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then Lord Derby entered into explanations in regard to 1355.
his own failure to construct a cabinet, which gave rise
to a short debate. But the ordinary ministerial expla-
nations were deferred until the appearance of Lord
Palmerston in the House of Commons, after his re elec-
tion. Until this took place, with the partial exceptions
above noted, there was no political discussion in either
House, although the House of Commons sat, for the
transaction of ordinary and unopposed business, on
January 30, February 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, when they
adjourned until the 16th. Meanwhile, the Chancellor
of the Exchequer (Mr. Gladstone), the Commissioner
of Public Works (Sir W. Molesworth), and the Presi-
dent of the Board of Control (Sir C. Wood) resumed
their offices as members of the new administration.
Nevertheless, while taking part in the debates, they re-
frained from asserting their official position during this
interregnum, and in the absence of their chief. In pro-
posing a vote on .account in supply, on behalf of the
Army, upon February 7, the Chancellor of the Ex-
chequer said : ' I presume the government are of opinion
that it would be the wish of the House that we should
not proceed with any business, except such as is of
absolute necessity, in order that those who have accepted
office, or who have changed their offices, in her Majesty's
government at least the principal members of it may
have an opportunity of submitting themselves to their
constituents for their re-election. ' v Upon the re-assem-
bling of the House, on February 16, Lord Palmerston
was present, and entered into the ordinary ministerial
explanations, He endeavoured to persuade the House
to forego their determination to enquire, by a commit-
tee of their own, into the condition of the Army before
Sebastopol, but he was compelled to yield, upon this
point, to the determination of the House ; although this

r Hans. P, v. 136, p. 1809.


concession led to further changes in the composition of
the ministry.

On February 22, it was announced that Mr. Gladstone, Mr.
Sidney Herbert, Sir J. Graham, and (afterwards) Mr. Cardwell, had
retired from the new cabinet ; they were speedily replaced, however,
by Sir G. C. Lewis, Lord John Russell, Mr. Vernon Smith, and Lord
Stanley of Alderley. The ex-ministers made their explanations on
the following day, alleging their strong objections to the proposed
committee of enquiry into the state of the Army before Sebastopol
as the ground of their retirement. With the consent of the premier,
and his new colleagues, the committee was appointed. w On July 16,
Lord John Russell resigned office, on account of animadversions in
Parliament, and out of doors, upon his conduct as minister plenipo-
tentiary at Vienna, Sir E. Bulwer-Lytton having given notice of
motion for a vote of censure upon him.*

By a resolution of the House of Commons, on
1857 March 3, 1857, the Palmerston ministry were censured
for the ' violent measures resorted to at Canton in the
late affair of the Arrow.' The House of Lords, how-
ever, approved of their conduct and policy upon the
Chinese question, and upon other questions the House
of Commons gave them a general support. They there-
fore resolved to appeal to the country by a dissolution
of Parliament. They were influenced in this determina-
tion by the probability that it would be difficult to form
a strong government to work with the existing House
of Commons, which had already lasted five years, within
which period there had been three different administra-
tions/ The Chinese question excited very little interest
at the hustings, but the name of ' Palmerston ' was the
rallying cry in almost every constituency. The result
of the elections was the return of an increased majority
of members to support the administration of that popular
nobleman. 2

But ere long a still more difficult bone of contention


w Hans. D. v. 130, pp. 1733, 1865, See post, v. 2.

and see further as to enuiiry and y Hans. D. v. 144, pp. 1885, 1894.

results, post, Chapter on Army and z Ashley, Life of Palmerston, v. 2,

Navy. p. 136.


