The Greville Memoirs

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The Greville Memoirs



The Speakership — Temporary Houses of Parliament — Church Reform — Dissenters' Marriage Bill — Peel's False Position — Burke — Palmerston's Talents as a Man of Business — Sympathy of Continental Courts with the Tories — Abercromby elected Speaker — Defeat of the Government — Tactics of the Opposition — The Speaker does not dine with Peel — Meeting of Stanley's Friends — Debate on the Address — Lord John Russell leads the Opposition — The Stanley Party — Second Defeat of the Government — Peel's Ability — The Lichfield House Meeting — Debate on Lord Londonderry's Appointment — His Speech in the Lords and Resignation — Sir E. Sugden resigns the Great Seal of Ireland — Lady Canterbury — Brougham in the House of Lords — Peel's Readiness and Courage — Lord Canterbury and Stratford Canning proposed for Canada — Approaching Fall of the Peel Government — Meetings of the Opposition — Further Defeat — Sir Robert Peel's own — View of the State of Affairs — He resigns.

February 14th

There has been a wonderful lull for some time past, and though we are said to be, and I believe we in fact are, on the eve of a crisis of great importance, perfect tranquillity prevails universally (except, of course, in Ireland), and men go about their daily occupations without any signs of apprehension. The state of this country is a curious political paradox; however, speculation will soon be lost in certainty, so it is of no use thinking more of the matter. The newspapers have been filled usque ad nauseam with the debates about the Speakership, and both parties are equally confident, but the bets are in favour of Sutton. The argument on his side has been triumphant, and the Abercrombians have not urged the best that they might. Tom Duncombe, who at first said he would vote for Sutton, and now votes the other way, puts it on the true ground, 'that it is a good factious vote.' I have little doubt that Peel will come down [205] in Parliament with a fair and reasonable case, but I have no hope that he will propose or agree to anything satisfactorily about the Irish Church; and if anything overturns his Government, it will be that unhappy question of appropriation. From George Dawson's language, whom I fell in with the other morning, I see they are resolved to stand like rocks in defending 'the Church,' as they call it. All this week and the last I have been at my office the whole day with our Judicial Committee, which works very well. We have Shadwell, Parke, Bosanquet and Erskine continually; and Vaughan, Nicholl and Jenner occasionally, Alava talked to me about the Duke of Wellington, of whom he said everybody was afraid, even his nearest relations, and that he found him ' très changé pour lui.'

February 15th

Dined at Miss Berry's, and Lord John Russell came after dinner; told me he had 320 people to vote with him on the Speakership (of whom perhaps 20 will not come), so his party make sure of it. Nobody talks of anything else, and what has been written on the subject in pamphlets and newspapers would fill volumes. Though it is become inconceivably tiresome, I cannot help writing and talking about it myself, so impossible is it to avoid the contagion. I went yesterday to see the two Houses of Parliament; [l] the old House of Lords (now House of Commons) is very spacious and convenient; but the present House of Lords is a wretched dog-hole. The Lords will be very sulky in such a place, and in a great hurry to get back to their own House, or to have another. For the first time there is a gallery in the House of Commons reserved for reporters, which is quite inconsistent with their standing orders, and the prohibition which still in form exists against publishing the debates. It is a sort of public and avowed homage to opinion, and a recognition of the right of the people to know through the medium of the press all that passes within those walls.

[1] The old Houses of Parliament were burnt down on October 16, 1834, during Mr. Greville's absence from town in the autumn. The Houses here spoken of were the temporary buildings used during the erection of the new Houses.

[206] Lord John said to me, ' Do you remember last year, when we were talking, I told you I thought the House of Lords would throw out some measure or other — that there would be a change of Government, a dissolution; and then we should have a Parliament returned with which nobody could govern the country? You see we have reached that point.' According to their several calculations, both the opposite parties continue to claim a majority, or rather on the Tory side an equality; and as these are made by men experienced in the composition of the House, and as almost everybody is pledged and committed in some way or other, it is a perfect enigma to me how one or the other can be so deceived. The Whigs, having discovered that Abercromby must be proposed ' upon a great principle ' (which is great as omne ignotum is magnificum for they have never given a hint of what the principle is), have now found out that the English Church Reform which is in agitation is a very bad move on the part of the Government, as the people do not care about Church Reform here — do not want any such thing. This is, very possibly, in great measure true; for the people, who are urged and excited by the Radical leaders, will be sure to grow indifferent about such reforms as they can obtain by legitimate means, and with the concurrence of legitimate authority, and be invited to agitate for those which may be more difficult or slow of accomplishment. Sydney Smith said last night that he hears from those who know that it will be very sweeping; but he thinks it will not touch the great livings, nor meddle with advowsons. He concludes that at the same time the Dissenters will be relieved from Church rates, that tithes will be extinguished, and the question of Dissenters' marriages settled. This has been an enormous scandal, and its continuance has been owing to the pride, obstinacy, and avarice of the Church; they would not give up the fees they received from this source, and they were satisfied to celebrate these rites in church while the parties were from the beginning to the end of the service protesting against all and every part of it, often making a most indecent noise and interruption. All these grievous abuses must be done away [207] with; and deeply responsible are those who never would hear of their being done away with before. These guilty parties are the clergy and the Tories, both of whom, now that it is almost too late, have consented to drop their arrogant pretensions, and to submit to those necessary and reasonable reforms against which they have so bitterly inveighed, and so resolutely fought. We are disgusted and shocked at reading Croly's account of the scandalous conduct of the Catholic clergy in Ireland, with regard to the emoluments they extort from their miserable flocks, and at the systematic desecration of holy things which they countenance and practise; but when the difference is considered between their spiritual condition and their moral composition as a class, the conduct of the clergy here appears just as revolting. The Irish clergy are generally sprung from the lowest class, and have received a bad education at Maynooth; they depend for subsistence upon the voluntary liberality or devotion of their people, they have few motives or principles of restraint, and every incentive to follow the shameful course which they do; but the English clergy are generally respectably born, well educated, and amply endowed, and yet they are content to be the ministers of a scandalous system, which, if it were not a source of profit to themselves, they would not tolerate for an instant. Instead of compelling the Dissenters to be married in church, if they had been really penetrated with any devotional feelings, or by any considerations of delicacy and charity, they would long ago have complained of this necessity as a grievance, and besieged the Legislature with entreaties to relieve the Church from the scandal, and themselves from so painful and odious a duty. But it was a badge of inferiority and dependence forced upon the Dissenters, and a source of profit to themselves; and therefore they defended and maintained it, and this is what they call defending the Church; and when the Dissenters themselves pray to be relieved from the tax and the humiliation, and liberal men support their prayer, a cry is got up that the Church is in danger. When the Dissenters, having prayed in vain, grow louder and bolder in their [208] demands, and the cries of the Churchmen gradually sink into a whine, which is at last silenced in submission, the Church really is in danger; and then, when it no longer can be refused, it becomes perilous to grant the boon which justice and wisdom have so long required. So it is, and has been with all obstinate and senseless denials, followed by reluctant and tardy concessions — with Catholic emancipation, the Test and Corporation Acts, Parliamentary Reform, and with everything else; and thus, one of the great difficulties which beset Peel and his Government is, that they stand in an utterly false position. As a statesman, it must be mortifying to him to reflect that all the great measures which his political life has been spent in opposing have been carried in spite of him, and that whatever danger may have resulted from this cause is in great measure owing to the opposition he was enabled, by his great talents and his influence, or rather the influence of the party which he led, to give to those measures. He contrived totally to fail in preventing the success of the measures themselves, but so to mar and delay them as to obviate the good that might have been produced by timely and voluntary concessions; and now, coming forward as he says, 'to resist the pressure from without,' he finds himself compelled to yield to that pressure; for what, after all, is the language which he now holds, what are his addresses, his speeches, his promises, his Church Commission, but a surrender to the spirit and the principle of Reform, and to the demands of the people — the people, as contra-distinguished from those great interests on whose support he has depended, and whose wishes or prejudices he has consulted? For assuredly, neither the King, nor the Church, nor the aristocracy, seriously and sincerely desire these or any other reforms, and only agree to them from necessity. Peel is, I think, right; he has no other alternative. Such is the force and power of public opinion, that no Government can resist it; and if Peel can succeed in restraining and directing it, if he can convert it from a destructive into a conservative element, he will render such a great service as will cancel all the former mischief he has done; but he [209] enters with disadvantage upon a course which implies at the outset the surrender of much of the governing principle of his political life, and in which neither friend nor foe can doubt that the conduct he adopts, however justifiable, necessary, indispensable, is compulsory and unpalatable. A man who is called to the head of affairs must undoubtedly act, not according to any impracticable obstinate theories of his own, but according to the state in which he finds affairs, no matter how produced or by whom; but it is a very different thing to adopt a system reluctantly and under necessity, because somebody else by his incapacity or his misfortune has rendered it indispensable, and to do so after you yourself have brought about this state of things: and such is the false position of Peel with all his Tory associates. This, however, is begging the question in dispute between the two great antagonistic parties. Peel would say that the imprudent concessions and reckless changes of the Whigs have made the difficulty; the Whigs would say that the resistance of the Tories to all moderate and gradual reforms produced the sweeping measure of '31, and the excitement that was partly its cause and partly its consequence.

