Copyright
Alpheus Todd.

On parliamentary government in England : its origin, development, and practical operation (Volume 1) online

. (page 17 of 85)
Online LibraryAlpheus ToddOn parliamentary government in England : its origin, development, and practical operation (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 85)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


o

of its servants.' v An amendment was moved, ' that the
other orders of the day be read.' Mr. Wilberforce ad-
verted to the case of 1784 w as deciding the question,
' whether the House should have a previous negative on
the appointment of the ministers of the crown. It had
then been determined that it should not, and that it was
only when either or both of the Houses of Parliament
had had experience of some of the measures of ministers
that, if they could not confide in the administration, it be-
came their duty to address the throne, and express their
judgment '* But Mr. Canning drew a proper distinction
when he said that he perfectly concurred in the general
doctrine laid down, that it is the exclusive prerogative of
the crown to nominate its own ministers ; that the case
must be urgent indeed to authorise the interference of the
House ; but that he could not forget that Parliament had
a double character. ' The House of Commons is a Council
of Control, but it is likewise a Council of Advice ; ' and a
case of ' transcendent importance ' might arise, in which
it would be ' competent for the legislature, by the timely
interposition of advice, to prevent the necessity of con-
trol.' 3 " This distinction was agreed to by the Foreign
Secretary (Lord Castlereagh), who nevertheless con-



* Parl. Deb. v. 23, p. 253. Parl. Deb. v. 23, p. 258.

" See ante, p. 144. * Ib. p. 267.



MINISTERIAL INTERREGNUM. 105

tended ' that the House was not by circumstances justi- 1812.
fied, at this moment, to interfere.' Mr. Wortley's motion,
however, was agreed to by a majority of four, and the
address was ordered to be presented to the prince regent
by the mover and seconder. It received a gracious
reply from his royal highness. Viewing the address as
tantamount to a declaration of their own inefficiency,
the remaining members of the ministry immediately
placed their offices at the prince regent's disposal, and
it was understood that they merely continued in office
until his royal highness should signify his pleasure as to
any future arrangement. z

During the whole of this ministerial interregnum, and until (on
June 8) he was formally commissioned by the prince regent to
form an administration, Lord Liverpool appears to have been re-
garded, on all sides, as the temporary head of the ministry. He
was its chief mouth-piece in Parliament, the recognised organ of his
colleagues, and the one whom, it was understood, they were desirous
should be appointed to the premiership.*

At this juncture the prince regent laid his commands
on the Marquis Wellesley to form a plan of adminis-
tration, and submit the same for his approval. Accord-
ingly, on May 23, the marquis requested Mr. Canning
to be the medium of communication between himself
and Lord Liverpool, for the purpose of inviting his
lordship, with such of his colleagues as might be willing,
to assist in the formation of a new ministry, on the
basis of an early adjustment of the Koman Catholic
claims, and the prosecution of the war with vigour.
This overture was also declined. Simultaneously with
his appeal to Lord Liverpool, Lord Wellesley addressed
himself to Lords Grey and Grenville to the same effect,
informing them, however, that he considered himself
on this occasion as being merely the instrument for
executing the prince regent's commands, and that he



* Ld. Liverpool. Parl. Deb. v. 23, Yonge, Life of Ld. Liverpool, v.
pp. 332, 357. 1, p. 385 ; y. 3, p. 459.



1GG ANNALS OF THE ADMINISTRATIONS OF ENGLAND.

1812. neither claimed nor desired for himself any station in
the projected administration. On May 26, while this
negotiation was still pending, the prince regent revoked
Lord Wellesley's general commission. But subsequently
his lordship received more precise and definite powers,
so that on June 1, he was able to inform Lord Grey
that he had been fully commissioned to become the
premier of an administration, to be formed on the basis
above mentioned, and that he had been specially autho-
rised to invite the co-operation of Lords Grey and Gren-
ville, with permission to those noble lords to recommend
four or five persons for seats in the cabinet, together with
Lords Moira and Erskine, and Mr. Canning, who, it had
been agreed, should form part of the same. In reply,
Lords Grey and Grenville declined to participate in a
government to be formed on the basis of ' the supposed
balance of contending interests.' They considered that
such a principle would ' establish within the cabinet itself
a system of counteraction inconsistent with the prosecu-
tion of any uniform and consistent course of policy ; '
which could only be productive of weakness and disunion,
and would be utterly opposed to the object of the House
of Commons in recommending the formation of a strong
and efficient administration. They furthermore objected
to the nomination, on behalf of the prince regent, of
Lords Moira and Erskine. and Mr. Canning, to seats in
the cabinet, not on the plea that it was an unconstitu-
tional exercise of power on the part of his royal highness,
but because ' the first and vital principle of a cabinet
was the mutual confidence of its members, and the total
absence of everything like jealousy among them ; ' and
this could only be insured when the parties invited to
form a government were empowered ' to arrange the
cabinet among themselves. ' b On June 3, Lord Wellesley
acquainted the prince regent of his failure in this under-



Parl. Deb. v. 23, p. 428.



