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iSee Trevelyan's Life of Macaulay, p. 272.

v. 2, p. 89. * Guizot, Peel, p. 89.


was no easy matter to induce the remaining members
of the government to accede to them. 1

Twice, during the session of 1844, and before the
complete development of his intended policy in respect
to the Corn Laws, the existence of Sir Eobert Peel's
administration was seriously jeopardised by votes of
the House of Commons. First, upon the question of
the hours of labour in factories, and afterwards, upon
the question of the sugar duties, a majority of the House
affirmed certain propositions which were regarded by
the ministry as injurious to the commercial prosperity
of the country, and opposed to the principles of public
policy which they were resolved to maintain. Upon
each of these defeats, Sir Robert informed the House
that, unless its decision were reconsidered and reversed,
he should feel it to be his duty to resign office. This
appeal was successful upon both occasions ; and the
government were sustained by the adoption of resolu-
tions in accordance with their views. k

At length, in October 1845, a more alarming peril 1845
arose. The Irish potato crop had failed, and it became
necessary to adopt measures to supply the immense de-
ficiency thereby occasioned in the ordinary food of the
people. On October 31, Sir Robert Peel laid before the
cabinet a memorandum containing various suggestions
calculated to meet this emergency. In the discussions
which ensued upon this communication, it became evi-
dent, however, that grave differences of opinion existed,
both as to the necessity for adopting any extraordinary
measures, and as to the shape which such measures
should assume. 1 The cabinet separated, to meet again
in a week. Upon their reassembling, it appeared that
a considerable majority of his colleagues differed from
the premier, three only being willing to give him their
support. Sir Robert, however, decided not to resign

* Peel's Mem. v. 2, p, 100. k See post, v. 2.

1 Peel's Mem. v. 2, p. 148.


1845. n i s office^ an( j thereby dissolve the government, but to
afford his colleagues an opportunity of reconsidering the
whole subject." 1 The discussions in the cabinet were
accordingly resumed ; and, upon December 2, Sir Robert
Peel submitted to them a project for the settlement of
the Corn Law question, but which failed to obtain their
concurrence. He then, on December 5, waited upon
the queen, and tendered his resignation."

Whereupon her Majesty sent for Lord John Russell,
and commissioned him to form a government. With a
view to facilitate a just and comprehensive settlement
of this momentous question, Sir Robert Peel conveyed,
through her Majesty, an offer of his support, and that
of those of his late cabinet who agreed with him, to any
ministry that might be formed for the purpose of settling
the question ; provided their measure should be founded
upon certain defined principles, and be framed in a
cautious and conciliatory spirit, Lord John Russell
acknowledged the liberality of this offer, but pressed
for a further assurance that Sir Robert and his friends
would pledge themselves to concur in a certain plan of
adjustment, the outlines of which he offered to com-
municate. This Sir Robert Peel declined to do ; object-
ing to ' concert, and to preliminary pledges, as calcu-
lated to dissatisfy the House of Commons, to embarrass
all parties, and to diminish his ability to render efficient
service.' While proffering a general support on the
particular question, he would not ' relinquish his power
of free and independent action.' In these conclusions,
Lord John Russell expressed his concurrence. But
the Whig party were in a large minority in the Commons ;
and after several days spent in negotiations, it became
evident that Lord John could not succeed. He failed,

m Peel's Mem. v. 2, p. 158. undertake to form a government upon
n Ib. p. 222. Ld. Stanley, with the principle of Protection. He there-
others of his colleagues who differed fore did not advise the queen to send
from Sir Robert Peel, had authorised for any of them. Ib. pp. 229-234.
him to state that they would not Ib. pp. 241, 242.


moreover, to obtain an agreement amongst his own
friends in respect to the composition of his ministry,
Lord Grey having decidedly opposed an appointment
which Lord John Eussell was desirous of making. p
Accordingly, on December 20, he wrote to the queen,
relinquishing the task.