February 17th.

Yesterday I read Burke's appeal from the new to the old Whigs, which contains astonishing coincidences with the present times. His definition of the people is somewhat tumid and obscure, and involved in a splendid confusion of generalities and abstruse doctrine; but it is a wonderful monument of his genius, and exhibits that extent of knowledge and accuracy of insight into the nature of parties and the workings of political ambition which make him an authority for all times, and show him to be in the political what Shakespeare was in the moral world. But his writings, however as objects of study they may influence the opinions or form the judgement of young men, would have no more power than a piece of musty parchment to arrest the tide of present violence, and superinduce reflection and calmness. A speech of Tom Duncombe's would produce far greater effect than the perusal of a discourse of Burke's. Wisdom never operates directly on masses; it may work [210] upon them through secondary and by indirect means, but it cannot face the noise of actual contest, where passion and not reason is always uppermost. Nobody but Burke could have described so well the Dukes of Devonshire and Bedford of the present day, who appear to have lost their senses, and to be ready to peril all their great possessions to gratify the passions of the moment. He says:— 'But riches do not in all cases secure even an inert and passive resistance; there are always in that description men whose fortunes, when their minds are once vitiated by passion or evil principle, are by no means a security from their actually taking their part against the public tranquillity. We see to what low and despicable passion of all kinds many men in that class are ready to sacrifice the patrimonial estates which might be perpetuated in their families with splendour, and with the fame of hereditary benefactors to mankind, from generation to generation. Do we not see how lightly people treat their fortunes when they are under the passion of gaming? The game of resentment or ambition will be played by many of the great and rich as desperately and with as much blindness to the consequences as any other game. Passion blinds them to the consequences as far as they concern themselves, and as to the consequences with regard to others, they are no part of their consideration.'

The other night I met some clerks of the Foreign Office to whom the very name of Palmerston is hateful, but I was surprised to hear them (Mellish particularly, who can judge both from capacity and opportunity) give ample testimony to his abilities. They said that he wrote admirably, and could express himself perfectly in French, very sufficiently in Italian, and understood German; that his diligence and attention were unwearied — he read everything and wrote an immense quantity; that the foreign Ministers (who detest him) did him justice as an excellent man of business. His great fault is want of punctuality, and never caring for an engagement if it did not suit him, keeping everybody waiting for hours on his pleasure or caprice. This testimony is beyond suspicion, and it is confirmed by the opinions of his [211] colleagues; but it is certain that he cut a very poor figure in Parliament all the time he was in office before.

At the Travellers' yesterday I fell in with Bülow, who is just come back from Berlin to resume his mission. He told me that he was on such terms with Palmerston that it was impossible for him to stay here, and that for some time past he had given up communicating with him except upon the most indispensable matters and in the most formal way. He then gave me an account of the reception of the news of the change of our Government at Berlin, where the Emperor of Russia happened to be at the time. The Empress had come there on a visit to her father, and the Emperor (who is supposed to have preserved his conjugal fidelity immaculate) had rushed from Moscow without any notice to see her, and was still there when news of this great event arrived. There is something very characteristic in the first impression which the intelligence produced, at once manifesting the secret wishes of the party and their ignorance and apparent incapacity of comprehending the nature of our Constitution, and the limited extent of the power of the King of England. The Emperor immediately conceived that the whole system of the late Government would be reversed at home and abroad, that Leopold would be driven from Belgium, the Dutch dominion restored, and the Quadruple Alliance dissolved. Bülow, who has been in England long enough to know better the real state of things, endeavoured to undeceive him, and succeeded, though not without great difficulty; but when he proceeded to explain to him that the new Government would very likely not be able to keep their places, and that at any rate they would be compelled to conduct the Government upon the principle of Reform which the late Government had established, the Emperor could not by any means comprehend it, nor why or how there could be any difficulty in keeping their places if the King was resolved to support them, and had appointed them at his own pleasure. It would seem as if they had never read the last two or three years of our history, or, having read it, as if the habits of unbounded power in which they are born, educated, [212] and expect to die, had rendered their understandings utterly impervious to the apparent paradox of a crowned head destitute of power to choose his own Ministers. The Duke of Cumberland, who was likewise there, began by talking the same nonsense, and was full of the destruction of the Reform Bill; but Billy Holmes, who, whatever else he may be, is a very sharp fellow, succeeded in muzzling him. This account which Bülow gave me is, however, more than amusing; it is instructive, because it shows which way the real wishes of the absolute sovereigns point, and makes it highly probable that they look upon the present settlement of Europe as one only ad interim, and to be remodelled whenever an opportunity shall present itself. They are satisfied at present with damming and dyking out the waters of Liberalism, but they hope to drain the lands in which they are collected, and to place themselves for ever out of the danger of an inundation. The war of opinions is in fact declared; it may languish, there may be truces, but there will be no peace in our time.

February 19th

The important day is arrived, and it dawns in sunshine and south wind. In a few hours the question of the Speakership will be decided, and there will at least be the gain (wherever the loss may fall) of getting rid of a subject which has become intolerably tiresome. For the last three weeks every newspaper has been literally filled with the controversy, every club engaged in betting on the event; in every room, at the corner of every street, nobody talked of anything else. It was the first enquiry of every man you met, 'Well, what do you hear to-day? they say Sutton will win by 30.' The next man (a Whig) would say, 'It is safe; Abercromby will have 317 votes sure' each party unboundedly confident, and both securing a retreat by declaring that defeat will not signify. Half the Opposition think it a false move to try it, and the more sober of the Government are conscious that a defeat will be very injurious.

We had a Council yesterday, and a levee more than usually brilliant; all the new Ministers and all the old, the [213] whole Corps Diplomatique, with a host of others, mixed up in the first entrée room, and all very civil and good-humoured. The King received the ex-Ministers very graciously, and talked to them all, at least to all I saw pass by. Brougham alone was absent, and Lord Spencer, who was hardly to be considered as one of them, and is not in town, though, by-the-bye, I think I am wrong in this, because there were others whom I did not see — Duncannon, Spring Rice, and Hobhouse.

February 20th.

The great battle is over and the Government defeated, 316 to 306. Such a division never was known before in the House of Commons, and the accuracy of the calculations is really surprising. Mulgrave told me three days ago they had 317 people, which with the Teller makes the exact number. Holmes went over the other list, and made it 307 — also correct. In the House so justly had they reckoned, that when the numbers first counted (306) were told to Duncannon in the lobby he said, 'Then we shall win by 10.' Burdett and Cobbett went away, which with Tellers makes a total of 626 members in the House. All the Irish members voted but 4, all the Scotch but 3, all the English but 25. The Irish and Scotch, in fact, made the majority.

The elation on one side and the depression on the other were naturally considerable, and there was not time last night to adjust scattered thoughts. Much money was won and lost; everybody betted. I won £55, for on the whole I thought (though quite a toss-up) that the chances were rather in favour of Abercromby. I had a better opinion of the cleverness of the managers on his side, and their amazing confidence staggered me, so that after at first believing Sutton to be sure, I finished by leaning the other way. The debate seems to have been dull — Sutton was dull, Peel was dull; Stanley clever, strong against the Opposition, but thought to have been indiscreet. A Tory told me it was a second edition of the thimblrig speech, which, if so, will not do him good. He carried apparently very few people with him, but made one convert — Angerstein — who changed his [214] vote because Stanley made out that Abercromby was for the Ballot. This seems an excellent reason why he should be opposed as a Minister or a candidate, but none why he should not sit in the chair of the House. Lord John Russell is said to have spoken remarkably well, which is important to them as a party, being his first appearance as their leader. Peel and the Duke dined at Lord Salisbury's, and all the Tories were invited there in the evening, with the intention probably of celebrating their anticipated victory; and, if so, their merry meeting must have been changed to dismal alarms, for there is no denying or concealing that it is a very serious disaster. The moral effect of beginning with a defeat is bad; it discourages the wavering and timid, who might have felt half disposed to support the Government and the Constitution. The trial of strength leads to very uncomfortable reflections, for every man of these 317 is prepared to go all lengths; and though there are probably none among the majority who will support Government, there are some among the minority who will oppose them —Dudley Stuart, Angerstein, and Burdett who went away.