MINISTERIAL INTERREGNUM. 167

taking, and \vas informed that the task would be en- is 12
trusted to other hands. On June 5, Lord Moira, as the
confidential friend of the prince regent, endeavoured to
bring about a political understanding with Lords Grey
and Grenville, but they refused to enter into ' unautho-
rised discussions.' Next day Lord Moira again addressed
their lordships, acquainting them that he had the prince
regent's instructions to take steps towards the formation
of a new ministry, with special authority to invite their
lordships' co-operation. On the following day, a meeting
took place between these noblemen, in the presence of
Lord Erskine, at which Lord Moira stated that he had
received his commission ' without any restriction or
limitation whatever being laid by the prince on their
considering any points which they judged useful for his
service,' or as to the filling up of any place in the cabinet.
This announcement was favourably received, but their
lordships desired to know, at the outset, whether the
liberty to be accorded to them in filling up offices in the
new ministry extended to the consideration of new ap-
pointments to those great offices in the household which
have been usually included in political arrangements
-made on a change of ministry. To this Lord Moira
replied that he had no commands from the prince regent
on this head ; but that, for his own part, he could not
concur in this exercise of power on the present occasion,
because he should deem it, on public grounds, peculiarly
objectionable. Their lordships answered that, on similar
grounds, ' it appeared to them indispensable that the
connection of the great offices of the court with the
political administration should be clearly established in
its first arrangements.' A decided difference of opinion
as to this point having been thus expressed on both sides,
the conversation ended here, with mutual declarations
of regret. In the subsequent explanations in Parliament

c Parl. Deb. v. 23, Appx. pp. xx. - trusted the sincerity of the regent,
xlii. Ld. Grenville, it seems, dis- and anticipated that a strong court



1G8 ANNALS OF THE ADMINISTRATIONS OF ENGLAND.

on this point, it was admitted that a new administration
had a right to claim the removal of these officers of
the household ; but its exercise, under existing circum-
stances, was deemed inexpedient and impolitic. The
prince regent himself appears to have been quite willing
to part with all these functionaries ; but Lord Moira,
who was his adviser on this occasion, decidedly objected
to such a proceeding.* 1 After his unsatisfactory inter-
view with the Whig noblemen, Lord Moira relinquished
the task entrusted to him. and advised the prince regent
to have recourse once more to the assistance of his
former servants ; whereupon the old ministry was recon-
stituted under the premiership of Lord Liverpool. 6

10. Lord Liverpool's Administration. 1812.

1812. During the progress of these protracted negotiations

the House of Commons continued sitting, and frequent
attempts were made to invoke its interference, in the
shape of remonstrances and appeals, in respect to the
proposed ministerial arrangements, but without success.
On May 30, after the failure of Lord Wellesley's first
overtures to Lord Liverpool, and to Lords Grey and
Grenville, Mr. Martin, of Galway, gave notice that he
would, on June 3, move an address to the prince re-
gent beseeching him to carry into effect his gracious
declaration, in reply to the address of the House on
May 21, and proceed without delay to appoint a strong
ministry, 'possessing more of the confidence of the
people than that which had lately been in existence.' f
But on June 1, Mr. Canning informed the House that
the Marquis Wellesley had been empowered to form a
new administration. Mr. Wortley then proceeded to



influence would be exercised against 453. And see Lewis, Adminis. pp-

him if he took office. Buckingham, 329-340.

Mem. of Regency, v. 1, p. 224. Twiss, Life of Eldon, v. 1, p. 49(5.

d Parl. Deb. v. 2.% pp. 398-430, f Parl. Deb. v. 23, p. 312.



