George Nugent Grenville Nugent.

Some memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times online

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' Lord Wellesley's members will oppose government in the
' first divisions. I need not, my dearest George, press most
' earnestly and anxiously on your mind the sanguine and eager
' hopes I entertain that you will apply yourself steadily and
' unremittingly to the duties of parliament, and to constant and
' habitual debate. I never in forty years saw such an opening
' as now presents itself in the House of Commons for a young
' man of talents and application ; and I have only to wish that
' you were as decidedly master of the latter indispensable
' quality as you are of the first. But for God's sake do not
' throw away these most valuable years of your life/

In so strongly implying his belief that the House of
Commons now wanted a good debater, Lord Buckingham no
doubt purposely overlooked the powers of such men, already
in full possession of the house, as Canning, George Ponsonby,
Tierney, Eomilly, "Whitbread, and Wilberforce, and of those

' should have taken so different a line in politics, for your sake, as it has
' been the source of great uneasiness, both to you and other members of
' your family, but I am sure that you have acted throughout conscientiously.
' I thank you for your kind congratulations on the birth of my dear
' George's son, which has made us all very happy. God bless you my dear
' friend. My best love to dear Lady Nugent, who I hope is better.

' Yours most affectionately,



younger and more eager spirits, Broughams, Plunkets, Francis
Homers, Palmerstons, Huskissons, Peels, and John Russells,
whom the elections of 181 2 and the succeeding years seated
with Lord Nugent in St. Stephen's. For already he under-
stood the defect in his son's character, and his letter was
manifestly intended at once to humour and to incite a some-
what sluggish application, by representing as within the
easiest possible reach those higher objects of ambition. It was
the old lord's honest belief that his second son would make
a figure in the House of Commons, and he always steadily
resisted his own importunity to be allowed to enter the pro-
fession more commonly set apart for younger sons. A letter is
before me written nine years after the present date, by Lord
Nugent to his brother, in which he reminds him of ' the views
' I was from my earliest boyhood always taught by my father
' to form respecting my objects through life. You know that
' in early days I repeatedly urged my father to give me a
' commission in the army or navy. He uniformly refused,
' desiring me to look to parliament as the object and pursuit
' of my life.'

The Marquis of Buckingham did not long survive his
widowed and solitary return to the grandeurs of Stowe. He
died on the llth February, 1813, within a few months after
writing the letter above quoted on the elections ; and Lord
Nugent's marriage with Anne Lucy, the second daughter of
Lieutenant General the Hon. Vere Poulett, took place in the
following September. The proximity of the seats of Addington
and Stowe had led to friendly intercourse between the families ;
the younger children were playfellows ; and the union would
have taken place earlier, but that strong family objections
arose, which delayed it from time to time. The only issue
of the marriage were two infants, which did not survive their
birth, and this was the only drawback from its happiness.
The most tender affection, based upon perfect sympathy,
and sustained by a confidence in each other, and a mutual


esteem, which none of the accidents or disappointments of
later life ever sensibly impaired, subsisted always between
Lord and Lady Nugent. Her tastes were in agreement with
his; her pencil, with which she drew skilfully, exhibited
humourous invention as well as grace of design; she could
write with point and ease, both in verse and prose ; and it is
to be regretted that of such accomplishments of her mind
there should not survive even so much in the way of memorial,
as the canvas of Lawrence and the marble of Chantrey have
preserved of the beauty of her person. Nothing lay so near
her husband's heart as the wish to collect materials for such a
record, when her death closed suddenly the tender intercourse
of thirty-five years : but that event, which made an ineffaceable
impression upon him, was speedily followed by his own last
illness; and it may perhaps be worthy of mention, that,
prominent among the only fragments of her writing which he
had then been able to bring together, and which lay near
him on his death-bed, were some pathetic stanzas on the
infants they had lost in the second and third year of their