Sir Eobert Peel was then recalled to power. He
agreed to resume the office of first minister without
previous concert with any one, a course which he had
formerly taken in 1834. He met the cabinet the same
evening, and told them that, whether supported or not,
he was firmly resolved to meet Parliament as her
Majesty's minister, and to propose such measures as the
public exigencies required. This determined conduct
had the effect of bringing the waverers back to their
party allegiance, and, with the exception of Lord Stanley,
all his former colleagues consented to support the prime
minister. q Immediately upon the assembling of Parlia-
ment, ministerial explanations of these transactions were
given ; and Sir Eobert Peel boldly announced his inten-
tion to stand free from the trammels of party, declaring
that he would not remain at the helm unless the ship of
-the state were allowed to pursue the course he thought
she ought to take. He reserved to himself the marking
out of that course, and claimed for himself the unfettered
power of judging of those measures which he conceived
it to be for the good of the country to propose/

Sir R. Peel's conduct on this occasion, like that of the Duke of
Wellington in regard to Roman Catholic emancipation, gave great
offence to his party, who contended that it was a violation of one of the
first principles of political morality. 8 The position occupied by the
Duke of Wellington upon the question was still more emphatically
impeached, as, while credit was given to Sir R. Peel for being an
honest convert to free trade, his grace appears to have based his
acceptance of the doctrine upon considerations of a different descrip-

P Peel's Mem. v. 2, p. 247. And r Hans. D. v. 83, p. 94.

see Trevelyan, Life of Macaulay, v. s May's Const. Hist. v. 2, p. 74.

2, pp. 160-169. For his own defence, see Peel's Mem.

i Ib. pp. 249, 250. v. 2, pp. 163, 229, 311-325.


tion, namely, upon the assumed convenience of the crown in this

By this speech he asserted his independence, not merely
of his colleagues in office, but of the great party of
which he was the acknowledged chief.

In due course, Sir E. Peel communicated to Parlia-
ment his plan of financial and commercial reform. It
excited strong opposition from his quondam supporters,
but, nevertheless, it received the sanction of a majority
in both Houses. But the Nemesis was at hand. During
the progress of the Corn Law Repeal Bill, another
measure for the Protection of Life in Ireland, which, at
an early period of the session, had received the assent
of the Lords, was brought under discussion in the Com-
mons, and, by a combination of parties hostile either to
the ministry or to the Bill itself, was defeated. Fore-
seeing that this Bill, so essential to the maintenance of the
public peace in Ireland, would be rejected by the hos-
tility of a factious Opposition, Sir Robert Peel, on June
1846. 21, transmitted a memorandum to the cabinet upon the
position of the government. He elaborately discussed
therein the alternatives of resignation or dissolution of
Parliament, and, if the latter course were taken, the
proper ground upon which to appeal to the country.
He summed up by expressing a strong opinion in favour
of immediate resignation, as being the most desirable
step for the interests of his party, of the crown, and of
the whole community ; and as being more creditable
than the retention of office without power, or the ad-
vising of a dissolution with little prospect of securing a
majority of members honestly and cordially concurring
with the government in great political principles." This
memorandum Sir Robert Peel addressed, in the first in-
stance, to the Duke of Wellington, and upon receiving
his grace's reply which, while coinciding, in the main,

' See Amos, Fifty Years of the u Peel's Mem. v. 2, pp. 288-297.
Enjar. Const, pp. 847-368.


with his own views, differed somewhat as to the proper me.
grounds for dissolving Parliament, should it be neces-
sary to take that step he circulated both papers
amongst the cabinet ministers/ Sir E. Peel's sugges-
tions met with unanimous approval.

On June 25, owing to a concerted union between
the Whig and Protectionist parties for the purpose of
displacing the government, the Irish Coercion Bill was
rejected, on its second reading, by a majority of 73.
Next day the ministry resigned. w In communicating the
fact of his retirement from office to the House of Com-
mons, Sir E. Peel stated that, had he failed to carry his
measures of commercial policy, he would have advised
the crown to dissolve Parliament, but, having succeeded
in passing them, he could not consent to advise a disso-
lution for the mere continuance of his own administra-
tion in office, unless he could reasonably anticipate that
it would insure him the support of a powerful party,
united to him by a general concurrence of views on all
great questions, a result which, at this juncture, he did
not consider probable. Moreover, he thought that the
country, after its recent excitement, stood in need of

19. Lord John Russell's First Administration. 1846.

On July 6, 1846, Lord John Eussell was sworn in as
First Lord of the Treasury. His cabinet consisted of
the then unusual number of 16 persons. ' He took office
with a majority of 100, sitting opposite to him ; and
carried on the government with a minority during the
remainder of the Parliament, which completed its seventh
session in July 1847 ; but he did it for the advantage of
the country, and with the full approbation and moral

v Peel's Mem. v. 2, pp. 298-308. a Coercion Bill, which, with the

w In the following year the new friendly assistance of Sir R. Peel,

ministry were themselves compelled, they passed into a law. See Martin's

by the state of Ireland, to introduce Pr. Consort, v. 1, p. 461.


