill.--The
Question of Increase in the Number of Spiritual Peers.--Repeal of the
Corn-laws.--Revolution in France, and Agitation on the Continent.--Death
of Sir Robert Peel.--Indifference of the Country to Reform.--Repeal of
the Navigation Laws.--Resolutions in Favor of Free-trade.--The Great
Exhibition of 1851.


Dismissal of Lord Palmerston.--Theory of the Relation between the
Sovereign and the Cabinet.--Correspondence of the Sovereign with French
Princes.--Russian War.--Abolition of the Tax on Newspapers.--Life
Peerages.--Resignation of two Bishops.--Indian Mutiny.--Abolition of the
Sovereign Power of the Company.--Visit of the Prince of Wales to
India.--Conspiracy Bill.--Rise of the Volunteers.--National
Fortifications.--The Lords Reject the Measure for the Repeal of the
Paper-duties.--Lord Palmerston's Resolutions.--Character of the Changes
during the last Century.




Mr. Hallam's View of the Development of the Constitution.--Symptoms of
approaching Constitutional Changes.--State of the Kingdom at the
Accession of George III.--Improvement of the Law affecting the
Commissions of the Judges.--Restoration of Peace.--Lord Bute becomes
Minister.--The Case of Wilkes.--Mr. Luttrell is Seated for Middlesex by
the House of Commons.--Growth of Parliamentary Reporting.--Mr.
Grenville's Act for trying Election Petitions.--Disfranchisement of
Corrupt Voters at New Shoreham.

The learned and judicious writer to whom is due the first idea of a
"Constitutional History of England," and of whose admirable work I here
venture to offer a continuation, regards "the spirit of the government"
as having been "almost wholly monarchical till the Revolution of 1688,"
and in the four subsequent reigns, with the last of which his volumes
close, as "having turned chiefly to an aristocracy."[1] And it may be
considered as having generally preserved that character through the long
and eventful reign of George III. But, even while he was writing, a
change was already preparing, of which more than one recent occurrence
had given unmistakable warning. A borough had been disfranchised for
inveterate corruption in the first Parliament of George IV.[2] Before
its dissolution, the same House of Commons had sanctioned the principle
of a state endowment of the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland, and had
given a third reading to a bill for the abolition of all civil
restrictions affecting members of that religion. It was impossible to
avoid foreseeing that the Parliamentary Reform inaugurated by the
disfranchisement of Grampound would soon be carried farther, or that the
emancipation, as it was termed, of all Christian sects was at least
equally certain not to be long delayed. And it will be denied by no one
that those measures, which had no very obscure or doubtful connection
with each other, have gradually imparted to the constitution a far more
democratic tinge than would have been willingly accepted by even the
most liberal statesman of the preceding century, or than, in the days of
the Tudors or of the Stuarts, would have been thought compatible with
the maintenance of the monarchy.

When George III. came to the throne, he found the nation engaged in a
war which was occupying its arms not only on the Continent of Europe,
but in India and America also, and was extending her glory and her
substantial power in both hemispheres. _Inter arma silent leges_. And,
while the contest lasted, neither legislators in Parliament nor the
people outside had much attention to spare for matters of domestic
policy. Yet the first year of the new reign was not suffered to pass
without the introduction of one measure limiting the royal prerogative
in a matter of paramount importance to the liberty of the people, the
independence of the judges. The rule of making the commissions of the
judges depend on their good conduct instead of on the pleasure of the
crown had, indeed, been established at the Revolution; but it was still
held that these commissions expired with the life of the sovereign who
had granted them; and, at the accession of Anne, as also at that of
George II., a renewal of their commissions had been withheld from some
members of the judicial bench. But now, even before the dissolution of
the existing Parliament, the new King recommended to it such a change in
the law as should "secure the judges in the enjoyment of their offices
during their good behavior, notwithstanding any demise of the crown;"
giving the proposal, which was understood to have been originally
suggested by himself, additional weight by the very unusual step of
making it the subject of a speech to the two Houses in the middle of the
session. A bill to give effect to it was at once brought in, and, though
the Houses sat only a fortnight longer, was carried before the

The close of the year 1762, however, saw the restoration of peace; and
the circumstances connected with the treaty which re-established it gave
birth to a degree of political and constitutional excitement such as had
not agitated the kingdom for more than half a century. That treaty had
not been concluded by the minister who had conducted the war. When
George III. came to the throne he found the Duke of Newcastle presiding
at the Treasury, but the seals of one Secretary of State in the hands of
Mr. Pitt, who was universally regarded as the guiding genius of the
ministry. The other Secretary of State was Lord Holdernesse. But, in the
spring of 1761, as soon as the Parliament was dissolved,[3] that
statesman retired from office, and was succeeded by the Earl of Bute, a
Scotch nobleman, who stood high in the favor of the King's mother, the
Princess Dowager of Wales, but who had not till very recently been
supposed to be actuated by political ambition, and who was still less
suspected of any statesman-like ability to qualify him for the office to
which he was thus promoted. It was presently seen, however, that he
aspired to even higher dignity. He at once set himself to oppose Pitt's
warlike policy; and, on the question of declaring war against Spain, he
was so successful in inducing the rest of the cabinet to reject Pitt's
proposals, that that statesman resigned his office in unconcealed
indignation. Having got rid of the real master of the ministry, Bute's
next step was to get rid of its nominal chief, and in the spring of 1762
he managed to drive the Duke of Newcastle from the Treasury, and was
himself placed by the King at the head of the administration. So rapid
an elevation of a man previously unknown as a politician could hardly
fail to create very widespread dissatisfaction, which was in some degree
augmented by the nationality of the new minister. Lord Bute was a
Scotchman, and Englishmen had not wholly forgiven or forgotten the
Scotch invasion of 1745. Since that time the Scotch had been regarded
with general disfavor; Scotch poverty and Scotch greediness for the good
things of England had furnished constant topics for raillery and
sarcasm; and more than one demagogue and political writer had sought
popularity by pandering to the prevailing taste for attacks on the whole
nation. Foremost among these was Mr. John Wilkes, member for Aylesbury,
a man of broken fortunes and still more damaged character, but of a wit
and hardihood that made his society acceptable to some of high rank and
lax morality, and caused his political alliance to be courted by some
who desired to be regarded as leaders of a party; many of the
transactions of the late reign having, unfortunately, not been favorable
to the maintenance of any high standard of either public or private
virtue. On Lord Bute's accession to office, Wilkes had set up a
periodical paper, whose object and character were sufficiently indicated
by its title, _The North Briton_, and in which the diligence of Lord
Bute in distributing places among his kinsmen and countrymen furnished
the staple of almost every number; while in many the Princess of Wales
herself was not spared, as the cause, for motives not obscurely hinted
at, of his sudden elevation. So pertinacious and virulent were the
attacks thus launched at him, coinciding as they did, at least in one
point, with the prejudices of the multitude, that they were commonly
believed to have had some share in driving Lord Bute from office, which,
in the spring of 1763, he suddenly resigned, hoping, as it might almost
seem, thus to throw on his successor the burden of defending his
measures. The most important of these measures had been the conclusion
of the Treaty of Versailles, which, when it was first announced to
Parliament, had been vehemently attacked in both Houses by Pitt and his
followers, but had been approved by large majorities. Wilkes, however,
not without reason, believed it to be still unpopular with the nation at
large, and, flushed with his supposed victory over Lord Bute, was
watching eagerly for some occasion of re-opening the question, when such
an opportunity was afforded him by the King's speech at the prorogation
of the Parliament, which took place a few days after Lord Bute's

Lord Bute had been succeeded by Mr. George Grenville, who had for a time
been one of his colleagues as Secretary of State; and on him, therefore,
the duty devolved of framing the royal speech the opening sentences of
which referred to "the re-establishment of peace" in terms of warm
self-congratulation, as having been effected "upon conditions honorable
to the crown and beneficial to the people." Wilkes at once caught at
this panegyric, as affording him just such an opportunity as he had been
seeking of renewing his attacks on the government, which he regarded as
changed in nothing but the name of the Prime-minister.[4] And, four days
after the prorogation,[5] he accordingly issued a new number of _The
North Briton_ (No. 45), in which he heaped unmeasured sarcasm and
invective on the peace itself, on the royal speech, and on the minister
who had composed it. As if conscious that Mr. Grenville was less
inclined by temper than Lord Bute to suffer such attacks without
endeavoring to retaliate, he took especial pains to keep within the law
in his strictures, and, accordingly, carefully avoided saying a
disrespectful word of the King himself, whom he described as "a prince
of many great and amiable qualities," "ever renowned for truth, honor,
and unsullied virtue." But he claimed a right to canvass the speech
"with the utmost freedom," since "it had always been considered by the
Legislature and by the public at large as the speech of the minister."
And he kept this distinction carefully in view through the whole number.
The speech he denounced with bitter vehemence, as "an abandoned instance
of ministerial effrontery," as containing "the most unjustifiable public
declarations" and "infamous fallacies." The peace he affirmed to be
"such as had drawn down the contempt of mankind on our wretched
negotiators." And he described the present minister as a mere tool of
"the favorite," by whom "he still meditated to rule the kingdom with a
rod of iron." But in the whole number there was but one sentence which
could be represented as implying the very slightest censure on the King
himself, and even that was qualified by a personal eulogy. "The King of
England," it said, "is not only the first magistrate of the country, but
is invested by the law with the whole executive power. He is, however,
responsible to his people for the due execution of the royal functions
in the choice of ministers, etc., equally with the meanest of his
subjects in his particular duty. The personal character of our present
amiable sovereign makes us easy and happy that so great a power is
lodged in such hands; but the favorite has given too just cause for him
to escape the general odium. The prerogative of the crown is to exert
the constitutional power intrusted to it in such a way, not of blind
favor and partiality, but of wisdom and judgment. This is the spirit of
our constitution. The people, too, have their prerogative; and I hope
the fine words of Dryden will be engraven on our hearts, 'Freedom is the
English subject's prerogative.'"

These were the last sentences of No. 45. And in the present day it will
hardly be thought that, however severe or even violent some of the
epithets with which certain sentences of the royal speech were assailed
may have been, the language exceeds the bounds of allowable political
criticism. With respect to the King, indeed, however accompanied with
personal compliments to himself those strictures may have been, it may
be admitted that in asserting any responsibility whatever to the people
on the part of the sovereign, even for the choice of his ministers, as
being bound to exercise that choice "with wisdom and judgment," it goes
somewhat beyond the strict theory of the constitution. Undoubtedly that
theory is, that the minister chosen by the King is himself responsible
for every circumstance or act which led to his appointment. This
principle was established in the fullest manner in 1834, when, as will
be seen hereafter, Sir Robert Peel admitted his entire responsibility
for the dismissal of Lord Melbourne by King William IV., though it was
notorious that he was in Italy at the time, and had not been consulted
on the matter. But as yet such questions had not been as accurately
examined as subsequent events caused them to be; and Wilkes's assertion
of royal responsibility to this extent probably coincided with the
general feeling on the subject.[6] At all events, the error contained in
it, and the insinuation that due wisdom and judgment had not been
displayed in the appointment of Mr. G. Grenville to the Treasury, were
not so derogatory to the legitimate authority and dignity of the crown
as to make the writer a fit subject for a criminal prosecution. But Mr.
Grenville was of a bitter temper, never inclined to tolerate any
strictures on his own judgment or capacity, and fully imbued with the
conviction that the first duty of an English minister is to uphold the
supreme authority of the Parliament, and to chastise any one who dares
to call in question the wisdom of any one of its resolutions. But _The
North Briton_ had done this, and more. No. 45 had not only denounced the
treaty which both Houses had approved, but had insinuated in
unmistakable language that their approval had been purchased by gross
corruption (a fact which was, indeed, sufficiently notorious). And,
consequently, Mr. Grenville determined to treat the number which
contained the denunciation as a seditious libel, the publication of
which was a criminal offence; and, by his direction, Lord Halifax, as
Secretary of State, issued what was termed a general warrant--a warrant,
that is, which did not name the person or persons against whom it was
directed, but which commanded the apprehension of "the authors,
printers, and publishers" of the offending paper, leaving the officers
who were charged with its execution to decide who came under that
description, or, in other words, who were guilty of the act charged,
before they had been brought before any tribunal. The warrant was
executed. Wilkes and some printers were apprehended; Wilkes himself, as
if the minister's design had been to make the charge ridiculous by
exaggeration, being consigned to the great state-prison of the Tower,
such a use of which was generally limited to those impeached of
high-treason. And, indeed, the commitment did declare that No. 45 of
_The North Briton_ was "a libel tending to alienate the affections of
the people from his Majesty, and to excite them to traitorous
insurrections against the government." Wilkes instantly sued out a writ
of _habeas corpus_, and was without hesitation released by the Court of
Common Pleas, on the legal ground that, "as a member of the House of
Commons, he was protected from arrest in all cases except treason,
felony, or a breach of the peace;" a decision which, in the next session
of Parliament, the minister endeavored to overbear by inducing both
Houses to concur in a resolution that "privilege of Parliament did not
extend to the case of publishing seditious libels."

In his life of Lord Camden,[7] who was Chief-justice of the Common Pleas
at the time, Lord Campbell expresses a warm approval of this resolution,
as one "which would now be considered conclusive evidence of the law."
But, with all respect to the memory of a writer who was himself a
Chief-justice, we suspect that in this case he was advancing a position
as an author engaged in the discussion of what had become a party
question, which he would not have laid down from the Bench.[8] The
resolution certainly did not make it law, since it was not confirmed by
any royal assent; and to interpret the law is not within the province of
the House of Commons, nor, except when sitting as a Court of Appeal, of
the House of Lords. We may, however, fully agree with the principle
which Lord Campbell at the same time lays down, that "privilege of
Parliament should not be permitted to interfere with the execution of
the criminal law of the country." And this doctrine has been so fully
acquiesced in since, that members of both Houses have in more than one
instance been imprisoned on conviction for libel.

The legality of the species of warrant under which Wilkes had been
arrested was, however, a question of far greater importance; and on that
no formal decision was pronounced on this occasion, the Lieutenant of
the Tower, in his return to the writ of _habeas corpus_, and the counsel
employed on both sides, equally avoiding all mention of the character of
the warrant. But it was indirectly determined shortly afterward. The
leaders of the Opposition would fain have had the point settled by what,
in truth, would not have settled it--another resolution of the House of
Commons. But, though it was discussed in several warm debates, Grenville
always contrived to baffle his adversaries, though on one occasion his
majority dwindled to fourteen.[9] What, however, the House of Commons
abstained from affirming was distinctly, though somewhat
extra-judicially, asserted by Lord Camden, as Chief-justice of the
Common Pleas. Wilkes, with some of the printers and others who had been
arrested, had brought actions for false imprisonment, which came to be
tried in his court; and they obtained such heavy damages that the
officials who had been mulcted applied for new trials, on the plea of
their being excessive. But the Chief-justice refused the applications,
and upheld the verdict, on the ground that the juries, in their
assessment of damages, had been "influenced by a righteous indignation
at the conduct of those who sought to exercise arbitrary power over all
the King's subjects, to violate Magna Charta, and to destroy the liberty
of the kingdom, by insisting on the legality of this general warrant."
Such a justification would hardly be admitted now. But, in a subsequent
trial, a still higher authority, the Chief-justice of the King's Bench,
Lord Mansfield, held language so similar, that, once more to quote the
words of Lord Campbell, "without any formal judgment, general warrants
have ever since been considered illegal."

However, the release of Wilkes on the ground of his parliamentary
privilege gave him but a momentary triumph, or rather respite. The
prosecution was not abated by the decision that he could not be
imprisoned before trial; while one effect of his liberation was to
stimulate the minister to add another count to the indictment preferred
against him, on which he might be expected to find it less easy to
excite the sympathy of any party. Wilkes had not always confined his
literary efforts to political pamphlets. There was a club named the
Franciscans (in compliment to Sir Francis Dashwood, Lord Bute's
Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, as well as Lord Sandwich, the First
Lord of the Admiralty, was one of its members), which met at Medmenham
Abbey, on the banks of the Thames, and there held revels whose license
recalled the worst excesses of the preceding century. To this club
Wilkes also belonged; and, in indulgence of tastes in harmony with such
a brotherhood, he had composed a blasphemous and indecent parody on
Pope's "Essay on Man," which he entitled "An Essay on Woman," and to
which he appended a body of burlesque notes purporting to be the
composition of Pope's latest commentator, the celebrated Dr. Warburton,
Bishop of Gloucester. He had never published it (indeed, it may be
doubted whether, even in that not very delicate age, any publisher could
have been found to run the risk of issuing so scandalous a work), but he
had printed a few copies in his own house, of which he designed to make
presents to such friends as he expected to appreciate it. He had not,
however, so far as it appears, given away a single copy, when, on the
very first day of the next session of Parliament, Lord Sandwich himself
brought the parody under the notice of the House of Lords. If there was
a single member of the House whose delicacy was not likely to be
shocked, and whose morals could not be injured by such a composition, it
was certainly Lord Sandwich himself; but his zeal as a minister to
support his chief kindled in him a sudden enthusiasm for the support of
virtue and decency also; and, having obtained a copy by some
surreptitious means, he now made a formal complaint of it to the House,
contending that the use of the name of the Bishop of Gloucester as
author of the notes constituted a breach of the privileges of the House.
And he was seconded by the bishop himself, whose temper and judgment
were, unhappily, very inferior to his learning and piety. It is recorded
that he actually compared Wilkes to the devil, and then apologized to
Satan for the comparison. But the Lords were in a humor to regard no
violence against Wilkes as excessive; and, submitting to the guidance of
the minister and the prelate, resolved that the "Essay on Woman,"[10] as
also another poem by the same writer, a paraphrase of the "Veni
Creator," was "a most scandalous, obscene, and impious libel," and
presented an address to the King, requesting his Majesty "to give the
most effectual orders for the immediate prosecution of the author." And,
in the course of the next few weeks, the House of Commons outran the
peers themselves in violence and manifest unfairness. They concurred
with the Lords in ordering No. 45 of _The North Briton_ to be burnt by
the common hangman, an order which was not carried out without great
opposition on the part of the London populace, who made it the occasion
of a very formidable riot, in which the sheriffs themselves incurred no
little danger; and, by another resolution, they ordered Wilkes to attend
in his place to answer the charge of having published the two works. But
at the time when they made this order it was well known that he could
not obey it. A few days before he had been challenged by a Mr. Martin,
who till very recently had been one of the Secretaries of the Treasury,
and who was generally believed to have prepared himself for the conflict
by diligent practice with a pistol; and in the duel which ensued Wilkes
had been severely wounded. It was not only notorious that he had been
thus disabled, but he sent a physician and surgeon of admitted eminence
in their profession, and of unquestioned honor, to testify to the fact
at the bar of the House; and subsequently he forwarded written
certificates to the same purport from some French doctors who had
special knowledge of gunshot wounds. But the Commons declined to accept
this evidence as sufficient, and directed two other doctors to examine
him. Wilkes, however, refused to admit them: his refusal was treated as
a sufficient ground for pronouncing him "guilty of a contempt of the
authority of the House," and for deciding on his case in his absence;
and, on the 19th of January, before the case had come on for trial, a
resolution was carried that "Mr. Wilkes was guilty of writing and
publishing _The North Briton_ (No. 45), which this House had voted to be
a false, scandalous, and seditious libel, and that, for the said
offence, he be expelled the House." At a later period of the year, he
was tried on the two charges of publishing No. 45 and the "Essay on
Woman," was found guilty of both, and, as he did not appear to receive
judgment, in November, 1764, he was outlawed.

So far, it may be said to have been a drawn battle. If, on the one hand,
the minister had procured the expulsion of Wilkes, on the other hand
Wilkes had gained great notoriety and a certain amount of sympathy, and
had, moreover, enriched himself by considerable damages; and again, if
the nation at large was a gainer by the condemnation of general
warrants, even that advantage might be thought to be dearly gained by
the discredit into which the Parliament had fallen through its
intemperance. But the contest between Wilkes and the ministry was only
closed for a time; and when it was revived, a singular freak of fortune
caused the very minister who had led the proceedings against him on this
occasion to appear as his advocate. To avoid the consequences of his
outlawry, he had taken up his abode in Paris, waiting for a change of
ministry, which, as he hoped, might bring into power some to whom he
might look for greater favor. But when, though in the course of the next
two years two fresh administrations were formed, it was seen that
neither Lord Rockingham, the head of the first, nor the Duke of Grafton
and Mr. Pitt (promoted to the Earldom of Chatham), the heads of the
second, had any greater sympathy with him than Mr. Grenville, he became
desperate, and looked out for some opportunity of giving effect to his
discontent. He found it in the dissolution of Parliament, which took
place in the spring of 1768. In spite of his outlawry, he instantly
returned to England, and offered himself as a candidate for London.
There, indeed, he did not succeed, though the populace was uproarious in
his support, and drew his carriage through the streets as if in triumph.
But, before the end of the month, he was returned at the head of the
poll for Middlesex, when the mob celebrated his victory by great riot
and outrages, breaking the windows of Lord Bute, as his old enemy, and
of the Lord Mayor, as the representative of the City of London, which
had rejected him, and insulting, and even in some instances beating,
passers-by who refused to join in their cheers for "Wilkes and Liberty."

He had already pledged himself to take the necessary steps to procure
the reversal of his outlawry; and, in pursuance of his promise, he
surrendered in the Court of King's Bench. But his removal to prison
caused a renewal of the tumults with greater violence than before. The
mob even rescued him from the officers who had him in custody; and when,
having escaped from his deliverers, he, with a parade of obedience to
the law, again surrendered himself voluntarily at the gate of the King's
Bench Prison, they threatened to attack the jail itself, kindled a fire
under its walls, which was not extinguished without some danger, and day
after day assembled in such tumultuous and menacing crowds, that at last
Lord Weymouth, the Secretary of State, wrote a letter to the Surrey
magistrates, enjoining them to abstain from no measures which might seem
necessary for the preservation of peace, even if that could only be
effected by the employment of the soldiery. The riots grew more and more
formidable, till at last the magistrates had no resource but to call out
the troops, who, on one occasion, after they had been pelted with large
stones, and in many instances severely injured, fired, killing or
wounding several of the foremost rioters. So tragical an event seemed to
Wilkes to furnish him with exactly such an opportunity as he desired to
push himself into farther notoriety. He at once printed Lord Weymouth's
letter, and circulated it, with an inflammatory comment, in which he
described it as a composition having for its fruit "a horrid massacre,
the consummation of a hellish plot deliberately planned." Too angry to
be prudent, Lord Weymouth complained to the House of Lords of this
publication as a breach of privilege, and the Lords formally represented
it to the House of Commons as an insult deliberately offered to them by
one of its members. There could be no doubt that such language as Wilkes
had used was libellous. In its imputation of designs of deliberate
wickedness, it very far exceeded the bitterest passages of _The North
Briton_; and Lord Weymouth's colleagues, therefore, thought they might
safely follow the precedent set in 1764, of branding the publication as
a libel, and again procuring the expulsion of the libeller from the
House of Commons. There were circumstances in the present case, such as
the difference between the constituencies of Aylesbury and Middlesex,
and the enthusiastic fervor in the offender's cause which the populace
of the City had displayed, which made it very doubtful whether the
precedent of 1764 were quite a safe one to follow; but the ministers not
only disregarded every such consideration, but, as if they had wantonly
designed to give their measure a bad appearance, and to furnish its
opponents with the strongest additional argument against it, they mixed
up with their present complaint a reference to former misdeeds of Wilkes
with which it had no connection. On receiving the message of the Lords,
they had summoned him to appear at the bar of the House of Commons, that
he might be examined on the subject; but this proceeding was so far from
intimidating him, that he not only avowed the publication of his comment
on Lord Weymouth's letter, but gloried in it, asserting that he deserved
the thanks of the people for bringing to light the true character of
"that bloody scroll." Such language was regarded as an aggravation of
his offence, and the Attorney-general moved that his comment on the
letter "was an insolent, scandalous, and seditious libel;" and, when
that motion had been carried, Lord Barrington followed it up with
another, to the effect that "John Wilkes, Esq., a member of this House,
who hath at the bar of this House confessed himself to be the author and
publisher of what the House has resolved to be an insolent, scandalous,
and seditious libel, and who has been convicted in the Court of King's
Bench of having printed and published a seditious libel, and three[11]
obscene and impious libels, and by the judgment of the said Court has
been sentenced to undergo twenty-two months' imprisonment, and is now in
execution under the said judgment, be expelled this House." This motion
encountered a vigorous opposition, not only from Mr. Burke and the
principal members of the Rockingham party, which now formed the regular
Opposition, but also from Mr. Grenville, the former Prime-minister, who
on the former occasion, in 1764, had himself moved the expulsion of the
same offender. His speech on this occasion is the only one which is
fully reported; and it deserved the distinction from the exhaustive way
in which it dealt with every part of the question. It displayed no
inclination to extenuate Wilkes's present offence, but it pointed out
with great force the circumstance that the supporters of the motion were
far from agreement as to the reasons by which they were guided; that
some members of the greatest authority in the House, while they had
avowed their intention of voting for the expulsion, had at the same time
been careful to explain that the comment on Lord Weymouth's letter was
not the ground of their vote; that so great a lawyer as Mr. Blackstone
had asserted that that comment "had not been properly and regularly
brought before the House," but had founded his intention to vote for the
expulsion solely "upon that article of the charge which related to the
three obscene and impious libels mentioned in it, disavowing in the most
direct terms all the other articles." That, on the other hand, other
members of deserved weight and influence, such as Lord Palmerston and
Lord F. Campbell, had disdained the idea of regarding "the article of
the three obscene and impious libels as affording any ground for their
proceeding." So practised a debater as Mr. Grenville had but little
difficulty, therefore, in arguing against the advocates of expulsion,
when they were so divided that one portion of them did, in fact, reply
to the other. But it would be superfluous here to enter into the
arguments employed on either side to justify the expulsion, or to prove
it to be unjustifiable, from a consideration of the character of either
Wilkes or his publication. The strength and importance of Mr.
Grenville's speech lay in the constitutional points which it raised.

Some supporters of the ministers had dwelt upon the former expulsion,
insisting that "a man who had been expelled by a former House of Commons
could not possibly be deemed a proper person to sit in the present
Parliament, unless he had some pardon to plead, or some merit to cancel
his former offences." By a reference to the case of Sir R. Walpole, Mr.
Grenville proved that this had not been the opinion of former
Parliaments; and he contended, with unanswerable logic, that it would be
very mischievous to the nation if such a principle should be now acted
on, and such a precedent established, since, though employed in the
first instance against the odious and the guilty, it might, when once
established, be easily applied to, and made use of against, the
meritorious and the innocent; and so the most eminent and deserving
members of the state, under the color of such an example, by one
arbitrary and discretionary vote of one House of Parliament, the worst
species of ostracism, might be excluded from the public councils, cut
off and proscribed from the rights of every subject of the realm, not
for a term of years alone, but forever. He quoted from "L'Esprit des
Lois" an assertion of Montesquieu, that "one of the excellences of the
English constitution was, that the judicial power was separated from the
legislative, and that there would be no liberty if they were blended
together; the power over the life and liberty of the citizens would then
be arbitrary, for the judge would be the legislator." And, having thus
proved that it would be a violation of the recognized constitution to
found a second expulsion on the first, he proceeded to argue that to
expel him for this new offence would be impolitic and inexpedient, as a
step which would inevitably lead to a contest with the constituency
which he represented, since, "in the present disposition of the county
of Middlesex, no one could entertain a doubt that Wilkes would be
re-elected. The House would then probably think itself under a necessity
of again expelling him, and he would as certainly be again re-elected.
The House might, indeed, refuse to issue a new writ, which would be to
deprive the freeholders of Middlesex of the right of choosing any other
representative; but he could not believe that the House would think it
fit to inflict such a punishment on the electors of a great county.
Should it not do so, the other alternative would be to bring into the
House as representative and knight of the shire for Middlesex a man
chosen by a few voters only, in contradiction to the declared sense of a
great majority of the freeholders on the face of the poll, upon the
supposition that all the votes of the latter were forfeited and thrown
away on account of the expulsion of Mr. Wilkes." It seemed premature to
discuss that point before it arose, and therefore the Speaker contented
himself for the present with saying that "he believed there was no
example of such a proceeding; and that, if it should appear to be new
and unfounded as the law of the land, or even if any reasonable doubt
could be entertained of its legality, the attempt to forfeit the
freeholders' votes in such a manner would be highly alarming and

Few prophecies have been more exactly fulfilled. The House did expel Mr.
Wilkes; he did offer himself for re-election, and was re-elected; and
the minister, in consequence, moved and carried a resolution that "John
Wilkes, Esq., having been, in this session of Parliament, expelled this
House, was and is incapable of being elected a member to serve in this
present Parliament." And, in pursuance of this vote, a writ was again
issued. At the end of another month the proceeding required to be
repeated. Wilkes had again offered himself for re-election. No other
candidate had presented himself, and, in answer to an inquiry, the
under-sheriff reported that "no other candidate had been proposed but
John Wilkes, Esq., and that no elector had given or tendered his vote
for any other person." Once more the House resolved that he was
"incapable of being elected," and issued a new writ. But on this second
occasion the ministry had provided a rival candidate in the person of
the Honorable H.K. Luttrell. He was duly proposed and seconded; a poll
was taken and kept open for several days, and, as it appeared at the
close that 1143 votes had been given for Wilkes and 296 for Mr.
Luttrell, the sheriff again returned Wilkes as duly elected.

A debate of singularly angry excitement arose on the reception of this
return. Even lawyers, such as Mr. De Grey, the Attorney-general, and Sir
Fletcher Norton, who had been Attorney-general, were not ashamed to
denounce the conduct of the sheriff in returning Mr. Wilkes as "highly
improper and indecent," as "a flying in the face of a resolution of the
House of Commons;" and Sir Fletcher even ventured to advance the
proposition that, "as the Commons were acting in a judicial capacity,
their resolutions were equal to law." Lord North, too, the Chancellor of
the Exchequer, as we learn from the "Parliamentary History," "spoke
long, but chiefly to the passions. He described Mr. Wilkes and his
actions in a lively manner; showed the variety of troubles which he had
given the ministry; and that unless, by voting in Mr. Luttrell, an end
were put to this debate, the whole kingdom would be in confusion; though
he owned that he did not think that measure would put an end to the
distractions. He spoke much more to the expediency than to the legality
of the measure proposed."

On the other side, it was contended by several members, Burke and Mr.
Grenville being of the number, that "the House of Commons alone could
not make a law binding any body but themselves. That, if they could
disqualify one person, they could disqualify as many as they pleased,
and thus get into their own hands the whole power of the government;"
and precedents were produced to prove that votes of the House of Lords,
and also of the House of Commons, regarding their own members, had been
disregarded by the judges of the Court of King's Bench as being contrary
to law. But the minister was secure of the steadiness of his adherents,
and a majority of 221 to 152 declared that Mr. Luttrell had been duly

But Lord North was correct in his anticipation that their vote would not
put an end to the agitation on the question, and it was renewed in the
next session in a manner which at one time threatened to produce a
breach between the two Houses.

The "Parliamentary History" closes its report of the debate on the
resolution by which Mr. Luttrell was seated with a summary of the
arguments used in it, taken from the "Annual Register," which, as is
universally known, was at this time edited by Mr. Burke. It is a very
fair and candid abstract, which, in fact, puts the whole question on one
single issue, "that the House of Commons is the sole court of judicature
in all cases of election, and that this authority is derived from the
first principles of our government, viz., the necessary independence of
the three branches of the Legislature." But, though that doctrine was
fully admitted by the Opposition, they made "that very admission a
ground for reviving the question in the next session, by moving for a
resolution which should declare that, 'being a Court of Judicature, the
House of Commons, in deciding matters of election, was bound to judge
according to the law of the land, and the known and established law of
Parliament, which was part thereof.'" It was understood that this
resolution, if carried, was intended as a stepping-stone to others which
should condemn the decision of the previous session; yet it seemed such
a truism that even the ministers could not venture to deny it; but they
proposed to defeat the object of its framers by adding to it a
declaration that the late decision was "agreeable to the said law of the
land." And we might pass on to the subsequent debate, in which the
constitutional correctness of that addition was distinctly challenged,
did it not seem desirable to notice two arguments which were brought
forward against the motion, one by an independent member, Mr. Ongley,
the other by the Attorney-general. Mr. Ongley contended that "a power of
preserving order and decency is essentially necessary to every aggregate
body; and, with respect to this House, if it had not power over its
particular members, they would be subject to no control at all." The
answer to this argument is obvious: that a right on the part of the
House to control the conduct of its members is a wholly different thing
from a right to determine who are or ought to be members; and that for
the House to claim this latter right, except on grounds of qualification
or disqualification legally proved, would be to repeat one of the most
monstrous of all Cromwell's acts of tyranny, when, in 1656, he placed
guards at the door of the House, with orders to refuse admission to all
those members whom, however lawfully elected, he did not expect to find
sufficiently compliant for his purposes. Mr. De Grey's argument was of a
different character, being based on what he foretold would be the
practical result of a decision that expulsion did not involve an
incapacity to be re-elected. If it did not involve such incapacity, and
if, in consequence, Mr. Wilkes should be re-elected, he considered that
the House would naturally feel it its duty to re-expel him as often as
the constituency re-elected him. But one answer given to this argument
was, that to expel a second time would be to punish twice for one
offence, a proceeding at variance not only with English law but with
every idea of justice. Another, and one which has obtained greater
acceptance, was, that the legitimate doctrine was, that the issue of a
new writ gave the expelled member an appeal from the House to the
constituency, and that the constituency had a constitutional right to
overrule the judgment of the House, and to determine whether it still
regarded the candidate as its most suitable representative.

The ministers, however, were, as before, strong enough in the House to
carry their resolution. But the Opposition returned to the charge,
taking up an entirely different though equally general position, "That,
by the law of the land and the known law and usage of Parliament, no
person eligible by common right can be incapacitated by vote or
resolution of this House, but by act of Parliament only." It is
remarkable that, in the debate which ensued, two members who
successively rose to the dignity of Lord Chancellor, Mr. Thurlow and Mr.
Wedderburn, took different sides; but nothing could shake the
ministerial majority. The resolution was rejected. And when Lord
Rockingham proposed the same resolution in the House of Lords, though it
was supported by all the eloquence of Lord Chatham, he was beaten by a
majority of more than two to one, and the ministers even carried a
resolution declaring "that any interference of the House of Lords with
any judgment of the House of Commons, in matters of election, would be a
violation of the constitutional rights of the Commons."

Even these decisive defeats of the Opposition did not finally terminate
the struggle. The notoriety which Wilkes had gained had answered his
purpose to no slight extent. The City had adopted his cause with
continually increasing earnestness and effect. It had made him Sheriff,
Alderman, Lord Mayor, and had enriched him with the lucrative office of
City Chamberlain; and, as one of the City magistrates, he subsequently
won the good opinion of many who had previously condemned him, by his
conduct during the Gordon Riots, in which he exerted his authority with
great intrepidity to check and punish the violence of the rioters. And
when, in 1782, Lord Rockingham became, for the second time,
Prime-minister, he thought he might well avail himself of the favor he
had thus acquired, and of the accession to office of those whom the line
which they had formerly taken bound to countenance him, to bring forward
a motion for the expunction of the resolutions against him which had
been passed in 1770. It was carried by a largo majority; and though this
was as evidently a party division as those had been by which he had been
defeated twelve years before, still, as the last resolution on the
subject, it must be regarded as decisive of the law and practice of
Parliament, and as having settled the doctrine that expulsion does not
incapacitate a member who has been expelled from immediate

The establishment of this rule, and the abolition of general warrants,
were, however, not the only nor the most important result of these
proceedings. They led indirectly to an innovation which, it is hardly
too much to say, has had a greater influence on the character and
conduct of Parliament, and indeed on the whole subsequent legislation of
the country, than can be attributed to any other single cause. Hitherto
the bulk of the people had enjoyed but very scanty and occasional means
of acquiring political education. At times of vehement political
excitement, or any special party conflict, pamphlets and periodical
essays had enlightened their readers--necessarily a select and small
body--on particular topics. But standing orders of both Houses, often
renewed, strictly forbade all publication of the debates which took
place in either. To a certain extent, these orders had come to be
disregarded and evaded. Almost ever since the accession of the House of
Brunswick, a London publisher had given to the world an annual account
of the Parliamentary proceedings and most interesting discussions of the
year; and before the middle of the reign of George II, two monthly
magazines had given sketches of speeches made by leading members of each
party. The reporters, however, did not venture to give the names of the
speakers at full length, but either disguised them under some general
description, or at most gave their initials; and sometimes found that
even this profession of deference to the standing orders did not insure
them impunity. As late as the year 1747, Cave, the proprietor and editor
of the _Gentleman's Magazine_, was brought to the bar of the House of
Commons for publishing an account of a recent debate, and only obtained
his release by expressions of humble submission and the payment of heavy
fees. The awe, however, which his humiliation and peril had been
intended to diffuse gradually wore off; the keen interest which was
awakened by the ministerial changes at the beginning of the reign of
George III., which have been already mentioned, naturally prompted a
variety of efforts to gratify it by a revelation of the language
concerning them which was held by statesmen of different parties; and
these revelations were no longer confined to yearly or monthly
publications. More than one newspaper had of late adopted the practice
of publishing what it affirmed to be a correct report of the debates of
the previous day, though, in fact, each journal garbled them to suit the
views of the party to which it belonged, and, to quote the words of the
historian of the period, "misrepresented the language and arguments of
the speakers in a manner which could hardly be considered
accidental."[13] The speakers on the ministerial side in the debates on
the Middlesex election had been especial objects of these
misrepresentations; and, at the beginning of 1771, one of that party,
Colonel Onslow, M.P. for Guilford, brought the subject before the House,
complaining that many speeches, and his own among them, had been
misrepresented by two newspapers which he named, and that "the practice
had got to an infamous height, so that it had become absolutely
necessary either to punish the offenders or to revise the standing
orders."[14] And he accordingly moved "that the publication of the
newspapers of which he complained was a contempt of the orders and a
breach of the privileges of the House, and that the printers be ordered
to attend the House at its next sitting." The habitual unfairness of the
reports was admitted by the Opposition; but the publishers complained of
evidently felt assured of their sympathy (which, indeed, was
sufficiently, and not very decorously, shown by its leaders inflicting
on the House no fewer than twenty-three divisions in a single night),
and, relying on their countenance, they paid no attention to the order
of the House. A fresh order for their arrest having been issued, the
Sergeant-at-arms reported that he had been unable to execute it, by
reason of their absence from their homes; on which the House, not
disposed to allow itself to be thus trifled with, now addressed his
Majesty with a request that he would issue his royal proclamation for
their apprehension. And Colonel Onslow made a fresh motion, with a
similar complaint of the publishers of six more newspapers--"three
brace," as he described them in language more sportsman like than
parliamentary. Similar orders for their appearance and, when these were
disregarded, for their apprehension, were issued. And at last one of
those who had been mentioned in the royal proclamation, Mr. Wheble,
printer of the _Middlesex Journal_, was apprehended by an officer named
Carpenter, and carried before the sitting magistrate at Guildhall, who,
by a somewhat whimsical coincidence, happened to be Alderman Wilkes.
Wilkes not only discharged him, on the ground that there was "no legal
cause of complaint against him," but when Wheble, in retaliation, made a
formal complaint of the assault committed on him by Carpenter in
arresting him, bound Wheble over to prosecute, and Carpenter to answer
the complaint, at the next quarter sessions, and then reported what he
had done in an official Letter to the Secretary of State. Thomson,
another printer, was in like manner arrested; and, when brought before
Mr. Oliver, another alderman, was discharged by him. And when, a day or
two afterward, a third (Mr. Miller) was apprehended by Whetham, a
messenger of the House of Commons, Mr. Brass Crosby, the Lord Mayor, and
the two Aldermen, signed a warrant committing Whetham to prison for
assaulting Miller. Whetham was bailed by the Sergeant-at-arms, who
reported what had occurred to the House; and the House, as the Lord
Mayor and Alderman Oliver were members of it, as representatives for
London and Honiton, ordered that they should attend the House in their
places, to explain their conduct, and that Mr. Wilkes should attend at
the bar of the House. Wilkes, declining to recognize the validity of the
resolutions which had seated Colonel Luttrell for Middlesex, refused
compliance with such an order, writing a letter to the Speaker, in which
he "observed that no notice was taken of him as a member of the House;
and that the Speaker's order did not require him to attend in his
place." And he "demanded his seat in Parliament, and promised, when he
had been admitted to his seat, to give the House a most exact detail of
his conduct." But the Lord Mayor pleaded the charters of the City as a
justification of his act in releasing a citizen of London who had been
arrested on a warrant which had not been backed by a City magistrate,
and demanded to be heard by counsel in support of his plea. His demand,
however, was refused, and he and Alderman Oliver were committed to the
Tower; but, as if the ministers were afraid of re-opening the question
of Colonel Luttrell's election for Middlesex, they evaded taking notice
of Wilkes's disobedience to their order by a singularly undignified
expedient, issuing a fresh order for his appearance on the 8th of April,
and adjourning till the 9th.

The ministers now moved the appointment of a select committee to
investigate the whole affair; and the committee, before the end of the
month, made an elaborate report, which, however, abstained from all
mention of the offence committed by the printers, and confined itself to
an assertion that "the power and authority of the House to compel the
attendance of any commoner had ever extended as well to the City of
London, without exception on account of charters from the crown or any
pretence of separate jurisdiction, as to every other part of the realm."
And this assertion may be regarded as having been uphold by the refusal
of the judges to release the Lord Mayor and Alderman when they sued out
writs of _habeas corpus_; and they consequently remained prisoners in
the Tower till they were released by the prorogation.

But with this report of the committee the matter was suffered to drop.
The transaction had caused almost unprecedented excitement, which was
not confined to the City, for the grand-juries of many English counties
and a committee of the Dublin merchants showed their sympathy with the
Opposition by sending up addresses to the imprisoned City magistrates;
and the ministers had a prudent fear of keeping alive an agitation which
had not been always free from danger to the public tranquillity.[15] In
effect, the victory remained with the Opposition. No farther attempt was
made to punish any of the printers; and, though the standing orders
which forbid such publication have never been formally repealed, ever
since that time the publishers of newspapers and other periodicals have
been in the constant habit of giving regular details of the proceedings
of both Houses of Parliament. And one enterprising publisher, Mr.
Hansard, has for many years published a complete record of the debates
in both Houses, which is continually appealed to in the Houses
themselves, by members of both parties, as a manual of political and
parliamentary history.

The practice, as it now prevails, is one of the many instances of the
practical wisdom with which this nation often deals with difficult
subjects. The standing order is retained as an instrument which, in
certain cases, it may possibly be expedient to employ; as, in fact, it
has been employed in one or two instances in the present reign, when
matters have been under consideration which, however necessary to be
discussed, were of such a nature that the publication of the details
into which some speakers deemed it desirable to go was regarded by
others as calculated to be offensive to the taste, if not injurious to
the morals, of the community at large. But the very fact of such an
occasional enforcement of the standing orders under very peculiar
circumstances implies a recognition of the propriety of its more
ordinary violation; of the principle that publication ought to be the
general rule, and secrecy the unusual exception. And, indeed, it is,
probably, no exaggeration to say that such publication is not only
valuable, as the best and chief means of the political education of the
people out-of-doors, but is indispensable to the working of our
parliamentary system such as it has now become. The successive Reform
Bills, which have placed the electoral power in the hands of so vast a
body of constituents as was never imagined in the last century, have
evidently regarded the possession by the electors of a perfect knowledge
of the language held and the votes given by their representatives as
indispensable to the proper exercise of the franchises which they have
conferred. And, even if there had previously been no means provided for
their acquisition of such information, it is certain that the electors
would never have consented to be long kept in the dark on subjects of
such interest. In another point of view, the publication of the debates
is equally desirable, in the interest of the members themselves, whether
leaders or followers of the different parties. Not to mention the
stimulus that it affords to the cultivation of eloquence--an incentive
to which even those least inclined or accustomed to put themselves
forward are not entirely insensible--it enables the ministers to
vindicate their measures to the nation at large, the leaders of the
Opposition to explain their objections or resistance to those measures
in their own persons, and not through the hired agency of pamphleteers,
and each humbler member to prove to his constituents the fidelity with
which he has acted up to the principles his assertion of which induced
them to confide their interests and those of the kingdom to his judgment
and integrity. Secrecy and mystery may serve, or be supposed to serve,
the interests of arbitrary rulers; perfect openness is the only
principle on which a free constitution can be maintained and a free
people governed.

It seems convenient to take all the measures which, in this first
portion of the reign before us, affected the proceedings or constitution
of Parliament together; and, indeed, one enactment of great importance,
which was passed in 1770, it is hardly unreasonable to connect in some
degree with the decision of the House which adjudged the seat for
Middlesex to Colonel Luttrell. Ever since the year 1704 it had been
regarded as a settled point that the House of Commons had the exclusive
right of determining every question concerning the election of its
members. But it was equally notorious that it had exercised that right
in a manner which violated every principle of justice and even of
decency. Election petitions were decided by the entire House, and were
almost invariably treated as party questions, in which impartiality was
not even professed. Thirty years before, the Prime-minister himself (Sir
Robert Walpole) had given notice to his supporters that "no quarter was
to be given in election petitions;" and it was a division on one
petition which eventually drove him from office. There was not even a
pretence made of deciding according to evidence, for few of the members
took the trouble to hear it. A few years after the time of which we are
speaking, Lord George Germaine thus described the mode of proceeding
which had previously prevailed: "The managers of petitions did not ask
those on whose support they calculated to attend at the examination of
witnesses, but only to let them know where they might be found when the
question was going to be put, that they might be able to send them word
in time for the division." The practice had become a public scandal, by
which the constituencies and the House itself suffered equally--the
constituencies, inasmuch as they were liable to be represented by one
who was in fact only the representative of a minority; the House itself,
since its title to public confidence could have no solid or just
foundation but such as was derived from its members being in every
instance the choice of the majority. Yet, so long as petitions were
judged by the whole House, there seemed no chance of the abuse being
removed, the number of judges conferring the immunity of shamelessness
on each individual. To remedy such a state of things, in the spring of
1770 Mr. G. Grenville brought in a bill which provided for the future
trial of all such petitions by a select committee of fifteen members,
thirteen of whom should be chosen by ballot, one by the sitting member
whose seat was petitioned against, and one by the petitioner. The
members of the committee were to take an oath to do justice similar to
that taken by jurymen in the courts of law; and the committee was to
have power to compel the attendance of witnesses, to examine them on
oath, and to enforce the production of all necessary papers; it was also
to commence its sittings within twenty-four hours of its appointment,
and to sit from day to day till it should be prepared to present its
report. It was not to the credit of the ministers that they made the
passing of such a bill a party question. The abuse which it was designed
to remedy was notorious, and Mr. Grenville did not exaggerate its
magnitude when he declared that, "if it were not checked, it must end in
the ruin of public liberty." He was supported by Burke, and by two
lawyers, Mr. Dunning and Mr. Wedderburn, both destined to rise to some
of the highest offices in their profession; but he was opposed by the
Attorney-general, by Lord North, as leader of the House, and by Mr.
Fox--not yet turned into a patriot by Lord North's dismissal of him from
office. The debates, both in the whole House and in committee, were long
and earnest. Some of the ministerial underlings were not ashamed to deny
the necessity of any alteration in the existing practice; but their more
favorite argument was founded on the impropriety of the House
"delegating its authority to a committee," which was asserted to be "an
essential alteration of the constitution of the House of Commons." Lord
North himself had too keen an instinct of propriety to deny the
existence of a great evil, and contented himself with pleading for time
for farther consideration; while the Attorney-general confined his
objections to some details of the bill, which it would be easy to amend.
Others, with too accurate a foresight, doubted the efficacy of the
measure, and prophesied that the additional sanction of the oath, by
which its framer hoped to bind the committees to a just and honest
decision, would, "like oaths of office and Custom-house oaths, soon fall
into matters of form, and lose all sanction, and so make bad worse." On
the other hand, besides the arguments founded on the admitted greatness
of the evil to be remedied, it was shown that the institution of
committees, such as the bill proposed the appointment of, was sanctioned
by numerous precedents; and though the committees--sometimes consisting
of as many as two hundred members--were by far too large to make it
probable that all would bestow a careful attention on the whole case,
there was "nothing in the journals of the House to show that their
decisions were not regarded as final, or as requiring no subsequent
confirmation from the whole House." Generally speaking, Lord North could
trust the steadiness of his majority; but, to his great surprise, on
this occasion he found himself deserted by the country gentlemen, who
voted in a body for the bill, although their spokesman, Sir W. Bagot,
had been in no slight degree offended by some remarks of Burke, who,
with a strange imprudence, had claimed a monopoly of the title of
"friends of the constitution" for himself and his party, and had sneered
at the country gentlemen, as "statesmen of a very different description,
though, by a late description given of them, a Tory was now the best
species of Whig." And the union of the two bodies proved irresistible;
the bill was carried by a majority of sixty-two, and the government did
not venture to carry on their resistance to it in the House of Lords,
any interference by which would, indeed, have been resented by the
Commons, as a violation of their privileges.

At first the duration of the bill was limited to seven years; but in
1774 it was made perpetual by a still larger majority, the experience of
its working having converted many who had at first opposed it, but who
now bore willing testimony to its efficacy. Unhappily, though the House
could make the bill perpetual, at least till formally repealed, it could
not invest its good effects with equal durability. After a time, the
same complaints were advanced against the decision of election
committees that had formerly been employed to discredit the judgments of
the whole House. The success or failure of a petition again became a
party question; and as in a committee of an odd number the
ministerialists or the Opposition must inevitably have a majority of at
least one member, before the end of the reign it had become as easy to
foretell the result of a petition from the composition of the committee
as it had been in the time of Walpole. And it was with the approval of
almost all parties--an approval extorted only by the absolute necessity
of the case--that, after one or two modifications of Mr. Grenville's act
had been tried, Mr. Disraeli induced the House to surrender altogether
its privilege of judging of elections, and to submit the investigations
of petitions on such subjects to the only tribunal sufficiently above
suspicion to command and retain the confidence of the nation, the judges
of the high courts of law.

We shall probably be doing the House of Commons of the day no injustice,
if we surmise that the degree in which public attention had recently
been directed to the representation, and the interest which the people
were beginning to show in the purity of elections, as the principle on
the maintenance of which the very liberties of all might depend, had
some share in leading the House to establish the wholly new, though most
necessary, precedent of punishing a constituency for habitual and
inveterate corruption. It may be called the first fruits of Mr.
Grenville's act. At the end of the same year in which that statute had
been passed, a select committee had sat to try the merits of a petition
which complained of an undue return for the borough of New Shoreham. And
its report brought to light an organized system of corruption, which
there was too much reason to fear was but a specimen of that which
prevailed in many other boroughs as yet undetected. It appeared from the
report, founded as it was on the evidence and confession of many of the
persons inculpated, that a society had long existed in New Shoreham,
entitled the Christian Club, which, under this specious name, was
instituted, as they frankly acknowledged, for the express purpose of
getting as much money as possible at every election from the candidates
they brought in. The members of the club were under an oath and bond of
£500 not to divulge the secrets of the club, and to be bound by the
majority. On every election, a committee of five persons was nominated
by the club to treat with the candidates for as much money as they could
get. And, in pursuance of this system, when, on the death of Sir Stephen
Cornish, one of the members for the borough, five candidates offered
themselves to supply the vacancy, this committee of five opened
negotiations with them all. The offers of the rival purchasers were
liberal enough. One (General Smith) proposed to buy the entire club in
the lump for £3000, adding a promise to build 600 tons of shipping in
the town. A second (a Mr. Rumbold) was willing to give every freeman
£35; and his offer was accepted by the committee, who, however,
cautioned him that no freeman was entitled to the money who was not a
member of the Christian Club. He willingly agreed to this limitation of
his expenditure, and both he and the club regarded the matter as
settled. He paid every freeman who belonged to the club his stipulated
bribe, and on the polling day they tendered eighty-seven votes in his
favor, the entire constituency being something under one hundred and
fifty. The general, finding his £3000 declined, did not go to the poll;
but a Mr. Purling and Mr. James did, the latter polling only four votes,
the former only thirty-seven. What bribe Mr. Purling had given was never
revealed; but by some means or other he had contrived to render himself
the most acceptable of all the candidates to Mr. Roberts, the returning
officer. Roberts had himself been a member of the Christian Club, but
had quarrelled with it, and on the day of the election, as Rumbold's
voters came up, he administered to each of them the oath against
bribery. They took it without scruple; but he took it on himself to
pronounce seventy-six of them disqualified, and to refuse their votes;
and, having thus reduced Mr. Rumbold's voters to eleven, he returned Mr.
Purling as duly elected.

Mr. Rumbold, not unnaturally, petitioned against such a return; when Mr.
Roberts admitted the facts alleged against him, but pleaded that he had
acted under the advice of counsel, who had assured him that it was
within his own discretion to admit or to refuse any votes that might be
tendered, and that he might lawfully refuse any "which in his own mind
he thought illegal." It is a striking proof of the laxity which
prevailed on every quarter in electioneering practices, that the House,
to a great extent, admitted his justification or excuse as valid. By a
strange stretch of lenity, they gave him credit for an honest intention,
and contented themselves with ordering him to be reprimanded by the
Speaker. But the case of the bribed freemen and of the borough generally
was too gross to be screened by any party. All agreed that the borough
must be regarded as incurably corrupt, and deserving of heavy
punishment. The Attorney-general was ordered to prosecute the five
members of the managing committee for "an illegal and corrupt
conspiracy;" and a bill was brought in to disfranchise and declare
forever incapable of voting at any election eighty-one freemen who had
been proved to have received bribes, and to punish the borough itself,
by extending the right of voting at future elections to all the
freeholders in the rape of Bramber, the district of Sussex in which New
Shoreham lies, an arrangement which reduced the borough itself to
comparative insignificance. Mr. Fox opposed the bill, on the ground that
the offence committed could be sufficiently punished by the ordinary
courts of law. But he stood alone in his resistance; the bill was
passed, and a salutary precedent was established; the penalty inflicted
on New Shoreham being for many years regarded as the most proper
punishment for all boroughs in which similar practices were proved to

And it might have continued to be thought so, had corruption been
confined to the smaller boroughs; but there was no doubt that in many
large towns corruption was equally prevalent and inveterate, while there
were also many counties in which the cost of a contest was by far too
large to be accounted for by any legitimate causes of expenditure. And
consequently, as time wore on, severer measures were considered
necessary. Some boroughs were deprived of the right of election
altogether; in others, whose population or constituency was too numerous
to make their permanent disfranchisement advisable, the writ was
suspended for a time, that its suspension might serve both as a
punishment and as a warning, a practice which is still not unfrequently
adopted. But no plan could be devised for dealing with the evil in
counties, till what seemed hopeless to achieve by direct legislation
was, in a great degree, effected by the indirect operation of the Reform
Bill of 1832. The shortening of the duration of an election, which was
henceforth concluded in a single day, and the multiplication of polling
places, which rendered it impossible to ascertain the progress of the
different candidates till the close of the poll, were provisions having
an inevitable and most salutary effect in diminishing alike the
temptation to bribe on the part of the candidate, and the opportunity of
enhancing the value of his vote by the elector. The vast increase of
newspapers, by diffusing political education and stimulating political
discussion, has had, perhaps, a still greater influence in the same
direction. And, as bribery could only be brought to bear on electors too
ignorant to estimate the importance of the exercise of the franchise by
any higher test than the personal advantage it might bring to
themselves, it is to the general diffusion of education among the poorer
classes, and their gradually improved and improving intelligence that a
complete eradication of electoral corruption can alone be looked for.


[Footnote 1: "Constitutional History," vol. iii., p. 380; ed. 3, 1832.
The first edition was published in 1827.]

[Footnote 2: Grampound. Corrupt voters had been disfranchised in New
Shoreham as early as 1771, and the franchise of the borough of Cricklade
had been transferred to the adjoining hundreds in 1782.]

[Footnote 3: Parliament was dissolved March 19. Lord Bute succeeded Lord
Holdernesse March 25.]

[Footnote 4: The greater part of Lord Bute's colleagues did, in fact,
retain their offices. Lord Egremont and Lord Halifax continued to be
Secretaries of State; Lord Henley (afterward Lord Northington) retained
the Great Seal; Lord North and Sir John Turner remained as Lords of the
Treasury; and Mr. Yorke and Sir Fletcher Norton were still Attorney and
Solicitor General.]

[Footnote 5: Parliament was prorogued April 19, and _The North Briton_
(No. 45) was published April 23.]

[Footnote 6: A letter of the Prince Consort examines the principle of
ministerial responsibility with so remarkable a clearness of perception
and distinctness of explanation, that we may be excused for quoting it
at length: "The notion that the responsibility of his advisers impairs
the monarch's dignity and importance is a complete mistake. Here we have
no law of ministerial responsibility, for the simple reason that we have
no written constitution; but this responsibility flows as a logical
necessity from the dignity of the crown and of the sovereign. 'The King
can do no wrong,' says the legal axiom, and hence it follows that
somebody must be responsible for his measures, if these be contrary to
law or injurious to the country's welfare. Ministers here are not
responsible _quâ_ ministers, that is, _quâ_ officials (as such they are
responsible to the crown), but they are responsible to Parliament and
the people, or the country, as 'advisers of the crown.' Any one of them
may advise the crown, and whoever does so is responsible to the country
for the advice he has given. The so-called accountability of ministers
to Parliament does not arise out of an abstract principle of
responsibility, but out of the practical necessity which they are under
of obtaining the consent of Parliament to legislation and the voting of
taxes, and, as an essential to this end, of securing its confidence. In
practice, ministers are liable to account for the way and manner in
which they have administered the laws which they, conjointly with the
Parliament, have made, and for the way they have expended the moneys
that have been voted for definite objects. They are bound to furnish
explanations, to justify their proceedings, to satisfy reasonable
scruples, and the answer, 'We have, as dutiful subjects, obeyed the
sovereign,' will not be accepted. 'Have you acted upon conviction, or
have you not?' is the question. 'If you have not, then you are civil
servants of the crown, who counsel and do what you consider wrong or
unjust, with a view to retain your snug places or to win the favor of
the sovereign.' And this being so, Parliament withdraws its confidence
from them. Herein, too, lies that ministerial power of which sovereigns
are so much afraid. They can say, 'We will not do this or that which the
sovereign wishes, because we cannot be responsible for it.' But why
should a sovereign see anything here to be afraid of? To him it is, in
truth, the best of safeguards. A really loyal servant should do nothing
for which he is not prepared to answer, even though his master desires
it. This practical responsibility is of the utmost advantage to the
sovereign. Make independence, not subservience, the essential of
service, and you compel the minister to keep his soul free toward the
sovereign, you ennoble his advice, you make him staunch and patriotic,
while time-servers, the submissive instruments of a monarch's extreme
wishes and commands, may lead, and often have led, him to destruction.

"But to revert to the law of responsibility. This ought not to be in
effect a safeguard for law itself. As such, it is superfluous in this
country, where law reigns, and where it would never occur to any one
that this could be otherwise. But upon the Continent it is of the
highest importance; as, where the government is an outgrowth of a
relation of supremacy and subordination between sovereign and subject,
and the servant, trained in ideas natural to this relation, does not
know which to obey, the law of the sovereign, the existence of such a
law would deprive him of the excuse which, should he offend the law, and
so be guilty of a crime, is ready to his hand in the phrase, 'The
sovereign ordered it so, I have merely obeyed,' while it would be a
protection to the sovereign that his servants, if guilty of a crime,
should not be able to saddle him with the blame of it."--_Life of the
Prince Consort_, v., 262.]

[Footnote 7: "Lives of the Lord Chancellors," c. cxliii.]

[Footnote 8: Indeed, the opinion which Lord Campbell thus expresses is
manifestly at variance with that which he had previously pronounced in
his life of Lord Northington, where he praised the House of Lords for
"very properly rejecting the bill passed by the Commons declaring
general warrants to be illegal, leaving this question to be decided (as
it was, satisfactorily) by the Courts of Common Law."]

[Footnote 9: From a speech of Mr. Grenville delivered at a later period
(February 3, 1769, "Parliamentary History," xvi., 548), it appears that
the Secretaries of State who signed this general warrant did so against
their own judgment. "They repeatedly proposed to have Wilkes's name
inserted in the warrant of apprehension, but were overruled by the
lawyers and clerks of the office, who insisted that they could not
depart from the long-established precedents and course of proceeding."
And in one of these debates, Mr. Pitt, while denouncing with great
severity Grenville's conduct in procuring the issue of this particular
warrant, was driven to a strange confession of his own inconsistency,
since he was forced to admit that, while Secretary of State, he had
issued more than one general warrant in exactly similar form.]

[Footnote 10: Strange to say, it does not seem absolutely certain that
Wilkes was the author of the "Essay on Woman." Horace Walpole eventually
learned, or believed that he had learned, that the author was a Mr.
Thomas Potter. (See Walpole's "George III.," i., 310; and Cunningham's
"Note on his Correspondence," iv., 126.)]

[Footnote 11: These are the words of the resolution.--_Parliamentary
History_, xvi., 537. But it does not appear what the three libels were.
The "Essay on Woman" was one, the paraphrase of "Veni Creator" was a
second; no third of that character is mentioned.]

[Footnote 12: The last resolution is approved by Mr. Hallam. "If a few
precedents were to determine all controversies of constitutional law, it
is plain enough from the journals that the House has assumed the power
of incapacitation. But as such authority is highly dangerous and
unnecessary for any good purpose, and as, according to all legal rules,
so extraordinary a power could not be supported except by a sort of
prescription that cannot be shown, the final resolution of the House of
Commons, which condemned the votes passed in times of great excitement,
appears far more consonant to first principles."--_Constitutional
History_, iii., 357.]

[Footnote 13: Adolphus, "History of England," i., 484.]

[Footnote 14: An idea of the license which the newspapers complained of
had permitted themselves at this time may be derived from the manner in
which one of them had introduced a speech of Mr. Jeremiah Dyson, M.P.
for Weymouth, and a Commissioner of the Treasury: "Jeremiah Weymouth,
the d----n of the kingdom, spoke as follows." And it may seem that the
Opposition (for the affair was made a party question) can hardly be
acquitted of a discreditable indifference to the dignity of the House in
supporting a resolution of Colonel Barré, that "Jeremiah Weymouth, the
d----n of this kingdom, is not a member of this House." On which the
previous question was moved by the ministers, and carried by 120 to
38.--_Parliamentary History_, xvii., 78. And an instance of rather the
opposite kind, of the guarded way in which the most respectable
publications were as yet accustomed to relate the transactions of
Parliament, may be gathered from the account of the proceedings in the
case of Wilkes, given in the "Annual Register" for 1770--drawn up,
probably, by Burke himself--in which Lord Camden is only mentioned as "a
great law lord;" Lord Chatham as "Lord C----m;" Lord Rockingham as "a
noble Marquis who lately presided at the head of public affairs;" the
King as "the K----;" Parliament as "P.;" and the House of Commons as the
"H. of C."--_Annual Register_, 1770, pp. 59-67.]

[Footnote 15: On more than one occasion there had been disturbances in
the City, and in the streets adjacent to the Houses of Parliament, which
were little short of riot. One day the mob paraded effigies of the
principal ministers, which, after hanging and beheading them, they
committed to the flames with great uproar. On another day Mr. Charles
Fox (as yet a vehement Tory) complained to the House that the mob in
Palace Yard had insulted him, breaking the glasses of his chariot, and
pelting him with oranges, stones, etc.--_Parliamentary History_, xvii.,


The Regency Bill.--The Ministry of 1766 lay an Embargo on Corn.--An Act
of Indemnity is Passed.--The _Nullum Tempus_ Act concerning Crown
Property; it is sought to Extend it to Church Property, but the Attempt
fails.--The Royal Marriage Act.--The Lords amend a Bill imposing Export
Duties, etc., on Corn.

The prosecution of Wilkes was not the only act of Mr. Grenville's
administration which excited both the Parliament and the people. In 1764
the King was attacked by a serious illness, and, as the Prince of Wales
was an infant scarcely two years old, it was manifestly necessary to
make arrangements for a Regency, in the event of the throne becoming
vacant while the heir was still a minor. A similar necessity had arisen
in the preceding reign on the death of the present King's father, and a
bill had accordingly been introduced by Mr. Pelham, the minister of the
day, which, in the event of the reigning sovereign dying during the
minority of the boy who had now become the immediate heir to the throne,
vested both the guardianship of his person and the Regency of the
kingdom in his mother, the Princess Dowager of Wales, who, however, in
the latter capacity, was only to act with the advice of a council,
composed of her brother-in-law, the Duke of Cumberland, and nine
principal officers of state. It was not concealed by either the King or
the Duke that they would have preferred a different arrangement, one
which would have conferred an uncontrolled Regency on the Duke himself;
but the bill was passed by great majorities in both Houses, and served
in some respects as a model for that which was now to be brought
forward, the difference being that the Regent was not to be expressly
named in it. To quote the words of the royal speech, the King "proposed
to the consideration of the two Houses whether, under the present
circumstances, it would not be expedient to vest in him the power of
appointing from time to time, by instrument in writing under his
sign-manual, either the Queen or any other member of the royal family
usually residing in Great Britain, to be the guardian of the person of
his successor, and the Regent of these kingdoms, until such successor
should attain the age of eighteen years, subject to such restrictions
and regulations as were specified and contained in an act passed on a
similar occasion in the fourteenth year of the late King; the Regent so
appointed to be assisted by a council, composed of the several persons
who, by reason of their dignities and offices, were constituted members
of the council established by that act, together with those whom the
Parliament might think proper to leave to his nomination."

It may be doubted whether such a power as his Majesty desired was quite
consistent with the principles of the constitution. Parliament had,
indeed, granted Henry VIII. the still greater power of nominating a
series of successors; but the appointment which he consequently made by
will was eventually superseded, when, on the failure of his immediate
descendants, the representative of his elder sister, whom he had passed
over, was seated on the throne, to the exclusion of the descendants of
his younger sister, to whom he had given the preference. In France, the
last two kings, Louis XIII. and XIV., had both, when on their
death-beds, assumed the right of making the arrangements for the Regency
which would become necessary, the heir to the throne being in each case
a minor; but in each instance the arrangements which they had made were

However, on the present occasion the minister (who must be taken to have
framed the King's speech) and the Parliament agreed in the propriety of
conferring the nomination of the Regent on the King himself;[16] and the
bill might have passed almost without notice, had it not been for a
strange display of the Prime-minister's ill-temper and mismanagement.
Mr. Grenville was at all times uncourtly and dictatorial in his manner,
even to the King himself; he was also of a suspicious disposition; and
though he was universally believed to have owed his promotion to his
present office to the recommendation of Lord Bute,[17] he was extremely
jealous of his predecessor. He professed to believe, and probably did
believe, that the King was still greatly under Lord Bute's influence
(though, in fact, they had never met since that minister had quitted the
Treasury), that Lord Bute was still as closely connected with the
Princess of Wales as scandal had formerly reported him to be, and that
George III., under the pressure of their combined influence, would be
induced to name his mother rather than his wife as the future Regent.
And he was so entirely swayed by this ridiculous and wholly groundless
fear, that, when the bill to give effect to the royal recommendation was
introduced into the House of Lords, he instigated one of his friends to
raise the question who were included in the general term "the royal
family," which Lord Halifax, as Secretary of State, answered by saying
that he regarded it as meaning "those only who were in order of
succession to the throne." Such a definition would have excluded the
Queen as effectually as the Princess Dowager; and when Mr. Grenville
found the peers reluctant to accept this view (which, indeed, his own
Lord Chancellor pronounced untenable), he then sent another of his
colleagues to represent to the King that his mother was so unpopular
that, even if the Lords should pass the bill in such a form as rendered
her eligible for nomination, the Commons would introduce a clause to
exclude her by name. With great unwillingness, and, it is said, not
without tears, George III. consented to the bill being so drawn as to
exclude her, and it passed the Lords in such a form. But when it reached
the Commons it was found that if the leaders of the Opposition hated
Bute much, they hated Grenville more. They moved the insertion of the
name of the Princess Dowager as one of the members of the royal family
whom the King might nominate Regent, if it should please him. Even
Grenville had not the boldness publicly to disparage his royal master's
royal mother; the Princess's name was inserted by a unanimous vote in
the list of those from whom the King was empowered to select the Regent,
and the amendment was gladly accepted by the House of Lords.[18]

In spite, however, of the unanimity of the two Houses on the question,
it will probably be thought that the authors of the amendment, by which
it was proposed to address the King with an entreaty to name in the bill
the person to whom he desired to intrust the Regency, acted more in the
spirit of the constitution than those who were contented that the name
should be omitted; indeed, that statesmen of the present century agree
in holding that an arrangement of such importance should be made by the
Houses of Parliament, in concurrence with the sovereign, and not by the
sovereign alone, is shown by the steps taken to provide for a Regency in
the event of the demise of the reigning sovereign while the heir was a
minor, in the last and in the present reign, the second bill (that of
1840) being in this respect of the greater authority, since Lord
Melbourne, the Prime-minister, did not propose it without previously
securing the approval of the Duke of Wellington, in his character of
leader of the Opposition.

We pass over for a moment the administration of Lord Rockingham, as we
have already passed over the taxation of our North American Colonies by
Mr. Grenville, because it will be more convenient to take all the
transactions relating to that subject together when we arrive at the
time when the troubles arising out of the policy of the different
administrations toward those Colonies were brought to a head by the
breaking out of civil war. Lord Rockingham's ministry, which succeeded
Mr. Grenville's, had, as is well known, but a brief existence, and was
replaced by the cabinet so whimsically composed by Mr. Pitt, who
reserved to himself the office of Privy Seal, with the Earldom of
Chatham; the Duke of Grafton being the nominal head of the Treasury, but
the direction of affairs being wholly in the hands of the new Earl, till
the failure of his health compelled his temporary retirement from public
life. Lord Chatham was brother-in-law to Mr. Grenville, to whom in the
occasional arrogance and arbitrariness of his disposition he bore some
resemblance; and one of the earliest acts of his administration, when
coupled with the language which he held on the subject in the House of
Lords, displayed that side of his character in a very conspicuous light.

The summer of 1766 had been unusually wet and cold, both at home and
abroad, and the harvest had, in consequence, been so deficient as to
cause a very general apprehension of scarcity, while rumors were spread
that the high prices which the shortness of the crops could not fail to
produce were artificially raised by the selfish covetousness of some of
the principal corn-dealers, who were buying up all the grain which came
into the market, and storing it, with the object of making an exorbitant
profit out of the necessities of the consumer, not only at home but
abroad. The poorer classes, seeing themselves, as they believed,
threatened with famine, rose in riotous crowds, in some places attacking
the barns in which the corn was stored, and threatening destruction to
both the storehouses and the owners. The ministry first tried to repress
the discontent by the issue of a proclamation against "forestallers and
regraters," framed in the language and spirit of the Middle Ages; and,
when that proved ineffectual to restore confidence, they issued an Order
in Council absolutely prohibiting the exportation of any kind of grain,
and authorizing the detention of any vessels lying in any British harbor
which might be loaded with such a cargo. Our annals furnished no
instance of such an embargo having been laid on any article of commerce
in time of peace; but the crisis was difficult, the danger to the
tranquillity of the kingdom was great and undeniable, the necessity for
instant action seemed urgent, and probably few would have been inclined
to cavil at Lord Chatham's assertion, that the embargo "was an act of
power which, during the recess of Parliament, was justifiable on the
ground of necessity," had the ministry at once called Parliament
together to sanction the measure by an act of indemnity. But Lord
Chatham was at all times inclined to carry matters with a high hand, and
willingly adopted the opinion advanced by the Chancellor (Lord
Northington), that "the measure was strictly legal, and that no
indemnity was necessary." Lord Northington's language on the subject
Lord Campbell describes as "exhibiting his characteristic rashness and
recklessness, which seemed to be aggravated by age and experience,"[19]
and the censure does not seem too severe, since he presently "went so
far as to maintain that the crown had a right to interfere, even against
a positive act of parliament, and that proof of the necessity amounted
to a legal justification." But, however ill-considered his language may
have been, Lord Chatham adopted it, and acted on it so far as to decline
calling the Parliament together before the appointed time, though, when
the Houses did meet, he allowed General Conway, as Secretary of State,
to introduce a bill of indemnity in the House of Commons. It was warmly
opposed in that House, partly on the ground that, if such a measure as
the embargo had been necessary, it would have been easy to have
assembled Parliament before the Order in Council was issued (for, in
fact, the proclamation against forestallers and regraters had been
issued on the 10th of September, when Parliament, if not farther
prorogued, would have met within a week). But on that same day
Parliament was farther prorogued from the 16th of September till the
11th of November,[20] and it was not till after that prorogation, on the
24th of September, that the Order in Council was issued.

In the House of Lords it seems to have been admitted that the embargo
was, under all the circumstances, not only desirable, but "indispensably
necessary."[21] But the Opposition in that House, being led by a great
lawyer (Chief-justice Lord Mansfield), took a wider view of the whole
case; and, after denouncing the long prorogation of Parliament as having
been so culpably advised that there was no way left of meeting the
emergency but by an interposition of the royal power, directed the
principal weight of their argument against the doctrine of the existence
of any dispensing power. It was urged that the late Order in Council
could only be justified by "the general proposition that of any, and, if
of any, of every, act of parliament the King, with the advice of the
Privy Council, may suspend the execution and effect whenever his
Majesty, so advised, judges it necessary for the immediate safety of the
people." And this proposition was denounced as utterly inconsistent with
the principles of the Revolution, which had been "nothing but a most
lawless and wicked invasion of the rights of the crown," if such a
dispensing power were really one of the lawful prerogatives of the
sovereign. Reference was made to the powers in more than one instance,
and especially in the case of ship-money claimed and exercised by
Charles I.; and it was affirmed that "the dispensing and suspending
power, and that of raising money without the consent of Parliament, were
precisely alike, and stood on the very same ground. They were born
twins; they lived together, and together were buried in the same grave
at the Revolution, past all power of resurrection." It was even argued
that the dispensing or suspending power was yet more dangerous than that
of raising money without a Parliamentary vote, since it was a power
which might do the most mischief, and with the greatest speed, so many
were the subjects which it included. It would be a return to the maxims
of the idolators of prerogative as understood in those earlier days,
that is, of absolute and arbitrary power, _a Deo Rex, a Rege Lex_. It
was farther argued that, unless it could be said that the moment
Parliament breaks up the King stands in its place, and that the
continuance of acts is consigned into his hands, he cannot of right
suspend any more than he can make laws, both acts requiring the same
power. The law is above the King, and the crown as well as the subject
is bound by it as much during the recess as in the session of
Parliament; and therefore the wisdom of the constitution has excluded
every discretion in the crown over a positive statute, and has
emancipated Parliament from the royal prerogative, leaving the power of
suspension, which is but another name for a temporary repeal, to reside
where the legislative power is lodged--that is, in King, Lords, and
Commons, who together constitute the only supreme authority of this
government. Precedents were cited to prove that in former times
different ministries had avoided thus taking the law into their own
hands, as when, in 1709 and again in 1756, there was a similar
apprehension of scarcity, even though both those years were years of
war. And the Bill of Rights was quoted as the statute in which every
sort of dispensing power was condemned, though, as exercised by James
II., it had only been exerted in dispensing with penal laws and
remitting penalties.

"Finally," said one speaker, who perhaps was Lord Mansfield himself, "he
is not a moderate minister who would rashly decide in favor of
prerogative in a question where the rights of Parliament are involved,
nor a prudent minister who, even in a doubtful case, commits the
prerogative, by a wanton experiment, to what degree the people will bear
the extent of it. The opposite course was that by which a minister would
consult the best interests of the crown, as well as of the people. The
safety of the crown, as well as the security of the subject, requires
the closing up of every avenue that can lead to tyranny."[22]

These arguments prevailed, and the indemnity bill was passed, to quote
the words of the "Annual Register"--at that time written by Burke--"very
much to the satisfaction of the public." And that it should have been so
accepted is creditable to the good-sense of both parties. The precedent
which was thus established does, indeed, seem to rest on a principle
indispensable to the proper working of a constitutional government. In
so extensive an empire as ours, it is scarcely possible that sudden
emergencies, requiring the instant application of some remedy, should
not at times arise; and, unless Parliament be sitting at the time, such
can only be adequately dealt with if the ministers of the crown have the
courage to take such steps as are necessary, whether by the suspension
of a law or by any other expedient, on their own responsibility,
trusting in their ability to satisfy the Parliament, instantly convoked
to receive their explanation, of the necessity or wisdom of their
proceedings; and in the candor of the Parliament to recognize, if not
the judiciousness of their action, at all events the good faith in which
it has been taken, and the honest, patriotic intention which has
dictated it. The establishment of the obligation instantly to submit the
question to the judgment of Parliament will hardly be denied to be a
sufficient safeguard against the ministerial abuse of such a power; and
the instances in which such a power has since been exercised, coupled
with the sanction of such exercise by Parliament, are a practical
approval and ratification by subsequent Parliaments of the course that
was now adopted.[23]

The next year a not very creditable job of the ministry led to the
enactment of a statute of great importance to all holders of property
which had ever belonged to the crown. In the twenty-first year of James
I. a bill had been passed giving a secure tenure of their estates to all
grantees of crown lands whose possession of them had lasted sixty years.
The Houses had desired to make the enactment extend to all future as
well as to all previous grants. But to this James had refused to
consent; and, telling the Houses that "beggars must not be choosers," he
had compelled them to content themselves with a retrospective statute.
Since his time, and especially in the reigns of Charles II. and William
III., the crown had been more lavish and unscrupulous than at any former
period in granting away its lands and estates to favorites. And no one
had been so largely enriched by its prodigality as the most grasping of
William's Dutch followers, Bentinck, the founder of the English house of
Portland. Among the estates which he had obtained from his royal
master's favor was one which went by the name of the Honor of Penrith.
Subsequent administrations had augmented the dignities and importance of
his family. Their Earldom had been exchanged for a Dukedom; but the
existing Duke was an opponent of the present ministry, who, to punish
him, suggested to Sir James Lowther, a baronet of ancient family, and of
large property in the North of England, the idea of applying to the
crown for a grant of the forest of Inglewood, and of the manor of
Carlisle, which hitherto had been held by Portland as belonging to the
Honor of Penrith, but which, not having been expressly mentioned in the
original grant by William III., it was now said had been regarded as
included in the honor only by mistake. It was not denied that Portland
had enjoyed the ownership of these lands for upward of seventy years
without dispute; and, had the statute of James been one of continual
operation, it would have been impossible to deprive him of them. But, as
matters stood, the Lords of the Treasury willingly listened to the
application of Sir James Lowther; they even refused permission to the
Duke to examine the original deed and the other documents in the office
of the surveyor, on which he professed to rely for the establishment of
his right; and they granted to Sir James the lands he prayed for at a
rent which could only be regarded as nominal. The injustice of the
proceeding was so flagrant, that in the beginning of 1768 Sir George
Savile brought in a bill to prevent any repetition of such an act by
making the statute of James I. perpetual, so that for the future a
possession for sixty years should confer an indisputable and
indefeasible title. The ministers opposed it with great vehemence, even
taking some credit to themselves for their moderation in not requiring
from the Duke a repayment of the proceeds of the lands in question for
the seventy years during which he had held them. But the case was so bad
that they could only defeat Sir George Savile by a side-wind and a
scanty majority, carrying an amendment to defer any decision of the
matter till the next session. Sir George, however, was not discouraged;
he renewed his motion in 1769, when it was carried by a large majority,
with an additional clause extending its operation to the Colonies in
North America; and thus, in respect of its territorial rights, the crown
was placed on the same footing as any private individual, and the same
length of tenure which enabled a possessor to hold a property against
another subject henceforth equally enabled him to hold it against the
crown. The policy not less than the justice of such an enactment might
have been thought to commend it to every thinking man as soon as the
heat engendered by a party debate had passed away. It had merely placed
the sovereign and the subject on the same footing in respect of the
security which prescription gave to possession. And it might, therefore,
have been thought that the vote of 1769 had settled the point in every
case; since what was the law between one private individual and another,
and between the sovereign and a subject, might well have been taken to
be of universal application. But the ministry were strangely unwilling
to recognize such a universal character in the late act, and found in
the peculiar character of ecclesiastical bodies and ecclesiastical
property a pretext for weakening the force of the late enactment, by
denying the applicability of the principle to the claims of
ecclesiastical chapters. In 1772 Mr. Henry Seymour, one of the members
for Huntingdon, moved for leave to bring in a bill, which he described
as one "for quieting the subjects of the realm against the dormant
claims of the Church;" or, in other words, for putting the Church on the
same footing with respect to property which had passed out of its
possession as the crown had been placed in by the act of 1769. He
contended that such a bill ought to be passed, not only on the general
principle that possessors who derived their property from one source
ought not to be less secure than they who derived it from another, but
also on the grounds that, as ecclesiastical bodies occasionally used
their power, "length of possession, which fortified and strengthened
legal right and just title in every other case, did in this alone render
them more weak and uncertain," from the difficulty which often occurred
in finding documentary proof of very ancient titles; and that this was
not an imaginary danger, since a member of the House then present had
recently lost £120,000 by a bishop reviving a claim to an estate after
the gentleman's family had been in undisturbed possession of it above a
hundred years. The defence of the Church, however, was taken up by Mr.
Skinner, Attorney-general for the Duchy of Lancaster, who argued that
though, in the case of the crown, the _nullum tempus_ which it had
formerly claimed, and which had been put an end to in 1769, was "an
engine in the hands of the strong to oppress the weak, the _nullum
tempus_ of the Church was a defence to the weak against the strong," as
its best if not its sole security "against the encroachment of the
laity." The "Parliamentary History" records that in the course of a long
debate Lord North opposed the bringing in of the bill, as did "the
Lord-advocate of Scotland, who gave as a reason in favor of the bill,
though he voted against it, that a law of similar nature had passed in
Scotland, and that the whole kingdom, clergy as well as laity, found the
very best effects from it."[24] Burke argued in favor of the bill with
great force, declaring that in so doing "he did not mean anything
against the Church, her dignities, her honor, her privileges, or her
possessions; he should wish even to enlarge them all; but this bill was
to take nothing from her but the power of making herself odious." But
the ministerial majority was too well disciplined to be broken, and Mr.
Seymour could not even obtain leave to bring in the bill.

The year 1772 was marked by the discussion of a measure which the King
seems to have regarded as one of private interest only, affecting his
personal rights over his own family. But it is impossible to regard
transactions which may affect the right of succession to the throne as
matters of only private interest. And indeed the bill was treated as one
involving a constitutional question by both sides of both Houses, and as
such was discussed with remarkable earnestness, and with vehemence
equalling that of any other debate which had as yet taken place since
the commencement of the reign. The bill had its origin in the personal
feelings of the King himself, who had been greatly annoyed at the
conduct of his brother, the Duke of Cumberland, in marrying a widow of
the name of Horton, daughter of Lord Irnham, and sister of the Colonel
Luttrell whom the vote of the House of Commons had seated as member for
Middlesex; and perhaps still more at the discovery that his other
brother, the Duke of Gloucester, to whom he was greatly attached, had
married another subject, the widowed Lady Waldegrave. His Majesty's
dissatisfaction was, perhaps, heightened by the recollection that he
himself, in early manhood, had also been strongly attracted by the
charms of another subject, and had sacrificed his own inclinations to
the combined considerations of pride of birth and the interests of his
kingdom. And, though there was a manifest difference between the
importance of the marriage of the sovereign himself and that of princes
who were never likely to become sovereigns, he thought it not
unreasonable that he should be empowered to exercise such a general
guardianship over the entire family, of which he was the head, as might
enable him to control its members in such arrangements, by making his
formal sanction indispensable to the validity of any matrimonial
alliances which they might desire to contract. A somewhat similar
question had been raised in 1717, when George I., having quarrelled with
the Prince of Wales (afterward George II.), asserted a claim to control
and direct the education of all the Prince's children, and, when they
should be of marriageable age, to arrange their marriages. The Prince,
on the other hand, insisted on his natural and inalienable right, as
their father, to have the entire government of his own offspring, a
right which, as he contended, no royal prerogative could be enabled or
permitted to override. That question was not, however, brought before
Parliament, to which, at that time, the King could, probably, not have
trusted for any leanings in his favor; but he referred it, in an
informal way, to the Lord Chancellor (Lord Cowper) and the Common-law
Judges. They investigated it with great minuteness. A number of
precedents were adduced for the marriage and education of the members of
the royal family being regulated by the sovereign, beginning with Henry
III., who gave his daughter Joan, without her own consent, in marriage
to the King of Scotland, and coming down to the preceding century, at
the commencement of which the Council of James I. committed the Lady
Arabella Stuart and Mr. Seymour to the Tower for contracting a secret
marriage without the King's permission, and at the end of which King
William exercised the right of selecting a tutor for the Duke of
Gloucester, the son of the Princess Anne, without any consultation with
the Princess herself; and finally the judges, with only two dissenting
voices, expressed their conviction that the King was entitled to the
prerogative which he claimed. The case does not, however, seem to have
been regularly argued before them; there is no trace of their having
been assisted in their deliberations by counsel on either side, and
their extra-judicial opinion was clearly destitute of any formal
authority;[25] so that it came before Parliament in some degree as a new

But George III. was not of a disposition to allow such matters to remain
in doubt, and, in compliance with his desire, a bill was, in 1772,
introduced by Lord Rochfort, as Secretary of State, which proposed to
enact that no descendants of the late King, being children or
grandchildren, and presumptive heirs of the sovereign, male or female,
other than the issue of princesses who might be married into foreign
families, should be capable of contracting a valid marriage without the
previous consent of the reigning sovereign, signified under his
sign-manual, and that any marriage contracted without such consent
should be null and void. The King or the ministers apparently doubted
whether Parliament could be prevailed on to make such a prohibition
life-long, and therefore a clause was added which provided that if any
prince or princess above the age of twenty-five years should determine
to contract a marriage without such consent of the sovereign, he or she
might do so on giving twelve months' notice to the Privy Council; and
such marriage should be good and valid, unless, before the expiration of
the twelve months, both Houses of Parliament should declare their
disapproval of the marriage. The concluding clause of the bill made it
felony "to presume to solemnize, or to assist, or to be present, at the
celebration of any such marriage without such consent being first

The bill was stoutly resisted in both Houses at every stage, both on the
ground of usage and of general principle. It was positively denied that
the "sovereign's right of approving of all marriages in the royal
family," which was asserted in the preamble of the bill, was either
founded in law, or established by precedent, or warranted by the opinion
of the judges. And it was contended that there never had been a time
when the possession of royal rank had been considered necessary to
qualify any one to become consort of an English prince or princess. It
had not even been regarded as a necessary qualification for a queen.
Three of the wives of Henry VIII. had been English subjects wholly
unconnected with the royal family; nor had the Parliament nor the people
in general complained of any one of those marriages; moreover, two of
his children, who had in their turn succeeded to the crown, had been the
offspring of two of those wives; and in the last century James II.,
while Duke of York, had married the daughter of an English gentleman;
and, though it had not been without notorious reluctance that his royal
brother had sanctioned that connection, it was well known that Charles
II. himself had proposed to marry the niece of Cardinal Mazarin. In the
House of Peers, Lord Camden especially objected to the clause annulling
a marriage between persons of full age; and in the Commons, Mr.
Dowdeswell, who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord
Rockingham's administration, dwelt with especial vigor on the
unreasonableness of the clause which fixed twenty-five as the age before
which no prince or princess could marry without the King's consent.
"Law, positive law," he argued, "and not the arbitrary will of an
individual, should be the only restraint. Men who are by law allowed at
twenty-one[26] to be fit for governing the realm may well be supposed
capable of choosing and governing a wife."[27] Lord Folkestone condemned
with great earnestness the expression in the preamble that the bill was
dictated "by the royal concern for the honor and dignity of the crown,"
as implying a doctrine that an alliance of a subject with a branch of
the royal family is dishonorable to the crown--a doctrine which he
denounced as "an oblique insult" to the whole people, and which, as
such, "the representatives of the people were bound to oppose." And he
also objected to the "vindicatory part," as he termed the clause which
declared those who might assist, or even be present, at a marriage
contracted without the royal permission guilty of felony.[28]

The ministry, however, had a decided majority in both Houses, and the
bill became and remains the law of the land, though fourteen peers,
including one bishop, entered a protest against it on nine different
grounds, one of which condemned it as "an extension of the royal
prerogative for which the great majority of the judges found no
authority;" while another, with something of prophetic sagacity, urged
that the bill "was pregnant with civil discord and confusion, and had a
natural tendency to produce a disputed title to the crown."

It may be doubted whether the circumstances which had induced George
III. to demand such a power as that with which the bill invested him
justified its enactment. He was already the father of a family so
numerous as to render it highly improbable that either of his brothers
or any of their children would ever come to the throne; while, as a
previously existing law barred any prince or princess who might marry a
Roman Catholic from the succession, the additional restraint imposed by
the new statute practically limited their choice to an inconveniently
small number of foreign royal houses, many of which, to say the least,
are not superior in importance or purity of blood to many of our own

Nor can it be said to have been successful in accomplishing his
Majesty's object. It is notorious that two of his sons, and very
generally believed that one of his daughters, married subjects; the
Prince of Wales having chosen a wife who was not only inferior in rank
and social position to Lady Waldegrave or Mrs. Horton, but was moreover
a Roman Catholic; and that another of his sons petitioned more than once
for permission to marry an English heiress of ancient family. And our
present sovereign may be thought to have pronounced her opinion that the
act goes too far, when she gave one of her younger daughters in marriage
to a nobleman who, however high in rank, has no royal blood in his
veins. The political inconvenience which might arise from the
circumstance of the reigning sovereign being connected by near and
intimate relationship with a family of his British subjects will,
probably, always be thought to render it desirable that some restriction
should be placed on the marriage of the heir-apparent; but where the
sovereign is blessed with a numerous offspring, there seems no
sufficient reason for sending the younger branches of the royal house to
seek wives or husbands in foreign countries. And as the precedent set in
the case of the Princess Louise has been generally approved, it is
probable that in similar circumstances it may be followed, and that such
occasional relaxation of the act of 1772 will be regarded as justified
by and consistent with the requirements of public policy as well as by
the laws of nature.[29] Generally speaking, the two Houses agreed in
their support of the ministerial policy both at home and abroad; but, in
spite of this political harmony, a certain degree of bad feeling existed
between them, which on one occasion led to a somewhat singular scene in
the House of Commons. The Commons imputed its origin to the discourtesy
of the Lords, who, when members of the Commons were ordered by their
House to carry its bills up to the peers, sometimes kept them "waiting
three hours in the lobby among their lordships' footmen before they
admitted them." Burke affirmed that this had happened to himself, and
that he "spoke of it, not out of any personal pride, nor as an indignity
to himself, but as a flagrant disgrace to the House of Commons, which,
he apprehended, was not inferior in rank to any other branch of the
Legislature, but co-ordinate with them." And the irritation which such
treatment excited led the Commons, perhaps not very unnaturally, to seek
some opportunity to vindicate their dignity. They found it in an
amendment which the Lords made on a corn bill. In the middle of April,
1772, resolutions had been passed by the Commons, in a committee of the
whole House, imposing certain duties on the importation of wheat[30] and
other grain when they were at a certain price, which was fixed at 48s.,
and granting bounties on exportation when the price fell below 44s. The
Lords made several amendments on the bill, and, among others, one to
strike out the clause which granted bounties. But when the bill thus
amended came back to the Commons, even those who disliked the principle
of bounties resented this act of the Lords in meddling with that
question, which they regarded as a violation of their peculiar and most
cherished privilege, the exclusive right of dealing with questions of
taxation. Governor Pownall, who had charge of the bill, declared that
the Lords had forgotten their duty when they interfered in raising money
by the insertion of a clause that "no bounty should be paid upon
exported corn." And on this ground he moved the rejection of the
bill.[31] In the last chapter of this volume, a more fitting occasion
for examining the rights and usages of the House of Lords with respect
to money-bills will be furnished by a series of resolutions on the
subject, moved by the Prime-minister of the day. It is sufficient here
to say that the power of rejection is manifestly so different from that
of originating grants--which is admitted to belong exclusively to the
Commons--and that there were so many precedents for the Lords having
exerted this power of rejection in the course of the preceding century,
that they probably never conceived that in so doing now they were
committing any encroachment on the constitutional rights and privileges
of the Lower House. But on this occasion the ill-feeling previously
existing between the two Houses may be thought to have predisposed the
Commons to seek opportunity for a quarrel. And there never was a case in
which both parties in the House were more unanimous. Governor Pownall
called the rejection of the clause by the Lords "a flagrant encroachment
upon the privileges of the House," and affirmed that the Lords had
"forgotten their duty." Burke termed it "a proof that the Lords did not
understand the principles of the constitution, an invasion of a known
and avowed right inherent in the House as the representatives of the
people," and expressed a hope that "they were not yet so infamous and
abandoned as to relinquish this essential right," or to submit to "the
annihilation of all their authority." Others called it "an affront which
the House was bound to resent, and the more imperatively in consequence
of the absence of a good understanding between the two Houses." And the
Speaker, Sir John Cust, went beyond all his brother members in violence,
declaring that "he would do his part in the business, and toss the bill
over the table." The bill was rejected _nem. con._, and the Speaker
tossed it over the table, several of the members on both sides of the
question kicking it as they went out;[32] and to such a pitch of
exasperation had they worked themselves up, that "the Game Bill, in
which the Lords had made alterations, was served in a similar manner,"
though those alterations only referred to the penalties to be imposed
for violations of the Game-law, and could by no stretch of ingenuity be
connected with any question of taxation.


[Footnote 16: A motion was, indeed, made (but the "Parliamentary
History," xvi., 55, omits to state by whom) that the House should
"humbly entreat his Majesty, out of his tender and paternal regard for
his people, that he would be graciously pleased to name the person or
persons whom, in his royal wisdom, he shall think fit to propose to the
consideration of Parliament for the execution of those high trusts, this
House apprehending it not warranted by precedent nor agreeable to the
principles of this free constitution to vest in any person or persons
not particularly named and approved of in Parliament the important
offices of Regent of these kingdoms and guardian of the royal offspring
heirs to the crown." But "it passed in the negative," probably, if we
may judge by other divisions on motions made by the same party, by an
overwhelming majority.]

[Footnote 17: No one doubted that this choice had been made under the
influence of Lord Bute, and was designed for the preservation of that
influence.--Lord Stanhope, _History of England_, v., 41.]

[Footnote 18: In his speech in the House of Lords on the Regency Bill of
1840, the Duke of Sussex stated that George III. had nominated the Queen
as Regent in the first instance, and, in the event of her death, the
Princess Dowager.]

[Footnote 19: "Lives of the Chancellors," c. cxli.]

[Footnote 20: It appears from these dates that it was not yet understood
that Parliament could not be prorogued for a longer period than forty

[Footnote 21: These words occur in a speech attributed to Lord
Mansfield. There is no detailed account of the debates on this subject
in either House. All that exists in the "Parliamentary History" is a
very brief abstract of the discussion in the Commons, and a document
occupying above sixty pages of the same work (pp. 251-314), entitled "A
Speech on behalf of the Constitution against the Suspending and
Dispensing Prerogative," etc., with a foot-note explaining that "this
speech was supposed to be penned by Lord Mansfield, but was, in fact,
written by Mr. Macintosh, assisted by Lord Temple and Lord Lyttleton."
It certainly seems to contain internal evidence that it was not written
by any lawyer, from the sneers at and denunciations of lawyers which it
contains, as a class of men who "have often appeared to be the worst
guardians of the constitution, and too frequently the wickedest enemies
to, and most treacherous betrayers of, the liberties of their country."
But, by whomsoever it was "penned" and published, the arguments which it
contains against the dispensing power were, probably, those which had
been urged by the great Chief-justice, and as such I have ventured to
cite them here.]

[Footnote 22: In his "Lives of the Chief-justices" (c. xxxvi., life of
Lord Mansfield), Lord Campbell says, with reference to this case: "The
Chief-justice's only considerable public exhibition during this period
was his attack on the unconstitutional assertion of Lord Chatham and
Lord Camden, that, in a case of great public emergency, the crown could
by law dispense with an act of parliament. The question arising from the
embargo on the exportation of corn, in consequence of apprehended
famine, he proved triumphantly that, although the measure was expedient
and proper, it was a violation of law, and required to be sanctioned by
an act of indemnity." And Lord Campbell adds, in a note: "This doctrine,
acted upon in 1827, during the administration of Mr. Canning, and on
several subsequent occasions, is now universally taken for
constitutional law" (ii., 468).]

