Copyright
Alpheus Todd.

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

. (page 27 of 85)
Online LibraryAlpheus ToddOn parliamentary government in England : its origin, development, and practical operation (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 85)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Shortly after his accession to the throne, the king informed his *^ s P er ~
ministers that it was his wish that Lord Holdernesse, then one of O f p- overn .
the secretaries of state, should retire upon the wardenship of the ment.
Cinque Ports, and that the Earl of Bute should be appointed
secretary in his stead. With some reluctance the ministry acquiesced
in this arrangement. 2 In 1792 his Majesty conferred upon Mr.
Pitt the office of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, unsolicited by
that minister, and with a declaration that he would receive no



w Lives of the Chanc. v. 7, p. 341. * Mabon, Hist, of Eng. v. 4, p. 310.

* This felicitous phrase was app/ied z Harris, Life of Hardwicke, v. 3,

by M. Guizot to the conduct of Louis p. 242 ; but see a different account of

Philippe after his elevation to the this transaction in Rose, Corresp. v. 2,

throne of France. Guizot's Mem. v. p. 191.
2, p. 45.



282 THE SOVEREIGN.

Personal recommendation in favour of any other person.* The king was
evidently determined to regard this post ' as his one private piece of
patronage,' for after Mr. Pitt's death he conferred it upon Lord
Hawkesbury, under precisely similar circumstances. 15 It was with
great difficulty that Mr. Pitt obtained the king's consent to confer a
bishopric and deanery upon his tutor and friend, Dr. Pretyman ; c and
when Mr. Pitt recommended his friend and biographer, Dr. Tomline,
for promotion to the see of Canterbury, the king insisted upon appoint-
ing Dr. Manners-Sutton, notwithstanding all the solicitations of his
minister." 1 The king refused to confer a dukedom upon Earl Temple,
although requested to do so by Mr. Pitt, and, moreover, declared his
determination to grant no more dukedoms except to princes of the
blood. 6 On the other hand, several examples of the rightful exercise
of kingly authority on the part of George III. may be profitably
cited. f E.g., upon the resignation of the elder Pitt, in 1761, the
king expressed his concern at the loss of so able a minister, and
made him an unlimited offer of any reward in the power of the
crown to bestow. In 1781, when the commander-in-chief carried
him a packet of military commissions to be signed, the king, on look-
ing over the list, observed one person appointed captain over an old
lieutenant. Referring to some private memoranda of his own,
which contained particulars very much to the credit of the old
veteran, his Majesty at once directed that he should be promoted to
the vacant company, without purchase. We have the authority of
Mr. Wynn for stating that from the close of the American war until
the breaking out of hostilities with France, the king's pleasure was
taken by the secretary-at-war upon every commission granted in
the army; and that throughout Mr. Pitt's administration, and so
long indeed as his Majesty was capable of attending to business,
' every act and appointment was submitted to him, not nominally,
but really for the purpose of his exercising a judgment upon it.' 8 A
notable instance of the king's firmness occurred in 1780, during the
prevalence of the great anti-popery riots in London. His Majesty
was presiding at a Privy Council, to which all who had a right to sit
had been summoned. Ministers were timorous and vacillating in
advising the steps that should be taken to quell the disturbances,
when the king interposed ; and after taking the opinion of the
attorney-general, directed that an Order in Council should be drawn
up for the guidance of the proper authorities in the emergency, to



11 Stanhope's Pitt, v. 2, p. 160. v. 2, pp. 82-91.

b Yonge, Life of Ld. Liverpool, v. 1, e Stanhope's Pitt, v. 1 , p. 164. Fitz-

p. 209. maurice, Life of Ld. Shelburne, v. 3,

c Stanhope's Pitt, v. 1, p. 322 ; App. p. 419.
xx. f Edison, Geo. III. pp. 26, 44, 49.

" H>. v. 4, p. 252. Ptose, Corresp. Parl. D. v. 22, p. 334.



GEORGE IV. AS A SOVEKEIGN. 283

which he instantly affixed the sign-manual. 11 Lord Eldon often de-
clared that he thought his old master George III. had more wisdom
than all his ministers conjointly ; and that he could not remember
having taken to him any state-paper of importance which he did
not alter, nor one which he did not alter for the better. This
peculiar sagacity he attributed not so much to the natural qualities
of the king as to his immense opportunities of gaining knowledge by
an experience in state affairs, which was far greater than that of the
oldest of his ministers. 1