arose. At the commencement of the year 1858, there
was much excitement in England and France in con-
sequence of the discovery of a nefarious plot, against
the life of the Emperor of the French, by one Orsini, a
foreign refugee resident in London. This occasioned a
diplomatic correspondence between the two govern-
ments, and led to the introduction, by Lord Palmerston,
of a Bill into Parliament to amend the law in relation to
the crime of conspiracy to commit murder. But certain
expressions in a despatch from the French minister for
Foreign Affairs, impugning the sacred right of asylum,
and the adequacy of the existing law applicable to the
case, gave offence to the House of Commons. While
they were willing to agree to any amendment that
might be required to satisfy the ends of justice, they
disclaimed the right of the French government to dic-
tate upon a matter of internal legislation ; and they
considered that the objectionable portions of the des-
patch in question should have been formally answered
by the Foreign Secretary before the initiation of further
legislation upon the subject. These opinions were em-
bodied by Mr. Milner Gibson in an amendment which, on
February 19, he proposed to the second reading of the
Bill, and which was carried by a majority of 19 (234 to
215) against the government.* 1 On this occasion it was
clear that the feeling of the country concurred with the
majority of the House of Commons ; and notwithstand-
ing the general support afforded by the House to the
ministry, and the fact that the only party in Parliament
which was capable of assuming office was neither strong
in numbers nor high in popular favour, it was evident
that a vote of censure so emphatic left the ministry no
alternative but to resign ? b Accordingly, at the next

a Ashley, Life of Palmerston, later its provisions were silently ad-

v. 2, p. 142. ' To the measure itself, mitted to a place in our revised

apart from the circumstances under criminal laws.' May, Const. Hist,

which it was offered, no valid objec- v. 2, p, 304 : 24 & 25 Viet. c. 100, 4.

tion could he raised ; and three years b Ann. Reg, 1858, p, 50, But while


meeting of the House, Lord Palmerston announced their
retirement from office.

23. Lord Derby's Second Administration. 1858.

1858. On February 22, 1858, it was intimated that the
Earl of Derby had been sent for and commissioned to
form a new administration. Although unable to com-
mand a majority in the House of Commons, the noble
earl consented to take office, and succeeded in con-
structing an efficient cabinet. On March 1, he made
his ministerial statement in the House of Lords, and
both Houses then adjourned for eleven days, to admit,
of the new ministers, in the Commons, going for re-
election. Shortly after this recess (on March 15), Lord
Malmesbury (the Foreign Secretary) laid on the table
of the House of Lords a correspondence that had taken
place between her Majesty's ministers, since their acces-
sion to office, and the French government, which corre-
spondence, he stated, had terminated in all honour and
good feeling on both sides.

On May 11, a breach was made in the ministerial
ranks by the resignation of Lord Ellenborough (the
President of the Board of Control), on account of com-
plaints in Parliament that he had unwisely and precipi-
tately published a secret dispatch to the Governor-
General of India, animadverting upon a proclamation
about to be issued in India.

On March 1, 1859, Mr. Walpole (the Home Secre-
tary) and Mr. Henley (the President of the Board of
Trade) informed the House of Commons that they had
retired from the ministry, on account of their objec-
tions to some of the provisions of the government
Reform Bill.

the vote of censure was the ostensible Reform Bill.' Lewis's Letters, p. 426.
cause, Sir G. C. Lewis, who was c See Hans. L>. v. 154, p. 111. In

Chancellor of the Exchequer at the fact, only one-third of the members of

time, says ' there is no doubt that Ld. the existing H. of Commons were sup-

Palmerston resigned on account of the porters of the government. Ib. p. 123.


Owing in part to the forbearance of their political 1859.
opponents, and also to a general disposition, both in
and out of Parliament, to give the Conservative ministry
a fair trial, they were permitted to carry on the govern-
ment without obstruction, or factious opposition, until
the introduction of this measure. The scheme of
Eeform propounded on the part of the Conservatives
excited, however, great hostility for various and widely
different reasons. Lord John Eussell skilfully availed
himself of the prevalent dissatisfaction to forestall the
committal of the Bill at which stage the ministry ex-
pressed their readiness 'to consider any proposed amend-
ments of detail, and to endeavour to make their measure
generally acceptable by moving an amendment upon
the second reading, condemnatory, in general terms, of
its principle. On March 31, this amendment was car-
ried against the government.