[Footnote 23: To adduce a single instance, worthy of remark as affecting
the personal liberty of the subject, in 1818 a bill of indemnity was
passed to sanction the action of the ministry in arresting and detaining
in prison, without bringing them to trial, several persons accused of
being implicated in seditious proceedings (_vide infra_).]

[Footnote 24: Vol. xvii., 304.]

[Footnote 25: The case is mentioned by Lord Campbell in his "Lives of
the Chancellors," c. cxxi. (life of Lord Macclesfield) and c. cxxiv.
(life of Lord Chancellor King).]

[Footnote 26: In fact, however, the age at which a young prince was
considered competent to exercise the royal authority in person had been
fixed at eighteen; and it is so stated in the speech in which the King,
in 1765, recommended the appointment of a Regent to Parliament.--
_Parliamentary History_, xvi., 52.]

[Footnote 27: This idea was expanded into an epigram, which appeared in
most of the daily papers, and has been thought worthy of being preserved
in the "Parliamentary History," xvii., 401 (note):

  "Quoth Dick to Tom, 'This act appears
    Absurd, as I'm alive,
  To take the crown at eighteen years,
    A wife at twenty-five.
  The mystery how shall we explain?
    For sure, as Dowdeswell said,
  Thus early if they're fit to _reign_,
    They must be fit to _wed_.'
  Quoth Tom to Dick, 'Thou art a fool,
    And nothing know'st of life;
  Alas! it's easier far to rule
    A kingdom than a wife.'"]

[Footnote 28: It is remarkable that this clause on one occasion proved
an obstacle to the punishment of the abettors of such a marriage. In
1793 the Duke of Sussex married Lady Augusta Murray, first at Rome, and
afterward, by banns, at St. George's, Hanover Square. And when the
affair came to be investigated by the Privy Council, Lord Thurlow
denounced the conduct of the pair in violent terms, and angrily asked
the Attorney-general, Sir John Scott, why he had not prosecuted all the
parties concerned in this abominable marriage. Sir John's reply, as he
reported it himself, was sufficiently conclusive: "I answered that it
was a very difficult business to prosecute; that the act, it was
understood, had been drawn by Lord Mansfield, the Attorney-general
Thurlow, and the Solicitor-general Wedderburn, who, unluckily, had made
all persons present at the marriage guilty of felony. And as nobody
could prove the marriage except a person who had been present at it,
there could be no prosecution, because nobody present could be compelled
to be a witness."--THORP'S _Life of Eldon_, i., 235.]

[Footnote 29: A protest against the bill, entered by fourteen peers,
including one bishop (of Bangor), denounced it, among other objections,
as "contrary to the original inherent rights of human nature ...
exceeding the power permitted by Divine Providence to human legislation
... and shaking many of the foundations of law, religion, and public
security."--_Parliamentary History_, xvii., 391.]

[Footnote 30: The import duty on wheat was fixed at 6_d_. a quarter on
grain, and 2_d_. per cwt. on flour, when the price of wheat in the
kingdom should be at or above 48s.; when it was at or above 44s., the
exportation was to be altogether prohibited.--_Parliamentary History_,
xvii., 476.]

[Footnote 31: See Hallam, "Constitutional History," iii., 38-46, ed.
1833, where, as far as the imperfection of our early Parliamentary
records allows, he traces the origin of the assertion of this peculiar
privilege by the Commons, especially referring to a discussion of the
proper limits of this privilege in several conferences between the two
Houses; where, as on some other occasions, he sees, in the assertion of
their alleged rights by the Commons, "more disposition to make
encroachments than to guard against those of others." A few years before
(in 1763), the House of Lords showed that they had no doubt of their
right to reject a money-bill, since they divided on the Cider Bill,
which came under that description. As, however, the bill was passed,
that division was not brought under the notice of the House. But in
1783, in the time of the Coalition Ministry, the peers having made
amendments on the American Intercourse Bill, "the Speaker observed that,
as the bill empowered the crown to impose duties, it was, strictly
speaking, a money-bill, and therefore the House could not, consistently
with its own orders, suffer the Lords to make any amendments on it, and
he recommended that the consideration of their amendments should be
postponed for three months, and in the mean time a new bill framed
according to the Lords' amendments should be passed." The recommendation
was approved by Mr. Pitt, as leader of the Opposition, and approved and
acted on by Mr. Fox, as leader of the ministry in that House. But, at
the same time, Mr. Fox fully admitted the right of the Lords to discuss
such questions, "for it would be very absurd indeed to send a loan bill
to the Lords for their concurrence, and at the same time deprive them of
the right of deliberation. To lay down plans and schemes for loans
belonged solely to the Commons; and he was willing, therefore, that the
amended bill should be rejected, though he was of opinion that the order
of the House respecting money-bills was often too strictly construed."
And he immediately moved for leave to bring in a new bill, which was
verbatim the same with the amended bill sent down by the
Lords.--_Parliamentary History_, xxiii., 895. The question was revived
in the present reign, on the refusal of the Lords to concur in the
abolition of the duty on paper, when the whole subject was discussed
with such elaborate minuteness, and with so much more command of temper
than was shown on the present occasion, that it will be better to defer
the examination of the principle involved till we come to the history of
that transaction.]

[Footnote 32: "Parliamentary History," xvii., 515.]


Mr. Grenville imposes a Duty on Stamps in the North American
Colonies.--Examination of Dr. Franklin.--Lord Rockingham's Ministry
Repeals the Duty.--Lord Mansfield affirms a Virtual Representation in
the Colonies.--Mr. C. Townsend imposes Import Duties in America.--After
some Years, the Civil War breaks out.--Hanoverian Troops are sent to
Gibraltar.--The Employment of Hanoverian Regiments at Gibraltar and
Minorca.--End of the War.--Colonial Policy of the Present
Reign.--Complaints of the Undue Influence of the Crown.--Motions for
Parliamentary Reform.--Mr. Burke's Bill for Economical Reform.--Mr.
Dunning's Resolution on the Influence of the Crown.--Rights of the Lords
on Money-bills.--The Gordon Riots.

But during these years another matter had been gradually forcing its way
to the front, which, though at first it attracted but comparatively
slight notice, when it came to a head, absorbed for several years the
whole attention, not only of these kingdoms, but of foreign countries
also. It was originally--in appearance, at least--merely a dispute
between Great Britain and her Colonies in North America on the mode of
obtaining a small revenue from them. But, in its progress, it eventually
involved us in a foreign war of great magnitude, and thus became the one
subject of supreme interest to every statesman in Europe. England had
not borne her share in the seven years' war without a considerable
augmentation of the national debt, and a corresponding increase in the
amount of yearly revenue which it had become necessary to raise;[33] and
Mr. Grenville, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, had to devise the means
of meeting the demand. A year before, he had supported with great warmth
the proposal of Sir Francis Dashwood, his predecessor at the Exchequer,
to lay a new tax upon cider. Now that he himself had succeeded to that
office, he cast his eyes across the Atlantic, and, on the plea that the
late war had to a certain extent been undertaken for the defence of the
Colonies in North America, he proposed to make them bear a share in the
burden caused by enterprises from which they had profited. Accordingly,
in March, 1764, he proposed a series of resolutions imposing a variety
of import duties on different articles of foreign produce imported into
"the British Colonies and plantations in America," and also export
duties on a few articles of American growth when "exported or conveyed
to any other place except to Great Britain." Another resolution affirmed
"that, toward defraying the said expense, it might be proper to charge
certain stamp-duties in the said Colonies and plantations."

The resolutions imposing import and export duties were passed by both
Houses almost without comment. That relating to a stamp-duty he did not
press at the moment, announcing that he postponed it for a year, in
order to ascertain in what light it would be regarded by the Colonists
themselves; and as most, if not all, of the Colonies had a resident
agent in London, he called them together, explained to them the object
and anticipated result of the new imposition (for such he admitted it to
be), and requested them to communicate his views to their constituents,
adding an offer that, if they should prefer any other tax likely to be
equally productive, he should be desirous to consult their wishes in the

He probably regarded such language on his part as a somewhat superfluous
exercise of courtesy or conciliation, so entire was his conviction of
the omnipotence of Parliament, and of the impossibility of any loyal man
or body of men calling its power in question. But he was greatly
deceived. His message was received in America with universal
dissatisfaction. Of the thirteen States which made up the body of
Colonies, there was scarcely one whose Assembly did not present a
petition against the proposed measure, and against any other which might
be considered as an alternative. Grenville, however, was not a man to be
moved by petitions or remonstrances. He was rather one whom opposition
of any kind hardened in his purpose; and, as no substitute had been
suggested, at the opening of the session of 1765 he proposed a series of
resolutions requisite to give effect to the vote of the previous year,
and imposing "certain stamp-duties and other duties" on the settlements
in America, perhaps thinking to render his disregard of the objections
which had been made less unpalatable by the insertion of words binding
the government to apply the sums to be thus raised to "the expenses of
defending, protecting, and securing" the Colonies themselves. The
resolutions were passed, as the "Parliamentary History" records, "almost
without debate," on the 6th of March.[34] But the intelligence was
received in every part of the Colonies with an indignant
dissatisfaction, which astonished even their own agents in England.[35]
Formidable riots broke out in several provinces. In Massachusetts the
man who had been appointed Distributor of Stamps was burnt in effigy;
the house of the Lieutenant-governor was attacked by a furious mob, who
avowed their determination to murder him if he fell into their hands;
and resolutions were passed by the Assemblies of the different States to
convene a General Congress at New York in the autumn, to organize a
resistance to the tax, and to take the general state of affairs into

Before, however, that time came, a series of events having no connection
with these transactions had led to a change of ministry in England, and
the new cabinet was less inclined to carry matters with a high hand.
Indeed, even the boldest statesman could hardly have learned the state
of feeling which had been excited in America without apprehension, and
those who had the chief weight in the new administration were not men to
imperil the state by an insistance on abstract theories of right and
prerogative. Accordingly, when, after Lord Rockingham had become
Prime-minister, Parliament met in December, 1765, the royal speech
recommended the state of affairs in America to the consideration of
Parliament (a recommendation which manifestly implied a disposition on
the part of the King's advisers to induce the House of Commons to
retrace its steps), papers were laid before Parliament, and witnesses
from America were examined, and among them a man who had already won a
high reputation by his scientific acquirements, but who had not been
previously prominent as a politician, Dr. Benjamin Franklin. He had come
over to England as agent for Pennsylvania, and his examination, as
preserved in the "Parliamentary History," may be taken as a complete
statement of the matter in dispute from the American point of view, and
of the justification which the Colonists conceived themselves to have
for refusing to submit to pay such a tax as had now been imposed upon
them. At a later day he was one of the most zealous, as he was probably
one of the earliest, advocates of separation from England; but as yet
neither his language nor his actions afforded any trace of such a

He affirmed[36] the general temper of the Colonists toward Great Britain
to have been, till this act was passed, the best in the world. They
considered themselves as a part of the British empire, and as having one
common interest with it. They did not consider themselves as foreigners.
They were jealous for the honor and prosperity of this nation, and
always were, and always would be, ready to support it as far as their
little power went. They considered the Parliament of Great Britain as
the great bulwark and security of their liberties and privileges, and
always spoke of it with the utmost respect and veneration. They had
given a practical proof of their goodwill by having raised, clothed, and
paid during the last war nearly 25,000 men, and spent many millions; nor
had any Assembly of any Colony ever refused duly to support the
government by proper allowances from time to time to public officers.
They had always been ready, and were ready now, to tax themselves. The
Colonies had Assemblies of their own, which were their Parliaments. They
were, in that respect, in the same situation as Ireland. Their
Assemblies had a right to levy money on the subject, then to grant to
the crown, and, indeed, had constantly done so; and he himself was
specially instructed by the Assembly of his own State to assure the
ministry that, as they always had done, so they should always think it
their duty to grant such aids to the crown as were suitable to their
circumstances and abilities, whenever called upon for the purpose in a
constitutional manner; and that instruction he had communicated to the
ministry. But the Colonies objected to Parliament laying on them such a
tax as that imposed by the Stamp Act. Some duties, they admitted, the
Parliament had a right to impose, but he drew a distinction between
"those duties which were meant to regulate commerce and internal taxes."
The authority of Parliament to regulate commerce had never been disputed
by the Colonists. The sea belonged to Britain. She maintained by her
fleets the safety of navigation on it; she kept it clear of pirates; she
might, therefore, have a natural and equitable right to some toll or
duty, on merchandise carried through that part of her dominions, toward
defraying the expenses she was at in ships to maintain the safety of
that carriage. But the case of imposition of internal taxes was wholly
different from this. The Colonists held that, by the charters which at
different times had been granted to the different States, they were
entitled to all the privileges and liberties of Englishmen. They found
in the Great Charters, and the Petition and Declarations of Right, that
one of the privileges of English subjects is that they are not to be
taxed but by their common consent; and these rights and privileges had
been confirmed by the charters which at different times had been granted
to the different States. In reply to a question put to him, he allowed
that in the Pennsylvania charter there was a clause by which the King
granted that he would levy no taxes on the inhabitants unless it were
with the consent of the Colonial Assembly, or by an act of Parliament;
words which certainly seemed to reserve a right of taxation to the
British Parliament; but he also demonstrated that, in point of fact, the
latter part of the clause had never been acted on, and the Colonists
had, therefore, relied on it, from the first settlement of the province,
that the Parliament never would nor could, by the color of that clause
in the charter, assume a right of taxing them till it had qualified
itself to exercise such right by admitting representatives from the
people to be taxed. And, in addition to objections on principle, he
urged some that he regarded as of great force as to the working of this
particular tax imposed by the Stamp Act. It was not an equal tax, as the
greater part of the revenue derived from it must arise from lawsuits for
the recovery of debts, and be paid by the lower sort of people; it was a
heavy tax on the poor, and a tax on them for being poor. In the back
settlements, where the population was very thin, the inhabitants would
often be unable to get stamps without taking a long journey for the
purpose. The scarcity of specie, too, in the country would cause the
pressure to be felt with great severity, as, in his opinion, there was
not gold and silver enough in the Colonies to pay the stamp-duty for a
single year. In reply to another question, whether the Colonists would
be satisfied with a repeal of the Stamp Act without a formal
renunciation of the abstract right of Parliament to impose it, he
replied that he believed they would be satisfied. He thought the
resolutions of right would give them very little concern, if they were
never attempted to be carried into practice. The Colonies would probably
consider themselves in the same situation in that respect as Ireland.
They knew that the English Parliament claimed the same right with regard
to Ireland, but that it never exercised it; and they might believe that
they would never exercise it in the Colonies any more than in Ireland.
Indeed, they would think that it never could exercise such a right till
representatives from the Colonies should be admitted into Parliament,
and that whenever an occasion arose to make Parliament regard the
taxation of the Colonies as indispensable, representatives would be

This last question put to the witness, like several others in the course
of his examination, had been framed with the express purpose of
eliciting an answer to justify the determination on the subject to which
Lord Rockingham and his colleagues had come. It could not be denied that
the government was placed in a situation of extreme difficulty--
difficulty created, in part, by the conduct of the Colonists themselves.
That, as even their most uncompromising advocate, Mr. Pitt, admitted,
had been imprudent and intemperate, though it was the imprudence of men
who "had been driven to madness by injustice." On the one hand, to
repeal an act the opposition to which had been marked by fierce riots,
such as those of Boston, and even in the Assemblies of some of the
States by language scarcely short of treason,[37] seemed a concession to
intimidation scarcely compatible with the maintenance of the dignity of
the crown or the legitimate authority of Parliament. On the other hand,
to persist in the retention of a tax which the whole population affected
by it was evidently determined to resist to the uttermost, was to incur
the still greater danger of rebellion and civil war. In this dilemma,
the ministers resolved on a course calculated, as they conceived, to
avoid both evils, by combining a satisfaction of the complaints of the
Colonists with an assertion of the absolute supremacy of the British
crown and Parliament for every purpose. And on February 24, 1766, the
Secretary of State brought in a bill which, after declaring, in its
first clause, "that the King's Majesty, by and with the consent of the
Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons of Great Britain, in
Parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power
and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity
to bind the Colonists and people of America, subjects of the crown of
Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever," proceeded to repeal the Stamp
Act, giving a strong proof of the sincerity of the desire to conciliate
the Colonists by the unusual step of fixing the second reading of the
bill for the next day.

But in its different clauses it encountered a twofold opposition, which
he had, probably, not anticipated. It is unnecessary to notice that
which rested solely on the inexpediency of repealing the Stamp Act, "the
compulsory enforcement of which was required by the honor and dignity of
the kingdom." But the first clause was even more strenuously resisted,
on grounds which its opponents affirmed to rest on the fundamental
principles of the constitution. It was urged in the House of Commons by
Mr. Pitt that, "as the Colonies were not represented in Parliament,
Great Britain had no legal right nor power to lay a tax upon them--that
taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power. Taxes," said
the great orator, "are the voluntary gift and grant of the Commons
alone. In legislation the three estates of the realm are alike
concerned; but the concurrence of the peers and the crown to a tax is
only necessary to clothe it with the form of a law; the gift and grant
is in the Commons alone.... The distinction between legislation and
taxation is essentially necessary to liberty."

Mr. Pitt had no claim to be considered as a great authority in the
principles of constitutional law. George II., slight as was his
political knowledge or wisdom, complained on one occasion of the
ignorance of a Secretary of State who had never read Vattel; and in this
very debate he even boasted of his ignorance of "law-cases and acts of
Parliament." But his coadjutor in the House of Lords (Lord Camden, at
this time Chief-justice of the Common Pleas) owed the chief part of the
respect in which he was held to his supposed excellence as a
constitutional lawyer, and he fully endorsed and expanded Pitt's
arguments when the bill came up to the House of Lords. He affirmed that
he spoke as "the defender of the law and the constitution; that, as the
affair was of the greatest consequence, and in its consequences might
involve the fate of kingdoms, he had taken the strictest review of his
arguments, he had examined and re-examined all his authorities; and that
his searches had more and more convinced him that the British Parliament
had no right to tax the Americans. The Stamp Act was absolutely illegal,
contrary to the fundamental laws of nature, contrary to the fundamental
laws of this constitution--a constitution governed on the eternal and
immutable laws of nature. The doctrine which he was asserting was not
new; it was as old as the constitution; it grew up with it; indeed, it
was its support. Taxation and representation are inseparably united. God
hath joined them; no British government can put them asunder. To
endeavor to do so is to stab our very vitals." And he objected to the
first clause (that which declared the power and right to tax), on the
ground that if the ministers "wantonly pressed this declaration,
although they were now repealing the Stamp Act, they might pass it again
in a month." He even argued that "they must have future taxation in
view, or they would hardly assert their right to enjoy the pleasure of
offering an insult." He was answered by Lord Northington (the
Chancellor) and by Lord Mansfield (the Chief-justice), both of whom
supported the motion to repeal the tax, but who also agreed in denying
the soundness of his doctrine that, as far as the power was concerned,
there was any distinction between a law to tax and a law for any other
purpose; and Lord Mansfield farther denied the validity of the argument
which it had been attempted to found on the circumstance that the
Colonies were not represented in Parliament, propounding, on the
contrary, what Lord Campbell calls "his doctrine of virtual
representation." "There can," said he, "be no doubt but that the
inhabitants of the Colonies are represented in Parliament, as the
greatest part of the people of England are represented, among nine
millions of whom there are eight who have no votes in electing members
of Parliament. Every objection, therefore, to the dependency of the
Colonies upon Parliament which arises upon the ground of representation
goes to the whole present constitution of Great Britain.... For what
purpose, then, are arguments drawn from a distinction in which there is
no real difference of a virtual and an actual representation? A member
of Parliament chosen for any borough represents not only the
constituents and inhabitants of that particular place, but he represents
the inhabitants of every other borough in Great Britain. He represents
the City of London and all the other Commons of the land, and the
inhabitants of all the colonies and dominions of Great Britain, and is
in duty and conscience bound to take care of their interests."

Lord Mansfield's doctrine of a virtual representation of the Colonies
must be admitted to be overstrained. The analogy between the case of
colonists in a country from no part of which representatives are sent to
Parliament, and that of a borough or county where some classes of the
population which may, in a sense, be regarded as spokesmen or agents of
the rest form a constituency and return members, must be allowed to
fail; yet the last sentences of this extract are worth preserving, as
laying down the important constitutional principle, subsequently
expanded and enforced with irresistible learning and power of argument
by Burke, that a member of the House of Commons is not a delegate,
bound, under all circumstances, to follow the opinions or submit to the
dictation of his constituents, but that from the moment of his election
he is a councillor of the whole kingdom, bound to exercise an
independent judgment for the interests of the whole people, rather than
to guide himself by the capricious or partial judgments of a small
section of it. But in its more immediate objects--that of establishing
the two principles, that the constitution knows of no limitation to the
authority of Parliament, and of no distinction between the power of
taxation and that of any other kind of legislation--Lord Mansfield's
speech is now universally admitted to have been unanswerable.[38]

The abstract right was unquestionably on the side of the minister and
the Parliament who had imposed the tax. But he is not worthy of the name
of statesman who conceives absolute rights and metaphysical distinctions
to be the proper foundation for measures of government, and pays no
regard to custom, to precedent, to the habits and feelings of the people
to be governed; who, disregarding the old and most true adage, _summum
jus summa injuria_, omits to take into his calculations the expediency
of his actions when legislating for a nation which he is in the daily
habit of weighing in his private affairs. The art or science of
government are phrases in common use; but they would be void of meaning
if all that is requisite be to ascertain the strict right or power, and
then unswervingly to act upon it in all its rigor. And, therefore, while
it must be admitted that the character of the power vested in King,
Lords, and Commons assembled in Parliament is unlimited and illimitable,
and that the legal competency to enact a statute depends in no degree
whatever on the wisdom or folly, the justice or wickedness, of the
statute, the advice given to a constitutional sovereign by his advisers
must be guided by other considerations. To quote by anticipation the
language addressed to the Commons on this subject by Burke eight years
afterward, the proper policy was "to leave the Americans as they
anciently stood ... To be content to bind America by laws of trade.
Parliament had always done it. And this should be the reason for binding
their trade. Not to burden them by taxes; Parliament was not used to do
so from the beginning; and this should be the reason for not taxing.
These are the arguments of states and kingdoms."[39]

The ministry were strong enough to carry their resolutions through both
Houses. Their measure was divided into two acts, one known as the
Declaratory Act, asserting the absolute and universal authority of
Parliament; the other repealing the Stamp Act of the preceding year. And
both were passed without alteration, though the Lords divided against
them on both the second and third readings of the bill for repeal
founded on them,[40] some of them entering long protests in the journals
of the House. The right to tax was asserted, but the tax itself was
repealed. And Franklin's estimate of the feelings on the subject
entertained by his countrymen was fully verified by the reception which
the intelligence met with in the Colonies. To quote the description of
Lord Stanhope: "In America the repeal of the Stamp Act was received with
universal joy and acclamation. Fireworks and festivals celebrated the
good news, while addresses and thanks to the King were voted by all the
Assemblies.... The words of the Declaratory Act, indeed, gave the
Americans slight concern. They fully believed that no practical
grievance could arise from it. They looked upon it merely as a salve to
the wounded pride of England; as only that 'bridge of gold' which,
according to the old French saying, should always be allowed to a
retreating assailant."[41]

A recent writer, however, has condemned the addition of the declaration
of the abstract right to tax with great vehemence. "Nothing," says Lord
Campbell,[42] "could exceed the folly of accompanying the repeal of the
Stamp Act with the statutable declaration of the abstract right to tax."
But it does not seem difficult to justify the conduct of the ministry in
this particular. For, besides the great weight deservedly attached to
Franklin's assurance that the declaration would not be objected to by
the Colonists, and besides the consideration that, on a general view, it
was desirable, if not indispensable, to impress on all classes of
subjects, whether at home or abroad, the constitutional doctrine of the
omnipotence of Parliament, the line of argument adopted by Mr. Pitt and
Lord Camden, in denying that omnipotence, left the ministers no
alternative but that of asserting it, unless they were prepared to
betray their trust as guardians of the constitution. Forbearance to
insist on the Declaratory Act could not fail to have been regarded as an
acquiescence on their part in a doctrine which Lord Campbell in the same
breath admits to be false. It may be added, as a consideration of no
small practical weight, that, without such a Declaratory Act, the King
would have been very reluctant to consent to the other and more
important Repealing Act. And, on the whole, the conduct of the ministry
may, we think, be regarded as the wisest settlement both of the law and
of the practice. It asserted the law in a manner which offended no one;
and it made a precedent for placing the spirit of statesmanship above
the letter of the law, and for forbearing to put forth in its full
strength the prerogatives whose character was not fully understood by
those who might be affected by them, and also could plead that
Parliament itself had contributed to lead them to misunderstand it by
its own conduct in never before exerting it.

For the moment, then, contentment and tranquillity were restored in the
Colonies. Unhappily, they were not lasting. The same year which saw the
triumph of the Rockingham administration in the repeal of the Stamp Act,
witnessed also its fall before a discreditable intrigue. And the
ministry which succeeded it had not been a year in office before the new
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townsend, revived the discontents
in America which Lord Rockingham had appeased. It cannot be said,
however, that the blame should all belong to him; or that the Rockingham
party in the House of Commons were entirely free from a share in it.
They were--not unnaturally, perhaps--greatly irritated at the intrigue
by which Lord Chatham had superseded them, and were not disinclined to
throw difficulties in the way of their successors, for which the events
of the next year afforded more than one opportunity. Lord Chatham, as
has been mentioned, was universally recognized as the chief of the new
ministry, though he abstained from taking the usual office of First Lord
of the Treasury, and contented himself with the Privy Seal; but he had
constructed it of such discordant elements[43] that no influence but his
own could preserve consistency in its acts or harmony among its members,
as nothing but his name could give it consideration either in Parliament
or in the country. In the first months of the next year, 1767, he was
attacked with an illness which for a time disabled him from attending
the cabinet, being, apparently, the forerunner of that more serious
malady which, before the end of the summer, compelled his long
retirement from public life; and the Opposition took advantage of the
state of disorganization and weakness which his illness caused among his
colleagues, to defeat them on the Budget in the House of Commons, by an
amendment to reduce the land-tax, which caused a deficiency in the
supplies of half a million. This deficiency it, of course, became
necessary to meet by some fresh tax; and Townsend--who, though endowed
with great richness of eloquence, was of an imprudent, not to say rash,
temper, and was possessed of too thorough a confidence in his own
ingenuity and fertility of resource ever to be inclined to take into
consideration any objections to which his schemes might be
liable--proposed to raise a portion of the money which was needed by
taxes on glass, paper, tea, and one or two other articles, to be paid as
import duties in the American Colonies. His colleagues, and especially
the Duke of Grafton himself, the First Lord of the Treasury, and as such
the nominal Prime-minister, having been also, as Secretary of State, a
member of Lord Rockingham's ministry, which had repealed the former
taxes, did not consent to the measure without great and avowed
reluctance; but yielded their own judgment to the strong feeling in its
favor which notoriously existed in the House of Commons.[44] Indeed,
that House passed the clauses imposing these import duties without
hesitation, being, probably, influenced in no small degree by the
evidence given in the preceding year by Dr. Franklin, who, as has been
already seen, had explained that the Colonists drew a distinction
between what he called "internal taxes" and import duties "intended to
regulate commerce," and that to the latter class they were not inclined
to object. And a second consideration was, that these new duties were
accompanied and counterbalanced by a reduction of some other taxes; so
that the ministry contended that the effect of these financial measures,
taken altogether, would be to lower to the Colonists the price of the
articles affected by them rather than to raise it. But one of the
resolutions adopted provided that the whole of the money to be raised
from these taxes should not be spent in America, but that, after making
provision for certain Colonial objects specified, "the residue of such
duties should be paid into the receipt of his Majesty's Exchequer, and
there reserved, to be from time to time disposed of by Parliament toward
defraying the necessary expenses of defending, protecting, and securing
the said Colonies and plantations." And this clause seems to have been
understood as designed to provide means for augmenting the number of
regular troops to be maintained in the Colonies, whose employment in the
recent disturbances had made them more unpopular than formerly.[45]

At all events, the intelligence of these new taxes, though only import
duties, found the Colonists in a humor to resist any addition of any
kind to their financial burdens. The events of the last two years had
taught them their strength. It was undeniable that the repeal of the
Stamp Act had been extorted by the riots in Boston and other places, and
the success of this system of intimidation could not fail to encourage
its repetition. Accordingly, the news of this fresh attempt at taxation
was met by a unanimous determination to resist it. Newspaper writers and
pamphleteers denounced not only the duties but the ministry which
imposed them. Petitions from almost every State were sent over to
England, addressed to the King and to the Parliament; but the violent
temper of the leaders of the populace was not content to wait for
answers to them. Associations were at once formed in Boston and one or
two other cities, where resolutions were adopted in the spirit of
retaliation (as their framers avowed), to desist from the importation of
any articles of British commerce, and to rely for the future on American
manufactures. The principal Custom-house officers at Boston were badly
beaten, and others were compelled to seek refuge in a man-of-war which
happened to be in the harbor.

It would be painful, and at the present day useless, to trace the steps
by which these local disturbances gradually grew into one general
insurrection. The spirit of resistance was undoubtedly fanned by a party
which from the first contemplated a total separation from England as its
ultimate result,[46] if, indeed, they had not conceived the design even
before Grenville had given the first provocation to discontent. But the
Colonists were not without advocates in England, even among the members
of the government. The Duke of Grafton, while he remained
Prime-minister, was eager to withdraw all the duties of which they
complained; but he was overruled by the majority of his colleagues. He
prevailed, however, so far that Lord Hillsborough, the Secretary of
State, was authorized to write a circular-letter to the governors of the
different provinces, in which he disowned, in the most distinct language
possible, "a design to propose to Parliament to lay any farther taxes
upon America for the purpose of raising a revenue," and promised for the
next session a repeal of all the taxes except that on tea; and when the
Duke retired from the Treasury, and was succeeded by Lord North, that
statesman himself brought forward the promised repeal in an elaborate
speech,[47] in which he explained that the duty on tea, which he alone
proposed to retain, had been originally a boon to the Americans rather
than an injury, as being accompanied by the removal of a far heavier
tax. But he admitted that even that consideration was not the one which
influenced him in his opinion that that duty should be maintained, so
greatly was the perception that the real object of those who complained
of it was, not the redress of a grievance, but the extinction of a right
which was an essential part of "the controlling supremacy of England."
The fact that the right to tax had been denied made it a positive duty
on the part of the English minister to exert that right. "To temporize
would be to yield, and the authority of the mother country, if now
unsupported, would be relinquished forever." And he avowed his idea of
the policy proper to be pursued to be "to retain the right of taxing
America, but to give it every relief that might be consistent with the
welfare of the mother country." He carried his resolution, though the
minority--which on this occasion was led by Mr. Pownall, who had himself
been Governor of Massachusetts, and who moved an amendment to include
tea in the list of taxes proposed to be repealed--was stronger than
usual.[48] But the concession failed to conciliate a single Colonist; it
had become, as Burke said four years afterward, a matter of feeling,[49]
and the irritation fed on itself, till, in 1773, a fresh act, empowering
the East India Company to export tea to the Colonies direct from their
own warehouses without its being subject to any duty in England--which
Lord North undoubtedly intended as a boon to the Colonists--only
increased the exasperation. The ships which brought the tea to Boston
were boarded and seized by a formidable body of rioters disguised as
native savages, and the tea was thrown into the sea. The intelligence
was received in England with very different feelings by the different
parties in the state. The ministers conceived themselves forced to
assert the dignity of the crown, and proposed bills to inflict severe
punishment on both the City of Boston and the whole Province of
Massachusetts. The Opposition insisted on removing the cause of these
disturbances by a total repeal of the tea-duty. The minister prevailed
by a far larger majority than before, but his success only increased the
exasperation in the Colonies; and it was an evil omen for peace that the
leaders of the resistance began to search the records of the English
Long Parliament "for the revolutionary precedents and forms of the
Puritans of that day."[50] The next year saw fresh attempts to procure
the repeal of the obnoxious tax rejected by the House of Commons; but,
before the news of this division reached America, blood had already been
shed.[51] Civil war began. The next year the Colonies, now united in one
solid body, asserted their Independence, taking the title of the United
States; and, though the government at home made more than one effort to
recall the Colonists to their allegiance, and sent out commissioners of
high rank, with large powers of concession; and though in one remarkable
instance the mission of Mr. Penn, in the summer of 1775, with the
petition to the King known as "the Olive Branch," seemed to show a
desire for a maintenance of the union on the part of the Colonial
Congress,[52] from the moment that the sword was drawn all hope of
preserving the connection of the Colonies must have been seen by all
reasonable men to be at an end.

It is beside our present purpose to recapitulate the military operations
of the war, though they verified another of Burke's warnings, that,
supposing all moral difficulties to be got over, the ocean
remained--that could not be dried up; and, as long as it continued in
its present bed, so long all the causes which weakened authority by
distance must continue. In fact, distance from England was one of the
main circumstances which decided the contest. The slowness of
communication--almost inconceivable to the present generation--rendered
impossible that regularity in the transport of re-enforcements and
supplies which was indispensable to success; and, added to the strange
absence of military skill shown by every one of the British generals,
soon placed the eventual issue of the war beyond a doubt. But one
measure by which Lord North's government endeavored to provide for the
strengthening of the army employed in America was so warmly challenged
on constitutional grounds, that, though the fortunate separation of
Hanover from Great Britain has prevented the possibility of any
recurrence of such a proceeding, it would be improper to pass it over.

In his speech at the opening of the autumnal session of 1775, the King
announced to the Houses that, in order to leave a larger portion of the
established forces of the kingdom available for service in North
America, he "had sent a part of his Electoral troops to the garrisons of
Gibraltar and Port Mahon." And the announcement aroused a vehement
spirit of opposition, which found vent in the debates of both Houses on
the address, and in two substantive motions condemning the measure as a
violation of the constitution as established by the Bill of Rights and
the Act of Settlement. It was strenuously maintained that both these
statutes forbade the raising or keeping on foot a standing army in the
kingdom in time of peace, and also the introduction of foreign troops
into this kingdom, without the previous consent of Parliament, on any
pretence whatever; and that "the fact that Gibraltar and Minorca were
detached from these islands did not exclude them from the character of
forming a part of the British dominion." And on these grounds Lord
Shelburne, who supported Lord Rockingham on an amendment to the address,
did not hesitate to denounce this employment of the Hanoverian
regiments, as "fundamentally infringing the first principles of our
government," and to declare it "high-treason against the constitution."
He asked, "if there were a settled plan to subdue the liberties of this
country, what surer means could be adopted than those of arming Roman
Catholics and introducing foreign troops?"[53] and compared the measure
under discussion to the case of the Dutch regiments of William III.,
"which the Parliament wisely refused to allow him to retain." In the
House of Commons, the Opposition was led by Sir James Lowther and
Governor Johnstone, the latter of whom "appealed to the clause in the
Act of Settlement which enacted that no person born of other than
English parents should enjoy any office or place of trust, civil or
military, within the kingdom;" and argued that to employ foreign
officers in the protection of a British fortress was to place them in an
"office of great military trust."

The discussion brought to light strange divisions and weakness in the
ministry. The ministerial lawyers differed on the grounds on which they
relied, the Attorney-general, Thurlow, denying that the expression "this
kingdom" in the Bill of Rights included the foreign dependencies of the
crown[54] (a narrowing of its force which the Chancellor, Lord Bathurst,
wholly repudiated), while the argument on which he himself insisted most
strongly, that the existence of rebellion in America put end to all
conditions which supposed the kingdom to be at peace, could not obtain
the support of any one of his colleagues. But a plea urged by an
independent member, Lord Denbigh, was regarded by some of the speakers
with greater favor; his contention being that neither the Bill of Rights
nor the Act of Settlement had been violated, since both those great
statutes must be interpreted with reference to the time at which they
were framed, and to the recent acts of James II. and William III., the
recurrence of which they had been designed to prevent, acts to which the
present proceeding bore no resemblance.

A stronger justification, however, might have been found in very recent
precedents. In 1745 the ministers had brought over six thousand Dutch
troops to re-enforce the army of the Duke of Cumberland, and their act
had been subsequently approved by Parliament. And in 1756, at the
commencement of the seven years' war, when the loss of Minorca had led
to such a distrust of our fleets that a French invasion was very
generally apprehended, both Houses presented addresses to George II.,
begging him to bring over some Hanoverian regiments; and, in the course
of the next year, other addresses to thank him for compliance with their

Looking at the strict law of the question, few lawyers doubt that the
expression "this kingdom" in the Bill of Rights includes the entire
dominions of the crown, or that that great statute was undoubtedly
intended to protect the privileges of all their inhabitants, whether
within the four seas or in foreign settlements. But it also seems that
the clause against raising and keeping on foot a standing army without
the consent of Parliament was not more violated by keeping a mixed
garrison in Gibraltar and Port Mahon than garrisons consisting of native
soldiers only; and undoubtedly the keeping of an armed force in both
these fortresses had been sanctioned by Parliament. Nor could the
colonel of a foreign regiment in garrison under the command of a British
governor be fairly said to be in an office of great military trust. So
far, therefore, the charge against the ministry may be thought to have
failed. But the accusation of having transgressed the clause which
prohibits "the introduction of foreign troops into this kingdom without
the previous consent of Parliament on any pretence whatever," must, on
the other hand, be regarded as proved. And, indeed, Lord North himself
may be taken to have shown some consciousness that it was so, since he
justified his conduct in omitting to procure that previous consent by
the necessity of the case, by the plea that, as Parliament was in
vacation, the time which would have been consumed in waiting for its
sanction would have neutralized the advantage desired from the
employment of the Hanoverians, since the regiments which they were to
replace at Gibraltar and Port Mahon could not, after such delay, have
reached America in time to be of service; and since he also consented
eventually to ask Parliament for an Act of Indemnity, the preamble of
which affirmed the existence of doubts as to the legality of the step
which had been taken. And the fate of this act afforded a still more
striking proof of the divisions in the ministry, since, after Lord North
himself had proposed it in the House of Commons, and it had been passed
there by a large majority, it was rejected in the House of Lords, where
his own colleagues, Lord Gower, Lord Suffolk, and Lord Weymouth, spoke
and voted against it as needless, because, in their judgment, no doubt
of the state of the law on the subject could exist.

From a statesman-like point of view, the employment of the Hanoverians
seems abundantly defensible, if force were still to be employed to bring
back the Colonists to their obedience. The circumstance of their being
subjects of our sovereign in his other character of Elector of Hanover,
clearly distinguished it from the hiring of the Hessian and Brunswick
mercenaries, which has been deservedly condemned. And, as the entire
number fell short of two thousand,[55] Lord Shelburne's expression of
fear for the liberties and religion of Englishmen was an absurd
exaggeration. Moreover, the warm approval which, less than twenty years
before, Parliament had given to the introduction of a far larger body of
the same troops into England itself, justified the anticipation that a
similar sanction would now be cheerfully given. That sanction--which,
indeed, might have been thought to be invited by the announcement of the
measure in the King's speech--was undoubtedly requisite. And, if it was,
a Bill of Indemnity for having acted without it was equally necessary.
But, as has been seen in the last chapter, for an administration, on
urgent occasions, to take action on its own responsibility, and then to
apply for indemnity, is a course in strict harmony with the practice of
the constitution; and if in this instance the ministers are in any
respect blamable, their error would seem to have been limited to their
abstaining from instantly calling Parliament together to sanction their
act, and being contented to wait for the ordinary time of the Houses

The war, therefore, went on. The assertion of their independence by the
Colonies divided, and, so far, weakened, the advocates of their cause in
Parliament, one section of whom, led by Lord Chatham, regarded any
diminution of our dominion as not only treasonable, but ruinous; on the
other hand, it procured them the alliance of France and Spain. But it
cannot be said that either of these incidents produced any practical
effect on the result of the war. Lord Chatham's refusal to contemplate
their independence could not retard its establishment; and the alliance
of France and Spain, which brought nothing but disaster to those
countries, could not accelerate it by a single moment. For nearly six
years the war continued with alternations of success, the victories
gained by the British arms being the more numerous, the triumphs of the
Americans being incomparably the more important, involving as they did
the surrender of two entire armies, the latter of which, that of Lord
Cornwallis, in 1781, did, in fact, terminate the war, and with the war
the existence of the ministry which had conducted it. A singularly rapid
succession of new administrations ensued--so rapid that the negotiations
for peace which the first, that of Lord Rockingham, opened, were not
formally completed till the third,[56] known as the Coalition Ministry,
was on the point of dismissal. It would be beside our purpose to enter
into the details of the treaty which constituted the United States, as
they were now called, a nation by our formal recognition of their
independence. Even in that recognition, which was the most important
article of the treaty, no constitutional principle was involved, though
it affords the only instance in our history which can seem to throw a
doubt on our inheritance of that capacity for government which the Roman
poet claimed as, in ancient times, the peculiar attribute of his own
countrymen. It presents the only instance of a loss of territory peopled
by men who came of our blood, and who still spoke our language. It was a
stern and severe lesson; and yet, fraught with discredit and disaster as
it was, it nevertheless bore fruit in a later age which we may be
excused for regarding as an example of the generally predominating
influence of sober practical sense in our countrymen, when not led away
by the temporary excitement of passion, as shown in our capacity to take
home to ourselves and profit by the teachings of experience. The loss of
the American Colonies was caused by the submission of the Parliament and
nation to men of theory rather than of practice; ideologists, as
Napoleon called them; doctrinaires, to use the modern expression; men
who, because Parliament had an abstract right of universal legislation,
regarded it as a full justification for insisting on its exercise,
without giving a thought to the feelings, or prejudices, or habits of
those who might be affected by their measures. Abstractedly considered,
Lord Chatham and Lord Camden were undoubtedly wrong in denying the power
of Parliament to tax the Colonies; but there was better judgment in
their counsels, though founded on false premises, than in those of
Grenville and Townsend, though theirs was the more correct view of the
constitutional power of legislation. The two peers were wrong in their
principle; the two Chancellors of the Exchequer were unwise in their
application of their principle; and the practical error was the more
disastrous one.

It is now generally admitted that the true statesman-like course toward
the Colonies was that adopted by Lord Rockingham and his colleagues in
1765--to avoid weakening the supreme power of Parliament by any
disavowal of the right to tax but to avoid imperilling the sovereign
authority of the King by a novel exertion of it. As much of our common
English law is made up of precedent, so, in a still greater degree, are
our feelings and ideas of our rights and privileges regulated by
precedent. And we lost America because in 1764 and 1767 neither minister
nor Parliament took men's feelings and prejudices into account. The loss
of the United States, therefore, was a lesson not undeserved; and by our
statesmen since that day it has been taken in the right spirit of
profiting by its teaching as a guide to their own conduct. Since that
day the enterprise of our people has planted our flag in regions far
more distant, and has extended the dominion of our sovereign over
provinces far more extensive than those which we then lost. And on some
of the administrations of the present reign the duty has fallen of
framing schemes of government for those new acquisitions, as also for
some of those previously possessed. In how different a spirit from that
which actuated the early ministers of George III.[57] those to whom the
task was committed by Queen Victoria applied themselves to their task
may be seen in a maxim laid down by the present Lord Grey, when he
presided at the Colonial Office (1846-1852), that "the success of free
institutions in any country depends far less upon the particular form of
those institutions than upon the character of the people on whom they
are conferred." But how he and others in the same office carried out
that principle must be reserved for a later chapter.

Besides the numerous motions which were brought forward by the
Opposition respecting the continuance and conduct of the war, there were
several also which were indirectly prompted by it. The Opposition
claimed to be on this subject not only the champions of the real
interests of the nation, but also its spokesmen, who expressed the
opinions and feelings of all the thinking and independent portion of the
people. That their efforts were overborne they attributed to the
subservience of the Parliament to the ministers, and of the ministers to
the crown.[58] And consequently several motions were made by members of
that party, the object of which was, in one way or another, to diminish
what they regarded as the undue influence of the crown. In one instance,
and that the most successful, a direct denunciation of that influence
was employed, but the earlier and more frequent proposals were directed
to the purification of the House of Commons, and to the strengthening of
its independence. It is remarkable that of these the two which related
to a subject of which the Commons are usually most especially and most
rightly jealous, the interference of peers in elections, had the worst
fortune. In 1780 complaints were made and substantiated that the Duke of
Bolton and the Duke of Chandos (who was also Lord-lieutenant of the
county) had exerted themselves actively in the last election for
Hampshire. And, in support of motions that these peers "had been guilty
of a breach of the privileges of the House, and an infringement of the
liberties and privileges of the Commons of Great Britain," a case was
adduced in which Queen Anne had dismissed the Bishop of Worcester from
the office of Almoner for similar interference. Nor did Lord Nugent, a
relative of the Duke of Chandos, deny the facts alleged; on the
contrary, he avowed them, and adopted a line of defence which many must
have thought an aggravation of the charge, since it asserted that to
prevent such interference was impossible, and therefore the House would
but waste its time in trying. However, on this occasion the House took
the view which he thus suggested to it, postponing all farther
consideration of the matter for four months; and the charge the Duke of
Bolton was shelved in a somewhat similar manner.

Even had these peers and such practices been censured with the very
greatest severity, the censures could have had but a very limited
effect. But it was on measures of a wider scope, embracing what began to
be called a Reform of Parliament, that the more zealous members of the
Opposition placed their chief reliance. As far as our records of the
debates can be trusted, Lord Chatham, ten years before, had given the
first hint of the desirableness of some alteration of the existing
system. On one occasion he denounced the small boroughs as "the rotten
part of the constitution," thus originating the epithet by which they in
time came to be generally described; but more usually he disavowed all
idea of disfranchising them, propounding rather a scheme for diminishing
their importance by a large addition to the county members. However, he
never took any steps to carry out his views, thinking, perhaps, that it
was not in the Upper House that such a subject should be first broached.
But he had not been long in the grave, when a formal motion for a reform
of a different kind was brought forward by one of the members for the
City of London, Alderman Sawbridge,[59] who, in May, 1780, applied for
leave to bring in "a bill for shortening the duration of Parliaments."
His own preference he avowed to be for annual Parliaments; but his
suspicion that the House would think such a measure too sweeping had
induced him to resolve to content himself with aiming at triennial
Parliaments. As leave was refused, the bill proposed to be introduced
may, perhaps, be thought disentitled to mention here, were it not that
the circumstance that proposals for shortening the duration of
Parliaments are still occasionally brought forward seems to warrant an
account of a few of the arguments by which those who took the leading
parts in the debate which ensued resisted it. The minister, Lord North,
declared that the Alderman had misunderstood the views of our ancestors
on the subject; as their desire had been, not that Parliament should be
elected annually, but that it should sit every year, an end which had
now been attained. Fox, on the other hand, while avowing that hitherto
he had always opposed similar motions, declared his wish now to see not
only triennial but annual Parliaments, as the sole means of lessening
the influence of the crown. "If any of his constituents were to ask him
to what our present misfortunes were ascribable, he should say the first
cause was the influence of the crown; the second, the influence of the
crown; and the third, the influence of the crown." But it was replied by
Burke, who usually exhausted every question he took in hand, that such a
bill would rather tend to augment that influence, since "the crown, by
its constant stated power, influence, and revenue, would be able to wear
out all opposition at elections; that it would not abate the interest or
inclination of ministers to apply that interest to the electors; on the
contrary, it would render it more necessary to them, if they desired to
have a majority in Parliament, to increase the means of that influence,
to redouble their diligence, and to sharpen dexterity in the
application. The whole effect of the bill would, therefore, be to remove
the application of some part of that influence from the elected to the
electors, and farther to strengthen and extend a court interest already
great and powerful in boroughs. It must greatly increase the cost of a
seat in Parliament; and, if contests were frequent, to many they would
become a matter of expense totally ruinous, which no fortunes could
bear. The expense of the last general election was estimated at
£1,500,000; and he remembered well that several agents for boroughs said
to candidates, 'Sir, your election will cost you £3000 if you are
independent; but, if the ministry supports you, it may be done for
£2000, and even less.'" And he adduced the case of Ireland, where
formerly, when "a Parliament sat for the King's life, the ordinary
charge for a seat was £1500; but now, when it sat for eight years, four
sessions, the charge was £2500 and upward." Such a change as was
proposed would cause "triennial corruption, triennial drunkenness,
triennial idleness, etc., and invigorate personal hatreds that would
never be allowed to soften. It would even make the member himself more
corrupt, by increasing his dependence on those who could best support
him at elections. It would wreck the fortunes of those who stood on
their own private means. It would make the electors more venal, and
injure the whole body of the people who, whether they have votes or not,
are concerned in elections." Finally, it would greatly impair the proper
authority of the House itself. "It would deprive it of all power and
dignity; and a House of Commons without power and without dignity,
either in itself or its members, is no House of Commons for this

The applicability of some of his arguments--those founded on the
disorders at times of election--has been greatly diminished, if not
destroyed, at the present day, by the limitation of the polling to a
single day. The disfranchisement of the smaller boroughs has neutralized
others; but the expense of a general election is not believed to have
diminished, and that alone seems a strong objection to a system which
would render them more frequent than they are at present. Mr. Sawbridge
could not obtain the support of a third of his hearers.[60] But his
notions had partisans in the other House who were not discouraged by
such a division; and three weeks later the Duke of Richmond brought
forward a Reform Bill on so large a scale that, as the "Parliamentary
History" records, "it took him an hour and a half to read it," and which
contained provisions for annual Parliaments and universal suffrage. But
he met with even less favor than the Alderman, and his bill was rejected
without a division.

Still the subject was not allowed to rest. Even after Lord North had
been replaced by Lord Rockingham, the demand for Parliamentary Reform
was continued; the young Mr. Pitt making himself the mouth-piece of the
Reformers, and founding a motion which he made in May, 1782, on "the
corrupt influence of the crown; an influence which has been pointed at
in every period as the fertile source of all our miseries; an influence
which has been substituted in the room of wisdom, of activity, of
exertion, and of success; an influence which has grown up with our
growth and strengthened with our strength, but which, unhappily, has not
diminished with our diminution, nor decayed with our decay." He brought
forward no specific plan, but denounced the close boroughs, and asked
emphatically whether it were "representation" for "some decayed
villages, almost destitute of population, to send members to Parliament
under the control of the Treasury, or at the bidding of some great lord
or commoner." He, however, was defeated, though by the small majority of
twenty. And it is remarkable that when, the next year, he revived the
subject, developing a more precise scheme--akin to that which his father
had suggested, of increasing the number of county members, and including
provisions for the disfranchisement of boroughs which had been convicted
of systematic corruption--he was beaten by a far larger majority,[61]
the distinctness of his plan only serving to increase the numbers of his
adversaries. A kinsman of Pitt's, Lord Mahon, made an equally futile
attempt to diminish the expenses of elections, partly by inflicting very
heavy penalties on parties guilty of either giving or receiving
bribes,[62] and partly by prohibiting candidates from providing
conveyances for electors; and more than one bill for disfranchising
revenue-officers, as being specially liable to pressure from the
government, and to prevent contractors from sitting in Parliament, was
brought forward, but was lost, the smallness of the divisions in their
favor being not the least remarkable circumstance in the early history
of Reform. It was made still more evident that as yet the zeal for
Reform was confined to a few, when, two years afterward, Pitt, though
now invested with all the power of a Prime-minister, was as unable as
when in opposition to carry a Reform Bill, which in more than one point
foreshadowed the measure of 1832; proposing, as it did, the
disfranchisement of thirty-six small boroughs, which were to be
purchased of their proprietors nearly on the principle adopted in the
Irish Union Act, and on the other hand the enfranchisement of
copyholders; but it differed from Lord Grey's act in that it distributed
all the seats thus to be obtained among the counties, with the exception
of a small addition to the representatives of London and Westminster.
However, his supporters very little exceeded the number who had divided
with him in 1783, and Lord North, who led the Opposition in a speech
denouncing any change, had a majority of seventy-four. After this second
defeat, Pitt abandoned the question, at all events for the time; being
convinced, to quote Earl Stanhope's description of his opinion on the
subject, "that nothing but the pressure of the strongest popular
feeling, such as did not then exist, could induce many members to vote
against their own tenure of Parliament, or in fact against
themselves."[63] What, perhaps, weighed with him more, on deciding to
acquiesce in this vote as final, was the perception that as yet the
question excited no strong interest out-of-doors; and when, a few years
later, some who sought to become leaders of the people endeavored to
raise an agitation on the subject, their teachings were too deeply
infected with the contagion of the French Revolution to allow a wise
ruler to think it consistent with his duty to meet them with anything
but the most resolute discouragement.

But, concurrently with the first of these motions for Parliamentary
Reform, two more direct attacks on the royal influence, and on what was
alleged to be the undue exertion of it, were made in the session of
1780. The first was made by Burke, who brought forward a measure of
economical reform, demonstrating, in a speech of extraordinary power, a
vast mass of abuses, arising from corrupt waste in almost every
department of the state, and in every department of the royal household,
without exception, and proposing a most extensive plan of reform, which
dealt with royal dignities, such as the Duchy of Lancaster and the other
principalities annexed to the crown; with the crown-lands, a great
portion of which he proposed to sell; with the offices of the royal
household, a sufficient specimen of the abuses on which was furnished by
the statement, that the turnspit in the King's kitchen was a member of
Parliament; and with many departments of state, such as the Board of
Works and the Pay-office, etc. He was studiously cautious in his
language, urging, indeed, that his scheme of reform would "extinguish
secret corruption almost to the possibility of its existence, and would
destroy direct and visible influence equal to the offices of at least
fifty members of Parliament," but carefully guarding against any
expressions imputing this secret corruption, this influence which it was
so desirable to destroy, to the crown. But his supporters were less
moderate; and Mr. Thomas Townsend declared that facts which he mentioned
"contained the most unquestionable presumptive evidence of the influence
of the crown; he meant the diverting of its revenues to purposes which
dared not be avowed, in corrupting and influencing the members of both
Houses of Parliament;" and he asserted that "the principle and objects
of the bill were the reduction of the influence of the crown." The bill
was not opposed by the ministers on its principle; but Lord North, even
while consenting to its introduction, "did not pledge himself not to
oppose it in some or other of its subsequent stages;" and, in fact, his
supporters resisted it in almost every detail, some of them utterly
denying the right of the House to interfere at all with the expenditure
of the civil list; others contesting the propriety of alienating the
crown-lands; and a still greater number objecting to the abolition of
some of the offices which it was proposed to sweep away, such as that of
the "third Secretary of State, or Secretary for the Colonies," that of
"Treasurer of the Chamber," and others of a similar character. And, as
the minister succeeded in defeating him on several, though by no means
all, of these points, Burke at last gave up the bill, Fox warning the
House at the same time that it should be renewed session after session,
and boasting that even the scanty success which it had met with had been
worth the struggle.

The other direct attack was made by Mr. Dunning, who, perhaps, did not
then foresee that he himself was destined soon to fill one of the
offices which had come under the lash of Burke's sarcasm, and who a few
days afterward, in moving that it was necessary to declare "that the
influence of the crown had increased, was increasing, and ought to be
diminished" rested no small portion of his argument on the treatment
that Burke's bill had received. He affirmed that, though Lord North had
declared that "the influence of the crown was not too great," the
divisions on that bill, and on many other measures which had been under
discussion, were irrefragable proofs of the contrary. He quoted Hume and
Judge Blackstone as testifying to the existence and steady increase of
that influence, and "could affirm of his own knowledge, and pledge his
honor to the truth of the assertion, that he knew upward of fifty
members in that House who always voted in the train of the noble lord in
the blue ribbon,[64] but who reprobated and condemned, out of the House,
the measures they had supported and voted for in it." Mr. T. Pitt even
instanced "the present possession of office by Lord North as an
indubitable proof of the enormous influence of the crown."

It was not strange that Lord North opposed a resolution supported by
such arguments with all the power of the government, basing his own
opposition chiefly on the wisdom "of maintaining the rule long since
established by Parliament, never to vote abstract propositions." But he
presently saw that he was in a minority, and was forced to be content
with adopting and carrying an amendment of Mr. Dundas, one of the
members for Edinburgh, who flattered himself that by the insertion of
_now_ he converted a general assertion into a temporary declaration,
which might at a future time be disavowed as no longer applicable. A
majority of eighteen[65] affirmed the resolution; and when the mover
followed it up by a second, declaring that "it is competent to this
House to examine into and to correct abuses in the expenditure of the
civil list revenues, as well as in every other branch of the public
revenue, whenever it shall seem expedient to the wisdom of this House to
do so," though the minister, with what was almost an appeal _ad
misericordiam_, "implored the House not to proceed," he did not venture
to take a division, and that resolution also, with one or two others
designed to give instant effect to them, were adopted and reported by
the committee to the House in a single evening.[66] The first resolution
did, in fact, embody a complaint, or at least an assertion, which the
Rockingham party had constantly made ever since the close of the
Marquis's first administration. In a speech which he had made only a few
weeks before,[67] Lord Rockingham himself had declared that "it was
early in the present reign promulgated as a court axiom that the power
and influence of the crown alone was sufficient to support any set of
men his Majesty might think proper to call to his councils." And Burke,
in his "short account" of his administration of 1765, had not only
imputed both its formation and its dismissal to the "express request"
and "express command of their royal master," but in the sentence, "they
discountenanced and, it is to be hoped, forever abolished, the dangerous
and unconstitutional practice of removing military officers for their
votes in Parliament," condemned with unmistakable plainness some acts of
the preceding ministry which were universally understood to have been
forced upon it by the King himself. General Conway had been deprived of
the colonelcy of his regiment; Lord Rockingham himself, with several
other peers, had been dismissed from Lord-lieutenancies, as a punishment
for voting against the ministry; such dismissals being a flagrant
attempt to put down all freedom of debate in Parliament, which of all
its privileges is the one most essential to its usefulness, if not to
its very existence. But, as Burke said, the practice had been abandoned,
and the first resolution, therefore, as Lord North said, involved no
practical result. It is the second resolution that confers a
constitutional character and importance on this debate. And it is not
too much to say that no vote of greater value had been come to for many
years. It might have been considered almost as the assertion of a truism
included in the power of granting supplies, to declare that the
Parliament has the right and authority to examine into and correct
abuses in the expenditure, if it had not been denied by more than one
speaker on the ministerial side, though not by the Prime-minister
himself. But that denial made the assertion of the right an imperative
duty; for certainly the exclusive right of authorizing a levy of money
would lose half its value, if unaccompanied by the other right of
preventing the waste of the revenue thus raised.

It may likewise be said that another principle of the parliamentary
constitution is, by implication, contained in Mr. Dunning's second
resolution, and that the words, "it is competent to this House to
examine into and to correct abuses in the expenditure," were meant to
imply a denial of the competency of the other House to institute, or
even to share in, such an examination. Even if that were the object of
its framer, it only coincided with the view of the peers themselves, a
very considerable majority[68] of whom had, a few weeks before, rejected
a motion made by Lord Shelburne for the appointment of "a committee of
members of both Houses to examine without delay into the public
expenditure," principally on the ground urged by the Secretary of State,
Lord Stormont, and by several other peers, that "to inquire into,
reform, and control the public expenditure" would be an improper
interference with the privileges of the Commons; the Chief-justice, Lord
Mansfield, even going the length of warning his brother peers that such
interference might probably lead the Commons "to dispute in their turn
the power of judicature in the last resort exercised by the peers." Lord
Camden, on the contrary, affirmed, as a proposition which "no noble lord
present would deny, that that House had a right to inquire so far as the
disposal of public moneys came under their cognizance as a deliberative
body." And in the Lower House itself, Burke, in his speech in favor of
his Bill for Economical Reform, went even farther than Lord Camden, and
blamed the House of Lords for rejecting Lord Shelburne's motion on such
a ground. "They had gone," he said, "farther in self-denial than the
utmost jealousy of the Commons could have required. A power of examining
accounts, of censuring, correcting, and punishing the Commons had never,
that he knew of, thought of denying to the Lords. It was something more
than a century ago that the Commons had voted the Lords a useless body.
They had now voted themselves so." And it would seem that the Lords
themselves, to a certain extent, retracted this, their self-denying
vote, when, before the end of the same session, they discussed Burke's
Bill for Economical Reform, and passed it, though it was a money-bill,
"containing extraneous enactments," and as such contravened one of their
own standing orders which had been passed in the beginning of Queen
Anne's reign, when the system of "tacking," as it was called, had
excited great discontent, which was not confined to themselves. The
propriety of rejecting the bill on that ground was vigorously urged by
the only two lawyers who took part in the debate, the Chancellor, Lord
Thurlow, and Lord Loughborough, whose object was avowedly thus to give a
practical proof that the Lords "had not voted themselves useless." But
even those who disregarded their advice fully asserted the right of the
peers "to exercise their discretion as legislators." We have noticed
this matter on a previous occasion. The privilege claimed by the
Commons, both as to its origin and its principle, has been carefully
examined by Hallam, who has pointed out that in its full exclusiveness
it is not older than Charles II., since the Convention Parliament of
1660 "made several alterations in undoubted money-bills, to which the
Commons did not object."[69] And, though his attachment to Whig
principles might have inclined him to take their part in any dispute on
the subject, he nevertheless thinks that they have strained both
"precedent and constitutional analogy" in their assertion of this
privilege, which is "an anomaly that can hardly rest on any other ground
of defence than such a series of precedents as establish a
constitutional usage." The usage which for two centuries was established
in this case by the good-sense of both parties clearly was, that the
Lords could never originate a money-bill, nor insert any clause in one
increasing or even altering the burden laid by one on the people, but
that they were within their right in absolutely rejecting one. But such
a right has a tendency to lapse through defect of exercise; and we shall
hereafter see that "the disposition to make encroachments," which in
this matter Hallam imputes to the Commons, has led them in the present
reign to carry their pretensions to a height which at a former period
had been practically ignored by the one House, and formally disclaimed
by the other.

It may be remarked that Mr. Dunning's success in carrying his first
resolution did in itself, to a certain extent, disprove the truth of
that resolution, since, if the influence of the crown had been such as
he represented it, it must have been sufficient to insure its rejection.
But that resolution, and a new statute, of which in a previous session
he had been one of the principal promoters, are reckoned by Lord
Stanhope as among the chief causes of the disgraceful riots of 1780. In
the summer of 1778 he had seconded and supported with great eloquence
the repeal of some of the penal statutes against the Roman Catholics
which had been passed in the reign of William III. It was the first blow
at that system of religious intolerance which for nearly a century had
been one of the leading principles, as it had been also the chief
disgrace, of the constitution; and it was passed with scarcely any
opposition by both Houses. As, however, the statute which it repealed
had been enacted before the Scotch Union, the repeal did not extend to
Scotland, and it was necessary, therefore, to bring in a separate
measure for that kingdom. But the intelligence that such a proceeding
was in contemplation excited great wrath among the Scotch Presbyterians,
who, in the hope of defeating it, established a Protestant Association
for the defence of what they called the Protestant interest, and elected
as its president Lord George Gordon, a young nobleman whose acts on more
than one occasion gave reason to doubt the soundness of his intellect.
Against any relaxation whatever of the restrictions on the Roman
Catholics the Association sent up petitions to the House and to the
King, couched in language the wildness of which was hardly consistent
with the respect due to Parliament or to the sovereign. Apparently in
the hope of mitigating its opposition, the Houses the next year passed
an act, similar in principle, to relax some of the restrictions still
imposed on Protestant dissenting ministers by some of the subscriptions
which were required of them. But, as in the reign of Charles II., the
Presbyterian hatred of the Roman Catholics was too uncompromising to be
appeased in such a manner. And when Lord George found the House of
Commons itself acknowledging the danger with which the constitution was
threatened by the influence of the crown, he saw in their vote a
justification for all his alarms, since he had adopted as one of his
most settled opinions the belief that George III. was himself a Papist
at heart; and, under the influence of this strange idea, he drew up a
petition to Parliament which he invited all the members of the
Association to accompany him to present. His summons was received with
enthusiasm by his followers. The number who, in obedience to it,
mustered in St. George's Fields, which he had appointed as the place of
rendezvous, was not reckoned by any one at less than fifty thousand, and
some calculations even doubled that estimate. Whatever the number may
originally have been, it was speedily swelled by the junction of large
bands of the worst characters in the metropolis, who soon began to
display their strength by every kind of outrage. They commenced by
attacking some of the Roman Catholic chapels, which they burnt; and,
their audacity increasing at the sight of their exploits, they proceeded
to assault the houses of different members of Parliament who had voted
for the measures which had offended them. Because the Chief-justice,
Lord Mansfield, had lately presided at a trial where a Roman Catholic
had been acquitted, they sacked and burnt his house, and tried to murder
himself. The magistrates, afraid of exposing themselves to the fury of
such a mob, kept for the most part out of the way; and though the troops
had been put under arms, and several regiments from the rural districts
had been brought up to London in haste, the military officers were
afraid to act without orders. Left to work their pleasure almost without
resistance, the rioters attacked the different prisons, burnt Newgate
and released all the prisoners, and made more than one attack on the
Bank of England, where, however, fortunately the guard was strong enough
to repel them. But still no active measures were taken to crush the
riot. The belief was general that the soldiers might not act at all, or,
at all events, not fire on rioters, till an hour after the Riot Act had
been read and the mob had been warned to disperse; and no magistrate
could be found to brave its fury by reading it. There seemed no obstacle
to prevent the rioters from making themselves masters of the whole
capital, had it not been for the firmness of the King himself, who, when
all the proper authorities failed, showed himself in fact as well as in
name the Chief Magistrate of the kingdom.[70] He summoned a Privy
Council, and urged the members to adopt instant measures of repression;
and, when some of the ministers seemed to waver, he put the question
himself to the Attorney-general whether the interpretation put on the
Riot Act, which seemed to him inconsistent with common-sense, were
justified by the law. Wedderburn unhesitatingly replied that it was not;
that "if a mob were committing a felony, as by burning dwelling-houses,
and could not be prevented by other means, the military, according to
the law of England, might and ought to be immediately ordered to fire
upon them, the reading of the Riot Act being wholly unnecessary under
such circumstances."[71] The King insisted on this opinion being
instantly acted on; a proclamation was issued, and orders were sent from
the Adjutant-general's office that the soldiers were to act at once
without waiting for directions from the civil magistrates. A few hours
now sufficed to restore tranquillity. The Chief-justice, in his place in
the House of Lords, subsequently declared Wedderburn's opinion, and the
orders given in reliance upon it, to be in strict conformity with the
common law, laying down, as the principle on which such an
interpretation of the law rested, the doctrine that in such a case the
military were acting, "not as soldiers, but as citizens; no matter
whether their coats were red or brown, they were legally employed in
preserving the laws and the constitution;"[72] and Wedderburn, who
before the end of the year became Chief-justice of the Common Pleas,
repeated the doctrine more elaborately in a charge from the Bench. It
was a lesson of value to the whole community. It was quite true that the
constitution placed the army in a state of dependence on the civil
power. But, when that doctrine was so misunderstood as to be supposed to
give temporary immunity to outrage, it was most important that such a
misconstruction should be corrected, and that it should be universally
known that military discipline does not require the soldier to abstain
from the performance of the duty incumbent on every citizen, the
prevention of crime.


[Footnote 33: It is worth while to preserve the amount, if for no other
reason, for the contrast that the expenditure and resources of the
kingdom a hundred years ago present to those of the present day. The
supply required in 1764 was in round numbers £7,712,000; in 1755, before
the war broke out, £4,073,000, and even that included a million for the
augmentation of the army and navy. In 1761, when the war was at its
height, the sum voted was £19,616,000.]

[Footnote 34: The report in the "Parliamentary History," xvi., 37, says:
"This act (the Stamp Act) passed the Commons almost without debate; two
or three members spoke against it, but without force or apparent
interest, except a vehement harangue from Colonel Barré (date, March 6,

[Footnote 35: Lord Stanhope ("History of England," v., 131) quotes a
letter of Dr. Franklin to one of his friends in America, in which, after
deploring the impossibility of preventing the act from being passed, he
expresses a hope that "frugality and industry will go a great way toward
indemnifying us." And he complied with Mr. Grenville's request to select
a person to act as Distributor of Stamps in Pennsylvania whom he thought
likely to be generally acceptable.]

[Footnote 36: These statements and arguments of Franklin are taken from
different parts of his examination before the House of Commons, as
preserved in the "Parliamentary History," xvi., 137-160.]

[Footnote 37: In the Assembly of Virginia, one of the members--Patrick
Henry--after declaiming with bitterness against the supposed arbitrary
measures of the present reign, exclaimed, "Caesar had his Brutus,
Charles I. his Oliver Cromwell, and George III.--" A cry of "Treason!"
was uttered. The Speaker called Mr. Henry to order, and declared he
would quit the chair unless he were supported by the House in
restraining such intemperate speeches.--Adolphus, _History of England_,
i., 188.]

[Footnote 38: On this point the law has been affirmed by a judge of high
reputation to be still what Lord Rockingham and his colleagues asserted.
In 1868, on the trial of Governor Eyre for an indictment arising out of
disturbances in Jamaica, Judge Blackburne laid it down "that, although
the general rule is that the Legislative Assembly has the sole right of
imposing taxes in the colony, yet, when the Imperial Legislature chooses
to impose taxes, according to the rule of English law they have a
_right_ to do it."]

[Footnote 39: See his speech on American taxation in April, 1774.]

[Footnote 40: The chief divisions were: in the Commons, 275 to 167; in
the Lords, 105 to 71.]

[Footnote 41: "History of England," vol. v., c. xlv., p. 218, ed. 1862.]

[Footnote 42: "Lives of the Chancellors," c. cxliii., life of Lord

[Footnote 43: Every political student will recollect Burke's description
of it as "a cabinet so variously inlaid, such a piece of diversified
mosaic, such a tessellated pavement without cement--here a bit of black
stone, there a bit of white--patriots and courtiers, King's friends and
republicans, Whigs and Tories, treacherous friends and open enemies,"
etc.--_Speech on American Taxation_.]

[Footnote 44: In a debate in the year 1776, on some measures adopted for
the conduct of the war, the Duke of Grafton said: "In that year (1767),
when the extraordinary expenses incurred on account of America were laid
before the House of Commons, the House rose as one man and insisted that
that country should contribute to the burdens brought on by the military
establishment there, and a motion was made for bringing in a bill for
that purpose. I strenuously opposed the measure, as big with the
consequences it has since, unfortunately, produced. I spoke to my
friends upon the occasion, but they all united in the opinion that the
tide was too strong to expect either to stem or turn it, so as to
prevent whatever might be offered in that shape from passing into a law.
Finding that all my efforts would be vain, I was compelled to submit,
but was resolved, as far as lay in my power, to prevent the effect; and,
while I gave way, to do it in such a manner as would cause the least
harm. I accordingly proposed the tea-duty as the most palatable;
because, though it answered the main purpose of those with whom taxation
was a favorite measure, it was doing America an immediate benefit, for I
procured the shilling a pound duty to be taken off, and threepence to be
laid on in lieu thereof; so that, in fact, it was ninepence a pound
saved to America. However, the attempt was received in America as I
expected it would be--it immediately caused disturbances and universal
dissatisfaction."--_Parliamentary History_, xviii., 134.]

[Footnote 45: This unpopularity had been aggravated by another measure
which was among the last acts of Mr. Grenville's ministry. The Mutiny
Act in the Colonies was renewed for two years at a time, and, at its
renewal in the spring of 1765, a clause was added which required the
Colonists to furnish the troops with "fire, candles, vinegar, salt,
bedding, utensils for cooking, and liquors, such as beer, cider, and
rum." The Assemblies of several States passed resolutions strongly
condemning this new imposition; but, as the dissatisfaction did not lead
to any overt acts of disturbance, it seems to have been unnoticed in
England at the time, or the clause would probably have been repealed by
Lord Rockingham; and eventually the Assembly of New York seems to have
withdrawn its objections to it, presenting an address to Sir H. Moore,
the Governor, in which "they declared their intention of making the
required provision for the troops."--Lord E. Fitzmaurice, _Life of Lord
Shelburne_, ii., 61.]

[Footnote 46: The "Memoirs of Judge Livingstone" record his expression
of opinion as early as 1773, that "it was intolerable that a continent
like America should be governed by a little island three thousand miles
distant." "America," said he, "must and will be independent." And in the
"Memoirs of General Lee" we find him speaking to Mr. Patrick Henry, who
in 1766 had been one of the most violent of all the denouncers of the
English policy (see _ante_, p. 63), of "independence" as "a golden
castle in the air which he had long dreamed of."]

[Footnote 47: See the whole speech, "Parliamentary History," xvi., 853.
Many of the taxes he denounced as so injurious to the British
manufacturers, "that it must astonish any reasonable man to think how so
preposterous a law could originally obtain existence from a British

[Footnote 48: The division was: for the amendment, 142; against it,

[Footnote 49: The words of the "preamble," on which Burke dwelt in 1774,
were: "Whereas it is expedient that a revenue should be raised in your
Majesty's dominions in America for making a more certain and adequate
provision for defraying the charge of the administration of justice and
support of civil government in such provinces where it shall be found
necessary, and toward farther defraying the expenses of defending,
protecting, and securing: the said dominions, be it enacted," etc.]

[Footnote 50: "Memoirs and Correspondence of Jefferson." Quoted by Lord
Stanhope, "History of England," vi., 14.]

[Footnote 51: At Lexington, April 19, 1775.]

[Footnote 52: Lord Stanhope, however, has reason on his side when he
calls the words of this petition "vague and general," though "kindly and
respectful;" and when he points to the language of extreme bitterness
against England indulged in by Franklin at the very time that this
petition was voted. He, however, expresses a belief that even then "the
progress of civil war might have been arrested," which seems doubtful.
But it is impossible not to agree with his lordship in condemning the
refusal by the ministry to take any notice of the petition, on the
ground that the Congress was a self-constituted body, with no claim to
authority or recognition, and one which had already sanctioned the
taking up arms against the King.--_History of England_, vi., 93, 95,

[Footnote 53: It is probable, however, that the greater part of the
Hanoverian soldiers were Protestants.]

[Footnote 54: Lord Campbell, who, in his "Life of Lord Bathurst,"
asserts that the legality of the measure turns upon the just
construction of the Act of Settlement, adduces Thurlow's language on
this subject as "a proof that he considered that he had the privilege
which has been practised by other Attorney-generals and Chancellors too,
in debate, of laying down for law what best suited his purpose at the
moment." It does not seem quite certain that the noble and learned
biographer has not more than once in these biographies allowed himself a
similar license in the description of questions of party politics.]

[Footnote 55: In the debates on the subject it was stated that the
number of Hanoverians quartered in the two fortresses was nineteen
hundred, and the number of British troops left in them was two thousand.
Moreover, as has been already remarked, though Lord Shelburne spoke of
arming Roman Catholics, it is probable that the Hanoverians were mostly

[Footnote 56: The Preliminary or Provisional Articles, as they were
called, of which the Definitive Treaty was but a copy, were signed at
Paris, November 30, 1782, during Lord Shelburne's administration. But
the Definitive Treaty was not signed till the 3d of September of the
following year, under the Coalition Ministry, which was turned out a few
weeks afterward.]

[Footnote 57: We shall see in a subsequent chapter that even in this
reign of George III. Pitt laid down the true principles of our
legislation for the colonies in his bill for the better government of

[Footnote 58: An admirably reasoned passage on the influence of the
crown, especially in the reigns of the two first Hanoverian Kings, will
be found in Hallam, "Constitutional History," c. xvi., vol. iii., p.
392, ed. 1832.]

[Footnote 59: The "Parliamentary History" shows that he had brought
forward the same motion before 1780; since Lord Nugent, who replied to
him, said "the same motion had been made for some years past, and had
been silently decided on." From which it seems that it was never
discussed at any length till May 8, 1780.]

[Footnote 60: On the division the numbers were: for the motion, 90;
against it, 182.]

[Footnote 61: The division in 1782 was: 161 to 141; in 1783, 293 to

[Footnote 62: How systematic and open bribery was at this time is shown
by an account of Sheridan's expenses at Stafford in 1784, of which the
first item is--248 burgesses, paid £5 5s. each, £1302.--Moore's _Life of
Sheridan_, i., 405.]

[Footnote 63: "Life of Pitt," i., 359.]

[Footnote 64: Lord North was a Knight of the Garter, the only commoner,
except Sir R. Walpole, who received that distinction in the last
century, and the latest, with the exception of Lord Castlereagh. on whom
it has been conferred.]

[Footnote 65: 233 to 315.]

[Footnote 66: It is perhaps worth pointing out, as a specimen of the
practical manner in which parliamentary business was transacted at that
time, that this great debate--in which (the House being in committee)
Mr. Dunning himself spoke three times, and Lord North, Mr. T. Pitt, Mr.
Fox, the Speaker (Sir F. Norton), the Attorney-general, General Conway,
Governor Pownall, the Lord-advocate, and several other members took
part--was concluded by twelve o'clock.]

[Footnote 67: February 8, 1780, on Lord Shelburne's motion for an
inquiry into the public expenditure.--_Parliamentary History_, xx.,

[Footnote 68: 101 to 55.]

[Footnote 69: "Constitutional History," iii., 43.]

[Footnote 70: His language is said to have been that "there was at all
events one Magistrate in the kingdom who would do his duty."--Lord
Stanhope, _History of England_, vii., 48.]

[Footnote 71: "Lives of the Lord Chancellors," c. clxvii.]

[Footnote 72: Lord Stanhope's "History of England," vii, 56.]


Changes of Administration.--The Coalition Ministry.--The Establishment
of the Prince of Wales.--Fox's India Bill.--The King Defeats it by the
Agency of Lord Temple.--The Ministry is Dismissed, and Succeeded by Mr.
Pitt's Administration.--Opposition to the New Ministry in the House of
Commons.--Merits of the Contest between the Old and the New
Ministry.--Power of Pitt.--Pitt's India Bill.--Bill for the Government
of Canada.--The Marriage of the Prince of Wales to Mrs.
Fitzherbert.--The King becomes Deranged.--Proposal of a
Regency.--Opinions of Various Writers on the Course adopted.--Spread of
Revolutionary Societies and Opinions.--Bills for the Repression of
Sedition and Treason.--The Alien Act.--The Traitorous Correspondence
Act.--Treason and Sedition Bills.--Failure of some Prosecutions under

The occurrences of the next year brought the question of the influence
of the crown into greater prominence. Lord Rockingham's administration,
unfortunately, came to a premature termination by his death at the
beginning of July. With a strange arrogance, Fox claimed the right of
dictating the choice of his successor to the King, making his
pretensions the more unwarrantable by the character of the person whom
he desired to nominate, the Duke of Portland, who, though a man of vast
property and considerable borough influence, was destitute of ability of
any kind, and had not even any of that official experience which in some
situations may at times compensate or conceal the want of talent.[73]
The King preferred Lord Shelburne, a statesman whose capacity was
confessedly of a very high order, who had more than once been Secretary
of State,[74] and who had been recognized as the leader of what was
sometimes called the Chatham section of the Whigs, ever since the death
of the great Earl. Indeed, if George III. had been guided by his own
wishes and judgment alone, he would have placed him at the Treasury, in
preference to Lord Rockingham, three months before. But, during the last
three months, jealousies had arisen between him and Fox, his colleague
in office, who charged him with concealing from him the knowledge of
various circumstances, the communication of which he had a right to
require. It was more certain that on one or two points connected with
the negotiations with the United States there had been divisions between
them, and that the majority of the cabinet had agreed with Lord
Shelburne. Lord Shelburne, therefore, became Prime-minister,[75] and
Fox, with some of his friends, resigned; Fox indemnifying himself by a
violent philippic against "those men who were now to direct the counsels
of the country," and whom he proceeded to describe as "men whom neither
promises could bind nor principles of honor could secure; who would
abandon fifty principles for the sake of power, and forget fifty
promises when they were no longer necessary to their ends; who, he had
no doubt, to secure themselves in the power which they had by the labor
of others obtained, would strive to strengthen it by any means which
corruption could procure."[76]

Fox at once went into what even those most disposed to cherish his
memory admit to have been a factious opposition. He caballed with the
very men to whom he had hitherto been most vehemently opposed for the
sole object of expelling Lord Shelburne from office. And when, at the
beginning of the session of 1783, the merits of the preliminary articles
of peace which had been provisionally concluded with the United States
came under discussion, though the peers approved of them, in the House
of Commons he defeated the ministers in two separate divisions,[77] and
thus rendered their retention of office impossible. He had gained this
victory by uniting with Lord North and a portion of the Tory party whom,
ever since his dismissal from office in 1774, he had been unwearied in
denouncing, threatening Lord North himself with impeachment. And he now
used it to compel the King to intrust the chief office in the government
to the very man whom his Majesty had refused to employ in such an office
six months before.

The transactions of the next twelve months exhibit in a striking light
more than one part of the practical working of our monarchical and
parliamentary constitution, not only in its correspondence with, but,
what is more important to notice, in its occasional partial deviations
from, strict theory. The theory has sometimes been expressed in the
formula, "The King reigns, but does not govern." But, like many another
terse apophthegm, it conveys an idea which requires some modification
before it can be regarded as an entirely correct representation of the
fact; and the King himself, especially if endowed with fair capacity and
force of character, imbued with earnest convictions, and animated by a
genuine zeal for the honor and welfare of his kingdom, will be likely to
dwell more on the possible modifications than on the rigid theory. Even
those who insist most on the letter of the theory will not deny that, if
the King has not actual power, he has at least great influence; and the
line between authority and influence is hard to draw. One of George the
Third's earliest ministers had explained to his Majesty that the
principle of the constitution was, "that the crown had an undoubted
right to choose its ministers, and that it was the duty of subjects to
support them, unless there were some very strong and urgent reasons to
the contrary."[78] And such a doctrine was too much in harmony with the
feelings of George III. himself not to be cordially accepted. For George
III. was by no means inclined to be a _Roi fainéant_. No sovereign was
ever penetrated with a more conscientious desire to do his duty to his
people. Conscious, perhaps, that his capacity was rather solid than
brilliant, he gave unremitting attention to the affairs of the nation in
every department of the government; and, perhaps not very unnaturally,
conceived that his doing so justified him, as far as he might be able,
in putting a constraint on his ministers to carry out his views. Thus,
he had notoriously induced Lord North to persevere in the late civil war
in America long after that minister had seen the hopelessness of the
contest; and it was, probably, only the knowledge of the strength of his
feelings on that subject, and of his warm attachment to that minister,
that caused the Parliament so long to withstand all the eloquence of the
advocates of peace, and the still stronger arguments of circumstances.
He might fairly think that he had now greater reason to adhere to his
own judgment; for Fox's recommendation of the Duke of Portland in
preference to Lord Shelburne was an act not only of unwarrantable
presumption, but of inconceivable folly, since there was no comparison
between the qualifications of the two men; and the coalition by which,
six months afterward, he had, as it were, revenged himself for the
rebuff, and had driven Lord Shelburne from office, was, as the King well
knew, and as even Fox's own friends did not conceal from themselves,
almost universally condemned out-of-doors.[79] To this combination,
therefore, his Majesty tried every expedient to escape from yielding.
And when Pitt's well-considered and judicious refusal of the government
left him no alternative but that of submission to Fox's dictation, it
would hardly have been very unnatural if his disposition and attitude
toward a ministry which had thus forced itself upon him had been those
attributed to him by Lord John Russell, of "an enemy constantly on the
watch against it."[80] But for some time that was not the impression of
the ministers themselves. In July, when they had been in office more
than three months, Fox admitted that he had never behaved toward them as
if he were displeased with them, and that he had no project of
substituting any other administration for the present one.[81] And his
temperate treatment of them was the more remarkable, because a flagrant
blunder of Burke (who filled the post of Paymaster), in reinstating some
clerks who had been dismissed by his predecessor for dishonesty, had
manifestly weakened the ministry in the House of Commons;[82] while in
another case, in which the King had clearly in no slight degree a
personal right to have his opinion consulted and his wishes accepted by
them as the guide for their conduct, the establishment to be arranged
for the Prince of Wales, whose twenty-first birthday was approaching,
Fox persuaded the Parliament to settle on the young Prince an allowance
of so large an amount that some even of his own colleagues disliked it
as extravagant;[83] while the King himself reasonably disapproved both
of the amount and of the mode of giving it, the amount being large
beyond all precedent, and the fact of its being given by Parliament
rendering the Prince entirely independent of his parental control, of
which his conduct had given abundant proof that he stood greatly in

That he presently changed his line of behavior toward them was caused by
their introduction of a bill which he regarded as aimed in no small
degree at his own prerogative and independence--the celebrated India
Bill, by which, in the November session, Fox proposed to abrogate all
the charters which different sovereigns had granted to the East India
Company, to abolish all vested rights of either the Company or
individuals, and to confer on a board of seven persons, to be named by
Parliament, the entire administration of all the territories in any way
occupied by the Company. It was at once objected to by the Opposition in
the House of Commons, now led by Mr. Pitt, as a measure thoroughly
unconstitutional, on the twofold ground that such an abrogation of
formally granted charters, and such an extinction of vested rights, was
absolutely without precedent; and also that one real, if concealed,
object of the bill was to confer on the ministers who had framed and
introduced it so vast an amount of patronage as would render them
absolute masters of the House of Commons, and indirectly, therefore, of
the King himself, who would be practically disabled from ever dismissing
them. That such a revocation of ancient charters, and such an immovable
establishment of an administration, were inconsistent with the
principles of the constitution, was not a position taken up by Pitt in
the heat of debate, but was his deliberate opinion, as may be fairly
inferred from his assertion of it in a private letter[84] to his friend
the Duke of Rutland. It may, however, be doubted whether the epithet
"unconstitutional" could be properly applied to the bill on either
ground. There is, indeed, a certain vagueness in the meaning, or at all
events in the frequent use of this adjective. Sometimes it is used to
imply a violation of the provisions of the Great Charter, or of its
later development, the Bill of Rights; sometimes to impute some imagined
departure from the principles which guided the framers of those
enactments. But in neither sense does it seem applicable to this bill.
To designate the infringement or revocation of a charter by such a
description would be to affirm the existence of a right in the sovereign
to invest a charter, from whatever motive it may originally have been
granted, with such a character of inviolability or perpetuity that no
Parliament should, on ever such strong grounds of public good, have the
power of interfering with it. And to attribute such a power to the crown
appears less consistent with the limitations affixed to the royal
prerogative by the constitution, than to regard all trusts created by
the crown as subject to parliamentary revision in the interests of the
entire nation. On the second ground the description seems even less
applicable. An arrangement of patronage is a mere matter of detail, not
of principle. For the minister to propose such an arrangement as should
secure for himself and his party a perpetual monopoly of power and
office might be grasping and arrogant; for Parliament (and Parliament
consists of the sovereign and the peers, as well as of the House of
Commons) to assent to such an arrangement might be short-sighted and
impolitic; but it is not clear that either the minister in proposing
such an enactment, or the Parliament in adopting it, would be violating
either the letter or the spirit of the constitution. Every member of the
Governing Board was to be appointed by the Parliament itself; and,
though unquestionably Fox would have the nomination, and though he could
reckon on the support of the majority in the House of Commons for those
whom he might select, still it was a strictly constitutional machinery
that he was putting in motion.

A measure, however, may be very objectionable without being
unconstitutional, and such a view of the India Bill the progress of the
debates in the House of Commons disposed the King to take of it. In the
House of Peers Lord Thurlow described the bill as one to take the crown
off his head and place it on that of Mr. Fox; and, even without adopting
that description to its full extent, the King might easily regard the
bill as a very unscrupulous attempt to curtail his legitimate authority
and influence. He became most anxious to prevent the bill from being
presented to him for his royal assent. And it was presently represented
to him that the knowledge of his desire would probably induce the Lords
to reject it. Among the peers who had attacked the bill on its first
introduction into their House was Earl Temple, whose father had taken so
prominent a part in the negotiations for the formation of a new ministry
in 1765, and who had himself been Lord-lieutenant of Ireland under Lord
Shelburne's administration. But he had not thought it prudent to divide
the House against its first reading, and felt great doubts as to his
success in a division on the second, unless he could fortify his
opposition by some arguments as yet untried. He had no difficulty in
finding a willing and effective coadjutor. Since the retirement of Lord
Bute from court, no peer had made himself so personally acceptable to
the King as Lord Thurlow, who had been Lord Chancellor during the last
four years of Lord North's administration, and, in consequence, as it
was generally understood, of the earnest request of George III., had
been allowed to retain the seals by Lord Rockingham, and afterward by
Lord Shelburne. What special attraction drew the King toward him, unless
it were some idea of his honesty and attachment to the King himself--on
both of which points subsequent events proved his Majesty to be wholly
mistaken--it is not very easy to divine; but his interest with the King
at this time was notorious, and equally notorious was the deep
resentment which he cherished against Fox and Lord North, of whom, as he
alleged, the former had proscribed and the latter had betrayed him. To
him, therefore, Lord Temple now applied for advice as to the best mode
of working on the King's mind, and, with his assistance, drew up a
memorial on the character of the India Bill, on its inevitable fruits if
it should pass (which it described as an extinction of "more than half
of the royal power, and a consequent disabling of his Majesty for the
rest of his reign"), and on the most effectual plan for defeating it;
for which end it was suggested that his Majesty should authorize some
one to make some of the Lords "acquainted with his wishes" that the bill
should be rejected.[85]

George III. eagerly adopted the suggestion, and drew up a brief note,
which he intrusted to Lord Temple himself, and which stated that "his
Majesty allowed Earl Temple to say that whoever voted for the India Bill
was not only not his friend, but would be considered by him as his
enemy. And, if these words were not strong enough, Earl Temple might
whatever words he might deem stronger and more to the purpose."[86]

Lord Temple lost no time in availing himself of the permission thus
granted him; and, as it was by no means his object to keep the
transaction secret, his conduct was made the subject of severe comment
by the Prime-minister himself the next time that the bill was mentioned
in the Upper House. The Duke of Portland, indeed, professed to have
learned it only from common report, and to hope that the report was
unfounded, since, were it true, "he should be wanting in the duty he
owed to the public as a minister if he did not take the opportunity of
proposing a measure upon it to their lordships that would prove that
they felt the same jealousy, the same detestation, the same desire to
mark and stigmatize every attempt to violate the constitution as he
did." Lord Temple, in reply, abstained from introducing any mention of
the King's opinions or wishes, but avowed plainly that he had used his
privilege as a peer to solicit an interview with his Majesty, and that
at that interview "he had given his advice. What that advice had been he
would not then say; it was lodged in the breast of his Majesty, nor
would he declare the purport of it without the royal consent, or till he
saw a proper occasion. But, though he would not declare affirmatively
what his advice to his sovereign was, he would tell their lordships
negatively what it was not. It was not friendly to the principle and
objects of the bill."[87] The debate lasted till near midnight. Of the
speakers, a great majority declared against the bill; and, on the
division, it was rejected by a majority of nineteen.[88] This took place
on the 15th of December. On the 18th, as the ministers had not
resigned--not regarding a single defeat in the Upper House as a
necessary cause for such a step--the King sent messengers to them to
demand their resignation, and the next day it was publicly announced in
the House of Commons that Pitt had accepted the office of

But Fox, who had anticipated the dismissal of himself and his
colleagues, was by no means inclined to acquiesce in it, or to yield
without a struggle; and on the 17th one of his partisans in the House of
Commons, Mr. Baker, one of the members for Hertfordshire, brought
forward some resolutions on the subject of the late division in the
House of Lords. He professed to rest them solely on rumors, but he urged
that "it was the duty of that House to express its abhorrence even of
that rumor," since by such an action as was alleged "that responsibility
of ministers which was the life of the constitution would be taken away,
and with it the principal check that the public had upon the crown." And
he urged "the members of that House, as the guardians of the
constitution, to stand forward and preserve it from ruin, to maintain
that equilibrium between the three branches of the Legislature, and that
independence without which the constitution could no longer exist," and
with this view to resolve "that to report any opinion, or pretended
opinion, of his Majesty upon any bill or other proceeding depending in
either House of Parliament, with a view to influence the votes of the
members, is a high crime and misdemeanor, derogatory to the honor of the
crown, a breach of the fundamental privileges of Parliament, and
subversive of the constitution of the country." It was opposed by Pitt,
chiefly on the ground that Mr. Baker only based the necessity for such a
resolution on common report, which he, fairly enough, denied to be a
sufficient justification of it; and partly on the undoubted and
"inalienable right of peers, either individually or collectively, to
advise his Majesty, whenever they thought the situation of public
affairs made such a step an essential part of their duty." But it was
supported by Lord North as "necessary on constitutional principles,"
since the acts so generally reported and believed "affected the freedom
of debate;" and by Fox, who declared that the action which was reported,
if true, "struck at the great bulwark of our liberties, and went to the
absolute annihilation, not of our chartered rights only, but of those
radical and fundamental ones which are paramount to all charters, which
were consigned to our care by the sovereign disposition of Nature, which
we cannot relinquish without violating the most sacred of all
obligations, to which we are entitled, not as members of society, but as
individuals and as men; the right of adhering steadily and uniformly to
the great and supreme laws of conscience and duty; of preferring, at all
hazards and without equivocation, those general and substantial
interests which members have sworn to prefer; of acquitting themselves
honorably to their constituents, to their friends, to their own minds,
and to that public whose trustees they were, and for whom they acted."
He avowed his conviction that rumor in this instance spoke truth, and,
affirming that "the responsibility of ministers is the only pledge and
security the people of England possesses against the infinite abuses so
natural to the exercise of royal powers," argued that, if "this great
bulwark of the constitution were once removed, the people would become
in every respect the slaves and property of despotism. This must be the
necessary consequence of secret influence." He argued that the sole
distinction between an absolute and a limited monarchy was that the
sovereign in one is a despot, and may do as he pleases, but that in the
other he is himself subjected to the laws, and consequently is not at
liberty to advise with any one in public affairs who is not responsible
for that advice, and that the constitution has clearly directed his
negative to operate under the same wise restrictions. Mr. Baker's
resolution was carried by a large majority; but, as we have seen, did
not deter the King from dismissing the ministry.

The conduct of George III. in this transaction has been discussed by
writers of both parties with such candor that the Tory historian, Lord
Stanhope, while evidently desirous to defend it by implication, passes a
slight censure on it in the phrase that "the course pursued by the King
was most unusual, and most extreme, and most undesirable to establish as
a precedent;"[89] while, on the other hand, so rigid a Whig as Lord
Campbell urges in his favor "that if it be ever excusable in a King of
England to cabal against his ministers, George III. may well be defended
for the course he now took, for they had been forced upon him by a
factious intrigue, and public opinion was decidedly in his favor."[90]
But to those who regard not the excuse which previous provocation may be
conceived in some degree to furnish to human infirmity, but only the
strict theory and principle of the constitution on which the doctrine of
the responsibility of the ministers and the consequent irresponsibility
of the sovereign rests, Lord Campbell's conditional justification for
the communication made through Lord Temple will hardly appear
admissible. We cannot be sure how far Mr. Grenville's "Diary" is to be
trusted for transactions in which he was not personally concerned, or
for conversations at which he was not present; but in giving an
account[91] of some of the occurrences of the spring of 1766, while Lord
Rockingham was Prime-minister, we find him relating a conversation
between the King and Lord Mansfield on the ministerial measure for
conciliating the American Colonies by the repeal of the Stamp Act,
combined, however, with an assertion of the _right_ to tax. "He (Lord
Mansfield) took notice of the King's name having been bandied about in a
very improper manner; to which the King assented, saying he had been
very much displeased at it, as thinking it unconstitutional to have his
name mentioned as a means to sway any man's opinion in any business
which was before Parliament; and that all those who approached him knew
that to be his sentiment. Lord Mansfield said he differed from his
Majesty in that opinion, for that, though it would be unconstitutional
to endeavor by his Majesty's name to carry questions in Parliament, yet
where the lawful rights of the King and Parliament were to be asserted
and maintained, he thought the making his Majesty's opinion in support
of those rights to be known was very fit and becoming." The line here
alleged to have been drawn by the great Chief-justice, between
proclaiming the King's opinion in support of rights, but withholding it
in the case of measures, is, perhaps, too fine to be perceptible by
ordinary intellects. But however the King may have understood the judge,
it is clear that the doctrine thus asserted does not justify, but
condemns, such an act as the communication of the King's opinion and
wishes in the case under consideration. If it "would be unconstitutional
to endeavor by his Majesty's name to carry questions in Parliament," it
must be at least equally so to use his name to defeat them. And the case
is infinitely stronger, if the measure to be defeated be one which has
been introduced by his ministers. For there can be no doubt whatever
that, so long as they are his ministers, they are entitled to his full
and complete support on every question; alike in their general policy
and on each separate measure. When he can no longer give them that
support, which the very act of conferring their offices on them promised
them, his only legitimate and becoming course is to dismiss them from
their offices, and to abide the judgment of Parliament and the nation on
that act. Thus William IV. acted in the autumn of 1834; and thus George
III. himself acted at the end of the month of which we are speaking. But
to retain them in their offices, and to employ an unofficial declaration
of his dissent from them to defeat their policy, is neither consistent
with the straightforward conduct due from one gentleman to another, nor
with the principle on which the system of administration, such as
prevails in this country, is founded.