For the first year or two after Lord Nugent' s election to the
House of Commons, there are not many traces of him in the
debates, but he attended to the business of the House, and
divided always with the Opposition. The question at the time
most prominent in its influence upon parties and cabinets, was
that of Catholic Emancipation; its vicissitudes had always
most affected the fortunes of his family ; its Irish champions
and heroes, such as Grattan, Curran,* and others, were among
the earliest objects of his admiring sympathy ; and such was the

* Among Lord Nugent's papers I find a note from Curran, written
shortly before he resigned the Mastership of the Rolls, in one of those
intervals of holiday in England which he enjoyed so heartily. ' My dear
' Lord, Accept my very warm and respectful thanks for your kind note.
' Most gladly would I obey your friendly summons, but I am engaged for
' to-morrow under circumstances that cut off all power that my mind might
' exercise over my body. I regret this the more because I myself must set


ardour with which Lord Nugent supported the question in all its
bearings, and the zeal and ability he displayed in connection
with it, that the English Catholics ultimately singled him out
as the member to whom their petition to the Lower House was
regularly entrusted. He took also a prominent part in pro-
testing against the treatment of Lord Cochrane, and very
ably seconded Lord Ebrington's motion on that subject, in
July 1814. In the following year he opposed, in every stage,
the bill for a provision for the Duke of Cumberland ; and in
1816 he began to speak more frequently, making himself
conspicuous for his opposition to the treaties with foreign
powers concluded in the previous year. Holding a strong
opinion against the expediency, in a constitutional view, of the
English army kept up under those treaties in the pay of a
foreign monarch and in sight of our own shores, a feeling
which was shared by such men as Francis Horner, Tierney,
Romilly, Brougham, Lords Milton and Ebrington, and Lord
John Russell, he took repeated part in denouncing the minis-
terial policy, which Lord Grenville was at the same time also
opposing in the House of Lords.

But there was all the difference in the world between the

' out and surrender myself, however reluctantly, to the Cimmerian prison
' in three or four days. I hope, however, in a short time to return, and I
' flatter myself with the additional hope that Lord Nugent will not forget
' the tone in which he has permitted our acquaintance to begin. To try
' his memory on that point shall be my first experiment when I come
' hither. Meantime, I shall not fail to remember with great pleasure and
' gratitude what is past.

' I have the honour to be, my dear Lord,

' Very truly yours,


Three years after Curran died, Qrattan lay on his death-bed, also in
London ; and a letter from his eldest son to Lord Nugent, written two
days before his death (June 2, 1820), and describing his sufferings, lies
before me. It concludes thus : ' Mr. Qrattan begs me particularly to say
' how much he feels your affectionate enquiries after his health, and to
' assure you how highly he esteems you.'


tone of opposition taken by uncle and nephew, and Lord
Buckingham, who had been lately falling off even from
Lord Grenville's side, found it of. course impossible to keep up
with his brother. Nor did matters in this respect improve as
time went on, and those political discontents of the manu-
facturing districts broke forth, which the low wages, high
prices, and overstocked markets consequent on the close of
the war directly led to ; which the ill-advised change in the
corn laws, and a series of bad harvests, influenced and
aggravated ; and which finally spawned such acts as those of
Lords Sidmouth and Castlereagh, and such patriots as Mr.
Henry Hunt and his associates.

It is difficult to understand what those ten years, from 1816
to 1826, must have seemed to men who were actually looking
on, from the House of Commons or elsewhere, on what was
passing in the country. To us who look back upon them now,
the patriotism and tyranny appear equally shabby. Nothing
can exceed the want of dignity on all sides, whether in the
consistent and paltry misgovernment that oppressed the people,
or the honest and amazing ignorance that resisted it. One of
the so-called leaders of sedition, Mr. Samuel Bamford, who
appears to have been also one of the simplest, kindliest, and
most moderate of God's creatures, had to undergo five exami-
nations before the Privy Council, was brought up in irons
from Lancashire as a suspected traitor, was dismissed, was
again arrested, and finally .was tried upon a charge which
had dwindled down from high treason to a common mis-
demeanour; yet he has written a book of memoirs lately,* in
which he very manifestly tells with truth all that was known
to him, and makes it clear that, amid all the ignorance,