support of a majority in Parliament, ' x including Sir
E, Peel and his friends/

i860. In February 1850, he narrowly escaped defeat upon
the question of agricultural distress, being sustained by
a majority of 21 only, in a House of 530 members.
On this occasion a change of ministry was anticipated,
but did not occur. On June 17, 1850, a resolution,
proposed by Lord Stanley in the House of Lords, con-
demnatory of the foreign policy of ministers, in relation
to the affairs of Greece, was carried, by a majority of
37. This was met by a counter-resolution, proposed by
Mr. Roebuck, in the Commons, approving of the whole
foreign policy of government, which was carried, on
June 28, by a majority of 46. However, on February
13. 1851, upon another Protectionist motion, proposed
by Mr. Disraeli, they obtained a bare majority of 11, in
a House of 548 members, and, on the 20th, were
defeated, upon a motion of Mr. Locke King, on a ques-
tion of the extension of the franchise. On February 22,
Lord John Russell resigned. But after ineffectual at-
tempts on the part of Lords Stanley and Aberdeen, and
of Lord John Russell, in connection with Lord Aberdeen
and Sir James Graham, to form a ministry, her Majesty
sent for the Duke of Wellington, to take counsel from
him in regard to this political emergency ; and * paused
for a while before she again commenced the task of
forming an administration.' At length, upon the advice
of the Duke of Wellington, the Whig ministry were re-
called to office. 2 On December 22 following, the minis-
try were weakened by the loss of Lord Palmerston,
under circumstances which will be specially noticed in
another chapter.* Explanations were given to the
House of Commons, of this event, by Lord John Russell,

Mr. Disraeli, Hans. D. v. 191, 344-354 Hans. D.v. 114, pp. 1033,

p. 1704; and see p. 1720. 1076. The popular cry at this juncture

y Earl Russell's Recollections, p. \vasinfavourofaCoalitionMinistry.

See Stockmar's Mem. v. 2, p. 446.
1 Martin's Pr. Consort, v. 2, pp. See post, v. 2.


in the debate upon the Address, at the commencement 1352.
of the session, on February 3, 1852. A few days after-
wards, the ministry were defeated upon an amendment,
proposed by Lord Palmerston, to the motion for leave
to bring in a Bill to regulate the ' local militia.' The
amendment consisted in the substitution of the word
' general ' for ' local.' b It was carried, on February 20,
by 136 votes to 125. On February 23, their resignation
was announced to both Houses. Her Majesty had offered
them the alternative of a dissolution of Parliament, but
the cabinet were unanimous in the opinion that it was
not advisable to have recourse thereto.

20. Lord Derby's First Administration. Feb. 1852.

Instead of sending for Lord Palmerston, as might 1852 -
have been anticipated, her Majesty commissioned the
Earl of Derby to form a ministry. He was very re-
luctant to take office ; d but nevertheless succeeded in
the undertaking, and on February 27 the new premier
explained the intended policy of his cabinet in the
House of Lords. This administration was confessedly
in a minority, in the House of Commons, upon the great
party questions. 6 But they struggled through the
session in which they had taken office, with the intention
(which, for constitutional reasons, was hinted, rather
than expressed) of dissolving Parliament in the ensuing
autumn, and of then shaping their course of policy on
the question of Free Trade, and the Corn Laws, accord-
ing to the general sentiment of the country, as it might
be expressed in the new Parliament. But they were
not permitted to take this course without encountering
strenuous opposition. On March 15, Lord John Eussell

b See Ashley, Life of Palmerston, p. 1076.

v. 1, p. 333. Martin's Pr. Consort, d See Hans. D. v. 214, p. 1939.

v. 2, p. 433. e Martin, Pr. Consort, v. 2, p. 441.

c Ib. v. 2, p. 441. Hans. D. v. 150, Hans. D. v. 119, p. 914.