As has been already mentioned, the King at once dismissed the Coalition
Ministry. Mr. Pitt accepted the conduct of affairs, and by so doing
accepted the responsibility for all the acts of the King which had
conduced to his appointment. Lord John Russell, who in his "Memorials
and Correspondence of Fox" has related and examined the whole
transaction at considerable though not superfluous length, while blaming
the prudence, and in some points the propriety, of Fox's conduct, at the
same time severely censures Pitt as "committing a great fault in
accepting office as the price of an unworthy intrigue," and affirms that
"he and his colleagues who accepted office upon the success of this
intrigue placed themselves in an unconstitutional position."[92] This
seems to be a charge which can hardly be borne out. In dismissing his
former ministry, the King was clearly acting within his right; and, if
so, Pitt was equally within his in undertaking the government. The truer
doctrine would seem to be, that, in so undertaking it, he assumed the
entire responsibility for the dismissal of his predecessors,[93] and
left it to the people at large, by the votes of their representatives,
to decide whether that dismissal were justified, and whether, as its
inevitable consequence, his acceptance of office were also justified or
not. The entire series of transactions, from the meeting of Parliament
in November, 1783, to its dissolution in the following March, may be
constitutionally regarded as an appeal by the King from the existing
House of Commons to the entire nation, as represented by the
constituencies; and their verdict, as is well known, ratified in the
most emphatic manner all that had been done. And we may assert this
without implying that, if the single act of empowering Lord Temple to
influence the peers by the declaration of the King's private feeling had
been submitted by itself to the electors, they would have justified
that. The stirring excitement of the three months' contest between the
great rivals led them to pronounce upon the transaction as a whole, and
to leave unnoticed what seemed for the moment to be the minor
issues--the moves, if we may borrow a metaphor from the chess-table,
which opened the game; and it may be observed that, though, on the 17th
of December, Pitt resisted Mr. Baker's resolution with his utmost
energy, in the numerous debates which ensued he carefully avoided all
allusion to Lord Temple's conduct, or to the measure which had led to
the dismissal of his predecessors, farther than was necessary for the
explanation of the principles of his own India Bill. It may even be
surmised that, if he had been inclined to recognize Lord Temple's
interference as warrantable, the breach between that peer and himself,
which occurred before the end of the week, would not have taken place,
since it seems nearly certain that the cause of that breach was a
refusal on the part of Pitt to recommend his cousin for promotion in the
peerage, a step which, at such a moment, would have had the appearance
of an approval of his most recent deed,[94] but which he could hardly
have refused, if it had been done with his privity. The battle, as need
hardly be told, was first fought among the representatives of the people
in the House of Commons; for there was only one occasion on which the
opinion of the Lords was invited, when they declared in favor of Pitt by
a decisive majority.[95] But in the Lower House the contest was carried
on for more than two months with extraordinary activity and ability, by
a series of resolutions and motions brought forward by the partisans of
the coalition, and contested by the youthful minister. In one respect
the war was waged on very unequal terms, Pitt, who had been but three
years in Parliament, and whose official experience could as yet only be
counted by months, having to contend almost single-handed against the
combined experience and eloquence of Lord North, Fox, and Burke.
Fortunately, however, for him, their own mismanagement soon turned the
advantage to his side. They were too angry and too confident to be
skilful, or even ordinarily cautious. The leaders on both sides made
professions in one respect similar; they both alike denied that a desire
of office influenced either their conduct or their language (a denial
for which Pitt's refusal of the Treasury, a year before, gained him more
credit than could be expected by Fox after his coalition with Lord
North), and both alike professed to be struggling for the constitution
alone, for some fundamental principle which each charged his antagonist
with violating; Fox on one occasion even going so far as, in some
degree, to involve the King himself in his censures, declaring not only
that "the struggle was, in fact, one between Pitt himself and the
constitution," but that it was also one "between liberty and the
influence of the crown," and "between prerogative and the constitution;"
and that "Pitt had been brought into power by means absolutely
subversive of the constitution."[96] But no act of which he thus accused
the minister or the King showed such a disregard of the fundamental
principle of the constitution of Parliament as was exhibited by Fox
himself when, in the very first debate after the Christmas recess, he
called in question that most undoubted prerogative of the crown to
dissolve the Parliament, and, drawing a distinction which had certainly
never been heard of before, declared that, though the King had an
incontestable right to dissolve the Parliament after the close of a
session, "many great lawyers" doubted whether he had such a right in the
middle of a session, a dissolution at such a period being "a penal" one.
Professing to believe that an immediate dissolution was intended, he
even threatened to propose to the House of Commons "measures to guard
against a step so inimical to the true interests of the country," and
made a more direct attack than ever on the King himself, by the
assertion of a probability that, even if Pitt did not contemplate a
dissolution, his royal master might employ "secret influence" to
overrule him, and might dissolve in spite of him,[97] an imputation
which Lord North, with a strange departure from his customary
good-humor, condescended to endorse.[98] There could be no doubt that
both the doubt and the menace were of themselves distinct attacks on the
constitution; and they were, moreover, singularly impolitic and
inconsistent with others of the speaker's arguments, since, if the
nation at large approved of his views and conduct, a dissolution--which
would have placed the decision in its hands--would have been the very
thing he should most have desired. On another evening, though he
admitted as a principle that the sovereign had the prerogative of
choosing his ministers, he not only sought to narrow the effect of that
admission by the assertion that "to exercise that prerogative in
opposition to the House of Commons would be a measure as unsafe as
unjustifiable,"[99] but to confine the right of deciding the title of
the ministers to confidence to the existing House of Commons. He accused
Pitt of "courting the affection of the people, and on this foundation
wishing to support himself in opposition to the repeated resolutions of
the House passed in the last three weeks." Had he confined himself to
urging the necessity of the ministers and the House of Commons being in
harmony, even though such a mention of the House of Commons by itself
were to a certain extent an ignoring of the weight of the other branches
of the Legislature, he would have only been advancing a doctrine which
is practically established at the present day, since there has been
certainly more than one instance in which a ministry has retired which
enjoyed the confidence of both the sovereign and the House of Lords,
because it was not supported by a majority in the House of Commons. But
when he proceeded to make it a charge against the minister that he
trusted to the good-will of the people to enable him to disregard the
verdict of the House of Commons, he forgot that it was only as
representing the people that the House had any right to pronounce a
verdict; and that, if it were true that the judgment of the people was
more favorable to the minister than that of the House of Commons, the
difference which thus existed was a condemnation of the existing House,
and an irresistible reason for calling on the constituencies to elect

Pitt, therefore, had no slight advantage in defending himself against so
rash an assailant. "He did not shrink," he said, "from avowing himself
the friend of the King's just prerogative," and in doing so he
maintained that he had a title to be regarded as the champion of the
people not less than of the crown. "Prerogative had been justly called a
part of the rights of the people, and he was sure it was a part of their
rights which they were never more inclined to defend, of which they were
never more jealous, than at that hour."[100] And he contended that Fox's
objections to a dissolution betrayed a consciousness that he had not the
confidence of the nation. At last, when the contest had lasted nearly
two months, Fox took the matter into his own hands, and, no longer
putting his partisans in the front of the battle, on the 1st of March he
himself moved for an address to the King, the most essential clause of
which "submitted to his Majesty's royal consideration that the
continuance of an administration which did not possess the confidence of
the representatives of the people must be injurious to the public
service." ... And, therefore, that "his Majesty's faithful Commons did
find themselves obliged again to beseech his Majesty that he would be
graciously pleased to lay the foundation of a strong and stable
government by the previous removal of his present ministers." In the
speech with which he introduced this address he put himself forward as
especially the champion of the House of Commons. He charged the
Prime-minister with an express design "to reduce the House to
insignificance, to render it a mere appendage to the court, an
appurtenance to the administration." He asserted the existence of a
systematic "design to degrade the House, after which there was not
another step necessary to complete the catastrophe of the constitution."
And on this occasion he distinguished the feelings of the King from
those which influenced the minister, affirming his confidence "that the
King's heart had no share in the present business."[101]

Pitt, on the other hand, in reply, affirmed that he was called on by
duty "to defend the rights of the other branches of the Legislature; the
just and constitutional prerogative of the sovereign," upon which the
Opposition was seeking to encroach, without even having shown a single
reason to justify such invasion. He freely admitted that, if the House
of Commons or either of the other branches of the Legislature
"disapproved of an administration on proper grounds, it would not be
well for that administration to retain office." But in the present
instance he contended that "no ground for disapprobation had been
shown." The existing administration "had, in fact, by an unaccountable
obstinacy and untowardness of circumstances, been deprived of all
opportunity" of showing its capacity or its intentions. "If any
accusations should be made and proved against it, if any charges should
be substantiated, it would, indeed be proper for the ministers to
resign; and if, in such a case he were afterward to continue in office,
he would suffer himself to be stigmatized as the champion of
prerogative, and the unconstitutional supporter of the usurpation of the
crown. But till this period arrived, he should reckon it his duty to
adhere to the principles of the constitution, as delivered to us by our
ancestors; to defend them against innovation and encroachment, and to
maintain them with firmness." "The constitution of this country," he
presently added, "is its glory; but in what a nice adjustment does its
excellence consist! Equally free from the distractions of democracy and
the tyranny of monarchy, its happiness is to be found in its mixture of
parts. It was this mixed government which the prudence of our ancestors
devised, and which it will be our wisdom to support. They experienced
all the vicissitudes and distractions of a republic; they felt all the
vassalage and despotism of a simple monarchy. They abandoned both; and,
by blending each together, extracted a system which has been the envy
and admiration of the world. This system it is the object of the present
address to defeat and destroy. It is the intention of this address to
arrogate a power which does not belong to the House of Commons; to place
a negative on the exercise of the prerogative, and to destroy the
balance of power in the government as it was settled at the Revolution."

Fox had urged that our history afforded no example of a ministry
retaining office after the House of Commons had passed a resolution
condemning it. Pitt, in reply, urged that our history equally failed to
furnish any instance of a ministry having been called on to retire
without any misconduct being alleged against them. And the result of the
division showed that his arguments and his firmness were producing an
impression on the House, for, though he was again defeated, the majority
against him (only twelve) was far smaller than on any previous
division.[102] A week later, this feeling in his favor was shown still
more decidedly, when Fox, on moving for a fresh address, or, as he
termed it, a representation to the King that the House had received his
Majesty's reply to their address "with surprise and affliction," he
could only carry it by a single vote.[103] And this division closed the
struggle. Fox made no farther effort. Before the end of the month the
Parliament was dissolved, and the general election which ensued sent to
the House a majority to support the ministers which Pitt was fairly
warranted in claiming as the full justification of the course which he
had pursued.

On a review of the whole of this extraordinary transaction, or series of
transactions, it is impossible to avoid regarding the issue of the
struggle as an all-important element in the case, and a test almost
decisive of the correctness of conduct of the rival leaders. We may
leave out of the question the action of the King in his communication to
Lord Temple, which, although sanctioned by the great legal authority of
Lord Thurlow, we are, for reasons already given, compelled to regard as
unconstitutional, but for which Mr. Pitt was only technically
responsible; having, indeed, made himself so by his subsequent
acceptance of office, but having had no previous suspicion of the royal
intentions. Similarly, we may dismiss from our consideration the merits
or demerits of Fox's India Bill, the designs which were imputed to its
framers, or the consequences which, whether intended or not by them,
were predicted as certain to flow from it. And we may confine ourselves
to the question whether, in the great Parliamentary struggle which
ensued, and which lasted for more than three months,[104] the doctrines
advanced by Mr. Fox, and the conduct pursued by him, were more or less
in accordance with the admitted rules and principles of the

These doctrines may be reduced to two: the first a declaration that no
minister is justified in retaining office any longer than he is
sustained in it by the favorable judgment of the representatives of the
people. Taken by itself, this, but for one consideration, might be
pronounced the superfluous assertion of a truism; superfluous, because
it is obvious that a House of Commons hostile to a minister can compel
his resignation by obstructing all his measures. And Pitt himself
recognized this as fully as Fox, though we may hardly agree with him
that the Opposition was bound to allow him time to develop his policy,
and to bring forward his various measures, before it pronounced an
opinion adverse to them. In 1835, when Sir R. Peel first met Parliament
after his acceptance of office, consequent on the King's dismissal of
Lord Melbourne's ministry, the Opposition encountered and defeated him
twice in the first week of the session--on the choice of a Speaker, and
on the address, though the latter had been framed with the most skilful
care to avoid any necessity for objection; but no attempt was made by
him to call in question the perfect right of Lord J. Russell and his
followers in the House to choose their own time and field of battle. But
there is one farther consideration, that the authority belonging to the
judgment of the House of Commons depends on that judgment being not
solely its own, but the judgment also of the constituencies which have
returned it, and whose mouth-piece it is; and also that the House is not
immortal, but is liable to be sent back to those constituencies, to see
whether they will ratify the judgment which their representatives have
expressed; whether, in other words, their judgment be the judgment of
the nation also. This farther consideration was, in fact, Pitt's plea
for resisting the majorities which, through January and February, so
repeatedly pronounced against him. And in determining to appeal to the
constituencies, as the court of ultimate resort, he was clearly within
the lines of the constitution.

It follows that Fox, in protesting against a dissolution, in threatening
even to take steps to prevent it, was acting in self-evident violation
of all constitutional principle and precedent. He was denying one of the
most universally acknowledged of the royal prerogatives. The distinction
which he endeavored to draw between a dissolution at the close of a
session and one in the middle of it, had manifestly no validity in law
or in common-sense. The minister had a clear right to appeal from the
House of Commons to the people, and one equally clear to choose his own
time for making that appeal. The appeal was made, the judgment of the
nation was pronounced, and its pronouncement may be, and indeed must be,
accepted as a sufficient justification, in a constitutional point of
view, of Pitt's conduct both in accepting and retaining office. If he
retained it for three months, in opposition to the voice of the existing
House of Commons, he could certainly allege that he was retaining it in
accordance with the deliberate judgment of the nation.

And this is the verdict of a modern statesman, a very careful student of
the theory of our Parliamentary constitution, and one whom party
connection would notoriously have inclined to defend the line taken by
Mr. Fox, had it been possible to do so. Indeed, he may be said to show
his bias in that statesman's favor when he affirms that he would have
been right in moving a resolution of censure on Pitt for "his acceptance
of office," which he presently calls the result of "the success of a
court intrigue,"[105] and, without a particle of evidence to justify the
imputation, affirms to "have been prepared beforehand with much art and
combination." But _amicus Fox, sed magis arnica veritas_; and though he
thus passes censure on Pitt, where the facts on which he bases it are at
least unproved, on those points as to which the facts are clear and
certain he condemns Fox altogether, affirming that his "attempt to show
that the crown had not the prerogative of dissolving Parliament in the
middle of a session had neither law nor precedent in its support."[106]
And he proceeds to lay down, with great clearness and accuracy, "the
practice as well as the theory of our mixed government," which is, that
"when two of the powers of the state cannot" agree, and the business of
the state is stopped, the only appeal is to the people at large. Thus,
when in the reign of Queen Anne the House of Lords and the House of
Commons fulminated resolutions at each other, a dissolution cleared the
air and restored serenity. If no case had occurred since the Revolution
of a quarrel between the crown and the House of Commons, the cause is to
be sought in the prudence with which every sovereign who had reigned
since that event had wielded his constitutional authority. If George
III. had been wanting in that prudence, it did not follow that he was
debarred from the right of appealing to the people. Any other doctrine
would invest the House of Commons, elected for the ordinary business of
the state, with a supreme power over every branch of it. This supreme
power must rest somewhere; according to our constitution it rests in the
common assent of the realm, signified by the persons duly qualified to
elect the members of the House of Commons; and Lord Russell, in thus
expounding his ideas on this subject, was undoubtedly expressing the
view that ever since the transactions of which we have been speaking has
been taken of the point chiefly in dispute. Since that day there has
been more than one instance of Parliament being dissolved in the middle
of a session; but, though the prudence of the different ministers who
advised such dissolutions may, perhaps, have been questioned--nay,
though in one memorable instance it was undoubtedly a penal dissolution
in the fullest sense of the word[107]--no one has ever accused the
sovereign's advisers of seducing him into an unconstitutional exercise
of his prerogative.

Pitt was now Prime-minister, with a degree of power in Parliament and of
popularity out-of-doors that no former minister, not even his own
father, had ever enjoyed. As such, by the confession of one who was
certainly no friendly critic,[108] "he became the greatest master of
Parliamentary government that has ever existed." His administration may
be regarded as a fresh starting-point in the history of the country, as
the inauguration of the principle of steady amendment, improvement, and
progress, in place of the maxims which had guided all his predecessors
since the Revolution, of regarding every thing as permanently settled by
the arrangements made at that time, and their own duty, consequently, as
binding them to keep everything in its existing condition. But, of all
the ministers recorded in our annals, there is not one so greatly in
advance of his time as Pitt; and from the very outset of his ministerial
career he applied himself, not only to the removal or correction of
admitted abuses or defects, but, in cases where the fault, being in our
general system of policy, had been less conspicuous, to the
establishment of new principles of action which have been the rules of
all succeeding statesmen. He was not, indeed, the first raiser of the
question of Parliamentary Reform, but he was the first to produce an
elaborate scheme with that object, parts of which, such as the
suppression of the smaller boroughs and the enfranchisement of places
which had gradually become more important, have been leading features of
every subsequent bill on the subject. He was the first to propose the
removal of those political disabilities under which the Roman Catholics
labored, which no one before him had regarded as consistent with the
safety of the state, and to which he sacrificed office. He was the first
to conceive the idea of developing our national industries and resources
by commercial treaties with other nations, even choosing for his
essay-piece a treaty with a country with which our relations for nearly
five hundred years had been almost uninterruptedly hostile, and which
Fox, in the heat of his opposition, objected even to consider in any
other light than that of an enemy. He laid the foundation for all
subsequent legislation connected with our colonies in his Bill for the
Government of Canada; and he established a system for the government of
our Indian dependencies on so statesman-like a principle, that all
subsequent administrations concurred in upholding it, till subsequent
events compelled the abolition of all the share in the government of the
country previously possessed by the Company.

A great writer of the past generation,[109] who in some respects has
done full justice to his genius and political virtue, has, however
(partly, it can hardly be doubted, from regarding himself as a follower
of his great rival, Fox), contrasted his capacity as a War-minister with
that of his father, drawing a comparison on this point very
disadvantageous to the son. We need not stop to examine how far the
praises which he bestows on Lord Chatham's talents as a planner of
military operations are deserved; but it may very fairly be contended
that the disparaging views of Pitt's military policy which he has
advanced are founded solely on what is in this as well as in many other
instances a most delusive criterion, success. It is true,
unquestionably, that in the campaigns of 1793-4-5 against the French
revolutionists, while he took upon this country the entire burden of the
naval war, on land he contented himself with playing a secondary part,
and employing a comparatively small force (which, however, doubled that
which his father had sent to Minden),[110] for the success of the
military operations trusting chiefly to the far stronger Austrian and
Prussian divisions, under the command of Prince Coburg and the Duke of
Brunswick, to which the British regiments were but auxiliaries. It is
true, also, that the result of their operations was unfortunate, and
that the German generals proved wholly unable to contend with the fiery
and more skilful impetuosity of Jourdan and Pichégru. But the question
is not whether Pitt's confidence in the prowess of his allies was
misplaced, but whether he had not abundant reason to justify him in
entertaining it. And, to judge fairly on this point, we must recollect
the reputation which for the last forty years the Austrian and Prussian
armies had enjoyed. The result of the seven years' war had established
the renown of the Prussians, and the Duke of Brunswick was understood to
be a favorite pupil of the Great Frederic. The same war had shown that
the Austrians were not very unequal to the Prussians; while the
reputation of the French troops had fallen to the lowest ebb, the most
memorable event in their annals during the same war being the rout of
Rosbach, when 60,000 of them fled before Frederic and 22,000. At the
breaking out of the Revolution, it might be said that De Bouille was the
only French general of the slightest reputation, and since the sad
journey to Varennes he had been an exile from his country. And, though
again in 1803 Pitt once more trusted for success on land to Continental
alliances, not only does he deserve admiration for the diplomatic talent
with which he united Austria, Prussia, and Russia against France, but it
can hardly be doubted that confederacy would have been triumphant, had
not the incompetent vanity of Alexander ruined all its prospects by his
rash disregard at Austerlitz of the experienced warnings of his own

The new form of government which he established for India, and to which
allusion has been made, has lost the greater part of its importance in
the eyes of the present generation, from the more-recent abolition of
the political authority of the East India Company, though of some of the
principles which he avowed he had taken for his guides it is worth while
to preserve the record; with such clearness, as well as statesman-like
wisdom, do they affirm the objects which every one should keep in view
who applies himself to legislation for distant dependencies where the
privileges and interests of foreign fellow-subjects are to be regarded
with as jealous a solicitude as those of our own countrymen. These
objects may be briefly described as being the reconciling the vested and
chartered interests of the Company with the legitimate authority of the
King's government; for, though Pitt admitted that "state necessity"
might occasionally be allowed as a valid reason for the abrogation of a
charter, he affirmed that nothing short of such absolute necessity could
excuse such a measure, and he relied on the previous history of the
Company to prove the fallacy of an observation that had sometimes been
made, that commercial companies could not govern empires. There were
three interests to be considered: that of the native Indians, that of
the Company, and that of this country; and the problem to be solved was,
"how to do the most good to India and to the East India Company with the
least injury to our constitution." Some of his remarks contained
unavoidable allusions to Fox's bill of the previous year, since some of
the provisions of his bill were entirely opposite to those which Fox had
framed, the most material point of difference being the character of the
Board of Control which he proposed to establish. Fox, as has been seen,
had proposed to make the commissioners to be appointed under his bill
irremovable for several years, whatever changes might take place in the
home government; an arrangement which the opposers of the bill suspected
of being designed to prevent any change in the home government from
taking place. Pitt, on the other hand, laid down as one of his leading
principles that "the board could not be permanent, that it must be
subordinate to the administration of the day, and that permanency would
be in itself a deviation from the principles of the constitution, and
would involve the board in contradictions to the executive government
that could not fail to be attended with great public inconvenience. An
institution to control the government of India must be either totally
independent of the government of this country or subordinate to it."
"The board was to consist of none but privy councillors," and instead of
the vast amount of patronage which was to have been created by the bill
of 1783, this board was "to create no increase of officers nor to impose
any new burdens." ... "The first and leading ideas would be, to limit
the subsisting patronage;" ... and so little was Pitt covetous to
engross that which did and must continue to subsist, that he left even
"the officers of the government of Bengal to the nomination of the Court
of Directors, subject only to the negative of the crown; and the Court
of Directors was also to have the nomination of the officers of all the
subordinate governments, except only of the commander-in-chief, who, for
various reasons, must remain to be appointed by the crown." Another very
important part of the arrangement was, that "gradation and succession
were to be the general rule of promotion," a regulation which of itself
would be "a forcible check upon patronage, and tend greatly to its
reduction." The governor of Bengal was to be the governor-general of the
whole country, the governors of Madras and Bombay being subordinate to
him; and each governor was to be assisted by a council of three members,
of whom the commander of the forces was to be one.

The spirit in which a law or a government is administered is commonly of
greater practical importance than the words in which the regulation or
the system is framed or defined; and Pitt, therefore, concluded his
speech by laying down a few "clear and simple principles as those from
which alone a good government could arise. The first and principal
object would be to take care to prevent the government from being
ambitious and bent on conquest. Commerce was our object, and, with a
view to its extension, a pacific system should prevail, and a system of
defence and conciliation. The government there ought, therefore, in an
especial manner, to avoid wars, or entering into alliances likely to
create wars." It was not to forget "to pay a due regard to self-defence,
or to guard against sudden hostilities from neighboring powers, and,
whenever there was reason to apprehend attack, to be in a state of
preparation. This was indispensably necessary; but whenever such
circumstances occurred, the executive government in India was not to
content itself with acting there as the circumstances of the case might
require; it was also to send immediate advice home of what had happened,
of what measures had been taken in consequence, and what farther
measures were intended to be pursued; and a tribunal was to be
established to take cognizance of such matters." The system of taking
presents from the natives was to be absolutely prohibited, a regulation
which he hoped would "tend effectually to check private corruption;"
and, lastly, it was proposed to establish a court of criminal judicature
for the trial in England of certain classes of delinquents after their
return from India. The Judges of the court were to be men of the highest
character; they were to be chosen by ballot, some being taken from the
bench of judges, some from each House of Parliament. And they were "not
to be tied down to strict rules of evidence, but to be upon their oaths
to give their judgments conscientiously, and to pronounce such judgment
as the common law would warrant." Such a tribunal he admitted to be an
innovation; but, "unless some new process were instituted, offences
shocking to humanity, opposite to justice, and contrary to every
principle of religion and morality, must continue to prevail, unchecked,
uncontrolled, and unrestrained, and the necessity of the case outweighed
the risk and the hazard of the innovation."

These were the general outlines of the constitution which in 1784 the
Parliament established for India, and the skill with which it was
adapted to the very peculiar character of the settlements to be governed
is sufficiently proved by the fact that it was maintained with very
little alteration equally by Whig and Tory administrations for
three-quarters of a century, till the great convulsion of the Mutiny
compelled an entire alteration in the system, and the abolition of the
governing powers of the Company, as we shall have occasion to relate in
a subsequent chapter. The principles which Pitt had laid down as the
guiding maxims for the governors; the avoidance of ambitious views of
conquest, the preservation of peace, and the limitation of the aims of
the government to the encouragement and extension of commerce, were not
equally adhered to. Undoubtedly, in some instances, the wars in which,
even during Pitt's too short lifetime, the Indian government was
engaged, came under his description of wars which were justifiable on
the ground of self-defence--wars undertaken for the preservation of what
had been previously won or purchased, rather than for the acquisition of
new territories at the expense of chiefs who had given us no
provocation. But for others, though professedly undertaken with a view
only of anticipating hostile intentions, the development of which might
possibly be reserved for a distant future, it is not easy to find a
similar justification; and it may be feared that in more than one case
governors-general, conscious of great abilities, have been too much
inclined to adopt the pernicious maxim of Louis XIV., that the
aggrandizement and extension of his dominions is the noblest object
which a ruler of nations can have in view. Yet, though unable on
strictly moral grounds to justify all the warlike enterprises which make
up so large a part of our subsequent Indian history, it is impossible,
probably, for even the most rigid moralist to avoid some feelings of
national pride in the genius of our countrymen, who in the short space
of a single century have built up an empire of a magnitude unequalled
even by the Caesars, and have governed and still are governing it in so
wise and beneficent a spirit, and with such a display of administrative
capacity, that our rule is recognized as a blessing by the great
majority of the nations themselves, as a protection from ceaseless
intestine war, from rapine, and that worst of tyrannies, anarchy, which
was their normal condition before Clive established our supremacy at
Plassy, and into which they would surely and speedily fall back, if our
controlling authority were to be withdrawn.

India was not the only British settlement for which the growth of our
empire compelled Pitt to devise a constitution. The year which saw his
birth had also seen the conquest of Canada from the French; and in 1774
a system of government for the new province had been established which
it is sufficient here to describe as one, which differed but little from
a pure despotism, the administration being vested in a governor and
Legislative Council, every member of which was to be nominated by the
crown. But the working of this act had from the first proved very
unsatisfactory, and had become more so as the population increased by
the influx of fresh settlers from Great Britain, and also from the
United States, here many of those who in the recent civil war had
adhered the connection with the mother country had been exposed to
constant malice and ill-treatment, and had preferred crossing the border
and obtaining lands in Canada to returning to England. Pitt recognized
the evil, and undertook to remedy it and in 1791 he introduced a bill to
establish a constitution for Canada, which a recent historian describes
as "remarkable, as recognizing for the first time the wise and generous
principle of independent colonial institutions, which has since been
fully developed in every dependency of the British crown capable of
local self-government."[112] One peculiar difficulty in framing such a
constitution arose from the circumstance of the old French colonists,
who greatly outnumbered the settlers of British blood, being attached to
the Roman Catholic religion; while the British settlers were nearly, or
perhaps all, Protestant, though of different denominations. The
difficulty was, indeed, lessened by the circumstance that the French
dwelt in Quebec and the district between that city and the mouth of the
St. Lawrence, and that the English had for the most part betaken
themselves to the more inland region. And this local separation of the
two races the minister now took for his guide in the arrangement which
he devised. The most important feature in it was the division of the
province into two parts, as Upper and Lower Canada, and the
establishment of a distinct local Legislature for each division, a House
of Assembly being created in each, and a Council, so as, in Pitt's
words, "to give both divisions the full advantages of the British
constitution." The Assemblies were to have the power of taxation (so
that there was no room left for such perverse legislation by a British
Parliament as had lately cost its sovereign the United States). The act
of _habeas corpus_ was extended to the province (a privilege which no
one of French blood had ever enjoyed before); the tenure of land was to
be the socage[113] tenure so long and happily established in England.
Complete religious toleration was established, and a certain proportion
of land was allotted in Upper Canada, as a provision for a Protestant
clergy, and the foundation of an ecclesiastical establishment. So great
was Pitt's desire to complete the resemblance between the colony and
Great Britain, that he even contemplated the creation of an aristocracy,
by the introduction of a provision enabling the King to grant hereditary
colonial titles, the possession of which should include hereditary seats
in the provincial Council. The two latter clauses were opposed by Fox,
and the latter of them, though sanctioned by Parliament, was never
carried out in practice. But Fox, bitter as he was at this time in his
general opposition to the government, agreed cordially in the general
principles of the bill, avowing his conviction that "the only method of
retaining distant colonies with advantage is to enable them to govern
themselves," so that each party in the British Parliament is entitled to
a share of the credit for this pattern of all subsequent colonial
constitutions--Pitt for the original genius for organization which his
contrivance of all the complicated details of the measure displayed, and
Fox for his frank adoption of the general principle inculcated by his
rival, even while differing as to some of the minor details of the
measure. During these years the country was increasing in prosperity,
and the minister was daily rising in credit; more powerful and more
popular than the most successful or the most brilliant of his
predecessors. But during these same years two great constitutional
difficulties had arisen, one of which, indeed, the deep sense which both
parties felt of the danger of investigating it shelved almost as soon as
it was seen; but the other of which, besides the importance which it
derived from the degree in which it involved the principle of the
supreme authority of Parliament, and brought under discussion even that
which regulates the succession to the crown, imperilled the existence of
the ministry, and threatened a total change in both the domestic and
foreign policy of the nation.

The Prince of Wales, who had come of age in the summer of 1783, had at
once begun to make himself notorious for the violence of his opposition
to his father's ministers, carrying the openness of his hostility so far
as, during the Westminster election to drive about the streets with a
carriage and all his servants profusely decorated with Fox's colors;
and, still more discreditably, by most unmeasured profligacy of all
kinds. The consequence was that he soon became deeply involved in debt,
so deeply that, in 1787, a member of Fox's party gave notice of his
intention to move that the Parliament should pay his debts and increase
his income. Pitt, without specifying his reasons, avowed that he should
feel it his duty to oppose any grant of such a character; but another
member of Parliament, Mr. Rolle, one of the members for Devonshire,
being trammelled by no such feeling of responsibility, expressed a
similar resolution in language which contained an allusion perfectly
understood on both sides of the House. He said that "the question thus
proposed to be brought forward went immediately to affect our
constitution in Church and State." And every one knew that he was
referring to a report which had recently become general, that the Prince
was married to a Roman Catholic lady of the name of Fitzherbert. No
direct notice was taken of this allusion at the moment, Fox himself, who
had the chief share of the Prince's confidence, being accidentally
absent; but a day or two afterward he referred to Rolle's speech with
great indignation, declaring that it referred to a "low, malicious
calumny" which had no foundation whatever, and "was only fit to impose
on the lowest order of persons." Being pressed as to the precise force
of his assertion, and being asked whether it meant more than that under
the existing laws, such as the Royal Marriage Act, there had been no
marriage, because there could have been no _legal_ marriage, he declared
that he meant no such evasion, but that no marriage ceremony, legal or
illegal, had ever taken place; and farther, that in saying this he was
speaking on the direct authority of the Prince himself. No more
degrading act stains the annals of British royalty. For the fact was
true--the very next evening Fox learned the deceit which the Prince had
practised on him from a gentleman who had been one of the witnesses to
the marriage, which had been solemnized by a Protestant clergyman
fifteen months before.[114] And his indignation was such that for some
time afterward he abstained from all interference in the Prince's
affairs; while the language held by the Prince's other confidant, Mr.
Sheridan, was so evasive as to betray a consciousness that whatever had
occurred would not bear the light of day; so that there were very few to
whom the truth or falsehood of the report was a subject of interest who
felt any uncertainty on the subject.

It may, probably, be regarded as fortunate for the peace of the kingdom
that the Prince, who eventually became King George IV., left behind him
no issue from his marriage with the Princess, the failure of heirs of
his body thus removing any temptation to raise the question whether he
had not himself forfeited all right to succeed to the throne by his
previous marriage to a Roman Catholic. A clause of the Bill of Rights
provides that any member of the royal family who should marry a Roman
Catholic (with the exception of the issue of princesses who may be the
wives of foreign princes) shall by that marriage be rendered incapable
of inheriting the crown of England. And though the Royal Marriage Act
(which, as we have seen, had been recently passed) had enacted that no
marriage of any member of the royal family contracted without the
consent of the reigning sovereign should be valid, it by no means
follows that an invalidity so created would exempt the contractor of a
marriage with a Roman Catholic, which as an honorable man he must be
supposed to have intended to make valid, from the penalties enacted by
the Bill of Rights. It is a point on which the most eminent lawyers of
the present day are by no means agreed. The spirit of the clause in that
bill undoubtedly was, that no apparent or presumptive heirs to the crown
should form a matrimonial connection with any one who should own
allegiance to a foreign power, and that spirit was manifestly
disregarded if a prince married a Roman Catholic lady, even though a
subsequent law had enacted a conditional invalidity of such a marriage.
We may find an analogy to such a case in instances where a man has
abducted a minor, and induced her to contract a marriage with himself.
The lady may not have been reluctant; but the marriage has been
annulled, and the husband has been criminally prosecuted, the nullity of
the marriage not availing to save him from conviction and punishment. A
bigamous marriage is invalid, but the bigamist is punished. And, apart
from any purely legal consideration, it may be thought that public
policy forbids such a construction of law as would make the illegality
or invalidity of an act (and all illegal acts must be more or less
invalid) such a protection to the wrong-doer as would screen him from

Whatever may be the judgment formed on the legal aspect and merits of
the case, the conduct of the Prince could not fail to give the great
body of the people, justly jealous at all times of their national
adherence to truthfulness and honesty, a most unfavorable impression of
his character. As has been already mentioned, Fox was so indignant at
having been made the instrument to assure the Parliament and the nation
of a falsehood, that he for a time broke off all communication with
him.[115] Yet a singular caprice of fortune, or, it would be more proper
to say, a melancholy visitation of Providence, before the end of the
following year led Fox to carry his championship of the same Prince who
had so abused his confidence to the length of pronouncing the most
extravagant eulogies on his principles, and on his right to the
confidence and respect of the nation at large. In the autumn of 1788 the
King fell into a state of bad health, which in no long time affected his
mind, and, by the middle of November, had so deranged his faculties as
to render him incapable of attending to his royal duties, or, in fact,
transacting any business whatever. Parliament was not sitting, but its
re-assembling had been fixed for the 4th of December, and before that
day arrived the King's illness had assumed so alarming a character, and
it appeared so unsafe to calculate on his immediate recovery, that the
minister summoned a Privy Council, the summons being addressed to the
members of the Opposition as well as to his own followers, to receive
the opinions of the physicians in attendance on his Majesty, as a
necessary foundation for the measures which he conceived it to be his
duty to propose to Parliament. Those opinions were, that it was almost
certain that the disease would not be permanent, though no one could
undertake to fix its duration with the least appearance of probability.
And, as the royal authority could not be left in abeyance, as it were,
for an uncertain period, it was indispensable to appoint a Regent to
conduct the affairs of the kingdom till the King should, happily, be
once more in a condition to resume his functions.

In considering the line of conduct adopted in this emergency by Pitt and
his great rival Fox, Pitt has one manifest advantage on his side, that
it is impossible to attribute the course which he took to any personal
motive, or any desire for the retention of official power; while it is
equally impossible to doubt that Fox was in no slight degree,[116] and
that Lord Loughborough, the prince's chief adviser on points of law, was
wholly influenced by the hope of supplanting the ministry. Pitt had
never the least doubt that on the establishment of the Regency he should
be dismissed, and was prepared to return to the Bar. But his knowledge
of the preference which the Prince entertained for his rival did not
lead him to hesitate for a single moment as to the propriety of placing
him in a situation to exercise that preference. On the reassembling of
Parliament, he at once took what he conceived to be the proper
parliamentary course of proceeding; at his suggestion committees in both
Houses were appointed to take a formal examination of the royal
physicians; and, when those committees had reported that the King was
for the present incapable of discharging his royal functions, though
likely at some future period to be able to resume them, he moved the
House of Commons to appoint another committee, to search for "precedents
of such proceedings as might have been taken in the case of the personal
exercise of the royal authority being prevented or interrupted by
infancy, sickness, or infirmity, with a view to provide for the same."
Such a search for precedents was no novelty, and may be thought to have
been especially proper in such a case as this, since history recorded
the appointment of several regencies, one under circumstances strikingly
resembling those now existing, when, in 1454, Henry VI. had fallen into
a state of imbecility, and the Parliament appointed the Duke of York
Protector[117] of the kingdom.

But Fox instantly opposed it with extreme vehemence, declaring that the
appointment of such a committee would be a pure waste of time. It was
notorious, he affirmed, that no precedent existed which could have any
bearing on the present case, since there was in existence a person such
as had never been found on any previous occasion, an heir-apparent of
full age and capacity to exercise the royal authority; and he declared
it to be his deliberate opinion that the Prince of Wales had "as clear
and express a right to assume the reins of government, and to exercise
all the powers of sovereignty, during the illness and incapacity of the
sovereign, as if that sovereign were actually deceased." Such an
assertion of indefeasible right was so totally at variance with the Whig
doctrines which Pitt, equally with Fox, regarded as the true principles
of the constitution, that Pitt at once perceived the advantage which it
gave him, by enabling him to stand forward as the supporter of the
supreme authority of Parliament, which Fox had by implication denied. He
instantly replied that to assert an inherent indefeasible right in the
Prince of Wales, or any one else, independently of the decision of the
two Houses, fell little short of treason to the constitution; but, at
the same time, to prevent any one pretending to misconceive his
intentions, he allowed it to be seen with sufficient plainness that,
when once the right of Parliament to appoint the Regent had been
established, he should agree in the propriety of conferring that office
on the Prince of Wales. The committee was appointed; but, even before it
could report the result of its investigations, the doctrine advanced by
Fox had been the subject of discussion in the House of Lords, where Lord
Camden, who had presided over the meeting of the Privy Council a few
days before, on moving for the appointment of a similar committee of
peers, had taken occasion to declare that, if Fox had made such an
assertion as rumor imputed to him, it was one which had no foundation in
"the common law of the kingdom." He had never read nor heard of such a
doctrine. Its assertors might raise expectations not easily laid, and
might involve the country in confusion. And he contended, as Pitt had
done in the Commons, that its assertion was a strong argument in favor
of the appointment of a committee, that it might be at once seen whether
it were warranted by any precedent whatever. The reports of the two
committees bore out Fox's statement, that no precedent entirely
applicable to the case before them had ever occurred. But by this time
Fox had learned that the argument which he had founded on it was in the
highest degree unpalatable both to Parliament and to the nation; and for
a moment he sought to modify it by an explanation that, though he had
claimed for the Prince "the naked right, he had not by that expression
intended to maintain that that right could be reduced into possession
without the consent of Parliament;" an explanation not very reconcilable
to common sense, since, if a right were inherent and indefeasible,
Parliament could not, without absolute tyranny, refuse to sanction its
exercise; and, in fact, his coadjutor, Sheridan, on the very same
evening, re-asserted his original doctrine in, if possible, still more
explicit terms, warning the minister "of the danger of provoking the
Prince to assert his right," while a still greater man (Burke) declared
that "the minister had taken up an attitude on the question tantamount
to that of setting himself up as a competitor to the Prince." Such
inconsiderate violence gave a great advantage to Pitt, one of whose most
useful characteristics as a debater was a readiness and presence of mind
that nothing could discompose. He repelled such menaces and imputations
with an equally lofty scorn, and, after a few necessary preliminaries,
brought forward a series of resolutions, one of which declared the fact
of the sovereign's illness, and consequent incapacity; a second affirmed
it to be the right and duty of the two Houses of Parliament to provide
the means for supplying the defect in the royal authority; and a third
imposed on the Houses the task of deciding on the mode in which the
royal assent necessary to give their resolutions the authority of law
should be signified. It was impossible to object to the first; but the
second was stubbornly contested by the Opposition, the chiefs of the
Coalition Ministry once more fighting side by side; though Lord North
contented himself with arguing that the affirmation of the right and
duty of Parliament was a needless raising of a disputable point, and
moving, therefore, that the committee should report progress, as the
recognized mode of shelving it. Fox, however, carried away by the heat
of debate, returned to the assertion of the doctrine of absolute right,
overlooking his subsequent modification of it, and again gave Pitt the
advantage, by condescending to impugn his motives for proposing the
resolution, as being inspired, not by a zeal for the constitution, but
by a consciousness that he did not deserve the confidence of the Prince,
and, therefore, anticipated his instant dismissal by the Regent. The
re-affirmation of the Prince's inherent right was, indeed, necessary to
Fox as the foundation for the objections which he took to other parts of
Pitt's scheme. For the minister, while admitting to its full extent the
irresistible claim which the Prince of Wales possessed to the preference
of Parliament for the Regency, proposed at the same time to impose
certain limitations on his exercise of the authority, so long as there
was a reasonable hope of his royal father's recovery. He was not to have
the power to create peerages, nor to alienate the property of the crown,
nor to grant offices in reversion; and, as the Queen was to have the
care of his Majesty's person, she also was to have the appointment of
all the offices in the royal household. Fox, on the other hand, objected
with extreme earnestness to the impropriety of imposing any limitations
whatever on the power of the Regent; and then the question whether the
Prince was to derive his right to the Regency from the authority of
Parliament, or from his natural position and inalienable preceding right
as his father's heir, became one of practical importance. If the
Parliament had the right to confer authority, it had clearly the right
to limit the authority it conferred. If the Prince had an indefeasible
right to the Regency, independently of the will of Parliament, then
Parliament could have no pretence to limit or restrain the exercise of
an authority which in no degree flowed from itself. Fox, indeed, took
another objection to the imposing of limitations to the authority to be
intrusted to the Regent, contending that this would be to create a power
unknown to the constitution--a person in the situation of King without
regal power. But, not to mention precedents drawn from the reigns of
Edward III., Richard II., and Henry VI., in the twenty-fourth year of
the very last reign, George II., on the death of his son, the father of
the present King, had enjoined the Parliament to provide for the
government, in the case of his own death, while the heir was still a
minor, recommending to them the appointment of the Princess Dowager of
Wales as Regent, "with such powers and limitations as might appear
expedient." And, in conformity with his desire, the Parliament had
appointed the Princess Regent, with a Council of Regency to assist her;
and had enacted that "several portions of the regal power" should be
withheld from the Regent, if she could not obtain the consent of the
Council thus appointed.[118]

This part of the case was so plain, that when, after the different
resolutions proposed by Pitt had been adopted in both Houses, Fox
insisted that, instead of proceeding by a bill to create a Regency, and
to appoint the Prince of Wales Regent, the only course which could be
adopted with propriety would be to present an address to the Prince, to
entreat him to assume the government, he failed to induce the House to
agree with him; and finally, as if he were determined to find a
battle-field in every clause, he made a vigorous resistance to the
expedient by which Pitt proposed that the formal royal assent which was
necessary to make the bill law should be given. Fox, on one occasion,
had gone the length of denying that the two Houses had any right to be
regarded as a Parliament while the King, an essential part of
Parliament, was incapacitated. But such an objection could have had no
force, even in the mind of him who raised it, since the proceedings of
the two Convention Parliaments of 1660 and 1689 labored under a similar
defect; and yet their acts had been recognized as valid, and ratified by
subsequent Parliaments. And now, in reference to the expedient proposed
by the minister, that the two Houses should empower and authorize the
Lord Chancellor to affix the Great Seal to the bill, Burke, with great,
but for him not unusual, violence, denounced both the proposal and the
Chancellor, declaring that such a step would be the setting up of a
phantom of sovereignty, a puppet, an idol, an idiot, to which he
disclaimed all allegiance. A more perilous amendment was one proposed to
another clause by Mr. Rolle, enacting that if the Regent should marry a
Roman Catholic his authority should cease. Since the Bill of Rights, as
we have seen, forbade a sovereign to marry a Roman Catholic without
incurring the forfeiture of his crown, it was evidently reasonable that
the same restriction should be imposed on every Regent; but it was hard
at the moment altogether to dissociate such a clause from the
discussions of the preceding year; and Mr. Rolle endeavored to give the
clause a more pointed meaning by an amendment to enact that the
forfeiture should be incurred by the mere celebration of any marriage
ceremony, whether the marriage thus performed were legal and valid or
not. His amendment, however, was unanimously rejected. The bill was
passed without alteration by the House of Commons; the Prince, while
protesting in an elaborate and most able letter, drawn up for him by
Burke, against the restrictions imposed by the bill, nevertheless
consented to sacrifice his own judgment to the general good of the
kingdom, and to accept the authority, limited as it was. And by the
middle of February the bill was sent up to the House of Lords. There
Lord Camden had charge of it, and his position as a former Chancellor
gave irresistible weight to his opinion that the mode proposed to give
the final sanction to the bill was strictly in accordance with the
spirit and practice of the constitution. The point with which he dealt
was the previous one, how Parliament, which was to pass the bill, was to
be opened, for, "circumstanced as it was, Parliament could not at
present take a single step." The law, as he put it, declared that the
King must be present, either in person or by a representative. When he
could not attend personally, the legal and constitutional process was to
issue letters-patent under the Great Seal. In the present dilemma,
therefore, he recommended that the two Houses should direct
letters-patent to be issued under the Great Seal, authorizing
commissioners to open Parliament in the name of his Majesty. He "must
use the liberty to say that those who treated this proposal with
ridicule were ignorant of the laws of their country. A fiction it might
be termed, but it was a fiction admirably calculated to preserve the
constitution, and, by adopting its forms, to preserve its substance."
The authority of the Great Seal he explained to be such that, "even if
the Lord Chancellor, by caprice, put it to any commission, it could not
afterward be questioned;" and he adduced a precedent of a very similar
character to the course now proposed, which occurred "at the
commencement of the reign of Henry VI., when, the sovereign being an
infant of nine months old, the Great Seal was placed in his hand, and it
was supposed to be given to him by the Master of the Rolls, whereupon
many commissions were sealed by it, and the government was carried on
under its authority." That precedent, he reminded the peers, had been
followed as recently as the year 1754, when, during an illness of George
II., Lord Chancellor Hardwicke affixed the Great Seal to a commission
for opening a session of Parliament. And, finally, he concluded by
moving, "That it is expedient and necessary that letters-patent for
opening the Parliament should pass under the Great Seal."[119] The
motion was carried, and Parliament was opened in accordance with it;
and, if it had been necessary, the same expedient would have sufficed to
give the requisite assent to the Regency Bill, a necessity which was
escaped by the fortunate recovery of the royal patient, which was
announced by his medical advisers a day or two before that fixed for the
third reading of the bill in the House of Lords.

Though the question was thus left undetermined for the moment, it was
revived twenty-two years afterward, when the same sovereign was attacked
by a recurrence of the same disease, and the existing ministry, then
presided over by Mr. Perceval, brought forward a Regency Bill almost
identical with that which on this occasion had been framed by Mr. Pitt;
and the Opposition, led by Lord Grey and Sir Samuel Romilly, raised as
nearly as possible the same objections to it which were now urged by Fox
and his adherents. The ministerial measure was, however, again supported
by considerable majorities; so that the course proposed by Mr. Pitt on
this occasion may be said to have received the sanction of two
Parliaments assembled and sitting under widely different circumstances;
and may, therefore, be taken as having established the rule which will
be adopted if such an emergency should, unfortunately, arise hereafter.
And indeed, though the propriety of Pitt's proposals has, as was
natural, been discussed by every historical and political writer who has
dealt with the history of that time, there has been a general
concurrence of opinion in favor of that statesman's measure. Lord John
Russell, while giving a document, entitled "Materials for a Pamphlet,"
in which he recognizes the handwriting of Lord Loughborough, and which
"contains the grounds of the opinion advanced by him, and adopted by Mr.
Fox, that, from the moment the two Houses of Parliament declared the
King unable to exercise his royal authority, a right to exercise that
authority attached to the Prince of Wales," does not suppress his own
opinion of the "erroneousness of this or any other doctrine that
attributes to any individual or any constituted authority existing in
the state a strict or legal right to claim or to dispose of the royal
authority while the King is alive, but incapable of exercising it."[120]

The only writer, as far as I am aware, who advocates the opposite view
is Lord Campbell, who, after quoting the speech of Lord Camden, from
which extracts have been made, comments on it, and on the whole
transaction, in the following terms: "From the course then adopted and
carried through, I presume it is now to be considered part of our
constitution that if ever, during the natural life of the sovereign, he
is unable by mental disease personally to exercise the royal functions,
the deficiency is to be supplied by the two Houses of Parliament, who,
in their _discretion_, will probably elect the heir-apparent Regent,
under such restrictions as they may please to propose, but who may
prefer the head of the ruling faction, and at once vest in him all the
prerogatives of the crown. On the two occasions referred to in the reign
of George III., the next heir being at enmity with the King and his
ministers, this was considered the loyal and courtly doctrine; and, from
its apparent advancement of the rights of Parliament, there was no
difficulty in casting odium on those who opposed it. But I must avow
that my deliberate opinion coincides with that of Burke, Fox, and
Erskine, who pronounced it to be unsupported by any precedent, and to be
in accordance with the principles of the Polish, not the English,
monarchy. The two Houses of Parliament would be the proper tribunal to
pronounce that the sovereign is unable to act; but then, as if he were
naturally as well as civilly dead, the next heir ought of right to
assume the government as Regent, ever ready to lay it down on the
sovereign's restoration to reason, in the same way as our Lady Victoria
would have returned to a private station if, after her accession, there
had appeared posthumous issue of William IV. by his queen. It is easy to
point out possible abuses by the next heir as Regent, to the prejudice
of the living sovereign; but there may be greater abuses of the power of
election imputed to the two Houses, whereby a change of dynasty might be
effected. I conceive, therefore, that the Irish Parliament[121] in 1789
acted more constitutionally in acknowledging the _right_ of the next
heir, in scouting the fiction of a commission or royal assent from the
insane sovereign, and in addressing the Prince of Wales to take on
himself the government as Regent."

Though the sneers at the possibility of Parliament preferring "the head
of the ruling faction" to the heir-apparent be hardly consistent with
the impartial candor which is one of the most imperative duties of an
historical critic, and though the allusion to the principles of the
Polish monarchy be not very intelligible, yet no one will refuse to
attach due weight to the deliberate opinion of one who won for himself
so high a professional reputation as Lord Campbell. But, with all
respect to his legal rank, we may venture to doubt whether he has not
laid down as law, speaking as a literary man and an historian, a
doctrine which he would not have entertained as a judge. For, if we
consider the common law of the kingdom, it is certain that, in the case
of subjects, if a man becomes deranged, his next heir does not at once
enter on his property "as if he were naturally as well as civilly dead."
And if, as in such cases is notoriously the practice, the Court of
Chancery appoints a guardian of the lunatic's property, analogy would
seem to require that the Houses of Parliament, as the only body which
can possibly claim authority in such a matter, should exercise a similar
power in providing for the proper management of the government to that
which the law court would exercise in providing for the proper
management of an estate; and that, therefore, the principles of
constitutional[122] statesmanship, which is deeply interested in
upholding the predominant authority of Parliament, must justify the
assertion of the ministers that the two Houses had the entire and sole
right to make regulations for the government of the kingdom during the
incapacity of the sovereign; and that the next heir, even when a son of
full age, can have no more right to succeed to his father's royal
authority in his lifetime than, if that father were a subject, he would
have to succeed to his estate.

The opposite doctrine would seem to impugn the legality of the whole
series of transactions which placed William and Mary on the throne. The
admission of an indefeasible right of the heir-apparent would have borne
a perilous resemblance to a recognition of that divine right, every
pretension to which the Revolution of 1688 had extinguished. If, again,
as Fox and his followers at one time endeavored to argue, the Houses in
1789 had no right to the name or power of a Parliament, because the King
had no part in their meetings, the convention that sat a century before
(as, indeed, was admitted) was certainly far less entitled to that name
or power, for it had not only never been called into existence by a
King, but was assembled in direct defiance of the King. Similarly, it is
admitted that the body which invited Charles II. to return and resume
his authority was equally destitute of the validity which could only be
given by a royal summons. Yet both these bodies had performed actions of
greater importance than that which was looked for from this Parliament.
The one had abolished the existing and usurping government, and restored
to his kingdom a King who had been long an exile. The other had, as it
were, passed sentence on the existing sovereign, on grounds which
confessedly will not bear a strict examination, and had conferred the
crown on a prince who had no hereditary claim to the title. The
justification of both acts was necessity. _Salus regni suprema Lex_. And
the necessity was clearly more urgent in the present case than in either
of the preceding instances. For, unless the Parliament interfered to
create an authority, there was absolutely none in existence which was
capable of acting. It should also be remembered that this Parliament of
1789, though not opened for the session by the King, had been originally
elected in obedience to his order, and had been prorogued by his
proclamation to the day of meeting;[123] and, though the opening of a
session by a speech from the throne is the usual form for the
commencement of its proceedings, it may be doubted whether it be so
indispensable a part of them that none of their acts are valid without

The breaking out of the French Revolution, and the degree in which, in
spite of all its atrocities and horrors, the revolutionary spirit for a
time infected a large party in England, prevented Pitt from reviving the
plan of Reform which he had framed with such care and genius for
organization, and in which, though defeated in Parliament, both before
and after he became minister, he had hitherto continued to cherish the
hope of eventually succeeding. But when clubs and societies, where the
most revolutionary and seditious doctrines were openly broached, were
springing up in London and other large towns, and unscrupulous
demagogues by speeches and pamphlets were busily disseminating theories
which tended to the subversion of all legitimate authority, he not
unnaturally thought it no longer seasonable to invite a discussion of
schemes which would be supported in many quarters only, to quote his own
words, "as a stepping-stone to ulterior objects, which they dared not
avow till their power of carrying them into effect should be by this
first acquisition secured." But the alarm which the spread of
revolutionary ideas excited in his mind was displayed, not only
passively in this abstention from the advocacy of measures the
expediency of which must at all times in some degree depend on the tone
of their introduction, but also in active measures of repression, some
of which were not, indeed, unwarranted by precedent, but others of which
can hardly be denied to have been serious inroads on the constitution,
infringements of the freedom of opinion and discussion to which all
Englishmen are entitled, and one of which was, to say the least, a very
perilous extension of a law already sufficiently severe, the statute of
treason. If the French had been content with the overthrow of their own
government and institutions, much as we should have lamented the
indiscriminate rashness and abhorred the atrocities with which their
design was carried out, we should still have adhered to the
unquestionable maxim, that no nation is justified in interfering in the
internal affairs of another. But the Jacobin and Girondin demagogues,
who had now the undisputed sway in Paris, did not limit their views to
their own country, but openly declared themselves the enemies of all
established governments in every country; and the Convention passed a
formal resolution in which they proffered "fraternity and assistance" to
every people which might be inclined to rise against their governments.
Their resolutions were officially communicated to the sympathizing
societies in England, and emissaries were secretly encouraged to cross
the Channel in the hope of gaining converts. Nor were their exertions
barren. Two men were convicted in Scotland of a plot to seize Edinburgh
Castle, to massacre the garrison, to imprison the judges, and to rise in
arms to compel the government to a change of policy. In London the King
was fired at on his way to open Parliament, and on his return his
carriage was attacked by a furious mob, and was only protected from
serious injury by a troop of the Life Guards. Such outrages proved the
existence of a new danger, against which no previous government had ever
been called on to provide, and such as, in the opinion of the cabinet,
could only be met by novel measures of precaution.

The first was directed against the foreign propagators of revolution.
The resolutions of the Convention had been promulgated in November,
1792; and at the meeting of Parliament in December, Lord Grenville, as
Foreign Secretary of State, introduced in the House of Lords an alien
bill, to enable the government to deal in a summary manner with any
foreign visitors whose conduct or character might seem to call for its
interference. It provided that all foreigners who had arrived in the
kingdom since the preceding January should give in a statement of their
names and residences; that any one who should arrive in future should
furnish an account of his name, his station in life, and his object in
visiting England; that the King, by proclamation, order in Council, or
sign-manual, might direct all foreigners to reside in such districts as
might be thought suitable; that no one might quit the residence in which
he first settled without a passport; and that the Secretary of State
might order any suspected foreigner to quit the kingdom instantly.

The act was to be in operation for twelve months, and Lord Grenville, in
introducing it, though he admitted it to be a measure of "rather a novel
nature," explained at the same time that it was so far from being new in
the powers which it gave, that Magna Charta distinctly recognized "the
power and right of the crown to prevent foreigners from entering or
residing within the realm." All that was really new was the defining of
the manner in which that power should be exercised, since it had been so
rarely needed that doubts might exist as to the proper mode of putting
it in action. The bill, which was adopted in both Houses by large
majorities, is remarkable, among other circumstances, from the fact that
its discussion furnished the first instance of a public display of the
difference between the two sections of the Opposition, subsequently
described by Burke in one of his most celebrated pamphlets as the Old
and New Whigs; those whom he called the Old Whigs (the Duke of Portland,
Sir Gilbert Elliott, Mr. Windham, not to mention Burke himself)
earnestly supporting it, while Lord Lansdowne, Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan,
and Mr. Grey resisted it with equal zeal. Lord Lansdowne took the ground
that it was a suspension of the _Habeas Corpus_ Act; while Fox and Grey
denounced it, in more general terms, as a measure "utterly
irreconcilable with the principles of the constitution," Mr. Grey
apparently referring chiefly to the power given by the bill to the
Secretary of State to send any foreigners from the country, which he
described as "making the bill a measure of oppression, giving power for
the exercise of which no man was responsible." Sir Gilbert Elliott's
answer was singularly ingenious. He did not deny that the bill conferred
additional power on the crown, though not more than was justified by
existing circumstances; but he maintained that the right of giving
extraordinary powers to the crown on occasions was so far from being
inconsistent with the principles of the constitution, that to grant
extraordinary powers in extraordinary emergencies was a part of it
essential to the character of a free government. If such powers were at
all times possessed by the crown, its authority would be too great for a
free government to co-exist with it; but if such could not be at times
conferred on the crown, its authority would be too small for its own
safety or that of the people.

The arguments of the ministers were, no doubt, greatly recommended, both
to the Parliament and the people in general, by the notoriety of the
fact that foreign agents were in many of our large towns busily, and not
unsuccessfully, engaged in propagating what were known as Jacobin
doctrines. But, even without that aid, it was clear that every
government must, for the common good of all, be at times of
extraordinary emergency invested with the power of suspending laws made
for ordinary circumstances. And what would be an intolerable evil, if
the supreme magistrate took upon himself to exercise it, ceases to be
one when the right to exercise it is conferred by the nation itself in
Parliament. If the bill did, as was argued, suspend the _Habeas Corpus_
Act, that statute had been enacted by Parliament, and therefore for
Parliament, in a case of necessity, to suspend its operation was clearly
within the spirit of the constitution.

The bills affecting our own fellow-subjects were still more warmly
contested. One was known as the Traitorous Correspondence Bill, which,
according to Lord Campbell, was suggested by Lord Loughborough, who had
lately become Lord Chancellor. The old law of high-treason, enacted in
the reign of Edward III., had been in effect greatly mitigated by later
statutes, which had made acts to which that character was imputed more
difficult of proof, by a stricter definition of what was admissible
evidence, and other safeguards; and the practice of the courts had by
degrees practically reduced the list of treasons enumerated in the old
law, indictments for many of the offences contained in it forbearing to
assert that the persons accused had incurred the penalty of
high-treason. But this new bill greatly enlarged the catalogue. It made
it high-treason to hold any correspondence with the French, or to enter
into any agreement to supply them with commodities of any kind, even
such as were not munitions of war, but articles of ordinary merchandise,
or to invest any money in the French Funds; and it enacted farther that
any person who, by "any writing, preaching, or malicious and advised
speaking," should encourage such designs as the old statute of Edward
made treasonable, should be liable to the penalties of high-treason.

Another bill was designed to check the growing custom of holding public
meetings, by providing that no meeting, the object of which was to
consider any petition to the King or Parliament, or to deliberate on any
alleged grievance, should be held without those who convened it, and who
must be householders, giving previous notice of it by public
advertisement; and empowering any two justices of the peace, at their
own discretion, to declare any such meeting an unlawful assembly, and to
disperse it by force, if, from the subjects discussed, the language
held, or any special circumstances, they should regard it as dangerous.

Fox, and those who still adhered to him, resisted almost every clause of
these different bills. They maintained that one of the most fundamental
maxims of law "in every country calling itself free was, that property
was in the highest degree entitled to the protection of the law; and, if
so, that the right of disposing of it or investing it in any manner must
be considered under the same protection;" that any interference "with
ordinary commercial transactions was equally repugnant to the spirit of
the constitution;" and, taking a practical view of the question, they
warned the minister that such rigorous enactments imposing such extreme
penalties would defeat their own end; for "it was a general and true
maxim, that excess of punishment for a crime brings impunity along with
it; and that no jury would ever find a verdict which would doom a
fellow-creature to death for selling a yard of cloth and sending it to
France." They protested, too, against inflicting on words, whether
written or spoken, penalties which had hitherto been confined to overt
acts. And the clauses conferring power on magistrates to prevent or
disperse public meetings encountered still more vehement opposition; Fox
insisting, with great eloquence, that "public meetings for the
discussion of public subjects were not only lawful, but agreeable to the
very essence of the constitution; that, indeed, to them, under that
constitution, most of the liberties which Englishmen now enjoyed were
particularly owing." The people, he maintained, had a right to discuss
their grievances. "They had an inalienable right to complain by
petition, and to remonstrate to either House of Parliament, or to the
King; and to make two magistrates, who might be strong partisans,
irresponsible judges whether anything said or done at a meeting had a
tendency to encourage sedition, was to say that a free constitution was
no longer suitable to us." Pitt justified these measures, partly on the
ground of the special and unprecedented danger of the times, as proved
by the late attempt on the King's life, and partly by the open avowal of
republican doctrines made at the meetings of different societies;
partly, also, on the temporary character of the measures, since in each
bill a period was fixed after which its operation should expire. And he
argued, farther, that, as many of the actions specified in these bills
as seditious or treasonable were by many lawyers considered capable of
being reached by statutes already existing, though not universally
understood, it was "humane, not cruel, to remove doubts, and to prevent
men from being ensnared by the ambiguity of old laws."

And in May, 1794, he brought in another bill, founded on the report of a
secret committee which, in compliance with a royal message, the House of
Commons had appointed to investigate the proceedings and objects of
certain societies which were known to exist in different parts of the
kingdom. In obedience to a Secretary of State's warrant, founded on
sworn informations, their books and papers had been seized, and, having
been sealed up, were now laid before the House, with the report of the
committee that they proved that several of the societies which they
named had, ever since the end of the year 1791, been uniformly pursuing
a settled design for the subversion of the constitution; one society, in
particular, having approved a plan for assembling a Convention, in
imitation of the French Assembly sitting under that title, in order to
overturn the established government, and to wrest from the Parliament
the power which the constitution placed in its hands.

To prevent the dissemination of such principles, and to defeat such
schemes, Pitt now asked leave to bring in a bill to empower his
Majesty--acting, of course, through the Secretary of State--to secure
and detain such persons as he should suspect of conspiring against the
King's person and government. He admitted that the power which he thus
proposed to confer amounted to a suspension of the _Habeas Corpus_ Act
in every part of the United Kingdom; nor did he deny that it was an
unusually strong measure, but he contended that it was one justified by
absolute necessity, by the manifest danger of such a conspiracy as the
committee had affirmed to exist to the tranquillity of the nation and
the safety of the government.

Fox, it may almost be said as a matter of course, opposed the
introduction of any such measure; but his opposition was hardly marked
by his usual force of argument. He was hampered by the impossibility of
denying either the existence of the societies which the committee and
the minister had mentioned, or the dangerous character of some of their
designs; but he objected to the measures of repression which were
proposed, partly on the absence of all attempts at concealment on the
part of the promoters of these societies, partly on the contemptible
character of the Convention which it was designed to summon, and the
impossibility that such an assembly should have the slightest influence.
He even made their avowed hostility to the constitution a plea for a
panegyric on that constitution, and on the loyal attachment to it
evinced by the vast majority of the people; and from that he proceeded
to found a fresh argument against the proposed measure, contending that
it made a fatal inroad on that very constitution which was so highly
valued by the whole nation. He described it as a measure "of infinitely
greater mischief than that which it proposed to remedy, since it would
give the executive authority absolute power over the personal liberty of
every individual in the kingdom." He did not deny that a similar measure
had been enacted under William III., again in 1715, and again in 1745;
but he contended that "the present peril bore no resemblance to the
dangers of those times. This measure went to overturn the very
corner-stone of the constitution, and if it passed, there was an end of
the constitution of England." The bill was passed in both Houses by very
large majorities.[124] It was originally enacted for six months only,
but was from time to time renewed till the end of the century.

If we take a general survey of all these measures together, as parts of
one great defensive scheme for the preservation of the public
tranquillity and the general safety of the empire, it may, probably, be
thought that, though undoubtedly suspensions of the constitution, they
are not open to the charge of being unconstitutional, since they were
enacted, not only for the welfare of the people, but with their consent
and concurrence, legitimately signified by their representatives in
Parliament. It is scarcely consistent with sound reason to contend that
the _habeas corpus_, which had been enacted by Parliament, could not be
suspended by the authority which had enacted it; that the constitution,
which exists for the benefit of the people, could not be suspended by
the people; or to deny, if it was in appearance transgressed by these
enactments, that it was yet transgressed by strictly constitutional
acts, by the decision of the Parliament, to whose power the constitution
prescribes no limits.

But it is not sufficient that in this point of view these measures may
have been defensible. In judging of their statesmanship, it is almost
equally to be considered whether they were expedient and politic,
whether the emergency or necessity were such as to justify such rigorous
methods of repression. It was fairly open to doubt whether some of them,
and especially the Traitorous Correspondence and the Seditious Meetings
Bills, did not treat as treasonable acts which did not go beyond
sedition, and whether so to treat them were not to invest them with an
importance which did not belong to them. And on this part of the
question the general judgment has, we think, been unfavorable to the
government; and it has been commonly allowed that the Chancellor, whose
advice on legal subjects the Prime-minister naturally took for his
guide, gave him impolitic counsel. In fact, it is well known that these
two acts, to a great extent, failed in their object through their
excessive severity, several juries having refused to convict persons who
were prosecuted for treason, who would certainly not have escaped had
they only been indicted for sedition; and it is deserving of remark that
these two bills were not regarded with favor by the King himself, if the
anecdote--which seems to rest on undeniable authority--be true, that he
expressed satisfaction at the acquittal of some prisoners, on the ground
that almost any evil would be more tolerable than that of putting men to
death "for constructive treason." It must therefore, probably, be
affirmed that these two acts, the Treason Act and the Seditious Meetings
Act, went beyond the necessity of the case; that they were not only
violations of the constitution--which, when the measures are temporary,
as these were, are not always indefensible--but that they were
superfluous, unjust, and impolitic; superfluous, when they proposed to
deal with acts already visitable with punishment by the ancient laws of
the kingdom; unjust, when they created new classes of offences; and
impolitic, as exciting that kind of disapproval of the acts of
government which in many minds has a tendency to excite a spirit of
discontent with and resistance to legitimate authority. And, indeed, it
must be inferred that such was the light in which these measures were
regarded by a statesman who in his general policy was proud to
acknowledge himself Mr. Pitt's pupil, as he was also the most skilful
and successful of his more immediate successors. Twenty-five years
afterward the distress caused by the reaction inevitably consequent on
the termination of twenty years of war produced a political excitement
scarcely inferior to that with which Pitt had now to deal, and seditious
societies and meetings scarcely less formidable; but, as we shall see,
Lord Liverpool, taking warning, perhaps, from the mistake into which Mr.
Pitt was led on this occasion, though compelled to bring forward new and
stern measures of repression, and even to suspend the _Habeas Corpus_
Act for a time, kept strictly within the lines of constitutional
precedent, and was careful to avoid confounding sedition with treason.


[Footnote 73: He had been Lord-chamberlain in Lord Rockingham's
administration of 1765. He was now Lord-lieutenant of Ireland.]

[Footnote 74: In Lord Chatham's or the Duke of Grafton's ministry of
1766, and in the later administration of Lord Rockingham.]

[Footnote 75: It may be convenient to take this opportunity of pointing
out that, in this administration, Lord Shelburne altered the old, most
unreasonable, and inconvenient arrangement by which the departments of
the two Secretaries of State were distinguished by the latitude, and
called Northern and Southern. By a new division, one took charge of the
home affairs, the other of the foreign affairs. And in 1794 a third
Secretary was added for War, who, by a very singular arrangement, which
continued till very recently, had charge also of the colonies. But, in
the year 1855, the Colonial-office was intrusted to a separate minister;
and in 1858 a fifth Secretary of State, that for India, was added, on
the transfer of the government of that country from the East India
Company to the Crown. When there were only two Secretaries of State, the
rule was that one should sit in each House. At present it is not
_necessary_ that more than one should be a peer, though it is more usual
for two to be members of the Upper House. And it is usual also for the
Under-secretaries to be members of the House to which the
Chief-secretaries do not belong, though this rule is not invariably

[Footnote 76: "Parliamentary History," xxiii., 163.]

[Footnote 77: The divisions were: 224 to 208, and 207 to 190.]

[Footnote 78: Lord Stanhope, quoting from an unpublished "Life of Lord
Barrington," compiled by the Bishop of Durham (meaning, I suppose,
Bishop Shute Barrington).--_History of England_, v., 174.]

[Footnote 79: Even with the first flush of triumph, the night after the
second defeat of Lord Shelburne in the House of Commons, Fox's great
friend, Mr. Fitzpatrick, writes to his brother, Lord Ossory: "To the
administration it is _cila mors_, but not _victoria loeta_ to us. The
apparent juncture with Lord North is universally cried out
against."--Lord J. Russell's _Memorials and Correspondence of C.J. Fox_,
ii., 18.]

[Footnote 80: Lord J. Russell's "Memorials and Correspondence of C.J.
Fox," ii., 90.]

[Footnote 81: _Ibid_., p. 118.]

[Footnote 82: In one division (161 to 137) they had only a majority of

[Footnote 83: In a letter to Lord Northington (Lord-lieutenant of
Ireland), dated July 17, Fox himself mentions that not one of his
colleagues, except the Duke of Portland and Lord Keppel (First Lord of
the Admiralty), approved of it.--_Memoirs of Fox_, ii., 116.]

[Footnote 84: November 22 he writes to the Duke of Rutland: "The bill
... is, I really think, the boldest and most unconstitutional measure
ever attempted, transferring at one stroke, in spite of all charters and
compacts, the immense patronage and influence of the East to Charles
Fox, in or out of office."--Stanhope's _Life of Pitt_, i., 140.]

[Footnote 85: The whole paper is given by the Duke of Buckingham,
"Courts and Cabinets of George III," i., 288, and quoted by Lord Russell
in his "Memorials and Correspondence of C. J. Fox," ii., 251. It is
endorsed, "Delivered by Lord Thurlow, December 1, 1783. Nugent Temple."]

[Footnote 86: "Life of Pitt," i., 148. Lord Stanhope does not pledge
himself to these being "the exact words of this commission, but as to
its purport and meaning there is no doubt." They are, however, the exact
words quoted by Fox in his speech in support of Mr. Baker's resolutions
on the 17th.--_Parliamentary History_, xxiv., 207.]

[Footnote 87: "Parliamentary History," xxiv., 151-154.]

[Footnote 88: 95 to 76. "Strange to say, one of the cabinet ministers,
Lord Stormont, president of the council, formed part of the final
majority against the bill."--_Life of Pitt_, ii., 154.]

[Footnote 89: "Life of Pitt," i., 155.]

[Footnote 90: "Lives of the Chancellors," c. clix. Lord Thurlow.]

[Footnote 91: "The Grenville Papers," iii., 374. It may, however, be
remarked, as tending to throw some doubt on Mr. Grenville's statement,
that Lord Campbell asserts that "Lord Mansfield, without entering into
systematic opposition, had been much alienated from the court during
Lord Rockingham's first administration."--_Lives of the Chief-justices_,
ii., 468.]

[Footnote 92: Vol. ii., pp. 229-232.]

[Footnote 93: It will be seen hereafter that this doctrine was admitted
in the fullest degree by Sir Robert Peel in the winter of 1884, when he
admitted that his acceptance of office made him alone responsible for
the dismissal of Lord Melbourne, though, in fact, he was taken entirely
by surprise by the King's act, being in Italy at the time.]

[Footnote 94: Lord John Russell, in his "Memorials of Fox" (ii., 253),
affirms that "Lord Temple's act was probably known to Pitt;" but Lord
Macaulay, in his "Essay on Pitt" (p. 326), fully acquits Pitt of such
knowledge, saying that "he could declare, with perfect truth, that, if
unconstitutional machinations had been employed, he was no party to

[Footnote 95: On Lord Effingham's motion, in condemnation of some of the
proceedings of the Commons, which was carried February 4, 1784, by 100
to 53.]

[Footnote 96: "Parliamentary History," xxiv., 383-385--debate of January
20, 1784.]

[Footnote 97: _Ibid_, p. 283--January 12.]

[Footnote 98: _Ibid_., pp. 251-257.]

[Footnote 99: "Parliamentary History," xxiv., 478--February 2.]

[Footnote 100: _Ibid_., p. 663.]

[Footnote 101: "Parliamentary History," xxiv., 687, 695, 699.]

[Footnote 102: The numbers were 201 to 189. The week before, on Mr.
Powys's motion for a united and efficient administration, the majority
had been 20--197 to 177. On a motion made by Mr. Coke, February 3, the
majority had been 24--211 to 187. At the beginning of the struggle the
majorities had been far larger--232 to 143 on Fox's motion for a
committee on the state of the nation, January 12.]

[Footnote 103: 191 to 190.]

[Footnote 104: From December 19, when Pitt accepted office, to March 24,
when the Parliament was dissolved.]

[Footnote 105: "Memorials and Correspondence of C.J. Fox," by Earl
Russell, ii., 229, 248.]

[Footnote 106: _Ibid_., p. 280.]

[Footnote 107: That of April, 1831, after the defeat of the Government
on General Gascoyne's amendment]

[Footnote 108: Lord Macaulay, "Miscellaneous Essays," ii., 330.]

[Footnote 109: Lord Macaulay, essay on William Pitt.]

[Footnote 110: Alison ("History of Europe," xiii., 971) states the
English force in the Netherlands in 1794 at 85,000 men. Lord Stanhope
calls the English at Minden 10,000 or 12,000.]

[Footnote 111: An eminent living writer (Mr. Leeky, "History of
England," ii., 474) quotes with apparent approval another comparison
between the father and son, made by Grattan, in the following words:
"The father was not, perhaps, so good a debater as his son, but was a
much better orator, a greater scholar, and a far greater man." The first
two phrases in this eulogy may, perhaps, balance one another; though,
when Mr. Lecky admits that "Lord Chatham's taste was far from pure, and
that there was much in his speeches that was florid and meretricious,
and not a little that would have appeared absurd bombast but for the
amazing power of his delivery," he makes a serious deduction from his
claim to the best style of eloquence which no one ever made from the
speeches of his son. But Grattan's assertion that the man who, as his
sister said of him, knew but two books, the "Æneid" and the "Faerie
Queene," was superior in scholarship to one who, with the exception of
his rival, Fox, had probably no equal for knowledge of the great authors
of antiquity in either House of Parliament, is little short of a
palpable absurdity. We may, however, suspect that Grattan's estimate of
the two men was in some degree colored by his personal feelings. With
Lord Chatham he had never been in antagonism. On one great subject, the
dispute with America, he had been his follower and ally, advocating in
the Irish House of Commons the same course which Chatham upheld in the
English House of Peers. But to Pitt he had been almost constantly
opposed. By Pitt he and his party, whether in the English, or, so long
as it lasted, in the Irish Parliament, had been repeatedly defeated. The
Union, of which he had been the indefatigable opponent, and to which he
was never entirely reconciled, had been carried in his despite; and it
was hardly unnatural that the recollection of his long and unsuccessful
warfare should in some degree bias his judgment, and prompt him to an
undeserved disparagement of the minister by whose wisdom and firmness he
had been so often overborne.]

[Footnote 112: Massey's "History of England," iii., 447; _confer_ also
Green's "History of the English People," vol. iv.]

[Footnote 113: Hallam ("Middle Ages," ii., 386, 481), extolling the
condition of "the free socage tenants, or English yeomanry, as the class
whose independence has stamped with peculiar features both our
constitution and our national character," gives two derivations for the
name; one "the Saxon _soe_, which signifies a franchise, especially one
of jurisdiction;" and the other, that adopted by Bracton, and which he
himself prefers, "the French word _soc_, a ploughshare."]

[Footnote 114: Lord Colchester's "Diary," i., 68, mentions that the
officiating clergyman was Mr. Burt, of Twickenham, who received £500 for
his services. Lord John Russell ("Memorials and Correspondence of Fox,"
ii., 284-389) agrees in stating that the marriage was performed in the
manner prescribed by the Common Prayer-book. Mr. Jesse, in his "Life of
George III.," ii., 506, gathering, as the present writer can say from
personal knowledge, his information from some papers left behind him by
the late J.W. Croker, says: "The ceremony was performed by a Protestant
clergyman, though in part, apparently, according to the rites of the
Roman Catholic Church." Lord John Russell avoids discussing the question
whether the marriage involved the forfeiture of the inheritance of the
crown, an avoidance which many will interpret as a proof that in his
opinion it did. Mr. Massey's language ("History of England," iii., 327)
clearly intimates that he holds the same opinion.]

[Footnote 115: Russell's "Life of Fox," ii., 187.]

[Footnote 116: Fox's private correspondence is full of anticipations
that the Regent's first act will be to dismiss Pitt, and to make him
minister. In a letter of December 15 he even fixes a fortnight as the
time by which he expects to be installed; while Lord Loughborough, who
was eager to possess himself of the Great Seal--an expectation in which,
though well-founded, he would, as it proved, have found himself
disappointed--was led by his hopes to give the Prince counsel of so
extraordinary a nature that it is said that the ministers, to whose
knowledge it had come, were prepared, if any attempt had been made to
act upon it, or even openly to avow it, to send the learned lord to the
Tower. ("Diary of Lord Colchester," i., 28.) In an elaborate paper which
he drew up and read to the Prince at Windsor, he assured his Royal
Highness, speaking as a lawyer, that "the administration of government
devolved to him of right. He was bound by every duty to assume it, and
his character would be lessened in the public estimation, if he took it
on any other ground but right, or on any sort of compromise. The
authority of Parliament, as the great council of the nation, would be
interposed, not to confer but to declare the right. The mode of
proceeding should be that in a short time his Royal Highness should
signify his intention to act by directing a meeting of the Privy
Council, when he should declare his intention to take upon himself the
care of the state, and should at the same time signify his desire to
have the advice of Parliament, and order it by proclamation to meet
early for the despatch of business.... It is of vast importance in the
outset that he should appear to act entirely of himself, and, in the
conferences he must necessarily have, not to consult, but to listen and
direct." The entire paper is given by Lord Campbell ("Lives of the
Chancellors," c. clxx.).]

[Footnote 117: Hume's account of this transaction is, that the Duke
"desired that it might be recorded in Parliament that this authority was
conferred on him from their own free motion, without any application on
his part; ... and he required that all the powers of his office should
be specified and defined by Parliament."]

[Footnote 118: "Parliamentary History," xxvii., 803--speech of Mr.
Hardinge, one of the Welsh judges, and M.P. for Old Sarum.]

[Footnote 119: I take this report, or abstract, of Lord Camden's speech
from the "Lives of the Chancellors," c. cxlvii.]

[Footnote 120: "Memorials of Fox," ii., 292.]

[Footnote 121: The proceedings of the Irish Parliament on this occasion
will be mentioned in the next chapter.]

[Footnote 122: Mr. Hallam (iii., 144, ed. 1832) gives a definition of
the term "unconstitutional" which seems rather singular: "By
unconstitutional, as distinguished from 'illegal,' I mean a novelty of
much importance, tending to endanger the established laws." May not the
term rather be regarded as referring to a distinct class of acts--to
those at variance with the recognized _spirit_ of the constitution or
principles of government, with the preservation of the liberties of the
people, as expressed or implied in the various charters, etc., but not
forbidden by the express terms of any statute?]

[Footnote 123: The entry in the "Parliamentary History," November 20,
1788, is: "Both Houses met pursuant to the last prorogation. Later
meetings were in consequence of successive adjournments."]

[Footnote 124: In the Commons by 183 to 33; in the Lords by 119 to 11.]


The Affairs of Ireland.--Condition of the Irish Parliament.--The
Octennial Bill.--The Penal Laws.--Non-residence of the Lord-
lieutenant.--Influence of the American War on Ireland.--Enrolment of the
Volunteers.--Concession of all the Demands of Ireland.--Violence of the
Volunteers.--Their Convention.--Violence of the Opposition in
Parliament: Mr. Brownlow, Mr. Grattan, Mr. Flood.--Pitt's Propositions
Fail.--Fitzgibbon's Conspiracy Bill.--Regency Question.--Recovery of the
King.--Question of a Legislative Union.--Establishment of Maynooth
College.--Lord Edward Fitzgerald.--Arguments for and against the
Union.--It passes the Irish Parliament.--Details of the Measure.--
General Character of the Union.--Circumstances which Prevented
its Completeness.

In describing the condition of Ireland and the feelings of its people,
in the latter years of the reign of George II., Mr. Hallam has fixed on
the year 1753 as that in which the Irish Parliament first began to give
vent to aspirations for equality with the English Parliament in audible
complaints; and the Irish House of Commons, finding the kingdom in the
almost unprecedented condition of having "a surplus revenue after the
payment of all charges," took steps to vindicate that equality by a sort
of appropriation bill.

There were, however, three fundamental differences between the
Parliaments of the two countries, which, above all others, stood in the
way of such equality as the Irish patriots desired: the first, that by a
law as old as the time of Henry VII., and called sometimes the Statute
of Drogheda, from the name of the town in which it was first
promulgated, and sometimes Poynings' Act, from the name of Sir Henry
Poynings, the Lord-deputy at the time, no bill could be introduced into
the Irish Parliament till it had received the sanction of the King and
Privy Council in England; the second, that the Parliament lasted for the
entire life of the King who had summoned it--a regulation which caused a
seat in the House of Commons to be regarded almost as a possession for
life, and consequently enormously increased the influence of the patrons
of boroughs, some of whom could return a number of members such as the
mightiest borough monger in England could never aspire to equal.[125]
The third difference, of scarcely inferior importance, was, that the
Parliament only sat in alternate years. But, though these arrangements
suited the patrons and the members of the House of Commons, it was not
strange that the constituencies, whose power over their representatives
was almost extinguished by them, regarded them with less complacency,
and, at the general election which was the consequence of the accession
of George III., pledges were very generally exacted from the candidates
that, if elected, they would endeavor to procure the passing of a
septennial act like that which had been the law in England ever since
the early years of George I. A bill with that object was introduced in
1761, and reported on not unfavorably as to its principle by the English
law advisers to whom the Privy Council referred it. But, as if it had
been designed to exemplify in the strongest possible manner the national
propensity for making blunders, it contained one clause which rendered
it not only impracticable but ridiculous. The clause provided that no
member should take his seat or vote till his qualification had been
proved before the Speaker in a full house. But the Speaker could not be
chosen till the members had established their right of voting, so that
the whole was brought to a dead-lock, and the bill, if passed, could
never have been carried out.

In the ministry of 1767, however--that of the Duke of Grafton and Lord
Chatham--Lord Halifax was replaced at Dublin Castle by Lord Townsend,
who, among his other good qualities, deserves specially honorable
mention as the first Lord-lieutenant who made residence in Dublin his
rule on principle; for till very lately non-residence had been the rule
and residence the exception, a fact which is of itself a melancholy but
all-sufficient proof of the absolute indifference to Irish interests
shown by all classes of English statesmen. And under his government a
bill for shortening Parliaments was passed, though it fixed the possible
duration of each Parliament at eight years instead of seven, the
variation being made to prevent a general election from being held at
the same time in both countries, but, according to common belief, solely
in order to keep up a mark of difference between the Irish and English
Parliaments. And those who entertained this suspicion fancied they saw a
confirmation of it in the retention of the regulation that the Irish
Parliament should only sit in alternate years, a practice wholly
inconsistent with any proper idea of the duties and privileges of a
Parliament such as prevailed on this side of the Channel; since a
Parliament whose sessions were thus intermittent could not possibly
exercise that degree of supervision over the revenue, either in its
collection or its expenditure, which is among its most important duties.
And the continued maintenance of this practice must be regarded farther
as a proof that the English legislators had not yet learned to consider
Ireland as an integral part of the kingdom, entitled in every particular
to equal rights with England and Scotland. Indeed, it is impossible for
any Englishman to contemplate the history of the treatment of Ireland by
the English legislators, whether Kings, ministers, or Parliaments, for
more than a century and a half, without equal feelings of shame at the
injustice and wonder at the folly of their conduct. Not only was Ireland
denied freedom of trade with England (a denial as inconsistent not only
with equity but also with common-sense as if Windsor had been refused
free trade with London),[126] but Irish manufactures were deliberately
checked and suppressed to gratify the jealous selfishness of the English
manufacturers. Macaulay, in his zeal for the memory of William III., has
not scrupled to apologize for, if not to justify, the measures
deliberately sanctioned by that sovereign for the extinction of the
Irish woollen manufactures, on the ground that Ireland was not a sister
kingdom, but a colony; that "the general rule is, that the English
Parliament is competent to legislate for all colonies planted by English
subjects, and that no reason existed for considering the case of the
colony in Ireland as an exception."[127] There is, perhaps, no passage
in his whole work less to his credit. But, if such was the spirit in
which an English historian could write of Ireland in the latter half of
this present century, it may, perhaps, diminish our wonder at the
conduct of our legislators in an earlier generation.

The penal laws on the subject of religion were also conceived and
carried out in a spirit of extraordinary rigor and injustice. By far the
larger portion of the Irish population still adhered to the Roman
Catholic faith; but, as far as the negative punishment of restrictions
and disabilities could go, its profession was visited as one of the most
unpardonable of offences. No Roman Catholic could hold a commission in
the army, nor be called to the Bar, nor practise as an attorney; and
when it was found that a desire to devote themselves to the study of the
law had led many gentlemen to acknowledge a conversion to Protestantism,
a statute was actually passed to require them to prove their sincerity
by five years' adherence to their new form of religion before they could
be regarded as having washed off the defilement of their old heresy
sufficiently to be thought worthy to wear a gown in the Four Courts. No
Roman Catholic might keep a school; while a strange refinement of
intolerance had added a statute prohibiting parents from sending their
children to Roman Catholic Schools in a foreign country.

And the manner in which the government was carried on was, if possible,
worse even than the principle. The almost continual absence of the
Lord-lieutenant inevitably left the chief management of the details in
the hands of underlings, and the favor of the Castle was only to be
acquired by the lowest time-serving, of which those who could influence
elections, wealthy and high-born as they for the most part were, were
not more innocent than the representatives. No support to government
could be looked for from either peer or commoner unless it were
purchased by bribes more or less open, which it was equally
discreditable to ask and to grant; for one of the worst fruits of the
system which had so long reigned throughout the island was the general
demoralization of all classes. Mr. Fronde gives George III. himself the
credit of being the first person who resolutely desired to see a change
of the system, and to "try the experiment whether Ireland might not be
managed by open rectitude and real integrity."[128] But his first
efforts were baffled by the carelessness or incompetency of the
Viceroys, since it was difficult to find any man of ability who would
undertake the office. And for some years things went on with very little
change, great lords of different ranks having equally no object but that
of controlling the Castle and engrossing the patronage of the
government, and in not a few instances of also procuring large grants or
pensions for themselves, each seeking to build up an individual
influence which no Viceroy could ever have withstood, had they been
united instead of being separated by mutual jealousies, which enabled
him from time to time to play off one against the other.

But the war with the North American Colonies, which broke out in 1774,
by some of its indirect consequences brought about a great change in the
affairs of Ireland. The demand for re-enforcements to the armies engaged
in America could only be met by denuding the British islands themselves
of their necessary garrisons. No part of them was left so undefended as
the Irish coast; and, after a time, the captains of some of the American
privateers, learning how little resistance they had to fear, ventured
into St. George's Channel, penetrated even into the inland waters, and
threatened Carrickfergus and Belfast. In matters of domestic policy it
was possible to procrastinate, to defer deciding on relaxations of the
penal laws or the removal of trade restrictions, but to delay putting
the country into a state of defence against an armed enemy for a single
moment was not to be thought of; yet the government was powerless. Of
the regular army almost every available man was in, or on his way to,
America, and the most absolute necessity, therefore, compelled the Irish
to consider themselves as left to their own resources for defence. It
was as impossible to levy a force of militia as one of regular troops,
for the militia could not be embodied without great expense; and the
finances of the whole kingdom had been so mismanaged that money was as
hard to procure as men. In this emergency several gentlemen proposed to
the Lord-lieutenant to raise bodies of volunteers. The government,
though reluctant to sanction the movement, could see no alternative,
since the presence of an armed force of some kind was indispensable for
the safety of the island. The movement grew rapidly; by the summer of
1779 several thousand men were not only under arms, but were being
rapidly drilled into a state of efficiency, and had even established
such a reputation for strength, that, when in the autumn the same
privateers that had been so bold in Belfast Lough the year before
reached the Irish coast, in the hope of plundering Limerick or Galway,
they found the inhabitants of the district well prepared to receive
them, and did not venture to attempt a descent on any part of the
island. And, when the Parliament met in October, some of the members,
who saw in the success that could not be denied to have attended their
exertions an irresistible means of strengthening the rising pretensions
of Ireland to an equality of laws and freedom with England, moved votes
of thanks in both Houses to the whole body of Volunteers. They were
carried by acclamation, and the Volunteers of the metropolis lined the
streets between the Parliament House and the Castle when, according to
custom, the members of the two Houses marched in procession to present
their addresses to the Lord-lieutenant. Such a recognition of the power
of this new force stimulated those members who claimed in a special
degree the title of Friends of Ireland to greater exertion. A wiser
government than that of Lord North would have avoided giving occasion
for the existence of a force which the utter absence of any other had
made masters of the situation. The Volunteers even boasted that they had
been called into existence by English misgovernment. In the words of one
of their most eloquent advocates, "England had sown her laws like
dragons' teeth, and they had sprung up as armed men."

Ireland began to feel that she was strong, and, not unnaturally desired
to avail herself of that strength, which England now could not question,
to put forward demands for concessions which in common fairness could
not well be denied. In 1778, when Lord North, in the hope of recovering
the allegiance of the North American Colonies, brought forward what he
termed his conciliatory propositions, the Irish members began to press
their demand that the advantages thus offered to the Americans should be
extended to their own countrymen also; that the fact of the Irish not
having rebelled should not be made a plea for treating them worse than
those who had; and in the front of all their requests was one for the
abolition of those unjust and vexatious duties which shackled their
trade and manufactures. But the jealousy of the English and Scotch
manufacturers was still as bitter, and, unhappily, still as influential,
as it had proved in the time of William III. And, to humor the grasping
selfishness of Manchester and Glasgow, Lord North met the demands of the
Irish with a refusal of which every word of his speech on the
propositions to America was the severest condemnation, and which he
sought to mitigate by some new regulations in favor of the linen trade,
to which the English and Scotch manufacturers made no objection, since
they had no linen factories. The Irish, in despair, had recourse to
non-importation agreements, of which the Americans had set the example,
binding themselves not to import nor to use any articles of English or
Scotch manufacture with which they could possibly dispense. And the
result was, that Lord North yielded to fear what he had refused to
justice, and the next year brought in bills to grant the Irish the
commercial equality which they demanded. Some of the most oppressive and
vexatious of the penal laws were also relaxed; and some restrictions
which the Navigation Act imposed on commerce with the West Indies were
repealed. But, strange to say, the English ministers still clung to one
grievance of monstrous injustice, and steadily refused to allow judicial
appointments to be placed on the same footing as in England, and to make
the seat of a judge on the bench depend on his own good conduct, instead
of on the caprice of a king or a minister.

But the manifest reluctance with which the English government had
granted this partial relief encouraged the demand for farther
concessions. The Irish members, rarely deficient in eloquence or
fertility of resource, had been lately re-enforced by a recruit of
pre-eminent powers, whom Lord Charlemont had returned for his borough of
Moy, Henry Grattan; and, led by him, began to insist that the remaining
grievances, to the removal of which the nation had a right, would never
be extinguished so long as the supreme power of legislation for the
country rested with the English and Scotch Parliament; and that the true
remedy was only to be found in the restoration to the Irish Parliament
of that independence of which it had been deprived ever since the time
of Henry VII. They were encouraged by the visibly increasing weakness of
Lord North's administration. Throughout the year 1781 it was evidently
tottering to its fall. And on the 22d of February, 1782, Grattan brought
forward in the Irish House of Commons a resolution, intended, if
carried, to lay the foundation of a bill, "that a claim of any body of
men other than the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland to bind this
kingdom is unconstitutional, illegal, and a grievance." This resolution
aimed at the abolition of Poynings' Act. Other resolutions demanded the
abolition of the "powers exercised by the Privy Council under color of
Poynings' Act," and a farther relaxation of the penal laws. So helpless
did the government by this time feel itself, that the Attorney-general,
who was its spokesman on this occasion, could not venture to resist the
principle of these resolutions, but was contented to elude them for the
time by objections taken to some of the details; and Grattan gave notice
of another motion to bring the question to a more definite decision,
which he fixed for the 16th of April.

Before that day came Lord North's government had ceased to exist, and
had been replaced by Lord Rockingham's, one most influential member of
which was the most distinguished of living Irishmen, Mr. Burke, who,
while in opposition, had always shown himself a warm supporter of the
claims of his countrymen, and was not likely to have his ardor in the
cause damped by being placed in a situation where he could procure a
friendly hearing to his counsels. Once more they had increased their
demands, requiring, besides the removal of the purely political
grievances, a surrender of the right of appeal from the Irish to the
English courts of law. But their new masters were inclined to grant
everything which seemed requisite to the establishment of complete
equality between the two kingdoms; and though the new ministry was
dissolved in a few months by the premature death of its chief, he lived
long enough to carry the repeal of Poynings' Act, the retention of which
was now admitted to be not only senseless but mischievous, since the
existence of a body invested with nominal dignity, but practically
powerless, was calculated not only to provoke discontent, but to furnish
a lever for agitation.

The repeal was, however, nothing less than the establishment of an
entirely new constitution in Ireland. The Irish Parliament, the meetings
of which had hitherto been a mere form and farce, was installed in a
position of absolute independence, to grant money or to make laws,
subject to no other condition than that their legislation should be of a
character to entitle it to the royal assent, a condition to which every
act of the British Parliament was likewise and equally liable.
"Unhappily, as an Irish patriotic writer exclaims on this occasion, it
was written in the book of fate that the felicity of Ireland should be
short-lived."[129] And a similar shortness of existence was to be the
lot of the separate independence of her Parliament. Even while framing
instructions for the Lord-lieutenant, in his honest desire to inaugurate
a system of just government for Ireland, George III. had warned him on
no account to "summon a Parliament without his special command."[130]
And, regarded by the light of subsequent events, it can hardly be denied
that the prohibition displayed an accurate insight into the real
difficulties of the country, and also into the character of the people
themselves as the source of at least some of those difficulties. We
ought not to judge its leaders too severely. A nation which has been
long kept in bondage, and is suddenly presented with liberty, is hardly
more able to bear the change than a man immured for years in a dark
dungeon can at once endure the unveiled light of the sun; and
independence had been granted to the Irish too suddenly for it to be
probable that they would at once and in every instance exercise it

All parties were to blame in different degrees. The first danger came
from the Volunteers, who, flushed with self-importance, from the belief
that it was the imposing show of their strength which had enabled the
Parliament to extort Lord Rockingham's concession from the English
Houses, now claimed to be masters of the Parliament itself. With the
termination of the American war, and the consequent return of the
English army to Europe, the reason for their existence had passed away.
But they refused to be disbanded, and established a convention of armed
delegates, to sit in Dublin during the session of Parliament, and to
overawe the Houses into passing a series of measures which they
prescribed, and which included a Parliamentary Reform Bill of a most
sweeping character. On this occasion, however, the House of Commons
acted with laudable firmness. Led by Mr. Fitzgibbon, a man of great
powers, and above all suspicion of corruptibility, it spurned the
dictation of an unauthorized body, and rejected the Reform Bill,
avowedly on the ground of its being presented to it "under the mandate
of a military congress;" and the Convention, finding itself powerless to
enforce its mandates, dissolved.