George IV. had not the weight of personal charac- Georgeiv.
ter that belonged to his father. Naturally of an indolent
disposition, he was called to the throne too late in life
to become thoroughly acquainted with the duties of his
office, or to care for burthening himself with the details
of government. He was unpopular with the nation,
having alienated from himself their respect and good will
by his conduct as a prince. He was indifferent to the
exercise of political power, except when his own feelings
or interests were concerned, when he could be as im-
perative as his father. He strenuously opposed the
recognition of the independence of the Spanish South
American provinces, and also the granting of Eoman
Catholic emancipation in Great Britain, but was com-
pelled to acquiesce in the policy of his cabinet upon
these questions. Otherwise, he seldom differed in
opinion with his responsible advisers, and was content,
for the most part, to leave the functions of adminis-
tration in their hands. 3 ' It may, therefore, be said,
that from the beginning of his regency in 1811 to the
close of his reign in 1830, the regal influence was
limited to the strict exercise of the prerogative. George
IV. had no personal influence : instead of his popu-
larity supporting the ministry, the difficulty was for
the ministry to support his unpopularity, and to uphold



h Adolphus, Keign of Geo. III. And see the king's correspondence

v. 3, p. 144. with his ministers in Yonge, Life of

1 Campbell's Ohanc. v. 7, p. 253, n. Ld. Liverpool : and in Welln. Desp.

J May, Const. Hist. v. 1, p. 99. 3rd s.



284



THE SOVEREIGN.



Georgeiv. the respect for the crown when it encircled the head of
such a sovereign.' k

In 1826, the dignified office of Constable of the Tower, which 'is
reserved for the king's exclusive disposal,' was unexpectedly con-
ferred by his Majesty upon the Duke of Wellington. 1 Upon a
vacancy occurring in the office of adjutant-general, the king wrote
to the prime minister notifying his intention to appoint his private
secretary, Sir Herbert Taylor, to the post. Taking offence at a
speech of Denrnaii's at the queen's trial, the king persistently refused,
for several years, to confer upon that eminent lawyer the rank of
king's counsel ; until at length, through the perseverance of the
Duke of Wellington (then premier) in 1828, the king consented to
grant him this dignity. The duke remarked that gaining this point
was the toughest job he had had in his life." But though he yielded,
the king afterwards declared that no consideration would ever
induce him to admit Mr. Denman into his presence.

George IV. was obliged to be more amenable to constitutional
usage than his father, in the matter of appointments to office. In
1821, he undertook to promise a vacant canoiiry of Windsor to a
young and inexperienced clergyman. Lord Liverpool (the prime
minister) respectfully, but firmly, informed the king that he could
not reconcile it with his ' public duty ' and ' official responsibility,' ' to
conform to his Majesty's wishes,' in this instance. The king was
very angry. But the minister would not yield. He declared that
in this, as in all similar cases, any ' expectation which might have
been personally held out by the sovereign was subject to the respon-
sibility of his minister ; and that it must be a sufficient answer on
such an occasion that the appointment had been obstructed in a
quarter which could not, by the laws of the country, be passed by.' P

A curious account of the disagreement between George IV. and
his ministers in the matter of Queen Caroline has been already given
in a former chapter. "i On this occasion, likewise, the king was re-
luctantly obliged to yield his personal wishes to the exigencies of his
position, and to permit his ministers to conduct that painful and
embai'rassing affair according to their own convictions of that which
it might be feasible to ask the Parliament to sanction. But a cir-
cumstance occurred in 1811, which shows that the king could stand
upon his prerogative when he thought proper. The see of Oxford
became vacant, and Mr. Perceval, the prime minister, waited upon
his royal master, with a recommendation that the bishopric should



k Lewis, Adminis. p. 421.

1 Welln. Desp. 3rd S. v. 3, p. 496.

'" Ib v. 4, pp. OG8-G72.

" A mould, Life of Denman, v. 1,



Ib. p. 435.

p Life of Ld. Liverpool, v. 3, pp.
150-154.

1 Ante, p. 128.



WILLIAM IV. AS A SOVEREIGN. 285

be conferred upon Dean Legge. The prince peremptorily refused,
and declared his intention of appointing Dr. Jackson. Mr. Perceval
urged that it had been ' the positive and declared intention ' of the
king to give the appointment to Dean Legge ; whereupon the prince
reiterated his determination ' to make his own bishop,' and desired
that he might ' never more hear what were the king's wishes upon
such subjects through a third person.' 1 ' Dr. Jackson was accord
ingly nominated to the see, but he held it only four years. On
his death, which occurred in 1815, the bishopric was conferred upon
Dean Legge. 3

William IV. was an amiable monarch, of an honest w illiam
and truthful disposition, but deficient in strength of
character. His letters to Earl Grey, his prime minister,
' supply abundant evidence of the conscientious indus-
try with which he must have laboured to make himself
master of the public questions of the day, so as to be
able efficiently to perform in this respect his duty as a
sovereign.' * He ascended the throne at an advanced
period of life, and found himself unable to cope success-
fully with the embarrassing questions which arose during
his short but eventful reign. Averse to parliamentary
reform, and fearful of its consequences, he nevertheless
gave a reluctant consent to the great experiment. But
ere long his mind underwent a reaction ; he withdrew
his confidence from the statesmen by whom that measure
had been accomplished, and attempted to form a Tory
government. But the endeavour proved abortive. He
learnt to his chagrin that the preponderance of power
was now so firmly established in the House of Commons,
that the mere prerogative and influence of the crown
were insufficient to effect a change of administration,
unless seconded by the voice of that assembly, or by
the unequivocal expression of popular opinion. 11

T Buckingham, Regency, v. 1, p. and principles from the period of his

172. accession in 1830 to the change of

Haydn, Book of Dignities, p. 363. ministry in Jan. 1835; in Stockmar's

* Earl Grey, Corresp. with William Mem. v. 1, pp. 314-350.