On April 4, ministers announced their intention of
appealing to the country by a dissolution of Parliament.
In communicating this intention to the House of Lords,
the premier adverted to some remarks which had fallen
from Lord Palmer ston, on March 25, in the other
"House, to the effect that the ministry, notwithstanding
this defeat, ' should be permitted neither to retire, nor
to dissolve, nor to withdraw the Bill,' but should re-
main in their places, c to do our bidding.' d Eepudiating
the idea that he could consent to occupy such an igno-
minious and unconstitutional position, his lordship pro-
ceeded to enquire where any authority could be found
to justify any restriction upon the prerogative of the
crown to dissolve Parliament at any time and upon any
occasion. He asserted that ever since the memorable
case of 1784 ' which recoiled upon the heads of its
authors there has been no attempt to interfere with

d Hans. D. v. 153, p. 882. Ashley, claimed this construction of his re-
Life of Palmerstou, v. 2, p. 151. marks. See post, p. 231. And see
Afterwards Lord Paliuerston dis- Hans. D. v. 191 , p. 1703.


1859. the prerogative of the crown to dissolve Parliament
when and for what reason it thought fit.' He then
declared that, with the unanimous consent of his col-
leagues, he had assumed the responsibility of advising
the queen, unless she preferred to accept their resigna-
tion of office, to dissolve the present Parliament, ' so
soon as it could be done consistently with the discharge
of those duties, and the performance of that amount of
business which is indispensable before a dissolution can
take place ; ' and that her Majesty had been pleased to
sanction this appeal to the judgment and decision of
the people. But in regard to the issue upon which the
ministry would go to the country, Lord Derby distinctly
stated that it should be wholly irrespective of the merits
of their Eeform Bill, or of the general question of Par-
liamentary Eeform. The appeal would be made ' on a
much larger and broader question,' as to whether the
country would support the ministry in whom the
sovereign had bestowed her confidence, and who had
endeavoured, by their public conduct, to deserve the
confidence which the House of Commons had withheld. 6
In reply, Lord Granville, as leader of the Opposition,
complained of Lord Derby for not stating ' exactly the
policy upon which the appeal ' to the country was to
be made.* On the same day, a similar statement was
made to the House of Commons by the Chancellor of
the Exchequer (Mr. Disraeli). He remarked that, ' ever
since the commencement of the session, the government
had found itself frequently in minorities, and that, too,
in many instances, on subjects of no mean importance.'
But, while regarding their position as a painful one, they
had hitherto refrained from making it the subject of
a communication to the House, for various reasons,
arising out of the state of parties, of the foreign rela-
tions of the crown, and of their desire to fulfil their

f Hans. I), v. 153, pp. 1280-1291. f Ib. p. 1298.


pledge to introduce a Reform Bill. But they considered 1859.
the vote on the second reading of that measure to be a
censure upon the government, which virtually deprived
them of all authority. They had accordingly advised
the queen to dissolve Parliament, in hopes that, by
' recurring to the sense of her people, a state of affairs
might be brought about which might be more con-
ducive to the public interest.' He characterised the
intended dissolution as an ' appeal to the country on
our personal position. ' g In reply, Lord Palmerston
acknowledged the right of the government to advise
the dissolution, saying, ' we recognise the right of the
crown upon any occasion to appeal from the House of
Commons to the country. We may think it more or
less advisable to make that appeal, but when such an
intention is announced, I am persuaded that this House
will concur with government in accelerating as much as
possible the moment for dissolving,' with the understand-
ing ' that Parliament must meet at the earliest moment at
which the writs are returnable.' He also admitted that
' the government may say that the question put to the
country is whether it has entire confidence in them, or
whether it prefers any other combination of men ; although
he contended that practically the question of Reform
would be the issue that the country would decide. 11

On April 6, Lord Palmerston entered into personal
explanations in reply to what fell from Lord Derby on
the 4th instant. He denied the construction put by the
premier upon his remarks on a former occasion, and
declared that no one who knew anything of the British
constitution could question the prerogative of the crown,
upon the advice of responsible ministers, ' to dissolve
Parliament at any period of the year, or in any state
whatever of the public business that they may think a
fit opportunity of so doing.' Nevertheless, ' it is obvious
that the advisers of the crown cannot, without great

* Hans. D. v. 153, pp. 1302-1307. h Ib. pp. 1310, 1311.