But the difficulties of the government were not over with the
suppression of the Volunteer Convention. The Lord-lieutenant had a
harder, because a more enduring, contest to encounter with the
Parliament and the patrons of the boroughs. A single act of Parliament
may substitute a new law for an old one; but no one resolution or bill
has a magical power to extinguish long habits of jobbery and corruption.
Members and patrons alike seemed to regard the late concessions as
chiefly valuable on account of the increased value which it enabled them
to place on their services to the government; and one cannot read
without a feeling of shame that one or two of the bishops who were wont
to be regarded as the proprietors of the seats for their diocesan
cities, were not behind the most nameless lay boroughmongers in the
resolution they evinced make a market of their support of the
government. The consequence was that the government was unable to feel
confident of its power to carry any measure except at a price that it
was degrading to pay; while of those few members who were above all
suspicion of personal corruption, many were so utterly wrong-headed, and
had their minds so filled with unreasonable jealousy for what they
called the honor and dignity of Ireland, and with a consequent distrust
of England and of all Englishmen, that their honest folly was even a
greater obstacle to wise and good government than the mean cunning of
the others. There can hardly be a more striking proof of the
difficulties to be overcome by a minister than is furnished by a speech
made by a gentleman of the highest character, and of deservedly wide
influence in the Northern counties, Mr. Brownlow, of Lurgan, one of the
members for Armagh, which is quoted by Mr. Froude.[131]

Pitt was painfully conscious of the commercial injustice with which
hitherto Ireland had always been treated, and in the very first year of
his administration he applied himself to the removal of the most
mischievous of the grievances of which the Irish merchants complained,
adopting to a great extent a scheme which had been put before him by one
of the most considerable gentlemen of that body, which was based on the
principle of equalization of duties in both countries. It is unnecessary
here to enter into the details of the measure which he introduced into
the House of Commons. He avowed it to be the commencement of a new
system of government for Ireland, "a system of a participation and
community of benefits, a system of equality and fairness, which, without
tending to aggrandize one portion of the empire or to depress the other,
should seek the aggregate interest of the whole; it was a substitute for
the system which had hitherto been adopted of making the smaller country
completely subordinate to and subservient to the greater, of making the
smaller and poorer country a mere instrument for the advantage of the
greater and wealthier one. He, therefore, proposed now to create a
situation of perfect commercial equality, in which there was to be a
community of benefits, and also to some extent a community of burdens."
And he urged the House to "adopt that system of trade with Ireland that
would tend to enrich one part of the empire without impoverishing the
other, while it would give strength to both; that, like mercy, the
favorite attribute of Heaven,

  "'Is twice blessed--
  It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.'"

It might, he said, be regarded as "a treaty with Ireland by which that
country would be put on a fair, equal, and impartial footing with Great
Britain, in point of commerce, with respect to foreign countries and our
colonies." The community of burdens which his measure would impose on
Ireland was this: that whenever the gross hereditary revenue of Ireland
should exceed £650,000 (an amount considerably in excess of anything it
had ever yet reached), the excess should be applied to the support of
the fleet of the United Kingdom. It was, in fact, a burden that could
have no existence at all until the Irish trade had become far more
flourishing and productive than as yet it had ever been. Yet a measure
conceived in such a spirit of liberality, and framed with such careful
attention to the minutest interests of Irish trade, Mr. Brownlow did not
hesitate to denounce as one "tending to make Ireland a tributary nation
to Great Britain. The same terms," he declared, "had been held out to
America, and Ireland had equal spirit with America to reject them." He
even declared that "it was happy for Mr. Orde" (the Chief Secretary, who
had introduced the measure into the Irish House of Commons) "that he was
in a country remarkable for humanity. Had he proposed such a measure in
a Polish Diet, he would not have lived to carry back an answer to his
master. If," he concluded, "the gifts of Britain are to be accompanied
with the slavery of Ireland, I will never be a slave to pay tribute; I
will hurl back her gifts with scorn." Baffled by such frantic and
senseless opposition, Pitt condescended to remodel his measure. In its
new form it was not so greatly for the advantage of Ireland. He had been
constrained to admit some limitation of his original liberality by the
opposition which, it had met with in England also where Fox, at all
times an avowed enemy of freedom of trade, had made himself the
mouth-piece of the London and Liverpool merchants, who could not see,
without the most narrow-minded apprehension, the monopoly of the trade
with India and the West Indies, which they had hitherto enjoyed,
threatened by the admission of Ireland to its benefits. And now a clause
in the second bill, binding the Irish Parliament to reenact the
Navigation Laws existing in England, called up an opposition from
Grattan[132] as furious as that with which Mr. Brownlow had denounced
the original measure. To demand the enactment of the English Navigation
Law, he declared, was "a revocation of the constitution;" and his rival,
Flood, in his zeal to emulate his popularity with the mob, surpassing
him in vehemence, inveighed against the clause, as one intended to make
the Irish Parliament a mere register of the English Parliament, "which
it should never become". All the arguments brought forward in favor of
the measure by the supporters of the government--arguments which,
probably, no one would now be found to deny to have been
unanswerable--failed to make the slightest impression on a House in
which the chief object of each opponent of the ministry seemed to be to
outrun his fellows in violence; and eventually the measure fell to the
ground, and for fifteen years more Ireland was deprived of the
advantages which had been intended for her.

And even yet the danger from the Volunteers was not wholly extinguished.
Though their Convention had been suppressed, its leaders had only
changed their tactics. Under the guidance of a Dublin ironmonger, named
Napper Tandy, they now proposed to convene a Congress, to consist, not,
as before, of delegates from the Volunteer body, but of persons who
should be representatives of the entire nation; and Tandy had even the
audacity to issue circulars to the sheriffs of the different counties,
to require them, in their official capacity, to summon the people to
return representatives to this Congress. The Sheriff of Dublin, a man of
the name of O'Reilly, obeyed the requisition; but Fitzgibbon, who,
luckily, was now Attorney-general, instantly prosecuted him for abuse of
his office. He was convicted, fined, and imprisoned, and his punishment
deterred others from following his example. And a rigorous example had
become indispensable, since it was known to the government that Tandy
and some of his followers were acting in connection with French
emissaries, and that their object was the separation of Ireland from
England, and, in the minds of some of them, certainly the annexation of
the country to France; indeed, on one occasion Fitzgibbon asserted in
the House of Commons that he had seen resolutions inviting the French
into the country. The government would gladly have established a militia
to supersede the Volunteers, but the temper of the Irish Parliament, in
its newly-acquired independence, rendered any such attempt hopeless; and
Mr. Grattan, with a perversity of judgment which his warmest admirers
must find it difficult to reconcile with statesmanship, if not with
patriotism, even opposed with extreme bitterness a bill for the
establishment of a police for Dublin, though he could not deny that
there existed in the city an organized body of ruffians, who made not
only the streets but even the dwelling-houses of the more orderly
citizens unsafe, by outrages of the worst kind, committed on the largest
scale--assaults, plunderings, ravishments, and murders. In the rural
districts of the South the disturbances were so criminally violent, and
so incessant, that the Lord-lieutenant was compelled to request the
presence of some additional regiments from England, as the sole means of
preserving any kind of respect for the law; and more than once the mobs
of rioters showed themselves so bold and formidable, that the soldiers
were compelled to fire in self-defence, and order was not restored but
at the cost of many lives.

Presently a Conspiracy Bill was passed, and gradually the firmness of
the government re-established a certain amount of internal tranquillity.
But shortly afterward a crisis arose which, more than the debates on the
commercial propositions, or on the Volunteers, or on the police, showed
how over-liberal had been the confidence of the English minister who had
repealed Poynings' Act, and had bestowed independent authority on the
Irish Parliament before the members had learned how to use it. We have
seen how keen a contest was excited in the English Parliament by the
deranged condition of the King's health in 1788, and the necessity which
consequently arose for the appointment of a Regency. Grattan was in
London at the time, where he had contracted a personal intimacy with
Fox, and had been presented by him to the Prince of Wales, whose
graciousness of manner, and profession of adherence to the Whig system
of politics, secured his attachment to that party. Grattan was easily
indoctrinated by Fox with his theory of the indefeasible claim of the
Prince to the Regency as his birthright, and is understood to have
promised that the Irish Parliament should adopt that view. The case was
one which seemed unprovided for. There was no question but that the law
enacted that the sovereign of England should also be the sovereign of
Ireland. But no express law of either country contained any such
stipulation respecting a Regent; and Grattan conceived that, in the
absence of any pre-existing ordinance, it would be easy to contend that
the Irish Parliament was the sole judge who the Regent should be, and on
what terms he should exercise the royal authority.

The Irish Parliament had been prorogued in 1787 to the 5th of February,
1789, the same day on which, after numerous examinations of the
physicians in attendance on the royal patient, and after the passing of
a series of resolutions enunciating the principles on which the
government was proceeding, Pitt introduced the Regency Bill into the
English House of Commons, being prepared to conduct it through both
Houses with all the despatch that might be consistent with a due
observance of all the forms of deliberation. Grattan's object was to
anticipate the decision of the English Parliament, so as to avoid every
appearance that the Irish Parliament was only following it; and he
therefore proposed that the House of Commons should instantly vote an
address to the Prince, requesting him to take upon himself the Regency
of the kingdom of Ireland, by his own natural right as the heir of the
crown; making sure not only that his advice would be taken by those whom
he was addressing, but that the House of Lords would not venture to
dissent from it.

Fitzgibbon, as Attorney-general and spokesman of the government in the
Commons, as a matter of course opposed such precipitate action, not only
warning his hearers of the folly and danger of taking a step "which
might dissolve the single tie which now connected Ireland with Great
Britain," but explaining also the whole principle of the constitution of
the two kingdoms, so far as it was a joint constitution, in terms which
give his speech a permanent value as a summary of its principle and its
character. He recalled to the recollection of the House the act of
William and Mary, which declares "the kingdom of Ireland to be annexed
to the imperial crown of England, and the sovereign of England to be by
undoubted right sovereign of Ireland also;" and argued from this that
Mr. Grattan's proposal was contrary to the laws of the realm and
criminal in the extreme. "The crown of Ireland," as he told his hearers,
"and the crown of England are inseparably united, and the Irish
Parliament is totally independent of the British Parliament. The first
of these positions is your security, the second your freedom, and any
other language tends to the separation of the crowns or the subjection
of your Parliament. The only security of your liberty is the connection
with Great Britain; and gentlemen who risk breaking the connection must
make up their minds to a union. God forbid I should ever see that day;
but, if the day comes on which a separation shall be attempted, I shall
not hesitate to embrace a union rather than a separation."

He proceeded to show that, as the Irish Parliament had itself enacted
that all bills which passed their two Houses should require the sanction
of the Great Seal of England, they actually had no legal power to confer
on the Prince of Wales such authority as Grattan advised his being
invested with, whatever might be the form of words in which their
resolution was couched. He pointed out, also, that if the Irish
Parliament should insist on appointing the Prince of Wales Regent before
it was known whether he would accept the Regency of England, it was
manifestly not impossible "that they might be appointing a Regent for
Ireland being a different person from the Regent of England; and in that
case the moment a Regent was appointed in Great Britain, he might send a
commission under the Great Seal appointing a Lord-lieutenant of Ireland,
and to that commission the Regent of Ireland would be bound to pay
obedience. Another objection of great force to his mind was, that the
course recommended by Grattan would be a formal appeal from the
Parliament of England to that of Ireland. It would sow the seeds of
dissension between the Parliaments of the two countries. And, indeed,
those who were professing themselves advocates for the independence of
the Irish crown were advocates for its separation from England."

But the House was too entirely under the influence of Grattan's
impassioned eloquence for Fitzgibbon's more sober arguments to be
listened to. The address proposed by Grattan was carried by acclamation;
and the peers were scarcely less unanimous in its favor, one of the
archbishops even dilating on "the duty of availing themselves of the
opportunity of asserting the total independence of Ireland." Even when,
on a second discussion as to the mode in which the address was to be
presented to the Prince, Fitzgibbon reported that he had consulted the
Chancellor and all the judges, and that they were unanimously of opinion
that, till the Regency Bill should be passed in England, the address was
not only improper but treasonable, he found his warning equally
disregarded. And when the Lord-lieutenant refused to transmit the
address to England, on the avowed ground of its illegality, Grattan
proposed and carried three resolutions: the first, that the address was
not illegal, but that, in addressing the Prince to take on himself the
Regency, the Parliament of Ireland had exercised an undoubted right; the
second, that the Lord-lieutenant's refusal to transmit the address to
his Royal Highness was ill-advised and unconstitutional; the third, that
a deputation from the two Houses should go to London, to present the
address to the Prince. Mr. Fronde affirms that the deputation, even when
preparing to sail for England, was very irresolute and undecided whether
to present the address or not, from a reasonable fear of incurring the
penalties of treason, to which the lawyers pronounced those who should
present it liable. But their courage was not put to the test. As has
been already seen, before the end of the month the King's recovery was
announced, and the question of a Regency did not occur again till the
Irish Parliament had been united to the English.

Since Lord Rockingham's concessions, in 1782, the project of a
legislative union between the two countries, resembling that which
united Scotland to England, had more than once been broached. We have
seen it alluded to by Fitzgibbon in the course of these discussions, and
it was no new idea. It had been discussed even before the union with
Scotland was completed, and had then been regarded in Ireland with
feelings very different from those which prevailed at a later period.
Ten years after the time of which we are speaking, Grattan denounced the
scheme with almost frantic violence. Fitzgibbon (though after the
Rebellion he recommended it as indispensable) as yet regarded it only as
an alternative which, though he might eventually embrace it, he should
not accept without extreme reluctance. But at the beginning of the
century all parties among the Protestant Irish had been eager for it,
and even the leading Roman Catholics had been not unwilling to acquiesce
in it. Unluckily, the English ministers were unable to shake off the
influence of the English manufacturers; and they, in another development
of the selfish and wicked jealousy which had led them in William's reign
to require the suppression of the Irish woollen manufacture, now, in
Anne's, rose against the proposal of a legislative union.[133] In
blindness which was not only fatal but suicidal also, "they persuaded
themselves that the union would make Ireland rich, and that England's
interest was to keep her poor;" as if it had been possible for one
portion of the kingdom to increase in prosperity without every other
portion benefiting also by the improvement.

However, in the reign of Anne the union was a question only of
expediency or of wisdom. The wide divergence of the two Parliaments on
this question of the Regency transformed it into a question of
necessity. The King might have a relapse; the Irish Parliament, on a
recurrence of the crisis, might re-affirm its late resolutions; might
frame another address to the Prince of Wales; and there might be no
alternative between seeing two different persons Regents of England and
Ireland, or, what would be nearly the same thing, seeing the same person
Regent of the two countries on different grounds, and exercising a
different authority.

And if these proceedings of the Irish Parliament had wrought in the mind
of the great English minister a conviction of the absolute necessity of
preventing a recurrence of such dangers by the only practicable means
open to him--the fusion of it into one body with the English Parliament
by a legislative union--the occurrences of the ensuing ten years
enforced that conviction with a weight still more irresistible. It has
been seen how stirring an influence the revolutionary fever engendered
by the overthrow of the French monarchy for a time exerted even over the
calmer temper of Englishmen. In Ireland, where, ever since Sarsfield and
his brave garrison enlisted under the banner of Louis XIV., a connection
more or less intimate with France had been constantly kept up, the
events in Paris had produced a far deeper and wider effect. More than
one demagogue among the Volunteers had avowed a desire to see the whole
country transfer its allegiance from the English to the French
sovereign; and this preference was more pronounced after the triumph of
democracy in the French capital. For the leaders of the movement,
themselves nearly all men of the lowest degree, denounced the Irish
nobles with almost as much vehemence as the English connection.

Yet Pitt's policy, dictated partly by a spirit of conciliation, and
still more by feelings of justice, was gradually removing many of the
grievances of which the Irish had real reason to complain. Next to the
restrictions on trade, nothing had made such an impression on his mind
as the iniquity of the penal laws; and those he proceeded to repeal,
encouraging the introduction of bills to throw open the profession of
the law to Roman Catholics, to allow them seats on the magistrates'
bench and commissions in the army, and to grant them the electoral
franchise, a concession which he himself would willingly have extended
by admitting them to Parliament itself. But these relaxations of the old
Penal Code, important as they were, only conciliated the higher classes
of the Roman Catholics. Most of the Roman Catholic prelates, and most of
the Roman Catholic lay nobles, proclaimed their satisfaction at what had
been done, and their good-will toward the minister who had done it; but
the professional agitators were exasperated rather than conciliated at
finding so much of the ground on which they had rested cut from beneath
their feet. So desirous was Pitt to carry conciliation to the greatest
length that could be consistent with safety, that he held more than one
conference with Grattan himself; but he found that great orator not very
manageable, partly, as it may seem from some of Mr. Windham's letters,
through jealousy of Fitzgibbon, who was now the Irish Chancellor,[134]
and still more from a desire to propitiate the Roman Catholics, for whom
he demanded complete and immediate Emancipation; while Pitt, who was,
probably, already resolved on accomplishing a legislative Union,
thought, as far as we can judge, that Emancipation should follow, not
precede, the Union, lest, if it should precede it, it might prove rather
a stumbling-block in the way than a stepping-stone to the still more
important measure.

It is not very easy to determine what influence the "Emancipation," as
it was rather absurdly called,[135] if it had been granted at that time,
might have had in quieting the prevailing discontent. With one large
party it would probably have increased it, for there was quite as great
an inclination to insurrection in Ulster as in Leinster or Munster; and
with the Northern Presbyterians animosity to Popery was at least as
powerful a feeling as sympathy with the French Republicans. A subsequent
chapter, however, will afford a more fitting opportunity for discussing
the arguments in favor of or against Emancipation. What seems certain
is, that a large party among the Roman Catholics of the lower class
valued Emancipation itself principally as a measure to another end--a
separation from England. Pitt, meanwhile, hopeless of reconciling the
leaders of the different parties--the impulsive enthusiasm of Grattan
with the sober, practical wisdom of Fitzgibbon--pursued his own policy
of conciliation united with vigor; and one of the measures which he now
carried subsists, unaltered in its principle, to the present day.

There was no part of the penal laws of which the folly and iniquity were
more intolerable than the restrictions which they imposed on education.
To a certain extent, they defeated themselves. The clause which
subjected to severe penalties a Roman Catholic parent who sent his child
abroad to enjoy the benefits of an education which he was not allowed to
receive at home, was manifestly almost incapable of enforcement, and the
youths designed for orders in the Romish Church had been invariably sent
to foreign colleges--some to Douai or St. Omer, in France; some to the
renowned Spanish University of Salamanca. But the French colleges had
been swept away by the Revolution, which also made a passage to Spain
(the greater expense of which had at all times confined that resource to
a small number of students) more difficult; and the consequence was,
that in 1794 the Roman Catholic Primate, Dr. Troy, petitioned the
government to grant a royal license for the endowment of a college in
Ireland. Justice and policy were equally in favor of the grant of such a
request. For the sake of the whole kingdom, and even for that of
Protestantism itself, it was better that the Roman Catholic priesthood
should be an educated rather than an ignorant body of men; and, in the
temper which at that time prevailed over the western countries of the
Continent, it was at least equally desirable that the rising generation
should be preserved from the contagion of the revolutionary principles
which the present rulers of France were so industrious to propagate.
Pitt at once embraced the idea, and in the spring of the next year a
bill was introduced into the Irish Parliament by the Chief Secretary,
authorizing the foundation and endowment of a college at Maynooth, in
the neighborhood of Dublin, for the education of Roman Catholics
generally, whether destined for the Church or for lay professions. It is
a singular circumstance that the only opposition to the measure came
from Grattan and his party, who urged that, as the Roman Catholics had
recently been allowed to matriculate and take degrees at Trinity
College, though not to share in the endowments of that wealthy
institution, the endowment of another college, to be exclusively
confined to Roman Catholics, would be a retrograde step, undoing the
benefits of the recent concession of the authorities of Trinity; would
be "a revival and re-enactment of the principles of separation and
exclusion," and an injury to the whole community. For, as he wisely
contended, nothing was so important to the well-doing of the entire
people as the extinction of the religious animosities which had hitherto
embittered the feelings of each Church toward the other, and nothing
could so surely tend to that extinction as the uniting the members of
both from their earliest youth, in the pursuit both of knowledge and
amusement, as school-fellows and playmates. If Mr. Froude's
interpretation of the motives of those who influenced Grattan on this
occasion be correct, he was unconsciously made a tool of by those whose
real object was a separation from England, of the attainment of which
they despaired, unless they could unite Protestants and Roman Catholics
in its prosecution. The bill, however, was passed by a very large
majority, and £9000 a year was appropriated to the endowment of the
college. Half a century afterward, as will be seen, that endowment was
enlarged, and placed on a more solid and permanent footing, by one of
the ablest of Pitt's successors. It was a wise and just measure; and if
its success has not entirely answered the expectations of the minister
who granted it, its comparative failure has been owing to circumstances
which the acutest judgment could not have foreseen.

But it seems certain that neither the concession nor the refusal of any
demands put forward by any party in Ireland could have prevented the
insurrection which broke out shortly afterward. There were two parties
among the disaffected Irish--or it should, perhaps, rather be said that
two different objects were kept in view by them--one of which, the
establishment of a republic, was dearer to one section of the
malcontents; separation from England, with the contingency of annexation
to France, was the more immediate aim of the other, though the present
existence of a republican form of government in France to a great extent
united the two. As has been mentioned before, the original movers in the
conspiracy were of low extraction, Dublin tradesmen in a small way of
business. Napper Tandy was an ironmonger, Wolfe Tone was the son of a
coach-maker. But they had obtained a recruit of a very different class,
a younger son of the Duke of Leinster, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, a man of
very slender capacity, who, at his first entrance into Parliament, when
scarcely more than of age, had made himself remarkable by a furious
denunciation of Pitt's Irish propositions; had married a natural
daughter of the Duke of Orleans, a prince, in spite of his royal birth,
one of the most profligate and ferocious of the French Jacobins; and had
caught the revolutionary mania to such a degree that he abjured his
nobility, and substituted for the appellation which marked his rank the
title of "Citizen Fitzgerald." He had enrolled himself in a society
known as the United Irishmen, and had gone to France, as its
plenipotentiary, to arrange with Hoche, one of the most brilliant and
popular of the French generals, a scheme for the invasion of Ireland, in
which he promised him that, on his landing, he should be joined by tens
of thousands of armed Irishmen. Hoche entered warmly into the plan, was
furnished with a splendid army by the Directors, and in December, 1796,
set sail for Ireland; but the fleet which carried him was dispersed in a
storm; many of the ships were wrecked, others were captured by the
British cruisers, and the remnant of the fleet, sadly crippled, was glad
to regain its harbors. Two years afterward another invading expedition
had still worse fortune. General Humbert, who in 1796 had been one of
Hoche's officers, did succeed in effecting a landing at Killala Bay, in
Mayo; but he and the whole of his force was speedily surrounded, and
compelled to surrender; and a month afterward a large squadron, with a
more powerful division of troops, under General Hardy, on board, found
itself unable to effect a landing, but fell in with a squadron under Sir
John Warren, who captured every ship but two; Wolfe Tone, who was on
board one of them, being taken prisoner, and only escaping the gallows
by suicide.

This happened in October, 1798. But it is difficult to conceive with
what object these last expeditions had been despatched from France at
all; for in the preceding summer the rebellion of the Irish had broken
out, and had been totally crushed in a few weeks;[136] not without
terrible loss of life on both sides, nor without the insurgent
leaders--though many of them were gentlemen of good birth, fortune, and
education, and still more were clergy--showing a ferocity and ingenuity
in cruelty which the worst of the French Jacobins had scarcely exceeded;
one of the saddest circumstances of the whole rebellion being, that the
insurgents, who had burnt men, women, and children alive, who had
deliberately hacked others to pieces against whom they did not profess
to have a single ground of complaint beyond the fact that they were
English and Protestant, found advocates in both Houses of the English
Parliament, who declared that the rebellion was owing to the severity of
the Irish Viceroy and his chief councillors, who denied that the rebels
had solicited French aid, and who even voted against granting to the
government the re-enforcements necessary to prevent a revival of the

The rebellion was crushed with such celerity as might have convinced the
most disaffected of the insanity of defying the power of Great Britain;
but it was certain that the spirit which prompted the rebellion was not
extinguished, and that, as it had been fed before, so it would continue
to be fed by the factious spirit of members of the Irish House of
Commons, and of those who could return members,[137] so long as Ireland
had a separate Parliament. Not, indeed, that Pitt required the argument
in favor of a Union which was thus furnished. The course adopted by the
Irish Parliament on the Regency question was quite sufficient to show
how great a mistake had been made by the repeal of Poynings' Act. But
what the rebellion proved was, that the Union would not admit of an
instant's delay; and Pitt at once applied himself to the task of framing
a measure which, while it should strengthen England, by the removal of
the necessity for a constant watchfulness over every transaction and
movement in Ireland, should at the same time confer on and secure to
Ireland substantial advantages, such as, without a Union, the English
Parliament could scarcely be induced to contemplate.

Mr. Hallam, in one of the last chapters of his work,[138] while showing
by unanswerable arguments the advantages which Scotland has derived from
her Union with England, has also enumerated some of the causes which
impeded the minister of the day in his endeavors to render it acceptable
to the Scotch members to whom it was proposed. The most apparently
substantial of these was the unprecedented character of the measure. No
past "experience of history was favorable to the absorption of a lesser
state, at least where the government partook so much of the republican
form, in one of superior power and ancient rivalry." But, in the case of
the present measure, what had thus been a difficulty in the Scotch Union
might have been expected to be regarded as an argument in its favor,
since the keenest patriots among the Scotch had long been convinced that
the Union had brought a vast increase of prosperity and importance to
their country, and what was now confessed to have proved advantageous to
Scotland might naturally be expected to be equally beneficial to
Ireland. Another obstacle had been the fear of the danger to which the
Presbyterian Church might be "exposed, when brought thus within the
power of a Legislature so frequently influenced by one which held her,
not as a sister, but rather a bastard usurper to a sister's
inheritance." But here again experience might give her testimony in
favor of an Irish Union, since it was incontestable that those
apprehensions--which, no doubt, many earnest Scotchmen had sincerely
entertained--had not been realized, but that since the Union the
Presbyterian Church had enjoyed as great security, as complete
independence, and as absolute an authority over its members as in the
preceding century; that the Parliament had never attempted the slightest
interference with its exercise of its privileges, and that the Church of
England had been equally free from the exhibition of any desire to
stimulate the Parliament to such action; while the Roman Catholic
Church, which had many more adherents in England than the Presbyterian
Church had ever had, was quite powerful enough to exact for itself the
maintenance of its rights, and the minister was quite willing to grant
equal securities to those which, at the beginning of the century, had
been thought sufficient for the Church of Scotland. A third reason which
our great historical critic puts forward for the disfavor with which the
Union was at the time regarded by many high-minded Scotchmen, he finds
in "the gross prostitution with which a majority sold themselves to the
surrender of their own legislative existence." That similar means were
to some extent employed to win over opponents of the government in
Ireland cannot, it must be confessed, be denied, though the temptations
held out to converts oftener took the shape of titles, promotions,
appointments, and court favors than of actual money. The most recent
historian of this period--who, to say the least, is not biassed in favor
of either the English or Irish government of the period--pronounces as
his opinion, formed after the most careful research, that the bribery
was on the other side. "Cornwallis and Castlereagh" (the Lord-lieutenant
and the Chief Secretary) "both declared it to be within their knowledge
that the Opposition offered four thousand pounds, ready money, for a
vote. But they name only one man who was purchased, and his vote was
obtained for four thousand pounds. From the language of Lord Cornwallis,
it is certain that if money was spent by the government in this way it
was without his knowledge; but many things may have been done by the
inferior agents of the government, and possibly by Castlereagh himself,
which they would not venture to lay before the Lord-lieutenant. It
appears, however, from the papers which have recently come to light,
that the prevalent belief of the Union having been mainly effected by a
lavish expenditure of money is not well-founded; still it is certain
that some money was expended in this way." Besides actual payment for
votes, he adds that a very large sum--a hundred thousand pounds--is said
to have been expended in the purchase of seats, the holders of which
were, of course, to vote against the measure; and names Lord Downshire
as subscribing £5000, Lord Lismore and Mr. White £3000 each, while the
government funds were chiefly expended "in engaging[139] young
barristers of the Four Courts to write for the Union." But, even if it
were true that corruption was employed to the very utmost extent that
was ever alleged by the most vehement opponent of the measure and of the
government, it may be feared that very few of the last century Irishmen
would have been so shocked at it as to consider that fact an objection
to the Union, especially, it is sad and shameful to say, among the upper
classes. The poorer classes, those who could render no political service
to a minister, as being consequently beneath official notice, were
unassailed by his temptations; but the demoralization of the men of rank
and property was almost universal, and few seats were disposed of, few
votes were given, except in return for favors granted, or out of
discontent at favors refused. And it cannot be denied that the tendency
to political jobbery had not been diminished by the concessions of 1782,
if, indeed, it may not be said that the increased importance which those
concessions had given to the Irish Parliament had led the members of
both Houses to place an increased value on their services. Certainly no
previous Lord-lieutenant had given such descriptions of the universality
of the demands made on him as were forwarded to the English government
by those who held that office in the sixteen years preceding the
outbreak of the Rebellion.

It is remarkable that the transaction which, as has been said before,
may be conceived to have first forced on Pitt's mind the conviction of
the absolute necessity of the Union--namely, the course pursued by the
Irish Parliament on the Regency Bill--bore a close resemblance to that
which, above all other considerations, had made the Scotch Union
indispensable, namely, the Act of Security passed by the Scottish
Estates in 1703, which actually provided that, on the decease of Queen
Anne without issue, the Estates "should name her successor, but should
be debarred from choosing the admitted successor to the crown of
England, unless such forms of government were settled as should fully
secure the religion, freedom, and trade of the Scottish nation."[140]
The Scotch Estates, therefore, had absolutely regarded the possible
separation of the two kingdoms as a contingency which might become not
undesirable; and, though it was too ticklish an argument to bring
forward, it may very possibly have occurred to Pitt that a similar vote
of the Irish Parliament was not impossible. The claim which Grattan,
following Fox, had set up on behalf of the Prince of Wales, was one of
an indefeasible right to the Regency; and, as far as right by
inheritance went, his claim to the crown, if, or whenever, a vacancy
should occur, was far less disputable. But, as has been mentioned in the
last chapter, a question had already been raised whether his Royal
Highness had not forfeited his right to the succession, and it was quite
possible that that question might be renewed. The fact of the Prince's
marriage to a Roman Catholic was by this time generally accepted as
certain; the birth of the Princess Charlotte gave greater importance to
the circumstance than it seemed to have while the Prince remained
childless; and, if the performance of the marriage ceremony should be
legally proved, and the English law courts should pronounce that the
legal invalidity of the marriage did not protect the Prince from the
penalty of forfeiture, it was highly probable that the Irish Parliament
would take a different view--would refuse, in spite of the Bill of
Rights, to regard marriage with a Roman Catholic as a disqualification,
but would recognize the Prince of Wales as King of Ireland.

Several minor considerations, such as the desirableness of uniformity in
the proceedings of the two countries with respect to Money Bills, the
Mutiny Act, and other arrangements of parliamentary detail, all pointed
the same way; and, on the whole, it may be said that scarcely any of the
opponents of the government measure were found to deny its expediency,
especially as regarded the interests of Great Britain. The objections
which were made were urged on different grounds. In the Irish House of
Commons, a member who, though a young man, had already established a
very high reputation for professional skill as a barrister, for
eloquence equally suited to the Bar and to the Senate, and for sincere
and incorruptible patriotism, Mr. Plunkett, took upon himself to deny
the competency of the Irish Parliament to pass a bill not only to
extinguish its own existence, but to prevent the birth of any future
Parliament, and to declare that the act, if it "should be passed," would
be a mere nullity, and that no man in "Ireland would be bound to obey
it." And, in the English House of Commons, Mr. Grey may be thought to
have adopted something of the same view, when he proposed an amendment
"to suspend all proceedings on the subject till the sentiments of the
people of Ireland respecting that measure could be ascertained." He did
not, of course, deny (he was speaking on the 21st of April, 1800) that
the bill had been passed by both Houses of the Irish Parliament by
considerable majorities.[141] But he contended that that Parliament did
not speak the sentiments of the people; and, that being the case, that
its voice was of no authority. It is evident that all arguments founded
on a denial of the omnipotence of a Parliament, whether English or
Irish, are invalid. The question of that omnipotence, as has been seen
in a former chapter, had been fully discussed when Mr. Pitt's father
denied the power of Parliament to tax the American Colonies; and that
question may fairly be regarded as having been settled at that time. It
is equally clear that the denial that, on any question whatever, the
House of Commons must be taken to speak the sentiments of the
constituencies, whether the proposal of such question had been
contemplated at the time of their election or not, is the advancement of
a doctrine wholly inconsistent with our parliamentary constitution, and
one which would practically be the parent of endless agitation and
mischief. To expect that the members could pronounce on no new question
without a fresh reference to their constituents, would be to reduce them
from the position of representatives to that of delegates; such as that
of the members of the old States-general, in France, whose early decay
is attributed by the ablest political writers in no small degree to the
dependence of the members on their constituents for precise
instructions. Another argument on which Mr. Grey insisted with great
earnestness is worth preserving, though subsequent inventions have
destroyed its force; he contended that the example of the Scotch Union
did not, when properly considered, afford any argument in favor of an
Irish Union, from the difference of situation of the two countries.
Scotland was a part of the same island as England; "there was no
physical impediment to rapid and constant communication; the relative
situation of the two countries was such that the King himself could
administer the executive government in both, and there was no occasion
for a separate establishment being kept up in each." But the sea lay
between England and Ireland, and the delays and sometimes difficulties
which were thus interposed rendered it "necessary that Ireland should
have a separate government;" and he affirmed that "this was an
insuperable bar to a beneficial Union," quoting a saying of Lord Somers,
that "if it were necessary to preserve a separate executive government
at Edinburgh after the Union, he would abandon the measure." Mr. Grey
even denied that the prosperity of Scotland since the Union was mainly
attributable to that measure. "It was not the Union; it was the adoption
of a liberal policy, the application of a proper remedy to the
particular evils under which the country labored, that removed the
causes which had impeded the prosperity of Scotland." But this argument
was clearly open to the reply that the adoption of that liberal policy
had been a direct effect of the Union, and would have been impracticable
without it, and was, therefore, a strong inducement to the adoption of a
similar Union with Ireland, where the existing evils were at least as
great as those which, a century before, had kept down Scotland. Another
of his arguments has been remarkably falsified by the event. With a
boldness in putting forward what was manifestly, indeed avowedly, a
party objection, and which, as such, must be looked upon as somewhat
singular, he found a reason for resisting the addition of a hundred
Irish members to the British House of Commons in the probability that
they would, as a general rule, be subservient to the minister. He
instanced "the uniform support which the members for Scotland had given
to every act of ministers," and saw in that example "reason to apprehend
that the Irish members would become a no less regular band of
ministerial adherents." It would be superfluous to point out how
entirely contrary the result has been to the prediction.

It is, however, beside the purpose of this work to dwell on the
arguments by which the minister supported his proposal, or on those with
which the Opposition resisted it, whether apparently founded on
practical considerations, such as those brought forward by Mr. Grey, or
those of a more sentimental character, which rested on the loss of
national "dignity and honor," which, it was assumed, would be the
consequence of the measure. It seems desirable rather to explain the
principal conditions on which the Union was to be effected, as Pitt
explained it to the House of Commons in April, 1800. In the preceding
year he had confined himself to moving a series of resolutions in favor
of the principle, which, though they were adopted by both Houses in
England, he did not at that time endeavor to carry farther, since in the
Irish House of Commons the utmost exertions of the government could only
prevail by a single vote;[142] and he naturally thought such a majority
far too slender to justify his relying on it so far as to proceed
farther with a measure of such vast importance. But, during the recess,
he had introduced some modifications into his original draft of the
measure, which, though slight, were sufficient to conciliate much
additional support; and the consequence was, that in February of this
year both the Irish Houses accepted it by sufficient majorities;[143]
and, therefore, he now felt able to lay the details of the measure
before the English Parliament. To take them in the order in which he
enumerated them, that which had appeared to the Irish Parliament "the
first and most important, was the share which the Irish constituencies
ought to have in the representation of the House of Commons." On this
point, "the Parliament of Ireland was of opinion that the number of
representatives for Ireland ought to be one hundred." And he was not
disposed to differ from the conclusion to which it had come. He regarded
it, indeed, as "a matter of but small importance whether the number of
representatives from one part of the united empire were greater or less.
If they were enough to make known the local wants, to state the
interests and convey the sentiments of the part of the empire they
represented, it would produce that degree of general security which
would be wanting in any vain attempt to obtain that degree of
theoretical perfection about which in modern times they had heard so
much." He approved of "the principle which had been laid down upon this
part of the subject in the Parliament of Ireland--a reference to the
supposed population of the two countries, and to the proposed rate of
contribution. The proportion of contribution proposed to be established
was seven and a half for Great Britain, and one for Ireland; while in
the proportion of population Great Britain was to Ireland as two and a
half or three to one;[144] so that the result, on a combination of these
two calculations, would be something more than five to one in favor of
Great Britain, which was about the proportion which it was proposed to
establish between the representation of the two countries." The
principle of selection of the constituencies which had been adopted he
likewise considered most "equitable and satisfactory for Ireland. The
plan proposed was, that the members of the counties and the principal
commercial cities should remain entire.... The remaining members were to
be selected from those places which were the most considerable in point
of population and wealth.... This was the only plan which could be
adopted without trenching on the constitution; it introduced no
theoretical reforms in the constitution or in the representation of this
country; it made no distinction between different parliamentary rights,
nor any alteration, even the slightest, in the internal forms of

Another consideration which he had kept in mind in framing this measure
was this: "By the laws of England care had been taken to prevent the
influence of the crown from becoming too great by too many offices being
held by members of Parliament." And Pitt had no doubt that there would
be a general feeling "that some provision ought to be made on this
subject" in the arrangements for the new Parliament. At present, among
the representatives of the counties and great commercial towns, whose
seats were to be preserved in the new united Parliament, there were not
above five or six who held offices; and, though it was impossible to
estimate the possible number of place-holders with precision, he thought
what would he most fair for him to propose would be, that "no more than
twenty of the Irish members should hold places, and that if it should
happen that a greater number did hold places during pleasure, then those
who had last accepted them should vacate their seats."

In the House of Peers he proposed that twenty-eight lords temporal of
Ireland should have seats in the united Parliament, who should be
elected for life by the Peers of Ireland--an arrangement which differed
from that which, at the beginning of the century, had been adopted for
the representative Peers of Scotland; but he argued, and surely with
great reason, that "the choice of Peers to represent the Irish nobility
for life was a mode that was more congenial to the general spirit and
system of a Peerage than that of their being septennially elected, as
the nobility of Scotland were." Of the spiritual Peers, four were to sit
in rotation; to the lay Peers a farther privilege was given, which the
minister regarded as of considerable, and even constitutional
importance. By the articles of the Scotch Union, a Peer, if not chosen
as a representative of the Peerage, was not eligible as a candidate for
the House of Commons in either England or Scotland. But this bill
"reserved a right to the Peers of Ireland who should not be elected to
represent their own Peerage, to be elected members of the House of
Commons of the united Parliament of Great Britain;" and Pitt urged that
this was "a far better mode of treatment than had been adopted for the
nobility of Scotland; so that a nobleman of Ireland, if not representing
his own order, might be chosen as a legislator by a class of inferior
rank, which he was so far from regarding as improper, that he deemed it
in a high degree advantageous to the empire, analogous to the practice
as well as friendly to the spirit of the British constitution." And he
enforced his argument by pointing out with honest pride the advantage
which in that respect the spirit and practice of our constitution gave
to our nobility over the nobles of other countries. "We know full well,"
he continued, "the advantage we have experienced from having in this
House those who, in the course of descent, as well as in hopes of merit,
have had a prospect of sitting in our House of Peers. Those, therefore,
who object to this part of the arrangement" (for, as he had previously
mentioned, it had been made a subject not only of objection, but of
ridicule) "can only do so from the want of due attention to the true
character of our constitution, one of the great leading advantages of
which is, that a person may for a long time be a member of one branch of
the Legislature, and have it in view to become a member of another
branch of it. This it is which constitutes the leading difference
between the nobility of Great Britain and those of other countries. With
us they are permitted to have legislative power before they arrive at
their higher stations; and as they are, like all the rest of mankind, to
be improved by experience in the science of legislation as well as in
every other science, our constitution affords them that opportunity by
their being eligible to seats in this House from the time of their
majority. This is one of those circumstances which arise frequently in
practice, but the advantages of which do not appear in theory till
chance happens to cast them before us, and makes them subjects of
discussion. These are the shades of the British constitution in which
its latent beauties consist;" and he affirmed his conviction that this
privilege would prove "an advantage to the nobility of Ireland, and an
improvement in the system of representation in the House."

It will hardly be denied that the arrangement that the representative
Peers of Ireland should enjoy their seats for life did make it desirable
that those who were not so elected to the Upper House should be eligible
as candidates for a place in the Lower House. Otherwise, those who were
not chosen as representatives of the peerage would have been placed in
the anomalous and unfair position of being the only persons in the
kingdom possessed of the requisite property qualification, and not
disqualified by sex or profession, who were absolutely excluded from the
opportunity of distinguishing themselves and serving their country in
Parliament. How great the practical benefit to the House of Commons and
the country the clause he was recommending was calculated to confer, was
shown in a remarkable manner the very year of his death, when an Irish
Peer was returned to the House of Commons, who, retaining his seat for
nearly sixty years as the representative of different constituencies,
the University of Cambridge being among the number, during the course of
that period rose through a variety of offices to that of Prime-minister,
and, as is admitted even by those who dissented most widely from some of
his opinions and actions, earned for himself an honorable reputation, as
one who had rendered faithful services to the crown, and on more than
one occasion had conferred substantial benefits on the country.

The arrangements proposed with respect to the Peers were not opposed.
But Mr. Grey--generally acting as the spokesman of the Opposition on
this question--raised an objection to making so large an addition as
that of one hundred new members to the British House of Commons. He
repeated his prophecy, made on a previous occasion, of the subserviency
to the minister which the Irish members might be expected to exhibit,
and therefore moved an amendment to reduce the number of Irish
representatives to eighty-five; but, to obviate the discontent which
such a reduction might be expected to excite in Ireland, he proposed to
diminish the number of English members also, by disfranchising forty "of
the most decayed boroughs," a step which would leave the number of
members in the new united Parliament as nearly as possible the same as
it was before. He found, however, very few to agree with him; his
amendment was rejected by 176 to 34; and the minister's proposal was
adopted in all its details.

Mr. Pitt touched lightly on the next article, which limited the royal
prerogative of creating Peers by a provision that the King should never
confer any fresh Irish peerage till three peerages should have become
extinct. This, again, was a point of difference between the conditions
of the Scotch and Irish Unions; since by the terms of the Scotch Union
the King was forever debarred from creating any new Scotch peerages. But
it was pointed out that the greater antiquity of the Scotch peerages,
and the circumstance that in Scotland the titles descended to collateral
branches, were calculated to make the extinction of a Scotch peerage an
event of very rare occurrence; while the comparative newness (with very
few exceptions) of Irish peerages, and the rule by which they are
"confined to immediate male descendants," rendered the entire extinction
of the Irish peerage probable, "if the power of adding to or making up
the number were not given to the crown."

Recent legislation has given such importance to the next resolution,
that it will be well to quote his precise words:

"5. That it would be fit to propose, as the fifth article of union, that
the Churches of that part of Great Britain called England and of Ireland
shall be united into one Church; and that when his Majesty shall summon
a Convocation, the archbishops, bishops, and clergy of the several
provinces in Ireland shall be respectively summoned to and sit in the
Convocation of the united Church, in the like manner and subject to the
same regulations as to election and qualification as are at present by
law established with respect to the like orders of the Church of
England; and that the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of
the said united Church shall be preserved as now by law established for
the Church of England, saving to the Church of Ireland all the rights,
privileges, and jurisdictions now thereunto belonging; and that the
doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the Church of Scotland
shall likewise be preserved as now by law, and by the Act of Union
established for the Church of Scotland; and that the continuance and
preservation forever of the said united Church, as the Established
Church, of that part of the said United Kingdom called England and
Ireland, shall be deemed and taken to be an essential and fundamental
article and condition of the Union."

Pitt's comment on this article was so brief as to show that he regarded
its justice as well as its importance too obvious to need any elaborate
justification. He pointed out that that portion of it which related to
Convocation had been added by the Irish Parliament, and "would only say
on so interesting a subject that the prosperity of the Irish Church
could never be permanent, unless it were a part of the Union, to leave
as a guard a power to the United Parliament to make some provision in
this respect as a fence beyond any act of their own that could at
present be agreed on." But, while he thus showed his conviction that the
permanent prosperity of the Irish Church was essential to the welfare of
the kingdom, he was by no means insensible to the claims of the Roman
Catholic Church (as founded not more in policy than in justice) to be
placed in some degree on a footing of equality with it; not only by a
recognition of the dignity of its ministers, but also by an endowment
which should be proportioned to their requirements, and should place
them in a position of worldly competence and comfort for which hitherto
they had been dependent on their flocks.[145] To use the expression of a
modern statesman, he contemplated "levelling up," not "levelling down."
Perhaps it may be said that he contemplated levelling up, as the surest
and most permanent obstacle to any proposal of levelling down.

At the same time it is fair to remark, that the argument which on a
recent occasion was so strongly pressed by the champions of the Church,
that it was beyond the power of Parliament to repeal what was here
declared to be "an essential and fundamental article and condition of
the Union," is untenable, on every consideration of the power of
Parliament, and, indeed, of common-sense; since it would be an
intolerable evil, and one productive of the worst consequences, if the
doctrine were admitted that any Parliament could make an unchangeable
law and bind its successors forever; and, moreover, since the very words
of this article do clearly imply the power of Parliament over the
Church, the power asserted, to "make some provision for the permanence
of its prosperity," clearly involving a power to make provisions of an
opposite character. The expediency or impolicy, the propriety or
unrighteousness, of a measure must always depend on the merits of the
question itself at the time, and not on the judgment or intentions of
legislators of an earlier generation. And advocates weaken instead of
strengthening their case when they put forward arguments which, however
plausible or acceptable to their own partisans, are, nevertheless,
capable of refutation.

The next article related to a question of paramount practical
importance, and of special interest, since, as has been seen before,
there was no subject on which the past legislation of the English
Parliament had been so discreditable. But the jealousy of English
manufacturers, though it had prevailed over the indifference of William
III., who reserved all his solicitude for matters of foreign diplomacy,
could find no echo in the large mind and sound commercial and financial
knowledge of the modern statesman. He laid it down as the principle of
his legislation on this subject--a principle which "he was sure that
every gentleman in the House was ready to admit--that the consequence of
the Union ought to be a perfect freedom of trade, whether of produce or
manufacture, without exception, if possible; that a deviation from that
principle ought to be made only when adhering to it might possibly shake
some large capital, or materially diminish the effect of the labor of
the inhabitants, or suddenly and violently shock the received opinion or
popular prejudices of a large portion of the people; but that, on the
whole, the communication between the two kingdoms should in spirit be
free; that no jealousy should be attempted to be created between the
manufacturers of one place or the other upon the subject of 'raw
materials' or any other article; for it would surely be considered very
narrow policy, and as such would be treated with derision, were an
attempt made to create a jealousy between Devonshire and Cornwall,
between Lancashire and Durham.... He said, then, that the principle of
the Union on this head should be liberal and free, and that no departure
from it should ever take place but upon some point of present
unavoidable necessity." He was even able to add (and he must have felt
peculiar satisfaction in making the statement, since the change in the
feelings of the English manufacturers on the subject must have been
mainly the fruit of his own teaching, and was a practical recognition of
the benefits which they had derived from his commercial policy taken as
a whole), that "the English manufacturers did not wish for any
protective duties; all they desired was free intercourse with all the
world; and, though the want of protective duties might occasion them
partial loss, they thought it amply compensated by the general
advantage." He even thought the arrangements now to be made "would
encourage the growth of wool in Ireland, and that England would be able
to draw supplies of it from thence; and he did not fear that there would
be trade enough for both countries in the markets of the world, and in
the market which each country would afford to the other." The English
manufacturers did not, however, acquiesce very cheerfully in every part
of his commercial arrangements. On the contrary, against the clause
which repealed all prohibitions of or bounties on exportation of
different articles grown or manufactured in either country, they
petitioned, and even set up a claim, which was granted, to be heard by
counsel and to produce witnesses. But Pitt steadily refused the least
modification of this part of his measure, not merely on account of its
intrinsic reasonableness and justice, but because there was scarcely any
condition to which the Irish themselves attached greater importance.

An equally important and more difficult matter to adjust to the
satisfaction of both Parliaments was the apportionment of the financial
burdens between the two nations. It would be tiresome as well as
superfluous to enter into minute details; the more so as the arrangement
proposed was of a temporary character. After a long and minute
discussion, Pitt's appraisement was admitted to come as near to strict
fairness and equity as any that could be made; the separate discharge of
its public debt already incurred was left to each kingdom; and it was
farther settled that for twenty years fifteen parts of the expense of
the nation out of seventeen should be borne by Great Britain and two by

Other articles provided that the laws and courts of both kingdoms, civil
and ecclesiastical, should remain in their existing condition, subject,
of course, to such alterations as the united Legislature might hereafter
deem desirable.

The resolutions, when adopted--as they speedily were--were embodied in a
bill, which passed through the last stage by receiving the royal assent
at the beginning of July. The state of public feeling in Ireland was not
yet sufficiently calmed down after the Rebellion for it to be prudent to
venture on a general election, and it was, consequently, ordained that
the members for the Irish counties and for those Irish boroughs which
had been selected for the retention of representation should take their
seats in the united Parliament on its next meeting. On the 22d of
January, 1801, the united, or, to give it its more proper designation,
the Imperial Parliament held its first meeting, being, although in its
sixth session, so far regarded as a new Parliament, that the King
directed a fresh election of a Speaker.

The Union, as thus effected, was so far a vital change in the
constitution of both Great Britain and Ireland, that it greatly altered
the situation in which each kingdom had previously stood to the other.
Till 1782 the position of Ireland toward England had been one of entire
political subordination; and, though that had in appearance been
modified by the repeal of Poynings' Act, yet no one doubted or could
doubt that, whenever the resolutions of the two Parliaments came into
conflict, the Irish Parliament would find submission unavoidable. But by
the Union that subordination was terminated forever. The character of
the Union--of the conditions, that is, on which the two countries were
united--was one of perfect and complete equality on all important
points, indeed, in all matters whatever, except one or two of minor
consequence, where some irremovable difference between them compelled
some trifling variations. It was not a connection of domination on the
one side and subordination on the other, where every concomitant
circumstance might tempt the one to overbearing arrogance, while the
other could not escape a feeling of humiliation. It was rather--to quote
the eloquent peroration of Pitt, when, in the preceding year, he first
introduced the subject to the consideration of the House of Commons--"a
free and voluntary association of two great countries, joining for their
common benefit in one empire, where each retained its proportionate
weight and importance, under the security of equal laws, reciprocal
affection, and inseparable interests; and which wanted nothing but that
indissoluble connection to render both invincible."

On that occasion Pitt had argued, from the great subsequent increase in
the population and wealth of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and in the
prosperity of the whole country of Scotland, that a similar result might
be looked for in Ireland. And the general trade of Ireland, and
especially the linen manufacture, within a very few years began to
realize his prediction. So that it is strange to find Fox, on the great
minister's death, five years afterward, reiterating his disapproval of
the Union as a plea for refusing him the appellation of a great
statesman.[146] In one point alone the intrigues of a colleague
prevented Pitt from carrying out to the full his liberal and enlightened
views, and compelled him to leave the Union incomplete in a matter of
such pre-eminent importance, that it may be said that all the subsequent
disquietudes which have prevented Ireland from reaping the full benefit
he desired from the Union are traceable to his disappointment on that
subject.[147] We have seen that he contemplated, as a natural and
necessary consequence or even part of the Union, an extensive reform of
the laws affecting the Roman Catholics. Indeed, the understanding that
he was prepared to introduce a measure with that object had no small
weight in conciliating in some quarters support to the Act of Union.
Accordingly, when describing the arrangements which he had in view for
the Church of Ireland, he indicated his intention with sufficient
plainness by the statement, that "it might be proper to leave to
Parliament an opportunity of considering what might be fit to be done
for his Majesty's Catholic subjects;" words which were generally
understood to express his feeling, that both justice and policy required
the removal of the restrictions which debarred the Roman Catholics from
the complete enjoyment of political privileges. But the history and
different bearings of that question it will be more convenient to
discuss in a subsequent chapter, when we shall have arrived at the time
when it was partially dealt with by the ministry of the Duke of


[Footnote 125: Mr. Froude says four great families--the Fitzgeralds of
Kildare, the Boyles, the Ponsonbys, and the Beresfords--returned a
majority of the House of Commons ("English in Ireland," ii., 5); and
besides those peers, the arrangement for the Union proved that the
influence of the Loftuses and the Hills fell little short of them.]

[Footnote 126: Such a system actually had existed in France, where
articles of ordinary trade could not be transported from one province to
another without payment of a heavy duty; but Colbert had abolished that
system in France above one hundred years before the time of which we are

[Footnote 127: "History of England," vol. v., c. xxiii., p. 57.]

[Footnote 128: "The English in Ireland," ii., 39.]

[Footnote 129: Fronde's "English in Ireland," ii., 345. He does not name
the author whom he quotes.]

[Footnote 130: _Ibid_., ii, 42.]

[Footnote 131: See p. 164.]

[Footnote 132: Mr. Froude imputes to Grattan a singularly base object.
"Far from Grattan was a desire to heal the real sores of the country for
which he was so zealous. These wild, disordered elements suited better
for the campaign in which he engaged of renovating an Irish
nationality."--_English in Ireland_, ii., 448. But, however on many
points we may see reason to agree with Mr. Froude's estimate of the
superior wisdom of Fitzgibbon, we conceive that this opinion is quite
consistent with our acquittal of the other of the meanness of
deliberately aiming at a continuance of evils, in order to find in them
food for a continuance of agitation.]

[Footnote 133: Froude, "English in Ireland," i., 304.]

[Footnote 134: See especially a letter of Mr. Windham's. quoted by Lord
Stanhope ("Life of Pitt," ii., 288).]

[Footnote 135: Mr. Archdall, in his place in Parliament, denounced the
term as utterly inapplicable. "Emancipation meant that a slave was set
free. The Catholics were not slaves. Nothing more absurd had ever been
said since language was first abused for the delusion of mankind."]

[Footnote 136: The first beginning of the insurrection was at
Prosperous, County Kildare, May 24. General Lake dealt it the final blow
on Vinegar Hill, June 21.]

[Footnote 137: Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Tierney, and Lord William Russell led
the denunciations of the government in the English House of Commons. A
protest against Pitt's refusal to dismiss the Lord-lieutenant, Lord
Camden, the Chancellor Fitzgibbon, and the Commander-in-chief, Lord
Carhampton, was signed by the Dukes of Norfolk, Devonshire, and
Leinster; Lords Fitzwilliam, Moira, and Ponsonby, "two of them Irish
absentees, who were discharging thus their duties to the poor country
which supported their idle magnificence."--_The English in Ireland_,
iii., 454.]

[Footnote 138: "Constitutional History," iii., 451 seq.]

[Footnote 139: Massey's "History of England," iv., 397 (quoting the
Cornwallis correspondence).]

[Footnote 140: Lord Stanhope's "Reign of Queen Anne," p. 89.]

[Footnote 141: In the House of Commons by 158 to 115; in the House of
Lords, February 10, by 75 to 26.]

[Footnote 142: An amendment pledging the House to maintain "an
independent Legislature, as established in 1782," was only defeated by
106 to 105.]

[Footnote 143: In the House of Commons the majority was 158 to 115; in
the House of Lords, 75 to 26.]

[Footnote 144: This estimate, which was but a guess, proved very
inaccurate. The first census for the United Kingdom, which was taken the
next year (1801), showed that Ireland was considerably more populous
than its own representatives had imagined. The numbers returned (as
given by Alison, "History of Europe," ii., 335, c. ix., sec. 8) were:

  England..................................... 8,382,484
  Wales.......................................   547,346
  Scotland.................................... 1,599,068
  Army, Navy, etc.............................   470,586
  Ireland..................................... 5,396,436

So that the proportion of population in Great Britain, as compared with
that of Ireland, only exceeded two to one by an insignificant fraction.]

[Footnote 145: See his letter to the King, dated January 31, 1801,
quoted by Lord Stanhope in the appendix to vol. iii. of his "Life of
Pitt," p. 25.]

[Footnote 146: Mr. Fox, called on by Mr. Alexander to explain his
expressions (in the debate relative to Mr. Pitt's funeral), by which he
had declared his disapprobation of the Union, and his concurrence in
opinion with Mr. O'Hara that it ought to be rescinded. Mr. Fox repeated
his disapprobation, but disclaimed ever having expressed an opinion or
entertained a thought of proposing its repeal, that being now
impracticable, though he regretted its ever having been
effected.--_Diary of Lord Colchester_, February 17, 1806, ii., 39.]

[Footnote 147: It may be remarked that in another respect also political
critics have pronounced the Union defective. Archbishop Whately, whose
long tenure of office in Ireland, as well as the acuteness and candor
which he brought to bear on every subject he discussed, entitle his
opinions to most respectful consideration, held this view very strongly.
In several conversations which he held with Mr. W.N. Senior, in 1858 and
1862, he condemned the retention of the Lord-lieutenancy as "a half
measure," which, however unavoidable at the time when "no ship could be
certain of getting from Holyhead to Dublin in less than three weeks," he
pronounced "inconsistent with the fusion of the two peoples, which was
the object of the Union," and wholly indefeasible "in an age of
steam-vessels and telegraphs." And, besides its theoretical
inconsistency, he insisted that it produced many great and practical
mischiefs, among which he placed in the front "the keeping up in
people's minds the notion of a separate kingdom; the affording a hotbed
of faction and intrigue; the presenting an image of Majesty so faint and
so feeble as to be laughed at and scorned. Disaffection to the English
Lieutenancy is cheaply shown, and it paves the way toward disaffection
to the English crown." And he imputed its continued retention to "the
ignorance which prevails in England of the state of feeling in
Ireland."--_Journals and Conversations Relating to Ireland_, by W.N.
Senior, ii., 130, 251, and _passim_. And it is worthy of observation
that a similar view is expressed by a Scotch writer of great ability,
who, contrasting the mode in which Scotland is governed with that which
prevails In Ireland, farther denounces the Viceroyalty "as a distinct
mark that Ireland is not directly under the sovereignty of Great
Britain, but rather a dependency, like India or the Isle of
Man."--_Ireland_, by J.B. Kinnear, quoted in the _Fortnightly Review_,
April 1, 1881. It is remarkable that in 1850 a bill for the abolition of
the office was passed in the House of Commons by a large majority (295
to 70), but was dropped in the House of Lords, chiefly on account of the
opposition of the Duke of Wellington. But it is, at all events, plain
that the reasons, arising from the difficulty and uncertainty of
communication, which made its abolition impossible at the beginning of
the century, have passed away with the introduction of steam-vessels and
telegraphs. Communication of London with Dublin is now as rapid as
communication with Edinburgh, and, that being the case, it is not easy
to see how an establishment which has never been thought of for Scotland
can be desirable for Ireland.]


A Census is Ordered.--Dissolution of Pitt's Administration.--Impeachment
of Lord Melville.--Introduction of Lord Ellenborough into the
Cabinet.--Abolition of the Slave-trade.--Mr. Windham's Compulsory
Training Bill.--Illness of the King, and Regency.--Recurrence to the
Precedent of 1788-'89.--Death of Mr. Perceval.--Lord Liverpool becomes
Prime-minister.--Question of Appointments in the Household.--Appointment
of a Prime-minister.

The Union with Ireland was the last great work of Pitt's first
administration, and a noble close to the legislation of the eighteenth
century. But the last months of the year were also signalized by another
enactment, which, though it cannot be said to have anything of a
character strictly entitled to the name of constitutional, nevertheless
established a practice so valuable as the foundation of a great part of
our domestic legislation, that it will, perhaps, hardly be considered
foreign to the scope and purpose of this volume to record its
commencement. In November, 1800, Mr. Abbott, the member for Helstone,
brought in a bill to take a census of the people of the United Kingdom,
pointing out not only the general importance of a knowledge of the
population of a country in its entire amount and its different classes
to every government, but also its special bearing on agriculture and on
the means requisite to provide subsistence for the people, on trade and
manufactures, and on our resources for war. Such a census as he proposed
had been more than once taken in Holland, Sweden, Spain, and even in the
United States, young as was their separate national existence; it had
been taken once--nearly fifty years previous--in Scotland; and something
like one had been furnished in England in the reign of Edward III. by a
subsidy roll, and in that of Elizabeth by diocesan returns furnished by
the Bishops to the Privy Council.[148] He farther argued for the
necessity of such a proceeding from the different notions entertained by
men of sanguine or desponding tempers as to the increase or diminution
of the population. "Some desponding men had asserted that the population
had decreased by a million and a half between the Revolution and Peace
of Paris, in 1763; others (of whom the speaker himself was one) believed
that, on the contrary, it had increased in that interval by two
millions." His motion was unanimously adopted by both Houses; and when
the census was taken, its real result furnished as strong a proof of its
usefulness as any of the mover's arguments, by the extent of the
prevailing miscalculations which it detected. For Mr. Abbott, who had
spared no pains to arrive at a correct estimate, while he mentioned that
some persons reckoned the population of England and Wales at 8,000,000,
pronounced that, according to other statements, formed on a more
extensive investigation, and, as it seemed to him, on a more correct
train of reasoning, the total number could not be less than 11,000,000.
In point of fact, excluding those employed in the army and navy, who
were nearly half a million, the number for England and Wales fell short
of nine millions.[149] It would be quite superfluous to dilate on the
value of the information thus supplied, without which, indeed, much of
our subsequent legislation on poor-laws, corn-laws, and all matters
relating to rating and taxation, would have been impracticable or the
merest guesswork.

As was mentioned in the preceding chapter, Pitt found himself unable to
fulfil the hopes which, in his negotiations with different parties in
Ireland, he had led the Roman Catholics to entertain of the removal of
their civil and political disabilities. So rigorous were those
restrictions, both in England and Ireland, that a Roman Catholic could
not serve even as a private in the militia; and a motion made in 1797 by
Mr. Wilberforce--a man who could certainly not be suspected of any
leaning to Roman Catholic doctrine--to render them admissible to that
service, though it was adopted in the House of Commons, was rejected by
the House of Lords. But Pitt, who on that occasion had supported
Wilberforce, did not confine his views to the removal of a single petty
disability, but proposed to put the whole body of Roman Catholics on a
footing of perfect equality with Protestants in respect of their
eligibility to every kind of office, with one or two exceptions. And
during the autumn of 1800 he was busily engaged in framing the details
of his measure, in order to submit it to his royal master in its
entirety, and so to avoid disquieting him with a repetition of
discussions on the subject, which he knew to be distasteful to him. For,
five years before, George III. had consulted the Chief-justice, Lord
Kenyon, and the Attorney-general, Sir John Scott (afterward Lord Eldon),
on the question whether some proposed concessions to Dissenters,
Protestant as well as Roman Catholic, did not "militate against the
coronation oath and many existing statutes;" and had received their
legal opinion that the tests enacted in the reign of Charles II.,
"though wise laws, and in policy not to be departed from, might be
repealed or altered without any breach of the coronation oath or Act of
Union" (with Scotland).[150] Their opinions on the point were the more
valuable, since they were notoriously opposed to their political
convictions, and might be supposed to have carried sufficient conviction
to the royal mind. But his Majesty's scruples were now, unfortunately,
revived by the Lord Chancellor, who, strange to say, was himself a
Presbyterian; and who treacherously availed himself of his knowledge of
what was in contemplation to anticipate the Prime-minister's intended
explanations to the King. He fully succeeded in his object of fixing the
King's resolution to refuse his assent to the contemplated concessions
(which, by a curious confusion of ideas, his Majesty even characterized
as "Jacobinical"[151]), though not in the object which he had still more
at heart, of inducing the King to regard him as the statesman in the
whole kingdom the most deserving of his confidence. The merits of the
question will be more appropriately examined hereafter. It is sufficient
to say here that Pitt, conceiving himself bound by personal honor as
well as by statesman-like duty to persevere in his intended measure, or
to retire from an office which no man is justified in holding unless he
can discharge its functions in accordance with his own judgment of what
is required by the best interests of the state, resigned his post, and
was succeeded by Mr. Addington.

Addington's ministry was made memorable by the formation of the Northern
Confederacy against us, and its immediate and total overthrow by
Nelson's cannon; and for the Peace of Amiens, severely criticised in
Parliament, as that of Utrecht and every subsequent treaty with a
similar object had been, but defensible both on grounds of domestic
policy, as well as on that of affording us a much-needed respite from
the strain of war; though it proved to be only a respite, and a feverish
one, since at the end of two years the war was renewed, to be waged with
greater fury than ever. But it was too short-lived for any
constitutional questions to arise in it. And when, in 1804, Pitt resumed
the government, his attention was too completely engrossed by the
diplomatic arrangements by which he hoped to unite all the nations east
of the Rhine in resistance to a power whose ever aggressive ambition was
a standing menace to every Continental kingdom, for him to be able to
spare time for the consideration of measures of domestic policy, except
such as were of a financial character. But, though his premature death
rendered his second administration shorter than even Addington's, it was
not wholly unproductive of questions of constitutional interest. It
witnessed a recurrence to that which cannot but be regarded as among the
most important privileges of the House of Commons, the right of
impeaching a minister for maladministration. A report of a commission
appointed for the investigation of the naval affairs of the kingdom had
revealed to Parliament a gross misapplication of the public money
committed by the Paymaster of the Navy. And, as that officer could not
have offended as he had done without either gross carelessness or
culpable connivance on the part of the Treasurer of the Navy, Lord
Melville, who had since been promoted to the post of First Lord of the
Admiralty, the House of Commons ordered his impeachment at the Bar of
the House of Lords; the vote being passed in 1805, during Pitt's
administration, though the trial did not take place till the year
following. In reality, the charge did not impugn Lord Melville's
personal honor, on which at first sight it appeared to press hardly, Mr.
Whitbread himself, the member for Bedford, who was the chief promoter
and manager of the impeachment, admitting that he never imputed to Lord
Melville "any participation in the plunder of the public;" and, as Lord
Melville was acquitted on every one of the charges brought against him,
the case might have been passed over here with the barest mention of it,
were it not that Lord Campbell has pointed out the mode of procedure as
differing from that adopted in the great trial of Warren Hastings,
twenty years before; and, by reason of that difference, forming a model
for future proceedings of the same kind, if, unhappily, there should
ever be occasion given for a similar prosecution. The credit of the
difference Lord Campbell gives to the Chancellor, Lord Erskine, who,
"instead of allowing the House of Lords to sit to hear the case a few
days in a year, and, when sitting, being converted from a court of
justice into a theatre for rhetorical display, insisted that it should
sit, like every other criminal tribunal, _de die in diem_, till the
verdict was delivered. And he enforced both upon the managers of the
House of Commons and on the counsel for the defendant the wholesome
rules of procedure established for the detection of crime and the
protection of innocence."[152] It is well known that on the trial of
Hastings the managers of that impeachment, and most especially Burke,
claimed a right of giving evidence such as no court of law would have
admitted, and set up what they entitled "a usage of Parliament
independent of and contradistinguished from the common law."[153] But on
that occasion Lord Thurlow, then Chancellor, utterly denied the
existence of any such usage--a usage which, "in times of barbarism, when
to impeach a man was to ruin him by the strong hand of power, was quoted
in order to justify the most arbitrary proceedings." He instanced the
trial of Lord Stafford, as one which "was from beginning to end marked
by violence and injustice," and expressed a "hope that in these
enlightened days no man would be tried but by the law of the land." We
may fairly agree with Lord Campbell, that it is to be hoped that the
course adopted by Lord Erskine in this case has settled the principle
and mode of procedure for all future time; since certainly the
importance of an impeachment, both as to the state interests involved in
it, and the high position and authority of the defendant, ought to be
considered as reasons for adhering with the greatest closeness to the
strict rules of law, rather than for relaxing them in any particular.

But, as was natural, the public could spare little attention for
anything except the war, and the arrangements made by the minister for
engaging in it with effect; the interest which such a state of things
always kindles being in this instance greatly inflamed by Napoleon's
avowal of a design to invade the kingdom, though it is now known that
the preparations of which he made such a parade were merely a feint to
throw Austria off her guard.[154] During Addington's administration Pitt
had spoken warmly in favor of giving every possible encouragement to the
Volunteer movement, and also in support of a proposal made by an
independent member, Colonel Crawford, to fortify London; and one of his
first measures after his resumption of office was a measure, known as
the Additional Force Bill, to transfer a large portion of the militia to
the regular army. It was so purely a measure of detail, that it would
hardly have been necessary to mention it, had it not been for an
objection made to it by the Prime-minister's former colleague, Lord
Grenville, and for the reply with which that objection was encountered
by the Chief-justice, Lord Ellenborough; the former denouncing it as
unconstitutional, since, he declared, it tended to establish a large
standing army in time of peace; and Lord Ellenborough, on the other
hand, declaring the right of the crown to call out the whole population
in arms for the defence of the realm to be so "radical, essential, and
hitherto never questioned part of the royal prerogative, that, even in
such an age of adventurous propositions, he had not expected that any
lord would have ventured to question it."[155]

Pitt died in the beginning of 1806, and was succeeded by an
administration of which his great rival, Fox, was the guiding spirit
while he lived, though Lord Grenville was First Lord of the Treasury,
and, after Fox's death, which took place in September, the undisputed
Prime-minister. But the formation of the administration was not
completed without a step which was at once strongly denounced, not only
by the regular Opposition, but by several members of political
moderation, as a violation, if not of the letter, at least of the
spirit, of the constitution, the introduction of the Lord Chief-justice,
Lord Ellenborough, into the cabinet. It was notorious that he was
invited to a seat among that body as the representative of a small
party, the personal friends of Lord Sidmouth. For the ministry was
formed in some degree on the principle of a coalition; Lord Grenville
himself having been a colleague of Pitt throughout the greater part of
that statesman's first ministry, and as such having been always opposed
to Fox; while Lord Ellenborough had been Attorney-general in Addington's
administration, which avowedly only differed from Pitt on the single
subject of the Catholic question.

The appointment was at once made the subject of motions in both Houses
of Parliament. In the House of Lords, Lord Bristol, who brought the
question forward, denounced "this identification of a judge with the
executive government as injurious to the judicial character, subversive
of the liberty of the people, and having a direct and alarming tendency
to blend and amalgamate those great elementary principles of political
power which it is the very object of a free constitution to keep
separate and distinct." In the House of Commons, Mr. Canning took a
similar objection; and, though he admitted that a precedent for the act
might be found in the case of Lord Mansfield who, while Chief-justice,
had also been a cabinet minister in the administration of 1757, he
argued forcibly that that precedent turned against the ministry and the
present appointment, because Lord Mansfield himself had subsequently
admitted that "he had infringed the principles of the constitution by
acting as a cabinet minister and Chief-justice at the same time." Fox,
in reply, relied principally on two arguments. The first was, that "he
had never heard of such a thing as the cabinet council becoming the
subject of a debate in that House. He had never known of the exercise of
the King's prerogative in the appointment of his ministers being brought
into question on such grounds as had now been alleged." The second, that
"in point of fact there is nothing in the constitution that recognizes
any such institution as a cabinet council; that it is a body unknown to
the law, and one which has in no instance whatever been recognized by
Parliament." He farther urged that as Lord Ellenborough was a privy
councillor, and as the cabinet is only a select committee of the Privy
Council, he was, "in fact, as liable to be summoned to attend the
cabinet, as a privy councillor, as he was in his present situation."

The last argument was beneath the speaker to use, since not one of his
hearers was ignorant that no member of the Privy Council unconnected
with the government ever is summoned to the deliberations of the
cabinet; and though, as he correctly stated, "there is no legal record
of the members comprising any cabinet," it may safely be affirmed that
since July, 1714, when the Duke of Argyll and the Duke of Somerset
claimed admission to the deliberations of the ministers, on account of
the danger in which the Queen lay, though they admitted that they had
received no summons to attend,[156] there has been no instance of any
privy councillor attending without a summons; nor, except at the
accession of a new sovereign, of summonses being sent to any members of
the council except the actual ministers. The second argument was even
worse, as being still more sophistical. It might be true that no law nor
statute recognized the cabinet as a body distinct from the Privy
Council, but it was at least equally true that there was no one who was
ignorant of the distinction; that it was, in truth, one without which it
would be difficult to understand the organization or working of any
ministry. The indispensable function and privilege of a ministry is, to
deliberate in concert and in private on the measures to be taken for the
welfare of the state; but there could be little chance of concert, and
certainly none of privacy, if every one who has ever been sworn a member
of the Privy Council had a right to attend all its deliberations. Again,
to say that the King's prerogative, as exercised in the choice of his
advisers, is a thing so sacred that no abuse of it, or want of judgment
shown in its exercise, can warrant a complaint, is inconsistent with
every principle of constitutional government, and with every conceivable
idea of the privileges of Parliament. In fact, Parliament has claimed a
right to interfere in matters apparently touching more nearly the royal
prerogative, and it is only in the reign preceding the present reign
that hostile comments have been made in Parliament on the appointment of
a particular person as ambassador to a foreign power. Yet the post of
ambassador is one which might have been supposed to have been farther
removed from the supervision of Parliament than that of a minister, an
ambassador being in a special degree the personal representative of the
sovereign, and the sovereign therefore, having, it might be supposed, a
right to a most unfettered choice in such a matter.

Stripped of all technicalities, and even of all reference to the
manifest possibility of such a circumstance arising as that the
Chief-justice, if a member of a cabinet, may have a share in ordering
the institution of a prosecution which, as a judge, it may be his lot to
try, one consideration which is undeniable is, that a member of a
cabinet is of necessity, and by the very nature of his position in it, a
party man, and that it is of preeminent importance to the impartiality
of the judicial bench, and to the confidence of the people in the
purity, integrity, and freedom from political bias of their decisions,
that the judges should be exempt from all suspicion of party connection.
Lord Campbell even goes the length of saying, what was not urged on
either side of either House in these debates, that it was alleged by at
least one contemporary writer that Lord Mansfield's position in the
cabinet did perceptibly influence some of his views and measures
respecting the Press;[157] and, though in both Houses the ministry had a
majority on the question of the propriety of the appointment, he records
his own opinion[158] that "the argument was all on the losing side;" and
that Mr. Fox showed his consciousness that it was so by his "concession
that the Chief-justice should absent himself from the cabinet when the
expediency of commencing prosecutions for treason or sedition was to be
discussed." He adds, also, that "it is said that Lord Ellenborough
himself ere long changed his opinion, and, to his intimate friends,
expressed deep regret that he had ever been prevailed upon to enter the

But, if the composition of the cabinet of 1806 has in this respect been
generally condemned, on the other hand the annals of that ministry,
short-lived as it was, are marked by the enactment of one great measure
which has been stamped with universal approbation. It may, perhaps, be
said that the existence, promotion, discouragement, or suppression of a
branch of trade has no title to be regarded as a constitutional
question. But the course which the British Parliament, after a long
period of hesitation, has adopted respecting, not only the slave-trade,
but the employment of slave-labor in any part of the British dominions,
is so intimately connected with the great constitutional principle, that
every man, whatever be his race or nation or previous condition, whose
foot is once planted on British soil, is free from that moment, that it
cannot be accounted a digression to mention the subject here. To our
statesmen of Queen Anne's time traffic in slaves was so far from being
considered discreditable, that the ministry of that reign prided
themselves greatly on what was called the Assiento Treaty with Spain, by
which they secured for the British merchants and ship-owners the
privilege of supplying the West India Islands with several thousand
slaves a year. In 1748 the ministers of George II were equally jealous
of the credit of renewing it. It had even on one occasion been decided
in the Court of Common Pleas that an action of trover could be
maintained for a negro, "because negroes are heathens;" though
Chief-justice Holt scouted the idea of being bound by a precedent which
would put "a human being on the same footing as an ox or an ass," and
declared that "in England there was no such thing as a slave."
Subsequent decisions, however, of two Lord Chancellors--Lord Talbot and
Lord Hardwicke--were not wholly consistent with the doctrine thus laid
down by Holt; and the question could not be regarded as finally settled
till 1772, when a slave named Somersett was brought over to England from
Jamaica by his master, and on his arrival in the Thames claimed his
freedom, and under a writ of _habeas corpus_ had his claim allowed by
Lord Mansfield. The master's counsel contended that slavery was not a
condition unsanctioned by English law, for villeinage was slavery, and
no statute had ever abolished villeinage. But the Chief-justice, in the
first place, denied that villeinage had ever been slavery such as
existed in the West Indies; and, in the second place, he pronounced
that, whether it had been or not, it had, at all events, long ceased in
England, and could not be revived. "The air of England has long been too
pure for a slave, and every man is free who breathes it. Every man who
comes into England is entitled to the protection of English law."[159]
But this freedom was as yet held to be only co-extensive with these
islands. And for sixty years more our West India Islands continued to be
cultivated by the labor of slaves, some of whom were the offspring of
slaves previously employed, though by far the greater part were imported
yearly from the western coast of Africa. The supply from that country
seemed inexhaustible. The native chiefs in time of war gladly sold their
prisoners to the captains of British vessels; in time of peace they sold
them their own subjects; and, if at any time these modes of obtaining
slaves slackened, the captains would land at night, and, attacking the
villages on the coast sweep off the inhabitants on board their ships,
and at once set sail with their booty. The sufferings of these unhappy
captives in what was called the "middle passage"--the passage between
their native land and the West India Islands--were for a long time
unknown or disregarded, till, early in Pitt's first ministry, they
attracted the notice of some of our naval officers who were stationed in
the West Indies, and who, on their return to England, related the
horrors which they had witnessed or heard of--how, between decks too low
to admit of a full-grown man standing upright, the wretched victims,
chained to the sides of the ships, lay squeezed together in such
numbers, though the whole voyage was within the tropics, that, from the
overpowering heat and scantiness of food, it was estimated that
two-thirds of each cargo died on the passage. Most fortunately for the
credit of England, the fearful trade was brought under the notice of a
young member of Parliament singularly zealous in the cause of humanity
and religion, endowed with untiring industry and powerful eloquence, and
connected by the closest ties of personal intimacy with Mr. Pitt. To
hear of such a system of organized murder, as the British officers
described the slave-trade to be, was quite sufficient to induce Mr.
Wilberforce to resolve to devote himself to its suppression. He laid the
case in all its horrors before his friend the Prime-minister, a man as
ready as himself to grapple with and extinguish all proved abuses; and
Pitt at once promised him all the support which he could give. It was no
easy task that he had taken on himself. A year or two before, Burke had
applied himself to frame some regulations which he hoped might gradually
remove the evil; but, little as he was moved by considerations of
popularity or daunted by difficulty, he had abandoned the attempt, as
one which would meet with a resistance too powerful to be overcome.
Wilberforce was not a bolder man than Burke, but he had no other object
to divide his attention, and, therefore, to this one he devoted all his
faculties and energies, enlisting supporters in every quarter, seeking
even the co-operation of the French government, and opening a
correspondence with the French Secretary of State, M. Montmorin, a
statesman of great capacity, and, what was far rarer in France, of
incorruptible honesty. M. Montmorin, however, though alive to the
cruelty of the traffic, was unable to promise him any aid, alleging the
fears of the French planters that its abolition "would ruin the French
islands. He said that it was one of those subjects upon which the
interests of men and their sentiments were so much at variance, that it
was difficult to learn what was practicable."[160]

Wilberforce had already found that the English merchants were still less
manageable. Pitt had entered so fully into his views, that in 1788 he
himself moved and carried a resolution pledging the House of Commons to
take the slave-trade into consideration in the next session. And another
friend of the cause, Sir W. Dobben, brought in a bill to diminish the
horrors of the middle passage by proportioning the number of slaves who
might be conveyed in one ship to the tonnage of the vessel. But those
concerned in the West India trade rose up in arms against even so
moderate a measure, and one so clearly demanded by the most ordinary
humanity as this. The Liverpool merchants declared that the absence of
restrictions on the slave-trade had been the chief cause of the
prosperity and opulence of their town, and obtained leave to be heard by
counsel against the bill. But Fox united with Pitt on this subject, and
the bill was carried. But this was all the practical success which the
efforts of the "Abolitionists," as they began to be called, achieved for
many years. And even that was not won without extreme difficulty; Lord
Chancellor Thurlow opposing it with great vehemence in the House of
Lords, as the fruit of a "five days' fit of philanthropy which had just
sprung up," and pointing to the conduct of the French government, which,
as he asserted, had offered premiums to encourage the trade, as an
example that we should do well to follow. It was even said that he had
contrived to incline the King himself to the same view; to have
persuaded him that the trade was indispensable to the prosperity of our
manufacturers, and, in the Chancellor's words, "that it was his royal
duty to show some humanity to the whites as well as to the negroes." And
more than once, when bills to limit or wholly suppress the trade had
been passed by the Commons, the same mischievous influence defeated them
in the Lords. The last years of Pitt's first administration were too
fully occupied with the affairs of Ireland, negotiations with foreign
powers, and the great war with France, to enable him to keep pace with
his friend's zeal on the subject. But in his second administration,
occupied though he was with a recurrence of the same causes, he found
time to prepare and issue an Order in Council prohibiting the
importation of slaves into our fresh colonial acquisitions, and the
employment of British ships to supply the Dutch, French, and Spanish

And this Order in Council paved the way for the total abolition. One of
the earliest proceedings of the new ministry was the introduction by the
Attorney-general, Sir Arthur Pigott, of a bill to extend and make it
perpetual; to forbid "the importation of African negroes by British
ships into the colonies conquered by or ceded to us in war; or into the
colonies of any neutral state in the West Indies. For at present every
state that had colonies in America or the West Indies, and that was not
actually at war with us, availed itself of the opportunity of British
shipping to carry on the trade." It was resisted as vehemently as any
former measure with the same object, and partly on the new ground that
it would in no degree stop the trade or diminish the sufferings of the
Africans, but would merely rob our ship-owners of their profits to
enrich the Americans. Mr. Rose, the member for Christchurch, who
advanced this argument, had been a friend of Pitt; yet, though he quoted
an instance of a single vessel having buried one hundred and fifty-two
slaves on one voyage, he was not ashamed to deprecate the bill, on the
plea that "the manufacturers of Manchester, Stockport, and Paisley would
be going about naked and starving, and thus, by attending to a supposed
claim for relief from a distant quarter, we should give existence to
much more severe distress at home." The bill, however, was carried in
both Houses, and received the royal assent. And Fox, who supported it
warmly in his speech on the third reading (one of the last speeches
which he ever addressed to the House), invited Wilberforce to regard it
as a stepping-stone to the total abolition of the trade, and as an
encouragement to renew his motion for that object; and, though he could
not promise him the support of the government as a government, he "could
answer for himself and many of his friends who held the highest and most
dignified stations in the other House of Parliament. They still felt the
question of the total abolition as one involving the dearest interests
of humanity, and as one which, should they be successful in effecting
it, would entail more true glory upon their administration, and more
honor upon their country, than any other transaction in which they could
be engaged."

Mr. Fox did not live to see the opening of another session; but, when
that time came, the position which he had taken up, that the measure of
which he had thus promoted the passing was an encouragement to do more,
was adopted to its full extent by the chief of his colleagues, Lord
Grenville, who, in February, 1807, himself brought forward a motion for
the entire abolition of the trade. Though he was Prime-minister, he
could not introduce it as a government measure, since two of his
colleagues--Lord Sidmouth, the President of the Council, and Mr.
Windham, the Secretary of State for the Colonies--opposed it; though the
former professed a desire to see the trade abolished, but would have
preferred to attain that end by imposing such a tax on every slave
imported as should render the trade unprofitable. He had another
obstacle also to encounter, in the vehement opposition of some of the
princes of the royal family, the Dukes of Clarence and Sussex more
especially, who were known to be canvassing against the bill, and were
generally understood, in so doing, to be acting in accordance with the
views of their elder brothers. But he was confident that by this time
the feeling of the whole country was with him on the subject. He was
resolved to rest his case on its justice, and therefore consented that
the House should hear counsel on the subject, though he resisted their
demand to be allowed to call witnesses. Accordingly, counsel were heard
for the whole body of West India planters, and for those of one or two
separate islands, such as Jamaica and Trinidad; for the Liverpool
merchants, and even for the trustees of the Liverpool Docks. But some of
their reasonings he even turned against themselves, refusing for a
moment to admit "that the profits obtained by robbery could be urged as
an argument for the continuance of robbery." He denounced the trade as
"the most criminal that any country could be engaged in," and as one
that led to other crimes in the treatment of the slaves after they
reached the West Indies. He instanced "three most horrible and dreadful
murders of slaves" that had been committed in Barbadoes, and quoted the
report of Lord Seaforth, governor of the island, who, on investigation,
had found that by the law of the colony the punishment affixed to such
murders was a fine of eleven pounds. He was opposed by the Duke of
Clarence, who directed his remarks chiefly to a defence of the general
humanity of the planters; and by Lord Westmoreland, who, in a speech of
singular intemperance, denounced the principle of the measure, as one
after the passing of which "no property could be rendered safe which
could fall within the power of the Legislature." He even made it an
argument against the bill that its principle, if carried to its
legitimate logical end, must tend to the abolition of slavery as well as
of the slave-trade. He objected especially to the assertion in the
preamble that the trade was "contrary to justice and humanity,"
declaring that those words were only inserted in the hope that by them
"foreign powers might be humbugged into a concurrence with the
abolition," and wound up his harangue by a declaration that, though he
should "see the Presbyterian and the prelate, the Methodist and
pew-preacher, the Jacobin and the murderer, unite in support of it, he
would still raise his voice against it." It must have been more painful
to the minister to be opposed by so distinguished an officer as Lord St.
Vincent, who resisted the bill chiefly on the ground that "its effect
would be to transfer British capital to other countries, which would not
be disposed to abandon so productive a trade," and declared that he
could only account for Lord Grenville's advocacy of it "by supposing
that some Obi man had cast his spell upon him." But the case was too
strong for any arguments to prevail which were based solely on the
profits of a trade which no one pretended to justify. The bill passed
the Lords by a majority of nearly three to one; in the House of Commons,
where the opposition was much feebler, by one infinitely larger;[161]
and, by a somewhat remarkable coincidence, it received the royal assent
on the same day on which Lord Grenville announced to his brother peers
that his administration was at an end.

Even before the abolition had thus become law, the member for
Northumberland, Earl Percy, endeavored to give practical effect to Lord
Westmoreland's view, that emancipation of the slaves was its inevitable
corollary, by moving for leave to bring in a bill for the gradual
abolition of slavery in the British settlements of the West Indies. But
he was opposed by Lord Howick,[162] though he had been among the earnest
advocates of abolition, partly for the sake of the negroes themselves,
and partly on the ground that the Legislature had no "right to interfere
with the property of the colonists;" little foreseeing that the measure
which he now opposed was reserved for his own administration, and that
its accomplishment would be one of its chief titles to the respectful
recollection of posterity. And, as the House was presently counted out,
the discussion would not have been worth recording, were it not for the
opportunity which it gave of displaying the practical and moderate
wisdom of Wilberforce himself, who joined in the opposition to Lord
Percy's motion. "The enemies of abolition had," he said, "always
confounded abolition with emancipation. He and his friends had always
distinguished between them; and not only abstained from proposing
emancipation, but were ready to reject it when proposed by others. How
much soever he looked forward with anxious expectation to the period
when the negroes might with safety be liberated, he knew too well the
effect which the long continuance of abject slavery produced upon the
human mind to think of their immediate emancipation, a measure which at
the present moment would be injurious both to them and to the colonies.
He and those who acted with him were satisfied with having gained an
object which was safely attainable."

And they had reason to be satisfied. For the good work thus done was not
limited by the extent of the British dominions, vast as they are. The
example of the homage thus paid by the Parliament and the nation to
justice and humanity was contagious; the principle on which the bill was
founded and was carried being such that, for mere shame, foreign
countries could hardly persist in maintaining a traffic which those who
had derived the greatest profit from it had on such grounds renounced;
though our ministers did not trust to their spontaneous sympathies, but
made the abolition of the traffic by our various allies, or those who
wished to become so, a constant object of diplomatic negotiations, even
purchasing the co-operation of some by important concessions, in one
instance by the payment of a large sum of money. The conferences and
congresses which took place on the re-establishment of peace gave them
great facilities for pressing their views on the different governments.
And Lord Liverpool's instructions to Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of
Wellington, as plenipotentiaries of our government,[163] show the keen
interest which he took in the matter, and the skilful manner in which he
sought to avail himself of the predominant influence which the exertions
and triumphs of this country had given her with every foreign cabinet.
Though Portugal was an ally to whom we regarded ourselves as bound by
special ties, as well as by the great benefits we had conferred on her,
yet, as she clung with the greatest pertinacity to the trade, he did not
scruple to endeavor to put a constraint upon her which should compel her
submission, and instructed Lord Castlereagh "to induce the Congress to
take the best means in their power to enforce it by the adoption of a
law, on the part of the several states, to exclude the colonial produce
of those countries who should refuse to comply with this system of

And exertions so resolutely put forward were so successful, that the
trade was avowedly proscribed by every European nation, though
unquestionably it was still carried on by stealth by merchants and
ship-owners of more than one country--not, if the suspicions of our
statesmen were well founded, without some connivance on the part of
their governments. Nor were our efforts in the cause the fitful display
of impulsive excitement. We have continued them and widened their sphere
as occasions have presented themselves, exerting a successful influence
even over unchristian and semi-civilized governments, of which an
instance has very recently been furnished, in the assurances given by
the Khedive of Egypt to our minister residing at his court, that he is
taking vigorous measures to suppress the slave-trade, which is still
carried on in the interior of Africa; and that we may believe his
promise that he will not relax his exertions till it is extinguished, at
least in the region on the north of the equator.

Individuals, as a rule, are slow to take warning from the experience of
others; slower, perhaps, to follow their example in well-doing. Nations
are slower still. When such an example is followed, still more when it
is adopted by a general imitation, it will usually be found not only
that the good is of a very unusual standard of excellence, but that he
or they who have set the example are endowed with a force of character
that predisposes others to submit to their influence. And credit of this
kind England may fairly claim for the general abolition of the
slave-trade; for the condemnation and abolition of the slave-trade had
this distinguishing feature, that the idea of such a policy was of
exclusively British origin. No nation had ever before conceived the
notion that to make a man a slave was a crime. On the contrary, there
were not wanting those who, from the recognition of such a condition in
the Bible, argued that it was a divine institution. And they who
denounced it, and labored for its suppression, had not only inveterate
prejudice and long custom to contend with, but found arrayed against
them many of the strongest passions that animate mankind. The natural
desire for gain united merchants, ship-owners, and planters in unanimous
resistance to a measure calculated to cut off from them one large source
of profit. Patriotism, which, however misguided, was sincere and free
from all taint of personal covetousness, induced many, who wore wholly
unconnected either with commerce or with the West Indies, to look with
disfavor on a change which not only imperilled the interests of such
important bodies of men, but which they were assured by those concerned,
must render the future cultivation of estates in the West Indies
impracticable; while such a result would not only ruin those valuable
colonies, but would also extinguish that great nursery for our navy
which was furnished by the vessels at present engaged in the West India
trade. To disregard such substantial considerations to risk a loss of
revenue, a diminution of our colonial greatness, and a weakening of our
maritime power, even while engaged in a formidable war, under no other
pressure but that of a respect for humanity and justice, was certainly a
homage to those virtues, and also an act of self-denying courage, of
which the previous history of the world had furnished no similar
example; and it is one of which, in one point of view, the nation may be
more justly proud than of the achievements of its wisest statesmen, or
the exploits of its most invincible warriors. For it was the act of the
nation itself. No previous sentiment of the people paved the way for
Pitt's triumphs in finance, for Nelson's or Wellington's victories by
sea and land; but the slave-trade could never have been abolished by any
parliamentary leader, had not the nation as a whole become convinced of
its wickedness, and, when once so convinced, resolved to brave
everything rather than persist in it. The merit of having impressed it
with this conviction belongs to Mr. Wilberforce, whose untiring,
unswerving devotion of brilliant eloquence and practical ability to the
one holy object, and whose ultimate success, give him a just claim to be
reckoned among the great men of a generation than which the world has
seen none more prolific of every kind of greatness. But the nation
itself is also entitled to no slight credit for having so rapidly
appreciated the force of his teaching, and for having encouraged its
representatives to listen to his voice, by the knowledge that by
adopting his measures they would be carrying out the wish and
determination of the whole people.

A measure for the strengthening of the army, introduced by the Secretary
of State for War, Mr. Windham, though not one of perpetual force, since
it required to be renewed every year, claims a brief mention, from the
extent to which one of its clauses trenched on the freedom of the
subject, by making every man of military age (from sixteen years
old[164] to forty) liable to be compelled to submit to military training
for a certain period of each year. "Nothing," to quote the Secretary's
words, "was to exempt any man from the general training but his becoming
a volunteer at his own expense, the advantage of which would be that he
could train himself if he chose, and fight, if occasion required it, in
the corps to which he should belong, instead of being liable to fall in
among the regulars.... As out of the immense mass of the population some
selection must be made, those called on to be trained were to be
selected by lot, and he would have the people divided into three
classes, between the ages of sixteen and forty: the first class to
comprehend all from sixteen to twenty-four; the second, those between
twenty-four and thirty-two; and the third, all from thirty-two to forty.
The number of days for training he proposed to limit to twenty-six, with
an allowance of a shilling a day for each man." The result aimed at by
this part of his measure was the creation of a force different from and
unconnected with the militia; and he did not conceal his hope that the
military habits which it would implant in a large portion of the
population would lead many of those thus about to be trained to enlist
in the regular army. To the militia itself he paid a high but not
undeserved compliment, declaring it "for home service certainly equal to
any part of our regular forces, with the single exception that it had
never seen actual service." But the militia could not be called on to
serve out of the kingdom; and his object was to increase the force
available for foreign service--"to see the great mass of the population
of the country so far trained as to be able to recruit immediately
whatever losses the regular army might sustain in action." As yet, the
number of men yearly obtained by recruiting fell far short of the
requirements of the service. Wellington had not yet begun that career of
victory which created a national enthusiasm for war, and filled our
ranks with willing soldiers. And another clause of the same bill was
framed in the hope of making the service more acceptable to the
peasantry, by limiting the time for which recruits were to be enlisted,
and entering men, at first, in the infantry for seven years, or in the
cavalry (as that branch of the service required a longer apprenticeship)
for ten; then allowing them the option of renewing their engagement for
two periods--in the infantry of seven years each, in the cavalry of six
and five, with increased pay during each of the two periods, and a small
pension for life, if the soldier retired after the second period; and
"the full allowance of Chelsea," which was to be farther raised to a
shilling a day, for those who elected to serve the whole twenty-one
years. This principle the present reign has seen carried to a much
greater extent, but the change is too recent for even the most
experienced officers to be agreed on its effects. And it is only because
of this recent extension of it that this clause is mentioned here. But
the enactment of a law of compulsory service was clearly an inroad on
the great constitutional right of every man to choose his own
employment. At the same time, it is equally clear that it was only such
an inroad as under the circumstances, was fully justifiable. It is true
that all danger of French invasion had passed away with Trafalgar; but
the kingdom was still engaged in a gigantic war, and the necessity of
the case--always the supreme law--was so little denied by the
Opposition, that their objections to the bill were directed entirely
against the clause for limited enlistment, and not against that which
abridged the subject's liberty, by compelling him to learn to serve his
country in war.