1852. warmly contended that the proposed delay in dissolving
Parliament, and the attempt to conduct public business
by Lord Derby's ministry, whilst in an admitted minority
in the House of Commons, was unconstitutional and
unprecedented/ He was followed, at greater length,
and to the same effect, by Sir James Graham. After-
wards, Mr. Gladstone and Lord Palmerston urged
that, constitutionally, the new ministry were bound to
give a distinct assurance that, as soon as the necessary
business before Parliament could be despatched, the
crown should be advised to appeal to the country . g In
the House of Lords, similar views were expressed by the
Duke of Newcastle. 11 Lord Derby, in reply, said that he
did not rely on the conduct of Mr. Pitt, in 1784, as a
precedent, not regarding it as a very analogous case ;
but he defended his position by referring to the course
adopted by Sir R. Peel, in 1835, when he was in a
minority, in the House of Commons, upon his assump-
tion of the reins of government, and failed to obtain a
majority upon a dissolution of Parliament. He sus-
tained several serious defeats in the new House, yet he
would not resign, saying, ' I hold there is nothing
unconstitutional, in the post I fill, arid in the fulfilment
of my duty, to persevere in the discharge of those
duties to which my sovereign has called me, in defiance
of the majority that is against me upon any abstract
question, and in defiance of any declaration on the part
of the House of Commons that I ought to bring forward
a particular question, and settle it in a particular
manner. I will perform my duty until the House shall,
by its vote, refuse its sanction to some measure of
importance which I think necessary to submit to its
consideration.' Upon this constitutional doctrine, laid
down in 1835, Lord Derby declared that he was pre-
pared to abide in 1852. He could not consent to

f Hans. D. v. 119, p. 1067. Ib. pp. 1090, 1106, 1111. h Ib. p. 1267.


resign, as he and his party had not sought office, or 1852.
brought about his accession to it ; neither would he
give any distinct pledge as to the time when he would
advise a dissolution. He expressed, however, an anxious
desire that an appeal to the country should be made at
the earliest period possible, consistently with the public
welfare. Furthermore, he said that he thought the
new Parliament should be assembled before the close
of the coming autumn, to ' pronounce its definitive
and final decision.' * With this explanation, the leading
statesmen in the House of Lords declared themselves to
be satisfied. A similar announcement was made in the
House of Commons, on the same clay, by Mr. Disraeli,
in reply to an enquiry by Lord John Russell. On
March 22, Lord John Russell professed himself content
with these explanations, and expressed his willingness to
aid the government in completing the necessary busi-
ness without delay. j The prorogation took place on
July 1, and the dissolution of Parliament upon the
same day. At the close of the session, Lord Derby
' gratefully acknowledged ' that his ministry had met
' with no factious opposition,' and had ' encountered
nothing but a fair, legitimate, and constitutional oppo-
sition in the other House of Parliament.' 1 " The new
Parliament assembled on November 4. The returns to
the new House of Commons left the balance of parties
very much as before, with no decisive working majority
on either side. 1 But they indicated the opinion of the
country to be in favour of a continuance of the new
commercial policy, and opposed to any return to the
principle of Protection. Accordingly, on November 11,
in the debate upon the Address, in answer to the
speech from the throne, Lord Derby stated that he
should bow to the decision of the country, thus unmis-

1 Ld. Derby's speech, Hans. D. v. k Ib. v. 122, p. 1408.
1 19, p. 1274. ' Martin's Pr. Consort, v. 2, pp. 453,

J Hans. D. v. 119, p. 1409. 479.


1852 takably expressed, and should give his unequivocal
adhesion to that policy . m Notwithstanding this frank
avowal, the combination of parties proved too strong
for the administration, and upon the introduction of
the budget by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr.
Disraeli), a debate ensued upon the whole financial
policy of the government, which resulted in a defeat of
the ministry, on December 16, by a majority of 19.
Ministers were strongly urged, on this occasion, to
remain in office. They were assured, even by leading
opponents, that this vote being on a question of
finance did not authorise their resignation ; but, being
in a minority in a Parliament elected under their own
auspices, and having no assurance of support from the
majority of the House of Commons upon their general
policy, they deemed it right to retire. 11 Next day their
resignation of office was announced to both Houses of