The majority of the world naturally look at this event with the eye of party, and as a triumph one way and a mortification the other; but I, who have no party prejudices and predilections, and care nothing who is in the chair, and not much who is in office, provided 'the thing,' as Cobbett calls it, is kept going, look at this division with sorrow and alarm, as affording undoubted evidence that no prospect appears of the possibility of this or any other Government being able to accomplish the purposes for which a Government is intended. We seem to be arrived at what is vulgarly termed a dead lock. Nothing can be more clear than that the present Ministers are in a minority, and that all the other parties in the House united can beat them when they will. It is equally clear that they can beat any section of their opponents whenever these are disunited. The political attraction which binds together the mass cannot last long, and there are too many elements of repulsion in esse or in posse not to insure the speedy disjunction of the several [215] atoms; but in the meantime, if they can be held together, what is to happen? Peel will take a beating or two, but he may be so beaten as to be compelled to resign or again dissolve. Suppose he dissolves. The Tories think the reaction is on the increase, and that the Conservative interest would gain largely by another dissolution; still there is scarcely a hope of their gaining enough to enable Peel to carry on the Government with such constant and trustworthy majorities as can alone render it efficacious and secure. On the other hand, if Peel resigns, the Opposition, should they return to power, must dissolve; for what can they do against 300 Tories ? and what Ministry can by possibility be formed that can have a certain majority of its own out of the heterogeneous mixture of Whigs, Radicals, Repealers, and men of every shade and gradation of opinion? Their situation, notwithstanding their victory, seems worse than that of their antagonists with reference to their power as a party; and if they do storm Downing Street and St. James's, and go again to the country, as far as appearances go, what chance have they of materially bettering their condition, and getting another House of Commons more manageable and better adapted to their purpose than this? This victory, therefore, will not enable the old Government to triumph over the new, or materially affect the positions of the two parties, and, as somebody said last night, they will be very much puzzled what to do with their majority now they have got it.

The first impression of great events is generally one of alarm, which upon this occasion subsequent reflection has diminished as far as relates to the immediate peril of the present Government. Speculation already began last night as to the Address, on which some pretend no amendment will be moved, others that one will, which as certainly will be carried. No question can, however, be more embarrassing to the Whig leaders, for they would be disposed in prudence to abstain from any very violent measure, but will find great difficulty in dealing with their associates. If they resolve upon pushing their victory and amending the [216] Address, they run the risk of exciting terror by their violence; if they avoid this, probably some of the Radicals will do it, and then they must support Government on the Address against a Radical section of the House, or join with the Radicals in one of two ways, either by supporting their amendment or persuading them to withdraw it; in either case drawing closer the bonds of that connexion which they are ashamed and afraid to avow, and which will, I strongly incline to believe, be in the end fatal to the Whig party. The only thing that can truly be predicted is, that all is confusion, uncertainty, embarrassment, a state of things full of difficulty and peril, but not totally without hope.

February 21st.

The Government were grievously annoyed at the event of Thursday, and the Duke rejected all the commonplaces of consolation, 'that it would turn out a good thing.' At Lord Salisbury's dinner (to which Peel did not go) they were all very dejected, and the Duke said at once it was as bad as could be; and the thing appeared the worse because they had been led to feel so very secure. He desired his private secretary to have everything ready to quit the Foreign Office at a moment's notice. However, at dinner yesterday at Peel's (a great dinner to all the Ambassadors and twenty-six people) he said to me, 'It is very bad, but I consider the country on its legs again.' 'Do you?' I said, 'I am glad you think so.' 'Oh, yes, I think that, however this may end; I think the country is on its legs again.'

The Whigs are resolved to push their victory with all their energies, and they appear to have no doubt of ousting the Government, and as they are determined to proceed by any and every means in their career, and the others are equally resolved to fight the battle while any means of resistance remain, the strife must be deadly, and such as to extinguish any hope of a coalition between moderate men of both sides for the simple reason that moderation has ascended to Heaven, and such men will no longer be found.

February 23rd.

The Opposition mean to move an amendment to the Address, which they expect to carry by a larger [217] majority than the last. Their tactics are completely arranged, and their understanding with O'Connell and all the Radicals so good that they think there is no danger of any indiscreet ebullition in any quarter. Discarding every prospective consideration, and prepared to encounter all consequences, they concentrate all their energies upon the single object of turning out the Government, in which they have no doubt of succeeding. It is the first time (as far as I know) that any great party ever proceeded upon, and avowed, such a principle as that which binds these people together and puts them in action; namely, to destroy the King's Ministry, without any reference to the measures that Ministry may propose, and without waiting to see how they may intend to carry on the Government. Not only do they throw out of their consideration the conduct of the Administration, but they are resolved to accomplish its destruction, without being prepared to substitute any stronger Government in its room, and with a perfect knowledge that its dissolution must necessarily produce a state of extraordinary embarrassment, from which they do not pretend to have the power of extricating the country. All that they ever condescend to say, in answer to any such remonstrances, is this: 'The King exercised his prerogative in a most extraordinary and unjustifiable manner. We have the same right to reject his Government that he had to turn out ours; if there is embarrassment, it is none of our creating, the King and the Tories must be responsible for it. We care not what are the principles now avowed by them. If they are not Reformers, they cannot govern this country, and are not to be tolerated at the head of affairs. If they are, it is not to be endured that they should usurp our places, and then in defiance of all their principles, and in opposition to all their previous conduct, carry into effect the measures which we should, with perfect consistency, have brought forward. We will listen therefore to nothing. Out they shall go, and till we have got them out, we will never rest, nor desist from our attacks.' 'Quid sit futurum eras, fuge quaerere,' such is the manner of their reasoning. Their intention seems to be [218] to avoid doing anything very desperate, but to keep beating the Government, constantly exhibiting their own power and the helpless state of their adversaries to the world. Some of them affect to deny their union with O'Connell, but they say whatever suits their present purpose. In the case of Manners Sutton, they took care to have the charges against him disseminated through the country, and did their best to have them believed. The constituencies believed them, and instructed their representatives accordingly; and when, by these means, they had secured a majority, they came down at the last moment to the House of Commons and owned that there was not one word of truth in the allegations against him. John Russell had written a letter (perhaps more than one) in which he urged opposition to Sutton, on the ground of his having advised the dissolution of the last Parliament. Goulburn got possession of this letter, which was handed to him during the debate, he does not know by whom. Goulburn told me this himself. He gave it to Peel while he was speaking, or just before. Peel asked John Russell if he had ever said so, and John Russell denied it. Peel did not produce the letter as he might have done, but the story was told in the 'Times' the next day. So in the case of the Bishop of Exeter, and Lord John's controversy with him. He told an untruth, undoubtedly without knowing it, but he might have known it; the lie did its business —

In public spoke it fell with greater force,
And heard by hundreds was believed of course;

and though he afterwards made a very handsome apology, half the people who were influenced by the original statement never heard of the contradiction, or cared for it, if they did; and to show the candour of the Liberal press, the ' Morning Chronicle,' and other papers of that persuasion, which trumpeted forth the original lie, never inserted the subsequent correspondence, and Lord John's contradiction of his own statement. I like him so much personally, that I am sorry for all this. To return to the party, they are boiling with indignation at the idea of another dissolution, and talk of [219] such advice to the King as affording good ground for impeachment, though till they have settled the House of Lords, and had their wicked will of it, the Ministers would be pretty safe before that tribunal for such an act. It is the general opinion that Peel will dissolve, and go once more to the country if he can, but this must depend upon the sort of opposition they offer, and the majorities they can bring into the field. Adolphus Fitzclarence told me that he never saw the King so determined as he is to stand by this Government to the last, and I do not think any of these men will prove deficient in courage.

February 24th.

The Opposition expect a majority of from thirty to forty on the amendment. The union with O'Connell is complete, however long it may last, and he has agreed to give up Repeal, and they are to find some lucrative place for him when they get in again. What he wants is to be a Master of the Rolls in Ireland; the rent fails, and money he must have. It is a wretched thing that there is no buying that man now without disgrace; well would it have been to have made the purchase long ago; and it will not be the least curious part of his curious life if this bargain takes place, and he settles down into the regular discharge of his professional duties, and bona fide abandons agitation. There was great curiosity last night to know whether the Speaker dined with Peel. It is usual for him to dine with the leader of the House of Commons on these occasions, and hear the speech read. Sutton always dined with Althorp, but then Althorp put him in the chair. Abercromby, however, very properly told Peel the difficulty he felt, and that he thought he should only embarrass the company, and Peel acquiesced in his excuse.

February 25th.

The King went down to Parliament in the midst of a vast crowd, and was neither well nor ill received; nobody takes his hat off, but there was some slight cheering. The speech disappointed me, it was rather bald, and so thought some of the moderate men. In the morning there was a meeting at the King's Head, Palace Yard, to which moderate members of Parliament were invited by an [220] anonymous circular. Thirty-three were present, Sir Oswald Mosley in the chair. Graham came to it, and said Lord Stanley would have come also, but that he had invited a few of his friends to assemble at his house, with an object similar to that which had brought the present meeting [l] together, and that if it were agreeable to any of these gentlemen to meet his friends that afternoon he should be glad to see them. They all went, and there were present forty-five or fifty, of whom eight had voted for Abercromby. He made them a speech, stating that it was evident the Government must fall if they were to be repeatedly defeated, and his view of the necessity of obstructing violent measures directed against them was something to this effect. The result was an agreement to meet again this day, and last night a few more names were added to their list. This may, therefore, be considered the Stanley party, and the best thing that can happen will be that this party should grow numerous. Many men do do not like the composition of the Government, and yet wish to support it, without being identified with it, as the majority of those who attend the meetings are disposed to support Peel. Stanley securing them as his adherents, and placing himself at their head, must in fact subscribe to their opinions and disposition; and as men are more inclined to join a numerous than a scanty sect, fresh adherents may repair to that standard. Eventually he will join the Government, and the best chance of weathering the storm will be through this moderate Liberal party.