LORD LIVERPOOL S ADMINISTRATION. 109

enquire of Mr. Ponsonby whether any proposal . had 1312.
been made to him, or to those who acted with him in
Parliament, to form part of the ministry ; what reply
had been given, and what conditions made. After some
altercation on the point of order, these questions were
permitted to be put, they being according to precedent,
and unobjectionable in principle, ' as tending to explain
the conduct and clear the characters of public men.' g It
was then proposed that the House should go into com-
mittee to sanction a contract for a loan of a million and
a half of money for the service of Ireland. This was
objected to, on the ground that there was no responsible
minister to answer for the same. But it was replied
that the contract had been approved by the late pre-
mier, and that ' the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer
(the Right Hon. W. Fitzgerald) was before the House,
and in a responsible situation.' Whereupon the resolu-
tion was agreed to. h

A few days before, objection was taken to the regularity of the
House of Commons proceeding to vote a pecuniary provision for
the family of the late lamented premier, on the ground that, as he
united in his own person the offices of First Lord of the Treasury and
-Chancellor of the Exchequer, by his decease the country was left
1 without an administration.' To this it was replied that no objection
could be taken to the proceeding in point of form, inasmuch as the pro-
position 'had been regularly introduced to the House by a message from
the throne, brought by a minister of the crown,' and there was no rule
of the House requiring that such a proposition should be submitted
by a Chancellor of the Exchequer. The House then proceeded to
pass resolutions, based upon the prince regent's message on behalf
of the family of Mr. Spencer Perceval, and in their liberality and
respect for the memory of the murdered minister voted to increase
the amount of the provision recommended by the crown. 1

On June 2, Mr. Martin, on being questioned whether
he meant to proceed with the motion of which he had
given notice for the morrow, answered that, as he was



* Parl. Deb. v. 23, pp. 313-316. h Ib. pp. 317, 318.

1 Ib. pp. 199, 211,217.



170 ANNALS OF THE ADMINISTRATIONS OF ENGLAND.

1812. satisfied with the commission given to Lord Wellesley,
it was highly improbable, though not impossible, that
he should bring forward his motion. j On June 3, the
Marquis Wellesley informed the House of Lords that
he had resigned the authority given him by the prince
regent to form a new ministry, and that he had received
permission to disclose all the circumstances attending
his endeavours in that behalf, and would be ready,
when called upon, to communicate them to the House.
But he advised their lordships not to press for such dis-
closures at present, as it would be highly detrimental
to the public interests. 1 " After some debate, the House
appeared in favour of delaying the explanations, and
adjourned for two days. In the Commons, on the same
day, Mr. Canning stated the fact of Lord Wellesley 's
non-success. Whereupon Mr. Martin began to question
Mr. Ponsonby on the subject ; but a member inter-
posed, and declared that, if the attempt were persisted
in, he would move to take the sense of the House upon
it. This induced Mr. Martin to forbear, and also to
abandon the motion of which he had given notice. 1 On
June 5, Lord Grey informed the House of Lords of the
failure of the negotiations entered into by Lord Welles-
ley with himself and Lord Grenville, attributing it to
the fact that the prince regent had intimated his plea-
sure that 4 four individuals expressly named should
occupy seats in the cabinet ; ' whilst Lord Grey and
his friends were merely invited to propose eight or nine
other persons for this position. In reply Lord Moira
stated that, ' with regard to the nomination of indivi-
duals, it was to be understood to be a mere statement
of a wish ' on the part of his royal highness, who pre-
sumed that the persons indicated would be generally
acceptable. On the same day, in the Commons, upon



J Parl. Deb. v. 23, p. 331. l Ib. p. 338.

k Ib. p. 333. Ib. pp. 343-346. See also his



LORD LIVERPOOL S ADMINISTRATION. 171

the reception of the Eeport of the Committee of Ways 1312.
and Means, objection was taken that the House was
placed in the dilemma of either withholding the neces-
sary supplies, or of granting them without a responsible
minister. But the distinction was drawn that no oppo-
sition ought to be made on this ground ' till the last
stage of each financial measure, by which time it was
to be presumed an efficient administration would be
formed." General Gascoyne then gave notice that on
the next sitting day he would move an address to the
prince regent, expressing regret at the failure of the
efforts to form a government, and a wish that no further
delay should take place. It was then agreed, with
some reluctance, to adjourn the House (from Friday)
till Monday ; an opinion of Mr. Pitt having been quoted
that, in a crisis like the present, ' time should be mea-
sured not by days, but by hours,' and that ' the House
should sit as often as it possibly could, and exert its
vigilance over the proceedings of public men.' But
an end was about to be put to these protracted diffi-
culties. On Monday, June 8, the Earl of Liverpool
informed the House of Lords that he had been appointed
-First Lord of the Treasury, and had received authority
to complete an administration as soon as possible. Lord
Moira took this opportunity to state that the task con-
fided to him of endeavouring to ' conciliate the differ-
ences of public men, and to form an administration
which should possess the confidence of the country,
had been unsuccessful.' Lord Wellesley then proceeded
to give his hitherto deferred explanations as to the
causes of the failure of his attempts in the same direc-
tion ; and a discussion ensued between the various
noble lords interested therein. p On the same day, the