* He has also written poetry, beautiful for ita honest and simple
unaffectedness, and its earnest advocacy of the poor. A touching little
poem of his is quoted in the novel of Mary Barton, the author of that
remarkable book characterising him as ' a man who illustrates his order,
' and shows what nobility may be in a cottage.'


delusion, and submission to dishonest promptings then pre-
valent, the masses were really set in motion by nothing more
alarming than the wish to redress what they thought to be
intolerable wrongs, by what they believed to be legal means.
There can be no doubt, in short, that the only infamous pro-
jects entertained or discussed, proceeded directly from spies
and informers. That kind of gentry were the most active and
busily employed people of the day, and their employment
shows in what spirit, from the first, the Government proposed
and intended to act to the malcontents. Conciliation or con-
cession in the most moderate degree was scouted ; Coercion \
was the only thing thought of, by way of remedy ; Suspension j
of the Habeas Corpus, Six Acts, gaggings alike of the tongue and |
the pen, were the sole, pride of ministerial legislation ; every- /
body suspected was clapped into prison, persecution of the
press went on in every conceivable form, and there was a
continual stretch and strain upon the treason laws. The
truth was, therefore, that though the country had never incur-
red such iufinitesimally small danger from revolutionary doc-
trines as during the years of Sidmouth and Castlereagh, the
danger from anti-revolutionary nostrums was become really
very great indeed : and thus may be explained the excitement
prevailing against a Government which, at the time, was doing
its best to inflame discontent into rebellion ; which sought to
include in the same proscription the Broughams and Henry
Hunts, the Lambtons, Burdetts, and Thistlewoods ; and under
which no independent man could feel himself safe, however loyal.
This feeling broke out very strongly from Lord Nugent in
the May of 1817, when he opposed the army estimates moved
for by Lord Palmerston, in a speech of sufficient spirit and
animation to draw forth characteristic eulogy from Mr.
Brougham, who not only sincerely agreed with the member for
Aylesbury as to the policy of ruling in the hearts of the people,
in preference to lording it over them by military force, but ' con-
' gratulated him on sentiments as much above all despotic views


' and illiberal prejudices, as a truly noble mind was above
"those who looked only to shuffling and sneaking after place/
In the following month Lord Nugent spoke with equal force
and boldness against the Habeas Corpus Act Suspension Bill.
He opposed the Indemnity Bill in the following year, and his
speeches against it were republished with those of Larnbton,
Brougham, and Romilly. In 1819, the year after Romilly's
death, he engaged earnestly with Mackintosh in an attempt to
get a Committee on Capital Punishments, with a view to
reduce the number (there were even then 156) of separate
offences punishable with death, and had the satisfaction to see
Government beaten on the occasion by a majority of 19. In
the same year he was zealous for the Eoman Catholics, active
against the Foreign Enlistment Bill, a steady voter in the
minorities on Lord John Russell's motions for Reform, and
untiring in his opposition to the army votes, mutiny bills, and
everything on which battle could be made against the continued
existence of a Ministry which he lost no opportunity of
denouncing as mischievous and contemptible.

Some example of Lord Nugent' s tone and manner in the
House of Commons at this time should here perhaps be given,
however brief; and the instance may be taken from a speech
in the Habeas Corpus Act debates, which, apart from the
virulence of ministerial attack immediately provoked by it,
exerted a certain influence on the speaker's subsequent career
and fortunes. ' The hon. gentleman on the other side/ ob-
served Lord Nugent

' Has said that the judgment of the people of England is on the
* side of ministers. He has talked of appealing on the subject of
c this suspension to the opinion of the people of England. To the
' opinion of the people of England ! Good God, Sir, do we not
' know that the people of England dare not express any free
' opinion at all ? We know that we have gagged their speech by
' our Sedition Bills : we know that we have fettered their press
' by our ex-officio informations : we know that we have made


' every magistrate in the country the supreme judge and summary
' punisher of blasphemy and sedition. We have made it sedition
' to talk contemptuously of his Majesty's present government ; and
' lastly, to fill the measure of intolerance and oppression, we add
' insult to it, by appealing to the free opinion of a disfranchised
' people.'