i85s. inconvenience to the public service, recommend the
sovereign to dissolve Parliament, and carry that recom-
mendation into effect, unless the House of Commons
makes itself a party to the transaction, accelerates its
proceedings, and concurs in the temporary expedients
which are necessary in order to place the public busi-
ness in a position in which a dissolution would not be
attended with inconvenience.' For it would have been
perfectly constitutional for the House, under existing
circumstances, to refuse to be a party to the abrupt and
premature termination of the session, and to interpose
their advice between that tendered to her Majesty by
her responsible ministers and the act of dissolution, by
an ' address to the crown, praying that it would neither
dissolve nor prorogue Parliament until the House had
had the opportunity of considering another Eeform Bill,
to be presented by the Government ; ' or ' to address
the crown to dismiss the present ministers.' 1 His lord-
ship, however, would not advise the House to adopt
either of these courses, but thought it far better to
' accept the challenge of her Majesty's ministers, and
appeal to the sense of the people ' without delay.

Some further discussion ensued as to the issue upon
which the government intended to go to the hustings.
The Opposition persisted in asserting that- the issue for
the country to decide was the propriety of their Reform
policy ; but the Home Secretary (Mr. Sotheran-Estcourt)
maintained that ' the real question at issue for the
country to consider was whether the government should
be carried on by the present ministers, or whether
power should be transferred to other hands.' 3 The
prorogation of Parliament took place on April 19, 1859,
and the dissolution on the 23rd. The new Parliament
assembled on May 31. On the motion for an Address

1 Hans. D. v. 153, p. 1415. And issue which the Derby Government
see Sir G. Grey's remarks on this put to the people, and which was de-
point, p. 1419. cided against them. See Ib. v. 154,

J Ib. p. 1429. This was in fact the pp. ] 11, 147.


in answer to the speech from the throne, an amendment 1859.
was proposed, in the House of Commons, on June 7,
representing that the present advisers of her Majesty
did not possess the confidence of this House, or of the
country. After three nights' debate, the amendment
was carried, by a majority of 13. The division upon
this, question was the largest on record. There were
638 members present out of 654. k

At the division on April 27, 1866, on the second reading of the
Reform Bill, there were present 636 members, including the Tellers
and the Speaker. The increased attention of members to their
parliamentary duties within the present century, may be inferred
from the fact that, at a great party division, in 1804, when 493
members were present, including the Speaker, it was said to have
been ' the fullest House that was ever known,' l which was not
strictly correct, as on one occasion, in 1742, 508 were present. Mr.
Speaker Abbot refers to a division on April 24, 1812, when the ayes
were 300 and the noes 215, as 'probably the largest number that
ever attended on any division.' m The largest division in the House
of Lords is said to have included about 310 Peers. 11

The ministry thereupon immediately resigned office ;
but their resignation was not formally announced to
both Houses until June 17. At this juncture the
queen first commissioned Earl Granville to form a
ministry, but as soon as that nobleman found that a
better and a stronger arrangement might be made, he
at once requested her Majesty to absolve him from the
task. In fact, before the new Parliament met, and in
anticipation of the speedy downfall of the Derby min-
istry, the two rival chiefs of the Whig party, Lords
John Russell and Palmerston, had come to an agreement
that whichever of the two was charged with the for-
mation of a government, should receive the co-operation
of the other. Her Majesty knew nothing of this un-

k Hans. D. v. 154, p. 416. Ann. n Hans. D. v. 188, p. 654. Yonge,

Reg. 1859. Chronicle, p. 81. Life of Ld. Liverpool, v. 1, p. 236.

1 Life of Earl Minto, v. 3, p. 348. Hans. D. v. 154, pp. 422, 423,

m Colchester Diaries, v. 2, pp. 123, 431.


derstanding, and had supposed either of these noblemen
would have been willing to serve under Lord Granville.
Lord Palmerston at once agreed to do so. But Lord
John Eussell was not so tractable. This led to Lord
Granville's failure. Whereupon the queen transferred
her commission to Lord Palmerston. p

24. Lord Palmerstoris Second Administration. 1859.
1859. On June 17, the Houses were informed that Lord
Palmerston had been empowered to form an adminis-
tration. On June 22, the new writs were ordered ; and
an adjournment took place until the 30th, on which
day the new premier made his ministerial statement to
the House of Commons.