remarks at p. 380. A fuller explana- n Parl. Deb. v. 23, p. 352.

tion of the cause of the failure of this Ib. p. 354.

negotiation has been already given in p Ib. pp. 366-380.
this narrative ; ante, p. 166.



172 ANNALS OF THE ADMINISTRATIONS OP ENGLAND.

1812. House of Commons was informed, by Lord Castlereagh,
of the commission given to Lord Liverpool ; and mem-
bers were urged to postpone the discussion of im-
portant questions until the new ministry was formed.
Strong objections were made to any further delay, but
ultimately the motions were put off, though the House
continued to sit every day. q

On June 8, 1812, as we have seen, the Earl of
Liverpool announced to Parliament that he had been
appointed First Lord of the Treasury, with authority to
complete the administration as soon as possible. The
new ministry was substantially the same as the previous
one, the principal difference being that although the
premier's own opinions were decidedly opposed to eman-
cipation it was agreed that the cabinet should consider
the Roman Catholic claims as an ' open question,' while
Mr. Perceval's administration, on the other hand, had
been distinctly ' anti-Catholic. ' r On this ground of simi-
larity to its predecessor which nevertheless had enjoyed
the confidence of Parliament the new administration
was immediately assailed in the House of Commons. On
June 11, Mr. Stuart Wortley, being of opinion that a
stronger government might have been formed, notwith-
standing the failure of the recent negotiations, proposed
an address to the prince regent, expressing regret that
the address of May 21, which had been so graciously
received by his royal highness, had not led to the ap-
pointment of an administration that was ' entitled to
the support of Parliament, and the confidence of the
nation ; ' and entreating that such a ministry might be
formed without delay. 8 To this an amendment was
moved by Lord Folkestone, representing that the new
administration was essentially the same as the one that
had already experienced the disapprobation of the coun-



" Parl. Deb. v. 23, pp. 381-387. 374 ; Ann. Reg. 1827, p. 91.
' May, C'onst. Hist. v. 2, pp. 364, Parl. Deb. v. 23, p. 399.



LORD LIVERPOOL S ADMINISTRATION. 173

try, and whose management of public affairs had been 1812.
so prejudicial to the national interests ; and imploring
the appointment of men of wisdom, firmness, and pru-
dence, in the present emergency of the state.* A second
amendment, of a similar purport, was also submitted by
Lord Milton. u After considerable debate, it became
apparent that the sense of the House was opposed to
these propositions, viewing them as attempts to dictate
to the head of the executive in regard to the choice of
his servants. It was urged, on behalf of the ministry, by
Lord Castlereagh, that an interference by the House,
under existing circumstances, would be unprecedented
and unwarrantable. He claimed for the new adminis-
tration ' the constitutional support of Parliament, till
their actions should show them to be unworthy of it.'
The several motions were then put and negatived ; two
of them without a division, and the third by a majority
of 125. v The administration, thus vehemently assailed
at the outset of its career, and presumed to be incapable
of weathering even the current session, proved to be one
of the most durable and successful cabinets ever known.
Lord Liverpool, though not a man of remarkable abili-
ties, was prudent, sagacious, and conciliatory ; well fitted
for the eminent position to which he had attained, and
admirably adapted to cope with the peculiar evils of the
times. w He was ably sustained by his colleagues in office,
some of whom were greatly his superiors in intellect,
but who, nevertheless, were willing to acknowledge his
supremacy in council. With these advantages Lord
Liverpool was enabled to continue at the helm of the
state for upwards of fourteen years. During the whole
of this period the cabinet continued without any material
change of policy, and without any important additions



1 Parl. Deb. v. 23, p. 403. (Lord Liverpool) performed the most

" Ib. p. 406. important function of a prime minis-

T Ib. pp. 397-464. ter, that of keeping his cabinet to-

w Sir G. C. Lewis says that 'he gether.' Lewis, Adminis. p. 432.