[1] This meeting (which will probably have important results, as it was the foundation of that which met afterwards at Stanley's, and the formation of this party will turn the balance on the Conservative side) originated in the most insignificant causes. Sir Oswald Mosley, an ordinary person, and a Mr. Young, talking the thing over, suggested to one another to try and get together moderate men, and they penned and sent out a parcel of notes addressed to those who they thought came under that description, bearing no signature and giving no indication of the quarter from which they emanated. When the thirty-three people who came were assembled, they found themselves for the most part strangers to each other, and each asking who such and such an one was. When Graham invited any who chose to go to Lord Stanley's, Mosley rather wanted to decline, to go on with his own meeting, and play an important part, but nobody would hear of this, so he was obliged to go with the rest to Stanley's house.

[221] The debate was opened by Sandon in a speech feebly delivered, but containing good matter. Morpeth made a good speech, moving the amendment. The debate was very dull indeed, Dr. Bowring a total failure. It was expected the House would adjourn, if not divide, and the Speaker put the question, when Peel got up. It was curious to see the lulling of the uproar, and the shuffling and scrambling into seats, till all was quiet and the whole coast clear. He spoke very ably for nearly two hours and a half, his speech not containing much oratory, but in a tone at once lofty and firm, yet discreet, calculated to inspire confidence and to make an impression on all who are impressible. There is no use in entering into details of speeches which are now reported with such perfect fidelity. This may not be without its effect on Stanley's meeting to-day, and his speech will be listened to with intense anxiety to-night. The Opposition (as Duncannon told me) expected a majority of between thirty and forty, so that if it is considerably less than that, it will be tantamount to a defeat.

February 26th.

Stanley spoke last night, attacking both sides, not violently, but announcing his intention to vote against the amendment. The Government were annoyed at his speech, especially at his expressing some sort of disapprobation of the Duke of Wellington, which he would have done well to omit, for many reasons. Lord John Russell, by universal admission even of his enemies, made an excellent speech. I did not hear either him or Stanley. Lord John has surpassed all expectations hitherto, as leader, which is matter of great exultation to his party, but the tide is already beginning to turn, and there are evident symptoms of weakness in the great unwieldy heterogeneous body he is at the head of. Tavistock came to me yesterday morning, and told me his brother had sent for him, ' finding himself in difficulties.' He did not particularise them, but said that naturally, in a situation of such novelty, he found considerable difficulties to contend with. He owned that the meeting at Lichfield House, which O'Connell had attended by invitation, had alarmed and disgusted many of the old Whigs, and it was [222] settled there should be no more such meetings. Then there has been some little correspondence between Ward and Lord John about the Irish Church question, the former wishing to manage the matter, which he brought forward last year, and he wrote to John about it, who replied rather shortly, that he himself intended to submit a motion on the subject. This is a trifle, but trifles like these contribute to form an aggregate of importance, and the moment there is any beginning of disunion or weakness in such a party, a very short time will make it fall to pieces.

Lord Stanley assembled his followers again yesterday to the number of about fifty; other adhesions, and half-adhesions, occurred in the course of the evening, and the result is an expectation that the boasted majority of thirty or forty will dwindle down to four or five, or perhaps be no majority at all. The erection of this standard will therefore, in all probability, save the Government, and defeat the factious designs of the great Whig and Radical coalition; but I distrust Stanley himself, and see the great chance there is of his vanity and selfish ambition producing other difficulties, the pressure of which, though he may not feel it now, will some time hence become heavy to him. His object at present is to gather to himself the largest party he can; but though he may lead them, he can only lead them the way they are minded to go, and the design of his friends is to show themselves Conservatives without being Tories, to save this Government, not from love to it, but from fear of its opponents and of the alternative He certainly may have the appearance of being the arbiter of all great questions, and actually be so to a certain degree, but as his ultimate object must be his return to office, he can only hope to return (at least with any prospects of success) with Peel and the Tories. It is, therefore, egregious folly in him, by an affectation of neutrality and independence, to shock and disgust that great body, which must ever be the strength of a Conservative Government, by twitting the Duke of Wellington and attacking with sarcasms or reproaches certain measures [223] or omissions, or particular members of Government, and especially the Duke himself. The Duke is, after all, the idol of the Tories, and they will not endure that a youth like Stanley shall avail himself of his accidental advantages to treat their great man with levity and disrespect; and all this he has not coolness, sagacity, and temper enough to see, nor to discern that his most becoming and dignified course would be to conduct himself with a seriousness and gravity suitable to the importance of the crisis and of the part he aspires to play and the magnitude of the interests which are at stake. If he believes in his conscience that the Opposition are animated with a spirit of faction, and that their triumph would be the forerunner of revolution or confusion, he should take his stand on a great principle, and support the Government in such a manner as might best enable it to confound the schemes of its antagonists; but all this time he is dreading to be called a Tory, and he does not certainly give up the hope and notion of reuniting himself with the moderate section of his late colleagues. He endeavours to keep up an amicable intercourse with them, and to make them believe that he has no intention of connecting himself more closely with this Government. Such ambiguous conduct, and his occasional asperities and incivilities, have begun already to disgust and alienate the Tories; and though they have too much need of him now not to be obliged to restrain the expression of their feelings, the time may come when he will have need of them, and he will then find the inconvenient consequences of his present behaviour.

February 27th.

They divided at half-past one this morning, 307 to 302. I went over the list before dinner, and made out a majority of six for the Opposition, correct all but one. Gisborne, Howick, and Graham spoke tolerably, O'Connell very good for the first ten minutes, and very bad all the rest. I was not there. Certainly Stanley's conduct is queer. Notwithstanding the sharp things he said against Government in his speech on Wednesday, and various little marks of scorn he throws out here and there, he said to Francis Egerton on [224]Tuesday, after all the Opposition men had been speaking, 'Why does not Peel get up, or at least put up one of the Government, to put an end to all this balderdash?' Francis went and told Peel, who was very much out of sorts (at the state of the debate I suppose), and asked rather angrily for Sir G. Clerk. Francis went to look for Clerk, and when he returned Peel was on his legs. This he told me yesterday morning.

March 5th.

Met Mulgrave at dinner at Seaford's, and he still talks with confidence of turning the Government out; that five or six of Stanley's tail have whisked round again to the Whigs; that they can beat the Government on every question by greater majorities than on the two they have already tried, which were the worst for them, and that any other Government of their party would get through the business of the session.

March 11th.

The repeal of the malt tax was defeated by a majority of 158, much more than was necessary, and it is thought that Government would have done wisely, when they found they were sure of not being beaten, to allow their friends to redeem their pledges (or as many of them as stood deeply committed), for it will be found that several of them will suffer greatly from this vote in their counties. Peel (as usual) made an admirable speech; he continues to distinguish himself by a marked superiority, both in oratory and management, which cannot fail to produce a great effect both in the House of Commons and the country. There is nobody who approaches him, and every day he displays more and more his capacity for government and undoubted fitness for the situation he is in. He cannot help being a great man, because he lives in an age of pigmies; and he will be as great, as great talents without a great mind can make anybody. Even some of the violent Radicals say that if Peel's associates could be disposed of, they would not object to him.

March 13th.

There was a meeting of the Opposition at Lichfield House yesterday, to consider what they should do about Hume's motion to grant the supplies for three months, and the result was that the design should be abandoned. [225] Thus they have shown their teeth without daring to bite. Many of their people would not have gone with them, and if this grand project failed now thus early in the session, still less chance will it have at a later period. Peel's skill and great superiority, and the disunion and uncertainty of the vast unwieldy body opposed to him, will carry him through.

March 14th.

Last night was a terribly damaging night to the Government, and fully justifies all that I, in common with almost everybody else, thought of that miserable appointment of Londonderry. [1] Sheil brought it forward, and a storm burst from every side. Stanley made a strong speech against it, and Mahon totally broke down. Peel spoke cleverly, as usual, but fighting under difficulties, and dodging about, and shifting his ground with every mark of weakness. The result is that Londonderry cannot go, and must either resign or his nomination be cancelled. This is miserable weakness on the part of the Government, and an awkward position to be placed in. It is very questionable if the Duke of Wellington will not resign upon it, which would make another great embarrassment, for there is nobody to fill his place. It serves the Government right, and the Duke especially, for having built up such a wall to run their heads against. They knew the loathing people had for the man, how odious and ridiculous he had made himself, how obnoxious and indefensible the appointment would be, and yet, though there was no reason or occasion for it, and their circumstances were so difficult that the utmost caution and prudence were requisite in all their subordinate and collateral proceedings, as well as in the great and essential ones, they had the blind and obstinate folly to make this appointment. It is not contempt of public opinion in the Duke, but it is that ignorance or indifference, or disregard of it, which has been the besetting sin of his political life, and has so largely affected his political sayings and doings. Peel ought to have known better, and have taken a more correct view of his

[1] The Marquis of Londonderry had been appointed Ambassador to St. Petersburg.