The reign of George III., which had now lasted fifty years, was drawing
practically to a close. The excitement caused by the ministerial changes
in 1801 had already brought on one relapse, though fortunately a very
brief one, of the King's malady of 1788; and in the autumn of 1810 the
death of the daughter who was supposed to be his especial favorite, the
Princess Amelia, produced a recurrence of it, which, though at first the
physicians entertained more sanguine hopes of his speedy recovery than
on any former occasion, he never shook off. More than one change of
ministry had recently taken place. In 1807 Lord Grenville had been
compelled, as Pitt had been in 1801, to choose between yielding his
opinions on the Catholic question or resigning his office, and had
chosen the latter alternative. He had been succeeded for two years by
the Duke of Portland; but in 1809 that nobleman had also retired, and
had been succeeded by his Attorney-general, Mr. Perceval, the only
practising barrister who had ever been so promoted. And he now being
Prime-minister, and, as such, forced to make arrangements for carrying
on the government during the illness of his sovereign, naturally
regarded the course pursued in 1789 as the precedent to be followed.
Accordingly, on the 20th of December he proposed for the adoption of the
House of Commons the same resolutions which Pitt had carried twenty-two
years before--that the King was prevented by indisposition from
attending to public business; that it was the duty of Parliament to
provide means for supplying the defect of the personal exercise of the
royal authority, and its duty also to determine the mode in which the
royal assent to the measures necessary could be signified. And he also
followed Pitt's example in expressing by letter to the Prince of Wales
his conviction that his Royal Highness was a person most proper to be
appointed Regent, and explaining at the same time the restrictions which
seemed proper to be imposed on his immediate exercise of the complete
sovereign authority; though the advanced age at which the King had now
arrived made it reasonable that those restrictions should now be limited
to a single year. The Prince, on his part, showed that time had in no
degree abated his repugnance to those restrictions, and he answered the
minister's letter by referring him to that which he had addressed to
Pitt on the same subject in 1788. And he induced all his brothers to
address to Perceval a formal protest against "the establishment of a
restricted Regency," which they proceeded to describe as perfectly
unconstitutional, as being contrary to and subversive of the principles
which seated their family upon the throne of this realm.[165]

Perceval, however, with Pitt's example before him, had no doubt of the
course which it was his duty to pursue; and the Opposition also, for the
most part, followed the tactics of 1789; the line of argument now
adopted by each party being so nearly identical with that employed on
the former occasion, that it is needless to recapitulate the topics on
which the different speakers insisted; though it is worth remarking that
Lord Holland, who, as the nephew of Fox, thought it incumbent on him to
follow his uncle's guidance, did on one point practically depart from
it. As his uncle had done, he denied the right of the Houses to impose
any restrictions on the Prince's exercise of the royal authority; but,
at the same time, he consented to put what may be called a moral
limitation on that exercise, by adding to an amendment which he proposed
to the resolution proposed by the minister an expression of "the farther
opinion of the House that it will be expedient to abstain from the
exercise of all such powers as the immediate exigencies of the state
shall not call into action, until Parliament shall have passed a bill or
bills for the future care of his Majesty's royal person during his
Majesty's present indisposition."

It is remarkable that the leaders of the Opposition were in a great
degree stimulated in the line they took by the very same hopes which had
animated Fox and his followers in 1789--the expectation that the
Regent's first act would be to discard the existing ministry, and to
place them in office. But again they were disappointed in their
anticipations, of the realization of which they had made so sure that
they had taken no pains to keep them secret. They even betrayed their
mortification to the world when the Prince's intentions on the subject
of the administration became known by the violence of their language in
Parliament, some of their party denouncing the employment of the Great
Seal to give the royal assent to the bill as "fraud and forgery." Nor,
indeed, could the Regent himself, even while expressing his intention to
make no change in the administration, lest "any act of his might in the
smallest degree have the effect of interfering with the progress of his
sovereign's recovery," suppress an expression of dissatisfaction at the
recent arrangements, which he considered had placed him in "a situation
of unexampled embarrassment," and had created "a state of affairs ill
calculated, as he feared, to sustain the interests of the United Kingdom
in this awful and perilous crisis, and most difficult to be reconciled
to the general principles of the British constitution."[166] There were
at this time general and apparently well-founded hopes of the King's
recovery. For at intervals during the whole of January the
Prime-minister had interviews with his Majesty; and, on the very day on
which the bill became law, the King himself mentioned it to Lord Eldon,
the Chancellor, and said that he acquiesced in it from perfect
confidence in the advice of his physicians, and on the sound judgment
and personal attachment of his ministers.

For the present, therefore, no change was made in the administration;
but when, in the spring of the following year, Mr. Perceval was
murdered, the necessity for a new arrangement which this strange and
calamitous atrocity forced upon the Regent--who by this time had come
into possession of his full authority--led to his making offers of the
conduct of affairs to more than one prominent statesman, all of them, as
is somewhat remarkable, being peers. And, though the proposals
eventually came to nothing, and the negotiations terminated in the
re-establishment of the former ministry, with Lord Liverpool at its
head, yet some of the causes to which their failure was publicly or
generally attributed seem desirable to be recorded, because the first,
and that most openly avowed, bears a not very distant resemblance to the
complication which baffled Sir Robert Peel's endeavors to form an
administration in 1839; and another corresponds precisely to a proposal
which, in 1827, the Regent--then King George IV.--did himself make to
the Duke of Wellington. It is unnecessary to dwell on the singular
manner in which the Regent first professed to give his confidence to
Lord Wellesley, then transferred it to Lord Moira,[167] and then to a
certain extent included Lord Grey and Lord Grenville in it. Nor would it
be profitable to discuss the correctness or incorrectness of the
suspicion expressed by Mr. Moore, in his "Life of Sheridan"--who was
evidently at this time as fully in the Regent's confidence as any one
else--that "at the bottom of all these evolutions of negotiation there
was anything but a sincere wish, that the object to which they related
should be accomplished."[168] The reason avowed by Lord Grey and Lord
Grenville for refusing a share in the projected administration was the
refusal of Lord Moira, who had been employed by the Prince to treat with
them on the subject, to allow them to make a power of removing the
officers at present filling "the great offices of the household"[169] an
express condition of their acceptance of ministerial office. They
affirmed that a "liberty to make new appointments" to these offices had
usually been given on every change of administration. But Lord Moira,
while admitting that "the Prince had laid no restriction on him in that
respect," declared that "it would be impossible for him to concur in
making the exercise of this power positive and indispensable in the
formation of the administration, because he should deem it on public
grounds peculiarly objectionable." Such an answer certainly gives a
great color to Moore's suspicion, since it is hardly possible to
conceive that Lord Moira took on himself the responsibility of giving it
without a previous knowledge that it would be approved by his royal
master. In a constitutional point of view, there can, it will probably
be felt, be no doubt that the two lords had a right to the liberty they
required. And the very men concerned, the great officers of the
household, were evidently of the same opinion, since the chief, Lord
Yarmouth, informed Sheridan that they intended to resign, in order that
he might communicate that intention to Lord Grey; and Sheridan, who
concealed the intelligence from Lord Grey, can hardly be supposed, any
more than Lord Moira, to have acted in a manner which he did not expect
to be agreeable to the Prince. But, in Canning's opinion, this question
of the household was only the ostensible pretext, and not the real
cause, of those two lords rejecting the Regent's offers; the real cause
being, as he believed, that the Prince himself had already named Lord
Wellesley as Prime-minister, and that they were resolved to insist on
the right of the Whig party to dictate on that point to the Regent,[170]
just as, in 1782, Fox had endeavored to force the Duke of Portland on
the King, when his Majesty preferred Lord Shelburne. As has been
intimated in a former page, it will be seen hereafter that in 1839 a
similar claim to be allowed to remove some of the ladies of the royal
household, and the rejection of that claim by the sovereign, prevented
Sir R. Peel from forming an administration. And, as that transaction was
discussed at some length in Parliament, it will afford a better
opportunity for examining the principle on which the claim and practice
(for of the practice there is no doubt) rest. For the present it is
sufficient to point out the resemblance between the cases.

But it is remarkable that, unwarrantable as the pretension of the Whig
leaders was to dictate to the Regent to whom he should confide the lead
of the government (if, indeed, Canning be correct in his opinion), yet
it was not one to which the Regent felt any repugnance, since, in 1827,
when Lord Liverpool's illness again left the Treasury vacant, he, being
then on the throne as George IV., proposed to the Duke of Wellington to
desire the remaining members of the administration themselves to select
a chief under whom they would be willing to continue in his service; but
the Duke told him that the plan of allowing them to choose their own
leader would be most derogatory to his position; that the choice of the
Prime-minister was an act which ought to be entirely his own, for that,
in fact under the British constitution, it was the only personal act of
government which the King of Great Britain had to perform.[171] Though
not generally a great authority on constitutional points, we apprehend
that the Duke was clearly correct in this view, which, indeed, has been
so invariably carried out in practice, that the King's suggestion would
not have deserved mention had it not been a king's. So far from it
belonging to any individual subject or to any party to name the
Prime-minister, to do so is even beyond the province of the Parliament.
Parliament decides whether it will give its confidence to an
administration of one party or the other; but not only has no vote ever
been given on the question whether one member of the dominant party be
fitter or not than another to be its head, but we do not remember a
single instance of any member of either House expressing an opinion on
the subject in his place in Parliament. To do so would be felt by every
member of experience to be an infringement on the prerogative of his
sovereign; and it may be added that a contrary practice would certainly
open the door to intrigue, or, what would be equally bad, a suspicion of
intrigue, and would thus inevitably diminish the weight which even the
Opposition desire to see a Prime-minister possess both in Parliament and
in the country.


[Footnote 148: It is somewhat remarkable that Lord Macaulay, in his
endeavors to estimate the population in 1685, takes no notice of any of
these details mentioned by Mr. Abbott.]

[Footnote 149: The details of this census of 1801 are given in a note in
the preceding chapter (see page 185), from which it appears that the
entire population of the United Kingdom was in that year 16,395,870. Sir
A. Alison, in different chapters of the second part of his "History of
Europe," gives returns of subsequent censuses, from the last of which
(c. lvi., s. 34, note), it appears that in 1851 the population amounted
to 27,511,862. an increase of 11,116,792 in half a century.]

[Footnote 150: "Lives of the Chief-justices," by Lord Campbell, iii.,
87, life of Lord Kenyon.]

[Footnote 151: "What is this," said George III. to Mr. Dundas, "which
this young lord (Castlereagh) has brought over, which they are going to
throw at my head? The most Jacobinical thing I ever heard of! I shall
reckon any man my personal enemy who proposes any such measure."--_Life
of Pitt_, iii., 274.]

[Footnote 152: "Lives of the Chancellors," c. clxxxiv., life of Lord

[Footnote 153: "Lives of the Chancellors," c. clix., life of Lord

[Footnote 154: See "Memoires de M. de Metternich," ii., 156.]

[Footnote 155: "Lives of the Chief-justices," iii., 175.]

[Footnote 156: Lord Stanhope, "History of England," i., 133.]

[Footnote 157: "Lives of the Chief-justices," ii., 451. He is quoting H.

[Footnote 158: Ibid., iii., 187.]

[Footnote 159: Campbell's "Lives of the Chief-justices," II., 139, life
of Chief-justice Holt; and p. 418, life of Lord Mansfield.]

[Footnote 160: "Life of Wilberforce," i., 158.]

[Footnote 161: The division in the Lords was 100 to 36; in the Commons,
283 to 16.]

[Footnote 162: Afterward the Earl Grey of 1831.]

[Footnote 163: See especially his "Letters to Lord Castlereagh," p. 814;
and "Life of Lord Liverpool," i., 512; ii., 35, 49, 127.]

[Footnote 164: Lord Colchester's "Diary," ii., 49, dated April 3, 1806,
says eighteen years. But Mr. Windham's speech, as reported in the
"Parliamentary History," second series, vi., 685, says sixteen years;
and as he divides the ages into three classes, the two latter of which,
from twenty-four to thirty-two, and from thirty-two to forty, are of
eight years each, it is probable that the younger class was of the same
duration, i.e., from sixteen to twenty-four.]

[Footnote 165: Lord Colchester's "Diary," ii., 300.]

[Footnote 166: See "Diary of Lord Colchester" (Speaker at the time), c.
xxxvi., p. 316. He gives the whole of the Prince's letter to Perceval
(which had been composed by Sheridan), and of Perceval's reply. The
Regency Bill became law February 5, 1811.]

[Footnote 167: A letter of Lord Wellesley to Lord Grey, June 4 (given by
Pearce, "Life of Lord Wellesley," iii., 270), shows that Lord Moira had
been in communication with Lord Grey and Lord Grenville before Lord
Wellesley had given up the idea of forming a ministry. And though Lord
Grey in his reply (p. 272) expresses his conviction that Lord Moira's
letter was not "an authorized communication," but only "a private
communication," it is clear that it could not have been written without
the privity of the Regent.]

[Footnote 168: "Life of Sheridan," ii., 425.]

[Footnote 169: Pearce's "Life of Lord Wellesley," iii., 276. All the
letters which passed between Lord Grey, Lord Grenville, Lord Moira, and
Lord Wellesley himself are given at full length by Mr. Pearce in that

[Footnote 170: Stapleton's "George Canning and his Times," p. 202.]

[Footnote 171: Mr. Stapleton affirms that his Royal Highness actually
did adopt this plan on this occasion: "His Royal Highness adopted the
unprecedented course of commanding his servants to elect the
First-minister. Their choice fell on Lord Liverpool."--_George Canning
and his Times_, p. 208. Mr. Stapleton, however, gives no authority for
this assertion, and he was probably mistaken, since Lord Liverpool's
papers afford no corroboration of it, but rather tend to disprove it.]


The Toleration Act.--Impropriety of making Catholic Emancipation (or any
other Important Matter) an Open Question.--Joint Responsibility of all
the Ministers.--Detention of Napoleon at St. Helena.--Question whether
the Regent could Give Evidence in a Court of Law in a Civil
Action.--Agitation for Reform.--Public Meetings.--The Manchester
Meeting.--The Seditious Meetings Prevention Bill.--Lord Sidmouth's Six

The war was daily becoming of more exciting interest, and, so far as our
armies were concerned, was rapidly assuming greater proportions. While
the Duke of Portland was still at the head of affairs, Napoleon, by his
unprovoked attacks on both the Peninsular kingdoms, had at last opened a
field of action to our armies, in which even the most sanguine of those
who placed a loyal confidence in the old invincibility of English
prowess could not have anticipated the unbroken series of glories which
were to reward their efforts. For four years Lord Wellington had
contended against all the most renowned marshals of the Empire,[172]
driving them back from impregnable lines of defence, defeating them in
pitched battles, storming their strongest fortresses, without ever
giving them room to boast of even the most momentary advantage obtained
over himself; and he was now on the eve of achieving still more
brilliant and decisive triumphs, which were never to cease till he had
carried his victorious march far into the heart of France itself.

At such a time it may well be supposed that the attention of the new
ministry was too fully occupied with measures necessary for the conduct
of the war to leave it much time for domestic legislation. Yet even its
first session was not entirely barren.

In the first excitement of the Restoration, when the nation was still
exasperated at the recollection of what it had suffered under the
triumphant domination of the Puritans, two laws had been framed to
chastise them, conceived in a spirit as intolerant and persecuting as
had dictated the very worst of their own. One, which was called the
Conventicle Act, inflicted on all persons above the age of sixteen, who
should be present at any religious service performed in any manner
differently from the service of the Church of England, in any
meeting-house, where more than five persons besides the occupiers of the
house should be present, severe penalties, rising gradually to
transportation; and gave a single magistrate authority to convict and to
pass sentence on the offenders. The other, commonly known as the Five
Mile Act, forbade all ministers, of any sect, who did not subscribe to
the Act of Uniformity, and who refused to swear to their belief in the
doctrine of passive obedience, from teaching in any school, and from
coming within five miles of any city, corporate town, or borough sending
members to Parliament, or any town or village in which they themselves
had resided as ministers. The latter statute had fallen into complete
disuse, and many of the provisions of the former had been relaxed,
though magistrates in general construed the relaxing enactments as
leaving the relaxations wholly at their discretion to grant or to
withhold, and were very much in the habit of withholding or abridging
them. Other statutes, such as the Test Act, had subsequently been passed
against every sect of Dissenters, though they had only imposed civil
disabilities, and had not inflicted penalties. But the new
Prime-minister was a man to whose disposition anything resembling
persecution was foreign and repugnant. Before his predecessor's unhappy
death he had already discussed with him the propriety of abolishing laws
conceived in such a spirit; and he no sooner found himself at the head
of the government than he prepared a bill to carry out his views. He
drew a distinction between the acts inflicting penalties and those which
only imposed disabilities. With these latter he did not propose to
interfere; but, in July, his colleague, Lord Castlereagh, introduced
into the House of Commons a bill to repeal the Conventicle Act and the
Five Mile Act altogether, and, when it had passed the Commons, he
himself moved its adoption by the Lords, enforcing his recommendation by
the argument, that "an enlarged and liberal toleration was the best
security to the Established Church, a Church not founded on the
exclusion of religious discussion, but, in its homilies, its canons, and
all the principles on which it rested, courting the investigation of the
Scriptures, upon which it founded its doctrines." At the same time,
while urging the repeal of acts which he truly branded as a disgrace to
the statute-book, he was not blind to the duty imposed on him, as
responsible for the public tranquillity, of taking care that meetings
held ostensibly for purposes of devotion should not be perverted to the
designs of political agitators; and therefore he provided in the bill
for the registration of all places appropriated to religious worship,
and for the exaction from "the preachers and teachers in those meetings
of some test or security in the oaths to be taken by them." He had
already secured the acquiescence of the bishops, and he was equally
successful now in winning the assent of the House. The conditions, such
as they were, did not prevent the bill from being entirely acceptable to
the Non-conformists; and though their spokesman in the House of Commons,
Mr. W. Smith, member for Norwich, confessed a wish "that it had gone a
little farther, and had granted complete religious liberty," he at the
same time expressed sincere gratitude on the part of the Non-conformists
for what was thus done for them; and declared that, "as an act of
toleration, it certainly was the most complete which had hitherto been
passed in this country." It was, in fact, the beginning of the
abandonment of that system of discouragement of and hostility to all
sects except the Established Church, which had hitherto been regarded by
a large party as one of the most essential principles of the
constitution. And as such it makes the year 1812 in some respects a
landmark in our constitutional history.

Mr. Smith had referred to an omission which prevented him from speaking
of the bill as complete. He was alluding to the Test and Corporation
Acts, which had been passed ten years later than the Conventicle Act, in
the same reign of Charles II., and which many of the Non-conformists,
and especially the Unitarians, had urged Lord Liverpool to include in
this measure of repeal, but which he decided on retaining. As has been
said above, he drew a distinction between acts inflicting penalties and
those which went no farther than imposing political disabilities,
feeling that any relief of Protestant Dissenters from such disabilities
must inevitably lead to the concession of a similar indulgence to Roman
Catholics, and not being as yet prepared to admit to Parliament the
members of a Church which recognized the duty of obedience in any matter
to a foreign sovereign; for, as the disabilities had been originally
imposed on the Roman Catholics, so they were now maintained on
political, not religious, grounds; and even those most opposed to a
relaxation of them were careful to explain their resistance to be one
which time and a change of circumstances might mitigate.[173]

As a fitter opportunity for discussing the question will be afforded by
the Duke of Wellington's bill, in 1829, we should not have mentioned it
at all in this place, had not Lord Liverpool, in arranging his
administration, adopted a mode of dealing with it which, though rather a
parliamentary or departmental than a constitutional innovation, was,
nevertheless, one of so strange a character as to seem to call for
examination. Ever since the formation of Walpole's ministry it had been
the invariable rule and practice for all the members of the cabinet to
act in concert on all measures of importance, or, indeed it may be said,
on all measures on which a Parliamentary vote was taken. But, in
arranging his administration after Mr. Perceval's death, Lord Liverpool
found it absolutely impossible to form one satisfactory either to the
nation or to himself if it were to be confined to members in perfect
agreement with himself on the subject of the retention of the
disabilities affecting the Roman Catholics; and therefore, in order to
be able to form a ministry generally strong and respected, he adopted
the strange expedient of allowing every member of it to act
independently on this one question. He made it what was called an open
question. The arrangement, as explained to the House of Commons by Lord
Castlereagh, the ministerial leader of that assembly, was that, "in
submission to the growing change of public opinion in favor of those
claims (the Roman Catholic claims), and the real sentiments of certain
members of the government, it had been resolved upon, as a principle,
that the discussion of this question should be left free from all
interference on the part of the government, and that every member of
that government should in it be left to the free and unbiassed
suggestions of his own conscientious discretion."

It was an arrangement which secured the Prime-minister the co-operation
of Lord Castlereagh himself, and eventually of Mr. Canning; but it
failed to propitiate the Opposition, the leader of which in the House of
Commons, Mr. Ponsonby, turned it into open ridicule, affirming that
"nothing could be more absurd than a cabinet professing to have no
opinion on such an important subject." And it must be confessed that Mr.
Ponsonby's language on the subject seems the language of common-sense.
So far from the importance of a question justifying such an arrangement,
that importance appears rather to increase, if possible, the necessity
for absolute unanimity in the administration than to diminish it; and on
a grave and momentous subject to leave each member of a ministry free to
pronounce a separate and different judgment, so that one may resist what
his colleague advocates, is to abdicate the functions of government
altogether. To permit such liberty was either a proof that the ministry
was weak altogether--which it was not--or that its conduct on this
question was weak. In either case, it was a mischievous precedent that
was thus set;[174] and the fact that it has since been followed in more
than one instance, is so far from being any justification of it, that it
rather supplies an additional reason for condemning it, as being the
cause of wider mischief than if it had been confined to one single
question, or had influenced the conduct of one cabinet only. It has
often been said that the name "cabinet" is unknown to the law, and that
what we call the cabinet is, in fact, only a committee of the Privy
Council. As a statement of law the assertion may be correct, but it is
certain that for more than a century and a half the constitution has
adopted the principle that the cabinet consists of the holders of a
certain, to some extent a fluctuating, number of the principal state
officers; and, recognizing the responsibility of all for the actions of
each member of it, does by that recognition sanction an expectation that
on all questions, or at all events on all but those of the most trivial
character, they will speak and act with that unanimity which is
indispensable, not only to the strength of the government itself, but to
its being held in respect by the people; such respect being, indeed,
among the most essential elements of its strength.

The incidents of the war itself do not belong to a work such as this;
but, tantalizing as it must be to an historian of any class to pass over
the brilliant series of achievements which gave Britain the glory of
being twice[175] the principal agent in the deliverance of Continental
Europe, the glories of Salamanca, Victoria, Orthes, and Waterloo must be
left to other writers, who, it is not unpatriotic to hope, may never
again have similar cause for exulting descriptions. But out of the
crowning triumph of Waterloo a difficulty arose which, though it may be
difficult to characterize the principle on which it was settled, since
it was not strictly a question of constitutional, international, or
military law; and though the circumstances were so peculiar that the
conclusion adopted is never likely to be referred to as a precedent,
seems still deserving of a brief mention, especially as an act of
Parliament was passed to sanction the decision of the cabinet. Baffled
by the vigilance of our cruisers in every attempt to escape from one of
the western ports of France to America, Napoleon was at last compelled
to surrender himself to a British squadron. But, though he was our
prisoner, the Prime-minister considered us, in all our dealings with
him, as so bound by engagements to our allies, that he was to be
regarded as "the common prisoner of all, so far that we should not give
him up or release him without the joint consent of all." The question
was full of difficulty. There were, probably, very few persons in this
or any other country who did not coincide in the impropriety of
releasing him, and so putting it in his power once more to rekindle a
war in Europe. But it was a political view of the case, founded on a
consideration of what was required by the tranquillity of Europe; and it
was not easy to lay down any legal ground to justify the determination.
Some regarded him as a French subject, and, if that view were correct,
he could hardly be detained by us as a prisoner of war after we had
concluded a treaty of peace with France. But, again, it seemed to some,
the Lord Chancellor being among them, a questionable point whether in
the last campaign we had been at war with France; whether, on the
contrary, we had not assumed the character of an ally of France against
him. And, on the supposition that we had been at war with France, a
second question was raised by Lord Ellenborough, the Chief-justice,
"what rights result on principle from a state of war, as against all the
individuals of the belligerent nations--rights, whatever they may be,
seldom, if ever, enforced against individuals, because individuals
hardly ever make war but as part of an aggregate nation." The
question--as, after consultation with Lord Ellenborough and his own
brother, Sir William Scott, it finally appeared to Lord Eldon, on whom
the Prime-minister naturally depended, as his chief legal counsellor,
though in its political aspect he judged for himself--was, firstly,
"whether it could possibly be inconsistent with justice or the law of
nations that, till some peace were made by treaty with some person
considered as Napoleon's sovereign, or till some peace were made with
himself, we should keep him imprisoned in some part of our King's
dominions." And, secondly, "whether there were any person who could
possibly be considered his sovereign, after the treaty of 1814 had
clothed him with the character of Emperor of Elba, with imperial dignity
and imperial revenue." Lord Liverpool himself, however, raised another
question: whether, by his invasion of France, he had not forfeited his
right to be regarded as an independent sovereign; resting this doubt on
a suggestion which, among others, he proposed to the Lord Chancellor,
that "at Elba he enjoyed only a limited and conditional sovereignty,
which ceased when the condition on which he held it was violated."

This last suggestion, it must be confessed, appears untenable, as
totally inconsistent with the language of the Treaty of Fontainebleau,
under the provisions of which Napoleon became sovereign of Elba, and
which does not contain a single article which bears out the opinion that
his sovereignty was limited or conditional. On the contrary, the words
of the treaty expressly agree that "Elba should form during his life a
separate principality, which should be possessed by him in full
sovereignty and property."

There is no need to discuss the views of Blucher. On the news of
Napoleon's landing at Frejus reaching the plenipotentiaries assembled at
the Congress of Vienna, they at once issued a declaration that, "in
breaking the convention which had established him at Elba, Buonaparte"
(for they refused him his imperial appellation of Napoleon) "had
destroyed the only legal title on which his existence depended.... He
had placed himself out of the pale of civil and social relations, and,
as the enemy and disturber of the peace of the world, he was delivered
over to public justice." And the old Prussian, burning with a desire to
avenge the indignities and injuries which he had inflicted on Prussia,
avowed his determination to execute him as an outlaw, if he should fall
into his hands. And it is still less worthwhile to inquire--though Lord
Holland in his place in Parliament did desire the House to consult the
judges on the point--whether, if Napoleon were a prisoner of war, he
"were not entitled to his _habeas corpus_, if detained after the
signature of a treaty of peace with all the powers, or any of which he
could be considered as the subject."

On the whole, the simplest view of the position and of our detention of
him, the view most reconcilable with the principles which regulate the
waging and the relinquishing a state of war, seems to be to consider
that Napoleon was a sovereign with whom we were at war; that that war
could only be terminated by a treaty of peace between ourselves and him;
that it rested with us to conclude, or to abstain from concluding, any
such treaty; and that, till we should conclude it, we had clearly a
right to detain him as a prisoner of war. It must, at the same time, be
admitted that modern history afforded no precedent for the detention of
a prisoner for his whole life (unless, indeed, Elizabeth's imprisonment
of the Queen of Scots may be considered as one), and that the most solid
justification for it was necessity. To quote the language of Lord Eldon,
"I believe it will turn out that, if you can't make this a _casus
exceptionis_ or _omissus_ in the law of nations, founded upon necessity,
you will not really know what to say upon it. _Salus Reipublicae suprema
lex_, as to one state; _Salus omnium Rerumpublicarum_ must be the
_suprema lex_ as to this case."[176]

In the course of the year 1818 a somewhat singular question as to the
position of the Regent was raised by a claim advanced by Colonel
Berkeley to produce his Royal Highness as a witness in a court of law.
The Prince consulted the Prime-minister, and the Prime-minister referred
it to the Attorney and Solicitor General, not concealing his own
impression that it could not be consistent with his constitutional
position and prerogative for the King to appear as a witness to be
subjected to examination and cross-examination.[177] They, in their
statement of opinion, assumed it to be an undeniable principle of the
constitution that the sovereign, "by reason of his royal character,
could not give testimony." And therefore they had no doubt that the
Regent, exercising his authority, was equally prevented from so doing.
Colonel Berkeley's counsel had urged that, even if he could not appear
in open court and be sworn, he had the privilege of communicating his
evidence in a peculiar mode, by certificate under the Sign Manual or
Great Seal. But the Attorney and Solicitor General professed that they
could not discover whence this last privilege was derived; they urged,
as an insurmountable objection to such a contrivance, that "all
instruments under the Sign Manual or Great Seal must, in point of form,
be in the name of and on behalf of the King, which would manifestly be
incongruous when the evidence certified was not that of the King, but of
the Regent himself." And they quoted a case in which Lord Chief-justice
Willes had said "that the certificate of the King, under his Sign
Manual, of a fact (except in an old case in Chancery) had always been
refused." As it had been urged also, on Colonel Berkeley's behalf, that
the Prince had formerly "joined in proving the will of the Duke of
Brunswick," his brother-in-law, they farther expressed an opinion that
"he ought not to have done so, but should have left it to the other

On the point whether "the King himself could give evidence orally or in
any other manner," their opinion expressed very plainly the principle on
which they maintained that he could not. "That he was not compellable to
do so; that he could not be sworn (there being no power capable of
administering an oath to him in a court of justice). That, whether his
testimony be given _vivâ voce_ or otherwise, no question in chief or on
cross-examination could be proposed to him, was admitted by Colonel
Berkeley's counsel. And that his testimony must be conclusive as to the
facts stated by him, appeared necessarily to follow from the perfection
ascribed by law to his royal character. For such remarkable exceptions,
therefore, to the case of all other witnesses they could not but think
that strong and decisive authority ought to be produced; while the
silence of text-writers on the subject, so far from being favorable to
the notion that the King can give evidence, appeared to afford a
directly contrary inference." And they summed up their opinion in a few
words: "that his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, while in the personal
exercise of the royal authority, was in the situation of the King in
this respect, and that the King could not by any mode give evidence as a
witness in a civil suit."

It is very improbable that Colonel Berkeley should have made the
application without previously ascertaining the willingness of the
Prince to give evidence, could such a course be permitted. And as his
Royal Highness, on receiving this opinion of the law-officers of the
crown, did not come forward as a witness, that opinion may be held to
have settled the question. And, apart from the constitutional objections
relied on by those able lawyers, it is evident that there would be
serious practical objections to the sovereign being made a witness. It
would be derogatory to his royal character to put himself in a position
where comments could be made, either by the opposing barrister or by the
public outside, on his evidence. And, on the other hand, it would be
perilously unfair to one litigant for his adversary to be able to
produce a witness who was not subject to cross-examination, nor to
remarks upon his testimony.

The reign of George III. was now drawing to its close, and, if it
produced no legislation affecting the principles of the constitution (it
will presently be seen that it did produce one measure which its
opponents branded as a violation of these principles), yet in its last
years it witnessed the revival of an agitation which was kept up with
varying animation till it was temporarily quieted by the concession of
its demands. We have seen that one of Pitt's earliest efforts at
legislation had been directed to a reform in Parliament, an object which
to the end of his life he considered of great importance, though the
revolutionary spirit aroused by the troubles in France, and the open
sympathy with the French Jacobins and Republicans avowed by a party
among ourselves--which, if numerically weak, was sufficiently loud and
active to be dangerous--prevented him from ever re-opening the subject.
But, though the French Revolution in this way proved for the time an
insurmountable obstacle to the success of the reformers, in another way
it insured the revival of the question, by the general spirit of inquiry
which it awakened among the population at large, and which soon went
beyond the investigation of any single abuse or anomaly. For even less
far-sighted statesmen than Pitt confessed the existence of much that was
not only theoretically indefensible, but practically mischievous. The
period, little short of a century, which elapsed between the death of
William III. and Pitt's accession to office had been one of almost
complete stagnation and apathy. The Scotch Union, the Septennial Bill,
the establishment of a militia, and the Place Bill of 1743 were the only
instances of any legislation deserving the name of constitutional which
made the reigns of Anne and the first two Georges memorable. And in the
very nature of things it was impossible that, after so long a slumber,
there should not be much to do, and many, whether capable or incapable,
eager to bear a share in the work. The sudden cessation of the
excitement of war had begotten a restless craving for some other
excitement to take its place, and none seemed so creditable as energy
and acuteness in the discovery and removal of abuses. Complaints were
made, and not without reason, of the working of the poor-law; of the
terrible severity of our criminal code; of the hardships and sufferings
of the younger members of the working classes, especially in the
factories; of the ignorance of a large portion of the people, in itself
as prolific a cause of mischief and crime as any other. But, though
committees and commissions were appointed by Parliament to investigate
the condition of the kingdom in respect of these matters, a feeling was
growing up that no effectual remedy would be applied till the
constitution of the House of Commons itself were reformed, so as to make
it a more real representation of the people than it could as yet be
considered. And a farther stimulus to this wish for such a Parliamentary
reform was supplied by the distress which a combination of circumstances
spread among almost all classes in the years immediately following the
conclusion of the second treaty of peace.[178] The harvests of the years
1816 and 1817 were unusually deficient, and this pressed heavily on the
farmers and landed proprietors. The merchants and manufacturers, who,
while every part of the Continent was disturbed or threatened by the
operations of contending armies, had practically enjoyed almost a
monopoly of the trade of the world, found their profits reduced, by the
new competition to which the re-establishment of peace exposed them, to
a point which compelled them to a severe reduction of expenditure. The
uncertainty felt as to the results to be brought about by the inevitable
repeal of the Bank Act of 1797, and the return to cash payments--results
which it was impossible to estimate correctly beforehand--had a tendency
to augment the distress, by the general feeling of uneasiness and
distrust which it created. And the employers of labor could not suffer
without those who depended on them for employment suffering still more
severely. The consequence was, that there was a general stagnation of
trade; numbers of artisans and laborers of every kind were thrown out of
work, and their enforced idleness and poverty, which was its result,
made them ready to become the tools of demagogues such as are never
wanting in the hour of distress and perplexity. Meetings were convened,
ostensibly to petition for reform, but in reality to afford
opportunities for mob-orators, eager for notoriety, to denounce the
government and those whom they styled the "ruling classes," as the
causes of the present and past evils. From these meetings multitudes
issued forth ripe for mischief. In some places they rose against the
manufacturers, and destroyed their machines, to the recent introduction
of which they attributed their want of employment. In others, still more
senselessly, they even set fire to the stores of grain in the
corn-dealers' warehouses, aggravating by their destruction the most
painful of their own sufferings. On one occasion, a mob which had
assembled in one of the eastern districts of London, on pretence of
framing a petition to be presented to the Prince Regent, at the close of
the meeting paraded the streets with a tricolor flag, the emblem of the
French Revolutionists, and pillaged a number of shops, especially those
of the gun-makers, spreading terror through all that side of the
metropolis. In at least one instance the violence of the rioters rose to
the height of treason. Assassins fired at the Regent in the Park as he
was returning from the House of Lords, whither he had been to open
Parliament; and when it was found that they had missed their aim, the
mob attacked the royal carriage, pelting it with large stones, and
breaking the windows; nor was it without some difficulty that the escort
of troops cleared a path for him through the mob, and enabled him to
reach Carlton House in safety.

The first effect of these outrages was to damage the cause of Reform
itself, even such uncompromising reformers as Lord Grey denouncing
"meetings at which extensive schemes of Reform were submitted to
individuals incapable of judging of their propriety." The second
consequence was to compel the ministers to take steps to prevent a
recurrence of such tumults and crimes. At first they were contented with
a temporary suspension of the _Habeas Corpus_ Act; but, even while that
suspension was in force, it did not entirely prevent meetings, at some
of which the language of the speakers certainly bordered on sedition;
and when the suspension was taken off, fresh meetings on a larger scale,
and of a more tumultuous character than ever, were held in more than one
rural district; finally, in July of 1819, the whole kingdom was thrown
into a violent state of excitement by a meeting held at Birmingham, at
which the leaders, assuming the newly-invented party name of Radicals,
not only demanded the remodelling of the whole system of government,
but, because Birmingham as yet sent no members to the House of Commons,
took it upon themselves to elect Sir Charles Wolseley, a baronet of
respectable family, as their representative to the Parliament, and
charged him to claim a place in the House of Commons in the next
session, by the side of those elected in obedience to the royal writs.
Sir Charles was at once arrested on the charge of having at this meeting
used seditious language calculated to lead to a breach of the peace; but
the Radical leaders, far from being intimidated by this demonstration of
vigor on the part of the government, immediately summoned a similar
meeting in Manchester, announcing their intention to elect a
representative of that great town likewise, which, though the largest of
all the manufacturing towns, was also unrepresented in the Imperial
Parliament. The magistrates prohibited the meeting. It was only
postponed for a week, when the people assembled in such formidable
numbers (no estimate reckoned them at fewer than 60,000), that the
ordinary civil authorities deemed themselves unequal to dealing with it,
and called in the aid first of the Yeomanry and then of a hussar
regiment. The soldiers behaved with great forbearance, as soldiers
always do behave on such occasions; but they were bound to execute the
orders which were given them to arrest some of the leaders, and, in the
tumult which was the inevitable consequence of their attempt to force a
way through so dense a crowd, three or four lives were, unfortunately,

So unusual a catastrophe called out the energies of both parties. The
Radical leaders published manifestoes declaring the people had been
"massacred" by the soldiers by the orders of the government. Meetings
were held to denounce the conduct of the ministers, one being even
promoted by Lord Fitzwilliam, as Lord-lieutenant of Yorkshire, a dignity
of which he was instantly deprived; while, on the other hand, the
grand-juries of Cheshire and Lancashire made reports of the condition of
those counties to the Secretary of State, which showed that a most
alarming spirit prevailed over the greater part of the district. "The
most inflammatory publications had been issued in the principal towns,
at a price which put them within the reach of the poorest classes of
society. The training and military drilling of large bodies of men under
regular leaders had been carried on to a great extent for some time,
chiefly by night; and there was no doubt that an extensive manufacture
of arms was going on." What was a hardly inferior symptom of danger was
a system of intimidation which prevailed to a most serious degree. Many
magistrates had received notices threatening their lives, and
combinations had been formed to withhold custom from publicans and
shopkeepers who had come forward to support the civil power. In many
parts of the two counties the grand-juries declared "that no warrant of
arrest or other legal process could be executed; the payment of taxes
had ceased, and the landlords were threatened with the discontinuance of
their rents."

It was admitted that the spirit of disaffection was local, confined to
three or four counties; but those counties were, next to Middlesex
itself, the most populous and among the most important in the kingdom,
and there was danger lest the feeling, if not checked, might spread. The
crisis seemed so momentous, that some even of the Opposition leaders
volunteered their counsels and aid to the ministers in dealing with it.
And the ministers, after long deliberation, decided on calling
Parliament together in November, and introducing some bills which they
conceived necessary to enable them to restore and preserve tranquillity.
They were six in number; and--perhaps, with some sarcastic reference to
Gardiner's Six Acts in the sixteenth century--they were very commonly
spoken of as Lord Sidmouth's Six Acts, that noble lord being the
Home-secretary, to whose department they belonged. It is not necessary
here to do more than mention the general purport of five of them. One
prohibited military training without the sanction of the government;
another empowered magistrates to search for arms which they had reason
to believe were collected for illegal purposes; the third authorized the
seizure of seditious and blasphemous libels; the fourth subjected
publications below a certain size to the same stamp as that required for
a newspaper; the fifth regulated the mode of proceeding in trials for
misdemeanor of a political character. But these enactments were regarded
as little more than arrangements of detail or procedure involving no
principles, and some of them were admitted even by the most steadfast
opponents of the ministers to be necessary. But the sixth, designed to
restrain the practice of holding large open-air meetings--not, indeed,
forever, but for a certain period, fixed at five years--was strongly
resisted by the greater portion of the Whig party in both Houses, as a
denial to the people of one of their most ancient and constitutional

Its principal clauses enacted that "no meeting exceeding the number of
fifty persons (except a meeting of any county or division of any county,
called by the Lord-lieutenant or sheriff of such county, etc., or by
five or more acting justices of the peace for such county, or by the
major part of the grand-jury; or any meeting of any city, borough, etc.,
called by the mayor or other head officer of such city, etc.) should be
holden for the purpose or on the pretext of deliberating upon any public
grievance, or upon any matter relating to any trade, manufacture, etc.,
or upon any matter of Church or State, or of considering, proposing, or
agreeing to any petition, address, etc., etc., unless in the parish or
township within which the persons calling any such meeting usually
dwell;" and it required six days' notice of the intention to hold such
meetings, with their time, place, and object, to be given to a
magistrate. It empowered the magistrate to whom such notice was given to
alter the time and place. It forbade adjournments intended to evade
these prohibitions. It forbade any one to attend such meetings except
freeholders of the county, or parishioners of the parish, or members of
the corporation of the city or borough in which they were held, or
members of the House of Commons for such places. It empowered
magistrates to proceed to the places where such meetings were being
held, and, if they thought it necessary, to require the aid of
constables. It enacted that any meeting, the tendency of which should be
"to incite or stir up the people to hatred and contempt of the person of
his Majesty, his heirs and successors, or of the government or
constitution of this country as by law established, should be deemed an
unlawful assembly." It empowered one or more justices of the peace, in
the event of any meeting being held contrary to the provisions of this
act, to warn every one present, in the King's name, to depart; and made
those who did not depart in obedience to such warning liable to
prosecution for felony, and, if convicted, to seven years'
transportation. It forbade the display of flags, banners, or ensigns at
any meeting, and the employment of any drum, or military or other music;
but it excepted from its operation "any meeting or assembly which should
be wholly holden in any room."

There was one peculiarity in the line taken by the opponents of the
bill, that they did not deny that the meetings which had induced the
ministers to propose it were an evil, dangerous to the general
tranquillity; but it was strongly urged by Lord Erskine and others that
the existing laws were quite strong enough to deal with them, so that a
new enactment was superfluous; and by others, in both Houses, that such
meetings were "an ancient and constitutional mode of discussing abuses
or petitioning Parliament," any interference with which was a greater
evil than the meetings themselves, as being a violation of the
constitution. Mr. Brougham in particular admitted, to the full extent of
the assertions of the ministers themselves, "the wickedness and folly of
many of the speeches" made at the recent meetings. He expressed with
great force his entire disapproval of the system on which these meetings
had been conducted, and admitted that the martial array which had been
exhibited, and the vastness of the numbers of those who had attended,
were of themselves calculated to excite alarm; but he declared that "he
could not on that account acquiesce in a total subversion of a popular
right." On the other hand, the ministers themselves did not deny "the
general right of the people to petition the Legislature, or to carry
their addresses to the foot of the throne. And therefore (as Lord
Harrowby, the President of the Council, admitted) there could be no
doubt of their right to assemble, so far as was necessary to agree to
their petitions or addresses. It was a right that did not depend on the
Bill of Rights, on which it was usually grounded, but had existed long
before. But this bill," he contended, "imposed no restrictions on the
legitimate enjoyment of that privilege; it only regulated the meetings
at which it was to be exercised." And Lord Liverpool affirmed that the
bill was not only "consistent with the existing laws and principles of
the constitution, but was even proposed in furtherance of those
principles, and for the purpose of protecting the people of this country
against a series of evils which, if not checked, must subvert their laws
and liberties."

In attempting to form a correct judgment on the question whether this
bill were constitutional or unconstitutional, it must, I think, be
admitted that, as has been remarked before, the terms "constitutional"
and "unconstitutional" are somewhat vague and elastic. There is no one
document--not Magna Charta, nor the Petition of Eight, nor the Bill of
Rights--which can be said to contain the whole of the British
constitution. Its spirit and principles are, indeed, to be found in all
the laws, to which they give animation and life, but not in any one law.
And among its leading principles are those which embrace the right of
every individual to freedom of action and freedom of speech, so long as
he does not commit any crime himself, nor tempt others to do so. Yet it
does not follow that a new enactment which for a while abridges or
suspends that freedom of action or speech is inconsistent with those
constitutional principles.

Ministers, to whom the government of a country is intrusted, do wrong if
they limit their operations to the punishment of offences which have
been committed. It is at least equally their duty, as far as possible,
to prevent their commission; to take precautionary measures, especially
at times when there is notorious danger of offences being committed. At
the same time they are bound not to legislate under the influence of
panic; not to yield to fears having no substantial ground. And in their
measures of precaution they are farther bound to depart from or overstep
the ordinary law as little as is compatible with the attainment of their
object. In all such cases each action of theirs must stand or fall by
its own merits; by the greatness of the emergency which has caused it,
and by its sufficiency for its end. For as no law, except such as
forbids moral crimes, is invariable, so even the dearest privileges of
each subject, being his for the common good, are liable to temporary
suspension for that common good. But the burden of justification lies on
those who propose that suspension.

Now, that this bill was such a suspension of the long-established rights
of the subject, and so far an overstepping of the principles of the
constitution, is admitted by the very fact of its framers only proposing
for it a temporary authority. Had it not invaded a valuable and real
right, it might have been made of perpetual obligation. But it is not
easy to see how it can be denied that the dangers against which it was
intended to guard were also real. It was certain that itinerant
demagogues were visiting districts with which they had no connection,
for the sole purpose of stirring up political agitation. It was clear
that such meetings as they convened, where those assembled could only be
counted by tens of thousands, were too large for deliberation, and were
only meant for intimidation; and equally clear that, though the existing
laws may have armed the magistrate with authority to disperse such
meetings, they did not furnish him with the means of doing so without at
least the risk of bloodshed (for such a risk must be involved in the act
of putting soldiers in motion), and still less did they invest him with
the desirable power of preventing such meetings. It was necessary,
therefore, to go back to the original principles and objects of every
constitution, the tranquillity, safety, and welfare of the nation at
large. And it does not appear that this bill went beyond what was
necessary for that object. Indeed, though party divisions are not always
trustworthy tests of the wisdom or propriety of a measure, the unusual
magnitude of the majorities by which on this occasion the minister was
supported in both Houses may fairly be regarded as a testimony to the
necessity of the bill,[180] while its sufficiency was proved by the
abandonment of all such meetings, and the general freedom from agitation
in every part Of the country which prevailed in the following year,
though its most remarkable incident was one of which demagogues might
well have taken advantage, if they had not had so convincing a proof of
the power of government, and of the resolution of the ministers to exert


[Footnote 172: Against Junot, at Vimiera and Rolica, in 1808; Soult, at
Oporto, and Victor, at Talavera, in 1809; Massena and Ney, at Busaco and
Torres Vedras, in 1810; Masséna and Bessiéres, at Fuentes d'Onor, in
1811. Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz had been taken in 1812, in spite of the
neighborhood of Soult and Marmont. In July, 1813, a month after the
formation of Lord Liverpool's ministry, he routed Marmont at Salamanca;
in 1813 he took Madrid, and routed Jourdain at Vittoria; and, having
subsequently defeated Soult at Sauroren, he crossed the French frontier
in October.]

[Footnote 173: A resolution, moved by Mr. Canning, to take the claims of
the Roman Catholics into consideration in the next session had been
carried in June by the large majority of 129; and when Lord Wellesley
brought forward a similar motion in the House of Lords, not only did
Lord Liverpool "protest against its being inferred from any declaration
of his that it was, or ever had been, his opinion that under no
circumstances would it be possible to make any alteration in the laws
respecting the Roman Catholics," but the Chancellor, Lord Eldon, who was
generally regarded as the stoutest champion of the existing law, rested
his opposition entirely on political grounds, explaining carefully that
he opposed the motion, "not because he quarrelled with the religion of
the Roman Catholics, but because their religious opinions operated on
their political principles in such a way as to render it necessary to
adopt some defence against them," and met the motion by moving the
previous question, avowedly because "he did not wish, at once and
forever, to shut the door of conciliation;" and the previous question
was only carried by a single vote--126 to 125.]

[Footnote 174: "It (difference on the Catholic question) was an evil
submitted to by the government, of which Mr. Fox, Lord Grenville, and
Lord Grey were members, in the years 1806, 1807, as well as by the
governments of Mr. Perceval, Lord Liverpool, and the Duke of
Wellington."--_Peel's Memoirs_, i., 62. This passage would seem to imply
that Peel believed the Catholic question to have been left "open" in
1806; but there is not, so far as the present writer is aware, any trace
of such an arrangement on record, and Lord Liverpool's letter to the
King, of November 10, 1826 ("Life," iii., 436), shows clearly that he
was not aware of such a precedent for the arrangement which, in 1812,
"he and others advised his Majesty" to consent to. Moreover, the
condemnation passed on it by Mr. Ponsonby, who had been Chancellor of
Ireland in 1806 and 1807, seems a clear proof that he knew nothing of
it, though it is hardly possible that he should have been ignorant of it
if it had existed.]

[Footnote 175: To whom the chief glory of the Waterloo campaign belongs
there can, of course, be no doubt; and though the Austrians and
Prussians put forward a claim to an equal share, and Russia even to a
preponderating one, in the first deposition of Napoleon, he himself
constantly attributed his fall more to the Peninsular contest than to
any of his wars east of the Rhine. And, indeed, it is superfluous to
point out that almost to the last he gained occasional victories over
the Continental armies, but that he never gained one advantage over the
British force; and that Wellington invaded France the first week of
October, 1813--nearly three months before a single Russian or German
soldier crossed the Rhine.]

[Footnote 176: Letter to Sir W. Scott, Twiss's "Life of Lord Eldon,"
ii., 272. It is remarkable that in his "Life of Lord Ellenborough" Lord
Campbell takes no notice of this case.]

[Footnote 177: The opinion of the Attorney and Solicitor General, Sir S.
Shepperd and Sir R. Gifford, is given at length in the author's "Life of
Lord Liverpool," ii., 373.]

[Footnote 178: It is a shrewd observation of Sully, that it is never any
abstract desire for theoretical reforms, or even for increased
privileges, which excites in lower classes to discontent and outrage,
but only impatience under actual suffering.]

[Footnote 179: The bill (entitled "The Seditious Meetings Prevention
Bill"), 60 George III., c. 6, is given at full length in Hansard's
"Parliamentary Debates," series 1., vol. xli., p. 1655.]

[Footnote 180: In the House of Lords the majority was 135 to 38; in the
House of Commons, 851 to 128. And even of this minority, many would have
supported the bill, if the ministers would have consented to adopt an
amendment proposed by Lord Althorp, to limit its operation to a few of
the northern and midland counties, in which alone, as he contended, any
spirit of dangerous disaffection had been exhibited.]

[Footnote 181: It may be as well to mention that these pages were
written in the autumn of 1880.]


Survey of the Reign of George III.--The Cato Street Conspiracy.--The
Queen's Return to England, and the Proceedings against her.--The King
Visits Ireland and Scotland.--Reform of the Criminal Code.--Freedom of
Trade.--Death of Lord Liverpool.--The Duke of Wellington becomes
Prime-minister.--Repeal of the Test and Corporation Act.--O'Connell is
Elected for Clare.--Peel Resigns his Seat for Oxford.--Catholic
Emancipation.--Question of the Endowment of the Roman Catholic
Clergy.--Constitutional Character of the Emancipation.--The Propriety of
Mr. Peel's Resignation of his Seat for Oxford Questioned.

In the first month of 1820 George III. died. His had been an eventful
reign, strangely checkered with disaster and glory; but, if we compare
its close with its commencement, it was still more remarkably
distinguished by a development of the resources and an increase in the
wealth and power of the nation, to which the history of no other country
in the same space of time affords any parallel.

Regarded from the first point of view, our successes greatly outweighed
our disasters. The loss of our North American Colonies, the only event
which can be so described, was far more than counterbalanced by our vast
acquisitions in India, at the Cape of Good Hope, and Malta; while to our
maritime supremacy, in the complete establishment of which Rodney and
Nelson had crowned the work of Anson and Hawke, was now added a splendor
of military renown far surpassing that achieved by any other of the
nations which had borne their share in the overthrow of Napoleon.

The increase of our resources is sufficiently shown by a single fact. At
his accession George III. found the kingdom engaged in the great seven
years' war; one British army employed beyond the Rhine, another in
India; fleets traversing the seas in every direction, capturing the
Havana, in the West Indies; Manilla, in the East; and routing French
squadrons in sight of their own harbors. While, to maintain these varied
armaments, supplies were voted by Parliament in 1761 to what Lord
Stanhope calls "the unprecedented amount of almost twenty millions." In
1813 the supplies reached nearly six times that amount,[182] and that
prodigious sum was raised with greater ease than the revenue of 1761,
the interest on the necessary loans being also lower than it had been on
the former occasion.

The philosophical man of science will point with at least equal
exultation to the great discoveries in art and science; to the
achievements of the mechanic, the engineer, and the chemist; to the
labors of Brindley and Arkwright and Watts, to which, indeed, this great
expansion of the resources and growth of the wealth of the country is
principally owing.

While, as the preceding chapters of this work have been designed to
show, our political progress and advancement had been no less steady or
valuable; yet, important from a constitutional point of view as were
many of the labors of our legislators in these sixty years, they are
surpassed in their influence on the future history of the nation, as
well as in the reality and greatness of the changes which were produced
by them in the constitution, by the transactions of the reigns of the
next two sovereigns, though the two united scarcely equalled in their
duration a quarter of that of their venerable father.

It has been seen how Pitt was baffled in his efforts to remodel the
House of Commons, and to remove the disabilities under which the Roman
Catholics labored, the reasons for which, even granting that they had
been sufficient to justify their original imposition, had, in his
judgment, long passed away. His pursuit of the other great object of his
domestic policy, the emancipation of trade from the shackles which
impeded its universal development, was rudely interrupted by the
pressure of the war forced upon him by that very nation which he had
desired to make the first partner, if one may use such an expression, in
the prosperity which he hoped to diffuse by his commercial treaty with
her. But, as in the case of other men in advance of their age, the
principles which he had asserted were destined to bear fruit at a later
period. And the mere fact of a change in the person of the sovereign
seemed to make a change in the policy hitherto pursued less unnatural.

Yet, memorable as the reforms which it witnessed were destined to make
it, no reign ever commenced with more sinister omens than that at which
we have now arrived. The new King had not been on the throne a month,
when a conspiracy was discovered, surpassing in its treasonable atrocity
any that had been heard of in the kingdom since the days of the
Gunpowder Plot; and, even before those concerned in that foul crime had
been brought to punishment, the public mind was yet more generally and
profoundly agitated by a scandal which, in one point of view, was still
more painful, as in some degree involving the whole kingdom in its

The marriage of the present sovereign to Mrs. Fitzherbert has already
been mentioned. A few years afterward, in the year 1795, regarding that
marriage as illegal, he had contracted a second with his cousin, the
Princess Caroline of Brunswick. But, even in royal families, a more
unfortunate alliance had never taken place. They had never met till she
arrived in England for the wedding; and, as he had never professed any
other motive for consenting to the match than a desire to obtain the
payment of his debts, he did not think it necessary to disguise his
feelings, or to change his habits, or even to treat her with decency for
a single day. On his very first introduction to her he behaved to her
with marked discourtesy.[183] Shortly after the marriage he formally
separated himself from her, and, both before and after the separation,
lived in undisguised licentiousness. She, on her part, indignant at his
neglect and infidelity, and exasperated at the restrictions which he
presently placed on her intercourse with their only child, made no
secret of her feelings, and on many occasions displayed such disregard
of the ordinary rules of prudence and propriety, that he had some color
for charges of infidelity to her marriage vows which, after a few years,
he brought against her. The King, her uncle, could not refuse to appoint
a commission to investigate the truth of the accusation; but the
commissioners unanimously acquitted her of any graver fault than
imprudence. She was again received at court, from which she had been
excluded while the inquiry was pending; but her husband's animosity
toward her was not appeased. As time wore on, and as the King's
derangement deprived her of her only protector, it even seemed as if he
desired to give it all the notoriety possible, till at last, wearied out
by his implacable persecution, she sought and obtained his permission to
quit the country and take up her abode abroad. It was a most unfortunate
resolution on her part. She fixed her residence in Italy, where she
gradually learned to neglect the caution which she had observed in
England, till, after a year or two, reports arose of her intimacy with a
servant whom she had raised from a menial situation to that of the chief
officer of her household, and whom she admitted to a familiarity of
intercourse which others besides her husband thought quite incompatible
with innocence. He sent agents into Italy to inquire into the truth of
those rumors; and their report so greatly confirmed them that, even
before the King's death, he laid it before the Prime-minister, with a
demand that he should at once take steps to procure him a divorce, in
which he professed to believe that the Princess herself would willingly
acquiesce. He was so far correct, that her legal advisers were willing
to advise her to consent to "a formal separation, to be ratified by an
act of Parliament." But such an arrangement fell far short of the
Prince's wishes. The Princess Charlotte, the heiress to his throne, had
died in childbirth two years before, and he was anxious to be set free
to marry again. The ministers were placed in a situation of painful
embarrassment. There was an obvious difficulty in pointing out to one
who already stood toward them in the character of their sovereign, and
who must inevitably soon become so, that his own conduct made the
prospect of obtaining a divorce from the Ecclesiastical Courts hopeless;
and the only other expedients calculated to attain his end, "a direct
application to Parliament for relief, founded upon the special
circumstances of the case," or "a proceeding against the Princess for
high-treason," were but little more promising. Indeed, it was afterward
ascertained to be the unanimous opinion of the judges that the charge of
high-treason could not be legally sustained, since the individual who
was alleged to be the partner in the criminality imputed to her was a
foreigner, and therefore, "owing no allegiance to the crown," could not
be said to have violated it.[184]

He chafed under their resistance to his wish, and would have deprived
them of their offices, could he have relied on any successors whom he
might give them proving more complaisant; but, before he could make up
his mind, the death of George III. forced upon both him and them the
consideration of his and his wife's position, since it made it necessary
to remodel the prayer for the royal family, and instantly to decide
whether her name and title as Queen were to be inserted in it. He was
determined that they should not be mentioned; and, as the practice of
praying for a Queen Consort by name appeared not to have been
invariable, they were willing to gratify him on this point, though it
was evidently highly probable that she would consider this as a fresh
insult, sufficient to justify her in carrying out a threat, which she
had recently held out, of returning to England. Her ablest advisers did
not, indeed, regard it in this light, since the prayer as now framed
implored the Divine protection for "all the royal family" in general
terms, in which she might be supposed to be included, and made no
separate mention of any member of the family.[185] But, unfortunately,
she was much more under the influence of counsellors who were neither
lawyers nor statesmen, but who only desired to use her as a tool to
obtain notoriety for themselves. A long negotiation ensued. It was
inevitable that some application should be made to Parliament in
connection with her affairs, since the annuity which had been settled
upon her by Parliament in 1814, on the occasion of her departure from
England, had expired with the life of the late King. And the ministers
proposed that that annuity should now be raised from £35,000 to £50,000,
on condition of her remaining abroad, having, by their positive refusal
to concur in any proceedings against her while she remained abroad,
extorted the King's acquiescence in this proposal, though he called it a
"great and painful sacrifice of his personal feelings." They sought to
conciliate her acceptance of it by mentioning her in it by her title of
"Queen," and by coupling with it a sanction to her appointment of her
law-officers, an Attorney and Solicitor General, an act which could only
be exercised by a Queen. And, though a part of the condition of her
residence abroad required that she should do so under some other title,
that seemed only a conforming to an ordinary practice of royal princes
on their travels. At the same time, the ministers stated frankly to Mr.
Brougham, a lawyer of the highest reputation as an advocate, whom she
had appointed her Attorney-general, that, if she should reject the
offer, and come to England, as she had already announced her intention
of doing, such a course would leave them no alternative, but would
compel them to institute proceedings against her.

Eventually she preferred the advice of others to that of Mr. Brougham,
or, as it may, perhaps, be more consistent with the real fact to say,
she yielded to her own feelings of hatred of her husband, which, it must
be confessed, were far from unnatural. She believed, or professed to
believe, that he had more to dread from an exposure of his conduct than
she had from any revelations of her actions; and, under this impression,
in the spring she crossed the Channel and took up her residence in
London. It was a step which seemed to Lord Liverpool to leave him no
alternative, and, in consequence, he at once took the course which he
had from the beginning conceived her arrival would render indispensable.
He brought down to Parliament a royal message from the King, announcing
that her return to England had made it necessary to communicate to the
Houses documents relating to her conduct since her departure from the
kingdom, which he recommended to their immediate and serious attention.
He proposed the appointment by ballot of a committee of the House of
Lords to examine those documents; and when the committee had reported
that the documents containing "allegations deeply affecting the honor of
the Queen, etc., ... appeared to the committee calculated to affect not
only the honor of the Queen, but also the dignity of the crown and the
moral feelings and honor of the country, so that in their opinion, they
should become the subject of a solemn inquiry, which might be best
effected in the course of a legislative proceeding," he introduced a
"Bill of Pains and Penalties" to deprive her of her title of Queen, and
to annul her marriage.

No one would willingly dwell on so melancholy and disgraceful a subject.
As far as the Queen was concerned, a protracted investigation, during
which a number of witnesses, favorable and unfavorable, were examined,
left no doubt on the mind of almost all dispassionate people that the
misconduct alleged against her had been abundantly proved. At the same
time there was a feeling equally general that the King's treatment of
her from the very beginning of their married life had disentitled him to
any kind of relief; and this sentiment was so strongly shown by the
gradual diminution of the majority in favor of the bill, as it proceeded
through its several stages, that Lord Liverpool, who had already
abandoned the clause annulling the marriage, eventually withdrew the
whole bill, perceiving the impossibility of inducing the House of
Commons to pass it when it should go down to that House.

No act of Lord Liverpool's ministry has been attacked with greater
bitterness than that of allowing any proceedings whatever to be taken
against the Queen, partly on the ground that, however profligate her
conduct had been, it had certainly not been more gross than that of her
husband, which had provoked and given opportunity for her errors; partly
because a great scandal was thus published to the world, and a shock was
given to the national decency and morality which the ministers, above
all men, were bound to avoid; partly, also, because the mode of
proceeding adopted was alleged to be wholly unprecedented; and because,
as was contended, the power of Parliament ought not to be invoked to
inflict penalties which, if deserved, should have been left to the
courts of law. It cannot be denied that there is weight in these
objections; but, in estimating their force, it must be considered that
every part of the conduct of the ministers showed that their motive was
not the gratification of the King's private feelings, whether directed
to the object of indulging his enmity against his wife or to that of
obtaining freedom to contract a second marriage; on the contrary, so
long as the Queen remained abroad, no language could be more distinct,
consistently with the respect due to his royal dignity, than that in
which they expressed to him their insurmountable objection to every mode
of proceeding against her which he had suggested, founded almost equally
on considerations of "the interests of his Majesty and of the
monarchy,"[186] and "the painful obligation" under which they conceived
themselves to lie "of postponing their regard for his Majesty's feelings
to great public interests."

But when the Queen came to England the case was greatly altered. The
question now forced on the consideration of the cabinet was, not the
mode of avoiding an intolerable scandal, but the choice between two
scandals, both of the gravest character. The scandal to be dreaded from
the revelations of the conduct of both King and Queen, that could not
fail to result from the investigation which, in justice, must precede
any attempt to legislate on the subject, was, indeed, as great as ever;
but it had now to be compared with the alternative scandal of allowing a
woman lying under such grievous imputations to preside over the British
court, as, if resident in England, and in undisturbed possession of her
royal rank, she of necessity must preside. The consequence would
evidently have been that the court would have been deserted by all who
could give lustre and dignity to it by their position and character;
and, in the slights thus offered to her, royalty and the monarchy
themselves would seem to be brought into contempt. The latter scandal,
too, would be the more permanent. Grievous and shameful as might be the
disclosures which must be anticipated from an investigation in which the
person accused must be permitted the employment of every means of
defence, including recrimination, the scandal was yet one which would,
to a certain extent, pass away with the close of the inquiry. But, if
she were left undisturbed in the enjoyment of her royal rank, and of
privileges which could not be separated from it, that scandal would last
as long as her life--longer, in all probability, than the reign. It is
hardly too much to say that the monarchy itself might have been
endangered by the spectacle of such a King and such a Queen; and the
ministers might fairly contend that, of two great dangers and evils,
they had, on the whole, chosen the least.

Lastly, if the Queen's conduct was to be investigated, though the mode
adopted was denounced as unconstitutional by the Opposition (for, not
greatly to their credit, the leading Whigs made her guilt or innocence a
party question), it does not seem to deserve the epithet, though it may
be confessed to have been unsupported by any direct precedent. Isabella,
the faithless wife of Edward II., had, indeed, been condemned by "the
Lords" to the forfeiture of many of the estates which she had illegally
appropriated; but it does not appear that her violation of her marriage
vows, or even her probable share or acquiescence in her husband's
murder, formed any portion of the grounds of her deprivation. And the
Parliament which attainted Catherine Howard proceeded solely on her
confession of ante-nuptial licentiousness, without giving her any
opportunity of answering or disproving the other charges which were
brought against her. Unprecedented, therefore, the course now adopted
may be admitted to have been. But it was the only practicable one. The
different minutes of the cabinet, which the Prime-minister laid before
the King, established most conclusively the correctness of their opinion
that no impeachment for high-treason could lie against her. She could
not be an accomplice in such an offence of one who, being a foreigner,
could not have committed it. It was equally impossible for the King to
sue for a divorce, as one of his subjects might have done; because it
was the established practice of Parliament not to entertain a bill of
divorce without the judgment of the Ecclesiastical Court being
previously obtained and produced. And, under the circumstances, to
obtain from the Ecclesiastical Court such a sentence as could alone lay
the foundation for a bill of divorce was clearly out of the question.

The case was a new and extraordinary one, and, being such, could only be
dealt with in some new and extraordinary manner. And in all such cases
an appeal to Parliament seems the most, if not the only, constitutional
mode of solving the difficulty. Where the existing laws are silent or
inapplicable, the most natural resource clearly is, to go back to the
fountain of all law; that is, to the Parliament, which alone is
competent to make a new law. In one point of view the question may seem
unimportant, since we may well hope that no similar case will ever arise
to require the precedent now set to be appealed to; but not unimportant,
if it in any way or degree contributes to establish the great principle,
that the solution of all matters of moment to the state belongs to the
Parliament alone: a principle which, in its legitimate completeness,
carries with it a condemnation of many a modern association whose
object, whether avowed or disguised, is clearly to supersede where it
fails to intimidate the sole constitutional Legislature.

The abandonment of the bill was naturally hailed as a triumph by the
Queen and her partisans; but with the excitement of the struggle against
the government the interest taken in her case died away. The next year,
when she demanded to be crowned with her husband, his refusal to admit
her claim elicited scarcely any sympathy for her under this renewed
grievance; in truth, it was one as to which precedent was unfavorable to
her demand. And the mortification at finding herself already almost
forgotten contributed to bring on an illness of which she died in less
than a year after the termination of what was called her trial; and in a
short time both she and it were forgotten.

For the next few years the history of the kingdom is one of progressive
correction of abuses or defects. The King paid visits to Ireland and
Scotland, parts of his dominions which his father had never once
visited, and in both was received with the most exultant and apparently
sincere acclamations. And, though one great calamity fell on the
ministry in the loss of Lord Castlereagh--who, in a fit of derangement,
brought on by the excitement of overwork, unhappily laid violent hands
on himself--his death, sad as it was, could not be said to weaken or to
affect the general policy of the cabinet. Indeed, as he was replaced at
the Foreign Office by his old colleague and rival, Mr. Canning, in one
point of view the administration may be said to have been strengthened
by the change, since, as an orator, Canning had confessedly no equal in
either House of Parliament. Another change was productive of still more
practical advantage. Lord Sidmouth retired from the Home Office, and was
succeeded by Mr. Peel, previously Secretary for Ireland; and the
transfer of that statesman to an English office facilitated reforms,
some of which were as yet little anticipated even by the new Secretary
himself. The earliest of them, and one not the least important in its
bearing on the well-doing of society, the mitigation of the severity of
our Criminal Code, was, indeed, but the following up of a series of
measures in the same direction which had been commenced in the time of
the Duke of Portland's second administration, and, it must be added, in
spite of its resistance. The influence of various trades, and of the
owners of different kinds of property, pressing in turns upon our
legislators, had rendered our code the most sanguinary that had,
probably, ever existed in Christendom. Each class of proprietor regarded
only the preservation of his own property, and had no belief in the
efficacy of any kind of protection for it, except such as arose from the
fear of death; nor any doubt that he was justified in procuring the
infliction of that penalty to avert the slightest loss to himself. The
consequence was that, at the beginning of the present century, there
were above two hundred offences the perpetrators of which were liable to
capital punishment, some of a very trivial character, such as cutting
down a hop-vine in a Kentish hop-garden, robbing a rabbit-warren or a
fish-pond, personating an out-pensioner of Greenwich Hospital, or even
being found on a high-road with a blackened face, the intention to
commit a crime being inferred from the disguise, even though no overt
act had been committed. An act of Elizabeth made picking a pocket a
capital offence; another, passed as late as the reign of William III.,
affixed the same penalty to shop-lifting, even when the article stolen
might not exceed the value of five shillings. And the fault of these
enactments was not confined to their unreasonable cruelty; they were as
mischievous even to those whom they were designed to protect as they
were absurd, as some owners began to perceive. In the list of capital
offences was that of stealing linen from a bleaching-ground. And a large
body of bleachers presented a petition to Parliament entreating the
repeal of the statute which made it such on the ground that,
practically, it had been found not to strike terror into the thieves,
but almost to secure them impunity from the reluctance of juries to find
a verdict which would sentence a fellow-creature to the gallows for such
an offence.

Nor was this by any means the only instance in which the barbarity of
the law defeated its object. And its combined impolicy and inhumanity
had some years before attracted the notice of Sir Samuel Romilly, who
had been Solicitor-general in the administration of 1806, and who,
shortly after its dissolution, began to apply himself to the benevolent
object of procuring the repeal of many of the statutes in question, and
in the course of a few years did succeed in obtaining the substitution
of milder penalties for several of the less flagitious offences. He died
in 1818; but the work which he had began was continued by Sir James
Mackintosh, a man of even more conspicuous ability, and one who could
adduce his own experience in favor of the changes which he recommended
to the Parliament, since he had filled the office of Recorder of Bombay
for eight years, and had discharged his duties with a most diligent and
consistent avoidance of capital punishment, which he had never inflicted
except for murder; his lenity, previously unexampled in that land,
having been attended with a marked diminution of crime. He procured the
substitution of milder penalties in several additional cases; and at
last, in 1822, he carried a resolution engaging the House of Commons
"the next session to take into its serious consideration the means of
increasing the efficacy of the criminal law by abating its undue rigor."
And this success had the effect of inducing the new minister to take the
question into his own hands. Peel saw that it was one which, if it were
to be dealt with at all, ought to be regulated by the government itself,
and not be left to independent members, who could not settle it with
satisfactory completeness; and therefore, in 1823, he introduced a
series of bills to carry out the principle implied in Mackintosh's
resolution of the preceding year, not only simplifying the law, but
abolishing the infliction of capital punishment in above a hundred
cases. He was unable to carry out his principle as fully as he could
have desired. The prejudice in favor of still retaining death as a
punishment for forgery was too strong for even his resolution as yet to
overbear, though many private bankers supplied him with the same
arguments against it in their case which had formerly been alleged by
the bleachers. But the example which he now set, enforced as it was with
all the authority of the government, was followed in many subsequent
sessions, till at last our code, instead of the most severe, has become
the most humane in Europe, and death is now never inflicted except for
murder, or crimes intended or calculated to lead to murder. It is worth
remarking, however, that neither Romilly, Mackintosh, nor Peel ever
entertained the slightest doubt of the right of a government to inflict
capital punishment. In the last address which Mackintosh delivered to
the grand-jury at Bombay he had said: "I have no doubt of the right of
society to inflict the punishment of death on enormous crimes, wherever
an inferior punishment is not sufficient. I consider it as a mere
modification of the right of self-defence, which may as justly be
exercised in deterring from attack as in repelling it."[187] And in his
diary, when speaking of a death-warrant which he had just signed, he
says: "I never signed a paper with more perfect tranquillity of mind. I
felt agitation in pronouncing the sentence, but none in subscribing the
warrant; I had no scruple of conscience on either occasion."

And it seems that his position is unassailable. The party whose interest
is to be kept in view by the Legislature in imposing punishments on
offences is society, the people at large, not the offender. The main
object of punishment is to deter rather than to reform; to prevent
crime, not to take vengeance on the criminal. And, if crime be more
effectually prevented by moderate than by severe punishments, society
has a right to demand, for its own security (as a matter of policy, not
of justice), that the moderate punishment shall, on that ground, be
preferred. That punishments disproportioned in their severity to the
magnitude of the offence often defeated their object was certain. Not
only had jurymen been known to confess that they had preferred violating
their oaths to doing still greater violence to their consciences, by
sending a man to the gallows for a deed which, in their opinion, did not
deserve it, but the very persons who had been injured by thefts or
forgeries were often deterred from prosecution of the guilty by the
knowledge that the forfeiture of their lives must follow their
conviction. It was almost equally certain that criminals calculated
beforehand on the chance of impunity which the known prevalence of these
feelings afforded them. Wherever the sympathy of the public does not go
along with the law, it must, to a great extent, fail; and that the
terrible frequency of sanguinary punishment had failed in all its
objects, was proved by the fact that, in spite of the numerous
executions which took place, crimes increased in a still greater
proportion than the population. Under the reformed system, now first
inaugurated on an extensive scale, crimes have become rarer, detection
and punishment more certain--a combination of results which must be the
object equally of the law-giver and the philanthropist.

It is not quite foreign to this subject to relate that, a year or two
before, a mode of trial had been abolished which, though long disused,
by some curious oversight had still been allowed to remain on the
statute-book. In the feudal times either the prosecutor or the prisoner,
in cases of felony, had a right to claim that the cause should be
decided by "wager of battle;" but it was an ordeal which, with one
exception in the reign of George II., had not been mentioned for
centuries. In 1817, however, the relatives of a woman who had been
murdered, being dissatisfied with the acquittal of a man who had been
indicted as her murderer, sued out "an appeal of murder" against him, on
which he claimed to have the appeal decided by "wager of battle," and
threw down a glove on the floor of the court to make good his challenge.
The claim was protested against by the prosecutor; but Lord
Ellenborough, the Chief-justice, pronounced judgment that, "trial by
battle having been demanded, it was the legal and constitutional mode of
trial, and must be awarded. It was the duty of the judges to pronounce
the law as it was, and not as they might wish it to be."[188] He gave
sentence accordingly; and, had the two parties been of equal stature and
strength, the Judges of the Common Pleas might have been seen, in their
robes, presiding from sunrise till sunset over a combat to be fought, as
the law prescribed, with stout staves and leathern shields, till one
should cry "Craven," and yield up the field. Fortunately for them, the
alleged murderer was so superior in bodily strength to his adversary,
that the latter declined the contest. But the public advancement of the
claim for such a mode of decision was fatal to any subsequent exercise
of it; and, in spite of the Common Council of London, who, confiding,
perhaps, in the formidable appearance presented by some of the City
Champions on Lord Mayor's Day, petitioned Parliament to preserve it, the
next year the Attorney-general brought in a bill to abolish it, and the
judges were no longer compelled to pronounce an absurd sentence in
obedience to an obsolete law, framed at a time when personal prowess was
a virtue to cover a multitude of sins, and might was the only right
generally acknowledged.

The foundation, too, was laid for other reforms. Lord Liverpool was more
thoroughly versed than any of his predecessors, except Pitt, in the
soundest principles of political economy; and in one of the first
speeches which he made in the new reign he expressed a decided
condemnation, not only of any regulations which were designed to favor
one trade or one interest at the expense of another, but generally of
the whole system and theory of protection; and one of his last measures
made an alteration in the manner of taxing corn imported from foreign
countries, which was greatly to the advantage of the consumer. It was
known as the "sliding-scale," the tax on imported corn varying with the
price in the market, rising when the price fell, and falling when it
rose; the design with which it was framed being to keep the price to the
consumer at all times as nearly equal as possible. At first, however, it
was vehemently denounced by the bulk of the agriculturists, who were
re-enforced on this occasion by a large party from among the Whigs, and
especially by some of those connected with Ireland. But a more suitable
period for discussing the establishment of Free-trade as the ruling
principle of our financial policy will occur hereafter.

The introduction of the sliding-scale was almost the last act of Lord
Liverpool's ministry. At the beginning of 1827 he was preparing a fresh
measure on the same subject, the effect of which was intended to
diminish still farther the protection which the former act had given,
and which was in consequence denounced by many landholders of great
wealth and influence, led, on this subject, by the King's favorite
brother, the Duke of York.[189] But, a few days after the meeting of
Parliament, he was struck down by an attack of paralysis, from which he
never recovered.

In his post as Prime-minister he was succeeded by Canning, not without
great reluctance on the part of the King; not, probably, so much because
he feared to find in him any desire to depart from the policy of Lord
Liverpool, except on the Catholic question (for even on matters of
foreign policy, on which Canning had always been supposed most to fix
his attention, he had adopted the line which Lord Liverpool had laid
down for the cabinet with evident sincerity),[190] as because his
Majesty had never wholly forgiven him for the attitude which he had
taken, differing on one or two points from that of his colleagues on the
Queen's case. And, as has been mentioned in a former chapter, he even,
with the object of evading the necessity of appointing him, suggested to
the Duke of Wellington the singular scheme of allowing the remaining
members of Lord Liverpool's cabinet to select their own chief,[191]
which the Duke, though coinciding with him in his dislike of Canning, of
whom he entertained a very causeless suspicion, rejected without
hesitation, as an abandonment of the royal prerogative in one of its
most essential duties or privileges. Another of his Majesty's notions,
if it had been carried out, would have been one of the strangest
violations of constitutional principle and practice which it is possible
to conceive. The Duke of York, who had for many years been
Commander-in-chief, died in January of the same year, and on his death
the King actually proposed to take that office on himself. For the
moment Lord Liverpool was able to induce him to abandon the idea, and to
confer the post on the Duke of Wellington. But it had taken such
possession of his mind that he recurred to it again when, on Canning
becoming Prime-minister, the Duke resigned the office; and he pressed it
on the Cabinet with singular pertinacity till, on Canning's death, the
Duke was prevailed on to resume the command. It is evident that no
arrangement could possibly be more inconsistent with every principle of
the constitution. The very foundation of parliamentary government is,
that every officer of every department is responsible to Parliament for
the proper discharge of his duties. But the investiture of the sovereign
with ministerial office of any kind must involve either the entire
withdrawal of that department from parliamentary control, or the
exposure of the sovereign to constant criticism, which, however
essential to the efficiency of the department, and consequently to the
public service, would be wholly inconsistent with the respect due to the
crown. The first alternative it is certain that no Parliament would
endure for a moment; the second, by impairing the dignity of the
monarch, could scarcely fail in some degree to threaten the stability of
the monarchy itself.

Canning's ministry was too brief to give time for any transaction of
internal importance. That of Lord Goderich, who succeeded him, though
longer by the almanac, was practically briefer still, since it never met
Parliament at all, but was formed and fell to pieces between the
prorogation and the next meeting of the Houses. But that which followed,
under the presidency of the Duke of Wellington, though after a few
months its composition became entirely Tory, is memorable for the first
great departure from those maxims of the constitution which had been
reckoned among its most essential principles ever since the Revolution.
Of the measures which bear that character, one was carried against the
resistance of the ministry, the other by the ministers themselves. And
it may at first sight appear singular that the larger measure of the two
was proposed by the Duke after those members of his cabinet who had
originally been supposed to give it something of a Liberal complexion
had quitted it. The Reform Bill of 1832--to which we shall come in the
next chapter--has been often called a peaceful revolution. The
Toleration Acts, as we may call the bills of 1828 and 1829, are scarcely
less deserving of that character.

The constitution, as it had existed for the last hundred and forty
years, had been not only a Protestant but a Church of England
constitution. Not only all Roman Catholics, but all members of
Protestant Non-conforming sects, all who refused to sign a declaration
against the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and also to take the
Sacrament according to the rites of the one Established Church, were
disqualified for any appointment of trust. That the object with which
the Test Act had been framed and supported was rather political than
religious is notorious; indeed, it was supported by the Protestant
Dissenters, though they themselves were to suffer by its operation, so
greatly at that time did the dread of Popery and the French King
overpower every other consideration.[192] On the Roman Catholics, after
the reign of James II. had increased that apprehension, the restrictions
were tightened. But those which inflicted disabilities on the Protestant
Non-conformists had been gradually relaxed. The repeal of two, the Five
Mile and the Conventicle Acts, had, as we have seen in the last chapter,
been recent measures of Lord Liverpool. But the Test Act still remained,
though it had long been practically a dead letter. The Union with
Scotland, where the majority of the population was Presbyterian, had
rendered it almost impossible to maintain the exclusion of Englishmen
resembling the Scotch in their religious tenets from preferments, and
even from seats in the House of Commons, to which Scotchmen were
admissible. And though one Prime-minister (Stanhope) failed in his
attempt to induce Parliament to repeal the Test Act, and his successor
(Walpole) refused his countenance to any repetition of the proposal,
even he did not reject such a compromise as was devised to evade it; and
in the first year of George II.'s reign (by which time it was notorious
that many Protestant Non-conformists had obtained seats in municipal
corporations, and even in the House of Commons, who yet had never
qualified themselves by compliance with the act of 1673) a bill of
indemnity was introduced by the minister, with at least the tacit
consent of the English bishops, to protect all such persons from the
penalties which they had incurred. And the bill, which was only annual
in its operation, was renewed almost every year, till, in respect of all
such places or dignities (if a seat in the House of Commons can be
described by either of those names), no one thought of inquiring whether
a man, so long as he were a Protestant, adhered to the Established
Church or not; members of the House of Commons even openly avowing their
nonconformity, and at times founding arguments on the fact.

The practical nullification of the Test Act by these periodical bills of
indemnity had been for some time used by two opposite parties--both that
which regarded the maintenance of the exclusive connection of the
constitution with the Church of England as of vital importance to both
Church and constitution, and that which was opposed to all restrictions
or disqualiflcations on religious grounds--as an argument in their
favor. The one contended that there could be no sufficient reason for
repealing a law from which no one suffered; the other, that it was a
needless provocation of ill-feeling to retain a law which no one ever
dreamed of enforcing. Hitherto the latter had been the weaker party. One
or two motions for the repeal of the Test Act, which had been made in
former years,[193] had been defeated without attracting any great
notice; but in the spring of 1828 Lord John Russel, then a
comparatively young member, but rapidly rising into influence with his
party, carried a motion in the House of Commons for leave to bring in a
bill to repeal the act, so far as it concerned the Protestant
Non-conformists, by a very decisive majority,[194] in spite of all the
efforts of Peel and his colleagues.

The ministry was placed in a difficult position by his success, since
the usual practice for a cabinet defeated on a question of principle was
to resign; and it is probable that they would not have departed from
that rule now, had not this defeat occurred so early in their official
life. But on this occasion it seemed to them that other questions had to
be considered besides the constitutional doctrine of submission on the
part of a ministry to the judgment of the Parliament.[195] Theirs was
now the fourth administration that had held office within twelve months;
and their resignation, which would compel the construction of a fifth,
could hardly fail not only to embarrass the sovereign, but to shake
public confidence in government generally. It was also certain that they
could rely on a division in the House of Lords being favorable to them,
if they chose to appeal from one House to the other. Under these
circumstances, they had to consider what their line of conduct should
be, and there never were two ministers better suited to deal with an
embarrassment of that kind than the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Peel. The
Duke's doctrine of government was that "the country was never governed
in practice according to the extreme principles of any party
whatever;"[196] while Peel's disposition at all times inclined him to
compromise. He was quite aware that on this and similar questions public
feeling had undergone great alteration since the beginning of the
century. There was a large and increasing party, numbering in its ranks
many men of deep religious feeling, and many firm supporters of the
principle of an Established Church, being also sincere believers in the
pre-eminent excellence of the Church of England, who had a conscientious
repugnance to the employment of the most solemn ordinance of a religion
as a mere political test of a person's qualifications for the discharge
of civil duties. In the opinion of the Bishop of Oxford (Dr. Lloyd),
this was the feeling of "a very large majority of the Church itself,"
and of the University.[197] Peel, therefore, came to the conclusion--to
which he had no difficulty in bringing his colleague, the
Prime-minister--that "it might be more for the real interests of the
Church and of religion to consent to an alteration in the law" than to
trust to the result of the debate in the House of Lords to maintain the
existing state of things. Accordingly, after several conferences with
the most influential members of the Episcopal Bench, he framed a
declaration to be substituted for the Sacramental test, binding all who
should be required to subscribe it--a description which included all who
should be appointed to a civil or corporate office--never to exert any
power or influence which they might thus acquire to subvert, or to
endeavor to subvert, the Protestant Church of England, Scotland, or
Ireland, as by law established. The declaration was amended in the House
of Lords by the addition of the statement, that this declaration was
subscribed "on the true faith of a Christian," introduced at the
instigation of Lord Eldon, who had not held the Great Seal since the
dissolution of Lord Liverpool's administration, but who was still looked
up to by a numerous party as the foremost champion of sound
Protestantism in either House.

Not that the addition of these words at all diminished the
dissatisfaction with which the great lawyer regarded the bill. On the
contrary, he believed it to be not only a weapon wilfully put into the
hands of the enemies of the Established Church, but a violation of the
constitution, of which, as he regarded it "the existing securities were
a part." He pointed out that "the King himself was obliged to take the
sacrament at his coronation;" and he argued from this and other grounds
that "the Church of England, combined with the state, formed together
the constitution of Great Britain; and that the acts now to be repealed
were necessary to the preservation of that constitution."

With every respect for that great lawyer, his argument on this point
does not appear sustainable. For the bill in question did not sweep away
securities for the Established Church, but merely substituted, for one
which long disuse and indemnity had rendered wholly inoperative, a fresh
security, which, as it would be steadily put in force, might fairly be
expected to prove far more efficacious. And it can hardly be contended
that it was not within the province of the Legislature to modify an
existing law in this spirit and with this object, however important
might be the purpose for which that law had originally been framed. Nay,
it might fairly be argued that the more important that object was, the
more were they who strengthened the means of attaining that object
entitled to be regarded as faithful servants and supporters of the
principle of the constitution.

The measure, however, relieved the Protestant Dissenters alone. Not only
did Lord Eldon's amendment preserve the Christian character of the
Legislature, but the requirement to sign the declaration against
Transubstantiation, which was unrepealed, left the Roman Catholics still
under the same disqualifications as before. But the days of those
disqualifications were manifestly numbered. Indeed, many of those who
had followed the ministers in their original resistance to the repeal of
the Test Act had been avowedly influenced by the conviction that it
could not fail to draw after it the removal of the disabilities
affecting the Roman Catholics. As has been said before, the disabilities
in question had originally been imposed on the Roman Catholics on
political rather than on religious grounds. And the political reasons
for them had been greatly weakened, if not wholly swept away, by the
extinction of the Stuart line of princes. Their retention or removal
had, therefore, now become almost wholly a religious question; and the
late bill had clearly established as a principle that, though the state
had a right to require of members of other religious sects that they
should not abuse the power which might arise from any positions or
employments to which they might be admitted, to the subversion or injury
of the Established Church of England, yet, when security for their
innocuousness in this respect was provided, it was not justified in
inquiring into the details of their faith. And if this were to be the
rule of government for the future, the conclusion was irresistible that
a similar security was all that the state was justified in demanding
from Roman Catholics, and that it could have no warrant for
investigating their opinion on Transubstantiation, or any other purely
theological tenet. There could be no doubt that the feelings of the
public had been gradually and steadily coming round to this view of the
question. The last House of Commons had not only passed a bill to remove
Roman Catholic disabilities (which was afterward thrown out in the House
of Lords), but had also passed, by a still larger majority, a
resolution, moved by Lord Francis Leveson Gower (who was now the
Secretary for Ireland), in favor of endowing the Roman Catholic priests
in Ireland. And at the late general election the opinions of the
candidates on what was commonly called Catholic Emancipation had been
the great cardinal question with a great number, probably a majority, of
the constituencies.

It may be remarked that it was not the Test Act which excluded Roman
Catholics from Parliament, but a bill which, fifteen years later, had
been passed (probably under the influence of Lord Shaftesbury) at the
time when the whole kingdom was excited by the daily expanding
revelations of the Popish Plot.[198] And this bill had a loop-hole which
was never discovered till now but the discovery of which totally changed
the whole aspect of the question. Even before the bill repealing the
Test Act had passed through all its stages, Sir Francis Burdett had
again induced the House of Commons to pass a resolution condemning the
continuance of the Roman Catholic disabilities; to which, however, the
peers, by a far larger majority, refused their concurrence.[199] But,
within a month of this division, the aspect of the whole question was
changed by the shrewdness of an Irish barrister, who had discovered the
loop-hole or flaw in the bill of 1678 already alluded to, and by the
energy and promptitude with which he availed himself of his discovery.
Mr. O'Connell had a professional reputation scarcely surpassed by any
member of the Irish Bar. He was also a man of ancient family in the
county of Kerry. And, being a Roman Catholic, he had for several years
been the spokesman of his brother Roman Catholics on most public
occasions. He now, on examination of the bill of 1678, perceived that,
though it forbade any Roman Catholic from taking a seat in either House
of Parliament, it contained no prohibition to prevent any constituency
from electing him its representative. And when, on the occasion of some
changes which were made in the cabinet, the representation of the County
Clare was vacated by its member, Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald, accepting the
office of President of the Board of Trade, O'Connell instantly offered
himself as a candidate in opposition to the new minister, who, of
course, sought re-election.

Mr. Fitzgerald was a man who had always supported the demands of the
Roman Catholics; he was also personally popular, and had the undivided
support of nearly all the gentlemen and principal land-owners of the
county, in which he himself had large property. But O'Connell's cause
was taken up by the entire Roman Catholic priesthood; addresses in his
favor were read at the altars of the different churches; and, after five
days' polling, Mr. Fitzgerald withdrew from the contest. The Sheriff, in
great perplexity, made a special return, reporting that "Mr. Fitzgerald
was proposed, being a Protestant, as a fit person to represent the
county in Parliament; that Mr. O'Connell, a Roman Catholic, was also
proposed; that he, Mr. O'Connell, had declared before the Sheriff that
he was a Roman Catholic, and intended to continue a Roman Catholic; and
that a protest had been made by several electors against his return."

It was accepted as a return of O'Connell, who, however, made no attempt
to take his seat, though when he first stood he had assured the electors
that there was no law to prevent him from doing so; but the importance
of his success was not to be measured by his actual presence or absence
in the House of Commons for the remainder of a session. It had made it
absolutely impossible to continue the maintenance of the disabilities;
what one Irish constituency had done, other Irish constituencies might
be depended on to do.[200] And it was quite certain that, as opportunity
offered, almost every constituency in Munster and Connaught, and many in
Leinster, would follow the example of Clare, and return Roman Catholic
representatives; while to retain a law which prevented forty or fifty
men duly elected by Irish constituencies from taking their seats must
have appeared impossible to all but a few, whom respect for the
undoubted sincerity of their attachment to their own religion and to the
constitution, as they understood it, is the only consideration which can
save them from being regarded as dangerous fanatics. At all events, the
ministers were not among them. And the Duke of Wellington, though he had
previously hoped, by postponing the farther consideration of the
question for a year or two, to gain time for a calmer examination of it
when the existing excitement had cooled down,[201] at once admitted the
conviction that the result of the Clare election had rendered farther
delay impossible. In his view, and that of those of his colleagues whose
judgment he estimated most highly, the Irish constituencies and their
probable action at future elections were not the only parties whose
opinions or feelings must be regarded by a responsible statesman; but to
them must be added the constituencies of the larger island also, since,
while, to quote the language of Mr. Peel, "the general election of 1826
had taken place under circumstances especially calculated to call forth
the manifestation of Protestant feeling throughout the country," they
had returned a majority of members in favor of concession, as was proved
by the recent division on Sir F. Burdett's motion. Moreover, apart from
the merits or demerits of concession, taken by itself, there was a
manifest danger that the keeping up of the excitement on the subject by
a continued adherence to the policy of restriction might, especially
among such a people as the Irish, so impulsive, and, in the lower
classes, so absolutely under the dominion of the priests, kindle an
excitement on other subjects also, still more difficult to deal with. It
was even already certain that the Roman Catholic priests were
endeavoring to tamper with the loyalty of the soldiers of their
persuasion. Nor was it clerical influence alone that the government had
to dread. A year or two before a Catholic Association had been formed,
which included among its members all the wealthiest and ablest of the
Roman Catholic laymen, noblemen, squires, and barristers. Its
organization had been so skilfully conducted, and all its measures had
been so carefully kept within the requirements of the law, that the
crown lawyers, on being consulted, pronounced it impossible to interfere
with it; and, by what may be called a peaceful agitation, it had
attained such extraordinary power over the minds of the bulk of the
Roman Catholics, that the Lord-lieutenant reported that "he was quite
certain that they could lead on the people to open rebellion at a
moment's notice, and that their organization was such that, in the hands
of desperate and intelligent leaders, they would be extremely

Under all these circumstances, the Duke had no hesitation in deciding
that it had become absolutely necessary to concede the demands of the
Roman Catholics and their supporters for a removal of their political
disabilities. And it was equally obvious that, the more promptly the
concession was made, the more gracious it would seem, and the greater
was the probability of its having the conciliatory and tranquillizing
effect the hope of which made it so desirable. He was not a man to lose
time when he had once made up his mind. It was already too late in the
session for anything to be done in 1828; but the Parliament had scarcely
been prorogued before he put his views on the subject before the King,
and began, in concert with the Home-secretary, to frame a bill such as
he hoped might settle the long-agitated question, without doing more
violence than was necessary to the feelings of those whose opposition or
reluctance he was aware he should have to encounter: among whom was the
King himself, who, though thirty years before he had, with an
ostentation rather unbecoming, considering his position, put himself
forward as an advocate of Emancipation, had subsequently changed his
opinion, and had recently taken more than one occasion to declare that
he had never doubted that, as the head and protector of the Protestant
religion, he was bound to refuse his assent to any relaxation of the
existing law.[203] The Duke, however, was too well acquainted with his
royal master's character to apprehend any real firmness of resistance
from him; but he knew that a great majority of the clergy, and no small
portion of the country gentlemen, were conscientiously and immovably
fixed in opposition to any concession at all, some refusing to regard
the question in any but a purely religious light, and objecting to
associate in the task of legislation for those whom they regarded as
adherents of an idolatrous superstition; while those who mingled
political reasoning with that founded on theology dwelt also on the
danger to be apprehended to the state, if political power were given to
those whose allegiance to the King was divided with another allegiance
which they acknowledged to a foreign prelate. And he had presently an
unmistakable proof afforded him how great was the strength of this party
in the country. Peel was one of the representatives of the University of
Oxford; and, as from his earliest enjoyment of a seat in Parliament he
had been a prominent opponent of the Roman Catholic claims, he
considered that it was to that maintenance of a policy identified in
their eyes with that Protestant ascendency which his supporters took to
be both the chief bulwark and one of the most essential parts of the
constitution that he owed his position as their member. With a
conscientiousness which was rather overstrained, and not quite
consistent with the legitimate position of a member of the House of
Commons as a representative, and not a delegate, he now conceived that
his change of view on the subject made it proper for him to give his
constituents an opportunity of making choice of some one else who should
more faithfully represent them. He accordingly resigned his seat,
offering himself at the same time for re-election. But he was defeated
by a very large majority, though his competitor was one who could not
possibly be put on a level with him either for university distinction or
for parliamentary eminence.