Then, after a bold and uncompromising attack upon 'the
* unfailing profusion and boundless corruption' of Ministers as
having but too well prepared the people for any system that
madness could invent or wickedness could recommend, the
member for Aylesbury continued :

' But were the case a thousand times worse than it is, were it
' capable of being shown (which God forbid !) that we are
' now placed in the dilemma between popular commotion on the
' one hand, and on the other a continued suspension of our rights,
' I think that even at that dreadful issue, even in that dreadful
' alternative, I should be speaking in the spirit, at least, of the
1 British Constitution in saying, that I should prefer, as the lesser evil,
' public disquiet to the risk of freedom so long suspended that it
' may never be restored ; that I had rather see my country revolu-
c tionised than see it enslaved (Hear, hear, from Government). I
' repeat it I had rather see my country revolutionised, than see it
' enslaved (loud cheers from the Opposition).' *

But loud cheers from the Opposition had lost their'charm at
Stowe, Lord Nugent' s brother now entertaining what appears to
have been an honest belief that danger was really impending
over the country, and putting faith in those ministerial nostrums,
defences, and precautions against it, which the member for
Aylesbury despised and assailed. Some few months before
the speech was delivered, letters had been interchanged between
the brothers in a spirit highly honourable to both.

Originally, of course, the family influence had returned
Lord Nugent for Aylesbury ; but since his brother's accession

* Hansard, xxxvi., 12224.


to the title, he had been indebted to him for the means o
cultivating strong personal relations with the borough apart
from the family interests there; and his course in parlia-
ment had also, unexpectedly, much strengthened his position
and claims as the independent member for a constituency
with strong liberal leanings, among whom, as owner by his
brother's kindness of the neighbouring little manor house of
Lilies, he was now able to pass several months of residence in
every year. Nevertheless, before the meeting of parliament in
1817, he wrote to Lord Buckingham expressing strongly his
wish to resign his seat. He represented the course which the
questions of the ensuing session appeared likely to take, and
the increased distance at which such questions threatened to
place himself and the Marquis in public life. He said how
irksome it would be to him to feel that he was availing him-
self of his brother's interest at Aylesbury, while in the House
of Commons he should be voting in direct opposition to his
wishes ; and urged him to give effect fairly to his own opinions
by using his interest for the return of some one who could
better represent them in parliament. Whenever such arrange-
ments could be made, therefore, Lord Nugent was to be con-
sidered as quite prepared to retire. To this nothing could be
more honourable and affectionate than Lord Buckingham's
reply. He did indeed remind his younger brother that in the
last conversation he held with his poor father, the often-re-
peated saying of the old Marquis had been, that if his two
boys could only stick together they might command what
they pleased ; and he also adverted, by way of warning, to an
attack which had been made upon himself by a member of the
more respectable part of the Opposition, a friend of the late
Mr. Fox's (' who permitted himself to tell you that I had sold
' myself for a dukedom, and that you were the only independent
' Grenville now in public life '), as but the revival in his age
of acts practised by the same person in his youth, and the last
effort of a disappointed party to divide a family which it had


not been able to master. But, even on personal grounds, the
substance of the letter (which is dated from Stowe in April)
was in a high degree honourable to Lord Buckingham,
and its remarks on public policy were at least such as to
entitle him to his brother's respectful hearing.