[226] position, and the effect such an appointment would have on it. It is difficult to say what consequences may flow from this affair. The Government can stand no shocks and buffets; if they go on, it can only be by the most dexterous management, and by obtaining constant advantages in the petty and daily warfare of Parliament, and thus gathering confidence by degrees, that they can accomplish it. It would be too mortifying if such a man should be the cause of the downfall of the Government and of all the evils that would result therefrom. Knatchbull, who was dragged into the discussion by Peel in order to make a diversion, defended himself and spoke remarkably well. He is the only Cabinet Minister who has shown anything like a faculty to support Peel. It was rather amusing to see the attempt of Peel to take the dogs off the scent of Londonderry and throw them on that of Knatchbull; but they were soon whipped off, and put again upon the right track. There was one good hit. A Sir George Strickland, attacking Knatchbull, said, ' Talk of the Right Honourable Baronet as a Reformer, indeed, when I remember his coming down night after night during the Reform Bill, and opposing every part and particle of it, clause after clause,' when Knatchbull took his hat off and said, ' I was not a member of that Parliament.'

March 15th.

The Londonderry debate has made a great sensation, and is a source of prodigious triumph and exultation to the Opposition. In the morning I met Lady Peel, who was full of compassion for Londonderry, and said, ' He had behaved very nobly about it.' Nobody doubts that he cannot go, whether he resigns voluntarily or not; but, end how it may, it is a disastrous occurrence. If Government should persist in the appointment, they would be beaten by a great majority, and the House of Commons would vote him out; if it is given up, it is a monstrous concession to the violence and power of the House of Commons, for however objectionable the appointment may have been, it is not so outrageous as to call for the interference of Parliament with the King's undoubted prerogative, and on the whole the principle of such interference may be considered more [227] inconvenient than submitting to the appointment itself. It will probably lead before long to other encroachments upon the Executive power, and we shall soon see the House of Commons interfering about everything.

In the evening I met the Duke of Wellington at Lady Howe's, who talked about the affair, and said that he was not particularly partial to the man, nor ever had been; but that he was very fit for that post, was an excellent Ambassador, procured more information and obtained more insight into the affairs of a foreign Court than anybody, and that he was the best relater of what passed at a conference, and wrote the best account of a conversation, of any man he knew. I said this might be all true, but that though he knew it, the generality of people did not, and the public could only judge of him by what they heard or read of his speeches, and what was related of his conduct on former occasions; that on that account he was very obnoxious, and that his violent and intemperate attacks upon the foreign policy of the late Government, the sentiments he had displayed generally, had raised a great prejudice against him, and I had therefore been sure from the moment I heard of the appointment that it would be severely attacked, and regretted exceedingly for that reason that it had ever been made. I had told Lady Peel the same thing, for it is difficult to resist telling them the real truth; and I know not why it should not be told them.

Last night I met Lord Howick, who is bitter enough against the Ministers, and expressed his earnest desire that they might be well dragged through the mire, but not be turned out. I asked, ' Why, if he wished they should stay in, he desired that they should be discredited?' and he replied, 'That it would be very difficult at present to replace them, but that he saw the prospective means, and he would have them go on till the time was ripe for change, but that they should be made every day more odious.' These means, I doubt not, are the reconciliation of Stanley with the Whigs, which is clearly contemplated by both one and the other. Hobhouse's speech the other night was very civil to Stanley, no doubt with that [228] view, and much personal intimacy is affected between him and the Whig leaders. Then much light is thrown upon it in my mind by the account I have just heard from Charlton (who enlisted under the Stanley banner) of the tone and animus displayed at the last meeting at Stanley's. There Stanley was pressed by Mr. Young to declare in strong terms his want of confidence in the Government; and Patrick Stewart said that if Hume's motion, for limiting the supplies to three months, was placed in the hands of Lord John Russell, he thought he must vote for it. Stanley opposed this suggestion, and declared his disapprobation (let who would bring it on) of so strong a measure as stopping the supplies, and he said he thought the want of confidence might be sufficiently evinced without having recourse to any murderous measures, anything absolutely destructive of the Government. The general tone and disposition of the meeting was very inimical to the present Ministry, and Charlton was himself so little satisfied with what passed, and especially with Stanley's apparent bias and feeling, that he wrote to him to say that he had joined his party on the express notion that he was prepared to give the Government a fair trial, and to ask whether he did not understand him correctly in attributing to him still such an intention. He replied very courteously, and tolerably satisfactorily, but it certainly seems probable that he is more disposed to reunite with his old friends than to form any connexion with these men, though what is uppermost in his mind is to raise his own consequence and authority, and make the best bargain he eventually can. Charlton says that he has since tried to engage him in conversation upon the subject of the democratic tendency of the times, but that he has no mind to discuss the subject. Charlton is such a violent, foolish, dangerous fellow, that it is no wonder if Stanley kept aloof from him, and was not disposed to be more than merely civil to him.

March 17th.

Londonderry made a good speech in the House of Lords last night, gentlemanlike and temperate. He got a good deal of empty praise in both Houses in lieu [229] of the solid pudding he is obliged to give up. He said ' that he had had no communication with the Government, nor had sought any advice, neither had any been tendered to him; that he had after due deliberation determined on the course he should pursue.' All this is untrue; he went to Peel on Saturday morning, and told him he was ready to do what he pleased; but Peel said he could give him no opinion. He then consulted various people, the Dukes of Cumberland and Buckingham inter alios, who advised him not to resign. It appeared to be his object to obtain opinions to that effect, and up to late yesterday afternoon nobody knew what he meant to do; so much so, that the Duke left the Foreign Office without being apprised of his intentions, and desired if any letter came from him that it might be sent after him to the House of Lords. He received the letter on the stairs, which he read and instantly sent to Peel. It has altogether been a miserable affair, and it is certainly true what John Russell said, that in 'the experiment they are now making, that which the Right Honourable Baronet called a fair trial, they were running considerable hazard that the most useful prerogatives of the Crown would lose that dignity and respect in which they had formerly been held.' It is clearly true that this most dangerous precedent of interference has occurred because the Government has not strength to prevent it, and because we have the anomaly of a Government beating up against a hostile majority. The man was utterly unfit, and ought never to have been appointed, but the case against him, such as it appears in their hands, is quite insufficient to warrant the interference of Parliament.

I take it that the effect abroad will be prodigious, for though Londonderry resigns of his own accord, and Peel says he would have stood by him if he had not, the simple case is (and such will be the appearance of it all over Europe) that the King appointed Londonderry Ambassador to Russia, and the House of Commons cancelled the appointment.

Everything meanwhile continues in a state of uncertainty. [230] The Opposition is not united; the Stanley party, with their leader, observe a suspicious and suspected neutrality, but the Government is at their mercy whenever they join the Opposition, or, indeed, if they keep aloof. Such a state of things cannot go on very long, and the fate of the Government must be settled one way or the other. Every day produces fresh indications of Peel's superiority, and his capacity for the lead in the House of Commons, but he does not appear to have gained much in those points where he was most deficient cordiality and communicativeness. Francis Egerton came to me to-day and complained that on the Londonderry debate, finding that nobody spoke on the Treasury Bench, he went and sat by Peel and offered to speak, but could get no answer from him; and Ashley was furious because when Hume asked for some information on some point of Navy estimates, on which he (Ashley) had taken pains to prepare himself, Peel would not let him give it, but took it out of his hands. All this is very impolitic, and shows that whatever else he has gained by experience, he has not gained the art of making himself popular with his own adherents in the way that Castlereagh and Canning used to be; and therefore, however he may be looked up to as a Minister, he will never be followed with the same personal devotion that they commanded.

March 20th.

I have been laid up with the gout all this week, and could not go out to see and hear what is going on. On Tuesday night Peel brought in the Dissenters' Marriage Bill, and his plan gave almost general satisfaction except to those whom nothing can satisfy. The Opposition papers gave it a sort of cold and sulky approbation, evincing how little the loudest advocates for reforms of this nature really care about them. The ' Morning Chronicle ' seemed to regret that Peel's Bill should give satisfaction more than it rejoiced that the Dissenters were to obtain it. Marriage is made a civil contract for the Dissenters, and a slight civil form is substituted for the religious ceremony of the Church of England. This relieves them from all their grievance; but it is now said that they lie under a degradation, because [231] it is not also made a civil contract for everybody else, and that the law ought to be changed universally. I think it would be better if it was a civil contract, but nothing can be more captious than such an objection, or more impertinent, and I do not desire to see the law changed, because I believe the majority of members of the Church of England are content that it should remain as it is, and that their feelings or prejudices would be shocked by the alteration.