Not the less, however, for all their difficulties and discouragements,
did the ministers proceed in the course on which they had resolved. They
inserted in the speech with which the King opened the session of 1829 a
recommendation to the Houses "to take into consideration the whole
condition of Ireland, and to review the laws which imposed civil
disabilities on his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects." And with as
little delay as possible they introduced a bill to remove those
disabilities. But there was another measure which they felt it to be
indispensable should precede it. A previous sentence of the royal speech
had described the Catholic Association as one "dangerous to the public
peace, and inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution, keeping
alive discord and ill-will among his Majesty's subjects, and one which
must, if permitted to continue, effectually obstruct every effort
permanently to improve the condition of Ireland." And the ministers
naturally regarded it as their first duty to suppress a body which could
deserve to be so described. They felt, too, that the large measure of
concession and conciliation which they were about to announce would lose
half its grace, and more than half its effect, if it could possibly be
represented as a submission to an agitation and intimidation which they
had not the power nor the courage to resist. They determined, therefore,
to render such an imputation impossible, by previously suppressing the
Association. It was evident that it could not be extinguished by any
means short of an act of Parliament. And the course pursued, with the
discussions which took place respecting it, show in a very clear and
instructive manner the view taken by statesmen of the difference between
what is loyal or illegal, constitutional or unconstitutional; their
apprehension that conduct may be entirely legal, that is to say, within
the letter of the law, but at the same time perfectly unconstitutional,
outside of and adverse to the whole spirit of the constitution. The
royal speech had not ventured to describe the Association as illegal.
The Duke of Wellington expressly admitted that "in the original
institution and formation of the society there was nothing strictly
illegal."[204] And its founder and chief, Mr. O'Connell, had been at all
times careful to inculcate on his followers the necessity of avoiding
any violation of the law. But the speech had also declared the
association to be "inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution."
And its acts, as the Duke proceeded to describe them, certainly bore out
that declaration. "Those acts consisted principally in levying a tax
upon certain of his Majesty's subjects called Catholic rent, and this by
means and acts of extreme violence; by appointing persons to collect
these rents; and farther by adopting measures to organize the Catholic
population; by appointing persons to superintend that organization; and
by assuming to themselves the government of the country; and, still
more, affecting to assume it. Besides, they expended this rent in a
manner contrary to, and utterly inconsistent with, all law and order and
the constitution of the country." No member of either House denied the
accuracy of this description of the Association's proceedings. And if it
were correct, it was incontrovertible that the denunciation of it as an
utterly unconstitutional body was not too strong. Indeed, the fact of
its "levying a tax" upon a portion of the King's subjects (to say
nothing of the intimidation, amounting to compulsion, by which, as was
notorious, it was in many instances exacted) was the assumption of one
of the most important functions of the Imperial Parliament; it was the
erection of an _imperium in imperio_, which no statesmen intrusted with
the government of a country can be justified in tolerating. And this was
felt by the Opposition as well as by the ministers; by the Whigs as
fully as by the Tories. The most eloquent of the Whig party, Mr.
Stanley, was as decided as Mr. Peel himself in affirming that the
existence of the Association was "inconsistent with the spirit of the
constitution," and that it was "dangerous that the people of a country
should look up to any public body distinct from the government, opposed
to the government, and monopolizing their attachment and

It was, therefore, with the almost unanimous approval of both parties
that the bill framed for the suppression of the Association was
received. The framing of such a bill was not unattended by difficulties,
as Peel acknowledged,[206] since "no one wished to declare that every
political meeting was illegal;" while at the same time it was necessary
to guard against "having its enactments evaded, since a more dangerous
precedent than the successful evasion of acts of the Legislature could
scarcely be conceived." But the measure, as it was proposed, skilfully
steered clear of these difficulties. It met them by intrusting "the
enforcement of the law to be enacted to one person alone." The bill
proposed "to give to the Lord-lieutenant, and to him alone, the power of
suppressing any association or meeting which he might think dangerous to
the public peace, or inconsistent with the due administration of the
law; together with power to interdict the assembly of any meeting of
which previous notice should have been given, and which he should think
likely to endanger the public peace, or to prove inconsistent with the
due administration of the law." And farther, "to interdict any meeting
or association which might be interdicted from assembling, or which
might be suppressed under this act, from receiving and placing at their
control any moneys by the name of rent, or any other name." But the act
was not to be one of perpetual duration. It could not be concealed that
such a prohibition or limitation of the general right of public meeting
and public discussion was a suspension of a part of the constitution;
and therefore the ministers were content to limit its operation "to one
year and the end of the then next session of Parliament," feeling
"satisfied that there would be no objection to continue it, if there
should be any necessity for its continuance." And this limitation was a
substantial mitigation of its severity. It made the bill, as Mr. Stanley
correctly described it, "not a permanent infringement on the
constitution, but a temporary deviation from it, giving those powers
which were necessary at the moment," but not maintaining them an hour
longer than they were necessary.

And this seems to be the course most in accordance with the spirit of
the constitution, with former practice, with common-sense. Deeds which
violate the letter of the law can be dealt with by the law. But actions
or courses of action which, even if they may be thought to overstep the
law, transgress it so narrowly as to elude conviction, can only be
reached by enactments which also go in some degree beyond the ordinary
law; and, so going beyond it, are to that extent encroachments on the
ordinary privileges and rights of the subject, and suspensions of the
constitution. But the very term "suspension" shows that the power
conferred is but temporary, otherwise it would be synonymous with
abrogation. And all parties may wisely agree, as they did in this
instance, to a temporary suspension of the people's rights, though there
would be none to whom their permanent abrogation would not be

The bill, then, for the suppression of the Association passed with
universal approval, and it may be regarded as furnishing a model for
dealing with similar associations, if ever they should arise. And as
soon as it was passed Mr. Peel introduced the greater measure, that for
the repeal of the disabilities. In drawing the necessary bill the
ministers had had two questions of special importance to consider:
firstly, whether it should be unlimited concession which should be
granted, such as would throw open to the Roman Catholics every kind of
civil office; and, secondly, whether it should be accompanied by any
other measure, which might render it more palatable to its adversaries,
as diminishing a portion at least of the dangers which those who
regarded the question in a purely political light most apprehended. On
the first point it was determined that, with the exception of three
civil offices, those of the Lord Chancellors of England and Ireland and
the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland,[207] and some of a purely ecclesiastical
character, such as the Judge of the Court of Arches, every kind of
preferment should be opened to the Roman Catholics.[208] The declaration
against Transubstantiation and the oath of supremacy, certain
expressions in which were the obstacles which had hitherto kept the
Roman Catholics out of office and out of Parliament, were to be
repealed, and another to be substituted for them which should merely
bind him who took it to defend the King, to maintain the Protestant
succession, and to declare that "it was not an article of his faith, and
that he renounced, rejected, and abjured the opinion, that princes
excommunicated or deposed by the Pope might be deposed and murdered; and
that he disclaimed, disavowed, and solemnly abjured any intention to
subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this
realm, and that he would never exercise any privilege to which he was or
might become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or
Protestant government in this kingdom."[209]

The second question was, it will probably be confessed, even more
important. Pitt, who had always contemplated, and had encouraged the
Irish Roman Catholics to contemplate, the abolition of their political
disabilities as an indispensable appendage to, or, it may be said, part
of the Union, had designed, farther, not to confine his benefits to the
laymen, but to endow the Roman Catholic clergy with adequate stipends, a
proposal which was received with the greatest thankfulness, not only by
the Irish prelates and clergy themselves, but also by the heads of their
Church at Rome, who were willing, in return, to give the crown a veto on
all the ecclesiastical appointments of their Church in the two
islands.[210] The justice of granting such an endowment could hardly be
contested. The Reformation in Ireland, if what had taken place there
could be called a reformation at all, had been wholly different from the
movement which had almost extinguished Popery in England. The great
majority of the Irish people had never ceased to adhere to the Romish
forms, and the Reformation there had been simply a transfer of the
property of the Romish Church to the Church of England, unaccompanied by
any corresponding change of belief in the people, who had an undeniable
right to claim that the state, while making this transfer, should not
deprive of all provision the clergy to whose ministrations they still
clung with a zeal and steadiness augmented rather than diminished by the
discouragements under which they adhered to them.

The policy of granting such endowment was equally conspicuous. No
measure could so bind the clergy to the government; and no such security
for the loyalty and peaceful, orderly behavior of the poorer classes
could be provided, as might be expected from the attachment to the
government of those who had over them an influence so powerful in its
character and so unbounded in its strength as their priests. And the
Duke of Wellington, who had at one time been himself the Irish
Secretary, and, as an intimate friend of Lord Castlereagh, who held that
office at the time of the Union, had a perfect knowledge of what had
been intended at that time--and who was, of course, aware of the very
decided favor which the House of Commons had so lately shown to the
project--proposed to follow out Pitt's plan in that particular, and to
connect a provision[211] for the Roman Catholic clergy with the removal
of their political disabilities from the laymen. Unluckily, Peel, who,
throughout the whole transaction, was, of all the cabinet, the
counsellor on whose judgment he most relied, took a different view of
the expediency of making such a provision, having, indeed, "no objection
to it in point of principle." But he saw many practical difficulties,
which he pressed on the Duke with great earnestness. He argued that for
the government "to apply a sum of money to the payment of the ministers
of the Church of Rome in Ireland, granting a license for the performance
of their spiritual functions, would be a virtual and complete
supersession, if not repeal, of the laws which prohibit intercourse with
Rome;" and asked, "Could the state affect to be ignorant that the bishop
whom it paid derived his right to be a bishop from the See of Rome?"
Another difficulty he found in the apprehension that "the admission of
the right of the Roman Catholic clergy to an endowment might produce
similar claims on the part of the Dissenters in England, who contribute
in like manner to the support of their own religion and of the
established religion also." He suggested, farther, that, if the Roman
Catholic priest were allowed, in addition to his stipend, "to receive
dues, Easter offerings, etc., from his parishioners, his condition would
then be better than that of the ministers of the Established Church in
many of the parishes in Ireland." And, finally, he urged the practical
objection, that the endowment would greatly strengthen the opposition to
the whole measure, by the reluctance which, "on purely religious
grounds," many would feel to the endowment of the Roman Catholic faith,
who would yet be inclined to acquiesce in the removal of the
disabilities, "on grounds rather political than religious." He was "not
insensible to the importance of establishing some bond of connection
between the Roman Catholic clergy and the state;" but he believed that
the omission of a provision for their endowment "was important to the
ultimate success of the government in proposing the measure before

It is not probable that the Duke was greatly influenced by the first, or
what may be called the constitutional, objection--that any concert with
the Papal Court with respect to the appointments or endowments of its
clergy would be a violation of the act which prohibited any intercourse
with Rome. The removal of the disabilities required the repeal of one
act of Parliament; and, if the holding communications with Rome on the
subject of clerical appointments should be so construed as to require
the repeal of another, it would hardly seem that there could be any
greater violation of or departure from the principles of the
constitution in repealing two acts than in repealing one. As to the
second of Peel's objections, the English Dissenters could not possibly
be said to stand on the same ground as the Irish Roman Catholics, since
their ministers had certainly never been deprived by any act of the
state of any provision which they had previously enjoyed; but their
position as unendowed ministers was clearly one of their own making. The
possible inferiority in point of emolument of some of the Protestant
cures in Ireland to that which might be enjoyed by some of the Roman
Catholic clergy could hardly be regarded as the foundation of any
argument at all, since no law had ever undertaken, or ever could
undertake, to give at all times and under all circumstances equal
remuneration to equal labors. But the consideration last suggested was
exactly the one to influence such a mind as that of the Duke of
Wellington, generally contented to deal with a present difficulty. He
was determined to carry Emancipation, because he saw that the Clare
election had made it impossible to withhold or even to delay it; and,
being so determined, he was desirous to avoid encumbering it with any
addition which might increase the opposition to it. At the same time he
was far from being sanguine of its effect, "with whatever guards or
securities it might be accompanied, to pacify the country or to avert
rebellion,"[212] which, in his apprehension, was undoubtedly impending;
and, under the influence of these combined feelings, he eventually
withdrew that clause from the bill. It was accompanied by another bill,
disfranchising the forty-shilling freeholders in Ireland. They were a
class of voters sunk in the deepest poverty, and such as certainly could
not well be supposed capable of forming, much less of exercising, an
independent judgment on political matters. Yet this bill is remarkable
as having been the only enactment passed since the Revolution to narrow
the franchise. It had no opposition to anticipate from English or Scotch
members, and was accepted by the Irish members as the price of

No measure that had ever been framed since the Revolution had caused
such excitement in the country; but the preponderance of feeling in its
favor was equally marked in both Houses of Parliament. In the House of
Commons 320 supported it, while only 142 could be marshalled against it.
In the House of Lords 213 divided for it against 109. And in April it
received the royal assent.

The general policy of removing the disabilities it is not necessary to
discuss here. It is quite clear that the Clare election had rendered it
impossible to maintain them. And if some of those who judge of measures
solely by their effects still denounce this act, as one which has failed
in its object of tranquillizing Ireland, many of those who admit the
failure ascribe it to the omission to accompany it by one securing a
state endowment for the Roman Catholic clergy, pronouncing it, without
that appendage, a half measure, such as rarely succeeds, and never
deserves success. However that may be, it is certain that the measure,
coupled with the repeal of the Test Act of the previous year, was one
which made a great and permanent change in the practical working of the
constitution of the kingdom, as it had been interpreted for the last one
hundred and fifty years. Of that constitution one of the leading
features, ever since the Restoration, had been understood to be the
establishment and maintenance of the political as well as the
ecclesiastical ascendency of the Church of England. On that ascendency
the repeal of the Test Act in 1828 had made the first, and that a great,
inroad, and the present statute entirely abolished it as a principle of
government. So far as political privileges went, every Christian sect
was now placed on a footing of complete equality. But so to place them
may fairly be regarded as having been required not only by justice and
expediency, but by reasons drawn from the history of the nation and from
the circumstances under which these disabilities had been imposed.
Before the Rebellion no one was excluded from the English Parliament on
account of his religion, whether he was a Roman Catholic, a
Presbyterian, or a member of any other of the various sects which were
gradually arising in the country. It was not till after the Restoration
that a recollection of the crimes of the Puritans, when they had got the
upper-hand, and the fear of machinations and intrigues, incompatible
with the freedom and independence of the people, which were imputed to
the Roman Catholics, gave birth to the statutes depriving both
Protestant and Roman Catholic Non-conformists of all legislative and
political power. The restrictions thus imposed on the Presbyterians and
other Protestant sects had, as we have seen, been gradually relaxed by a
periodical act of indemnity. Indeed, after the Union with Scotland, it
was impossible with any show of consistency to maintain them, since, as
it has been already pointed out, after Presbyterianism had been
recognized as the established religion of Scotland, it would have seemed
strangely unreasonable to regard it as a disqualification on the
southern side of the Border. But, as long as the Stuart princes were
from time to time disquieting the government by their open invasions or
secret intrigues, no such relaxation could with safety be granted to the
Roman Catholics, since it could hardly be expected that they would
forbear to employ any power which they might acquire for the service of
a prince of their own religion. That danger, however, which ever since
1745 had been a very shadowy one, had wholly passed away with the life
of the last Stuart lay prince, Charles Edward; and his death left the
rulers of the kingdom and advisers of the sovereign free to take a
different and larger view of their duty to the nation as a whole.

It was notorious that the number of Non-conformists was large. In the
middle of the last century it had received a considerable accession
through the institution of the new sect of Wesleyan Methodists; which,
through the supineness of the clergy of the Established Church in that
generation, had gradually increased, till it was estimated that the
various Dissenting sects in England equalled at least half the number of
the members of the Established Church. In Wales they were believed to
form the majority. In Scotland three-fourths of the people were
Presbyterians; and in Ireland the Roman Catholics outnumbered the
Protestants in nearly the same proportion. Taking England, Wales,
Scotland, and Ireland together, a calculation which reckoned the
different sects of Protestant and Roman Catholic Non-conformists united
at half the entire population would probably not have erred very widely
from the truth.

It must have been the aim of every statesman deserving of the name to
weld these different religious parties into one harmonious whole, as far
as their civil position went. And measures which had that tendency could
not be foreign to the constitution, properly understood. A constitution
which confines its benefits to one-half of a nation hardly merits the
title of a constitution at all. For every constitution ought to extend
its protection and its privileges equally to every portion of the
people, unless there be some peculiarity in the principles or habits of
any one portion which makes its participation in them dangerous to the
rest. It had undoubtedly been the doctrine of Pitt, and of the greater
part of those who since his time had held the reins of government, that
if any portion of the King's subjects did cherish a temper dangerous to
the rest, it was because they were debarred from privileges to which
they conceived themselves to have a just right, and that their
discontent and turbulence were the fruit of the restrictions imposed on
them. In proposing to remove such a grievance Pitt certainly conceived
himself to be acting in accordance with the strictest principles of the
constitution, and not so much innovating upon it as restoring it to its
original comprehensiveness. And so of the measure, as it was now
carried, it will apparently be correct to say that, though it did make
an important change in the practical working of the constitution, it
made it only by reverting to the fundamental principles of civil and
religious liberty, to which every subject had a right; which had only
been temporarily restrained under the apprehension of danger to the
state, and which the cessation of that apprehension made it a duty to
re-establish in all their fulness.

But it is by no means clear that in the conduct of the measure the
constitution was not violated in one very important point, the proper
relation subsisting between a constituency and its representative, by
Mr. Peel's resignation of his seat for the University of Oxford. That he
was sensible that the act stood in need of explanation is proved by the
careful statement of the motives and considerations that determined him
to it, which he drew up twenty years afterward. They were of a twofold
character. To quote his own words: "When I resolved to advise, and to
promote to the utmost of my power, the settlement of that question, I
resolved at the same time to relinquish, not only my official
station,[213] but the representation of the University of Oxford. I
thought that such decisive proofs that I could have no object, political
or personal, in taking a course different from that which I had
previously taken, would add to my influence and authority, so far, at
least, as the adjustment of the particular question at issue was
concerned." "I cannot deny that in vacating my seat I was acting upon
the impulse of private feelings, rather than upon a dispassionate
consideration of the constitutional relations between a representative
and his constituents. I will not seek to defend the resolution to which
I came by arguments drawn from the peculiar character of the academic
body, or from the special nature of the trust confided to its members;
still less will I contend that my example ought to be followed by others
to whom may be offered the same painful alternative of disregarding the
dictates of their own consciences, or of acting in opposition to the
opinions and disappointing the expectations of their constituents. I
will say no more than that my position was a very peculiar one, that I
had many painful sacrifices to make, and that it would have been a great
aggravation of them, if it could have said with truth that I was
exercising an authority derived from the confidence of the University to
promote measures injurious, in her deliberate judgment, either to her
own interests or to those of the Church."

No one would willingly censure too severely an act dictated by a sense
of honor, even if somewhat overstrained and too scrupulously delicate;
but when Mr. Peel speaks of "defending" or not defending his deed, he
clearly admits it to be one open to impeachment. And when he forbears to
"contend that his example ought to be followed," he seems practically to
confess a consciousness that any defence against such impeachment must
fail; while the last sentence quoted above involves an assertion that a
constituency (in this instance one of the two most important
constituencies in the kingdom) could be justified in regarding a measure
required by the safety, or at least by the welfare, of the state, as
injurious to its own interests; and so far admits a possible severance
between the interests of a particular class or body and those of the
whole community, which can have no real existence. That, however, is not
the point to be investigated here. The charge, as it seems, to which Mr.
Peel's deed lays him open is, that by it he lowered the position and
character of a member of Parliament from those of a representative to
those of a delegate. It was an adoption of the principle laid down for
his own guidance by a colleague of Mr. Burke above fifty years before,
and indignantly repudiated by that great political philosopher, as
proceeding from an entire misapprehension of the rights of a
constituency and of a member[214] of Parliament. He told the electors of
Bristol that "when they had chosen their member, he was not a member of
Bristol, but a member of Parliament; and that if the local constituent
should have an interest, or should form an opinion, evidently opposite
to the real good of the rest of the community, the member for that place
ought to be as far as any other from any endeavor to give it effect;"
that a representative "owes to his constituents, not his industry only,
but his judgment, and betrays instead of serving them, if he sacrifices
it to their opinion." And in so saying he carried with him the
concurrence and approval of all his contemporaries whose sentiments on
such a question were entitled to weight.

In the States-general of France each member was, by the original
constitution of that body, a delegate, and not a representative. He
could not even remonstrate against the most oppressive grievance of
which the previous instructions of the constituent body had not
instructed him to complain; and this limitation of his duties and powers
was, undoubtedly, one very principal cause which led to the
States-general so rapidly falling into utter disrepute. It was no light
thing to take a step which had a tendency to bring down the British
Parliament to the level of the despised and long-disused States-general.
And it is the more necessary to put the case in a clear and true light,
because at the present day there is an evident disposition on the part
of constituencies to avail themselves of Peel's conduct in this instance
as a precedent, in spite of his protest against its being so regarded,
and to fetter their representatives with precise instructions; and a
corresponding willingness on the part of candidates to purchase support
at elections by a submissive giving of pledges on a variety of subjects,
so numerous as to leave themselves no freedom of judgment at all. On the
great majority of subjects which come before Parliament, a member of
Parliament, if he be a sensible and an honest man, has a far better
opportunity of obtaining correct information and forming a sound opinion
than can be within reach of any constituency, whose proneness to
misjudge is usually in exact proportion to the magnitude of its numbers.
Every elector justifiably may, and naturally will, seek to ascertain
that between the candidate whom he supports and himself there is a
general conformity of opinion; an absolute identity he will never find,
and he has no right to ask.[215]


[Footnote 182: £118,776,000. Alison, c. lxxvi.]

[Footnote 183: See Lord Malmesbury's account of their first
interview.--_Diaries of Lord Malmesbury_, iii., 218.]

[Footnote 184: "Parliamentary Debates," series 2, ii., 632.]

[Footnote 185: Mr. Brougham gave his opinion that if the Duke of York,
or any other member of the royal family, had been named, it would have
been offensive to the Queen; but the measure adopted he regarded as of a
neutral character. (Mentioned by Lord Liverpool, "Life of Lord
Liverpool," iii., 55.)]

[Footnote 186: "Minutes of Cabinet," dated 10th and 14th February, 1820,
forwarded the King by Lord Liverpool ("Life of Lord Liverpool," iii.,

[Footnote 187: "Life of Sir J. Mackintosh," by R.J. Mackintosh, ii.,
110, 116.]

[Footnote 188: "Lives of the Chief-justices," iii., 171.]

[Footnote 189: In a letter on the subject to Lord Liverpool, the Duke
goes the length of calling the proposed bill "an experiment which,
should it fail, must entail the dreadful alternative of the entire ruin
of the landed interests of the empire, with which he is decidedly of
opinion that the nation must stand or fall."--_Life of Lord Liverpool_,
iii., 434.]

[Footnote 190: At one time it was the fashion with writers of the
Liberal party to represent Lord Liverpool as led by Lord Castlereagh in
the earlier, and by Canning in the later, part of his administration;
but Lord Liverpool's correspondence with both these ministers shows
clearly that on every subject of foreign as well as of home policy he
was the real guide and ruler of his cabinet. Even the recognition of the
independence of the South American provinces of Spain--which is so often
represented as exclusively the work of Canning--the memorandum on the
subject which Lord Liverpool drew up for the cabinet proves that the
policy adopted was entirely his own, and that as such he adhered to it
resolutely, in spite of the avowed disapproval of the Duke of Wellington
and the known unwillingness of the King to sanction it; and it may be
remarked (as he and Lord Castlereagh have sometime been described as
favoring the Holy Alliance), that the concluding sentence of his letter
to the Duke on the subject expresses his hostility, not only to that
celebrated treaty, but to the policy which dictated and was embodied in
it. (See Lord Liverpool's memorandum for the cabinet and letter to the
Duke of Wellington, December 8, 1824.)--_Life of Lord Liverpool_, iii.,

[Footnote 191: See ante, p. 222.]

[Footnote 192: "With much prudence or laudable disinterestedness," says
Hallam ("Constitutional History," ii., 532).]

[Footnote 193: The last time had been in 1790, when there had been a
majority of 187 against it.--_Peel's Memoirs_, i., 99.]

[Footnote 194: 237 to 193.]

[Footnote 195: "Peel's Memoirs," i., 68.]

[Footnote 196: "Wellington's Civil Despatches," iv., 453.]

[Footnote 197: See his letter to Peel, March 23 ("Peel's Memoirs," i.,

[Footnote 198: The entry of this bill in Cobbett's "Parliamentary
History" is: "The House of Commons testified a very extraordinary zeal
in unravelling the Popish Plot, and, to prevent mischief in the
interval, passed a bill to disable Papists from sitting in either House
of Parliament," to which the Lords, when the bill came up to their
House, added a proviso exempting the Duke of York from its operation.
An. 1678; October 26 to November 21.---_Parliamentary History_, iv.,

[Footnote 199: In the House of Commons the majority for Sir F. Burdett's
resolution was six--372 to 266. But, in the House of Lords, Lord
Lansdowne, moving the same resolution, was defeated by forty-five--182
to 137.]

[Footnote 200: See Fitzgerald's letter to Peel ("Peel's Memoirs," i.,

[Footnote 201: "Peel's Memoirs," i., 121.]

[Footnote 202: See "Lord Anglesey's Letters," _ibid._, pp. 126, 147.]

[Footnote 203: As early as the year 1812, on the negotiations (mentioned
in a former chapter) for the entrance of Lord Grenville and Lord Grey
into the ministry, the Duke of York mentioned to both those noblemen
that the Regent had an insuperable objection to the concession of
Emancipation. And it seems probable that it was the knowledge of his
sentiments on that point that greatly influenced the course which Lord
Liverpool subsequently pursued in regard to that question.--See _Life of
Lord Liverpool_, i, 381.]

[Footnote 204: Speech on moving the second reading of the bill in the
House of Lords, February 19, 1829 ("Hansard," xx., 389).]

[Footnote 205: Speech on the first reading of the bill, February 10
("Hansard," xx., 208).]

[Footnote 206: Speech on the first reading ("Hansard," xx., 198).]

[Footnote 207: An amendment was proposed by Lord Chandos to add the
office of Prime-minister to these three, on the ground that if a Roman
Catholic were Prime-minister "he might have the disposal of all the
patronage of the state and the Church vested in his hands." But Mr. Peel
pointed out that the law of England "never recognized any such office as
that of Prime-minister. In the eyes of the law the ministers were all on
an equality." And the position, such as it was, being a conventional
one, was not necessarily connected with the office of First Lord of the
Treasury. "In a recent instance his late right honorable friend, Mr.
Canning, had determined to hold the office of Prime-minister with that
of Secretary of State. And when Lord Chatham was Prime-minister, he did
not hold the office of First Lord of the Treasury." At the same time he
explained that the impropriety of intrusting a Roman Catholic with
Church patronage was already guarded against in the bill, a clause of
which provided that "it should not be lawful for any person professing
the Roman Catholic religion directly or indirectly to advise the crown
in any appointment to or disposal of any office or preferment, lay or
ecclesiastical, in the united Church of England and Ireland, or of the
Church of Scotland."--_Hansard_, xx., 1425.]

[Footnote 208: Many years afterward the restriction as to the Lord
Chancellorship of Ireland was abolished.]

[Footnote 209: The plan which Pitt had intended to propose was to
substitute in lieu of the Sacramental test a political test, to be
imposed indiscriminately on all persons sitting in Parliament, or
holding state or corporation offices, and also on all ministers of
religion, of whatever description, etc., etc. This test was to disclaim
in express terms the sovereignty of the people, and was to contain an
oath of allegiance and "fidelity to the King's government of the realm,
and to the established constitutions of Church and state."--Letter of
Lord Grenville, given in _Courts and Cabinets of George III._, and
quoted by Lord Stanhope, _Life of Pitt_, iii., 270. This plan seems very
preferable to that now adopted, since it removed every appearance of
making a distinction between the professors of the different creeds,
when the same oath was to be taken by all indifferently.]

[Footnote 210: The question had been discussed with the highest Papal
authorities more than once since the beginning of the century. In 1812
Mgr. Quarantotti, the prelate who, during the detention of the Pope in
France by Napoleon, was invested with the chief authority in
ecclesiastical affairs at Rome, in a letter to the Vicar-apostolic, Dr.
Poynter, formally announced the consent of the Papal See to give the
King a veto on all ecclesiastical appointments within the United
Kingdom; and, after his return to Rome, Pio VII. himself confirmed the
former title by a second addressed, by his instructions, to the same Dr.
Poynter, which letter, in 1816, was read by Mr. Grattan in the House of
Commons, it being throughout understood that this concession of the veto
to the King was conditional on the abolition of the disabilities and the
endowment of the priesthood. And in 1825, after Lord Francis Egerton's
resolution had been carried in the House of Commons, Dr. Doyle, one of
the most eminent of the Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland, in an
examination before a committee of the House of Lords, expressed the
willingness of the Roman Catholic clergy to accept a state provision, if
it were permanently annexed to each benefice, and accompanied with a
concession of an equality of civil rights to the Roman Catholic
laity.--See _Life of Lord Liverpool_, ii, 145; _Diary of Lord
Colchester, March_ 17, 1835, iii., 373; _Peel's Memoirs_, i., 306, 333

[Footnote 211: The sum to be thus employed seems to have been intended
to be £300,000 a year.--_Peel's Memoirs_, i., 197. On the whole question
of the payment and Peel's objections to it, see _ibid._, pp. 197, 306.]

[Footnote 212: See his "Civil Despatches," iv., 570. In February, 1829,
he said to Lord Sidmouth, "It is a bad business, but we are aground."
"Does your Grace think, then," asked Lord Sidmouth, "that this
concession will tranquillize Ireland?" "I can't tell; I hope it will,"
answered the Duke, who shortly discovered, and had the magnanimity to
admit, his mistake.--_Life of Lord Sidmouth_, iii., 453. It is
remarkable that the question of endowing the Roman Catholic clergy was
again considered by Lord John Russell's ministry in 1848. A letter of
Prince Albert in October of that year says, with reference to it: "The
bishops have protested against Church endowment, being themselves well
off; but the clergy would gratefully accept it if offered, but dare not
avow this."--_Life of the Prince Consort_, ii., 186.]

[Footnote 213: This first extract refers in part to the proposal which
he made to the Duke to resign his office as Secretary of State, and to
support the Emancipation as a private member, a design which he only
relinquished at the Duke's earnest entreaty. The second extract refers
to the seat in Parliament alone.--See _Peel's Memoirs_, i., 310, 312.]

[Footnote 214: Speech to the electors of Bristol on being declared by
the sheriffs duly elected member for that city, November 3,
1774.--_Burke's Works_, iii., 11, ed 1803.]

[Footnote 215: It is worth pointing out, however, that, as if it were
one of the natural fruits of the Reform Bill, the Liberal Committee of
the Livery of London in 1832 passed a series of resolutions asserting
the principle of delegation without the slightest modification; one
resolution affirming "that members chosen to be representatives in
Parliament ought to do such things as their constituents wish and direct
them to do;" another, "that a signed engagement should be exacted from
every member that he would at all times and in all things act
conformably to the wishes of a majority of his constituents, or would at
their request resign the trust with which they had honored
him."--_Annual Register_, 1832, p. 300; _quoted by Alison_, 2d series,
v., 355.]


Demand for Parliamentary Reform.--Death of George IV., and Accession of
William IV.--French Revolution of 1830.--Growing Feeling in Favor of
Reform.--Duke of Wellington's Declaration against Reform.--His
Resignation: Lord Grey becomes Prime-minister.--Introduction of the
Reform Bill.--Its Details.--Riots at Bristol and Nottingham.--Proposed
Creation of Peers.--The King's Message to the Peers.--Character and
Consequences of the Reform Bill.--Appointment of a Regency.--
Re-arrangement of the Civil List.

One of Pitt's great measures of domestic, apart from financial or
commercial, policy having become law, it seemed in some degree natural
to look for the accomplishment of the other, a reform of the House of
Commons, which, indeed, after the conclusion of the war, had been made
at times the subject of earnest petition, being one in which a far
greater number of people had a lively interest than that excited by
Catholic Emancipation. The Englishmen who had advocated that measure had
been striving for the adoption of a principle rather than for a
concession from which they could expect any personal benefit, since very
few in any English or Scotch constituency were Roman Catholics, or
desired to return a Roman Catholic representative. But thousands in
every county, including the whole body of citizens of some of the
largest and most flourishing towns, felt a personal concern in the
attainment of Parliamentary Reform, as the measure which would give
them, and which could alone give them, that voice in the affairs of the
kingdom to which they felt themselves entitled, but which they had never
yet enjoyed.

And before the end of the next session the prospect of the early success
of their aspirations was greatly increased by the death of the King.
George IV., who in his early manhood had attached himself to the Whigs
with an ardor and ostentation altogether unbecoming his position as heir
to the throne, had formally separated himself from them after the death
of Fox in 1806, and had gradually come to regard their adversaries with
a favor as exclusive as he had formerly shown to themselves. But the
Duke of Clarence, who now succeeded to the throne, had always shown a
leaning toward the Whigs, who of late had been commonly regarded as the
reforming party. While the war lasted, and during the few remaining
years of the reign of George III., no active steps toward Reform were
taken in Parliament; but under George IV. more than one borough
convicted of gross and habitual corruption, as has been mentioned, was
disfranchised. Grampound was so punished in the time of Lord Liverpool,
and its members were transferred to Yorkshire, so as to give that
largest of the counties four representatives; and it may be remarked
that this arrangement caused the Prime-minister to suggest an
improvement in the details of an election--which was afterward
universally adopted--when, in reply to a remark on the great
inconvenience that was found to exist in taking the poll at once in so
large a county as Yorkshire, he hinted at the possibility of obviating
that difficulty by allowing polls to be taken in different parts of the
county. And, since the Duke had been in office, two more boroughs,
Penrhyn and East Retford, had also been disfranchised; though the
Reformers failed in their endeavor to get the seats thus vacated
transferred to Manchester and Birmingham. With the accession of the new
sovereign, however, they became more active. They found encouragement in
other circumstances also. Many of those who were commonly called the
Ultra Tories had been so alienated from the Duke's government by the
Emancipation Act, that they were known to be ready to coalesce with
almost any party for the sake of overturning his administration.
Moreover, as forty years before, the French Revolution of 1789 had
caused great political excitement in England, so now the new French
revolution of July acted as a strong stimulus on the movement party in
this as well as in other countries; and altogether there was a very
general feeling that the time for important changes had come. The Duke
of Wellington was not blind to the prevalence of the idea; and, being by
no means willing to admit that his own policy of the preceding year had
in the least contributed to strengthen it, he conceived it to be his
duty to discountenance it by every means in his power; but the steps
which he took with that object only invigorated and inflamed it. As
Prime-minister, he inserted in the speech with which the new sovereign
opened his first Parliament in the autumn after his accession a general
panegyric on that "happy form of government under which, through the
favor of Divine Providence, this country had enjoyed for a long
succession of years a greater share of internal peace, of commercial
prosperity, of true liberty, of all that constitutes social happiness,
than had fallen to the lot of any other country of the world." And in
his own character, a few nights afterward, he added a practical
commentary on those sentences of the royal speech, when, in allusion to
Lord Grey's expression of a hope that the ministers would prepare "to
redress the grievances of the people by a reform of the Parliament," he
repudiated the suggestion altogether, avowing that the government were
contemplating no such measure, and adding that "he would go farther, and
say that he had never read or heard of any measure up to that moment
which in any degree satisfied his mind that the state of the
representation could be improved or rendered more satisfactory to the
country at large than at that moment. He was fully convinced that the
country possessed at that moment a Legislature which answered all good
purposes of legislation to a greater degree than any Legislature had
ever answered them in any country whatever.... And he would at once
declare that, as far as he was concerned, as long as he held any station
in the government of the country, he should always feel it his duty to
resist any measure of Reform when proposed by others."

Such uncompromising language was, not unnaturally, regarded by the
Opposition in both Houses as a direct defiance, and the challenge was
promptly taken up both in and out of Parliament. It happened that at
this moment the ministry was extremely unpopular in the City; not,
indeed, on account of his hostility to Reform, but in consequence of the
recent introduction by the Home-secretary of a police force in London,
on the model of one which the Duke himself, when Irish Secretary, had
established in Dublin. The old watchmen had been so notoriously
inefficient that it might have been expected that the change would have
been hailed with universal approval and gratitude, but it met with a
very different reception. Many of the newspapers which had not yet
forgiven the passing of Catholic Emancipation made it a ground for the
strongest imputations on the Duke himself, some of them even going the
length of affirming that he aimed at the throne, and that the
organization of this new force was the means on which he reckoned for
the attainment of his object. No story is too gross for the credulity of
the populace. To hear of such a plot was to believe it; to believe it
was to resolve to defeat it; and at the beginning of November the
government received several warnings that a plan was in agitation to
raise a formidable riot on Lord Mayor's Day, when the King and the Duke
himself were expected to dine with the Lord Mayor. The Lord Mayor even
wrote to the Duke to suggest the prudence of his coming "strongly and
sufficiently guarded," and the result of this advice was certainly
strange. The Duke cared little enough about personal danger to himself,
but he regarded himself as specially bound by his office to watch over
the public tranquillity, and to do nothing that might be expected to
endanger it. He was at least equally solicitous that a new reign should
not open with a tumult which could in any way be regarded as an insult
to the King; and, under the influence of these feelings, he took the
responsibility of giving the King the unprecedented advice of abandoning
his intention of being present at the Guildhall banquet. Such a step had
an inevitable tendency to weaken the ministry still farther by the
comments which it provoked. Even his own brother, Lord Wellesley, did
not spare his sarcasms, pronouncing it "the boldest act of cowardice he
had ever heard of;" while the Reformers ascribed the unpopularity which
it confessed to the Duke's declaration against any kind or degree of
Reform; and, to test the correctness of this opinion, Mr. Brougham, who,
in the House of Commons, was the most eloquent champion of Reform, gave
notice of a motion on the subject for the 16th of November. Before that
day came, however, the ministry had ceased to exist. On the preceding
evening it had been defeated on a proposal to refer to a select
committee the consideration of the Civil List, a new settlement of which
was indispensable at the beginning of a new reign, and on the morning of
the 16th the Duke resigned, not only advising the King to intrust the
formation of the new cabinet to Lord Grey--who was universally
recognized as the head of the Whig party--but recommending his Majesty
also to be prepared to consent to a measure of moderate Reform, which,
though he could not bring himself to co-operate in it, he was satisfied
that the temper of the House of Commons, if not of the people
out-of-doors also, rendered unavoidable.[216] The advice was taken. Lord
Grey had no difficulty in forming a ministry in which the Whigs were
aided by the junction of several of the more moderate Tories, who had
regarded Canning as their leader; and from the very beginning
Parliamentary Reform was proclaimed to be the one great object of his
government. It would be more correct to call it a Reform of the House of
Commons, since there was no idea of interfering with the House of Lords,
even in those parts of it which were of a representative character, the
Scotch and Irish peers. But, by whatever title the ministerial policy
was designated, no one misunderstood what was intended; and as
Parliament was, after a few days, adjourned over the Christmas holidays,
the recess was spent by a sub-committee of the cabinet in framing a

The great extension of our trade, which was the fruit partly of his wise
commercial policy, and partly of the long war; the rapid and prodigious
growth of our manufactures, developed by the inventive ingenuity of our
mechanics and engineers, had given a consideration and influence to the
commercial, manufacturing, and moneyed classes which could not be
disregarded. The land-owners, who had previously almost monopolized the
representation, no longer constituted the wealthiest class of the
community. Pitt himself had raised a banker to the peerage. More
recently, men closely connected with the commercial classes had become
cabinet ministers, one of whom had even subsequently sacrificed office
to his feeling of the propriety of enfranchising a single town,
Birmingham. But there were other towns at least equal in importance to
Birmingham which were unrepresented, and it was clearly impossible to
maintain a system which gave representatives to boroughs like Gatton,
Old Sarum, or Corfe Castle--where the electors scarcely outnumbered the
members whom they elected--and withheld them from large and opulent
manufacturing centres like Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield. The
enfranchisement, therefore, of these towns, and of others whose
population and consequent importance, though inferior to theirs, was
still vastly superior to those of many which had hitherto returned
representatives, was so manifestly reasonable and consistent with the
principles of our parliamentary constitution, that it was impossible to
object to it. And their enfranchisement unavoidably led to the
disfranchisement of the smaller boroughs, unless the House of Commons
were to be enlarged to a number which was not likely to tend to the
facilitation of business. Indeed, in the opinion of the framers of the
bill, the House was _already too large_, and they proposed to reduce its
number by upward of sixty--a step to which it is probable that many of
those whose opposition contributed to defeat it subsequently repented of
their resistance. Nevertheless, the line adopted by the Duke of
Wellington's ministry showed that there was still a large party to whom
reform on a large scale was altogether distasteful; and accordingly the
bill which, under the influence of these considerations, Lord Grey's
administration brought forward in the spring of 1831, gave rise to the
fiercest struggles in both Houses of Parliament that had been witnessed
for many generations. One Parliament was dissolved; two sessions of that
which followed were opened in a single year; once the ministry itself
was dissolved, though speedily reconstructed; and three bills were
framed, each in some degree differing from its predecessor in some of
its details, though all preserved the same leading principles of
disfranchising wholly or partially the smaller boroughs; of
enfranchising several large and growing towns; of increasing the number
of county representatives; and of enfranchising also some classes which
previously had had no right of voting. It would be a waste of time to
specify the variations in the three bills. It is sufficient to confine
our attention to that which eventually became law. Fifty-six boroughs
were wholly disfranchised; those in which the population fell short of a
certain number (2000), and where the amount of assessed taxes paid by
the inhabitants was correspondingly small. Thirty more were deprived of
one of their members, being those in which the population was between
2000 and 4000. And the seats thus vacated were divided between the towns
which since the Revolution had gradually grown into importance, the
suburbs of the metropolis, and the counties, the majority of which were
now divided into two halves, each half returning two members, as many as
had previously represented the whole. The boundaries of the boroughs,
too, were in most cases extended.

More important, perhaps, in its influence on subsequent legislation was
the alteration made in the qualifications which constituted an elector.
Hitherto the franchise, the right of voting at elections, had been based
on property. The principle had not, indeed, been uniformly adhered to in
the boroughs, where, as Lord John Russell, in the speech with which he
introduced the bill, pointed out, a curious variety of courses had been
adopted. "In some," as he described the existing practice, "the
franchise was exercised by 'a select corporation;' that is to say, it
was in the possession of a small number of persons, to the exclusion of
the great body of the inhabitants who had property and interest in the
place represented. In ancient times, he believed, every freeman, being
an inhabitant householder resident in the borough, was competent to
vote. As, however, this arrangement excluded villeins and strangers, the
franchise always belonged to a particular body in every town--a body
undoubtedly possessed of property, for they bore the charges of their
members, and on them were assessed the subsidies and taxes voted by
Parliament. But when villeinage ceased, various and opposite courses
seemed to have been pursued in different boroughs. In some, adopting the
liberal principle that all freemen were to be admitted, householders of
all kinds, down to the lowest degree, and even sometimes beyond, were
admitted. In others, adopting the exclusive principle that villeins and
strangers were no part of the burgesses, new corporations were erected,
and the elective franchise was more or less confined to a select body."
But all these diversities and varieties were now swept away, and a
uniform franchise was established, all tenants whose rent amounted to
£10 receiving the franchise in boroughs, while by a kindred amendment,
which was forced on the ministers at a very early stage of the measure,
tenants at will whose tent amounted to £50 became entitled to vote in
the counties.

The arrangements for taking the poll were also greatly changed. Instead
of the fifteen days which had of late been allowed for a county
election, two were now thought sufficient.[217] In boroughs the time was
abridged in a similar proportion, and the arrangement was facilitated by
a division of counties into several convenient polling districts, so
that no elector should require to travel more than a few miles to record
his vote.

This last change was universally accepted as a great practical
improvement, from its tendency to lessen the expense of election
contests, which had risen to an enormous and ruinous height. But every
other part of the scheme was viewed with the greatest repugnance, not to
say dread, by the Opposition; and every one of the bills was fought step
by step in the House of Commons. The first bill was only carried by a
majority of one; the second was absolutely rejected by the House of
Lords; and on the third the ministers, after carrying it triumphantly
through the Lower House, were defeated in the Upper House on a point of
detail, which, though of no great importance in itself, they regarded as
an indication that the peers, though they had consented to read it a
second time, would insist on remodelling it to a great degree, and, if
they were not allowed to do so, would again reject it altogether.

Meanwhile, the people were wrought up to a pitch of frenzy absolutely
unprecedented. Never had agitators, among whom some of the ministers
themselves were not ashamed to appear, been so unscrupulous in their
endeavors to excite discontent. One cabinet minister wrote inflammatory
articles in the newspapers; another publicly called the legitimate
opposition of the peers "the whisper of a faction." And their exertions
soon bore fearful fruit. In London some of the peers who had been most
prominent in their objections to the bill were hooted and pelted, and
one, Lord Londonderry, was nearly murdered. The King and Queen were
insulted by mobs in the Park, some of the rioters even openly
threatening the Queen with death, because she was believed to be
favorable to the anti-Reformers. In some of the most important
provincial towns the discontent broke out into actual insurrection. At
Bristol a tumultuous mob, whose numbers were swelled by crowds of the
worst ruffians of the metropolis, sought to murder the Recorder, Sir
Charles Wetherall, when he came down to that city to hold the
quarter-sessions; and, when defeated in their attack on him, stormed the
Mansion House, and set it, with the Bishop's Palace and other public
buildings, and scores of private houses, on fire, several of the rioters
themselves, who had got drunk, perishing in the flames. A similar mob
rose in arms at Derby, but did less mischief, as there the magistrates
knew their duty better. But Nottingham almost equalled Bristol in its
horrors. Because the Duke of Newcastle was a resolute anti-Reformer, a
ferocious gang attacked and set on fire the fine old Castle; and, not
content with committing fearful ravages in the town, roamed over the
adjacent district, attacked the houses of many of the leading country
gentlemen, plundering and burning the dwellings, and in more than one
instance murdering some of the inhabitants.

The King had hitherto borne himself between the contending parties in
the state with scrupulous fairness to both. Though, he had, probably,
been taken by surprise by the sweeping character of the changes his
ministers had proposed, he had given them a frank support, consenting,
even at a moment's notice, to dissolve the Parliament after the
unfavorable division in the House of Commons on the first bill; but he
had, at the same time, warned them that he would never consent to employ
any means of coercion to overbear the free decision of the House of
Lords. And he had more than once rejected as unconstitutional their
solicitations to allow them to make peers with that object. At last they
endeavored to compel his consent by resigning their offices, though the
ground for so decided a step can hardly be deemed sufficient, since the
provocation which they alleged was only Lord Lyndhurst's success in
carrying an amendment to take the enfranchising clauses of the bill
before those of disfranchisement, so as to give the latter a more
gracious appearance, as if the boroughs to be extinguished were made to
suffer, not so much for their own positive unworthiness as in order to
make room for others which had become of undeniably greater importance.
The King took the strictly constitutional line of accepting their
resignation and intrusting the Duke of Wellington with the task of
forming a new administration, warning the Duke, at the same time, that
he considered himself now pledged to grant a large measure of Reform;
but the Duke found the task impracticable, and then, as the only means
of averting farther insurrectionary tumults, which bore no slight
resemblance to civil war, and might not impossibly end in it, the King
did at last consent to permit the creation of a sufficient number of
peers to insure the passing of the bill. But he could not overcome his
repugnance to the measure as a severe blow to the constitution--one
which would in effect be tantamount to the extinction of the
independence of the Upper House as a legislative body; and, thinking no
means unjustifiable that would avert the necessity of such a creation,
he conceived the idea of authorizing his private secretary, Sir Herbert
Taylor, to request the chief peers on the Opposition side to absent
themselves from the division on the third reading. It seemed to him, and
indeed to many of them, the only thing that could be done. Their
judgment of the character and eventual consequences of the ministerial
bill was unaltered; but they saw the violence of the public feeling on
the subject, and the danger to the state of too stubborn and
uncompromising a resistance to it, and, yielding loyal obedience to
their royal master's wish, they retired from the House without voting.
Those who remained passed the bill, and in the beginning of June, 1832,
it became law.

We have ventured in a previous chapter to call in question the propriety
of the conduct of the King's father, George III., in using his personal
entreaties to influence the House of Lords against the India Bill of Mr.
Fox. The transaction which has been related here is the second and only
other instance since the Revolution of a sovereign having recourse to
such a device to sway the votes of members of either House. But the
circumstances were so entirely different, nay, so diametrically
opposite, that an opinion of the impropriety of the sovereign's deed in
the former case imposes no obligation on the ground of consistency to
censure it in the later instance. The interference of George III. was
designed to thwart and defeat his ministers on a measure of which he had
not previously intimated any disapproval. William IV., on the other
hand, was exerting himself to support his ministers, not, as it seems
probable, without some sacrifice of his own judgment. His father acted
as he did to avert an inroad on his prerogative and independence, which
he had been persuaded to apprehend, but the danger of which can hardly
be said to have been proved beyond all question; so that even those who
think the result of his action fortunate for the nation cannot defend
the action as one that on any constitutional principle can be justified.
The son, at a far more critical moment, adopted the course which he did
adopt as the only means which he saw of extricating the state and the
nation from an alternative of great calamities: the extinction of, or at
least a deep wound to, the legislative independence of the House of
Lords, by the following of a single precedent[218] which had ever since
been universally condemned; or, on the other hand, a continuance of
outrages and tumults which had already disgraced the nation in the eyes
of the world, and which, if renewed and continued, could not fail to
imperil the safety of the state. Such a motive may certainly be allowed
to excuse the irregularity of the act.

When, however, we come to consider the proposal to create peers, which
drove the King to take such a step, that is a question on which, while
it is still more important, it is also more difficult to form a
satisfactory judgment. It was denounced by the Duke of Wellington and
other peers as utterly unconstitutional and revolutionary; as a
destruction of the great principle of the equality of the two Houses; as
a denial to the peers of their right to form and act upon their own
deliberate judgment; and as a reduction of their position to that of a
body existing merely to register the decrees of the other House. Indeed,
that it had this character was admitted by Lord Grey himself, with no
abatement beyond such mitigation as might be found in the idea that it
was only intended to affect their decision on a single question. So far
it may be said that even while defending it he condemned it; _Habemus
confitentem reum_. But the task of a ruler or legislator is often but a
choice between difficulties, or even between manifest evils. And, even
if an act or course be admitted to be intrinsically evil, taken by
itself, yet, if the evil which it is calculated or designed to avert be
a greater evil still, the defence is complete, or, at all events,
sufficient. And this, in fact, is the principle of the justification
which Lord Grey alleged. He was, perhaps, unconsciously referring to a
passage in Mr. Hallam's great work on "Constitutional History" (then
very recently published), in which, while discussing Sunderland's
Peerage Bill, and admitting that "the unlimited prerogative of
augmenting the peerage is liable to such abuses, at least in theory, as
might overthrow our form of government," he proceeds to point out that
in the exercise of this, as of every other power, "the crown has been
carefully restrained by statutes, and by the responsibility of its
advisers;" but that, while "the Commons, if they transgress their
boundaries, are annihilated by a proclamation" (that is, by a
dissolution) "against the ambition, or, what is much more likely, the
perverse haughtiness of the aristocracy, the constitution has not
furnished such direct securities.... The resource of subduing an
aristocratical faction by the creation of new peers could never be
constitutionally employed, except in the case of a nearly equal balance;
but it might usefully hang over the heads of the whole body, and deter
them from any gross excesses of faction or oligarchical spirit. The
nature of our government requires a general harmony between the two
Houses of Parliament."[219] In the present case no one could impute the
difference between the two Houses to any "perverse haughtiness" on the
part of the peers. But the difference existed, and was too deeply
founded on the cautious principles of the Tory party to be surmountable
by ordinary means. It was certain also that the Commons would not give
way; that, without danger to the public peace, they could not give way.
And this was, in fact, Lord Grey's contention: that a crisis had arisen
in which compulsion must be exercised on one or other of the disagreeing
parties; and that coercion of the peers by an augmentation of their
number, or a threat of it, was the only compulsion practicable. In
upholding this position, however, it must be remarked that he was
betrayed into the use of language which was as great a violation of
constitutional and parliamentary principle and usage as the action which
he was recommending; language, too, which was quite unnecessary to
strengthen his argument. He accused the Lords of "opposing the declared
and decided wishes both of the crown and the people;" of "acting
adversely to the crown;" and this introduction of the sovereign's name
to overawe the assembly was unconstitutional in the highest degree. For,
constitutionally, the sovereign has no right to signify his opinion,
nor, indeed, any recognized means of signifying it but by giving or
withholding his royal assent to measures which the two Houses have
passed. On any bill which has not yet been passed by them he has, as has
been already implied, no legitimate means whatever of expressing his
judgment. The time has not come for him to do so. Moreover, the
statement was, probably, not believed by any one to be strictly true,
for it was pretty generally understood that the King would have
preferred a far more moderate measure. But, indeed, in the very speech
in which the Prime-minister made this use of the King's name he
presently added an observation which was a sufficient condemnation of
his previous language. For, in denouncing the "vile attacks which had
been made on his Majesty in the public press," and disclaiming all share
in them (a disclaimer which however true of himself, could not, it is
believed, have been uttered with equal truth by all his colleagues), he
pointed out that "it ought always to be recollected that it is contrary
to the principles of the constitution to arraign the personal conduct of
the sovereign." It follows, as a matter of course, that it is equally
contrary to those principles to allege his personal opinions in either
House on any measure before it, since, if alleged, they must be open to
criticism; unless, indeed, the mere allegation of the royal sentiments
were to be taken as decisive of the question, in which case all freedom
of discussion would be at once extinguished.

But this irregularity, into which the Prime minister was apparently
betrayed by his desire of victory, must not be allowed to affect our
verdict on the main question; and, now that the lapse of time has
enabled us to contemplate dispassionately the case on which he had to
decide, it will, probably, be thought that his justification of his
conduct in recommending a creation of peers is fairly made out. That,
under any pressure short of that, the peers would have again rejected
the Reform Bill, or at least would have pared it down to much smaller
proportions than would have satisfied the popular demand for Reform, may
be regarded as certain; and equally certain that such a line of conduct
would have led to a renewal of disgraceful and dangerous tumults. The
minister, therefore, as has been said before, had to choose between two
evils. It was a grievous dilemma; but those who had to deal with it
(even while it may be admitted that they cannot be held wholly free from
blame, as having themselves contributed by their own language to the
popular excitement and irritation)[220] may be excused for thinking the
wound inflicted on the constitution, by thus overbearing the voice of
one House of Parliament on a single occasion, less formidable in its
immediate fruit, and more capable of being remedied and retrieved, than
that which would have followed from a renewal of insurrectionary
tumults, even if they should have come short of actual civil war.

One critic of these transactions[221] whose experience and high
reputation entitle his opinion to respectful consideration, after
reminding his readers that, "although Parliament is said to be
dissolved, a dissolution extends, in fact, no farther than to the
Commons, and that the Peers are not affected by it; no change can take
place in the constitution of their body, except as to a small number of
Scotch representative peers," proceeds to argue that, "so far as the
House of Peers is concerned, a creation of peers by the crown on
extraordinary occasions is the only equivalent which the constitution
has provided for the change and renovation of the House of Commons by a
dissolution. In no other way can the opinions of the House of Lords be
brought into harmony with those of the people." But it may be feared
that this comparison is rather ingenious than solid. Indeed, the writer
himself limits such an expedient as a creation of peers to insure the
passing of a particular measure to "extraordinary occasions." But a
dissolution of the House of Commons is so far from being so limited,
that it is the natural and inevitable end of every House of Commons
after an existence which cannot exceed seven years, and which is very
rarely so protracted. And though it may be, and probably has been, the
case that a House of Commons has passed measures to which it had no
great inclination, lest it should provoke a minister to a premature
dissolution, yet no submission on its part can long postpone it; and a
threat or apprehension of a dissolution would certainly fail to overcome
the opposition of the House of Commons, or of a party within it, if the
measure before them seemed open to serious objection. The presumed or
presumable immortality of the one body, and the limited existence of the
other, seem to constitute so essential a difference between them as must
prevent the measures adopted toward one being fairly regarded as any
guide to a justification of those employed in the case of the other.

The Reform Bill of 1832 has sometimes been called a new Revolution, and
to some extent it deserved the name; for it was not, like the Catholic
Emancipation Act, a mere restoration of privileges to any class or
classes of the people which had once been enjoyed by them, and had
subsequently been withdrawn, but it was a grant of a wholly new
privilege to places and to classes which had never enjoyed it; while it
was manifest that the political power thus conferred on these classes
involved a corresponding diminution of the powers of those who had
hitherto monopolized it. It was also the introduction of a new
principle. The old doctrine of the constitution had been, that the
possession of freehold property, as the only permanent stake in the
country, was the only qualification which could entitle a subject to a
voice in the government and legislation of the kingdom. The new doctrine
was that, as others besides owners of land contributed to the revenue by
the payment of taxes, those who did so contribute to a sufficient amount
had a right to a voice, however indirect or feeble, in the granting of
those taxes; and so far it was the extension and application to subjects
at home of the principle for which Lord Chatham and Burke had contended
sixty years before in the case of the American Colonies, that taxation
and a right to representation went together; a principle which, many
ages before, had been laid down by the greatest of our early kings as
the foundation of our parliamentary constitution and rights. But this
principle, however generally it may have been asserted, had hitherto
been but very partially carried out in practice, and the old borough
system had been skilfully devised by successive kings and ministers to
keep the political power in the hands of the crown and the aristocracy.
It was with that object that most of the boroughs which were first
allowed to return members under the Tudors had been enfranchised,[222] a
great noble or landholder, whose affection to the government could not
be doubted, being often able to obtain the promotion of some village or
petty town in the neighborhood of his estates to the dignity of a
parliamentary borough, and thus acquiring a great addition to his
political and social importance by his power of influencing the
election. No one could deny that the existence of such boroughs was an
abuse, or at least an anomaly, rendered the more conspicuous as time
went on by the denial of representatives to towns which contained as
many thousands of citizens as they could boast single burgesses. At the
same time it was equally undeniable that the aristocracy, generally
speaking, exerted their influence advantageously for the state. A peer
or great squire who could return the members for a borough took a worthy
pride in the abilities and reputation of those whom he thus sent to
Parliament; especially the leaders of the two parties sought out
promising young men for their seats; and it has often been pointed out
that, of the men who in the House of Commons had risen to eminence in
the country before the Reform Bill, there was scarcely one who had not
owed his introduction to Parliament to the patron of one of those
boroughs which were now wholly or partially disfranchised; while on one
or two occasions these "rotten boroughs," as, since Lord Chatham's time,
they were often derisively called, had proved equally useful in
providing seats for distinguished statesmen who, for some reason or
other, had lost the confidence of their former constituents. So, when
Bristol had disgraced itself by the rejection of Burke, Malton had
averted the loss with which Parliament and the country were threatened
by again, through the influence of Lord Rockingham, returning the great
statesman as their representative. So, to take a later instance,
Westbury, under the influence of Sir Manasseh Lopes, had provided a
refuge for Sir Robert Peel, when the course which he had taken on
Catholic Emancipation had cost him his seat for Oxford. And these
practical uses of these small boroughs--anomalies in a representative
system, as they were called in the debates on the subject, and as they
must be confessed to have been--were so important, that some even of
those who felt compelled by their principles to vote for their
parliamentary extinction have, nevertheless, confessed a regret for the
sacrifice, lamenting especially that it has, in a great degree, closed
the doors of the House of Commons against a class whose admission to it
is on every account most desirable, the promising young men of both

In one point of great importance the framers of the Reform Bill of 1832
proved to be mistaken. They justified the very comprehensive or sweeping
range which they had given it by their wish to make it a final
settlement of the question, and by the expression of their conviction
that the completeness with which it had satisfied all reasonable
expectations had effectually prevented any necessity for ever re-opening
the question. Their anticipations on this head were not shared by their
opponents, who, on the contrary, foretold that the very greatness of the
changes now effected would only whet the appetite for a farther
extension of them; nor by a growing party, now beginning to own the
title of Radicals, which till very recently had only been regarded as a
reproach, and who, even before the bill passed,[223] expressed their
discontent that it did not go farther, but accepted it as an instalment
of what was required, and as an instrument for securing "a more complete
improvement." And their expectations have been verified by subsequent
events. Indeed, it may easily be seen that the principles on which one
portion of the bill--that which enfranchised new classes of voters--was
framed were such as, in shrewd hands, might easily be adduced as
arguments in favor of the necessity of reconsideration of the question
from time to time. So long as the right of voting was confined to owners
of property, or members of corporate bodies, the line thus laid down was
one which was not liable to be crossed. But the moment that tenancy was
added to ownership, and a line was drawn distinguishing electors from
non-electors, not by the nature of their qualifications, but by the
amount of their rent, detail was substituted for principle; and the
proposer or maintainer of the rule that the qualification should be a
yearly rental of £10 might be called on to explain why, if £10 were a
more reasonable limit than £15, £8 were not fairer than £10. Or again,
if the original argument were, that a line must of necessity be drawn
somewhere, and that £10 was the lowest qualification which seemed to
guarantee such an amount of educated intelligence in the voter as would
enable him to exercise the franchise conferred on him judiciously and
honestly, such reasoning would from time to time invite the contention
that the spread of education had rendered £8 tenants now as enlightened
as £10 tenants had been some years before. And thus the measure of 1832,
instead of forever silencing the demand for Reform by the completeness
of its concessions, did in fact lay the foundation for future agitation,
which has been farther encouraged and fed by farther submission to it,
and which its leaders, who have so far triumphed, show no purpose to
discontinue. To discuss whether such extensions of the franchise as have
already been adopted, and those farther steps in the same direction
which are generally understood to be impending, will eventually be found
compatible with the preservation of our ancient monarchical
constitution, is a fitting task for the statesmen and senators whose
duty it is to examine in all their bearings the probable effects of the
measures which may be proposed. But the historian's business is rather
"to compile the records of the past" than to speculate on the
future.[224] And the course which was too perilous or difficult for Mr.
Hallam to undertake we will follow his example in avoiding. But it
cannot be denied that, if the Reform Bill of 1832 transferred the chief
political power of the state from the aristocracy to the middle classes,
a farther lowering of the qualification for the exercise of the
franchise must transfer it from the middle to the lower classes; and
that those who view such transfer with alarm, and deprecate it as
fraught with peril to all our ancient institutions, maintain their
opinions by arguments as old, indeed, as the days of the Roman
republic,[225] but which have not lost strength by lapse of time, if
indeed, they have not been fortified by events in the history of more
than one modern nation.

Even before the introduction of the first Reform Bill one measure had
been passed of constitutional importance, though the concurrence of both
parties in its principle and details prevented it from attracting much
notice. Two daughters who had been born to the King and Queen had died
in their infancy, and the royal pair were now childless; and, as some
years had elapsed since the birth of the last, it was probable that they
might remain so. The presumptive heiress to the throne was, therefore,
the daughter of the deceased Duke of Kent, the Princess Victoria, our
present most gracious sovereign, and, as she was as yet only eleven
years of age, it was evidently necessary to provide for the contingency
of the death of the King before she should attain her majority. A
Regency Bill for that purpose had, therefore, been prepared by the Duke
of Wellington's cabinet, and had been introduced by Lord Chancellor
Lyndhurst in the House of Lords before the resignation of the ministry.
It could not be so simple in its arrangements as such bills had
sometimes been, since there was more than one contingency possible, for
which it was requisite to provide. It was possible not only that William
IV. might die within the next seven years, but also that at his death he
might leave a child, or his widow in a state which warranted the
expectation of one, the latter case being the more difficult to decide
upon, since no previous Regency Bill furnished any precedent for the
ministers' guidance.

The first point, however, to be settled was, who was the most proper
person to administer the affairs of the kingdom as Regent, in the event
of the heiress to the crown being still a minor at the King's death. It
was a question on which it was evidently most desirable that no
difference of opinion should be expressed. And, in fact, no difference
existed. The leaders of both parties--the Duke and his colleagues, who
had framed the bill, and Lord Grey, with his colleagues, who adopted
it--agreed that the mother of the young sovereign would be the fittest
person to exercise the royal authority during the minority; and,
farther, that she should neither be fettered by any limitations to that
authority, nor by any councillors appointed by Parliament nominally to
advise and assist, but practically to control her. It was felt that a
Regent acting for a youthful daughter would need all the power which
could be given her; while, as she could never herself succeed to the
throne, she could be under no temptation, from views of personal
ambition, to misuse the power intrusted to her.

At first sight it seemed a more difficult and delicate question what
course should be pursued with reference to the possible event of the
King dying while the Queen, his widow, was expecting to become a mother.
As has been said above, no precedent was to be found in any former bill;
yet it seemed to be determined by the old constitutional maxim, that the
King never dies. Not even for a moment could the throne be treated as
vacant, and, therefore, it was proposed and determined that in such a
case the Princess Victoria must instantly be proclaimed Queen, and the
Duchess of Kent must instantly assume the authority of Regent; but that,
on the birth of a posthumous child to the Queen Dowager, the Princess
and the Duchess, as a matter of course, should resume their previous
rank, and Queen Adelaide become Regent, and govern in the name of her
new-born infant and sovereign. The strict constitutional correctness of
the principle elaborately and eloquently expounded to the peers by Lord
Lyndhurst was unanimously admitted, and the precedent now set was
followed, with the needful modification, when, ten years afterward, it
became necessary to provide for the possibility of Queen Victoria dying
during the minority of her heir. The parent of the infant sovereign,
Prince Albert, was appointed Regent, with the cordial approval of the
nation; the dissent of the Queen's uncle, the Duke of Sussex who, with a
very misplaced ambition, urged instead the appointment of a Council of
Regency, of which he hoped to become the most influential member, only
serving to make the unanimity of the rest of the Parliament more

A somewhat kindred question, inasmuch as it affected the personal
arrangements, if they may be so termed, of the sovereign, was settled in
the same session, and on a new principle. What was called the Civil List
had hitherto been placed on a footing which was at once unintelligible
and misleading. The expression was first used at the Revolution, and was
applied not only to that portion of the revenue which was devoted to the
personal expenses of the sovereign, but also to many branches of the
civil expenditure of the state, with which, in fact, he had no concern
whatever. Not only the salaries of the great officers of the household,
but those also of the ministers, ambassadors, and of the judges, were
paid out of it, as well as those of many place-holders of various
classes, and pensions to a large amount. Amounts embracing such a
variety of miscellaneous and unconnected expenses could hardly be
expected to be kept with regularity, and there was lavish waste in every
department. Burke's bill had rectified some of the abuses, and had also
pointed out the way to some other reforms which were gradually adopted;
but still numbers of charges were left untouched, and there was scarcely
any one subject which afforded more topics to unscrupulous demagogues
than the amount of the Civil List, which the ignorant multitude were
constantly assured that the King enjoyed to squander on his own
pleasures, though, in fact, the greater part of it was expended in the
service of the state, and was entirely free from his control. Only a
portion of the sum which went under this name was voted annually by the
Parliament. A portion was derived from the Crown Lands, from duties
known as Droits of the Crown and Droits of the Admiralty, etc., the
amount of which fluctuated, and with which Parliament was admitted to
have no right to interfere. But the working of the whole was
satisfactory to no one--neither to the King himself, nor to those who
upheld the right of the Parliament to have a predominant control of
every branch of expenditure of the public money. The feeling that the
whole of the royal income and expenditure should be placed on a
different footing was general, and the fall of the Duke of Wellington's
ministry had been immediately caused by the success of a proposal that,
before fixing the new sovereign's Civil List, Parliament should refer
the matter to a committee, that inquiry might be made into every part of
it. Lord Grey's ministry were bound to act in conformity with a
resolution on which they had, as it were, ridden into office; and the
arrangement which they ultimately effected was one in which common-sense
and the royal convenience and comfort were alike consulted. That portion
of the Civil List of his predecessor which was voted by Parliament
amounted to nearly £850,000 a year; but, besides that sum, George IV.
enjoyed the income already mentioned as derived from Crown Lands,
Droits, etc., while a farther large sum was furnished by the ancient
revenue of the crown of Scotland, and another was received from Ireland.
The ministers now proposed that all these sources of income should be
handed over to the Treasury, and that the Civil List should henceforward
be fixed at £510,000, being at the same time relieved from all the
foreign and extraneous charges on it which had invidiously swelled the
gross amount, without being in any way under the control of the
sovereign, or in any way ministering to his requirements, either for
personal indulgence or for the maintenance of the state and magnificence
imposed on him by his position.

Such a change was on every ground most desirable. It was clearly in
accordance with our parliamentary constitution that grants of money made
by the Parliament should express distinctly and unmistakably the objects
to which they were really to be applied; and that the charges of
departments connected with the government, the administration of
justice, or the foreign service of the country, should not be mixed up
with others of a wholly different character, so as to make what was, in
fact, the expenditure of the nation wear the appearance of being the
expenditure of the sovereign. Moreover, the assignment of many of the
charges to the Civil List even gave a false character to the
appointments themselves. If a sovereign was to pay ambassadors and
judges out of what seemed to be his private income, the logical
conclusion could hardly be avoided that he had a right to lower those
salaries, or even to diminish the number of those appointments. And it
may even be said that the less any real danger of such a right being so
exercised was to be apprehended, the more unadvisable was it to retain
an arrangement which in theory could be described as liable to such an


[Footnote 216: But it may be remarked that till very recently the people
out-of-doors had ceased to show any great anxiety about Reform. Two or
three years before, Lord Althorp, who, in Lord Grey's ministry, was
Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House of Commons, told
Peel that the people had become so indifferent to it, that he never
meant to bring forward the question again, and in the last seven years
only fourteen petitions had been presented to Parliament in favor of it.
In reality, such a feeling in the people would have been eminently
favorable to a calm framing of a Moderate measure; but this indifference
was soon changed into a more violent and widely diffused excitement than
there was any record of since the days of the Popish Plot; that
excitement, however, according to the confession of the historian of the
Whig ministry and the Reform Bill, himself an ardent reformer, being "no
spontaneous result of popular feeling, but being brought about by the
incessant labors of a few shrewd and industrious partisans forming a
secret, but very active and efficient, committee in London."--Roebuck's
_History of the Whig Ministry_, etc., ii., 309.]

[Footnote 217: In 1835 the two days were reduced to one.]

[Footnote 218: The creation of twelve peers, in the reign of Queen Anne,
to secure a majority in favor of the Peace of Utrecht.]

[Footnote 219: "Constitutional History," iii., 331. See the whole

[Footnote 220: Lord John Russell had publicly described the language of
the Tory Peers in the debate on Lord Lyndhurst's amendment as "the
whisper of a faction." And many articles of most extreme violence which
appeared in the _Times_ about the same time were generally believed to
have been written (in part at least) by the Lord Chancellor, Lord

[Footnote 221: "Constitutional History of England," by Sir J.E. May, 1.,

[Footnote 222: Elizabeth enfranchised no fewer than sixty-two in the
course of her reign, "a very large proportion of them petty boroughs,
evidently under the influence of the crown or the peerage."--Hallam,
_Constitutional History_ i., 360.]

[Footnote 223: Sir A. Alison, "History of Europe," xxiii., 55, quotes a
paragraph from the _Examiner_ newspaper, which says: "The ground,
limited as it is, which it is proposed to clear and open to the popular
influence, will suffice as the spot desired by Archimedes for the plant
of the power which must ultimately govern the whole system. Without
reform, convulsion is inevitable. Upon any reform farther reform is
inevitably consequent, and the settlement of the constitution on the
democratic basis certain."]

[Footnote 224: Hallam, "Constitutional History," c. xvi., _in fin._]

[Footnote 225: "Semper in republicâ timendum est ne plurimum valeant


Abolition of Slavery.--Abridgment of the Apprenticeship.--The East India
Company's Trade is Thrown Open.--Commencement of Ecclesiastical
Reforms.--The New Poor-law.--State of Ireland.--Agitation against
Tithes.--Coercion Bill.--Beginning of Church Reform.--Sir Robert Peel
becomes Prime-minister.--Variety of Offices held Provisionally by the
Duke of Wellington.--Sir Robert Peel Retires, and Lord Melbourne Resumes
the Government.--Sir Robert Peel Proposes a Measure of Church
Reform.--Municipal Reform.--Measures of Ecclesiastical Reform.

Apart from the consideration of the abstract principle, on which the
advocates of Parliamentary Reform had insisted, of the light of many
classes hitherto unrepresented to representation, they had also dwelt on
the practical advantage which might be expected to ensue from the
greater degree in which public opinion would henceforth be brought to
bear on the action of the Houses, and, by a natural consequence, on the
administrative government also. And the bill had hardly passed when this
result began to show itself, not only in transactions of domestic
legislation, but in others which affected our most remote dependencies,
both in the East and West. We have seen in a previous chapter how
Wilberforce, after twenty years of labor and anxiety, reaped the reward
of his virtuous exertions in the abolition of the slave-trade. But he
had not ventured to grapple with the institution which gave birth to
that trade, the employment of slaves in our West India Islands. Yet it
was an evil indefensible on every ground that could possibly be alleged.
It was not only a crime and an injustice, but it was an anomaly, and a
glaring inconsistency, in any British settlement. The law, as we have
seen, had been laid down as absolutely settled, that no man within the
precincts of the United Kingdom could be a slave; that, even had such
been his previous condition, the moment his foot touched English soil he
became a free man. By what process of reasoning, then, could it be
contended that his right to liberty according to English law depended on
what portion of the British dominion he was in--that what was
incompatible with his claims as a human being in Kent ceased to be so in
Jamaica? The sentiment that what was just or unjust in one place was
just or unjust in every place; that a man's right to freedom did not
depend on the country of his birth or the color of his skin, had
naturally and logically been widely diffused and fostered by the
abolition of the slave-trade. It was but a small step from admitting
that there could be no justification for making a man a slave, to
asserting that there was an equal violation of all justice in keeping
one in slavery; and this conclusion was strengthened by tales, which
were continually reaching those most interested in the subject, of
oppression and cruelty practised by the masters, or oftener by their
agents and overseers, on the unfortunate beings over whom they claimed
power and right as absolute as any owner could pretend to over any
description of property. They made so general an impression that, ten
years before the time at which we have now arrived, a society had been
formed in London whose object was the immediate extinction of slavery in
every British settlement; and Canning, then Secretary of State, had
entered warmly into the general object of the society; not, indeed,
thinking the instant abolition practicable, but inducing Parliament to
pass a body of resolutions in favor of at once improving the condition
of the slaves, as the best and necessary preparation for their entire
enfranchisement;[226] and the next year, 1824, the subject was
recommended to the attention of the Houses in the King's speech, and an
Order in Council was issued enjoining the adoption of a series of
measures conceived in the spirit of those resolutions, among which one
was evidently meant as a precursor of the slaves' entire emancipation,
since it gave the "negro who had acquired sufficient property" a title
"to purchase his own freedom and that of his wife and family." And it
was, probably, from regarding it in this light that the planters (as the
owners of estates in the West Indies were generally called) selected
that provision as the object of their most vehement remonstrances. But,
though they were not so open in their remonstrances against the other
clauses of the order, they did worse, they disregarded them; and the
stories of the ill-treatment of the slaves were neither less frequent
nor less revolting than before.

Fresh Orders in Council, avowedly designed as the stepping-stones to
eventual emancipation, were issued; and one which reached the West
Indies at the end of 1831 was, unhappily, so misconstrued by the slaves
in Jamaica, who regarded it as recognizing their right to instant
liberation, that, when their masters refused to treat it as doing so,
they broke out into a formidable insurrection, which was not quelled
without great loss of life and destruction of property. The planters
were panic-stricken; many of them, indeed, were almost ruined. The
colonial Legislatures,[227] which had been established in the greater
part of the islands, addressed the ministers with strong protests
against the last Order in Council; and the mischief which had
confessedly been already done, and the farther mischief which was not
unreasonably dreaded, were so great that the cabinet consented to
suspend it for a while; and the House of Commons made a practical
confession that the planters were entitled to sympathy as well as the
slaves, by voting nearly a million of money to compensate those of
Jamaica for their recent losses.

But out-of-doors the feeling rather was that the insurrection had been
caused, not by the unreasoning though natural impatience for freedom
entertained by the negro--whom Canning had truly described as
"possessing the form and strength of a man, but the intellect of a
child"--but by the slackness and supineness of the local Legislature,
too much under the influence of the timid clamors of the planters to
listen to the voice of justice and humanity, which demanded to the full
as emphatically, if somewhat less vociferously, the immediate
deliverance of the slave. The object, however, thus desired was not so
free from difficulty as it seemed to those zealous but irresponsible
advocates of universal freedom; for, in the first place the slaves were
not the only persons to be considered; the planters also had an
undoubted right to have their interests protected, since, however
illegitimate property in human beings might be, it was certain that its
existence in that portion of the King's dominions had been recognized by
Parliament and courts of justice for many generations, and that suddenly
to withdraw a sanction and abrogate a custom thus established, and, as
it might fairly be believed, almost legalized by time, would be not only
ruinous to the planters, who would have no other means of cultivating
their lands, but, as being ruinous to them, would also manifestly be
most unjust. Even in the interests of the slaves themselves, instant
emancipation before they were fit for it might prove to them a very
doubtful blessing. The state, too, and the general interests of the
kingdom had to be considered, for the shipping employed in the West
India trade, and the revenue derived by the Imperial Exchequer from it,
were both of great amount. It was a very complicated question, and
required very cautious handling; but it was plain that the people were
greatly excited on the subject. One or two of the ministers themselves
had deeply pledged themselves to their constituents to labor for the
cessation of slavery; and eventually, though by no means blind to the
difficulty of arriving at a thoroughly safe solution of the question,
the ministry decided that "delay was more perilous than decision," and
they brought in a bill, in which they endeavored to combine the three
great objects--justice to the slave, by conferring on him that freedom
to which he, in common with all mankind, had an inviolable right;
justice to the slave-owner, by compensating him fairly for the loss of
what (however originally vicious the practice may have been) he was
entitled by long usage and more than one positive law to regard as
property; and a farther justice to the slave, that justice which
consists in being careful so to confer benefits as to do the greatest
amount of good to the recipient. The first object was attained by
enacting that those who had hitherto been slaves should be free; the
third was arrived at by making the freedom thus given, not
instantaneous, but by leading them to it, and preparing them for its
proper and useful enjoyment, by a system of apprenticeship. The slave
was to be apprenticed to his master for seven years, receiving, partly
in money and partly in kind, a certain fair amount of wages, and having
also one-fourth of his time absolutely at his own disposal. And the
second was secured by granting the planters the magnificent sum of
twenty millions of money, as compensation for the injury done to them;
or, in other words, as purchase-money for the property they were
compelled to surrender. The apprenticeship system did not wholly
succeed. The slaves were not sufficiently enlightened to appreciate the
character of the new arrangement; and, as the light in which it appeared
to them was rather that of deferring than of securing their
emancipation, it made them impatient rather than thankful. In the
majority of cases it proved difficult to induce them to work even
three-fourths of their time, and eventually the planters themselves were
driven to the conclusion that it was best to abridge the period of
apprenticeship. By the act of the colonial Legislatures themselves it
was shortened by two years, and the emancipation was completed on the
1st of August, 1838.

Still, though on this single point the success of the scheme did not
fully correspond to the hopes of those who had framed it, it was one
which did great honor to their ingenuity as well as to their
philanthropy (Lord Stanley, as Colonial Secretary, being the minister to
whose department it belonged). And the nation itself is fairly entitled
to no small credit for its cordial, ungrudging approval of a measure of
such unprecedented liberality. Indeed, the credit deserved was frankly
allowed it by foreign countries. To quote the language of an eloquent
historian of the period, "the generous acquiescence of the people under
this prodigious increase of their burdens has caused the moralists of
other nations to declare that the British Act of Emancipation stands
alone for moral grandeur in the history of the world."[228] And, in
respect of the personal liberty of the subject, it may be said to have
completed the British constitution; establishing the glorious principle,
that freedom is not limited to one part of our sovereign's dominions, to
these islands alone, but that in no part of the world in which the
British flag is erected can any sort of slavery exist for a single

The abolition of the political authority of the East India Company,
which took place some years after the time at which we have arrived, and
which will be mentioned in a subsequent chapter, would make it
unnecessary to mention the renewal of its charter, which took place at
this time, were it not that the force of public opinion again made
itself felt in some important limitations of its previous rights. The
monopoly of the trade with China which the Company had hitherto enjoyed
was resented as an injustice by the great body of our merchants and
ship-owners, who contended that all British subjects had an equal right
to share in advantages which had been won by British arms. The
government and Parliament adopted their view, and the renewed charter
extinguished not only that monopoly, but even the Company's exclusive
trading privileges in India itself, though these, like the rights of the
West India planters over their slaves, were purchased of it by an
annuity for forty years, which was estimated as an equivalent for the
loss of profit which must result to the proprietors of the Company's
stock from the sudden alteration. It cannot be said that any
constitutional principle was involved in what was merely a commercial
regulation, or relaxation of such regulations. Yet it may not be thought
inopportune to mention the transaction thus briefly, as one important
step toward the establishment of free-trade, which, at the end of fifty
years from the time when Pitt first laid the foundation of it, was
gradually forcing itself on all our statesmen, as the only sound
principle of commercial intercourse between nations. The laborious
historian of Europe during these years finds fault with the arrangements
now made, but only on the ground that they did not go far enough in that
direction; that, while "everything was done to promote the commercial
and manufacturing interests of England, nothing was done for those of
Hindostan;"[229] that, "while English cotton goods were admitted for a
nominal duty into India, there was no corresponding advantage thought of
to the industry of India in supplying the markets of the country." The
objection was not unfounded; but the system of which it complains was
too one-sided to be long maintained, and in less than ten years a great
financial reform had swept away the great mass of import duties, and so
far had placed the Indian manufacturer on the same level with his
fellow-subjects of English blood.

The disturbances which agitated the first years of the reign of William
IV. were not caused solely by the excitement attendant on the passing of
the Reform Bill. There had been extensive agricultural distress in
England, which had shown itself in an outbreak of new crimes, the
burning of ricks in the farm-yards, and the destruction of machinery, to
which the peasantry were persuaded by designing demagogues to attribute
the scarcity of employment. But statesmen of both parties were agreed in
believing that a great deal of the poverty which, especially in the
agricultural counties, had become the normal condition of the laborer,
might be ascribed to the pernicious working of the Poor-law, which
subsisted with scarcely any alteration as it had been originally enacted
in the reign of Elizabeth. There was even reason to doubt whether the
slight changes which had been made had been improvements. If they had
been in the direction of increased liberality to the poor man who needed
parish relief, and had to some extent lessened his discomforts, they had
at the same time tended greatly to demoralize both him and his employer,
by introducing a system of out-door relief, which, coupled with the
practice of regarding such relief as a legitimate addition to wages, led
the former to feel no shame at underpaying his workmen, and the workman
to feel no shame at depending on the parish for a portion of his means
of subsistence. It was not to be wondered at that under such a system
the poor-rates gradually rose to the prodigious amount of seven millions
and a quarter of money; or that the rate-payers began to clamor against
such a state of things, as imposing on them a burden beyond their power
to bear. It was evident that it was an evil which imperatively demanded
a remedy; and accordingly one of the first objects to which Lord Grey's
Cabinet turned its attention after the completion of the Reform Bill was
the amendment of the Poor-law.

The scheme which in the spring of 1834 they introduced to Parliament was
the first instance of the adoption in this country of that system of
centralization which has long been a favorite with some of the
Continental statesmen, but which is not equally in harmony with the
instincts of our people, generally more attached to local government.
But, if ever centralization could commend itself to the English mind, it
might well be when a new law and a new principle of action were to be
introduced, in the carrying out of which uniformity of practice over the
whole kingdom was especially desirable. Accordingly, the government bill
proposed the establishment of a Board of Commissioners to whom the
general administration of the Poor-laws over the whole kingdom was to be
intrusted. They were to have power to make rules and regulations as to
the mode or modes of relief to be given, subject to the approval of the
Secretary of State, that thus the establishment of one uniform system
over the whole country might be secured. Power was to be given to unite
several parishes into one union, and to erect large workhouses for the
several parishes thus massed together;[230] and every union was to be
under the management of boards of guardians, elected by the rate-payers
of the different parishes, with the addition of the resident magistrates
as ex officio guardians. Lord Althorp, who introduced the bill, admitted
that such extensive powers as he proposed to confer on the Board of
Commissioners were "an anomaly in the constitution," but pleaded the
necessity of the case as their justification, since it was indispensable
to vest a discretionary power somewhere, and the government was too
fully occupied with the business of the nation, while the local
magistrates would be destitute of the sources of information requisite
to form a proper opinion on the subject. The commissioners alone, being
exclusively devoted to the subject, and being alone in possession of all
the information that could be collected, were really the only body who
could fairly be trusted to form correct opinions on it.[231] The fact of
the creation of such a board being "an anomaly," or, as it might rather
have been called, a novelty in the constitution, does not seem an
insuperable objection, unless it were also inconsistent or at variance
with the fundamental principles of the constitution, and that can hardly
be alleged in this instance. It is true that local management, whether
its range were wide or narrow, whether covering the business of a county
or limited to a single parish, had been the general rule; but, like
every other arrangement for the conduct of affairs of any kind, that
local management was inherently subject to the supreme authority and
interference of Parliament. Nor, as the maintenance of this
Parliamentary authority, as the supreme referee in the last resource,
was provided for by the subordination of the commissioners for the
approval of their regulations to the Secretary of State, does it seem
that the arrangement now proposed and adopted can be said to have been
inconsistent with constitutional principle. And the necessity for some
change of that nature was clearly made out by the abuses which,
undeniably, had been suffered to grow up under the old system.

If the habitual condition of the Irish peasant were to be taken into
account, it would be correct to say that there was less distress at this
time in England than in Ireland; but there was still greater discontent,
and infinitely more of dangerous disturbance. Catholic Emancipation had
stimulated the agitators, not pacified them; they regarded it as a
triumph over the English government; and, being so, as at once a reason
for demanding, and a means of extorting, farther concessions. But this
notion of theirs, when inculcated on the peasantry, bore terrible fruit,
in such an increase of crime as had probably never been known in any
country in the world. In the provinces of Leinster, Munster, and
Connaught murders, deeds of arson, and rapine were of far more than
daily occurrence.[232] Lord Althorp asserted in the House of Commons
that more lives had been sacrificed in Ireland by murder in the
preceding year than in one of Wellington's victories. And what was, if
possible, a still worse symptom of the disposition of the common people,
was exhibited in the impossibility of bringing the criminals, even when
well known, to justice. Jurors held back from the assizes, witnesses who
had seen murders committed refused to give evidence. The Roman Catholic
prelates, and the higher class of the Roman Catholic clergy--most of
whom, greatly to their credit, exerted themselves to check this fearful
progress of wickedness--found their denunciations unheeded; while
O'Connell, in his place in the House of Commons, used language which to
an ignorant and ferocious peasantry looked almost like a justification
of it, affirming it to be caused wholly by the "unjust and ruinous
policy of the government" in refusing to abolish tithes. It was not the
first time that the existence of tithe had been alleged as an Irish
grievance. In the three southern provinces by far the greater portion of
the tenantry were Roman Catholics, and they had long been complaining
that they were forced to pay for the support of the Protestant clergyman
of their parish, whose ministrations they could not attend, as well as
for the maintenance of their own priest, whose livelihood depended on
their contributions. According to strict political economy, there could
be no doubt that the burden of the tithe fell, not on the tenant, but on
the landlord, in the calculation of whose rent the amount of tithe to
which each holding was liable was always taken into consideration; and
that being the true doctrine, it was equally plain that in reality the
Protestant clergy were paid, not by Roman Catholics, but by Protestants,
since it was not disputed that by far the greater part of the
land-owners in every province were Protestants.[233] But an ignorant
peasant is no student of political economy or of logic; and the fact
that the payment of the tithe passed through his hands was in his eyes,
an incontrovertible proof that it came out of his pocket. The discontent
had gradually begotten an organized resistance to the payment, and the
mischief of allowing the continuance of such a state of feeling and
conduct, which was manifestly likely to impair the respect for all law,
made such an impression on the government that, in the royal speech with
which he opened the session of 1832, the King recommended the whole
subject to the consideration of Parliament, urging the Houses to inquire
"whether it might not be possible to effect improvements in the laws
respecting this subject."

In compliance with this recommendation, committees were appointed by
both Houses; and the result of their investigations was a recommendation
that a new arrangement should be made, under which the tithe should be
commuted to a rent-charge. Accordingly, the next year the ministers
proceeded to give effect to this recommendation. But they reasonably
judged that an alteration of a particular law in compliance with the
clamor raised against it would be a concession pregnant with mischief to
the principle of all government, if it were not accompanied, or rather
preceded, by a vindication of the majesty of all law; and therefore the
first measure affecting Ireland, which they brought in in 1833, was a
"Coercion Bill," which empowered the Lord-lieutenant not only to
suppress the meetings of any assembly or association which he might
consider dangerous to the public peace, but also to declare by
proclamation any district in which tumults and outrages were rife to be
"in a disturbed state;" and in districts thus proclaimed no person was
to be permitted to be absent from his house from an hour after sunset to
sunrise. Houses might be searched for arms, martial law was to be
established, and courts-martial held for the trial of all offences
except felonies; and the _Habeas Corpus_ Act was suspended for three
months. O'Connell and his party protested with great vehemence against
such an enactment, as a violation of every right secured to the subject
by the constitution. And a bill which suspended the ordinary courts of
justice must be admitted to have been incompatible with the constitution
as commonly understood and enjoyed. But if the measure thus proposed was
extraordinary, the state of affairs which had led to its proposal was so
also in a far greater degree. The records of no nation had ever
presented such a fearful catalogue of crimes as was now laid before the
Parliament, and at such a crisis the statesmen to whom the tranquillity
of the country and the safety of the citizens were intrusted were
undoubtedly called upon to go back from the letter of the constitution
to that which is the primary object of every constitution--the safety of
those who live under it. _Salus populi suprema lex_. And the argument of
necessity was regarded, and rightly regarded, by both Houses of
Parliament as a sufficient and complete justification of even so
exceptional an enactment.

And concurrently with this enactment, which, however indispensable for
the repression of crime, no one could deny to be severe, the ministers
endeavored also to remove the causes of discontent by a large measure of
Church reform, not confining their aim to settling the tithe question,
but dealing with the whole question of the Irish Church in such a way as
to lay down, as an undoubted principle of the constitution, the doctrine
that the Church existed for the benefit of the nation; that its property
was bestowed on it for the same object; and that, consequently, the
nation, or in other words the Parliament, had a perfect right to deal
with its property and endowments of all kinds, always keeping the same
end in view, the general advantage of the whole nation. Proceeding on
these maxims, they introduced a Church Reform Bill, in which, perhaps,
the most remarkable circumstance of all was, that the evil which had
been the original cause of their taking up the subject at all was the
last thing settled, not, indeed, being finally arranged for four years;
while the principal detail in the way of reform which was completed in
this first session was one which, however reasonable, had hitherto
received but little attention, and had certainly provoked no great
outcry. It could not be denied that the Episcopal Establishment in
Ireland was out of all proportion to the extent of the country and the
number of the Protestant population, or of the parishes. The entire
population in communion with the Church fell short of 900,000. The
number of parishes scarcely exceeded 1400. But over this comparatively
scanty flock were set no fewer than eighteen bishops and four
archbishops; while England, with 12,000 parishes, was contented with
twenty-four bishops and two archbishops. It was proposed to consolidate
these bishoprics into ten, the archbishoprics into two, a reduction
which could hardly fail to commend itself to all. But with this
reduction was combined a variety of other details relating to the
Episcopal revenues, to the right of the bishops to grant leases, and
other matters of finance, which the ministers proposed so to remodel as
to create a very large fund to be at the disposal of the state. On this
point the greater part of the ministerial scheme was wrecked for the
time. They succeeded in carrying that part of it which consolidated the
bishoprics, and in inducing the House of Commons to grant, first as a
loan, which was originally turned into a gift, a million of money to be
divided among the incumbents of the different parishes, who were reduced
to the greatest distress by the inability to procure payment of their
tithes, the arrears of which amounted to a far larger sum.

But the assertion that any surplus fund arising from redistribution of
the Episcopal revenues ought to belong to the state, not only called
forth a vigorous resistance from the whole of the Tory party at its
first promulgation, but, when the subject was revived the next year, and
one of the supporters of the ministry, Mr. Ward, proposed a resolution
that any such surplus might be legitimately applied to secular purposes,
it produced a schism in the ministry itself. The resolution was
cordially accepted by Lord John Russell, but was so offensive to four of
his colleagues, Mr. Stanley and Sir James Graham being among the number,
that they at once resigned their offices. The breach thus made was not
easily healed; and before the end of the session other dissensions of a
more vexatious and mortifying character led to the retirement of the
Prime-minister himself. All attempts to deal with the tithe question
failed for the time, four more years elapsing before it was finally
settled. But, curtailed as it was, the bill of 1833 still deserves to be
remembered as a landmark in constitutional legislation, since it
afforded the first instance of Parliament affirming a right to deal with
ecclesiastical dignities and endowments, thus setting a precedent which,
in the next reign, was followed with regard to the Church of England.

Lord Melbourne succeeded Lord Grey at the Treasury; but every one saw
that the ministry was greatly weakened. The King, too, had become
greatly dissatisfied both with their general policy, especially in
regard to the Irish Church--which he took an opportunity of assuring the
Irish bishops he was unalterably resolved to uphold--and also with the
language and conduct of one or two individual ministers, to which it is
not necessary to refer more particularly; and when, on the death of Lord
Spencer, father of Lord Althorp, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which
took place in November, 1834, it became necessary for Lord Melbourne to
propose to him a re-arrangement of some of the cabinet offices, he at
once dismissed the whole body of the ministers. It was a somewhat
singular step to take, for they had not been defeated in Parliament, and
he did not himself allege any special dissatisfaction with anything
which they had yet done, though he did apprehend that some of them would
press upon him measures disadvantageous to "the clergy of the Church of
England in Ireland," to which he had an insuperable objection; and,
moreover, that the subject would cause fresh divisions in the ministry,
and the resignation of one or two more of its most important members. He
had, indeed, six months before, given a practical proof of his distrust
of the ability of Lord Melbourne and the colleagues who remained to him
to carry on the government of the kingdom satisfactorily, by desiring
the new Prime-minister to enter into communication with the leaders of
the Opposition, "to endeavor at this crisis to prevail upon them to
afford their aid and co-operation toward the formation of an
administration upon an enlarged basis, combining the services of the
most able and efficient members of each" party.[234] Nor had he
relinquished the idea of bringing about such a coalition, till he
learned that both Lord Melbourne and Sir Robert Peel considered the
differences which divided them to be too deeply founded on principle to
render their union in one administration either beneficial to the state
or creditable to themselves. And it may be said that the letter in which
Lord Melbourne had in November announced to his Majesty the death of
Lord Spencer, and the necessity for new arrangements which that event
had created, by the expression that "in these new and altered
circumstances it was for his Majesty to consider whether it were his
pleasure to authorize Viscount Melbourne to attempt to make such fresh
arrangements as might enable his present servants to continue to conduct
the affairs of the country, or whether his Majesty deemed it advisable
to adopt any other course," and that "Lord Melbourne earnestly entreated
that no personal consideration for him might prevent his Majesty from
taking any measures or seeking any other advice which he might think
more likely to conduce to his service and to the advantage of the
country," did not only contemplate, but to a certain degree even
suggested, the possibility of his Majesty's preferring to have recourse
to fresh advisers.

The King's subsequent acts and their result, however, certainly took the
kingdom by surprise. He applied to the Duke of Wellington to undertake
the formation of a new ministry; and the Duke, explaining to the King
that "the difficulty of the task consisted in the state of the House of
Commons, earnestly recommended him to choose a minister in the House of
Commons," and named Sir Robert Peel as the fittest object for his
Majesty's choice. Sir Robert was in Italy at the time; but, on receiving
the royal summons, he at once hastened to England, the Duke of
Wellington in the mean time accepting the offices of First Lord of the
Treasury and Secretary of State, as a provisional arrangement, till he
should arrive in London.

Sir Robert reached England early in December; and though, if "he had
been consulted beforehand, he would have been inclined to dissuade the
dismissal of the last ministry as premature and impolitic," he did not
consider it compatible "with his sense of duty" to decline the charge
which the King laid upon him, and at once accepted the office of
Prime-minister, being fully aware that by so doing he "became
technically, if not morally, responsible for the dissolution of the
preceding government, though he had not had the remotest concern in
it."[235] In the formation of his ministry he so far endeavored to carry
out the views which the King had suggested to Lord Melbourne in the
summer as to invite the co-operation of Mr. Stanley (who, by the death
of his grandfather, had recently become Lord Stanley) and Sir J. Graham,
who, as has been mentioned before, had retired from Lord Grey's cabinet.
A new name, that of "Conservative," had recently been invented for the
more moderate section of the old Tory party; and it was one which,
though Lord Grey had taunted them with it, as betraying a sense of shame
at adhering to their old colors, Peel was inclined to adopt for himself,
as characteristic of his feelings and future objects; and perhaps he
thought it might help to smooth the way for a junction with him of those
who would flinch from proclaiming so decided a change in their opinions
as would be implied by their becoming colleagues of one who still
cherished the name of Tory. But they declined his offers; and
consequently he was forced to select his cabinet entirely from the party
of anti-Reformers. He dissolved Parliament, a step as to which it seemed
to him that the universal expectations of, and even preparation for, a
dissolution, left him practically scarcely any option;[236] but he soon
found, as, indeed, he had feared he should find, the attempt to
establish a Conservative government premature. The party of the late
ministry, following the example set by Mr. Fox in 1784 with better
fortune, divided against him in the House of Commons on every occasion,
defeating him in every division; and at the beginning of April he
retired, and Lord Melbourne and his former colleagues resumed their
offices with very little change.