' I must in the first place explicitly state, how deeply I feel the
' affectionate and honourable part which you have taken. As ex-
c plicitly and as plainly, I refrain either now or hereafter to discuss
' your seat with you. I never will, directly or indirectly, take any
' step to dissolve the family faggot of sticks, upon the keeping of
' which together, my domestic happiness, my family prospects, my
' private enjoyments, and publick strength depends ; and if, instead
' of differing, as I fear we do, upon abstract parts of political
' subjects, I were to form a part of this Government, and you, upon
' mature consideration, should deem it necessary to oppose me, I
' would not accept your seat from you, but content myself with
' lamenting political disunion between two brothers, who never
' could in consequence feel a diminution of affection. There,
' therefore, let the question of your seat rest now and for ever.
' AVith respect to political opinions I am free to confess to you,
' that as far as I can venture to look forward into the haze
' of political distance, there seems much more probability of
' disunion increasing between the Opposition and myself, than of
' any approximation taking place. There is but one thing which
' separates opposition from faction, and that is a conscientious
' feeling that by opposition one is doing one's best to bring into
1 Government a better system of principles, than those directing
' the actual possessors of the Government. If any thing could
' tend to alarm me more than I am now alarmed by the prevalence
' of bad opinions in the country, it would be the seeing any
' prospect of those bad opinions forcing themselves into the
' government of it. I, therefore, never can be a party to any
' parliamentary exertion to obtain for those opinions the power
1 which is, and I in my conscience believe, is all that is, wanting to
' overthrow the country. With respect to the Habeas Corpus
' Suspension Act, it is impossible for me to decide what may or


' may not be tlie state of the country in July next ; but my
' belief is, that it will not be then expedient to repeal the Acts
' passed before Easter. The strongest possible case must be made
' out to me to justify the casting off so soon those guards, which
' as I thought them vitally necessary for our security, I think must
' be continued so long as any danger of the continuance of that
' system which called them forth appears. If I thought, as you do,
' the English law sufficient for the maintenance of the English
' Constitution, I should, as you are, be anxious for the immediate
' reduction of our military establishment. But the experience of
* the last six months has proved to me that powers beyond the
' regular course of our law are necessary for our safety. I must,
' therefore, see the country brought within the pale of the law
' before I would get entirely rid of the excess of numerical military
' force necessary to repel those whose object it is to reduce our
' military force for the purpose of the easier and more effectually
' enslaving the country in revolutionary fetters. I quite, however,
' agree that a military force in the country, in a time of peace,
' beyond that which is necessary to maintain its policy and to
' support its possessions, is most improper and unfitting. What
' now, in my mind, constitutes unfortunately its necessity, is the
' conviction that there is a deep-rooted conspiracy which nothing but
' the strength or fear of the sword can keep down. But with that
' danger, the remedy should cease, and the cessation of the danger
' mainly depends upon those who are the loudest in decrying the
' remedy. With respect to Eeform of Parliament I object to it as
' a system, so long as I invariably find that system brought forward
' as a stalking-horse for rebellion. Triennial Parliaments would be
' in my opinion a most dangerous weapon in the hands of the
' people against the crown, just as I think a longer duration than
' that of seven years would be a weapon as dangerous in those of
' the crown against the people. The fact is, that the dissolution of
' a Parliament should not be a weapon of offence in the hands of
' either ; but has political experience justified the hope that three
' years, or a term within that period, would be a sufficient interval
' within which popular effervescence, upon any popular subject,
' would be likely to subside, so as to make an appeal to the people


' more likely to be one to its sense, than to its nonsense ? With
' respect to the remedies you suggest to many evils connected with
' our Parliamentary Establishments, I think them, generally speak-
' ing, good, and that many more may be individually and separately
' brought forward to meet known and acknowledged evils. Those
' remedies you will never find me opposing, if practicable, when
' they are coolly and dispassionately brought forward as individual
' insulated measures ; but I will always oppose them, and other
' measures, when brought forward in such a manner and by such
' men as afford me proof or reason to believe that the bringing
' them forward is meant not to reform or amend Parliament, but
1 to delude the people and disturb the country. I have now, I
' believe, my dear brother, gone through all your political points ;
c and I have discussed them the more freely with you, because, in
' the first part of my letter, I have refused to consider them as in
' any way affecting the question of your seat.'

It seemed just to Lord Buckingham to show, by the evidence
of a letter written in the most unreserved confidence five years
before he received his Dukedom, that the change in his
opinions which was to separate him equally from Lord
Grenville and his brother, had begun thus early, and, with

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 2 of 45)