The King is in great indignation at the proceedings in the House of Commons about Londonderry. The Duke sent Londonderry's letter of resignation to him, and his Majesty returned it with a letter in which he expressed his approbation of Londonderry's conduct, and added that 'he was more than ever satisfied of the correctness of his determination in November last, to refuse his consent to his Government being led by Lord John Russell in the House of Commons, since he had witnessed his conduct upon the occasion, and the support he had given to the unconstitutional attack that had been made upon this appointment.' He made no allusion to Stanley, whose conduct must have galled him still more.

Sir E. Sugden has resigned the Chancellorship of Ireland because his wife is not received at Court. He might have ascertained very easily beforehand what would happen, or have contrived to keep her away from Dublin. It was understood when he took the Great Seal that he declined being made a peer, on account of the illegitimacy of his eldest son. Half the world had never heard of Lady Sugden, or knew anything of her history; and as she is an excellent woman, charitable and kind-hearted, I fancy she has moved without obstruction in his natural circle of society. He went to Ireland before any Lord-Lieutenant was named, and Lady Sugden was received as a matter of course. When Lady Haddington was apprised of her origin and history she foresaw the difficulty, and asked the Queen what she was to do. Her Majesty told her to do what she pleased, but that certainly she could not be received at Court here. The Lady-Lieutenant therefore was compelled to decline receiving her, [232] for all Ireland would have been affronted had she received at the Castle a lady not presentable at St. James's. Sugden was very angry, and his indignation arose principally, it would seem, from Lady Canterbury's having been received at Court, which he considers with some reason as a case equally flagrant. Her reception was a matter of bargain, I forget at this moment on what occasion, and certainly a strong measure. The talk is that James Parke will go to Ireland, and Sugden return to the Bar, which will be hard upon those who had shared his vast business, especially on the silk gown men.

March 21st.

Lord Grey is come to town; he is very strong against the Radicals, and highly disgusted at so many of them having been admitted to the Opposition meetings. He and Stanley met with excessive cordiality. Sefton was there when Stanley called upon him. The King received Lord Grey at the levée with such civility and attention as to excite peculiar observation.

March 22nd.

A few nights ago Brougham was speaking in the House of Lords (upon Lord Radnor's motion about university oaths), and was attacking, or rather beginning to attack, the Duke of Wellington in that tone of insolent sarcasm which is so familiar to him, when in the midst of his harangue the Duke from the opposite side lifted up his finger, and said loud enough to be heard, ' Now take care what you say next.' As if panic-struck, Brougham broke off, and ran upon some other tack. The House is so narrow, that Lords can almost whisper to each other across it, and the menacing action and words of the Duke reached Brougham at once. This odd anecdote rests upon much concurrent evidence. Alvanley told it to De Ros, and Lord Salisbury said he was sitting close to the Duke, and witnessed it all. The Chancellor afterwards confirmed it.

On Friday night, on the debate upon Irish Tithes, Peel bowled down his opponents, Howick, Rice, and Thomson, like so many ninepins; for, besides his vigour and power in debate, his memory is so tenacious and correct, that they never can make any mistakes without his detecting them; [233] and he is inconceivably ready in all references to former debates and their incidents, and the votes and speeches of individual members. It cannot be denied that he is a great performer in his present part. Old Sir Robert, who must have been a man of exceeding shrewdness, predicted that his full energies would never be developed till he was in the highest place, and had the sole direction of affairs; and his brother Lawrence, who told this to Henry de Ros, said that in early youth he evinced the same obstinate and unsocial disposition, which has since been so remarkable a feature of his character. I wish he was not hampered with the Irish Church fetters, which he cannot throw off.

Peel wrote a letter to Hume, demanding an explanation of certain offensive expressions he had made use of in the House of Commons, and got an answer, which was sufficient, though not very civil. It was rather unnecessary that he should take any notice of what Hume said, but Peel is a man of very high and prompt courage, and seems to have made a rule to himself never to suffer impertinence from any quarter to pass unchecked. It is certainly of great service to a public man, and it largely increases the estimation in which he is held, to establish such a character. It is no small detriment to Brougham that he is accounted an arrant coward; and it is remarkable that Peel never was known to deal in the insolence, and bullying, and offensive personalities in which the other has so copiously indulged, both in Parliament and at the Bar.

March 24th.

A meeting at Lichfield's yesterday, when they resolved to reserve themselves for the great battle on Monday next, in full persuasion that Peel will resign after the division. Whether he means it or not, I have no idea, but it is surprising to me that they do not think it better to attack him on his Tithe Bill than on the appropriation clause; for I think he must go out if beaten on the former, but need not if beaten on the latter. They are, however, bent upon his expulsion; and Lichfield, who is more or less in their secrets, told me they feel no difficulty as to making another Government under Melbourne's auspices. There was a great [234] dinner of the Opposition at the Duke of Sussex's on Sunday, to which Brougham was not invited. It will not be the least of their difficulties how to deal with him. Sugden, after all, stays in Ireland. The Bar were up in arms at his menaced return among them, which would have had the effect of half ruining some of those who took silk gowns upon his retirement. His absurdity will, therefore, have had no other effect than that of revealing his wife's misfortune to the whole world in a very noisy way. Lord Canterbury gives up Canada on account of his wife's health, and probably not liking to face the disagreeable things that would have been said about himself and her. Lord Aberdeen has offered it to Stratford Canning, who, though clever enough, is so difficile à vivre, that nobody can be less calculated for conciliatory objects; so that for a situation which required an agent of strong understanding and good temper, they successively selected a foolish man of good temper, and a clever man of bad.

March 26th.

On Tuesday night Government was beaten on a division about the Chatham election; a thing of no consequence in itself, but the whole affair was mismanaged. John Russell had said he should not divide, but his people were not to be restrained. Peel would have given way, but his whippers-in told him he was strong enough in the House to carry it, which only shows how stupid they are. It is now universally believed that he will resign next week, after the division on John Russell's motion, upon which he is sure to be beaten by twenty or thirty votes. I am inclined to believe that he has made known his intentions to Stanley, for the latter entertains no doubt on the subject. The Greyites are all alive, and patting Lord Grey on the back all day long to incline him to obey the summons they confidently expect him to receive from the King. It is very obvious that Peel cannot go on; and I doubt much if he could even were he to obtain a majority on Monday. His physical strength would not suffice for the harassing warfare that is waged against him, the whole brunt of which he bears alone. This, however, is his own fault, for he will not let anybody else take a part, whether from distrust of his colleagues, or his own rage [235] for being all in all. Then, from the relative constitution of the two parties, he must be in continual danger of defeats upon minor and collateral questions or suddenly started points. His party is in great part composed of the rich and fashionable, who are constantly drawn away by one attraction or another, and whose habitual haunts are the clubs and houses at the west end of the town; and it is next to impossible to collect his scattered forces at a moment's notice. The Opposition contains a dense body of fellows who have no vocation out of the walls of the House of Commons; who put up in the vicinity; either do not dine at all, or get their meals at some adjoining chop-house, throng the benches early, and never think of moving till everything is over; constituting a steady, never-failing foundation, the slightest addition to which will generally secure a majority in the present state of the House. In old times the placemen and immediate hangers-on of Government, who make it their business to attend in order to carry the public business through, afforded a regular certain majority for the Ministers of the day; but now this household phalanx is outnumbered by these blackguards, the chief of whom are O'Connell's Tail and the lower Radicals. All this immensely increases Peel's embarrassment; and the tactics of his opponents have been extremely able, considered with a view to obstruct the march of Government. While the leaders have abstained from any violent measure, and have always resolved at their consultations not to stop the supplies or impede the public service, their active partisans have taken good care to produce all the same effects, by raising debate after debate upon every description of personal question, and every miscellaneous matter they could drag in, so as to prevent any progress being made in the public business; and in this they have completely succeeded, for never was there more noise and violence, and less business done, than in this session.

In anticipation of Peel's resignation there are three parties all animated with different hopes and desires — the Grey party, the Melbourne, the Stanley. The first want Lord Grey back with all the moderate Whigs, throwing over the [236] Radicals; and leaving out the ' Dilly ' (as Stanley's party is derisively called); in fact, Lord Grey would only come back to carry the Irish question, which Stanley will be no party to. The second want Melbourne and all his kit back again, to go on with all the strength that the united force of Whigs and Radicals amounts to. The third, expecting that Lord Grey will decline to return without Stanley, desire that the Radical Whigs should attempt it, with (as they think) the certainty of failing, and then, that the urgency of the case may bring about a coalition between Lord Grey, Peel, and Stanley. Such a coalition would be very desirable in many respects, but I much doubt Peel's ever consenting to take office under Lord Grey (though with an equality of authority and influence in the Government), and to lead a party from which all his old friends, and those who look up to him with unbounded devotion, must necessarily be excluded, and to give up all pretensions to ascendency and domination in the Cabinet.

March 28th.