This ministry lasted for upwards of six years, and
was finally broken up by the death of Palmerston, which
occurred on October 18, 1865, being within two days
of the completion of his eighty-first year. During this
period his lordship's conduct of public affairs in the
lead of the House of Commons was admirable, and
wholly free from a certain brusque and dictatorial
manner which characterised his former leadership^

25. Earl Russell's Second Administration. 1865.

1865. A few days after the decease of the veteran Lord
Palmerston, Earl Eussell, the Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs, and the most experienced and promi-
nent member of the administration, who had already
once before filled the office of premier, was called upon
by the queen to assume that position. The lead of the
House of Commons was assigned to Mr. Gladstone, the
Chancellor of the Exchequer. A few minor alterations
were made in the personnel of the government, and two
new members introduced therein, namely, Mr. Forster,

p Hans. D. v. 154, p. 457. Ashley, Martin's Pr. Consort, v. 4, pp. 443, 452.
Life of Palmerston, v. 2, p. 154. Ib. v. 2, pp. 147, 203.


as Under-Secret ary of the Colonies, and Mr. Goschen,
first as Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and, after
a few weeks, as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster,
with a seat in the cabinet/ Otherwise, the political
character of the new ministry resembled that of Lord
Palmerston, although in the loss of that gifted and
popular statesman it failed to acquire the same amount
of confidence and respect from the various parties into
which the House of Commons was divided. Three
months before Lord Palmerston's death, a general elec-
tion had taken place, and the returns to the new Parlia-
ment appeared to have somewhat added to the strength
of ministers, and to have given them a majority of about
seventy over their political opponents.

A Eeibrm Bill was promised in the speech from the 1866.
throne, at the opening of Parliament. Some delay oc-
curred in the production of this measure, and when at
length it was brought in, it consisted of a part only of
the government scheme, in the shape of a Bill for the
reduction of the franchise. It was stated that the
necessary complement, of a Bill for the re-distribution
of seats, would not be introduced until the following
session. This arrangement produced great dissatisfac-
tion in the House, and ministers were at length obliged
to bring in their Seats Bill without further delay, in
order that the complete scheme of Eeform might be
discussed in committee of the whole House. After
several minor discomfitures on the question of Eeform,
ministers were defeated on May 28, on a motion, which
was carried against them, for an instruction to the com-
mittee on the Bill to provide therein for the better .pre-
vention of bribery and corruption at elections. 8 They
were again defeated, in committee, on June 18, by a
resolution to amend the 5th clause (concerning the oc-
cupation franchise for borough voters) by striking out

1 Ann. Reg. 1865, p. 159. Hans. D. v. 183, p. 1S44.


the words ' clear yearly,' with a view to the insertion of
' rateable ' instead thereof.* Eegarding this decision as
equivalent to a vote of want of confidence, ministers
immediately tendered their resignations. The queen
was, at the time, at Balmoral Castle, in Scotland, a
circumstance which occasioned some delay. But, on
learning the intentions of ministers, her Majesty expressed
her desire that they would not persist in retiring from
office in the existing state of public affairs, especially
upon the Continent where a war between Austria,
Italy, and Prussia was on the eve of taking place and
declared her opinion that a mere defeat upon a question
of detail, which was capable of adjustment, did not call
for such serious consequences. In deference to this
opinion the matter remained in abeyance until the
queen, on her return from Scotland, should be able to
confer personally with her ministers. On June 26, the
premier and the chancellor of the exchequer had an
audience with the queen, at Windsor Castle, at which
her Majesty was informed that ministers persevered in
tendering their resignations. 11 They were accordingly
accepted ; and full explanations of the grounds of their
retirement from office were given, on that day, to both
Houses of Parliament. Earl Russell's statement, in the
House of Lords, led to speeches from Earls Derby,
Granville, and Grey, upon the ministerial crisis. Mr.
Gladstone's statement, in the House of Commons, elicited
no remarks from any other member.

26. Earl of Derby's Third Administration. 1866.

On June 28, the House of Commons was informed
that the Earl of Derby had received the queen's com-

* Hans. D. v. 184, p. 639. from Earl Russell announcing his

u A vote of confidence was about resignation. May, Const. Hist. ed.

Online LibraryAlpheus ToddOn parliamentary government in England : its origin, development, and practical operation (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 85)