17 1 ANNALS OF THE ADMINISTRATIONS OF ENGLAND.

of individual strength except the return of Mr. Canning
to office, in 1816,* and his promotion to the leadership
of the House of Commons, in September 1822 ; the
entrance of the Duke of Wellington into the ministry,
as Master-General of the Ordnance, in 1819 ; of Mr. Peel,
as Home Secretary, in 1822 ; and of Mr. Huskisson, as
President of the Board of Trade, in 1823. At length,
1827. on February 17, 1827, Lord Liverpool was seized with
an attack of paralysis, which, though not fatal at the
time, was of such severity as to render his retention of
office impossible/ Six weeks afterwards, as soon as
returning consciousness permitted, he tendered his re-
signation to the king ; and in his state of health the
sovereign had no alternative but to accept it. During
the long interval which elapsed between the seizure of
Lord Liverpool and his resignation of office, the admin-
istration was left virtually without a head. Nor did his
final retirement solve the difficulty. The men who had
been content to act in subordination to Lord Liverpool,
out of respect to his personal worth and integrity of
purpose, were by no means willing to yield the pre-
eminence to one of their own number. They were not
disposed themselves to retire from office ; but they re-
quired a chief, in whose political views they could
coincide, and, above all, one who should be able to form
a cabinet that would regard the Eoman Catholic claims
as an open question, upon a similar system of com-
promise to that which had been agreed upon by Lord
Liverpool's administration. Both Mr. Peel and Mr.
Canning were well qualified to fill the vacant post ; but
the former was the recognised leader of the anti-Catholic
party, and the latter had been equally conspicuous for
his advocacy of emancipation. Neither of these states-
men, moreover, could be expected to serve under the



* Yonge, Life of Ld. Liverpool, y He died on Dec. 4, 1828, aged 58
v. 2, p. 263. years.



LORD LIVERPOOL S ADMINISTRATION. 175

other. Such were the difficulties wherein his Majesty 1827.
was involved. The king's first attempt was to consult
Mr. Canning (on March 27), in his capacity of a privy
councillor, upon the reconstruction of the ministry.
Mr. Canning recommended that a cabinet should be
formed whose members would unite in opposing Roman
Catholic emancipation, a policy which was in conformity
with the acknowledged sentiments of his Majesty, and
with the existing state of public opinion on the question.
In giving this disinterested advice, Mr. Canning expressed
his own readiness to retire from office rather than be
an obstacle to such an arrangement. But this offer was
rejected by the king, who desired to retain Mr. Canning
in his service, and to place a peer of anti-Catholic
opinions at the head of the ministry. Mr. Canning,
however, objected to the ' super-induction of an anti-
Catholic first minister over his head ; ' he was, in fact,
desirous of placing Mr. Robinson, whose views on the
Catholic question agreed with his own, at the head of
the Treasury, and of retaining his place as Foreign
Secretary, with the understanding that he should be the
virtual premier. But this scheme proved to be imprac-
ticable. Other plans were then devised, but it was
found impossible to agree upon anything which would
allow the prominent members of the Liverpool cabinet
to continue to act in concert. The latter part of Feb-
ruary, and the whole of March, were consumed in these
fruitless negotiations. All this time the old ministry
nominally continued in office, although it was under-
stood that they merely held their places until their suc-
cessors should be appointed. The Liverpool adminis-
tration was accordingly regarded as virtually defunct. 2
During this ministerial interregnum, on March 30 it



1 Ann. Reg. 1827, pp. 90-96 ; of Canning's Administration, first
Lewis, Adminis. p. 435. See R. published by Rev. H. Randolph in
Wilson's narrative of the formation 1872.



170 AXXALS OF THE ADMINISTRATIONS OF ENGLAND.

1827. was moved in the House of Commons, by the Chancellor
of the Exchequer, that the report of the Committee of
Supply (being resolutions granting money which was
required in order to carry on the public service) be
brought up. Mr. Tierney opposed the motion, alleging
that there was no administration to be responsible for
such expenditure. Admitting the undoubted privilege
of the king to choose his own ministers, he claimed for
the House of Commons that it had a right to know to
whom the administration had been entrusted before it
separated for the Easter holidays. He therefore moved



Online LibraryAlpheus ToddOn parliamentary government in England : its origin, development, and practical operation (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 85)