It appears now very doubtful whether Peel will resign after a defeat on Monday, and I am disposed to believe that it is not his intention; indeed, I never could understand why he should. He has over and over again declared that whenever the Opposition would bring forward a direct motion against him he should be prepared to resign, but not till then. Still, I do not see how he can go on, and am much inclined to think he ought not. Weak as he is, at the mercy of this furious and reckless Opposition, Government suffers in his hands; the Crown and all Executive authority suffer. Every Government, to be useful and respectable, should have the power of carrying its measures in its own way through Parliament; but Peel cannot do this, and instead of quashing any mischievous or untimely motion, he is compelled to submit to one defeat after another upon matters which would never have been stirred (or certainly not successfully) with the late Government, or with any which possessed the confidence of the House of Commons. It was expected that Hume would persist in his motion for referring the Army estimates to a committee, and that the Whigs would support [237] him; but when it came to the point, at the suggestion of John Russell and Stanley, he very sulkily withdrew it; but the night before, Government was beaten on two divisions, one about the Leicester election, upon which all the lawyers in the House were unanimous. But these opinions had no effect upon the Radical majority, and they voted an address to the Crown to confer a charter upon the London University, Lord John Russell supporting it, although this question had been argued before the Privy Council, which had still to report upon it; and I believe that the general opinion of the Lords was against conferring the charter in the present circumstances of the university. Certainly, there was no discussion in Council after the arguments were closed, but I gathered that the impression was unfavourable to the grant of the charter. The House of Commons knows nothing of the argument, and rejected Goulburn's amendment to have the proceedings before the Privy Council laid upon the table, voting the address merely because Government opposed it.

March 29th.

A meeting yesterday of Tories at Bridgewater House for the purpose of securing a better attendance. Twenty-nine Moderates met at the ' King's Head,' passengers in the 'Dilly;' [1] but of these, nine mean to vote with John Russell, and one stays away; also, two or three others vote against Stanley : queer partisans and soi-disant followers, who oppose him on his own vital question. Peel concerted with Stanley in the House on Friday, that the resolution should be met with a negative. Wharncliffe was here to-day, loud in his praises of the Duke of Wellington, and delighted with the Cabinet of which he is a member, jam morituri as they are. [2] He owned that they could not probably go on, but that they would not give in till they could show their friends that they had done all that men

[1] The ' Derby Dilly' was the nickname given to Lord Stanley's section of a party, from a joke of O'Connell's, who had applied to it the well known lines in the 'Anti-Jacobin,'
'So down thy hill, romantic Ashbourn, glides, The Derby Dilly, carrying six insides.'

[2]Lord Wharncliffe was Lord Privy Seal in Sir Robert Peel's first Administration.

[238] could or ought to do; so that they are resigned to their fate, and only studying in what attitude they shall meet it.

March 31st.

It is universally believed that Government will go out after this debate. I think it very doubtful, but the sooner they now go the better; they are well aware they must retire, and the question is whether they shall do so immediately or wait till they have passed the Mutiny Bill. If the House of Commons refused to pass the Mutiny Bill, I think they would dissolve again. The King is in a dreadful state of mind, as well he may be; however, it is all his own doing; he had the courage, or rather rashness, to dismiss his late Ministers, but I fear he has none of the cool and reflecting resolution, and calm moral courage, which are necessary for this crisis; he will again submit to whatever is dictated to him.

In the meantime, the perplexity of the Opposition increases as the moment of their triumph approaches. There were 260 people at Lord John Russell's dinner, all prepared to go any lengths, and 20 more who were absent put their names down. O'Connell, who declared ' it was the most delightful evening he ever passed in his life,' publicly acknowledged John Russell as his leader, and the Radicals were all present but Hume. Lord Auckland (who called upon me about a house he is thinking of taking through my mediation) said he would not do anything about it till this week was over, as circumstances might render it unnecessary for him to provide himself with a residence, but that he did not see how anything permanent could come out of the present state of things. He expected Ministers would resign, that there would be audiences and negotiations, and that at last they would come back again; that in the present state of parties he saw not how any other Government could go on any better than this; and when I asked him about John Russell's dinner, he said it went off very well, but the composition of it was frightful (or some such word, but not, I think, quite so strong). John Russell and Melbourne, however, are satisfied they can go on with the Radical assistance, and they have gone too far now to throw these allies over; they must and will make sacrifices to secure them for their own [239] protection, and if the House of Lords is swamped in the first instance, they will have things all their own way.

If it were not for the peril to all that is worth preserving, I should not be sorry for anything that happened to the House of Lords, to whose bigoted and senseless obstinacy (upheld and directed I am sorry to say by the Duke and Lyndhurst) the present miserable condition of affairs is mainly attributable. Their rejection of the Tithe Bill last year was their crowning exploit. After all their blunders and impotent struggles against a stronger power, if they had passed that Bill, or restored Stanley's in committee, and returned it to the House of Commons, I believe everything might have been retrieved. It has been remarked, and certainly with truth, that Peel has never once endeavoured to excuse the House of Lords or to vindicate the peers from the taunts and reproaches which have repeatedly been thrown out against them. In point of fact, I believe that the Lords either did not consult him, or did not care for his opinion. There is no disguising that the Lords liked nothing so well last year as beating the Government, and exhibiting their puny and spiteful power; now they are mightily shocked and disgusted at the majority of the House of Commons taking their revenge, though certainly the latter do it with much more rage and factious violence, but with them it is a system of tactics for a specific and attainable object. The Lords really had no intelligible object but to embarrass a Government they could not demolish, and gratify their own spite. If the most violent Radical had been permitted to chalk out the most suicidal course for the House of Lords to follow, he could have devised nothing more ingenious and well contrived than what they have actually done, taking care to keep up their character in the nation for intolerance, and inculcating a belief in their adherence to the most illiberal maxims t>bf foreign and domestic policy, instead of devoting all their energies to the recovery of the ground they had lost in popular estimation, and strengthening themselves for the contest, which anybody might have seen was not very remote.

[240] April 3rd.

They divided at I know not what hour this morning — 321 to 289,[1] a smaller majority than I was led to expect when I heard that 18 or 19 of Stanley's (so-called) party meant to go against him. Anybody who records from day to day the shifting appearances of the political sky must constantly recant one day the opinion and expectation of the preceding. Stanley's speech the night before last may very likely make an important difference in the result of this extraordinary contest, for he has, as it seems to me, put a final end to any possibility of junction with the great body of the Whigs now arrayed under John Russell; he attacked Lord John himself his Whig and Radical alliance and the inconsistency of his present conduct with the utmost vehemence and scornful reprobation, and he poured forth a torrent of sarcasm and ridicule upon the prospective Government that he concludes they meditate. This is so conclusive that it paves the way to his junction with Peel, or if the latter goes out and John Russell does come in, it is clear that he will have both Peel and Stanley in opposition to him, against whom in the nearly balanced state of parties he could not struggle on for a month. He was miserably feeble in this debate (in his opening speech), and though he may just do to lead an Opposition which wants no leading, and merely sticks him up as a nominal chief, he could no more lead a Government in the House of Commons than he could command an army in the field. [So much for my prediction. Stanley's followers dropped off and left him alone, the Government had no difficulty, and John Russell proved a very good leader. January 1837.] Whatever may be the fate of Government for the present, I believe it to be impossible that anything can prevent Peel's speedy return to office; he has raised his reputation to such a height during this session, he has

[1] On the 3Oth of March Lord John Russell moved the resolution which was carried by this division; the terms of it were, ' That this House resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, in order to consider the present state of the Church Establishment in Ireland, with the view of applying any surplus of the revenues not required for the spiritual care of its members to the general education of all classes of the people, without distinction of religious persuasion.'

[241] established such a conviction of his great capacity and of his liberal, enlarged, and at the same time safe views and opinions, that even the Radicals, such as Hume, join in the general chorus of admiration which is raised to his merits; he stands so proudly eminent, and there is such a general lack of talent, that he must be recalled by the voice of the nation and by the universal admission that he is indispensable to the country.

I am much inclined to think that this debate on the Irish Church question will eventually damage the Whigs not a little. Their speeches this year might all have been answered by their speeches last year on the same subject, and nothing can be so glaring as their inconsistency and the factiousness of their motives. The question is not a popular one in the country, where nothing like favour to the Catholics of Ireland or their religion is agreeable to the mass. The arguments in the debate have been triumphantly in favour of the, Government upon the resolution as contradistinguished from the principle; for though I am decidedly favourable to the principle, and never had a doubt that it is preposterous to contend that if there is a reform of the Church, and there turns out to be a surplus, such surplus should not be dealt with as Parliament in its wisdom shall deem best for the general interests, under the actual circumstances of the country, at the time the appropriation takes place; still it is perfectly consistent with that opinion to refuse to vote for the appropriation of the surplus which may never exist at all, or only exist at some distant period, when other circumstances may render the proposed appropriation altogether inexpedient.

In the afternoon.