They had, as was natural, not been contented with opposing the
Conservative ministry in its general policy, but in both Houses they had
attacked it with great energy. They had begun the battle in both Houses
in the debate on the address, in which they selected three points in the
recent transactions for special condemnation, affirming that in every
one of them the royal prerogative had been unconstitutionally
exercised--the dismissal of the late ministry, the dissolution of
Parliament, and the appointment of the Duke of Wellington to a variety
of offices. In the House of Commons the attack was led by Lord Morpeth
and Lord John Russell; in the House of Lords by Lord Melbourne himself.
It was urged that, though the prerogative of the sovereign to dismiss
his ministers was undoubted and inalienable, yet the Houses had a clear
right to sit in judgment on any particular exercise of it; and that the
circumstances of the late ministry having been but recently formed, of
its possessing in a conspicuous degree the confidence of the great
majority of the House of Commons, and of its being occupied at the
moment of its dismissal with matters of high national concern, justified
the House in calling on the new ministers to show valid reasons for its
sudden dismissal. As to the dissolution, it was asked what misdemeanor
the late House of Commons had committed? No difference had occurred
between it and the other House of Parliament. It had passed no hostile
vote against any administration. It had been in existence but a very
short time. All these circumstances, they affirmed, made it reasonable
for the Houses to express to his Majesty their disapprobation of the
dissolution. Lord Morpeth argued, moreover, that the right of the House
of Commons to inquire into such an exercise of the royal prerogative was
proved by the example of Mr. Pitt, who, in 1784, had introduced into the
speech from the throne a paragraph inviting Parliament to approve of the
recent dissolution; and what Parliament could be asked to approve of, it
manifestly had an equal right to censure. But the most vehement of the
censures of the Opposition were directed against what Lord Morpeth
called "the most unseemly huddling of offices in the single person of
the Duke of Wellington; an unconstitutional concentration of
responsibility and power, at which there was hardly an old Whig of the
Rockingham school whose hair did not stand on end." He admitted that in
the present instance the arrangement had only been provisional and
temporary, and that "no harm had been done;" but, he asked, "what harm
might not have been done? If the country had been suddenly obliged to go
to war, who would have been responsible for the Foreign Department? If
an insurrection of the negroes had occurred, who was responsible for the
Colonial Office? If in Ireland any tithe dispute had arisen, who was
responsible as Home-secretary?" And Lord Melbourne, though a speaker
generally remarkable for moderation, on this subject went much farther;
and, after urging that, "if one person held the situation of First Lord
of the Treasury, and also that of Secretary of State for the Home
Department, it would not only place in his hands without any control the
appointment to every great office in the state, but a person so situated
would also have the pecuniary resources of the state at his disposal
without check or investigation," he proceeded to assert that "an
intention to exercise those offices would amount to a treasonable
misdemeanor." He did not, indeed, go so far as his late
Attorney-general, Sir J. Campbell, who, in vexation at his loss of
office, had even threatened the Duke with impeachment; but, though he
admitted that the Duke had been free from the guilty intention of
exercising the authority of these offices, he suggested that "the Lords
ought to pass some resolution calculated to prevent so great a breach of
the constitution from being drawn into a precedent."

On the first point thus raised, for the dismissal of the late ministry
without any such cause as is usually furnished by an adverse vote of one
of the Houses of Parliament, Peel frankly admitted that his acceptance
of office rendered him constitutionally responsible, though, as he also
said, it was notorious that in fact he had, and could have had, no
previous knowledge of it; but he denied that any constitutional question
whatever was involved in it, since the King's right was denied by no
one; and he could, therefore, only consent to discuss it as a question
of policy and expediency. And, looking at it in this light, he regarded
his defence as easy and complete. He contended that the events of the
past year, the resignation of several of the subordinate ministers, and
finally of Lord Grey himself, and the proposal which had been made to
him (Peel) and several of his friends to coalesce with Lord Melbourne,
rendered the act by which the late government had been removed perfectly
justifiable on the part both of the King and of himself; that the King
was justified in thinking a wholly fresh arrangement preferable to a
re-arrangement of Lord Melbourne's cabinet; and he himself in obeying
his sovereign's commands to form a new administration.

The wisdom and propriety of the dissolution, too, could only be examined
as a question of expediency; but in this instance every consideration
not only recommended but compelled it. "When he undertook the arduous
duties now imposed upon him, he did determine that he would leave no
constitutional effort untried to enable him satisfactorily to discharge
the trust imposed in him. He did fear that if he had met the late
Parliament he should have been obstructed in his course, and obstructed
in a manner and at a season which might have precluded an appeal to the
people. It was the constant boast of the late government that the late
Parliament had unbounded confidence in them. And, if that Parliament
was, as had been constantly asserted, relied upon as ready to condemn
him without a hearing, could any one be surprised at his appeal to the
judgment of another, a higher and a fairer tribunal, the public sense of
the people?" Precedent, too, was in his favor on this point, since,
"whenever an extensive change of government had occurred, a dissolution
of Parliament had followed;" and he referred to the year 1784, and to
1806, when the administration of which Lord Grey was the leading member
at once dissolved the existing Parliament on coming into office; though
he believed "the present to be the first occasion on which a House of
Commons had been invited to express its dissatisfaction at the exercise
of the prerogative of dissolution."

To the strictures of Lord Melbourne and Lord Morpeth on the Duke of
Wellington's temporary assumption of a combination of offices, it was
replied by Sir Robert and the Duke that, though there might be
inconvenience from the assumption of all those powers by one individual,
it was so far from being unconstitutional, that it was a common practice
for the Secretary for one department to act for another during intervals
of recreation, or periods of ill-health; that there was ample precedent
for such a proceeding. In the last week of the life of Queen Anne, the
Duke of Shrewsbury had united three of the greatest posts of the
kingdom, those of Lord Treasurer, Lord Chamberlain, and Lord-lieutenant
of Ireland, with the sanction of that great constitutional lawyer, Lord
Somers. And in 1827 Mr. Canning had retained the seals of the Foreign
Office for some weeks after his appointment as First Lord of the
Treasury. Moreover, there was actually a law which provided that when
the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer is vacant the seals of that
office shall be delivered to the Chief-justice; and under this rule, in
the latter part of the reign of George II., Chief-justice Lord Mansfield
had continued finance-minister for above three months. And, as to the
practical result of what had been done in the present instance, the Duke
affirmed, what, indeed, was universally admitted, that the arrangement
had from the first been understood to be merely temporary; that no
inconvenience had resulted from it; indeed, that "not a single act had
been done in any one of the offices which had not been essentially
necessary for the service of the country."

The first two points on which the ministry was assailed it seems
superfluous to examine, since it is clear that the position taken up by
Sir Robert Peel is impregnable: that, on every view of the principles
and practice of the constitution, there was no doubt of the right of the
sovereign to dismiss his ministers or to dissolve the Parliament at his
pleasure; and that those acts can only be judged of by a consideration
of their expediency. Inexpedient, indeed, the dismissal of the preceding
ministry is generally considered to have been, even in the interest of
the Conservatives themselves. But inexpedient the dissolution can hardly
be pronounced to have been, since, though the new election failed to
give them a majority in the House of Commons, it beyond all doubt
greatly strengthened their minority. On the other hand, though it cannot
be denied that the House of Commons has a perfect right to express its
disapproval of any or every act of the minister, it is not so clear that
Lord Morpeth's invitation to it to express its dissatisfaction with this
particular act of dissolution was, on general principles, expedient or
safe; since such a vote is making a perilous approach to claiming for
the House the right of being asked for its consent to its own
dissolution, a claim the admission of which had been one of the most
fatal, if not the most fatal, of all the concessions of Charles I.

As to the Duke of Wellington's assumption of a variety of offices, it is
probable that when he first proposed to the King to confer them on him,
he anticipated no objection whatever from any quarter, since he had so
little idea of there being any impropriety in holding two offices, were
they ever so apparently incongruous, if his Majesty should have directed
him to do so, that seven years before, when he became Prime-minister, he
had at first designed permanently to retain the command of the army in
conjunction with the Treasury, and had only been induced to abandon the
intention by the urgent remonstrance of Sir Robert Peel; and,
constitutionally, there does not seem to be any limitation of the
sovereign's power to confer offices, to unite or to divide them. Indeed,
the different Secretary-ships of State seem to owe their existence
entirely to his will, and not to any act of Parliament. He can diminish
the number, if he should think fit, as he did in 1782, when, on the
termination of the American war, he forbore to appoint a successor to
Lord George Germaine, in Lord Rockingham's administration; or he can
increase the numbers, as he did in 1794, when he revived the third
Secretaryship, which he had suppressed twelve years before, without any
act of Parliament being passed to direct either the suspension or the
revival. He can even leave the most important offices vacant, and
intrust the performance of their duties to a commission, as was done in
this very year 1835, when the Great Seal was put in commission, and the
duties, for above two years, were performed by commissioners, who had
other duties also to discharge; and these instances may, perhaps,
warrant the conclusion that the distribution of the different posts in
what is generally known as the cabinet is dictated by considerations of
what is practicable and expedient rather than by any positive and
invariable rule or principle.

Yet it does not follow that, because the constitution was not violated
or endangered by such an arrangement, the leaders of the Opposition did
other than their duty in calling attention to it. Unquestionably, it is
historically true that the liberties of the people owe their
preservation, growth, and vigor to the jealous watchfulness to check the
first and slightest appearance of any attempt to encroach upon them,
which has been constantly exercised from the very earliest times by an
almost unbroken series of fearless and independent patriots. And in this
instance the very novelty of such an arrangement as had taken place did
of itself make criticism a duty; though it may also be thought that the
critics acted wisely in contenting themselves with calling notice to it,
and abstaining from asking Parliament to pronounce a formal judgment on
it, since any express censure would have been unwarranted either by the
facts of the case or by any inference to be drawn from previous usage,
while an approval of it would wear the appearance not only of
sanctioning, but even of inviting a repetition of an arrangement which,
if ever attempted to be carried out in actual practice, must tend to
grave inconvenience, if not to discredit.

Lord Melbourne resumed office, and, being strengthened by the manifest
inability of the opposite party to command the confidence of the House
of Commons, began to apply himself with vigor to the carrying out of
several measures of internal reform, some of which involved not only the
property but the long-established rights of very considerable bodies,
and, as so doing, have an importance in a constitutional point of view,
besides that arising from their immediate effects. Peel had been equally
alive to the desirableness, so cogent as almost to amount to a moral
necessity, of introducing reforms into more than one old institution,
such as should bring them more into harmony with the spirit of the age,
remodelling or terminating some arrangements which were manifest abuses,
and others which, though, if dispassionately examined and properly
understood, they, perhaps, were not really grievances, yet in their
operation caused such discontent and heart-burnings that they were as
mischievous as many others far more indefensible in theory. And,
short-lived as his administration had been, he had found time to frame
and introduce an extensive measure of Church reform, not only dealing
with the question of tithes, the levy and collection of which in some of
their details had long been made subjects of bitter complaints by the
farmers, but including also provision for the creation of two new
bishoprics, those of Ripon and Manchester. No part of his measure was
more imperatively called for by the present circumstances of the nation,
or of greater importance in its future operation. There had been no
increase in the number of bishops since the reign of Elizabeth; but
since her time not only had the population of the entire kingdom been
quadrupled, but some districts which had then been very scantily peopled
had become exceedingly populous. These districts had hitherto been
almost destitute of Episcopal supervision, which now was thus to be
supplied to them. But the new legislation did more. It might be expected
that the growth of the population would continue, and would in time
require a farther and corresponding increase of the Episcopate; and the
erection of these new dioceses was, therefore, not only the supplying of
a present want, but the foundation of a system for increasing the
efficiency of the Church which should be capable of gradual progressive
expansion, as the growth of the population in various districts might be
found to require additional facilities for supervision. And the judgment
with which the new arrangement met the requirements of the community may
be regarded as proved by the circumstance that now, after the lapse of
nearly half a century, it is maintained in active operation, and is
admitted by all parties not only to be of the greatest practical
benefit, but also to have a moral effect scarcely less valuable in the
degree in which it has stimulated the application of private munificence
to the great work of Church extension.

But before Lord Grey quitted office his government had also called the
attention of Parliament to the necessity of a large municipal reform,
which, indeed, it seemed to them that the Reform Bill had bound them, in
all consistency, to introduce. In the speech with which the King had
closed the session of 1833, he had informed the Houses that he had
"directed commissions to be issued for investigating the state of the
municipal corporations throughout the United Kingdom, the result of
whose inquiries would enable them to mature some measure which might
seem best fitted to place the internal government of corporate cities
and towns upon a solid foundation in respect of their finances, their
judicature, and their police." He reminded them that they had recently
passed acts "for giving constitutions upon sound principles to the royal
and parliamentary boroughs of Scotland," and warned them that "their
attention would hereafter be called to the expediency of extending
similar advantages to the unincorporated towns in England which had now
acquired the right of returning members to Parliament." The commission
of which his Majesty thus spoke had now presented its report, strongly
condemnatory of the existing system in almost every point of view; of
the constitution and mode of election of the existing corporations, and
of their government of the towns over which they presided. It declared
that "even where they existed in their least imperfect form, and were
most rightfully administered, they were inadequate to the wants of the
present state of society." But they charged them also with positive
offences of no venial kind. "They had perverted their powers to
political ends, sacrificing local interests to party purposes. They had
diverted from their legitimate use revenues which ought to have been
applied for the public advantage, wasting them in many instances for the
benefit of individuals; sometimes even employing for purposes of
corruption funds originally intended for charitable uses." And they
asserted that this too common misconduct of these bodies had engendered
"among a great majority of the inhabitants of the incorporated towns a
general and just dissatisfaction with their municipal institutions, a
distrust of the self-elected municipal councils, and of the municipal
magistracy, tainting with suspicion the local administration of
justice." And therefore they "felt it their duty to represent to his
Majesty that the existing municipal corporations of England and Wales
neither possessed nor deserved the confidence and respect of his
Majesty's subjects; and that a thorough reform must be effected before
they could become what they ought to be, useful and efficient
instruments of local government."

It would be superfluous here to repeat the story of the rise of the
boroughs, whose gradual acquisition of charters, with privileges and
powers of various degrees, has been sufficiently investigated by
Hallam.[237] What the Parliament had now to deal with was the way in
which the system worked in the nineteenth century; and here it must be
confessed that the report of the commissioners, severe as it was, did in
no degree exaggerate the prevailing evils. The corporations had
gradually become self-elected oligarchies of the worst kind. It must be
admitted that, in perverting their authority to political purposes, they
might plead the excuse that they were but following the example set them
by the ministers of William III., who introduced into their bill for
restoring the corporations which James II. had suppressed clauses
manifestly intended to preserve the ascendency of the Whig party, "by
keeping the Church or Tory faction out of"[238] them. But no such
palliation (if, indeed, that had any right to be called a palliation)
could be alleged for their abuse of the trusts committed to them; abuse
which, if committed by single individuals, would have been branded, and
perhaps punished, as malversation and fraud of the deepest dye. A
sufficient specimen of the kind and extent of their misdeeds in one
branch of their duties was afforded by a single paragraph of Lord John
Russell's speech, in which he affirmed that, in some of the reports of
their management of charitable estates committed to their care, it was
proved that "the property, instead of being employed for the general
benefit of the town, had been consumed for the partial benefit of a few
individuals, and not unfrequently in the feastings and entertainments in
which the mayor and other corporators had been in the habit of
indulging. In some not very large boroughs these expenses had amounted
to £500 and £600 a year; and the enjoyment had been confined to freemen
of only one party." And the perpetuity of this mismanagement was in most
instances secured by the members of the corporation themselves electing
their new colleagues on the occasion of any vacancy.

To put an end to this discreditable state of affairs, the government had
prepared a very sweeping scheme of reform, though that it was not too
sweeping was proved by the approval with which not only its principle
but most of its details were received by the greater part of the
Opposition; the leading principle being, to quote the words of the
minister in introducing the bill, "that there should be one uniform
government instituted, applicable to all; one uniform franchise for the
purpose of election; and a like description of officers in each, with
the exception of some of the larger places, in which there would be a
recorder, or some other such magistrate. The first thing to be amended
was the mode of election to the corporation, which was now to be
intrusted to all such rate-payers in each borough as had paid poor-rates
for three years, and resided within seven miles of the place." Lord John
Russell had considered, he said, "whether this franchise should be
limited to those paying a certain amount of rates; to the ten-pound
householders, for instance, to whom the parliamentary franchise was
confined;" but he decided on proposing to extend it to _all_
rate-payers, because, according to the established principle, to the
known and recognized principle of the constitution, it is right that
those who contribute their money should have a voice in the election of
the persons by whom the money is expended. The old modes of acquiring
the freedom of a corporation, such as birth, apprenticeship, etc., were
to be abolished, as also were all exclusive rights of trade, vested
rights, however, being preserved. The next point to be decided was the
composition of the corporation which these rate-payers were to elect,
and the ministerial proposal was that each corporation should consist of
a mayor, aldermen, and councillors, possessing a certain amount of
property as a qualification, and varying in number according to the
population of the borough; the larger towns being also divided into
wards, with a certain number of common-councilmen and aldermen to be
chosen in each ward. The mayor was to be a yearly officer; of the
aldermen and councillors a certain number were to retire each year,
being, however, capable of re-election. The mayor was to be elected by
the councils, and was to be a magistrate during his year of office. And
the body thus constituted was to have the entire government of the
borough; of its police, its charities, and generally, and most
especially, of the raising and expenditure of its funds,[239] which had
been too often dealt with in a manner not only wasteful, but profligate.
Cases had been brought forward in which "corporations had been incurring
debts year by year, while the members were actually dividing among
themselves the proceeds of the loans they raised." The revenue derived
from charitable estates had been "no less scandalously mismanaged." And
the bill provided for the appointment of finance committees, trustees,
auditors, and a regular publication of all the accounts, as the only
efficient remedy and preventive of such abuses. The whole police of the
town and administration of justice was also to be completely under the
control of the council; and for the appointment of magistrates the
council was to have the power of recommending to the crown those whom
they thought fit to receive the commission of the peace; and in the
large towns it should have power also to provide a salary for
stipendiary magistrates. Another clause provided that towns which could
not as yet be included in the bill, since they had never been
incorporated, might obtain charters of incorporation by petition to the
Privy Council.

Such were the general provisions of this great measure of reform; a bill
similar in principle having already been enacted for Scotland, and
another being shortly after passed, with such variations of detail as
the differences in the circumstances of the country required, for
Ireland. Some of the clauses, especially those which preserved the
vested rights of freemen and their families, and which required a
certain amount of property or rating qualifications in the town
councillors, were not originally included in the bill, but were inserted
as amendments in the House of Lords; and it may be remarked that the
result of the discussion in that House afforded a proof of the sagacity
of those peers who, though conscientiously opposed to the Reform Bill,
preferred allowing it to pass by their own retirement from the final
divisions to driving the minister to carry his point by a creation of
peers, since the avoidance of such an addition to their numbers as had
been threatened enabled them now to force the adoption of these
amendments on a reluctant minister. And it seems difficult to deny that
the first was required by justice, and that the second was most
desirable in the interests of the measure itself. Without it the town
councillors, from among whom the mayor was to be chosen, might have been
selected from the poorest, the least educated, and least independent
class of the rate-payers. In some boroughs, or in some wards of many
boroughs, it may be regarded as certain that they would have been so
chosen; and such an admixture of unfit persons would have tended to
bring some degree of discredit on the whole council, while to the
successful inauguration of a new system the establishment of a general
feeling of respect for it and confidence in it was of primary
importance. The danger, too, of so ill-judged a selection would have
been greatest in the larger boroughs, those being, at the same time, the
very places in which the occasional difficulty of maintaining order and
tranquillity made it even more necessary than in smaller towns that the
council should enjoy the esteem and confidence of their fellow-citizens.

The principle that every man who contributed to the rates had a right to
claim a voice in the election of those who were to expend them, which
the minister laid down as the justification of the clause conferring the
municipal franchise on all the rate-payers, was strongly contested by
Sir Robert Peel, though neither he nor those of his party in the Upper
House proposed any alteration of the bill in this respect; but he
pointed out that, though Lord John affirmed it to be the known and
recognized principle of the constitution, he had not acted on it in the
Reform Bill; and it is certainly open to question whether the adoption
of some limitation would not have been an improvement on the present
measure. The doctrine established in this instance by Lord John gave a
preponderance at every municipal election to mere numbers, since the
poorest class is everywhere the most numerous, and its admission led
almost inevitably to a reduction of the parliamentary franchise at some
future day, though certainly at this time, and for many years afterward,
Lord John was far from contemplating any alteration of the Reform Bill,
but, on the contrary, took every opportunity of proclaiming his
adherence to it as a final solution of the question.

But though in this particular it is possible that the bill might have
been improved, it must be allowed to have been a measure very creditable
to its framers. Few reforms have been conceived in a more judicious and
more moderate spirit; few have been so carefully limited to the removal
of real and proved abuses, and the prevention of their recurrence, while
avoiding any concessions to the insidious demands of revolutionists, or
the ill-regulated fancies of metaphysical theorists. It was a reform
strictly in accordance with some of the most important principles of the
constitution, as they have been gradually developed by the practical
experience of successive generations. It combined with felicitous skill
representative with local government; it secured uniformity in working,
and that peculiarly English principle of publicity, without which the
best-devised system cannot long be preserved from degeneracy.

The Church reforms in England and Ireland, which were carried out about
the same time, cannot be said to have involved any constitutional
principle, though one of them greatly extended the principle of
religious toleration and indulgence to the Dissenters of various sects.
No alteration had been made in the Marriage Act of 1754, which declared
it indispensable to the validity of a marriage that it should be
performed in a church and by a clergyman of the Established Church. And
it was not strange that this should be felt as a grievance by those who
were not in communion with that Church. But some of the Dissenting sects
had an additional cause of discontent in the words of the marriage
service, which gave a religious character to the ceremony, while they
regarded it as a civil contract. In his short administration Sir Robert
Peel had recognized the validity of the arguments against the unmodified
maintenance of the existing law, and had framed a measure calculated, in
his view, to give the Dissenters the relief their title to which could
not be denied. But his bill had been extinguished by his retirement. And
Lord John Russell now availed himself of the machinery of another
measure, which he introduced at the same time, to make the relief
somewhat wider and more effective.

Hitherto there was no record of births and marriages beyond that which
was preserved in the registers of different parishes, which in former
years had in many instances been carelessly and inaccurately kept. But
at the beginning of 1836, the ministers, justly urging that it was
important, in a national point of view, both with regard to the security
of titles to property, and to that knowledge of the state of population
the value of which was recognized by the establishment of the practice
of taking a decennial census, that there should be a general register of
all such occurrences, introduced a bill to establish a registry and
registrar in every Poor-law union, with a farther registry for each
county, and a chief or still more general one in London for the whole
kingdom, subject to the authority of the Poor-law Commissioners. And by
a second bill they farther proposed that the registries to be thus
established should be offices at which those who desired to do so might
contract purely civil marriages. Previous clauses in it provided that
members of any sect of Protestant Dissenters might be married in their
own chapels, and by ministers of their own persuasion. After enactments
removing all the civil disabilities under which Nonconformists had
labored for one hundred and fifty years had been placed on the
statute-book, it was clearly inconsistent in the highest degree to
retain still more offensive and unreasonable religious disabilities, and
to deny to them the right of being married by their own ministers,
according to the rites most agreeable to their consciences or
prejudices. And though some of the details of the ministerial measure
were objected to and slightly altered in its passage through Parliament,
the general principle was admitted by the warmest friends and most
recognized champions of the Established Church, who wisely felt that a
bulwark which is too ill-placed or too unsubstantial to be defended, is
often a treacherous source of weakness rather than strength, and that a
temperate recognition of the validity of claims founded on justice was
the best protection against others which had no such foundation, and
that measures such as these adopted in a spirit of generous conciliation
could only strengthen the Church by taking at least one weapon from the
hands of its enemies.

Another of the measures relating to the Church, of which Peel had
prepared a sketch, had for its object the removal of a grievance of
which the members of the Church itself had long been complaining, the
mode of the collection of tithe. It would be superfluous here to
endeavor to trace the origin of tithes, or the purposes beyond the
sustentation of the clergymen to which they were originally
applied.[240] They had undoubtedly been established in England some time
before the Conquest, and the principle that the land should support the
National Church was admitted by a large majority of the population; it
may probably be said with something nearly approaching unanimity on the
part of those who really paid it, namely, the land-owners. The objection
to the tithe system was founded rather on the way in which it worked,
operating, as Lord John Russell described it, as "a discouragement to
industry; a penalty on agricultural skill; a heavy mulct on those who
expended the most capital and displayed the greatest skill in the
cultivation of the land." The present mode of levying the tithes forced
the clergy to forbearance at the expense of what they deemed to be their
rights, or led them to enforce them at the expense of the influence
which they ought to possess with their parishioners, compelling them to
lose either their income by their indulgence, or their proper weight and
popularity in the parish by the exaction of what the law gave them for
"the support of themselves and their families." And this dilemma was
felt so keenly by the clergy themselves, that it had become a very
general feeling with them that, "if any sort of commutation could be
devised, they would be delighted to be delivered from this objectionable
mode of payment." Indeed, Sir Robert Peel, whose measure of the
preceding year had been chiefly directed to the encouragement of
voluntary commutations, had stated to the House that there were already
two thousand parishes in the kingdom in which a commutation between the
clergyman and his parishioners had been agreed upon, and established as
a durable settlement by separate acts of Parliament. Indeed,
arrangements of this kind existed very generally; the parishes in which
the tithe was taken in kind being comparatively few, and the plan
usually adopted being for the occupier of land to pay the incumbent a
fixed annual sum bearing a certain proportion to his rent. But
arrangements which were optional were, of course, liable to be
rescinded; and Peel desired to establish a system which should be
universal and permanent. And with this view he had designed the
appointment of a temporary commission, one member of which should be
nominated by the Primate, as the representative of the Church, under
whose supervision the tithes of every parish in the kingdom should be
commuted into a rent-charge, regulated partly by the composition which
had hitherto been paid, and partly by the average price of grain--wheat,
barley, and oats. It was no new idea, since as far back as 1791 Pitt had
proposed a general commutation of tithes for a corn rent, and had
submitted a plan with that object to the Primate, though circumstances
of which we have no accurate knowledge prevented him from proceeding
with it.[241] Objections[242] were taken to this last part of the
arrangement, chiefly because it would render perpetual the terms of
existing compositions, the extreme augmentation of them which was
provided for in the bill being only ten per cent., while it was
notorious that the majority of incumbents had shown such liberality in
these matters that the compositions rarely amounted to two-thirds of the
sum to which they were legally entitled. And it was hardly denied that
the measure did involve some sacrifice of the extreme legal rights of
the clergy; but it was urged and generally felt by the most judicious
friends of the Church that the peace and harmony which might be expected
to be the fruit of the measure was worth some sacrifice, and the bill
was passed with very general approval; a bill on similar principles,
with such variations as were required by the differences between the two
countries, being also passed for Ireland.

The last measure on ecclesiastical subjects was also chiefly of a
financial character, though its details were calculated, some directly,
others indirectly, to produce benefits of a still more important nature.
The condition of the property of the bishops and the ecclesiastical
chapters had long been a subject of censorious remark. The various
dioceses differed greatly in extent, as did, therefore, the labors of
the diocesans. Some sees contained above 1000, one (London) even above
1200 parishes; others contained under 150. The revenues of some were
very large, in one or two instances approaching £20,000 a year, while
those of others scarcely exceeded £1000 or £1500 a year, thus affording
incomes palpably inadequate to the support of the Episcopal dignity; so
inadequate, indeed, that they were generally supplemented by the
addition of some better endowed deanery or canonry. It was universally
felt that such a deficiency and such a mode of supplying it were in
themselves a scandal, which was greatly augmented by the system of
translations to which it had given birth. The poorer bishoprics would
hardly have been accepted at all had they not been regarded as
stepping-stones to others of greater value; and the hope of such
promotion had in some cases the not unnatural, however deplorable,
effect of making the bishop anxious to please the minister of the day,
to whom alone he could look for translation, by parliamentary
subservience; and the still more mischievous result (if possible) of
rendering the whole Bench liable to the same degrading suspicion; while
the canonries and prebends in the different chapters, whose revenues
also varied greatly, were in every diocese so numerous that they had
become nearly sinecures, the duties rarely exceeding residence for a
month, or, at the outside, six weeks in a year.

These abuses (for such they could not be denied to be) had attracted the
attention of Sir Robert Peel, who had appointed a commission, of which
many of the highest dignitaries of the Church were members, and who,
after very careful investigation and deliberation, presented a series of
reports on which the ministry framed its measure. They proposed, as has
already been mentioned in connection with the labors of Sir Robert Peel,
an amalgamation of four of the smaller bishoprics at their next vacancy,
in order hereafter to provide for the addition of two new ones at
Manchester, or Lancaster, and Ripon, without augmenting the number of
bishops. Lord Melbourne apparently feared to provoke the hostility of
some of the extreme Reformers, who had recently proposed to deprive the
bishops of their seats in the House of Lords, if he should attempt to
increase the number of the spiritual peers; though, as their number had
been stationary ever since the Reformation, while that of the lay peers
had been quadrupled, such an objection hardly seemed entitled to so much
consideration. Another clause was directed toward the establishment of
greater equality between the revenues of the different bishoprics, a
step which, besides its inherent reasonableness and equity, would
extinguish the desire of promotion by translation, except in a few
specified instances. Various reasons, sufficiently obvious and
notorious, rendered the two archbishoprics, and the bishoprics of
London, Durham, and Winchester, more costly to the occupants than the
other dioceses; and these were, therefore, left in possession of larger
revenues than the rest, proportionate to their wider duties or heavier
charges. But all the others were to be nearly equal, none exceeding
£5500, and none falling below £4500; while the five richer sees were
also the only ones to which a prelate could be translated from another
diocese. It followed, almost as a matter of course, that the practice of
allowing a bishop to hold any other preferment was to cease with the
cessation of the cause that had led to such an abuse.

Another part of the bill provided for the suppression of such canonries
or prebends as might fairly be considered superfluous. Four were
considered sufficient for the proper performance of the duties of each
cathedral; and the extinction (after the lives of the present holders)
of the rest was designed to form a large fund, to be at the disposal of
the Ecclesiastical Commissioners,[243] and to be applied by them chiefly
to meet the wants of the more populous parishes in different large
towns, for which it had hitherto been difficult to make any
provision,[244] by contributing to the erection of additional churches,
by increasing the incomes of the incumbents in cases where it was
insufficient, or in any other way which the practical experience of the
members of the commission might suggest. One very important reform of a
different kind was also provided for in the abolition of pluralities,
the bill prohibiting the holding of two livings by the same person
except they were within ten miles of each other. The measure was
objected to by Sir Robert Inglis, who had represented Oxford as the
peculiar champion of Protestant and Church principles ever since 1829,
and by a party which shared his views, as one calculated to be "fatal to
the best interests of the Church." They looked on the property of the
Church and everything connected with it as invested with so peculiar a
character, that they not only contested the right of Parliament to take
any step to diminish its revenues or to change the employment of them,
but they even "disputed its right to deprive one class of the clergy of
any portion of their revenues for the purpose of distributing it among
another." But the distinction thus made between Church property and that
of any other public body seems one which can hardly be supported. The
purposes for which ecclesiastical chapters or officials have been
endowed with possessions and revenues are undoubtedly of a more sacred
character than the duties imposed on lay corporations; but that
consideration cannot be regarded as affecting the tenure of those
possessions, or as inconsistent with the doctrine that they are national
property, bestowed by the nation on the Church for the service and
advantage of the people; deeply interested not only in the maintenance
of an Established Church, but in that Church being in the highest
possible degree efficient for its holy objects. Being so bestowed and
appropriated, that property must, on every principle of the
constitution, be subject to the control of the national Parliament. And
surely that control could never be more legitimately exerted than in
carrying out the recommendations of a commission which numbered among
its members several of the prelates of the Church, whose profession and
position were a guarantee for their anxiety to preserve all the rights
of the Church which contributed to its credit or efficiency; while their
matured experience enabled them better than any other men to judge how
to reconcile the maintenance of its dignity with the extension of its


[Footnote 226: The second resolution affirmed that "this House looks
forward to a progressive improvement in the character of the slave
population, such as may prepare them for a participation in those civil
rights and privileges which are enjoyed by other classes of his
Majesty's subjects." (Stapleton's "Life of Canning," iii., 98, where
also large extracts from the minister's speech are given.)]

[Footnote 227: Trinidad, St. Lucia, and Demerara were the only British
islands which had not separate Legislatures.]

[Footnote 228: Miss Martineau. "History of the Thirty Years' Peace,"
book iv., c. viii.]

[Footnote 229: Alison, "History of Europe," 2d series, c. xxxi., sec.

[Footnote 230: In the debate on the Registration Bill, in 1836, Lord
John Russell stated that two hundred and twenty eight unions had already
been formed in England and Wales, and that it might be calculated that
when the whole country was divided into unions the entire number would
amount to something more than eight hundred.]

[Footnote 231: See Lord Althorp's speech, of parts of which an abstract
is given in the text.--_Parliamentary Debates_, xxii., April 17.]

[Footnote 232: Lord Althorp made the following frightful statement of
the crimes committed in the province of Leinster alone in the last three
months of 1832 and the first three of 1833: 207 murders, 271 cases of
arson. The assaults attended with grievous personal injury were above
1000; burglaries and robberies, above 3000.]

[Footnote 233: It was often asserted that fourteen-fifteenths of the
land in Ireland belonged to Protestants, but this estimate was,
probably, an exaggeration.]

[Footnote 234: "Memoirs of Sir Robert Peel," ii., 3, 19.]

[Footnote 235: "Memoirs of Sir Robert Peel," pp. 31, 32.]

[Footnote 236: "One important question I found practically, and perhaps
unavoidably, decided before my arrival, namely, the dissolution of the
existing Parliament. Every one seemed to have taken it for granted that
the Parliament must be dissolved, and preparations had accordingly been
made almost universally for the coming contest."--_Peel's Memoirs_, ii.,

[Footnote 237: "Middle Ages," ii., 31 _seq_. See also Stubbs,
"Constitutional History," i., 82-92 _et seq._]

[Footnote 238: See Hallam's "Constitutional History," ii., 155.]

[Footnote 239: This was a matter of no small importance. The number of
boroughs included in the bill was 183, having a population of about two
millions. Their annual income was stated by Lord John Russell to be as
nearly as possible £2000 a year for each, being £367,000; but their
annual expenditure exceeded that amount by £10,000, being £377,000;
"besides which there was a debt of £2,000,000 owing by these bodies."]

[Footnote 240: See Hallam, "Middle Ages," ii., 205-207.]

[Footnote 241: "Life of Pitt," ii., 131. Lord Stanhope imagines that the
plan was relinquished in consequence of discouraging comments by the
Archbishop (Dr. Moore).]

[Footnote 242: These objections were founded on the following
calculations, or something similar to them. The tithe was the tenth of
the produce. In letting estates it was estimated that a farm ought to
produce three rents; in other words, that a farm let at £1 an acre ought
to produce yearly £3 an acre. One-tenth of three pounds, or 6s.,
therefore, was what the clergyman was entitled to claim. Out of this,
however, he had to defray the cost of collection, which might, perhaps,
be one shilling, leaving him five shillings. But the average of
compositions over the whole kingdom was under 2s. 9d., or
eleven-twentieths of what he was entitled to; and if augmented by ten
per cent., it would not exceed three shillings.]

[Footnote 243: The fund so created was expected to amount to £130,000 a

[Footnote 244: As instances of the want of church-room in such towns,
Lord John cited the dioceses of London, Chester, York, Lichfield, and
Coventry, containing a population of 2,590,000 persons, with church
accommodation for only 276,000, or one-ninth of the population; the
Commissioners, from whose report he was quoting, reckoning that
church-room ought to be provided for one-third.]


Death of William IV., and Accession of Queen Victoria.--Rise of the
Chartists.--Resignation of Lord Melbourne in 1839, and his Resumption of
Office.--Marriage of the Queen, and Consequent Arrangements.--The
Precedence of the Prince, etc.--Post-office Reform.--War in
Afghanistan.--Discontent in Jamaica.--Insurrection in Canada.--New
Constitution for Canada and other Colonies.--Case of Stockdale and

The reforms mentioned in the preceding chapter were the last measures of
the reign of William IV. In the summer of the next year, 1837, he died,
and was succeeded in his British, though not in his Hanoverian,
dominions by our present gracious sovereign, who had only just arrived
at the age which entitled her to exercise the full authority of the
crown. The change was calculated to strengthen the crown, by enlisting
the chivalrous feelings of all that was best in the nation in the
support of a youthful Queen, and in a lesser degree it for a time
strengthened the ministry also; but, with respect to the latter, the
feeling did not last long. For the next three years the summers were
very unfavorable to the farmer; the harvests were bad; the inevitable
accompaniment of a rise in prices had caused severe and general
distress, and distress had produced clamorous discontent, and in some
districts formidable riots. It had been greatly aggravated in the
manufacturing counties by the operations of the trades-unions, which had
gradually put forth pretensions to regulate the wages and other
conditions of work, and had enforced them with such tyrannical violence,
not flinching from the foulest crimes, that in many instances they had
driven the masters to close their factories rather than submit to their
mandates; and in others had compelled the workmen themselves to
discontinue their labors, thus spreading destitution among thousands
whose earnings, if they had been allowed to consult their own wishes,
would have been amply sufficient for the support of their families;[245]
and the evil had grown to such a height, that in 1838 a committee was
appointed by the House of Commons to investigate the whole subject of
trade combinations. But the turbulent spirit excited by this distress
did not now confine itself to single outbreaks of violence, but, under
the guidance of some demagogues of a more methodical turn of mind than
usual, developed itself in a systematic organization having for its
object what they called "the people's charter," which aimed at a total
revolution of the existing parliamentary system, with the avowed design
that, when adopted, it should eventually lead to an entire
reconstruction of the government. The Chartists, as they called
themselves, had advocates even in Parliament, who presented their
petitions to the House of Commons, and tried, though unsuccessfully, to
give them importance by the appointment of a committee to investigate
the character of the reforms which they demanded. They were not,
however, contented with peaceful modes of pressing their demands, but,
in the course of the summer of 1839, broke out in formidable riots in
different parts of the country. At Birmingham they set fire to different
parts of the town, carrying on their work of pillage and destruction to
such a pitch that the Duke of Wellington compared the condition of the
town to one taken by storm in regular warfare; and at Newport, in
Monmouthshire, they even planned and carried out an attack on the troops
quartered in the district. But this violence led for a time to the
suppression of the movement, the leaders in the Newport riots being
convicted of high-treason; and, though the government forbore to put the
extreme severities of the law in force against them, those who remained
unconvicted had been taught by their example the danger which they
incurred by such proceedings; and some years elapsed before a series of
revolutionary troubles on the Continent again gave a momentary
encouragement to those in this country who sympathized with the
revolutionists, and prompted them to another attempt to force their
views upon the government and the people.

It had nearly, however, been another ministry on whom the task of
quelling these riots had fallen. Though, as has been already said, Lord
Melbourne's cabinet derived a momentary strength from the accession of a
young Queen, the support it thus acquired did not last; and in May,
1839, having been defeated on a measure of colonial policy, which will
be mentioned hereafter, the cabinet resigned. The Queen intrusted the
task of forming a new administration to Sir Robert Peel, who undertook
it with a reasonable confidence that he should be able to hold his
ground better than formerly, now that the retirement of his predecessors
was their own act, and admitted by them to have been caused by a
consciousness of the divisions among their supporters and their own
consequent weakness. He had the greater reason for such confidence,
since two of the colleagues of Lord Grey who had refused his offers in
1834, Lord Stanley and Sir James Graham, were now willing to unite with
him; and he had almost completed his arrangements, when he was stopped
by an unexpected, though not altogether unprecedented, impediment. It
will be recollected that, in 1812, some of the arrangements for the
formation of a new administration on the death of Mr. Perceval were
impeded by a doubt which was felt in some quarters whether the new
ministers would be allowed to remove one or two officers of the
household, to whom the Regent was generally understood to be greatly
attached, but who were hostile to the party which hoped to come into
power, though it was afterward known that these officers had felt
themselves bound to retire as soon as the arrangements in contemplation
should be completed.[246] Sir Robert Peel was now met by a difficulty of
the same kind, but one which the retiring ministers had the address to
convert into a real obstacle. The Queen, who had warm affections, but
who could not possibly have yet acquired any great knowledge of
business, had become attached to the ladies whom Lord Melbourne had
appointed to the chief places in her household. It had never occurred to
her to regard their offices in a political light; and, consequently,
when she found that Sir Robert considered it indispensable that some
changes should be made in those appointments, she at once refused her
consent, terming his proposal one "contrary to usage and repugnant to
her feelings." Sir Robert, however, felt bound to adhere to his request
for the removal of some of the ladies in question; for, in fact, they
were the wives and sisters of his predecessors, and a continuance of
their daily intercourse with the Queen might reasonably be expected to
have some influence over her Majesty's judgment of the measures which he
might feel it his duty to propose. Such a difficulty could not have
arisen under a male sovereign; but Lord Melbourne himself had departed
from the ordinary practice when he surrounded his royal mistress with
ladies so closely identified with his cabinet. It is very possible that
he had originally made the appointments without any such design, from
the careless indifference which was his most marked characteristic; but
he cannot be so easily acquitted when, in reply to the Queen's
application to him for advice on the subject, he, being joined in his
assertion by Lord John Russell, assured her that Sir Robert Peel's
demand was unjustifiable and unprecedented. Supported by the positive
dictum of the ministers on whose judgment she had hitherto been bound to
rely, the Queen naturally adhered to her decision of refusing to permit
the removal of the ladies in question, and the result was that Sir
Robert Peel declined to take office under circumstances of difficulty
beyond those to which every new minister must of necessity be exposed,
and Lord Melbourne and his colleagues resumed their posts. The
transaction was, of course, canvassed in both Houses of Parliament. Sir
Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington, who was the spokesman of the
party in the House of Lords, defended their refusal to undertake the
government on any other condition than that for which they had
stipulated, on the ground that the authority to make such changes in the
household as they had proposed was indispensable, as a proof of their
possession of her Majesty's confidence; while Lord Melbourne, with a
strange exaggeration, defended the advice which he had given her Majesty
by the assertion that to have complied with Sir Robert Peel's proposal
would have been "inconsistent with her personal honor." Other arguments
on the same side were based on the alleged cruelty of separating her
Majesty "from the society of her earliest friends, her old and constant
companions;" an argument which was disposed of by Lord Brougham's
remark, that till she had become Queen (not yet two years before) she
had had no acquaintance with them whatever.[247]

But it is needless to dwell at any length on the case, in which all
subsequent historians and political critics, however generally
prepossessed in favor of the Liberal ministers, have given up their
position as untenable. Her Majesty herself kept strictly on the path of
the constitution in guiding herself by the counsels of those who, till
their successors were appointed, were still her responsible advisers.
But the course which they recommended was absolutely irreconcilable with
one fundamental principle of the constitution--the universal
responsibility of the ministers. In denying the right of the incoming
ministers to remodel the household (or any other body of offices) in
whatever degree they might consider requisite, they were clearly
limiting the ministerial authority. To limit the ministerial authority
is to limit the ministerial responsibility; to limit the ministerial
responsibility is to impose some portion of responsibility (that portion
from which it relieves the minister) on the sovereign himself, a
dangerous consequence from which the constitution most carefully
protects him. In fact, that the advice Lord Melbourne gave was
indefensible was tacitly confessed by himself, when, on the recurrence
of the same emergency two years later, he was compelled to recommend a
different course;[248] and the ladies whom Sir Robert had considered it
necessary to remove anticipated their dismissal by voluntary
resignation. It may be added that, at the close of this same year, Lord
Melbourne himself insisted on nominating the private secretary to the
Prince whom the Queen was about to marry, though no one could pretend
that offices in his household were as important as those in that of the
sovereign; and though, if there was any post in which the Prince might
have been supposed to have a right to an unfettered choice, that might
have been supposed to have been the office of his private

Her Majesty's marriage with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, her first
cousin--one tending as greatly to the happiness of herself and the
advantage of the nation as any royal marriage recorded in history--took
place in the beginning of 1840; and in the preparatory arrangements--
matters of far greater consequence to the Queen's feelings than any
appointments in the household--the ministry, by singular mismanagement,
contrived to force the consideration of other constitutional questions
on Parliament in such a way that the conclusions which were adopted,
however inevitable, could hardly fail to be mortifying and vexatious to
her Majesty, in whose cup of happiness at such a moment special care
ought rather to have been taken to prevent the admixture of any such
alloy. In the matter of the annuity to be settled on the young Prince,
the Opposition must, indeed, share the blame with the minister. If it
was unpardonable carelessness in the latter to omit the usual practice
of previously consulting the leaders of the Opposition on the amount of
the grant to be proposed, it was not the less impolitic and unworthy of
such men as the Duke and Sir Robert Peel to show their disapproval of
the inattention by a curtailment of the grant. The sum proposed, £50,000
a year, was fairly justified by the fact of its being the same which
twenty-four years before had been settled on the Prince's uncle,
Leopold, on his marriage with the Princess Charlotte. Indeed, if there
were to be any difference, the circumstances might have been regarded as
warranting an increase rather than a diminution of it. Money was
certainly more plentiful in 1840 than in 1816, and the husband of an
actual Queen occupied, beyond all question, a higher position than the
husband of the heiress-presumptive, who might never become Queen, and
who, in fact, never did. We cannot think, therefore, that the reduction
of £20,000, which Sir Robert Peel proposed and carried, was reasonable
or becoming, but regard it as neither called for by the circumstances of
the kingdom, nor as befitting its liberality, nor as in harmony with its

But on the two other questions--one immediately affecting the
constitution, and the other not absolutely unconnected with it--no
defence of the minister seems available. At the opening of Parliament in
1840, her Majesty commenced her speech by the announcement of her
intended marriage, describing the bridegroom simply as "the Prince of
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha," the same expression which she had used in
addressing the Privy Council a few weeks before. That description of him
had at once struck her uncle, Leopold--who, since the death of his
English wife, the Princess Charlotte, had become King of Belgium--as so
imperfect and insufficient, that, on reading her address to the Privy
Council, he at once wrote to her to point out that it would have been
desirable to mention the fact of the Prince being a Protestant,[250] and
that the omission would inevitably cause discontent. But, in spite of
this warning, Lord Melbourne refused to advise the Queen to insert a
statement of the Prince's religion in her speech, though it was by no
means superfluous on such an occasion, since, if he were a Roman
Catholic, a marriage with him would have incurred a forfeiture of the
crown. The Duke of Wellington, on the other hand, regarded it as a
positive duty to require that the fact of the Prince being a Protestant
should be mentioned, so as to show the care of Parliament to prevent any
constitutional precautions from being overlooked, such statement having,
indeed, been usually made on similar occasions. When he, therefore,
moved an amendment to insert the word "Protestant" in the description of
the Prince, Lord Melbourne did not venture to divide the House against
it; but still his management gave an ungracious appearance to the
transaction, as if there had been in any quarter an unwillingness to
recognize the fact of the Prince's Protestantism till the recognition
was forced on the government by the action of the Parliament.

The third question, as affecting the relative ranks and positions of the
different members of the royal family, cannot be said to have been
wholly unconnected with the provisions of the constitution; and the
mismanagement of the minister was, perhaps, even more sure to attract
notice in this case than in the other, since to introduce into a bill a
clause which had no connection whatever with its title had something of
the appearance of a deliberate slight to the two Houses. A bill to
naturalize the Prince was, of course, indispensable. But into it the
ministers, without any notice, had introduced a clause enabling him
"during his life to take precedence in rank after her Majesty in
Parliament and elsewhere as her Majesty might think fit and proper, any
law, statute, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding." It was
admitted that no such precedence had been given to Prince George of
Denmark, nor to Prince Leopold. And there were obvious difficulties in
the way of conferring such a life-long precedence, because, as Lord
Brougham had pointed out, it was possible that the Queen might die
without issue, in which case the King of Hanover would become King of
England also, and his son the Prince of Wales; and it would have been an
inconceivable anomaly that a foreign naturalized prince should take
precedence of the Prince of Wales, whose special rank and importance was
recognized in many acts of Parliament. This objection was so clearly
insuperable, that Lord Melbourne consented to alter the clause so as to
give the Prince precedence only "after the heir-apparent." But even this
concession failed to satisfy the objectors, the King of Hanover, among
others, positively refusing to waive his precedence over any foreign
prince. And eventually the minister withdrew the clause altogether, and
the bill, as it was passed, was confined to the naturalization of the
Prince. Lord Melbourne had thus contrived to make the Queen and Prince
appear as if they were desirous to induce the two Houses by a sort of
trick to confer on the Prince a precedence and dignity to which he was
not entitled, and to render the refusal of Parliament to be so cajoled a
fresh cause of mortification to the royal pair. The course that was
eventually adopted is understood to have been suggested by the Duke of
Wellington--to withdraw the affair altogether from the cognizance of
Parliament, and to leave it to the Queen to confer on the Prince
whatever precedence she might choose, as it was certainly within her
right to do. And so, a few days after the bill had passed, she did by
letters-patent give him precedence next to herself "on all occasions and
in all meetings, except when otherwise provided by act of Parliament,"
as, seventeen years later, she, in the same way, with the cordial
approval of the whole nation, conferred on him the title of Prince
Consort. And apart from its convenience, as avoiding all unseemly
discussions, this would seem to have been the most natural and proper
mode of settling such a matter. The Queen is the fountain of honor in
this kingdom, and at her own court she can certainly confer on any of
her own subjects whatever precedence she may think fit, while it may be
doubted whether any act of a British Parliament could give precedence at
a foreign court. It was, probably, not in his character of Duke of
Cumberland, but as an independent sovereign, that the King of Hanover
maintained his claim to superior precedence; and it was plain that the
most illustrious subject could not possibly at any court be allowed to
rank above a king. With reference to its possible effect on the
subsequent relations of Peel and his followers with the court, it was,
perhaps, well that a few months later they had the opportunity of
proving that no personal objection to the Prince himself had influenced
their course in these transactions, by giving a cordial assent to the
ministerial proposal of conferring the Regency on him in the event of
the Queen giving an heir to the throne, and dying while he was still a
minor. The principle was the same as that which had guided the
arrangements for a Regency ten years before; but it was not
inconceivable that Parliament might have hesitated to intrust so large
an authority to so very young a man, and him a comparative stranger,
such as the Prince still was, had the leaders of the Opposition given
the slightest countenance to such an objection.

Lord Melbourne's ministry was hardly strengthened by the circumstances
under which it resumed office. Yet the close of the same year witnessed
a reform of which it is hardly too much to say that no single measure of
this century has contributed more to the comfort of the whole mass of
the people, with which it has also combined solid commercial benefits.
Hitherto the Post-office had been managed in a singular manner, and the
profit derived from it had been treated as something distinct from the
ordinary revenue of the kingdom. In the reign of Charles II. it had been
given to the Duke of York, and the grant was regarded as conferring on
him such extensive rights, that when, some years afterward, an
enterprising citizen set up a penny post for the delivery of letters in
the City and its precincts, the Duke complained of the scheme as an
infraction of his monopoly, and the courts of law decided in his favor.
That grant ceased, as a matter of course, on the Duke's accession to the
throne; and in the reign of Queen Anne a portion of the Post-office
proceeds was appropriated, with the general consent of a grateful
country, to reward the great achievements of the Duke of Malborough, a
perpetual charge on it of £5000 a year being annexed to the dukedom. In
those days the postage of a letter was twopence for short distances, and
threepence for any distance beyond eighty miles.[251] But those charges
had been gradually increased; about the middle of the century the lowest
charge was fixed at fourpence, rising in proportion to the distance,
till the conveyance of a single letter from one extremity of the kingdom
to the other cost eighteen-pence. Such a rate could not fail to be very
profitable; and by the beginning of the present reign the yearly profit
exceeded a million and a half of money. The heaviness of the charge,
however, had latterly attracted attention, and had been the cause of
many complaints, as being a great discouragement, and, in the case of
the poorer classes, a complete obstacle to communication. However,
neither the ministers nor the Parliament had succeeded in devising any
remedy, since a system affording so large a return was not a thing
lightly to tamper with, when those who complained suddenly found a
practical leader in Mr. Rowland Hill, who published a pamphlet on the
subject, in which he affirmed the cost of the conveyance of each letter
even for such a distance as from London to Edinburgh to be infinitely
less than a farthing; and that, consequently, all the rest of the
postage was a tax for the purposes of revenue. When this fact was once
established, it needed no argument to prove that to increase the tax
paid by each recipient of a letter in proportion to the distance at
which he lived from the writer was an indefensible unfairness; and,
after much investigation and discussion, Mr. Hill succeeded in
converting the ministers to his view. Accordingly, the Budget for 1839,
introduced by Mr. Spring Rice, then Chancellor of the Exchequer,
contained a clause which reduced the postage for every letter weighing
less than an ounce to a uniform charge of a penny, to be prepaid by
means of a stamp to be affixed to each letter by the sender. It was not
without plainly-expressed reluctance that the scheme was consented to by
the Opposition; nor can their hesitation be considered as unreasonable,
in the very unsatisfactory condition of the finances of the kingdom at
the time. The balance-sheet of the preceding year showed a considerable
deficiency. There was a large unfunded debt; and even Mr. Hill's most
sanguine calculations admitted a probable loss to the Post-office of
£1,200,000 for the first year or two; though he expressed his confidence
that eventually the correspondence of the kingdom would be found to
increase so largely as to make up for the greater part, if not the
whole, of the deficiency. His anticipations were far outran by the

In 1839 the Postmaster-general estimated the number of letters sent
yearly by the post at less than twenty-five millions. They are now
upward of a thousand millions, a number the conveyance of which (with
the addition of newspapers, whose circulation had also been greatly
augmented by a recent reduction of the tax to a penny) would have
severely taxed the whole carrying power of the kingdom before the
introduction of railroads. Nor have the benefits of the new system been
confined to ourselves. Foreign nations have followed our example, though
not quite in the same degree, till an international postage is at length
established throughout the whole of the civilized world. And it has not
been only the happiness of private individuals that has been augmented
by this facility of communication. In its gradual development it has
largely promoted the extension of trade of every kind, and, by
facilitating a commercial intercourse between nations, it cannot but
contribute to the maintenance of friendship and peace.

The full advantages of this reform could not be seen at first; but, even
had it been appreciated as fully as we appreciate it now, no approval of
it could have counterbalanced the general dissatisfaction with which the
ministry was regarded. At home the finances were falling into great
disorder, the expenditure of the year greatly exceeding the income;
while the feeling that their Irish policy was dictated by a wish to
purchase at any price the support of O'Connell, was still more injurious
to them, for he was already beginning to renew agitation in Ireland,
inaugurating a new association, which, though its purposes were faintly
veiled for a time under the title of the Precursor Association, was
understood to point at a repeal of the Union; while the ministers,
though they denounced such a measure as ruinous to every part of the
kingdom, seemed willing to give it practical encouragement by a bill
which they introduced, which bore the name of a Registration Act for
Ireland, but which was not confined to that object. On the contrary, it
contained a provision for lowering the qualification for the franchise
by one-half; so that it was, in fact, a new Reform Bill for
Ireland,[252] calculated greatly to increase his influence by the number
of voters of the poorer classes whom it would create. The bill was
defeated, but the odium of having proposed it remained.

But, besides these home difficulties, there were troubles abroad, both
in the East and in the West. In the East, the complications inseparable
from a dominion like that of ours in India, where constant expansion
seemed to have become a law of its existence, had involved us in a war
with a new enemy, the warlike Afghan nation; in the West, both Jamaica
and Canada were in a state threatening insurrection. Indeed, the
troubles in Jamaica had been the immediate cause of that resignation of
the ministry in 1839 which has already been mentioned. Measures adopted
in the English Parliament with reference to the termination of that
apprenticeship system which, as we have seen, formed a part of the bill
for the abolition of slavery, and another for the regulation of the
prisons in the island, had given such offence to the colonial Assembly,
never very manageable, that the members passed a resolution that their
legislative rights had been violated, and that they would abstain from
all exercise of their legislative functions, except such as might be
necessary "to preserve inviolate the faith of the island with the public
creditor, until" (by the rescinding of the resolutions, etc., of which
they complained) "they should be left to the free exercise of their
inherent rights as British subjects." And this resolution was seconded
by an insulting protest, in which they drew an offensive comparison
between the state of crime in the island and that which prevailed in
Great Britain, taunting the British Parliament with the murders and acts
of incendiarism which terrified Ireland night and day, with the murders
of Burke and Hare in Scotland, with the law of divorce and _crim. con._
trials in England, and "a Poor-law which has taken millions from the
necessities of the destitute to add to the luxuries of the wealthy." The
Governor dissolved the Assembly, but that which succeeded re-adopted the
resolutions of its predecessor, and the ministers, in consequence,
brought in a bill "to suspend the existing constitution of the island
for a limited number of years, and to provide that during that interval
its legislative functions should not be exercised by a Governor, a
Council, and a House of Assembly, but should reside in the Governor and
Council alone." The emergency was too great and undeniable, the remedy
proposed was also too unprecedented in its stringency, to be dealt with
without the gravest deliberation; and the House of Commons accordingly
gave the matter the patient consideration which became both it and
themselves. They allowed the island to appear by counsel against the
bill, and listened for many hours to an elaborate defence of the conduct
of the Assembly, which if it failed to change the intention of the
ministers, convinced Sir Robert Peel and his party that their measure
was doubtful in its justification and impolitic in its severity. He
pointed out that "the bill was neither more nor less than one for the
establishment of a complete despotism--one which would establish the
most unqualified, unchecked, unmitigated power that was ever yet applied
to the government of any community, in place of that liberal system
which had prevailed for upward of one hundred and fifty years." And,
though he did not for a moment question the power of Parliament to pass
such a measure, he greatly doubted the policy of such an exertion of it.
A somewhat similar measure affecting Canada they had been compelled to
enact in the preceding year, and he feared lest "it might seem to be
coming to be a practice of Parliament to suspend a constitution every
session." And he quoted a speech of Canning, delivered fifteen years
before, in which that eloquent statesman, a man by no means inclined to
a timorous policy, had declared that "no feeling of wounded pride, no
motive of questionable expediency, nothing short of real and
demonstrable necessity, should ever induce him to moot the awful
question of the transcendental power of Parliament over every dependency
of the British crown. That transcendental power was an ordinance of
empire, which ought to be kept back within the penetralia of the
constitution. It exists, but it should be veiled. It should not be
produced on trifling occasions, or in cases of petty refractoriness or
temporary misconduct."

And Sir Robert, "looking at all the papers before the House, could not
say that there was here any vindication for bringing forward this
transcendental power." He asked whether "they had ever treated with so
much severity a conquered colony amid the first heat of animosity after
the contest." And he traced the history of our government of the island
back to the time of Charles II., pointing out (as Burke had formerly
argued with respect to our Colonies in North America) that "Jamaica owed
its colonization by British subjects to the conquest that was made of it
by the arms of Cromwell; that its first English population was composed
of those who, disgusted with the excesses of the civil wars, there found
a refuge," and who had carried with them that attachment to liberty
which, as early as 1678, had led them successfully to repel the attacks
made on the privileges of their House of Assembly by the ministers of
Charles II. He warned the House, also, that if this measure were passed,
"a sympathy for the people of Jamaica would be excited throughout the
other West Indian possessions of the crown." And, while fully admitting
that the conduct of the Assembly had been "foolish and unjustifiable,"
he still recommended that it should be treated in a conciliatory spirit,
which as yet had not been shown toward it.

The government carried their proposal by a majority of no more than five
in a very full house, a success which they regarded as a defeat, and, as
has been already mentioned, resigned. But as the state of the question
and of the island did not admit of delay, on their resumption of their
offices they introduced a fresh measure, which the Conservatives again
curtailed of its most severe clauses, and which, in the form in which it
was eventually passed, gave the Assembly time to reconsider its conduct,
and, without the humiliation of confessing itself guilty, to give a
practical recantation of their offensive resolutions, by resuming its
work of legislation, any farther delay of which would on many subjects
be very mischievous to the island itself. The distinct assertion by both
parties of the power of the Parliament to inflict even the severest
penalty enabled the Houses to take this conciliatory course without loss
of dignity; while the stern disapproval of the conduct of the Assembly
which the Conservative leader had expressed, even when pleading for a
milder treatment of it, convinced the colonists that any protracted
contumacy would be dangerous, and would deprive them for the future of
all title to even the modified protection which on this occasion had
saved them.

In the discussion of these transactions, Peel, as we have seen, had
alluded to the affairs of Canada, which had been of a still more serious
complexion; since there the discontent of the colonists in the Lower
Province had developed into armed insurrection. We have seen that, from
the first moment after the country had passed into our possession, there
had been almost constant dissensions between the old French colonists
and the English immigrants who crossed over both from England and from
the colonies on the southern side of the St. Lawrence in the early part
of the reign of George III. The desire of terminating these divisions,
which had their root in a difference of religion as well as of race, the
French settlers being Roman Catholics, had been one of the chief motives
which had led Pitt in 1791 to divide the country into two
provinces.[253] And for many years the scheme was fairly successful;
but, toward the end of the reign of George IV., the political excitement
caused by the agitation in England of the question of Catholic
Emancipation, and subsequently of Reform, spread across the Atlantic to
the Canadas; and the French portion of the colonists, who almost
monopolized the representation in Lower Canada, began to urge the
adoption of changes utterly inconsistent with the existing constitution
of the colony. In the hope of compelling the compliance of the home
government with their demands, in 1832 and the following years they
refused to vote the necessary supplies; and, gaining courage, as it
were, from the contemplation of their own violence, and under the
guidance of a leader of French extraction, a M. Papineau, who scarcely
concealed his hope of effecting the complete severance of the Lower
Province from the British dominion, they proceeded to put forth farther
demands, which they regarded as plausible from the apparent resemblance
of the changes which they required to the system of the English
constitution, but which, to use the words in which Sir Robert Peel
described them, would have established "a French republic." The most
important of them were that the Upper or Legislative Council should,
like the Assembly, be rendered elective, instead of, as had hitherto
been the case, being nominated by the crown. And another asked that the
Executive Council should be made responsible to the Assembly, in the
same manner as in England the ministers of the crown were responsible to
Parliament. As it was at once shown that the ministry at home had no
intention of granting these demands, Papineau collected a band of
malcontents in arms, with whom he took possession of one or two small
towns, and ventured even to measure his strength with the
Commander-in-chief of the province, Sir John Colborne, one of the most
distinguished of Wellington's comrades and pupils. His force was utterly
routed, and he himself fled across the frontier to New York. A similar
outbreak, excited in the Upper Province by a newspaper editor, was
crushed with equal ease and rapidity.[254] And the next year, 1838, Lord
John Russell brought forward a bill to suspend the constitution of the
colony, and to confer on a new Governor, who was at once to proceed
thither, very ample powers for remodelling the government of the
province, subject, of course, to the sanction of the home government. In
the previous year he had succeeded in carrying some resolutions
announcing the determination of Parliament not to concede the demands of
the Assembly of the Lower Province, which have been already mentioned.
And the reasons which he gave for this course are worth preserving, as
expressing the view recognized by Parliament of the relations properly
existing between the mother country and a colony. It was on a proper
understanding of them that he based his refusal to make the Executive
Council in Canada responsible to the Assembly. He held such a step to be
"entirely incompatible with those relations. Those relations require
that his Majesty should be represented, not by a person removable by the
House of Assembly, but by a Governor sent out by the King, responsible
to the King, and responsible to the Parliament of Great Britain. This is
the necessary constitution of a colony; and if we have not these
relations existing between the mother country and the colony, we shall
soon have an end of these relations altogether." And he pointed out the
practical difficulties which might reasonably be apprehended if such a
change as was asked were conceded. "The person sent out by the King as
Governor, and those ministers in whom the Assembly confided, might
differ in opinion, and there would be at once a collision between the
measures of the King and the conduct of the representatives of the

The plan of sending out a new Governor free from any previous
association with either of the parties, or any of the recent
transactions in the colony, was, probably, the wisest that could have
been adopted. Unfortunately, it was in some degree marred by the choice
of the statesman sent out, Lord Durham, a man of unquestioned ability,
but of an extraordinarily self-willed and overbearing temper. He drew up
a most able report of the state of the provinces, combined with
recommendations of the course to be pursued toward them in future, so
judicious that subsequent ministers, though widely differing from his
views of general politics, saw no better plan than that which he had
suggested; but, unhappily, the measures which he himself adopted,
especially with respect to the treatment of those who had been leaders
in the late rebellion, were such manifest violations of law, that the
government at home had no alternative but that of disallowing some of
them, and carrying a bill of indemnity for others. He took such offence
at their treatment of him, though it was quite inevitable, that he at
once resigned his appointment and returned home. But the next year the
Queen sent down a message to the Houses recommending a union of the two
provinces (a measure which had been the most important, and the very
foundation, of his suggestions), and Lord John Russell introduced a bill
which, as he described its object, he hoped would "lay the foundation of
a permanent settlement of the affairs of the entire colony." The main
feature of the government policy was the formation of "a legislative
union of the two provinces on the principles of a free and
representative government," and the establishment of such a system of
local government as amounted to a practical recognition of the principle
so earnestly repudiated, as we have seen, by Lord John Russell a year or
two before. It was not, perhaps, fully carried out at first. Lord
Sydenham, who had succeeded Lord Durham, reported to the home
government, as the result of a tour which he had taken through a great
part of the country, that in the whole of the Upper Province, and among
the British settlers of the Lower Province, "an excellent spirit
prevailed, and that he had found everywhere a determination to forget
past differences, and to unite in an endeavor to obtain under the union
those practical measures for the improvement of the country which had
been too long neglected in the struggle for party and personal objects."
But of the French Canadians he could not give so favorable a report.
Efforts were still made by some of the old Papineau party to mislead the
people; but he was satisfied they would not again be able to induce the
peasantry to support any attempt at disturbance. It was natural that
that party should still feel some soreness at the utter failure of their
recent attempts and the disappointment of their hopes; and affairs took
the longer time in being brought into perfect order and harmony through
a strange mortality which took place among the first Governors-general.
Lord Sydenham died the next year of lockjaw, brought on by a fall from
his horse; Sir Charles Bagot was forced to retire in a state of hopeless
bad health after an administration equally brief; two years later, Sir
Charles Metcalfe, who succeeded him, returned home only to die; and it
was not till a fourth Governor, Lord Elgin, succeeded to the government
that it could be said that the new system, though established five years
before, had a fair trial.

Fortunately, he was a man admirably qualified by largeness of
statesman-like views and a most conciliatory disposition for such a post
at such a time; and he strictly carried out the scheme which was implied
by the bill of Lord John Russell, and to a certain extent inaugurated by
Lord Sydenham, selecting his advisers from the party which had the
confidence of the Legislative Assembly, and generally directing his
policy in harmony with their counsels; so that under his government the
working of the colonial constitution was a nearly faithful reproduction
of the parliamentary constitution at home. Such a policy was in reality
only a development of the principle laid down by Pitt half a century
before, and warmly approved by his great rival, that "the only method of
retaining distant colonies with advantage is to enable them to govern
themselves."[255] And since that day similar constitutions have been
established in our other distant dependencies as they have become ripe
for them--in New Zealand, the Cape, and the Australian colonies--almost
the only powers reserved to the home government in those colonies in
which such constitutions have been established being that of appointing
the governors; that of ratifying or, if necessary, disallowing measures
adopted by the colonial government; and, in cases of necessity, that of
prescribing measures for the adoption of the local Legislatures, and
even of compelling such adoption, in the event of any persevering
opposition. The act of 1850, which established a constitution in
Victoria, went even farther in the privileges it conferred on the
colonists, inasmuch as it gave power to the Legislative Council to alter
some of its provisions, and even to remodel the Legislative Council and
Assembly. It may be doubted whether this last concession did not go too
far, since in more than one important instance the government of that
great colony has availed itself of it so liberally as to render it
necessary to pass a fresh act of Parliament to enable her Majesty to
give her royal assent to some of the changes which the Assembly had
enacted.[256] Indeed, it cannot be said that the system has worked in
every part or on every occasion quite as well as might have been hoped;
nor can it be denied that the colonies have occasionally claimed a power
of independent action in opposition to the home Parliament in a way to
try severely the patience of the home government. After the British
Parliament had adopted the policy and system of free-trade, the Canadian
Assembly adhered to the doctrine of protection so obstinately that it
actually established a tariff of import duties injurious to the commerce
of the mother country, and apparently intended as a condemnation of its
principles. But its contumacy showed how wholly different was the spirit
of the British government from that which had prevailed in the last
century; for though the home government had unquestionably the right of
disallowing the offensive tariff, it forbore to exercise it; and,
probably, by this striking proof that it considered a complete
recognition of the principle of local self-government more important
than any trifling financial or commercial advantage, contributed greatly
to implant in Canada and all the colonies that confidence in the
affectionate moderation of the home government which must be the
strongest, if not the only indissoluble, bond of union.

On the whole, it is hardly too much to say that no more statesman-like,
and (if sentiment may be allowed a share in influencing the conduct of
governments) no more amiable spirit animates any act of our modern
legislation than is displayed in these arrangements for the management
of our colonies. They are a practical exemplification of the idea
embodied in the expression, "the mother country." A hundred years ago,
Burke sought to impress on the existing ministers and Parliament the
conviction that, "so long as our Colonies kept the idea of their civil
rights associated with our government, they would cling and grapple to
us, and no force under heaven would be of power to tear them from their
allegiance." In the case of which he was speaking his warning, as we
have seen, fell on deaf ears; but the policy of the present reign is a
willing and full adoption of them, on a far larger scale than even his
farseeing vision could then contemplate. Within the century which has
elapsed since his time the enterprise of Britain has sent forth her sons
to people another hemisphere; and they, her children still, cling to the
parent state with filial affection, because they feel that, though
parted from her by thousands of miles and more than one ocean, they are
still indissolubly united to her by their participation in all the
blessings of her constitution, her generous toleration, her equal laws,
her universal freedom.

On one transaction of these years the leaders of the Opposition were
found acting in close agreement with the ministers. We have seen how, in
the early part of the reign of George III., the House of Commons threw
the sheriffs of London into prison, on account of their performance of
what they conceived to be their duty as magistrates; and in 1840 it
subjected the same officials to the same treatment on a question of the
same character--the extent of the privilege of the House of Commons to
overrule the authority of the courts of law. The question was in
appearance complicated by the institution of several suits at law, and
by the fact that the House was not consistent in its conduct, but
allowed its servants to plead to the first action, and refused the same
permission in the second, when the result of the first trial had proved
adverse to them. The case was this: some inspectors of prisons has
presented a report to Parliament, in which they alleged that they had
found in Newgate a book of disgusting and obscene character, published
by a London publisher named Stockdale. The House of Commons had ordered
the report to be printed and sold by Messrs. Hansard, the Parliamentary
publishers, and Stockdale brought an action against Messrs. Hansard for
libel. Chief-justice Denman charged the jury that "the fact of the House
of Commons having directed Messrs. Hansard to publish their reports was
no justification to them for publishing a Parliamentary report
containing a libel;" and Stockdale obtained damages, which were duly
paid. Stockdale, encouraged by this success, when, in spite of the
result of the late trial, Hansard continued to sell the report, brought
a fresh action; but now the House forbade the publishers to plead to it;
and, as they obeyed the prohibition, and forbore to plead, the case
eventually came before the Sheriff's Court; fresh damages were given,
and, in obedience to the writ of the Queen's Bench, the sheriffs seized
Hansard's goods, and sold them to satisfy the judgment. Lord John
Russell, as leader of the House, moved to bring to the Bar of the House
all the parties concerned in the action--the plaintiff, his attorney,
the sheriffs, and the under-sheriffs. He was opposed by nearly all the
legal members of the House except the crown lawyers, Sir Edward Sugden
especially warning the House that "a resolution of the House was of no
avail in a court of justice;" while others taunted the House with want
of courage in not proceeding against the judges themselves, rather than
against their officers, which in this case the sheriffs were.

There could be no doubt of the importance of the question, since it was
no less, as the Attorney-general, Sir J. Campbell, put it, than a
question whether Parliament or the courts of law had the superiority;
and now Sir Robert Peel, as leader of the Opposition, came to the
support of Lord John Russell, declaring his opinion to be, first, that
"the House possessed every privilege necessary for the proper and
effectual discharge of its functions;" secondly, that "the publication
of evidence which had led the House to adopt any course was frequently
essential to justify that course to the nation;" and thirdly, that "to
judge of the extent of their privileges, and to vindicate them by their
own laws, belonged to the House alone." And he pressed strongly on the
House that it was "the duty of the House to fight the battle to the
last," though he confessed that "it was with pain that he had come to
the determination of entering into a contest with the courts of law." On
one point the judges agreed with the House of Commons. The House
committed the sheriffs; but, when they sued out their _habeas corpus_,
the judges decided that the return of the Sergeant-at-arms that they
were committed by the House for breach of privilege was a sufficient
return. Stockdale brought fresh actions. But meantime the case was
arousing a strong excitement in the country.[257] The singular hardship
of the position of the sheriffs excited general sympathy: if they obeyed
the House of Commons, which prohibited them from paying over to
Stockdale the damages which they had received for him, the Court of
Queen's Bench would be bound to attach them for disobedience to its
order. If they obeyed the Queen's Bench, the House would imprison them
for breach of privilege. And the national feeling is always in favor of
the strictly defined authority of the courts of law, rather than of the
somewhat indefinite claims of Parliament to interpret, and even to make,
privilege. Another consideration, probably, weighed a little with the
champions of the House--that their power of imprisonment ended with the
session. As matters went on, it was found that even the Attorney and
Solicitor-general differed as to the course to be pursued; and
eventually Lord John Russell consented to adopt the advice which had
been given by a former Attorney-general, Sir F. Pollock, and to bring in
a bill to legalize all similar proceedings of Parliament in future, by
enacting that a certificate that the publication of any document had
been ordered by either House should be a sufficient defence against any
action. The introduction of such a bill was in some degree an
acknowledgment of defeat; but it can hardly be denied to have been not
only a judicious step, but the only one practicable, if the contest
between Parliament and the courts of law were not to be everlasting; and
it met with general approval. If it was a compromise, it was one that
satisfied both parties and both ends. It upheld the authority of the
courts of law, and at the same time it practically asserted the
reasonableness of the claim advanced by the House of Commons, by giving
it for the future the power which it had claimed. Nor were people in
this day inclined to be jealous of the privileges of Parliament, so long
as they were accurately defined. They felt that it was for the advantage
and dignity of the nation that its powers and privileges should be
large; what they regarded with distrust was, a claim of power of which
no one knew the precise bounds, and which might, therefore, be expanded
as the occasion served.


[Footnote 245: Fifty-two mills and 30,000 persons were thrown out of
employment for ten weeks at Ashton in 1830 by the turning out of 3000
"coarse spinners," who could clear at the time from 28s. to 31s. per
week. The following passage is extracted from an oath said to have been
administered by the combined spinners in Scotland in 1823: "I, A B, do
voluntarily swear, in the awful presence of God Almighty, and before
these witnesses, that I will execute with zeal and alacrity, as far as
in me lies, every task or injunction which the majority of my brethren
shall impose upon me in furtherance of our common welfare, as the
chastisement of _knobs_, the assassination of oppressive and tyrannical
masters, or the demolition of shops that shall be deemed
incorrigible."--_Annual Register_, 1838, pp. 204-207.]

[Footnote 246: See page 221.]

[Footnote 247: The question was examined with great minuteness by Lord
Brougham a fortnight after the ministerial explanation. See
"Parliamentary Debates," 3d series, xlvii., 1164.]

[Footnote 248: It is stated on good authority that Lord Melbourne, in
private conversation, justified or explained the line he had taken by
his consideration for his friends, scores of whom would have had their
hopes blighted by his retirement.]

[Footnote 249: See "Life of the Prince Consort," i., 55.]

[Footnote 250: "Life of the Prince Consort," i., 57.]

[Footnote 251: Macaulay's "History of England," i., 386.]

[Footnote 252: This is the name which the Liberal historian of the time,
Miss Martineau, gives it. "The so-called Registration Bill was, in fact,
an unannounced new Reform Bill for Ireland."--_History of the Peace_,
book v., c. vi.]

[Footnote 253: See _ante_, p. 127.]

[Footnote 254: In one instance the rebels were aided by a party of
citizens of the United States, who, without any sanction from their own
government, seized an island on the St. Lawrence belonging to us, and
attacked some of the Canadian villages. And this led to the discussion
of a question of international combined with constitutional law, which
Lord Campbell thus describes: "'Whether, if the subjects or citizens of
a foreign state with which we are at peace, without commission or
authority from their own or any other government, invade the English
territory in a hostile manner, and levy war against the Queen in her
realm, we are entitled to treat them as traitors?' The Canadian courts
held that we could not, as they had never acknowledged even a temporary
allegiance to our sovereign. And of this opinion was Sir William
Follett. But, after reading all that is to be found on the subject, I
come to the conclusion that they owed allegiance when, as private
individuals, they voluntarily crossed the English frontier; that it was
no defence for them to say that they then had arms in their hands and
intended to murder the Queen's subjects."--_Life of Lord Campbell_,
ii.,119. It certainly would have been no _defence_; but would it not
have taken their conduct from under the definition of _treason_, and
made it an act of _piracy_?]

[Footnote 255: See Fox's words, quoted by Lord Stanhope.--_Life of
Pitt_, ii., 90.]

[Footnote 256: A couple of years after the period which is the boundary
of the present work, this Canadian constitution of 1841 was superseded
by a measure uniting Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick in one
federal government, with, as the act recites, "a constitution similar in
principle to that of the United Kingdom." The act farther provided for
the admission of other dependencies of the crown in North America,
Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, and Rupert's Land
into the union, and established as the constitution of the whole one
scarcely differing from that of 1841, with the exception that both the
Houses of the Legislature--called in the act the Senate and the House of
Commons--were to be representative bodies, and that powers were
conferred on them so absolutely free and independent, that it was
thought necessary to add a clause providing that their "privileges,
immunities, and powers were never to exceed those at the passing of the
act held, enjoyed, and exercised by the Commons House of Parliament of
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and by the members

[Footnote 257: Lord Campbell, in his autobiography, puts the
transaction, in the phase at which it had now arrived, in a very serious
light: "Next came a proceeding which placed me in a most difficult
position; and the public never knew the danger which then existed of a
convulsion unexampled in our history. The sheriffs sued out a writ of
_habeas corpus_, directed to the Sergeant-at-arms, commanding him to
produce before the Court of Queen's Bench the sheriffs of Middlesex,
alleged to be illegally in custody, with the cause of their detention.
Wilde, the Solicitor-general, was strong for refusing to make any return
to the writ, and for setting the Court of Queen's Bench at defiance. Had
I concurred in this opinion it would certainty have been acted on. The
consequences would have been that the Sergeant-at-arms, even with the
mace in his hand, would have been sent to Newgate by the Court of
Queen's Bench. The House must have retaliated by committing the judges.
The crown would then have had to determine on which side the army should
be employed, and for a time we must have lived under a military
government" (ii., 129). The noble and learned autobiographer does not
explain why it should have been indispensable to employ the army on
either side.]


Sir Robert Peel becomes Prime-minister.--Commercial Reforms.--
Free-trade.--Religious Toleration.--Maynooth.--The Queen's
University.--Post-office Regulations.--The Opening of Letters.--
Naturalization of Aliens.--Recall of Lord Ellenborough.--Reversal of the
Vote on the Sugar Duties.--Refusal of the Crown to Sanction a Bill.--The
Question of Increase in the Number of Spiritual Peers.--Repeal of the
Corn-laws.--Revolution in France, and Agitation on the Continent.--Death
of Sir Robert Peel.--Indifference of the Country to Reform.--Repeal of
the Navigation Laws.--Resolutions in Favor of Free-trade.--The Great
Exhibition of 1851.

The transactions mentioned in the last chapter were among the last
events of Lord Melbourne's ministry. He had for some time been aware of
his impending defeat in the House of Commons, and, greatly to his
credit, had endeavored to make the return to office easier to his
successors by the friendly counsels he had given to the Queen on the
subject.[258] A dissolution of Parliament in the summer of 1841 only
weakened his party, and in September he resigned, and was succeeded by
Sir Robert Peel, who, comparatively short as was his tenure of
office,[259] found it long enough to establish for himself a reputation
as the greatest financier of Europe since the days of Pitt. It may be
worth remarking that, in the "Memoirs of the Prince Consort," it is
mentioned that in the course of his administration Peel found reason to
change his judgment on the question of which House of Parliament it was
the more desirable for the Prime-minister to be a member. Canning had
more than once asserted his conviction that the public business would be
more satisfactorily conducted when the Prime-minister was a commoner,
founding his opinion chiefly on the paramount importance of financial
questions, the discussion of which is almost confined to the House of
Commons, and conceiving it to be supported by the history of the
administration of Pitt, from whom, indeed, he had imbibed the idea; and
in former years Peel had more than once expressed his concurrence with
that view of the subject. But, from papers which were intrusted to him
for the execution of his great work, Sir Theodore Martin learned that
Peel had subsequently found reason to come to the opposite conclusion,
not from any change in his view of the relative importance of the
different departments of administration, but solely because "the amount
of work imposed upon the first minister in the House of Commons, in
addition to what he had to go through elsewhere, was too great for any
human strength. In the House of Lords the Prime-minister would escape
the necessity for being in a position to vindicate all the details of
administration, and to answer the multiplicity of questions on all sorts
of subjects, the putting of which has almost degenerated into a vice. He
had, therefore, come to the conclusion that it was there he ought to
be."[260] And, indeed, the subjects which demanded the care of the
minister, and attracted the attention of Parliament, were constantly
increasing in number, variety, and importance to the very end of his
administration. Not only were the financial difficulties of the country,
the depressed state of agriculture and commerce (the result of a
succession of bad harvests), sufficient causes for grave anxiety, but
the terrible war, of which mention has already been made, which we had
now been carrying on for nearly three years in Afghanistan, and which,
before the end of this very year, was about to be signalized by a
disaster such as had never before befallen a British army, threatened to
kindle the flames of war in Europe also, from the share which the
intrigues of Russia had had in fomenting the quarrel; and the same
danger was more than once in the course of the next five years imminent,
from the irritation with which France regarded us, and which, commencing
in Syria, while Lord Melbourne was still at the helm, lost no
opportunity of displaying itself, whether in transactions in the remote
Pacific Ocean or the old battle-field of the two nations, the Spanish
peninsula; and finally, these embarrassing perplexities were crowned by
the appalling visitation of famine, which, at the end of the fourth year
of the administration, fell upon Ireland with a severity surpassing any
similar event in modern history.

With all these multiform difficulties the new minister grappled with
unflinching courage, and with conspicuous success. Peace was preserved
abroad, and financial prosperity was restored at home. Into the details
of his measures devised for this last-mentioned object, though the
leading features of his administration, and those on which his fame
chiefly rests, it would be beside the purpose of the present work to
enter. It is sufficient to say here that, in the spirit of Pitt's great
financial reform of 1787, he revised the whole of the import duties of
our commercial tariff, especially reducing the duties on raw
material;[261] making up the deficiency so caused by an income tax,
which he described as a temporary imposition, since he doubted not that
the great increase of lawful trade, which would be the consequence of
the reduction of duties, would soon enable the revenue to dispense with
a tax to the objections of which he was not blind. In recommending this
great change to the House, he laid down as the soundest maxim of
financial legislation, in which "all were now agreed, the principle that
we should buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest," a
doctrine which, when more fully carried out, as it was sure to be, led
almost inevitably to the great measure for which his administration is
most celebrated, the repeal of the Corn-laws. There could be no doubt
that, in the most modified application of it, it struck at the root of
the principle of protection, which had hitherto been the fundamental
principle of our finance, and made a farther extension of it inevitable.

And, as he had been one of the leading members of the ministry which
carried Catholic Emancipation, so he now proceeded on the same path of
religious toleration; and, in the session of 1844, successfully
recommended to the House of Commons a bill which had already been passed
by the Lords, repealing a number of penal acts affecting the Roman
Catholics, which, though they had long been practically obsolete, still
encumbered, and it may be said disgraced, the statute book, and were, so
to say, a standing degradation of and insult to the Roman Catholic body.
One of them, passed in the reign of William and Mary, still forbade any
Roman Catholic to come within ten miles of London, to have either sword
or pistol in his house, or to possess a horse worth more than five
pounds. Another, enacted under Elizabeth, still made every Roman
Catholic who omitted to take certain oaths guilty of high-treason,
though no attempt to administer those oaths had been made since the
Revolution. Another, of the time of Charles I., deprived any Roman
Catholic who should send his son to a foreign school of all protection
of the law; he could neither sue nor defend an action. It may fairly be
said that the credit of Parliament and of the nation was concerned in
the abrogation of laws so ridiculously oppressive, and not the less
obnoxious for being practically invalid. And in the same spirit another
measure was framed and carried by the Lord Chancellor, whose object was
the confirmation of religious endowments belonging to different sects of
Protestant Dissenters, and their protection from vexatious and unjust
litigation, by making a continued possession of any kind of endowment or
property for twenty years a valid title.

These enactments may be regarded as indispensable supplements to the
repeal of the Test Act and Catholic Emancipation. They were the
coping-stone of the great edifice of religious toleration, of which the
former acts had laid the foundation. And the next year Peel carried out
still farther the same principle, by a measure which could not fail to
be regarded as an especial boon in Ireland, since the great majority of
the population of that kingdom were of the Roman Catholic persuasion. It
has been seen that when the troubled state into which the Continent was
thrown by the French Revolution threw hinderances in the way of the
Irish students designed for the Roman Catholic priesthood going to one
of the great Continental colleges, such as St. Omer or Salamanca, for
their education, Pitt established for them a college at Maynooth, for
the endowment of which Parliament was annually asked for a grant of
about £9000. The sum had long been felt to be altogether inadequate to
the requirements of the foundation. As early as the year 1807, Lord
Liverpool, then Home-secretary, had contemplated a large increase of the
grant, though the weakness of the government, then presided over by the
Duke of Portland, prevented him from carrying out that and other
measures which he had conceived in a kindred spirit. Moreover, the grant
was rarely proposed without giving rise to a warm debate raised by a
party whose too tender consciences forbade them to sanction any measure
appearing to foster a religion from which they dissented. And to remedy
the two evils (the one arising from the want of a sufficient provision,
the other from the spirit of religious controversy, for which the House
of Commons was certainly very ill-calculated), Peel, in 1845, proposed
to treble the grant, so as to put the college on a more satisfactory
footing, by providing sufficient incomes for the professors, and a
revenue adequate to the respectable maintenance of an increased number
of pupils; and also to place the charge for the future on the
Consolidated Fund, by which step its yearly discussion in Parliament
would be altogether avoided. The measure was vigorously resisted, partly
on the religious ground already mentioned, and partly by an argument,
urged with some plausibility, that the design with which the college had
originally been founded had not been realized; that, in fact, it had not
proved a benefit to the country, but rather the reverse, by tempting
into the service of the Roman Catholic Church a humbler and poorer class
of students than could devote themselves to it when the preliminary
education involved the expense of a protracted residence in a foreign
country. But the obvious advantages of the change prevailed over these
considerations, and the bill was carried by large majorities.[262]

And now that the long cessation of controversy on the subject--which,
indeed, has been not the least beneficial fruit of this bill of
1845--permits a candid consideration of it in all its bearings, it will
probably be thought that Parliament had not often come to a wiser
decision, one more dictated by judicious liberality of sentiment, and
more imperatively required on every ground of statesman-like policy. If
the countervailing objections and advantages be calmly weighed, it may
almost be said that there was no alternative between enlarging the
endowment and putting it on a new footing, or suppressing the college
altogether. In its existing condition it was notoriously inadequate to
fulfil the design of its founder; and any establishment visibly
inadequate to its design tends to bring the design itself into some
degree of contempt. Yet even if it should be granted that there might
have been no fair ground of complaint if the college had never been
founded, to close it after its benefits, however scanty, had been
enjoyed for half a century, could not fail to have been regarded as an
unpardonable injustice and injury. The other alternative, therefore, was
practically the only one that remained; and in embracing it Peel was but
carrying out the original principle on which the college was founded. It
had been intended to be efficient; through lack of means it had proved
inefficient. The obvious and just remedy was to supply such increased
means as to create or bestow the efficiency originally aimed at. And it
was a felicitous idea to place the charge for the future on such a
footing as to combine with such an increase an avoidance of the
irritation which its yearly discussion had never failed to excite.

And at the same time, to carry still farther the principle of religious
toleration, or rather of religious equality, he induced the Parliament
to found a new university, consisting of three colleges, one in each of
the three provinces of Ulster, Munster and Connaught (Leinster, as
having Trinity College and Maynooth, being regarded as already
sufficiently provided with university education), which should be open
to students of every religious denomination, and at which, while every
kind of secular education, both literary and scientific, should be
given, the stirring up of religious controversy and animosity should be
guarded against, by the absence of any theological professorships. He
did not, indeed, design that the still greater benefits of religious
education should be withheld from the pupils, but he proposed to provide
for that object by confiding their religious education to the care of
the clergy of each persuasion, some of whom in each town which was the
seat of a college--Belfast, Cork, and Galway--might be trusted for
willingness to superintend it. It was hoped that one fruit of this
scheme, and that by no means its least valuable result, would be that
the association of pupils of various creeds in their studies and
amusements from an early age would lead them to maintain, in their more
mature years, the harmony of which the foundation had thus been laid in
their youth; and that thus the religious animosities which were the
principal obstacle to the prosperity of the country would be softened,
and in time extinguished. And this object has been achieved to a great
extent, though the disfavor with which the Roman Catholic Church regards
any educational system which is not under the superintendence of its
priesthood has prevented the scheme from attaining the full development
which was hoped for. The number of students of each of the principal
sects--the Church of Ireland, the Roman Catholics, and the
Presbyterians--steadily increases.[263] Members of each religious body
are among the professors in each college, and all accounts represent the
most perfect harmony and cordiality as existing throughout the whole

Yet, important as was the principle contained in these measures, none of
them, perhaps, caused such excitement at the moment as an exercise by
the government of what was, in point of fact, one of its most ancient,
as well as most essential, powers: the occasional opening of letters
which passed through the post, in compliance with a warrant of the
Secretary of State. England had at all times been the refuge of those
unquiet spirits who, in pursuit of their schemes of rebellion and
revolution, had incurred the displeasure of their own governments, and
had too easily found accomplices here. And in the course of the summer
some notorious offenders of this class found a member of the House of
Commons to present a petition, in which they complained that some
letters which they had posted had been stopped and opened by the
officers of the Post-office. The member who presented the petition
appears to have fancied it an unprecedented and wholly unlawful exercise
of authority; but Sir James Graham, the Home-secretary, not only at once
avowed that the statement was true, and that he had issued his warrant
for the opening of the letters mentioned, but also showed that the power
to issue such an order was reserved to the Secretary of State in all the
statutes which regulated the proceedings of the Post-office. The clause
in the act which conferred the power had been originally framed by Lord
Somers, a statesman certainly as little open as any of his time to the
suspicion of desiring to encroach on the rightful liberty of the
subject; and it had been exercised from time to time in every reign
since the Revolution. It was a power intrusted to the Secretaries of
State for the public safety, and exercised by them on their own
responsibility. The practice and its justification were assailed in both
Houses of Parliament by members of the extreme Liberal party; but,
though no distinct motion on the subject was made, the general feeling
of both Houses was plainly evinced, that it was a power which might at
times be highly useful for the prevention of crime, or for the
hinderance of conspiracies which might be dangerous to the general
welfare and tranquillity, and that the constitutional responsibility
attaching to every minister for every official act was a sufficient
security against its being improperly used.[264]

And it will, probably, be generally admitted that this was the
statesman-like view of the subject. There is no doubt that the practice
in question does infringe the great constitutional right of every
individual in these kingdoms to absolute freedom of communication with
his friends. But the most important and the most cherished
constitutional rights must possess something of elasticity. It must be
necessary at times to go back to the original object for which those
rights have been conferred and secured. That original object is the
safety and welfare of the whole body corporate--of the entire nation.
And if that safety and welfare at times require the sacrifice, a wise
ruler will not hesitate to demand it of the people, or to impose it on
them for their own good. So another principle of the constitution is the
absolute freedom of action for all the subjects of the sovereign; yet
that principle is infringed by more than one statute: Factory Acts,
which limit the hours of even voluntary labor; Education Acts, which
compel the parent to a certain line of conduct toward his children; each
in their way substitute another rule for that entire freedom of action
which, as has been said before, is the fundamental principle of the
constitution; but they make the substitution on the reasonable ground
that the course of action which they compel is for the benefit, not only
of the individual constrained, but of the whole community of which he is
a member, and for whose welfare all laws and constitutions exist.

One of the grounds of complaint against the exercise of this power,
which had been alleged by some of the opponents of the government, had
been that Sir James Graham's conduct had been dictated by an unworthy
subservience to some of the despotic sovereigns of the Continent. The
fact was indignantly denied in the House of Lords by the Duke of
Wellington; and in the course of the session a remarkable proof was
afforded how little influence such motives had on the decisions of our
government, when they acquiesced in the passing of a bill which was a
virtual repeal of the Alien Act, which had existed for more than half a
century, and of which more than one Continental sovereign would
certainly have desired the retention. Of late, indeed, it had been so
modified, that practically it had become little more than a dead letter;
and now, in 1844, without being formally repealed, it was virtually
abrogated by an act which enabled all foreigners to obtain letters of
naturalization, which conferred on them every right of British subjects,
except those of becoming members of Parliament,[265] or of the Privy

Generally speaking, few governments had enjoyed more of the confidence
of the nation than Peel's did in 1844; yet in this year it was exposed
to two remarkable mortifications. The charter of the East India Company,
as framed by Pitt in subsequent events, which has led to the entire
extinction of the political power of the Company, makes anything beyond
this brief mention of the transaction superfluous at the present time.

The other mortification of the ministry to which allusion has been made
fell upon it at home in the Parliamentary discussion of the
Prime-minister's financial measures, on which his judgment was usually
regarded as pre-eminent, and on which a large majority of the House was
generally disposed implicitly to follow his guidance. Sir Robert was
not, indeed, himself Chancellor of the Exchequer, that office being
filled by Mr. Goulburn, but it was certain that the Budget was inspired
by a deference to the Prime-minister's views. And, among the
arrangements which it proposed, one consisted of a relaxation of the
sugar-duties, which was regarded with dread by those interested in the
West Indies, as a farther step in the direction of free-trade, and as
depriving them of the modified protection which they were as yet
enjoying. To preserve that protection to them, Mr. Miles, the member for
Bristol, proposed an amendment which, after an animated debate, was
carried by a majority of twenty. Three months before, on the Factory
Bill and the question whether the hours of labor should be limited to
ten or to twelve, the minister had also found himself defeated, though
by a much smaller majority; but in that case the defeat had been the
less pronounced from the inconsistency of the votes on the different
limits.[266] And he extricated himself from that difficulty by
abandoning the bill altogether, and introducing a new one, not without
angry resistance on the part of Lord John Russell and other members of
the Opposition. They denounced such a manoeuvre as alike
unconstitutional and unparliamentary; while he, on the contrary,
insisted that the House had always jealously retained the right of
reconsidering its own decisions. In that instance, however, the
introduction of a new bill might have been regarded as the simplest mode
of harmonizing the variety of views which had been represented by the
discussion of and votes on the ministerial proposal and the amendments;
but no such expedient was practicable in this case, that of the
sugar-duties. A defeat on an important clause in the Budget by a
majority of twenty was a far more serious matter; it was such a blow as
had generally been reckoned sufficient to require a resignation of a
ministry. But on this occasion Peel did not feel himself called on to
take that step; nor was he inclined to dissolve Parliament, which some
regarded as his only legitimate alternative, though he had little doubt
that, if he did so, he should be supported by the confidence of the
country. After careful reflection, the course on which he eventually
decided was to adhere to the principle of a relaxation of duties, but to
consent to a moderate variation from his original proposal as to the
amount. And in pursuit of this plan, on the next discussion of the
Budget, he proposed an amendment to that effect, making the adoption of
it by the House a test of its confidence in the administration. Lord
John Russell opposed the amendment with great vehemence, pronouncing the
acceptance of it, if it should be accepted, and the House should thus
consent "to retract its previous vote, a lamentable proof of
subserviency, which would disgrace it with the country." What Sir Robert
now asked was, substantially, that they should now declare that to be
expedient which they had declared to be inexpedient only three nights
ago; and Lord Palmerston insisted that the proper course to be taken by
the government was to resign; while Mr. Labouchere, who had also been a
member of Lord Melbourne's cabinet,[267] though he admitted that there
might be "circumstances under which a minister might without impropriety
ask the House to reconsider a vote," denied that the present was such a
case, and especially denounced the importation of the question of
confidence or no confidence in the ministry into the discussion as
"dangerous and unconstitutional." Another section of the Opposition
agreed in taking the same line; Mr. Disraeli (then beginning to lay the
foundations of his reputation and influence) strongly denouncing the
conduct of the minister, as degrading both to his own supporters and
still more to the whole House, and recommending him to say frankly to
both, "We have gauged your independence, and you may have a semblance of
parliamentary freedom as far as this point, but the moment you go
farther, you must either submit to public disgrace, or we must submit to
private life." The end of the discussion was, that the minister
prevailed by a majority a trifle larger than that which had defeated him
before. This is not the place to discuss the difference between one
principle of taxation and another; but the question whether a minister
when defeated is justified in asking either House of Parliament to
reconsider its vote, seems one that could only have been raised in a
House under the influence of unusual excitement of some kind. The charge
that such a request was unconstitutional only serves to show how loosely
the words "constitution" and "unconstitutional" are often used even by
those from whom precision of language might most be expected; for Sir
Robert Peel's proposal that the House should retract its vote was not
unprecedented, the very same demand having been made in 1833 by Lord
Althorp, then Chancellor of the Exchequer of Lord Grey's ministry, of
which those very men were members who were now loudest in denouncing the
conduct of the present government. And on that occasion it is worth
remarking that, though Lord Althorp's demand was resisted in one or two
quarters, he was vigorously supported by Sir Robert Peel, on the ground
that, though to rescind one night a vote passed on a former one might be
not altogether free from objection, it would be a far greater evil that
questions of importance should be held to be in all cases finally
decided by a single vote, passed, it might be, in a thin House, or in
obedience to some sudden impulse.