21. Lord Aberdeen's Administration. December 1852.

In hopes of obtaining a strong and durable adminis-
tration, which should be at once conservative and
reforming, the queen sent for Lord Aberdeen, and also
wrote to Lord John Russell, expressing her reliance
upon his patriotism, and his willingness to co-operate in
the formation of a coalition government. In this her
Majesty was not disappointed. On December 27, 1852,
Lord Aberdeen informed the House of Lords that he
had succeeded, in conjunction with Lord John Russell,
in forming a Coalition Ministry, of Conservatives and
Liberals, who would agree in ' the maintenance and
prudent extension of Free Trade and the commercial
and financial system established by the late Sir Robert
Peel.' And he proceeded to state the outlines of the

Hans. D. v. 123, p. 53. Trevelyan,Lifeof Macaulay,v. 2,

n Mr. Disraeli, Hans. D. v. 191, p. 3,,2. Martin's Pr. Consort, v. 2,
p. 1702. Ib. v. 205, p. 1659. p. 482.


policy intended to be pursued by the new administra-
tion. Both Houses were then adjourned until Feb-
ruary 10. On that day, Lord John Eussell, as leader
of the government in the House of Commons, explained
the measures intended to be submitted to Parliament.
These measures were received, by both Houses, in a
fair and candid spirit. The result was that a mass of
legislation, unusual in amount as well as in value, was
initiated and successfully carried through by this
government. 1 "

The Aberdeen ministry remained in office until 1855.
For a considerable period before their final overthrow, 1855
discontent had prevailed in the cabinet ; they had been
bereft of genuine parliamentary support, and had been
subjected to frequent defeat, in the House of Commons,
' upon cross motions of every description.' This greatly
impaired their strength and efficiency. 9 Their downfall
was ultimately occasioned by internal dissensions and
notorious incompetency to meet the crisis of the war
with Russia. It was preceded by the unexpected seces-
sion of Lord John Russell himself, who resigned on
January 23, 1855, on account of his inability to concur
-with his colleagues in resisting a pending motion of Mr.
Roebuck, for the appointment of a committee to enquire
into the conduct of the war in the Crimea/ This mo-
tion was carried, on January 29, by a large majority.
It was regarded as a declaration of want of confidence
in the government. Accordingly, on February 1, the
resignation of ministers was announced to both Houses.

The announcement was made in the Commons by Lord Palmer-
ston, the Home Secretary. The resignations had actually taken
place before the meeting of the House on the previous sitting
(January 30), and would have been formally made known upon the
moving of the adjournment on that day, on account of ' the present

P Martin's Pr. Consort, v. 2, pp. 487, 136, p. 1000. Martin's Pr. Consort,
503. v. 3, p. 90.

* Mr. Sidney Herbert, Hans. D. v. r See post, \. 2.


1855. state of public affairs/ but for the accidental circumstance of the
Lords having adjourned over that day. The premier having a seat
in the Lords, it was necessary that the formal announcement of re-
signation should proceed first from him. 8

After the premier had communicated this intelli-
gence to the Lords, the Duke of Newcastle took the
unusual course of explaining to the House his personal
motives for his conduct in office, and for his resignation.
On February 5, Lord John Eussell (in the Commons)
entered into similar explanations, in answer to certain
remarks from the Duke of Newcastle on the aforesaid
occasion. Meanwhile, ineffectual attempts had been
made, both by Lord Derby and by Lord John Eussell,
at the command of the queen, to form a new administra-
tion ; * and Lord John Eussell took this opportunity to
explain the causes of his failure. This elicited some
observations from the Chancellor of the Exchequer ; but
no debate arose upon either occasion.

22. Lord Palmerstons First Administration. 18^5.

On February 6, 1855, both Houses were informed
that her Majesty had empowered Lord Palmerston to
form a ministry. In the Commons (upon the motion to
adjourn), a short debate took place, in which dissatis-
faction was expressed at the delay in the formation of
a new ministry, and hints were thrown out that, if
further delay occurred, it might become expedient to
address the crown on the subject. On the 8th, Lord
Granville informed the House of Lords that Lord Pal-
merston had succeeded in the task entrusted to him. His
lordship briefly explained that no change of policy was
intended by the incoming administration, which was, in
fact, a reconstruction of the preceding one, with some
partial changes, and re- distribution of offices." And

* Hans. D. v. 136, pp. 1233, 1201. u Hans. D. v. 136, p. 1330. Ashley,

* See Martin's Pr. Consort, v. 3, p. Life of Palmerston, v. 2, c. iii. Mar-
202. tin's Pr. Consort, v. 3, p. 208.

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