Peel's speech was not so good as usual; it was laboured, and some say tame. In the morning I met him and walked with him; he seemed in very good spirits, talked of the thing as over, said he could not endure any meddling with the Tithe Bill, that he considered great good had been done by the dissolution, which had created a party strong enough to obstruct any violent measures on the part of their opponents, said he understood they had sent for [242] Lord Spencer, but did not believe Lord Grey would have any concern with it. I said that it was clear after Stanley's speech that he would have nothing to do with the Whigs. He said he conceived so, but that it was very odd that Lord John Russell did not see it in that light, and had said that Graham could not join them, but he did not see why Stanley might not. I told Peel that in my opinion the best thing that had been done was the proof that he had been enabled to exhibit that he was indispensable to the government of the country, and that if he could infuse some firmness and courage into the King, and persuade his Majesty stoutly to resist any requisition to swamp the House of Lords, and rather to appeal to the country than consent to it, in a very short space of time he must come back. I asked him if he thought the King was capable of any such firmness. He said he thought he was, that he was in a miserable state of mind at the prospect before him, and all the more so from feeling how much there was in it which fell personally upon himself. In the meantime it does not seem that the Ministers have come to any positive resolution, or even conviction, as to the moment of their retirement, nor as to its absolute, unavoidable necessity. Peel evidently considers the contest at an end. Lord Rosslyn this morning thought he would resign immediately; the Duke, on the other hand, appears by no means so certain that the Tithe Bill will be mutilated, and that they shall be compelled to go out at all. Stanley and Graham are angry that they don't resign directly; they think Peel would retire more brilliantly at once than by waiting for more defeats. They forget that he is bound to satisfy his own party. Stanley, with that levity which distinguishes all his conduct, talks of him as of 'a hunted fox, who, instead of dying gallantly before the hounds in the open, skulks along the hedgerows, and at last turns up his legs in a ditch.' This he said to George Bentinck, who told it to me; it is not the way that Lord Stanley ought to speak of Sir Robert Peel. What I certainly do regret is that he condescended repeatedly to entreat John Russell to put off bringing up the report till Monday, and [243] exposed himself to a refusal. He should have invited the decision of the contest rather than have tried to protract it.

April 4th.

I told Jonathan Peel last night that Stanley and Graham blamed Sir Robert for not resigning at once. He said that Sir Robert would, as far as his own feelings were concerned, have preferred resigning long ago, but that a vast number of his supporters were furious at the idea of his resigning at all, and wanted him to persist at all hazards, and he was compelled to resign only upon such a point as might enable him to satisfy them that he had abided by the pledge which he gave at the beginning to persevere while perseverance could be useful or honourable. He then told me (which I certainly did not attach the slightest credit to [1] ) that he should not be at all surprised if his brother were now to retire from public life. Such an idea in some moment of disgust may have crossed his mind, but if he were to do so in the vigour of his age, and at the climax of his reputation, it would be the most extraordinary retirement that history ever recorded. Men of the most splendid talents have often shrunk from entering public life, but I am not aware of any instance of a man who had attained the eminence and the fame of Peel who has withdrawn from the theatre of his glory and power without some stronger motive than any that can be found for him.

I was told last night that the scene of noise and uproar which the House of Commons now exhibits is perfectly disgusting. This used not to be the case in better, or at least more gentlemanlike, times; no noises were permissible but the cheer and the cough, the former admitting every variety of intonation expressive of admiration, approbation, assent, denial, surprise, indignation, menace, sarcasm. Now all the musical skill of this instrument is lost and drowned in shouts, hootings, groans, noises the most discordant that the human throat can emit, sticks and feet beating against the floor. Sir Hedworth Williamson, a violent Whig, told me that there were a set of fellows on his side of the House whose

[1] A great fool indeed I should have been if I had. 1838.

[244] regular practice it was to make this uproar, and with the settled design to bellow Peel down. This is the reformed House of Commons. Peel told Lord Ashley the other day that he did not think it possible for the same man to be Prime Minister and leader in the House of Commons (he meant to be First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer), that no physical strength was adequate to the labour of both employments. He may therefore hereafter put some Peer at the head of the Government, but it is equally indispensable, as it seems to me, that the real substantial power should be vested in the leader of the House of Commons, especially when he is a man so superior as Peel must always be to any colleagues he may be associated with.

April 5th.

I understand now what Jonathan Peel meant by talking of the possibility of his brother's retiring from public life. He is no doubt thoroughly, heartily disgusted with his own associates. It appears that they (the Tories, or many of them) are indignant at his declaration the other night that on the Tithe Bill being altered he would go out, so that while others are blaming him for not going out at once his own followers are enraged that he will not set the House of Commons at defiance and stick to his post. It is very evident that many of them are desirous (if Peel does resign) of continuing the fight under the Duke of Wellington, if they could prevail on him to try it, and to dissolve Parliament and get up a ' No Popery ' cry. They say that ' the country ' (by which they mean their own faction) looks up to the Duke, and that Peel has really no interest there. The fact is that they cannot forgive him for his Liberal principles and Liberal measures, and probably they never believed that he was sincere in the professions he made, or that he really intended to introduce such measures as he has done. They feel not without reason that they cannot follow him in the broad path he has entered upon without abandoning all their long-cherished maxims of exclusion and ascendency, and that in so doing they would incur much odium and disgrace. Peel sees and knows all [245] this, and cannot fail to perceive that he is not the Minister for them and they no longer the party for him. It is no wonder that he is anxious to break up this unmanageable force, and he probably would rather trust to that increasing feeling and opinion about himself, which is so apparent among all classes of politicians, to place him by-and-by at the head of a party formed upon Conservative principles and embracing a much wider circle of opinions. Still this Tory body, obstinate and bigoted as they are, have no other chief, and can find none, and it is essential to Peel to keep them if possible under his influence and direction, and therefore (I believe very reluctantly) he defers his resignation.

April 6th.

Yesterday Wharncliffe came here; very low indeed; he says he never thought they were safe, though he owns that he was surprised and disappointed that there were no defections not one from the enemies' ranks when these measures were brought forward. He says he was with the King the other evening, and asked him if he was going back to Windsor. His Majesty said ' he could not go back, that he could not bear being there; there he had none of them (his Ministers) to talk to, and day and night his mind was absorbed in public affairs.' Poor wretch ! he suffers martyrdom, and has more to suffer yet, for I expect they will have no mercy on him. Yesterday I had more proofs of the animus of the Tories. One of them, a foolish, hot-brained fellow certainly (but there is no such enormous difference between the best and the worst), told me that if Peel really did go out upon the Tithe Bill he would abandon his party; that he ought to let them alter the Bill as they pleased, wait till the House of Commons threw it out, and then dissolve Parliament.

April 7th.

Each day elicits some new proof of what I have written above the totally altered feelings and expressions of all conditions of politicians about Sir Robert Peel. It would seem as if his friends were suddenly converted into his enemies, and his enemies into his friends. The Tories still cling to the expectation that he will hold on to office; they say that if he goes out he abandons his party, abandons [246] the King. They call to mind Pitt in 1784. ' Very slippery,' said one to me yesterday, when I read to him Peel's answer to the City address. On the other hand Mulgrave was last night enthusiastic in his praise; he owned that he had done admirably given proof of his perfect sincerity and acted in accordance with all his declarations and professions. ' I am,' said he, 'astonished; nothing in Peel's past political career led me to expect that he would have done so admirably as he has. He has raised himself immensely in my opinion.' Such is the language of them all, swelling a choral note of praise; and then, to make the whole thing more ridiculous (if anything so serious can be ridiculous), the Tories, who abuse him lustily, are moving heaven and earth to retain him, by violence almost, in his place; while the Whigs and Radicals, who laud him to the skies, are striving with might and main to turn him out. In a state of profound tranquillity these Ministers are quietly transacting business with a perfect consciousness and an universal understanding that their Government is at an end, and the Opposition are redoubling their blows in the House of Commons, and waiting in the complete certainty of returning to office, for which they are already making all their arrangements. The parts are all so quietly performed, the catastrophe is so clearly before everybody's eyes and understanding, that it more resembles a dramatic representation than a mighty event in real life, big perhaps with incalculable consequences.

April 8th.

There was a majority of twenty-seven last night, which I conclude settles the business. [1] There was to be a Cabinet this morning at eleven, at which they had resolved to agree upon their resignations. Wharncliffe saw the King last night. He is very composed; they think they can infuse courage and firmness into him, but when he is left to himself, I doubt him. Nothing can be imagined more painful on both sides than his approaching interview

[1] The Ministry was defeated on the Irish Tithe Bill on the 3rd of April by a majority of 33 in a House of 611; on the 6th of April by a majority of 25 in a House of 499; and on the 7th of April by a majority of 27 in a House of 543.

[247] with the once rejected and now triumphant Whigs. Yesterday I rode with Ellice up the Park. He said, 'Grey will do anything they wish him to do, but I think he had better have nothing to do with it.' He talked of the new Government that will be formed as having no difficulty; that they might have if Peel and the Tories went into violent opposition, which he is convinced Peel will not do. I said they might go on till the Tithe Bill went to the House of Lords, when they would expunge the appropriation clause. He said, ' They won't be so mad; there is no Church of Ireland now, and the question is whether there shall be one, for without that clause no Tithe Bill will ever pass.'

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These materials may be freely used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with applicable statutory allowances and distribution to students.
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Last modified 9 May, 2017

The Age of George III Home Page

Ministerial Instability 1760-70

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The Age of the French Wars 1792-1815 Irish Affairs 1760-89

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