And this seems to be the view of the case commended not only by
constitutional and parliamentary practice, but by common-sense. It would
be strange, indeed, when the questions submitted to the British
Parliament and the decisions of that Parliament on them are so often of
paramount importance to the whole world, if the Parliament should be the
only body in the world denied the right of revising its own judgments,
the only one whose first resolution is so irrevocable that even itself
may not change or modify it. To rescind a recent vote is, no doubt, as
Sir Robert Peel said, a step not wholly free from objection. It should
be an exceptional act, as one which, if often repeated, would give an
appearance of capricious fickleness and instability to the opinions of
Parliament, calculated to impair that respect for it which the whole
state and nation are deeply concerned in upholding; but to refuse, under
any circumstances, to confess a change of judgment, would lay the
Parliament open to an imputation at least equally dangerous to that
respect--that of an obstinacy which refuses to confess the possibility
of being mistaken, or to hear reason. It would not be well, therefore,
that the abrogation of a previous vote should become an ordinary
practice; but it would be equally undesirable that any fixed or
unchangeable rule should be interposed to prevent a second discussion of
an important question, with the possibility of its leading to a reversal
of the opinion first expressed.

In the same year (1844) the ministers felt compelled to raise a
constitutional point of singular refinement, which had the effect of
arresting the progress of a bill, in which one part of the kingdom took
a lively interest, which a division in its favor proved to be fully
shared by the House of Lords.[268] It has been already mentioned that in
the last year of the preceding reign a bill had passed for creating,
when opportunity offered by the sees affected becoming vacant, two new
bishoprics at Ripon and Manchester, the incomes of which were to be
provided by the union of some of the smaller existing bishoprics,
Gloucester with Bristol, St. Asaph with Bangor. But the Welsh regarded
with great disapproval any reduction of the number of bishoprics in the
principality, and Lord Powis now brought in a bill to repeal so much of
the act as provided for the union of two Welsh sees, urging not only
their great extent, which he stated at 3000 square miles of very
mountainous country, but the fact that the population of North Wales was
steadily and largely increasing. The bill, as has been intimated, was
favorably received by the Lords, who passed the second reading by a
majority of twelve; but, before it could be read a third time, the Duke
of Wellington, as leader of the ministry in that House, announced that
the bill was one which touched the prerogative of the crown, and
therefore could not be proceeded with without the consent of her
Majesty, which he was not authorized to express.

As the matter was explained by the Chancellor, Lord Lyndhurst, the
manner in which the bill touched the royal prerogative was this: as,
during the vacancy of any see, its temporalities belonged to the crown,
any alterations in a see affected the direct pecuniary interests of the
crown, and he, as Speaker of the House, doubted whether he should be
justified in putting a question which so touched the royal prerogative
without the sovereign's consent. A committee which was appointed to
investigate the case fully confirmed the view thus taken by the
ministers, and the bill was dropped.

It was, however, an exercise of the royal prerogative which was received
by the House in general with great dissatisfaction. Certainly, since the
Civil List and royal income had been placed on their present footing, it
was only by a very forced construction that the pecuniary interests of
the sovereign could be said to be affected. And it seemed a very
insufficient plea for evoking the exercise of a power which, as it was
said, had certainly never been exerted before since the accession of the
Hanoverian dynasty. Nor was it made more acceptable by the explanation
of Lord Brougham, who on this occasion came to the support of the
minister, that the refusal of the crown's consent at this stage was "a
warning, as it were, a polite and courteous communication between the
sovereign, as guardian of the privileges of the crown, and the two
Houses of Parliament, that if they passed a certain bill it would not
receive the royal assent;" for, though the right to refuse the royal
assent to any bill was incontestable, it had not been exercised since
the time of William III., and to put it in force for the protection of
an imaginary interest of the crown itself would have been so unpopular
an exercise of it that no administration could have ventured to advise

One of the arguments which the Duke of Wellington brought forward in the
discussion, and which, probably, contributed to induce him thus to
strangle Lord Powis's bill, has had an influence on subsequent
legislation. He urged that its adoption--since the resolution to
establish bishoprics at Manchester and Ripon was one which every one
desired to carry out--would increase the number of bishops, "and thus
make an organic change in the constitution of the House of Lords." It is
not very clear how the addition of a single spiritual peer could have
that effect. But the Duke had dwelt upon the same argument before in the
debate on the proposed union of the sees affected, urging that there was
such a jealousy of the Church in many quarters, and especially in some
of the large towns, that it would be very undesirable to pass any
measure the effect of which would be to increase the number of Episcopal
peers. Even if there was any general reluctance at that time to see such
an increase (a fact which was by no means ascertained), it may be
doubted whether it was founded on any sufficient reason. It is not easy
to see why, when there is no limit to the augmentation of the number of
lay peers, it should be judged impolitic or unjust to make even so small
an addition to the number of spiritual peers. At the Restoration the
spiritual peers were, probably, more than a fifth of the entire House.
From the great number of subsequent creations of lay peers they were now
less than a sixteenth, so that there could be no ground for apprehending
that a slight re-enforcement of the Episcopal bench would disturb the
balance, or give the Church an undue preponderating weight in the
decisions of the House. The difficulty, however, such as it appeared to
the Duke then, has had such weight with subsequent administrations, that
a new principle has been established of creating bishoprics which shall
not at first confer seats in the Upper House till their holders become
entitled to them by seniority. As they are peers from the moment of
their consecration, it may be doubted whether this creation of peers,
without seats in Parliament, does not deserve the name of "an organic
change in the constitution," far more than the addition of one or two
ecclesiastical peers to the Episcopal bench; and also whether it has not
established a dangerous principle and precedent; the disconnection of
bishoprics from seats in Parliament, in even a single instance, seeming
to furnish an argument in favor of the exclusion of the whole order, a
measure which, if unjust and injurious to the Church, would be at least
equally injurious to Parliament itself, and to the whole state.

But all questions of this kind were presently lost sight of in the
excitement produced by the measure which more than any other has stamped
Sir Robert Peel's administration with a lasting character, the repeal of
the Corn-laws. Many statesmen, even of those who were most in favor of
free-trade in other articles of commerce, made an exception in the case
of corn, partly from a feeling of the necessity of encouraging
agriculture, and partly from a conviction of the danger of in any way
contributing to create or increase a dependence on foreign countries for
the food of the people. Both Whigs and Tories were generally thus agreed
on the necessity of maintaining the principle of protection; the dispute
between the two parties being whether it were best achieved by a fixed
duty on imported corn, or by what was commonly known as a sliding scale:
a scale, that is, which varied inversely with the price of the grain
itself, rising as the price in the home market fell, and falling as it
rose. In the manufacturing districts a different feeling had prevailed
for some years. In the first years of the present reign severe distress
in Manchester and others of the chief manufacturing towns had led to the
formation of an association whose chief object was sufficiently
indicated by its title of the Anti-Corn-law League. At first Mr.
Villiers, the member for Wolverhampton, was its principal spokesman in
the House of Commons, but at subsequent elections two manufacturers of
great eloquence obtained seats, and year after year urged the entire
repeal of all duties on corn with great earnestness, though for some
time their arguments made but little impression on the House. Their
motions were rejected in 1842 by a majority of 300; in 1843 by one
exceeding 250; in 1844 by above 200; and in 1845 by one of more than 130
in a much smaller House. But this last division had scarcely been taken
when an unprecedented calamity--the almost entire failure of the potato
crop, which was attacked in nearly every part of both islands by a new
disease, the cause of which is not to this day fully ascertained--
suddenly changed the aspect of the subject. To the English farmer and
laborer it was a severe loss; to the Irish farmer it was ruin; to the
Irish peasant famine. The grain harvest, too, was generally deficient.
And it was evident that rigorous measures, promptly taken, were
indispensable, if a large portion of the peasantry in the southern and
western provinces of Ireland were not to be left to perish of actual
starvation. In the face of so terrible an emergency Peel acted with
great decision. On his own responsibility he authorized the purchase of
a large supply of Indian corn from the United States, hoping, among
other indirect effects of such a step, to accustom the Irish to the use
of other kinds of food besides the root on which hitherto they had too
exclusively relied.[269] And he laid before his colleagues in the
cabinet a proposal to suspend the existing Corn-law "for a limited
period," a measure which all saw must lead to its eventual repeal. It
would be superfluous now to recapitulate the discussions which took
place, the various alternative proposals which were suggested, or the
dissensions in the cabinet to which his proposal gave birth; the
resignation of the ministry, and its subsequent resumption of office,
when Lord Stanley and Lord John Russell had found it impossible to form
an administration. It is sufficient to say that, as soon as Parliament
met, Sir Robert brought forward a bill to reduce the duty on corn to
four shillings, a price only half of the lowest fixed duty that had ever
been proposed before, that reduction, too, being a stepping-stone to the
abolition of all duties, at the end of three years, beyond a shilling a
quarter, which was to be retained, in order to acquire an accurate
knowledge of the quantity of grain imported. The diminution, however, of
this duty was not the whole object of his new measure. It included other
arrangements which would serve as a compensation to the agriculturists,
by relieving them from some of the peculiar burdens to which the land
was subjected; and it contained, farther, a reduction or abolition of
import duties hitherto levied on many other articles, especially on such
as "formed the clothing of the country," on the fair ground that if the
removal of protection from the agriculturist were "a sacrifice for the
common good," the commercial and manufacturing interests might justly be
required to make a similar sacrifice for the same patriotic object.

Though opposed in both Houses with unusual bitterness, the ministry
carried their measure, which, indeed, in all probability, even if the
destruction of the potato crop had not come to accelerate the movement,
could not have been long delayed, the continual and rapid increase of
the population adding yearly strength to the arguments of those who
denounced the imposition of any tax which had the effect of increasing
the price of the people's food. But, however inevitable it may have
been, we are not the less compelled to regard it as indirectly bringing
about a great constitutional change, or rather as consummating that
which had been commenced by the Reform Bill. Till the year 1832 the
territorial aristocracy had exerted a predominating influence in the
government of the state. The Reform Bill, which deprived the wealthier
land-owners of the greater part of their power at elections, struck the
first blow at that influence. The abolition of the Corn-laws inflicted
on it a still more decisive wound, by its extinction of the doctrine
that there was any such peculiar sacredness about the land and its
produce as entitled them to protection beyond that enjoyed by other
kinds of property. Placing in that respect the commercial and
manufacturing interest on a level with the landed interest, it made us,
in a farther and a somewhat different sense from that in which Napoleon
had used the phrase, a nation of shopkeepers.[270]

The repeal of the Corn-laws had another result: it divided the
Conservative party, and, as a necessary consequence, led to the downfall
of the ministry. The same session which witnessed its success in
carrying that repeal witnessed also its defeat on a coercion bill, which
they regarded as indispensable for the "protection of life in Ireland,"
where actual murders had reached the appalling amount of nearly three
hundred in two years. The ministry at once resigned, and Lord John
Russell had no difficulty in forming an administration, now that the
question of the Corn-laws was finally settled. It was, however, no bed
of roses to which the new ministry succeeded; the famine in Ireland
exceeded the worst anticipations; and, though prodigious efforts were
made by the government and Parliament to relieve it, though large sums
were placed at the disposal of the Lord-lieutenant, aided by
contributions from private sources in England to an enormous amount;
though the small remnant of the import duty on corn which had been left
on it by the measure of the preceding year was taken off, and the
navigation laws suspended, in order that no obstacle interposed to the
acquisition of food from every available quarter, it was estimated that
more than half a million of people perished through actual famine or the
diseases which scarcity brought in its train.[271] A severe monetary
crisis was one not unnatural result of this distress, so severe that the
Funds fell to a price below any that had been quoted for many years, and
the reserve in the Bank of England to an amount lower than it had been
at any period since 1828. And these difficulties had hardly been
surmounted when a new revolution in France overturned the dynasty of
Louis Philippe and established a republic. The revolutionary contagion
spread to Italy, where, indeed, the movement had begun. The Pope--Pius
IX.--who had but lately succeeded to the tiara, was forced to flee from
Rome in the disguise of a foreign courier, after his Prime-minister had
been murdered by the mob. Germany was scarcely less disturbed. The
administration of Metternich, who had governed Austria with authority
little less than absolute for nearly forty years, was overthrown in a
tumult in which he himself escaped with difficulty from the violence of
the populace; dangerous riots took place at Munich, at Berlin, and at
the capitals of most of the smaller principalities, and for some time
everything seemed to portend the outbreak of a general war, likely to be
the more formidable as being a war of the revolutionary and republican
against the monarchical principle. Happily, that danger was averted. The
only war which broke out between different nations was a brief contest
in the north of Italy, which the superior numbers of the Austrian armies
and the skill of Marshal Radetsky, a veteran who had learned the art of
war under Suvarof nearly sixty years before, decided in favor of
Austria, and which in the spring of 1849 was terminated by a peace on
less unfavorable terms to Sardinia than she could well have expected.
And in the same season tranquillity was re-established even at Rome,
which, from the peculiar character of the Papal power, contained special
elements of provocation and danger.

But, though peace was thus generally maintained, these various events
had produced a ferment of spirits which required some time to calm down,
and so greatly embarrassed the government, that in the spring of 1852
Lord John Russell's administration was dissolved, and a new ministry was
formed by Lord Derby[272]. But the causes which had overthrown his
predecessor remained to weaken him; so that for some time it seemed
impossible to form a ministry which afforded any promise of stability.
Such a rapid succession of changes as ensued had had no parallel since
the first years of George III. Between February, 1852, and February,
1855, the country had no fewer than four different Prime-ministers, a
fact which was at once both the proof and the parent of weakness in
every administration. Lord John Russell had attempted to procure a
factitious support in the country by stimulating a fresh demand for
parliamentary reform. A year or two before, he had provoked the
dissatisfaction of the "Advanced Liberals," as they called themselves,
by insisting on the finality of the Reform Bill of 1832, and by advising
his followers "to rest and be thankful" for what had been then obtained.
But now he began to advance an opinion that that act required "some
amendments to carry into more complete effect the principles on which it
was founded." He inserted an intimation of that doctrine in the Queen's
speech; and endeavored to give effect to it by bringing in a bill to
lower the franchise, having, it seems, persuaded himself that a
five-pound franchise would create a more Conservative class of
voters.[273] He had scarcely introduced it when the fall of his ministry
led to its abandonment; but, though it was coldly received by the House
of Commons, the idea was taken up by the other political parties, who
can hardly be acquitted of having used the question merely as an
instrument of party warfare, trying, with an unstatesmanlike
indifference to the danger of re-awakening the old frenzy on the
subject, to rouse the nation to take an interest in it; but trying in
vain. The nation was no longer in the same temper as it had displayed
twenty years before. The Reform Bill of 1832 had been demanded and
carried with a frantic vehemence of enthusiasm such as could only have
been excited by real defects and grievances. But those grievances had
been removed and redressed. And the bulk of the people could take no
interest in schemes whose sole end seemed to be either to satisfy the
theories of some political doctrinaires or to embarrass an adversary;
till at last, as Reform Bill after Reform Bill was framed, brought in,
and defeated, or dropped, it became plain, "as the Prince Consort noted
in a private memorandum at the end of 1859, that what the country
wanted, in fact, was not reform, but a bill to stop the question of
Reform."[274] And, at last, the prevalence of this feeling Lord John
Russell could not conceal even from himself, but confessed to Lord
Palmerston, then Prime-minister, who had always silently discouraged the
movement, that "the apathy of the country was undeniable; nor was it a
transient humor. It seemed rather a confirmed habit of mind. Four Reform
Bills had been introduced of late years by four different governments,
and for not one of them had there been the least enthusiasm. The
conclusion to which he had come was, that the advisers of the crown of
all parties having offered to the country various measures of reform,
and the country having shown itself indifferent to them all, the best
course which could now be taken was to wait till the country should show
a manifest desire for an amendment of the representation."[275]

There was, however, in these years one subject in which the country did
take a real interest; that was the development and extension of the
principles of free-trade. On that the national view had become so
decided that in 1848 the Parliament even abolished the navigation laws,
which had subsisted so long, the first act on the subject dating from
the reign of Richard II., that the adherence to the principle contained
in them of confining both the export and the import trade of the
kingdom, with but few exceptions, to British shipping, seemed almost an
essential article of the constitution. It was the dearer, too, to the
national prejudices, from the sense universally entertained of the
paramount importance of maintaining the pre-eminence of our navy, and
from the belief that the commercial marine was a nursery for the royal
fleets, with which they could not dispense. But latterly the laws had
become unpopular even with some of those who had formerly been supposed
to derive the greatest benefit from them. Many of our colonies had
complained of their operation, and several of the ablest of our colonial
governors had recommended their repeal. They had been found, too, to
present frequent and considerable difficulties in our commercial
negotiations with other countries, and many naval officers of large
experience and sound judgment expressed a decided belief that they were
of no practical use to the naval service. The result of a long and able
debate was that the laws were repealed, with the exception of that
portion of them which preserved the monopoly of the coasting trade to
our own seamen and vessels, that exception being chiefly dictated by
considerations connected with the prevention of smuggling.

The ground on which the ministers relied in proposing this repeal of
laws so ancient was that, when protection had been removed from every
other trade, those concerned in these different trades had an
irresistible claim for its removal from the shipping. And on general
principles, both of commerce and statesmanship, the claim was, as they
urged, irresistible, unless some object of greater importance still than
uniformity of legislation--namely, the national safety, bound up as it
unquestionably was in the perpetual pre-eminence of the national
navy--required an exception to be made. But for the maintenance of our
maritime supremacy it was, as Burke had preached three-quarters of a
century before, better to trust to the spirit of the people, to their
attachment to their government, and to their innate aptitude for
seamanship, which they seem to have inherited from the hardy rovers of
the dark ages, and which no other nation shares with them in an equal
degree. And if that may safely be trusted, as undoubtedly it may, to
maintain the supremacy of our warlike fleets, the preponderance of
argument seemed greatly on the side of those who contended that our
commercial fleets needed no such protection; to which it may be added
that exceptions to a general rule and principle are in themselves so
questionable, that the burden of proof seems to lie upon those who would
establish or maintain them. But the advocates of free-trade were not
content even with this triumph, though it might have been thought a
crowning one, and in the course of the next year they succeeded in
carrying a resolution which (though Lord Derby and the opponents of the
act of 1846 were now in office) was not resisted even by the ministry,
being, in fact, the result of a compromise between the different
parties; and which asserted that "the improved condition of the country,
and especially of the industrious classes, was mainly the result of
recent legislation, which had established the principle of unrestricted
competition, ... and that it was the opinion of the House that this
policy, firmly maintained and prudently extended, would, without
inflicting injury on any important interest, best enable the industry of
the country to bear its own burdens, and would thereby most surely
promote the welfare and contentment of the people." Such a resolution
was, in fact, the adoption of free-trade as the permanent ruling
principle of all future commercial legislation. And even before the
adoption of this resolution, the feeling in favor of free-trade had been
greatly strengthened by the Great Exhibition, which not only delighted
the world for six months with a spectacle of such varied and surpassing
beauty as even its original projector, the Prince Consort, had not
pictured to himself, but which had also the farther and more important
effect of instructing the British workman in every branch of
manufacture, by bringing before his eyes the workmanship of other
nations; and, as we may well believe (though such a result is not so
easily tested), of improving the mutual good-will between rival nations,
from the respect for each which the experience of their skill and
usefulness could not fail to excite.


[Footnote 258: On the 20th of February, 1840, Baron Stockmar writes:
"Melbourne told me that he had already expressed his opinion to the
Prince that the Court ought to take advantage of the present movement to
treat all parties, especially the Tories, in the spirit of a general
amnesty." To the Queen his language was the same: "You should now hold
out the olive-branch a little."--_Life of the Prince Consort_, i., 83.]

[Footnote 259: He became Prime-minister in September, 1841, and retired
in June, 1846--four years and three-quarters afterward.]

[Footnote 260: "Life of the Prince Consort," i., 266. It may be remarked
that, in spite of the opinion thus expressed by Sir Robert Peel, of
those who, since his retirement in 1846, have held the same office, the
majority have been members of the House of Commons. The peers who have
since been Prime-ministers have been Lord Aberdeen and Lord Derby; the
members of the House of Commons have been Lord John Russell, Lord
Palmerston, Mr. Disraeli, and Mr. Gladstone; though it may be thought
that in his second ministry Mr. Disraeli showed his concurrence in Sir
Robert Peel's latest view, by becoming a peer in the third year of his

[Footnote 261: Lord Stanhope tells us "the remedial resolutions moved by
Pitt in the House of Commons, as abolishing the old duties and
substituting new ones in a simpler form, amounted in number to no less
than 2537."--_Life of Pitt_, i., 330. Peel, in his speech, March 21,
1842, states that he reduces or takes off altogether (wherever the duty
is trifling, but is practicable) the duty on 750 articles of import.]

[Footnote 262: In the Commons by 307 to 184; in the Lords by 226 to 69.]

[Footnote 263: The following statements of the members of colleges and
of the three denominations for 1879, 1874, and 1869 appear in the last
_Queen's University Calendar_:

                         1879. 1874. 1869.
Church of Ireland ....... 201   189   211
Roman Catholics   ....... 223   188   161
Presbyterians  .......... 388   249   227
Other denominations......  88    87    83
                          ---   ---   ---
                          900   713   682]

[Footnote 264: In the course of the session, in order to tranquillize
the public mind on the subject, secret committees were appointed by both
Houses of Parliament to investigate the subject, from whose inquiries it
appeared that, since the days when the government was endangered by the
plots of the Jacobites, the power had been very sparingly used. The most
conspicuous instance of its employment had been in the case of Bishop
Atterbury, several of whose letters had been opened, and were produced
in Parliament to justify the bill of "pains and penalties" which was
passed against him. The power had been confined to Great Britain till
the latter part of the last century, when it was judged desirable to
extend it also to the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. But, since the Peace
of Amiens, the number of letters opened in a year had not, on an
average, exceeded eight; nor was there the least ground for suspecting
that a single one had been opened except on such information as fully
warranted suspicion.

The practice, however, was not confined to our own government. In the
second volume of the "Life of Bishop Wilberforce" a page is given of his
diary, dated July 18, 1854, which records a conversation in which the
Duke of Newcastle and Lord John Russell took part, and in which it is
mentioned that the French government, under the administration of M.
Guizot, opened letters, and that the practice was not confined to
monarchical or absolute governments, for "the American government opens
most freely all letters." And, with reference to this particular case,
the Duke of Newcastle said that "Sir James Graham really opened
Mazzini's letters on information which led to a belief that a great act
of violence and bloodshed might be prevented by it."--_Life of Bishop
Wilberforce_, ii., 247.]

[Footnote 265: A subsequent act, passed since the date at which the
present history closes, has repealed even this exception. By the 33d
Victoria, c. 14 ("Law Reports," p. 169), it is enacted that "an alien,
to whom a certificate of naturalization is granted, shall in the United
Kingdom be entitled to all political and other rights, powers, and
privileges, and be subject to all obligations to which a natural born
British subject is entitled as subject in the United Kingdom," etc.; and
at the general election of 1880 the Baron de Ferrieres, a Belgian
nobleman, who had been naturalized in 1867, was elected M.P. for

[Footnote 266: In one instance--on the question whether twelve should be
the number of hours, as proposed by the Government--the majority against
that number was 186 to 183. But immediately afterward a majority of 188
to 184 decided against Lord Ashley's alternative proposal of ten hours.]

[Footnote 267: As President of the Board of Trade. He afterward was
raised to the Peerage as Lord Taunton.]

[Footnote 268: The second reading was carried in the House of Lords by
49 to 37.]

[Footnote 269: See "Peel's Memoirs," ii., 173.]

[Footnote 270: It has been observed that till the Corn-laws were
repealed there had been no instance whatever of any person who had been
engaged in trade becoming a cabinet minister. Since that time there have
been several, some of whom only relinquished their share in houses of
business on receiving their appointments, and some who are generally
understood to have continued to participate in the profits of trade
while members of an administration.]

[Footnote 271: Alison, quoting the General Report of the Census
Commissioners, estimates the deaths caused by famine and the diseases
engendered by it at the appalling number of 590,000, and states the sums
advanced under different acts of Parliament to meet the emergency at
£7,132,268.--_History of Europe_, vii., 274, 276, 2d series.]

[Footnote 272: The same statesman who has previously been mentioned as
Lord Stanley, and whom the death of his father had recently raised to
the House of Peers.]

[Footnote 273: In 1853 he said to Lord Clarendon, speaking of a new bill
which he was pressing on Lord Aberdeen, then Prime-minister, "I am for
making it as Conservative as possible, and that by a large extension of
the suffrage. The Radicals are the ten-pound holders. The five-pound
holders will be Conservative, as they are more easily acted
upon."--_Life of the Prince Consort_, ii., 503. It was the same idea
that inspired some of the details of the Reform Bill subsequently passed
by Lord Derby's third ministry.]

[Footnote 274: "Life of the Prince Consort," iv., 395.]

[Footnote 275: "Life of the Prince Consort," v., 56.]


Dismissal of Lord Palmerston.--Theory of the Relation between the
Sovereign and the Cabinet.--Correspondence of the Sovereign with French
Princes.--Russian War.--Abolition of the Tax on Newspapers.--Life
Peerages.--Resignation of two Bishops.--Indian Mutiny.--Abolition of the
Sovereign Power of the Company.--Visit of the Prince of Wales to
India.--Conspiracy Bill.--Rise of the Volunteers.--National
Fortifications.--The Lords Reject the Measure for the Repeal of the
Paper-duties.--Lord Palmerston's Resolutions.--Character of the Changes
during the last Century.

The frequency of ministerial changes at this time has already been
mentioned, and the first of them took place at the beginning of 1852,
under circumstances which throw some light on a question which has never
been exactly defined--the duty of the different members of a cabinet to
one another, to the Prime-minister, and to the sovereign.

Queen Victoria had a high idea of her duties and responsibilities. From
any legal responsibility she was aware that she was exempt; but she did
not the less consider that a moral responsibility rested on her not to
be content to give her royal sanction as a mere matter of form to every
scheme or measure which might be submitted to her, but to examine every
case for herself, to form her own opinion, and, if it differed from that
of her ministers, to lay her objections and views fairly before them,
though prepared, as the constitution required, to act on their decision
rather than on her own, if, in spite of her arguments, they adhered to
their judgment. And in carrying out this notion of her duty she was
singularly aided by the Prince, her husband, a man of perfectly upright
character, of great general ability, and who, from the first moment of
his married life, regulated his views of every question, domestic and
foreign, by its bearing on English interests and English feelings, to
which he early acclimatized himself with a remarkable readiness of

In the administration of Lord John Russell, Lord Palmerston was Foreign
Secretary, and during its latter years foreign affairs occupied more of
the attention of the country than matters of domestic policy.

The revolution of 1848, which overthrew the Orleans dynasty, had
produced in France a state of affairs but little removed from anarchy,
which was scarcely mitigated by the election of Prince Louis Napoleon to
the Presidency of the new republic for four years, so constant was the
opposition which the Republican party in the Assembly offered to every
part of his policy. They even carried their opposition so far as to form
a deliberate plan for the impeachment of his minister and himself, and
for his arrest and imprisonment at Vincennes. But he was well-informed
of all these dangers, and on the morning of the 2d of December, 1851
(the day, as was commonly believed, having been selected by him as being
the anniversary of his uncle's great victory of Austerlitz), he
anticipated them by the arrest of all the leading malcontents in their
beds; which he followed up by an appeal to the people to adopt a new
constitution which he set before them, the chief article of which was
the appointment of a President for ten years.

No one could avoid seeing that what was aimed at was the
re-establishment of the Empire in his own person. And so arbitrary a
deed, as was inevitable, produced great excitement in England and
anxious deliberations in the cabinet. Their decision, in strict
uniformity with the principle that rules our conduct toward foreign
nations, was to instruct our ambassador in Paris, Lord Normanby, to
avoid any act or word which could wear the appearance of an act of
interference of any kind in the internal affairs of France. But, on Lord
Normanby reporting these instructions to the French Foreign Secretary,
M. Guizot, he learned, to his surprise and perplexity, that Lord
Palmerston had interfered already by expressing to the French ambassador
in London, M. de Walewski, his warm approval of the President's
conduct;[276] and Lord Normanby, greatly annoyed at being directed to
hold one language in Paris, while the head of his department was taking
a widely different tone in Downing Street--a complication which
inevitably "subjected him to misrepresentation and suspicion"--naturally
complained to the Prime-minister of being placed in so embarrassing a

Both the Queen and the Prime-minister had for some time been
discontented at the independent manner in which Lord Palmerston
apparently considered himself entitled to transact the business of his
department, carrying it so far as even to claim a right to send out
despatches without giving them any intimation of either their contents
or their objects. And the Queen, in consequence, above a year
before,[277] had drawn up a memorandum, in which she expressed with
great distinctness her desire to have every step which the Foreign
Secretary might recommend to be taken laid clearly before her, with
sufficient time for consideration, "that she might know distinctly to
what she had given her royal sanction;" and "to be kept informed of what
passed between him and the Foreign Ministers before important decisions
are taken," etc., etc. And, after such an intimation of her wish, she
not unnaturally felt great annoyance at learning that in a transaction
so important as this coup d'etat (to give it the name by which from the
first it was described in every country) Lord Palmerston had taken upon
himself to hold language to the French Ambassador "in complete
contradiction to the line of strict neutrality and passiveness which she
had expressed her desire to see followed with regard to the late
convulsions at Paris, and which was approved by the cabinet."[278] The
Prime-minister seems to have taken the same view of the act, and
remonstrated with Lord Palmerston, who treated the matter very lightly,
and justified his right to hold such a conversation, which he
characterized as "unofficial," in such a tone and on such grounds that
Lord John considered he left him no alternative "but to advise the Queen
to place the Foreign Office in other hands."

A careful and generally impartial political critic has recently
expressed an opinion "that Lord Palmerston made good his case;"[279] but
his argument on the transaction seems to overlook the most material
point in it. Lord Palmerston's own defence of his conduct was, that "his
conversation with Walewski was of an unofficial description; that he had
said nothing to him which would in any degree or way fetter the action
of the government; and that, if it was to be held that a Secretary of
State could never express any opinion to a foreign minister on passing
events except as the organ of a previously consulted cabinet, there
would be an end of that easy and familiar intercourse which tends
essentially to promote good understanding between ministers and
government;" and he even added, as a personal justification of himself
as against the Prime-minister, that three days afterward Lord John
Russell himself, Lord Lansdowne (the President of the Council), and Sir
Charles Wood (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had all discussed the
transaction with M. de Walewski at a dinner-party, "and their opinions
were, if anything, rather more strongly favorable than his had been."

This personal aspect of the case it is impossible to discuss, since
there are no means of knowing whether the ministers mentioned would have
admitted the correctness of this report of their language. If it were
confessed to be accurate, it would only show them to have been guilty of
equal impropriety, and to a great extent justify him as against the
Prime-minister, whose condemnation of his language, if he were conscious
that he had held the same himself, would be inexplicable. But it
certainly does not justify him in respect of her Majesty or the cabinet
collectively, since the Queen's complaint was, not that he held
unofficial conversations as a private individual, and not as "the organ
of a previously consulted cabinet," but that the tenor of the
conversation which he had held was in direct contradiction to the tone
which the cabinet had decided should be taken on the subject; that his
language was calculated to draw the government into a course of action
which it had been deliberately resolved to avoid. And, in spite of the
deference due to Lord Palmerston's great experience, it is hard to see
how a conversation between our Foreign Secretary and the French
Ambassador on an action, the result of which is as yet undecided, can be
wholly unofficial, in the sense of having no influence on the conduct of
affairs, or, as he expressed it, "in no degree or way fettering the
action of the government."

The result was, as has been mentioned before, that the Prime-minister
recommended the removal of Lord Palmerston from his office, and that he
was removed accordingly. And this conclusion of the case seems to show
that the statement of the position of the Prime-minister in the cabinet
is rather understated by Mr. Gladstone in one of his essays,[280] where
he says: "The head of the British government is not a Grand Vizier. He
has no powers, properly so called, over his colleagues; on the rare
occasions when a cabinet determines its course by the votes of its
members, his vote only counts as one of theirs." He admits at the same
time that "they are appointed and dismissed by the sovereign on his
advice." And surely to have the right of giving this advice is to have
the greatest possible power over his colleagues; not power, perhaps, to
change their opinions (though it possibly at times has had power to
prevent the expression of them), but power to compass their immediate
removal from the administration, as was exercised in this instance, and
as had been exercised by Pitt with regard to Lord Thurlow. That a
difference of opinion, even on an important subject, is not always
regarded as a sufficient cause for such a dismissal; that a
Prime-minister, especially if conscious of his strength, occasionally
consents to retain colleagues who differ from him on some one subject,
the same work to which we are partly indebted for our knowledge of the
details of this affair--the "Life of the Prince Consort"--furnishes two
remarkable instances in which the Prime-minister, then Lord Palmerston
himself, submitted to be overruled. We read there that on one occasion,
when "Count Persigny sought the active intervention of England by the
way of 'moral support' to a demand" which France proposed to address to
Austria, "Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell (then Foreign Secretary)
were disposed to accede; but a different view was taken both by her
Majesty and by the cabinet, and Count Persigny's request was accordingly
declined."[281] On this occasion, it is true, he was yielding to an
overwhelming majority of his colleagues (her Majesty's approval must, of
course, have been expressed subsequently to their decision). But in
another instance we find the same Prime-minister consenting to the
introduction of a bill by one of his colleagues, Mr. Gladstone, then
Chancellor of the Exchequer, of which he disapproved so highly that,
after it had been passed by a very slender majority of the House of
Commons,[282] he expressed to the Queen a hope that the closeness of the
division "might encourage the House of Lords to throw out the bill when
it should come to their House, and that he was bound in duty to say
that, if they should do so, they would perform a good public service;"
and after they had rejected it by a majority of eighty-nine, he
pronounced that "they had done a right and useful thing," reporting to
her Majesty, as a corroboration of this opinion, and as a proof that it
was largely shared by the public out-of-doors, that "the people in the
gallery of the House of Lords are said to have joined in the cheers
which broke out when the numbers of the division were announced."[283]
And on a third occasion also he bore with the same colleague's
opposition to a measure which he and all the rest of the cabinet justly
thought of vital importance to the best interests of the country, the
fortification of our great seaports, allowing him to object for a time
in private, and even to threaten public opposition to it the next year,
since he felt assured that his opposition, if carried out, which he
doubted, would be wholly ineffectual.[284]

The personal interest in politics which this laudable habit of judging
of everything for herself naturally engendered in the Queen's mind led,
however, to the adoption by her Majesty, in more than one instance, of a
course at variance not only with all historical precedent, but, with
deference be it said, with constitutional principle, sanctioned though
it was by more than one ministry. When the First Napoleon, after his
elevation to the head of the French government as First Consul,
proposed, by an autograph letter to George III., to treat with that
sovereign for the conclusion of peace between the two nations, Pitt, to
whom his Majesty communicated the letter, had no difficulty in deciding
that it would be unseasonable for the King "to depart from the forms
long established in Europe for transacting business with foreign
states,"[285] and, under his guidance, the cabinet instructed Lord
Grenville, as Foreign Secretary, to address the reply to the First
Consul's letter to the French Foreign Secretary, M. de Talleyrand.

But this reign has witnessed several departures from the old and
convenient rule. Its violation was not begun by her Majesty, but by the
Emperor Nicholas of Russia in the year preceding the Crimean war. He
wrote to the Queen herself to discuss some of the points in dispute, and
she answered his letter with her own hand.[286] The outbreak of war
which soon ensued prevented any continuation of that correspondence; but
the close alliance which that war for a time produced between England
and France, strengthened as it was by an interchange of visits between
the royal and imperial families, which led to the establishment of a
strong mutual friendliness and regard, led also to an occasional
interchange of letters on some of the gravest questions affecting the
policy of the two nations. The correspondence was sanctioned by
successive English cabinets, every letter which the Queen either
received from, or sent to, any foreign prince on political affairs being
invariably communicated by her either to the Prime-minister or to the
Foreign Secretary; and they, in one instance, even suggesting to her
Majesty to write to Louis Napoleon[287] with an object so delicate as
that of influencing the language with which he was about to open his

But we must think the line recommended by Pitt to George III. both more
constitutional and more safe. A letter from one sovereign to another on
political subjects cannot be divested of the character of a state-paper,
and for every state-paper some one must be responsible. The sovereign
cannot be, but for every one of his actions the ministers are. And it
follows, therefore, that they are thus made responsible for documents of
which they have not been the original authors; of which, were it not for
the courtesy of the sovereign, they might by possibility be wholly
ignorant; and with parts of which, even with the knowledge which that
courtesy has afforded them, they may not fully coincide, since they
could hardly venture to subject a composition of their royal mistress to
a vigorous criticism. Such a correspondence, therefore, places them so
far in a false position, and it runs the risk of placing the sovereign
himself in one equally false and unpleasant, since, if the opinions
expressed or the advice given fail of their effect, the adviser is so
far lowered in the eyes of his correspondent and of the world.

As has been incidentally mentioned, in the spring of 1854 war broke out
with Russia, nominally on account of the Sultan's refusal to concede
some of the Czar's demands concerning the condition of the Greek Church
in Palestine, but more really because, believing the Turkish empire to
be in the last stage of decay, he hoped by hastening its destruction to
obtain the lion's share of its spoils. And for the first time for two
centuries an English and French army stood together in a field of battle
as allies. In the field our armies were invariably victorious,
inflicting severe defeats on the enemy at Alma and Inkerman, and
wresting from them the mighty fortress of Sebastopol, in the Crimea,
which hitherto they had believed to be absolutely impregnable. Our fleet
was, if possible, still more triumphant, destroying Bomarsund and
Sweaborg, in the Baltic, without the Russian ships daring to fire a
single gun in their defence, while their Black Sea fleet was even sunk
by its own admiral, as the only expedient to save it from capture. And
in the spring of 1856 the war was terminated by a treaty of peace, in
which, for the first time since the days of Peter the Great, Russia was
compelled to submit to a cession of territory. But (it may almost be
said) to the credit of the nation these successes, glorious and
substantial as they were, made at the time scarcely so great an
impression on the people as the hardships which, in the first winter of
the war, our troops suffered from the defective organization of our
commissariat. Want of shelter and want of food proved more destructive
than the Russian cannon; presently our gallant soldiers were reported to
be perishing by hundreds for lack of common necessaries; and the news
awakened so clamorous a discontent throughout the whole of the United
Kingdom as led to another change of ministry, and Lord Aberdeen was
succeeded by Lord Palmerston. While a war on so large a scale was being
waged there was but little time to spare for the work of the legislator,
though it is not foreign to our subject to relate that in 1855 the last
of those taxes which the political economists denounced as taxes on
knowledge, the tax on newspapers, was abolished. Originally it had been
fourpence; in 1836 Mr. Spring Rice, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord
Melbourne's ministry, had reduced it to a penny; and now, with a very
general acquiescence, it was abolished altogether.

The entire abolition of a tax is not properly to be called a financial
measure, that epithet belonging rather to those which aim at an
augmentation of revenue by an increase in the number of contributors to
a tax, while lessening the amount paid by each. But the abandonment of
the tax in question should rather be regarded as a sacrifice of revenue
for the instruction of the people in political knowledge; a price paid
to enable and induce the poorer classes to take a well-instructed
interest in the affairs of the state and the general condition of the
country. And, viewed in this light, the abolition of this tax must be
allowed to have been a political measure of great importance, and to
have contributed greatly to the end which was aimed at. Till 1836 a
daily paper, costing sevenpence, was the luxury of the few; and the sale
even of those which had the largest circulation was necessarily limited.
But the removal of the tax at once gave birth to a host of penny
newspapers, conducted for the most part with great ability, and soon
attaining a circulation which reached down to all but the very poorest
class; so that the working-man has now an opportunity of seeing the most
important questions of the day discussed from every point of view, and
of thus acquiring information and forming a judgment on them which the
subsequent extension of the franchise makes it more than ever desirable
that he should be able to form for himself. Every movement in that
direction renders it the more necessary to raise the intelligence of the
great mass of the people to a level which may enable them to make a safe
and salutary use of the power placed in their hands. And no mode of
implanting a wholesome political feeling in the masses can equal candid
political discussion: discussion one ruling principle of which shall be
to teach that the greatest differences of opinion may be honestly
entertained; that, with scarcely an exception, the leading men of each
party, those who have any title to the name of statesman, are animated
with an honest, patriotic desire to promote the best interests of the
nation; and that the elucidation of truth is not aided by unreasoning
invective and the undeserved imputation of base motives.

One of the last topics discussed by Mr. Hallam was the introduction of a
bill to limit for the future the prerogative of the crown in a field in
which its exercise had previously been unrestrained, the creation of
peers;[288] and among the last which we shall have to examine was one of
an exactly opposite character, though relating to the same subject, the
creation of a life peerage. In the winter of 1855 Sir James Parke, one
of the Barons of the Exchequer, was created Lord Wenslydale, by
letters-patent which conferred the title limiting it also to the new
peer's own life. The professed object of the measure was to strengthen
the judicial power of the House of Lords. But it was not denied that the
limitation of the peerage conferred on him for his own life (a
limitation which made no practical difference to Sir James himself,
since he had no children) was intended to raise the question whether the
crown could or could not create a life peerage with a seat in the House
of Lords. A creation so limited was so novel, or at all events so long
disused a proceeding, that it inevitably provoked examination and
discussion. And, as it was found that the lawyers in general regarded it
as indefensible, at the beginning of the session of 1856 Lord Lyndhurst
brought the matter before the House of Lords by a motion for the
appointment of a committee of privileges to investigate and report upon
it. There were two aspects of the case which naturally came to be
considered in the debates on it which ensued: the advantages or
disadvantages, in other words, the political expediency, of such a form
of letters-patent, and their legal or constitutional propriety. It was,
of course, with the latter alone that the committee of privileges had to
deal. And this part of the question was examined with great legal and
antiquarian learning, though, as was almost inevitable, it was argued as
a party question, except, indeed, by the lawyers. They, with the
exception of the Chancellor, Lord Cranworth, who had advised the
measure, were unanimous in their condemnation of it; the Whig peers,
Lord Brougham and Lord Campbell, then Chief-justice, being as positive
in their denial of the right so to exercise the prerogative as those on
the Opposition side of the House, Lord Lyndhurst or Lord St.

The arguments against the measure were chiefly these: The objectors drew
a distinction between what was legal according to the strict letter of
the law, and what was constitutional; contending that there might be
exercises of the prerogative which could not be affirmed to be illegal,
but which no one would deny to be altogether inconsistent with the
principles and practice of the constitution, since a great part of the
constitution rested on unwritten law, on long-continued usage, _Lex et
consuetudo Parliamenti_. And they affirmed that this measure was so
opposed to that usage, that "no instance had occurred within a period of
four hundred years in which a commoner had been raised to a seat in the
House of Lords by a patent of peerage containing only an estate for
life;"[290] one most essential, if not the most essential character of
the peerage being that it was an hereditary dignity, and one which
combined with its rank an hereditary seat in the House of Lords. That
one or two instances of life peerages were to be found in the annals of
the Plantagenet kings was not denied, though none exactly similar in
character.[291] But Lord Lyndhurst argued that precedents which had
occurred "at a time when the constitution of the country was neither
understood nor fully formed" were entitled to but little respect; and
Lord Derby, limiting the age of valid precedents a little more strictly,
"said frankly that he had no respect for any precedent affecting the
prerogatives of the crown that dated farther back than the year 1688."
And since that time, or indeed since the time of Henry VIII., it was
certain that no life peerage had ever been granted, except by Charles
II., James II., and George I. and II., to some of their mistresses,
instances wholly beside the present case, since, of course, none of
those ladies could claim seats in the House of Lords. Indeed, it was
believed that both Mr. Pitt, at the time of the Union, and Lord Grey, in
1832, had considered the question, and had both decided against the
propriety of advising a creation of life peerages.

In defence of the measure Lord Granville refused to admit the
distinction between what was legal and what was constitutional; if a
measure were both legal, that is, warranted by the letter of the law,
and also expedient, these two concurrent qualities, he contended, made
it constitutional. He denied, also, that any legal prerogatives of the
crown could be held to have lapsed through disuse; _nullum tempus
occurrit Regi_; and he challenged any peer to assert that the sovereign
had lost the right of refusing his royal assent to a measure passed by
the two Houses, merely because no sovereign since William III. had so
exercised his royal prerogative. And against the authority of Mr. Pitt
and Lord Grey he quoted that of Lord John Russell, who, in 1851, had
offered a life peerage to an eminent judge, who, though he had declined
the offer, had been influenced in his refusal by no doubt of the right
of the crown to make it.

On the expediency of the measure its opponents had urged that it would
effect a remodelling of the House of Peers, a total change of its
constitution, by the introduction of a second and distinct class of
peerages; and Lord Campbell, with a not unbecoming jealousy for what he
regarded as the interests of his brother lawyers, argued that it would
"henceforth prevent any lawyer, however eminent he might have been as an
advocate, whatever services he might have rendered to the state in the
House of Commons, whatever fame or fortune he might have acquired, from
aspiring to an hereditary peerage, or to becoming the founder of a
family, since, to make a distinction between the Chancellor and the
Chief-justice, between one Chancellor or Chief-justice and another, when
coming into the Upper House, as to the tenure of their honors, would be
intolerable; all must be under the same rule, 'no son of theirs
succeeding.'" And Lord Lyndhurst closed his argument by drawing a
comparison between the House of Lords and the French Senate: "It was but
a few weeks since he had read an official comment in the _Moniteur_,
coming from the highest source, on the inefficiency, the want of
patriotism, energy, and the backwardness to fulfil the high destinies to
which they were called, that characterized that illustrious body, the
Senate of France. He had no disposition to cut down our tribunal to that
life interest on which the Senate of France is based, as he believed the
hereditary character of the House of Lords to be one from which great
and important advantages are derived.... The hereditary principle," he
added, "is intwined in every part of our constitution; we in this House
enjoy our hereditary rights in common with the crown; we mutually
support and assist each other, and we form a barrier and defence to
protect both those branches of the constitution against any by whom they
may be assailed."

As Lord Granville had made the expediency of any measure the quality
which, combined with legality, was sufficient to establish its
constitutional character, he naturally labored this point with especial
diligence. He dwelt upon the great importance of strengthening the
judicial element in the House, since it was the great ultimate court of
appeal. He produced a letter of the great Chancellor, Lord Eldon, which
quoted instances in which various administrations had found difficulties
in the way of introducing eminent lawyers into the House, because their
want of adequate fortune to support the rank had disinclined them to
encumber their descendants with an hereditary peerage. He showed also
that that difficulty had made so great an impression on their own
Chairman of Committees, Lord Redesdale, that on one occasion he had
intimated a feeling in favor of allowing "the Law, in the same way as
the Church, to be, to a certain extent, represented in the House by the
holders of certain offices, who should be admitted to that House as
Peers of Parliament during the continuance of holding such office" (to
which argument Earl Grey added another, that the instance of bishops,
who were but life peers, proved that the holders of life peerages were
not considered inferior to hereditary peers).

He dwelt, too, on the evil consequence of the Lords "placing themselves
before the country as seeking to limit the prerogative of the crown,
when that prerogative was exercised with a view to remedy something that
was weak, and to remove a certain imminent danger." What the danger was
he certainly did not explain. But Lord Grey, in supporting him, took
wider ground, and, applying the argument derived from Lord Eldon's
letter to other professions, extolled the idea of instituting life
peerages as one whose effect would be "more easily to open the doors of
the House to men whom it was desirable should be admitted--to
distinguished officers; to eminent writers; to members of the House of
Commons, who in their different lines might have rendered good service
to the state, but who, though possessing means amply sufficient to
support their rank during their own life, yet, from having only a life
income, or a numerous family to be provided for, might be unable to
accept an hereditary peerage without injury to their family. In such
instances," he contended, "it would be most desirable to grant peerages
for life only. Such a proceeding would, he was convinced, by no means
disincline others in different circumstances to accept hereditary
titles, nor indispose the ministry to confer them. Nor did he see any
reason for fearing that the practice of creating life peerages would be
more likely to be abused for the purpose of increasing the power of the
minister than the creation of hereditary peerages."

The committee of privileges was appointed, and reported it as the
opinion of the members that "neither the letters-patent by themselves,
or with, the addition of the usual writ of summons, could entitle the
grantee to sit and vote in Parliament." And the House, by a majority of
ninety-two to fifty-seven, adopted their report. The ministers yielded
to its judgment, and ennobled Lord Wenslydale by a new patent in the
usual form, as Lord Derby had suggested. But Lord Derby desired to show
that his objection had been founded on principle only; and, as he was
willing to admit that, apart from the principle involved, "some
advantages in certain cases, and under certain modifications, might
arise from peerages for life," he proposed the appointment of a select
committee "to consider the expediency of making provision for the more
efficient discharge of the duties of the House as a court of appeal."
The committee was appointed, and, after careful consideration,
recommended the creation of two new offices, to be held by two law
lords, as "Deputy Speakers of the House of Lords," who should be judges
of at least five years' standing, and should be enabled "by authority of
Parliament to sit and vote in the House, and enjoy all the rights and
privileges of a peer of Parliament under a patent conferring a peerage
for life only, if the crown may have granted or shall grant the same to
such persons in preference to an hereditary peerage, provided always
that not more than four persons shall have seats in the House at one
time as peers for life." Such an arrangement would have introduced a new
practice, but not a new principle, since the annexation of a seat in the
House of Lords to certain offices had existed from time immemorial in
the case of the bishops. And the bill was carried in the House of Lords,
but defeated in the Commons by a motion to refer it to a committee,
which was adopted by a small majority, in a not very full House,[292]
toward the end of the session.

Those who look at the question apart from all preference of one minister
or one party to another will, probably, be of opinion that the decision
of the committee, that a life peerage thus created by the crown could
not confer a seat in Parliament, was conformable to the most legitimate
view of the constitution. It was, indeed, matter of history that in the
Middle Ages the crown had exercised its prerogative in many ways which
it had since abandoned. Boroughs had been enfranchised, and again
disfranchised, apparently from no motive but pure caprice; writs of
summons had been withheld from peers.[293] But no one would have
justified the repetition of such acts now. And common-sense, as well as
recognized usage, favored the doctrine that long disuse was a sufficient
and lawful barrier against their revival. That the power of conferring
life peerages with a seat in Parliament--of which, perhaps, the only
undeniable instances were the cases of the brothers of Henry V., whose
royal blood would in those days, probably, have been held to warrant an
exception in their favor--had not been exercised for full four hundred
years, was admitted; and the assumption that so long a disuse of a power
was tantamount to a tacit renunciation of it, is quite compatible with a
loyal and due zeal for the maintenance of other parts of the prerogative
which have suffered no such abatement.

If, however, we consider the expediency of the measure, or, in other
words, the possible advantage that might ensue from the existence of a
power to create life peerages with a seat in Parliament, opinions will
probably be more divided. We have seen that Lord Derby allowed that
there might be advantages in such an exercise of power under certain
limitations; and the existing system does, undoubtedly, appear open to
improvement in certain cases. At present the only mode of rewarding
naval or military commanders who have performed brilliant and useful
service, or a Speaker of the House of Commons, whose public career,
though less showy and glorious, may at times have been scarcely less
valuable, and has certainly been by far more irksome, is the grant of a
peerage with a pension for lives. Without the peerage they cannot have
the pension.[294] And, consequently, many most distinguished officers,
whose conspicuous merits well deserved conspicuous honors, have gone
unrewarded except by some promotion of knighthood, which carries with it
no substantial benefit; while the descendants of some of those who have
been ennobled have openly lamented that the only mode which could be
found of honoring their fathers proves a punishment to their heirs, by
encumbering them with an empty title, which they are unable adequately
to support, and practically closing against them avenues to possible
wealth and distinction which custom pronounces derogatory to their rank.
So, not to mention the names of living worthies, no reward could be
found for Sir W. Parker, that brave and skilful seaman who conducted a
British fleet two hundred miles up a Chinese river, and crowned his
exploits by the capture of a mighty city, which had never before beheld
a European flag; nor for Inglis, who, when the safety of our Indian
Empire hung upon his gallantry, successfully sustained a siege whose
hardships and dangers are surpassed by none in ancient or modern
history. Many will, probably, be of opinion that it is not for the honor
of England that such services should want due recognition; and that for
men like those life peerages with liberal pensions would be an
appropriate recompense. It would, of course, be impossible to limit the
number of them beforehand, but it would also be needless, since the
nature of the services by which alone they could be deserved would act
of itself as a sufficient limitation.

One of the expedients which had been mentioned in this discussion had
been the annexation of peerages to certain offices, to which it had been
regarded as an unanswerable objection that this would be the creation of
an absolutely unheard-of tenure, the peer thus created being able at
pleasure to lay down his peerage, or even, it might be, being removable.
But before the end of the session an emergency arose which induced
Parliament to sanction the principle, novel though it was, that an
official peerage, if a bishopric may be so called, might be laid down
with the sanction of Parliament when the holder was no longer able to
discharge its duties. Two of the most eminent members of the Episcopal
bench, Dr. Blomfield, Bishop of London, and Dr. Maltby, Bishop of
Durham, had become wholly incapable of discharging their duties, the one
having been struck down by paralysis, and the other being almost blind.
And they now proposed to the Prime-minister that he should make some
arrangement by which they might be allowed to relinquish their offices,
retaining a certain portion of the income of their sees as a retiring
pension. There was no precedent for such an arrangement, but the
necessity of the two cases was so manifest, the injury which the Church
must suffer if the superintendence of two such important dioceses were
to be neglected, was so palpable, and the conditions of the retiring
pensions asked were so moderate and equitable, that Lord Palmerston had
no hesitation in sanctioning the introduction of a bill to give effect
to the arrangement proposed.

It did not pass without vigorous resistance from more than one quarter.
The Bishop of Exeter complained of it as incompatible with the great
Church principle, that a bishop could only resign his office to the
archbishop of his province; others opposed it as a violation of the
common law, which forbids any bargain being made for the resignation of
an office; while some, referring to the prohibition of simony (a word,
perhaps, as much misunderstood and as often misapplied as any in the
language), denounced the arrangement that the retiring prelates were to
have pensions as simoniacal.[295] The most reasonable objection made to
the proceeding was, that such exceptional legislation to meet an
isolated case tended to establish a dangerous precedent, and that, as
there were other men of great age on the bench, it would be better to
effect the end now aimed at by a large general measure providing means
for the retirement of all clergymen, those of inferior rank as well as
bishops, whom age or infirmity might incapacitate. But the general
feeling was against delay. The bill passed, and served in some degree as
a model for that general measure which was soon afterward introduced,
and which, as was suggested on this occasion, provided for an
arrangement similar in principle being carried out whenever a priest
holding any kind of ecclesiastical preferment should become disabled for
the performance of its duties.

There can be no doubt that such legislation was absolutely necessary in
the interests of the Church, taking that expression to include, not the
clergy alone, but the whole congregation of Churchmen. But it introduced
a remarkable change into the system of ecclesiastical peerages, and, so
far, into the constitution of the House of Lords. What was resigned by
the two prelates was not the peerage (they had still the right to be
styled "my lord"), but the seat in the House of Lords, which was a part,
and which had hitherto been regarded as an inseparable part of it, or,
at least (as it should, perhaps, rather be said, since the recent
regulation that the junior bishop should not have a seat was a clear
violation of that principle), which hitherto no one had been able to
dissociate from the peerage after it had been once enjoyed.

The treaties which terminated the war with Russia were not concluded
till the spring of 1856; and it was well, indeed, that the country had
no longer a foreign war on her hands, for a twelvemonth had scarcely
elapsed when the very continuation of her existence as a great Eastern
power was suddenly imperilled by what, regarded in one aspect, was a
mutiny of her troops on a most extensive scale; in another, a civil war,
waged by a combination of native princes, Hindoo as well as
Mohammedan,[296] for the total extinction of our power, and the
expulsion of the British race from Bengal. As early as the first week of
February several commanders of regiments and other authorities received
warnings of the organization of a wide conspiracy against our power; and
in the second week of May the troops at Meerut broke into open mutiny,
set fire to the public buildings, murdered their officers, and even
their wives and children, and then marched off to Delhi, where the
garrison was prepared to receive them with open arms, and to imitate
their atrocities. The contagion spread, and in a few weeks nearly all
Bengal was in arms. In one or two instances the native chiefs stood by
us, but the greater number joined the insurgents, some from the desire
to throw off our yoke, but others, probably, from constraint and through
fear. Whatever were their motives, before the end of June nearly all the
principal cities and fortresses of Bengal, up to the very gates of
Calcutta, were in the hands of the insurgents, the chief exception being
at the great city of Lucknow, where, though the mutineers got possession
of the city, a British garrison held the Residency, in the centre; and,
maintaining themselves with heroic fortitude, unsurpassed in all the
history of war, for nearly nine months, contributed more than any other
body of men to the final suppression of the revolt. It would be beside
our purpose here to dwell upon the great deeds by which in that terrible
year our army, in all its branches, maintained its old renown; upon the
recapture of Delhi; the deliverance of the incomparable defenders and
preservers of Lucknow; the exploits of Lawrence, and Inglis, and
Havelock, and Outram, and Peel, and Campbell; and, if we are forced to
deny ourselves the proud gratification of dwelling on their combined
heroism and wisdom, we may for the same reason be spared the pain of
recounting the horrid cruelties wreaked in too many instances not only
on the officers who fell into the rebels' hands, and on the civil
magistrates, but on the helpless women and children. In the first
excitement of fear and horror those cruelties were, no doubt, greatly
exaggerated, but still enough remains proved to stamp the insurrection
as one branding with the foulest disgrace the race which perpetrated and
exulted in them.

It was not till the last week of 1858 that the last sparks of rebellion
were finally extinguished by the defeat in Oude of the last body of
rebels who remained in arms, and the flight of the remnant of their
force across the frontier of Nepaul; but, even before that day came, the
ministry at home had been led to see the necessity of putting the
government of the country for the future on a different footing. It
could hardly be doubted that the prompt suppression of a revolt of so
unprecedented a magnitude, and the proof given in the course of our
operations that the British soldier still maintained the same
superiority over the native trooper as in the days of Clive, had
heightened our reputation and the belief of our power among the native
tribes. But, speedily and decisively crushed though it had been, the
revolt had given too terrible a proof of the inconstancy and treachery
of the native tribes not to act as a warning to our statesmen; and the
reflection that was thus forced upon them showed that a company of
merchants, however distinguished by general courage and sagacity they
had shown themselves, was no longer qualified to exercise imperial
dominion over a territory which now extended over more than a million of
square miles, and more than a hundred and fifty millions of native

Accordingly, in the first week of the session of 1858, Lord Palmerston,
as Prime-minister, introduced a bill to transfer the government of
British India from the East India Company to the crown. It was natural
that the principle of such a measure should be opposed by the Directors
of the Company, though it was supported by more than one person who had
held high civil office in India; and equally natural that the
arrangement of its details should call forth a minute and rigorous
examination, and on many points a very determined opposition. We need
not, however, say more about this bill, since circumstances prevented
its being proceeded with; and the history of those which succeeded it is
now only worth referring to as showing the extreme difficulty of the
task of framing a government on new principles for a dependency of such
vast magnitude and importance.[297]

Lord Palmerston's bill was dropped, in consequence of the fall of his
ministry, before the time came for its second reading; but the
discussion on it had to some extent smoothed the way for that of his
successor, Lord Derby. A great impression on the Parliament, and on the
country in general, had been made by a very able speech of Sir G.C.
Lewis, Chancellor of the Exchequer. He traced the whole history of the
Indian government from the day of Plassy, and substantiated the right of
the home government and Parliament to remodel it as they might judge
best, by proving that ever since the passing of Pitt's first bill, in
1784, the Company had been constantly subject to Parliamentary control.
He showed, too, most convincingly, that a petition which the Company had
presented to the House of Commons, deprecating any change in the
existing system which should tend to diminish the authority of the
Directors, was based on one great fallacy--speaking, as it did, of the
Company as one and indivisible, and unchanged in character, functions,
and influence, down to the date of the last renewal of its charter, only
five years previously; whereas the truth was, that in the one hundred
years since Plassy the system had undergone as many changes as the
English constitution between the Heptarchy and the reign of Queen

He had thus removed some of the obstacles out of the way of the measure
of the new government, though Lord Derby would have preferred postponing
it till tranquillity should have been restored to the country by the
complete suppression of the revolt, had not the large majority[298]
which had sanctioned the introduction of Lord Palmerston's bill, in his
opinion, "placed the Company in such a situation that they could no
longer command the same amount of public confidence and public support
as they were entitled to receive previously to that vote of the House of
Commons." It may be added that the first bill on the subject which was
introduced by his government bore evident marks of the difficulties
under which it was framed--difficulties existing from the unexpected
suddenness of his accession to office; so that, after a not very short
discussion, it was eventually withdrawn, and it was not till the end of
June that the measure which was finally adopted was introduced.

The leading enactments of the measure[299] provided that for the future
the government of India, described as having been hitherto vested in, or
exercised by, the Company in trust for her Majesty, should be vested in
her Majesty, and exercised in her name; that one of her Majesty's
principal Secretaries of State should have and perform all such powers
and duties relating to the government or revenues of India as had
formerly belonged to the Court of Directors, as the Court of Proprietors
of the Company; that a Council of the Governor-general should be
established, consisting of fifteen members, seven of whom should be
appointed by the Court of Directors, being persons who were, or had
formerly been, Directors of the Company, and eight should be nominated
by the crown. And as to both classes, it was provided that the majority
should consist of persons who had served or resided in India for ten
years at the least, and should not have left India more than ten years
when appointed. They were to hold their offices during good behavior, to
receive salaries, and to be entitled to retiring pensions, but to be
incapable of sitting in Parliament. The appointment of Governor-general
and Governor of each Presidency was to belong to the crown. The
expenditure of the revenues of India, both in India and elsewhere, was
to be subject to the control of the Secretary of State in Council; other
clauses provided for the dividends of the Company, for the admission of
persons into the civil service; and, with reference to existing
establishments, one clause provided that "the Indian military and naval
forces should remain under existing conditions of service."

This last clause was strongly objected to by the Queen,[300] as
"inconsistent with her constitutional position as head of the army,
which required that the Commander-in-chief should be put in
communication with the new Secretary of State for India, in the same
manner in which he is placed with regard to the troops at home or in the
colonies toward the Secretary of State for War.... With regard to the
whole army, whether English or Indian, there could, with due regard to
the public interest, be only one head and one general command." She
yielded her opinion, however, to the resolute objections of the
Prime-minister, with whom on this point his predecessor,[301] Lord
Palmerston, agreed; but the result proved the superior soundness of her
Majesty's view. It was not only a most anomalous arrangement, since the
supreme control of all the warlike forces was one of the most
inalienable prerogatives of the crown, but it had the strange fault of
preserving the double government in the case in which, above all others,
unity of system and unity of command were most indispensable. And, what
weighed more than either consideration with the generally practical
views of English statesmen, it was from the beginning found to work
badly, creating, as it did, great and mischievous jealousies between the
two divisions, the Royal and the Indian army. It was found that all the
generals then in the highest commands in India--Lord Clyde (Sir Colin
Campbell having been ennobled by that title), Sir Hugh Rose, and Sir
William Mansfield--strongly disapproved of it, and recommended a change;
and consequently, in the summer of 1860, Lord Palmerston, who in the
mean while had returned to the Treasury, came round to the Queen's view
of the subject, and a new act was passed which amalgamated the two
armies into one Imperial army, taking its turn of duty throughout all
parts of the British empire.[302]

A letter addressed by Lord Palmerston to the Queen in the autumn of
1857, which appears to have been his first statement to her Majesty of
the opinion which he had formed of the necessity of abolishing the
governing authority of the Company, states the principal arguments in
favor of such a measure with great clearness, as arising from "the
inconvenience and difficulty of administering the government of a vast
country on the other side of the globe by means of two cabinets, the one
responsible to the crown and Parliament, the other only responsible to
the holders of Indian stock, meeting for a few hours three or four times
a year, which had been shown by the events of the year to be no longer
tolerable." His disapproval of parts of Lord Ellenborough's policy
probably prevented him from alluding to his recall from India by the
Directors, in direct defiance of the opinion of the government,[303]
though that strange step can hardly have been absent from his mind. But,
in fact, the case for taking the whole rule of so vast a dominion wholly
into the hands of the Queen's government at home was so irresistible,
that it did not require to be strengthened by reference to any
individual instances of inconvenience. When the double government was
originally established, the English in India were still but a small
mercantile community, with very little territory beyond that in the
immediate neighborhood of its three chief cities. Of the conduct of the
affairs of such a body, still almost confined to commerce, the chief
share might not unreasonably be left to the merchants themselves,
subject to such supervision on the part of the government at home as was
implied in the very name of the department invested with that
supervision, the Board of Control, which, as Pitt explained the name,
was meant to show that it was not to be, like the measure proposed by
the Coalition Ministry, a board of political influence.[304] But the
case was wholly altered when British India reached from Point de Galle
to the Himalayas, and spread beyond the Ganges on the east, to beyond
the Indus on the west; when the policy adopted in India often influenced
our dealings with European states, and when the force required for the
protection of those vast interests exceeded the numbers of the royal
army. India, too, is a country the climate of which prevents our
countrymen from emigrating to it as settlers, as they do to Canada or
Australia, and where, consequently, the English residents are, and
always must be, a mere handful in comparison with the millions of
natives. In such a case their government must at all times rest mainly
on opinion, on the belief in the pre-eminent power of the ruler; and it
was obvious that that belief would be greatly fortified by the sovereign
of Britain becoming that ruler.[305] The great rajahs cordially
recognized the value of the transfer of power considered in this light,
and felt their own dignity enhanced by becoming the vassals of the
sovereign herself.

Turning to French affairs, a brilliant French writer has remarked, that
his countrymen are, of all peoples, the least suited to be conspirators,
since none of them can ever keep a secret. But it was the ill-fortune of
Louis Napoleon that he had provoked enmities, not only among his own
countrymen, but among the republican fanatics of other nations also, who
saw in his zeal for absolute authority the greatest obstacle to their
designs, which aimed at the overthrow of every established government on
the Continent, and shrunk from no crimes which they conceived to be
calculated to promote their object. To free themselves from such an
antagonist, the most wholesale murders seemed by no means too large a
price. And in the middle of January, as the Emperor and Empress were
going to the Opera, a prodigious explosion took place almost beneath the
wheels of their carriage, from the effect of which they themselves had a
most narrow escape, both being struck in the face by splinters, the
aide-de-camp in their carriage also being severely wounded on the head;
while their escort and attendants were struck down on all sides, ten
being killed and above one hundred and fifty wounded.[306] It was soon
found out that the authors of this atrocious crime were four Italians,
of whom a man named Orsini was the chief, and that he, who had but
recently escaped from a prison in Mantua, had fled from that town to
England, and had there concocted all the details of his plot, and had
procured the shells which had been his instruments.

It was not unnatural that so atrocious a crime, causing such wide-spread
destruction, should awaken great excitement in France, and in many
quarters violent reclamations against England and her laws, which
enabled foreign plotters to make her a starting-place for their
nefarious schemes. Even in the French Chambers very bitter language was
used on the subject by some of the most influential Deputies, for which
our ministers were disposed to make allowance, Lord Clarendon, the
Foreign Secretary, writing to the Prince Consort that "it was not to be
expected that foreigners, who see that assassins go and come here as
they please, and that conspiracies may be hatched in England with
impunity, should think our laws and policy friendly to other countries,
or appreciate the extreme difficulty of making any change in our

But a different feeling was roused by a despatch of the French Secretary
of State to the ambassador here, which seemed to impute to this country
that it deliberately sheltered and countenanced men by whose writings
"assassination was elevated into a doctrine openly preached, and carried
into practice by reiterated attacks" upon the person of the French
sovereign, and asked, in language which had rather an imperious tone,
"Ought the English Legislature to contribute to the designs of men who
were not mere fugitives, but assassins, and continue to shelter persons
who place themselves beyond the pale of common right, and under the ban
of humanity? Her Britannic Majesty's Government can assist us in
averting a repetition of such guilty enterprises, by affording us a
guarantee of security which no state can refuse to a neighboring state,
and which we are justified in expecting from an ally. Fully relying,
moreover, on the profound sagacity of the English Cabinet, we refrain
from indicating in any way the measures which it may seem fit to take in
order to comply with this wish. We confidently leave it to decide on the
course which it shall deem best fitted to the end in view." Still,
though the charge that our Legislature contributed to the designs of
assassins was some departure from the measured language more usual in
diplomatic communications between friendly powers, under the
circumstances this remonstrance might have been borne with. Unluckily,
it was not all, nor the worst, that we were called upon to bear. A few
days afterward some addresses to the Emperor from different military
corps were published in the _Moniteur_, which not only poured forth
bitter reproaches against the whole English nation, but demanded to be
led to an invasion of the country, "as an infamous haunt for the
carrying out of infernal machinations." Political addresses seem to our
ideas inconsistent with military discipline; but the army had been
permitted, and even encouraged, to make them ever since the days of the
Consulate, though such addresses never received the recognition of a
publication in the official journal till they had been subjected to
careful revision, and, if necessary, expurgation. On this occasion,
however, that supervision had been carelessly performed, and the
offensive passages were left standing, though, when the Emperor learned
the indignation which they had excited even among his well-wishers in
England, he instructed his ambassador to apologize for their retention
and publication, as an act of inadvertence on the part of the officials
whose duty it had been to revise such documents. So far all was well.
And had the English ministers replied to the despatch of M. de Persigny
in firm and temperate language, they would have escaped the difficulties
which eventually overthrew them. There was no doubt that, according to
diplomatic usage, a written despatch formally communicated to the
Secretary of State required a written reply.

Unfortunately, a written reply was not given. Lord Clarendon was too
apprehensive of the mischief which might possibly arise from a
protracted discussion, leading, perhaps, to an angry controversy; and
under the influence of this feeling contented himself, when the despatch
was presented, with giving the ambassador a verbal answer, that "no
consideration on earth would induce Parliament to pass a measure for the
extradition of foreign political refugees; that our asylum could not be
infringed, and that we adhered to certain principles on that subject
which were so old and so sacred that they could not be touched;"[308]
adding, however, at the same time an assurance that the Attorney-general
was already, at his request, examining our law of conspiracy, to see
whether it was sufficiently comprehensive or stringent. The purport of
this answer was all that could have been desired; but there was a very
general impression that the omission to reply by a written despatch was
a sacrifice of the national dignity, if not an unworthy submission to
scarcely disguised menace; though at the same time there was also a
feeling among both parties in Parliament that our laws with respect to
the conduct of foreigners residing among us were, perhaps, susceptible
of improvement. On the very first night of the session, in allusion to
the attack on the French Emperor, Lord Derby had said that "he could
wish to hear the opinion of the ministers whether the existing laws of
this country were adequate to afford security for the lives of foreign
princes against plots contrived in this country; and, if they were not,
whether they might not be amended, so as to meet the case of such crimes
as had recently been perpetrated, which were so heinous and revolting to
every feeling of humanity." And even before that speech the ministers
had applied themselves to frame a measure to amend the law, which in the
second week of February the Prime-minister himself introduced to the
House of Commons.

It was read a first time, though not without some opposition; but before
it arrived at the second reading, though only a week afterward, the
feeling of the country, reflected in this instance by the House, had
become so inflamed, that the measure was not discussed on its own
merits, but on the point whether, since no other answer had been given
to the French despatch, this must not be regarded as the ministerial
answer, and therefore whether it were such an answer as it befitted
England to send. Had it been examined on its own merits solely, it could
hardly have provoked much adverse criticism. It was entitled, "A bill to
amend the law with relation to the crime of conspiracy to commit
murder," and it merely proposed to establish in England a law which had
long existed in Ireland. Hitherto, as Lord Palmerston explained the
matter, England had treated conspiracy to murder as a misdemeanor,
punishable with fine and imprisonment. In Ireland it had long been a
capital crime; and, though he did not propose to assimilate the English
to the Irish statute in all its severity, he proposed to enact that
conspiracy to murder should be a felony, punishable with penal
servitude, by whomsoever the conspiracy might be concocted, or wherever
the crime might be designed to be committed.

The principle of such a law, supported as it was by the precedent of
Ireland, could hardly be resisted. And Mr. Walpole, who had been
Home-secretary in Lord Derby's ministry, avowed his determination to
support the bill, "as being right in principle." But even he limited his
promise of support by a condition "that the honor of England should be
previously vindicated;" arguing that the French despatch bore the
character of a demand, based upon allegations which were contrary to
truth, and which, therefore, the ministers were bound to repudiate; and
that to pass such a bill without putting on record a formal denial of
those allegations would, in the general view of Europe, imply a
confession that to them we had no answer to give. And it was this
consideration which eventually determined the decision of the House, Mr.
Disraeli, who closed the debate on his side, condemning the conduct of
the ministers as "perplexed, timid, confused, wanting in dignity and
self-respect. In not replying to the despatch, they had lost a great
opportunity of asserting the principles of public law." The House,
taking his view of their conduct, threw out the bill by a majority of
nineteen;[309] and the ministry resigned, and was succeeded by one under
the presidency of Lord Derby.

Many of those who on this occasion combined to form the majority had
denounced the bill, as an infringement of the principles of our
constitution. It is, however, evident that, had it passed, it would not
have deserved such a description. It would in no degree whatever have
deprived a foreign resident of safety and the protection of English law,
so long as he should obey that law; and that is all the indulgence that
the constitution ever gave or ought to give. Foreigners had always been
amenable to our courts of justice for any violation of the law. And Lord
Palmerston's bill not only went no farther than removing a certain class
of offences from the category of misdemeanors to that of felonies, but
it also imposed no liability in that respect on foreigners which it did
not at the same time impose on all the Queen's subjects. Indeed, the
bill was so moderate, and the improvement it proposed so desirable,
that, in a subsequent discussion in the House of Lords, Lord Campbell,
the Chief-justice, expressed a hope that Lord Derby's government would
take it up; though Lord Derby, in view of the existing feeling of the
country on the subject, prudently forbore to act on that suggestion.
But, as one of Orsini's most guilty accomplices, a man named Bernard,
was still in London, he caused him to be indicted for murder, as having
incurred that guilt as accessary to the death of some whom the explosion
had killed. The excitement on the question had, however, not died away
when the trial came on; and, though it will, probably, be generally
admitted that the evidence was sufficiently clear, Bernard was

Lord Derby, however, did not long retain his office. Indeed, the Earl
was so conscious that, on questions of general policy, the House of
Commons was inclined to views differing from his own, that he would have
preferred declining the task of forming a ministry, had he not conceived
that, in the difficulty in which the Queen was placed by recent
circumstances, he was bound by his duty to make the attempt, even if the
result of it were merely to obtain a kind of respite for his sovereign
and the country, which might give time for the present excitement of
feeling to calm down. He was not deceived in his forebodings of his
inability to maintain his position. In the course of the next spring he
was twice defeated in the House of Commons--once by the House which he
found in existence, and a second time in one which was the fruit of a
general election. And in the summer of 1859 Lord Palmerston returned to
office, with power increased by the junction of many of those who had
helped to overthrow him in 1858, but who now combined with him to strike
a similar blow at his Conservative successor.

Yet, brief as was Lord Derby's tenure of power, it was made memorable by
the commencement of a movement which cannot be regarded as devoid of
constitutional importance, since, though originally it was only designed
to supply a temporary re-enforcement to our ancient constitutional
forces, the regular army and the militia, it has eventually created a
force which, to the great honor of those who constitute it, has become a
permanent addition to them. In the great war against Revolutionary
France, when it was generally believed that those who held rule in Paris
were contemplating an invasion of these islands, Pitt, as we have seen,
had encouraged the formation of corps of volunteers, which continued to
be of great use till the very end of the war, by performing, in
conjunction with the militia, a great portion of the home duties which
must otherwise have fallen on the line regiments, and thus disengaging
the regular army for service on the Continent. There was now no such
formidable enemy to be dreaded as the first Napoleon, but in every part
of Europe affairs were in a state so unquiet that every kingdom seemed
at times on the very brink of war; and since, if it should once break
out, no one could feel confident that we should not be involved in it,
or, if we should be, who would be our allies or our enemies, measures of
precaution and self-defence seemed as needful now as they had been sixty
years before. Our boldest statesmen were disquieted and anxious; and the
nation at large, sharing their uneasiness, kindled with the feeling that
it was a time to show that the present generation inherited the
self-denying patriotism of their fathers. Leaders were not wanting again
to prompt the formation of a volunteer force. The government at once saw
the value of the scheme. Fortunately, the Secretary for War, Colonel
Peel, happened to be an old soldier, a veteran who had learned the art
of war under Wellington himself; and he, having great talents for
organization, placed the force from its infancy on a sound footing. How
thoroughly the movement harmonized with the martial spirit of the
nation--to which, indeed, it owed its birth--is shown by the history of
the force, which now, above twenty years after its original formation,
maintains its full numbers and yearly improves its efficiency. Though
there has not for many years been any apprehension of war, above one
hundred and twenty thousand men still annually devote no small portion
of their time to the acquisition of military discipline and science, and
that so successfully, that, by the testimony of the most experienced
judges, they have attained a degree of efficiency which, if the
necessity for their services should ever arise, would render them
valuable and worthy comrades to the more regularly trained army. Lord
Derby retired from office while the force was still in its infancy; but
Lord Palmerston was equally sensible of its value, and gave a farther
proof of his appreciation of the vast importance of measures of national
defence by the vigor with which he carried out the recommendations of a
royal commission which had been appointed by the preceding ministry to
investigate the condition of our national defences. Its report had
pointed out the absolute necessity of an improved system of protection
for our great dockyards and arsenals, which, from their position on the
coast, were more liable to attack than inland fortresses would have
been, had we had such. And, in accordance with that warning, in the
summer of 1860, Lord Palmerston proposed the grant of a large sum of
money for the fortification of our chief dockyards. It was opposed on a
strange variety of grounds; some arguing that the proposed
fortifications were superfluous, because our navy was the defence to
which the nation was wont deservedly to trust; some that they were
needless, because no other nation was in a condition to attack us;
others that they were disgraceful, because it was un-English and mean to
skulk behind stone walls, and because Lycurgus had refused to trust to
stone walls for the safety of Sparta; and one member, the chief
spokesman of a new and small party, commonly known as the
"peace-at-any-price party," boldly denounced the members of the
commission as a set of "lunatics" for framing such a report, and the
ministers as guilty of "contemptible cowardice" for suggesting to the
nation that there was any danger in being undefended. But the ministry
prevailed by a large majority;[310] the money was voted, and the nation
in general warmly approved of the measure. As Lord Palmerston
subsequently expressed it, "the government, the Parliament, and the
nation acted in harmonious concert"[311] on the subject.

One of the arguments against it which the objectors had brought forward
was, that the ministry was not unanimous in the conviction of the
necessity; and we learn from the "Life of the Prince Consort"[312] that
Mr. Gladstone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was vehement in his
resistance to it, threatening even to carry his opposition so far as to
resign his office, if it were persevered in. And, as has been intimated
on a previous page, this was not the only question on which in the
course of this year the Prime-minister did in his heart differ from his
Chancellor of the Exchequer, though he did not think it expedient to
refuse his sanction to his proposals on a matter belonging to his own
department, the Exchequer. The subject on which he secretly doubted his
colleague's judgment was one of the proposals made in the Budget of the
year. As has already been mentioned, the transaction throws a rather
curious light on the occasional working of our ministerial system; and
the fate of the measure in the two Houses of Parliament is also
deserving of remark and recollection, as re-opening the question, which
had not been agitated for nearly a century, as to the extent of the
power of the House of Lords with respect to votes of money. In a former
chapter[313] we have had occasion to mention the angry feeling on the
part of the House of Commons which, in the year 1772, had been evoked by
the act of the House of Lords, in making some amendments on a bill
relating to the exportation of corn which had come up to them from the
Commons. A somewhat similar act had, as we have also seen, revived the
discussion a few years later, when the minister of the day had shown a
more temperate feeling on the subject. On neither occasion, however, had
the question of the privileges of the Lords been definitively settled;
and no occasion had since arisen for any consideration of the subject.
But the Budget of 1860 contained a clause which, in spite of the
deserved reputation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a skilful
financier, was not regarded with general favor. There was a large
deficiency in the revenue for the year; but while, among his expedients
for meeting it, Mr. Gladstone proposed an augmentation of the
income-tax, he proposed also to repeal the excise duty on paper, which
produced about a million and a quarter. It is now known that the
Prime-minister himself highly disapproved of the sacrifice at such a
time of so productive a tax.[314] And, if that had been suspected at the
time, the House of Commons would certainly not have consented to it;
even when the ministry was supposed to be unanimous in its approval of
it, it was only carried by a majority of nine; and, when the bill
embodying it came before the House of Lords, a Whig peer, who had
himself been formerly Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord Melbourne's
administration, moved its rejection, and it was rejected by a majority
of eighty-nine.

The rejection of a measure relating to taxation caused great excitement
among a large party in the House of Commons--so violent, indeed, that
the only expedient that presented itself to the Prime-minister, if he
would prevent the proposal of some step of an extreme and mischievous
character, was to take the matter into his own hands. Had he been able
to act entirely on his own judgment, it may, perhaps, be thought that,
with his sentiments on the inexpediency of the measure which had been
rejected, he would have preferred a silent acquiescence in the vote of
the Lords; but he would have been quite unable to induce the majority of
his own supporters, and even some of his own colleagues, to adopt so
moderate a course; and accordingly he moved the appointment of a
committee to examine and report on the practice of Parliament in regard
to bills for imposing or repealing taxes. And when it had made its
report, which was purely of an historical character, setting forth the
precedents bearing on the subject, he proposed three resolutions,
asserting "that the right of granting aids and supplies to the crown is
in the Commons alone, as an essential part of their constitution, etc.;
that, although the Lords had exercised the power of rejecting bills of
several descriptions relating to taxation by negativing the whole, yet
the exercise of that power by them had not been frequent, and was justly
regarded by the Commons with peculiar jealousy, as affecting their
rights, etc.; and that, to guard for the future against an undue
exercise of that power by the Lords, and to secure to the Commons their
rightful control over taxation and supply, the Commons had it in their
power so to impose and remit taxes, and to frame bills of supply, that
their right, etc., might be maintained inviolate."

In the debate which ensued his chief opponents came from his own party,
and even his own colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, displayed a
fundamental difference of feeling from his on the subject, a difference
which was expressed by one of the most eloquent supporters of the
resolutions, Mr. Horsman, M.P. for Stroud, saying that "Lord Palmerston
wished to make the independence of the House of Lords a reality, while
Mr. Gladstone seemed to desire that it should be a fiction." Lord
Palmerston, indeed, showed the feeling thus attributed to him in a
statesman-like declaration that, if "this nation had enjoyed a greater
amount of civil, political, social, and religious liberty than, as he
believed, any other people in the world, that result had been
accomplished, not by vesting in either of the three estates, the Crown,
the Lords, or the Commons, exclusive or overruling power over the
others, but by maintaining for each its own separate and independent
authority, and also by the three powers combining together to bear and
forbear, endeavoring by harmonious concert with each other to avoid
those conflicts and clashings which must have arisen if independent
authority and independent action had been exerted by each or by all." He
entered into the history of the question, explaining that, though "each
branch of the Legislature retained its respective power of rejecting any
measure, the Commons had claimed from time immemorial particular
privileges in regard to particular measures, and especially the
exclusive right of determining matters connected with the taxation of
the people. They claimed for themselves, and denied to the Lords, the
right of originating, altering, or amending such measures; but, as long
ago as 1671, the Attorney-general, in a memorable conference between the
two Houses, had admitted that the Lords, though they could not originate
or amend, had, nevertheless, power to reject money-bills;" and this
admission he regarded as consistent with common-sense, for "it was well
known that, though the Commons contended for the right of originating
measures for the grant of supply, and of framing bills with that object,
according to their belief of what was best for the public interest, yet
such bills could not pass into law without the assent of the Lords; and
it was clear that an authority whose assent was necessary to give a
proposal the force of law, must, by the very nature of things, be at
liberty to dissent and refuse its sanction."

The committee had enumerated a large number of precedents (above thirty)
in which, since that conference, the Lords had rejected such bills; but
the cases were not in general exactly similar to that now under
consideration, since the bills which they had rejected had commonly, if
not in every case, been for the imposition and not for the repeal of a
tax; and in most cases some question of national policy had been
involved which had influenced their vote. But the view which Lord
Palmerston pressed on the House was that the present was "a case in
which party feelings ought to be cast aside. It was one in which higher
and larger interests than those of party were concerned, and in which
the course that the House now took would be a precedent to guide future
Parliaments." He pointed out, moreover, that the smallness of the
majority in the House of Commons had been to the Lords "some
encouragement to take this particular step," and that "he was himself
led to think that they had taken it, not from any intention to step out
of their province, and to depart from the line of constitutional right
which the history of the country has assigned them, but from motives of
policy dependent on the circumstances of the moment; and therefore he
thought it would be wise if the Commons forbore to enter into a conflict
with the Lords on a ground which might really not exist, but satisfied
themselves with a declaration of what were their own constitutional
powers and privileges. It was of the utmost importance in a constitution
like ours, where there are different branches, independent of each
other, each with powers of its own, and where cordial and harmonious
action is necessary, that care should be taken to avoid the commencement
of an unnecessary quarrel, and the party that acted otherwise would
incur a grave responsibility."

Mr. Gladstone, however, though he ended by expressing his concurrence in
the resolution proposed by his chief, used very different language
respecting the vote of the House of Lords, characterizing it as "a
gigantic innovation, the most gigantic and the most dangerous that had
been attempted in our time," since "the origination of a bill for the
imposition of a tax, or the amendment of a money-bill, was a slight
thing compared with the claim to prevent the repeal of a tax;" and,
dealing with assertions which he had heard, that in this instance "the
House of Commons had been very foolish and the House of Lords very
wise," he asked whether that really described the constitution under
which we live. The House of Commons could not be infallible in matters
of finance more than in other matters. It might make errors, but he
demanded to know whether those errors in finance were or were not liable
to correction by the House of Lords. If they were, "what became of the
privileges of the Commons?" On the other hand, Mr. Disraeli, as leader
of the Opposition or Conservative party, supported the resolutions, and
applauded the speech of the Prime-minister, as "a wise, calm, and ample
declaration of a cabinet that had carefully and deliberately considered
this important subject. It had acknowledged that the conduct of the
Lords was justified by law and precedent, and sanctioned by policy," and
he maintained that it showed that "the charge made by the Chancellor of
the Exchequer was utterly untenable, and had no foundation." And Mr.
Horsman, taking a large general view of the legitimate working of the
parliamentary constitution, argued that, while it was an undoubted rule
that "all taxes should originate with the Commons, as that elective and
more immediately responsible assembly that is constantly referred back
to the constituencies, the reviewing power of a permanent and
independent chamber was no less essential;" and that, considering that
"the Reform Bill of 1832 had given a preponderance of powers to the
Commons, and that the tendency of any farther Reform Act must be in the
same direction, so far from narrowing the field of action for the peers,
the wiser alternative might be to adopt a generous construction of their
powers, with a view to preserving the equilibrium that is held to be
essential to the safety and well-working of the constitution. The House
of Commons," he concluded, "is perpetually assuming fresh powers and
establishing new precedents. Virtually all bills now originate with the
Commons; but this is not the consequence of any aggressive spirit in
them, but is the necessary and inevitable result of the historic working
of the constitution; and so this act of the Lords was but the natural
working of the constitution to meet a definite emergency." The
resolutions were passed, the first and third without a division; the
second, to which an amendment had been proposed, designed to limit the
force of the precedents alleged as justifying the act of the Lords, by a
majority of nearly four hundred.[315] In their form and language the
resolutions cannot be said to have greatly affected the power claimed by
the Lords, and exercised by them in this instance. The first two were
simply declaratory of acknowledged principles or facts, and the third
intimated no desire to guard against anything but an undue exertion by
the Lords of the right which they were admitted to possess. But it can
hardly be doubted that the intention even of Lord Palmerston, dictated
by the strong feeling which he perceived to prevail in the House of
Commons on the subject, was to deter the Lords from any future exercise
of their powers of review and rejection of measures relating to
taxation, when, perhaps, the Commons might be under less prudent
guidance; nor that the effect of the resolutions will correspond with
the design rather than with the language of the mover, and will prevent
the Lords, unless under the pressure of some overpowering necessity,
from again interfering to control the Commons in such matters. At the
same time it seems superfluous to point out that one claim advanced by
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was apparently carried beyond his
usual discretion by his parental fondness for the rejected bill, is
utterly unreconcileable with the maintenance of any constitution at all
that can deserve the name. When there are three bodies so concerned in
the legislation that the united consent of all is indispensable to give
validity to any act, to claim for any one of them so paramount an
authority that, even if it should adopt a manifestly mischievous course,
neither of the others should have the right to control or check or
correct the error, would be to make that body the irresponsible master
of the whole government and nation; to invest it with that "overruling
power" which Lord Palmerston with such force of reasoning had
deprecated; and to substitute for that harmonious concert of all to
which, in his view, the perfection of our liberties was owing, a
submission to one, and that the one most liable to be acted upon by the
violence or caprice of the populace. He was a wise man who said that he
looked on the tyranny of one man as an evil, but on the tyranny of a
thousand as a thousand times worse. And for this reason also the
resolutions which were now adopted seem to have been conceived in a
spirit of judicious moderation, since, while rendering it highly
improbable that the Lords would again reject a measure relating to
taxation, it avoided absolutely to extinguish their power to do so. Lord
Palmerston, it may be thought, foresaw the possibility of an occasion
arising when the notoriety that such a power still existed might serve
as a check to prevent its exercise from being required. In the very case
which had given rise to this discussion he regarded it as certain that
the feeling of the majority of the nation approved of the action of the
peers; and, as what had occurred once might occur again, it was
certainly within the region of possibility that another such emergency
might arise, when the Lords might interfere with salutary effect to save
the country from the evil result of ill-considered legislation; finance
being, above all others, the subject on which a rash or unscrupulous
minister may find the greatest facility for exciting the people by
plausible delusions. There is, moreover, another reason why it would not
only be impolitic, but absolutely unfair, to deprive the Lords
altogether of their power of rejection even in cases of taxation;
namely, that the Commons, when imposing taxes, are taxing the Lords
themselves, as well as the other classes of the community; while the
Lords alone of the whole nation are absolutely unrepresented in the
House of Commons. There is a frequent cry for a graduated income-tax;
and surely if an unscrupulous demagogue in office were to contrive such
a graduation as would subject a peer to three times the income-tax borne
by a commoner, it would be a monstrous iniquity if the peers were to
have no power of protecting themselves in their own House.

In the last sentence of his speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer had
"respectfully reserved to himself the freedom of acting in such a way as
should appear to offer any hope of success in giving effect by a
practical measure to the principle contained in the first resolution."
And it was, probably, an exemplification of the power of which he thus
bespoke the use that he the next year struck out a scheme for insuring
the repeal of the paper-duties, including it in one bill with all his
other financial propositions, instead of dividing them in the ordinary
way in several distinct bills. It was a manoeuvre which too much
resembled the system of "tacking," which had been so justly denounced as
one of the most unseemly manoeuvres of faction in the previous
century.[316] But, as some of the principal reasons which in the
preceding year had led the Lords to condemn the repeal had ceased to
exist, and the deficiency of the revenue had been converted into a
surplus, they thought it wiser to prove their superiority of wisdom to
the House of Commons by showing a more conciliatory spirit, and passed
the bill; though the course adopted, which had the effect of depriving
the Lords of that power of examination of the details of the financial
scheme of the government which they had hitherto enjoyed without any
question or dispute, was strongly protested against in both Houses, and
by some members who were not generally unfriendly to the administration.

A hundred years had now elapsed since George III. ascended the throne.
It had been a period full of transactions of great importance,
developing the constitution in such a manner and to such an extent as to
make a change in its character but little inferior to those which had
been produced by the contests of the preceding century. One principal
result of the Revolution of 1688 has been described as having been the
placing of the political power of the state chiefly in the hands of the
aristocracy. The Reform Bill of 1832, which has been sometimes called a
"second Revolution," transferred that power to the middle classes.[317]
And what may be called the logical sequence of the later measures is the
contrary of that which was designed to flow from the earlier ones. The
changes which were effected in 1688 were intended to promote, and were
believed to have insured, stability; to have established institutions of
a permanent character, as far as human affairs can be invested with
permanency. And down to the death of George II. the policy of succeeding
ministers, of whom Walpole may be taken as the type, as he was
unquestionably the most able, aimed chiefly at keeping things as they
were. _Quieta non movere_. The Peerage Bill, proposed by a
Prime-minister thirty years after the Revolution, was but an exaggerated
instance of the perseverance with which that object was kept in view.
But the Reform Bill of 1832, like the Emancipation Act which preceded
it, on the contrary, contained in itself, in its very principle, the
seeds and elements of farther change.

The Emancipation Act, following and combined with the repeal of the Test
Act, rendered it almost inevitable that religious toleration would in
time be extended to all persuasions, even to those adverse to
Christianity. And the Reform Bill, as has been already pointed out, by
the principles on which it based its limitations of the franchise, laid
the foundation for farther and repeated revision and modification.[318]
The consequence is, that the aim of statesmen of the present day differs
from that which was pursued by their predecessors. The statesman of the
present day can no longer hope to avoid farther changes, and must,
therefore, be content to direct his energies to the more difficult task
of making them moderate and safe, consistent with the preservation of
that balance of powers to which the country owes the liberty and
happiness which it has hitherto enjoyed.

It is in this point of view that the diffusion of education, beyond the
blessing which it confers on the individual, is of especial importance
to the state. Political theorists affirm that all men have an equal
right to political power--to that amount, at least, of political power
which is conferred by a vote at elections. Men of practical common-sense
affirm that no one has a right to power of any kind, unless he can be
trusted to forbear employing it to the injury of his fellow-creatures or
of himself. And the only safeguard and security for the proper exercise
of political power is sound and enlightened education. It is unnecessary
to dwell on this point, because our statesmen of both parties (to their
honor) give constant proof of their deep conviction of its importance.

But, in closing our remarks, it may be allowable to point out the
political lesson which, above all others, the teachers of the masses
should seek to inculcate on their pupils. The art of government, and
each measure of government, is, above all other things, the two-sided
shield. There are so many plausible arguments which may be advanced on
each side of almost every question of policy, that no candid man will
severely condemn him who in such disputable matters forms an opinion
different from his own. Age and experience are worse than valueless if
they do not teach a man to think better of his kind; and the history of
the period which we have been considering teaches no lesson more
forcibly than this, that the great majority of educated men, and
especially of our leading statesmen, are actuated by honest and
patriotic motives. And we would presume to urge that more important than
a correct estimate of any one transaction of the past, or even of any
one measure to influence the future, is the habit of putting a candid,
and therefore a favorable, construction on the characters and intentions
of those to whom from time to time the conduct of the affairs of the
nation is intrusted.