IV. v. 1, pref. pp. viii. xiv. And see u See ante, p. 194 ; Bagehot, Eng.
his Majesty's Memoir, addressed to Const, p. 284.
Sir R. Peel in 1835, of his conduct



286 THE SOVEREIGN.

William Two instances may be cited wherein William IV. took upon him-

IV. self to interfere personally in political affairs without previous con-

sultation with his ministers : once in 1832, when, in the interest of
ministers themselves, and in furtherance of their public policy, he
caused a circular letter to be addressed by his private secretary to
the Opposition peers, urging upon them to cease from any further
resistance to the Reform Bill, so as to permit the passing of that
measure in the House of Lords without the necessity for creating a
new batch of peers in order to carry the Bill a stretch of the pre-
rogative to which his Majesty had been induced by his ministers to
consent, if necessary. This letter was circulated by the personal com-
mand of the king, and was undoubtedly an irregular interference with
the freedom of Parliament.* Again, in 1834, his Majesty gave public
expression to his alarm for the safety of the Established Church in
Ireland, in a remarkable reply to an address from the prelates and
clergy of Ireland, which he delivered without first communicating
with his responsible advisers. w This speech is said to have been de-
livered extempore, and to have been quite unpremeditated ; but
Maley, in his Recollections of this reign (v. 2, p. 133), gives reasons
for the belief that it was written for the king by some secret adviser.
But these were exceptional cases, arising out of the prevalence of
political excitement, both at home and abroad, during the period in
question, and by which the king himself was carried away to the
commission of acts which were irregular and indefensible, however
they may be excused by a consideration of the integrity of purpose
and solicitude for the public welfare by which they were dictated.

Upon the resignation of Sir E. Peel's short-lived
administration, the king reluctantly accepted another
Whig ministry, presided over by Lord Melbourne. But
though he did not always disguise his disinclinations
towards them, and sometimes strenuously opposed their
measures, x yet we have the assurance alike of Whig and
Tory statesmen that ' His Majesty uniformly acted with
scrupulous fidelity towards his advisers, whatever might
be their political bias ;' y and in the two Houses of Par-
liament, after the king's decease, the leading politicians,
without respect to party, vied with one another in



v See ante, p. 102. Torrens, Life of Melbourne, v. 2, c. v.

' Ann. I leg. 1834, p. 43. > Peel's Mem. v. 2, p. 16. Earl

" See Lord Brougnton's Recollec- Grey, Corresp. v. 1, pp. vii ix.
tions, iu Ed. Rev. v. 133, pp. 317-324.



QUEEN VICTOEIA AS A SOVEEEIGN. 287

bearing testimony to his exemplary conduct as a consti-
tutional sovereign. 2

The following instances of the independent exercise of judgment
by William IV., in matters of prerogative, have come under our
notice. He refused to confer a peerage upon Admiral Sir J. Saumarez,
notwithstanding the urgent and reiterated recommendations of the
premier (Earl Grey) but finally consented upon learning the acute
distress which the disappointment occasioned to this old and deserv-
ing officer.* He peremptorily declined to give the royal assent in
person to the Reform Bill, though strongly urged to do so by his
ministers. b When a member of the administration waited upon the
king to recommend that Captain Marryat might receive the royal
licence to wear an order which had been conferred on him by the
king of the French, his Majesty declined to comply with the
request ; assigning, as the ground of his refusal, his disapprobation
of a book, on the impressment of seamen, which had been written by
Marryat.

Since the accession of our present queen, the per- Queen
sonal predilections of the sovereign in respect to an
existing administration have never been brought into
public view. While she has abated nothing of the legi-
timate influence and authority of the crown wherever
it could be constitutionally exercised, her Majesty has
scrupulously and unreservedly bestowed her entire con-
fidence upon every ministry in turn with which public
policy, or the preference of Parliament, has surrounded
the throne. d ' It is well known,' says a recent political
writer, ' that her Majesty has habitually taken an active
interest in every matter with which it behoves a consti-
tutional sovereign of this country to be concerned ; in
many instances her opinion and her will have left their
impression on our policy.'

For example, in the year 1861, at the suggestion of the late Prince



1 Knight, Hist. Eng. v. 8, p. 377. 52-55. Ld. John Russell, Hans. D.

a Earl Grey, Corresp. v. 1, pp. 339, v. 130, p. 182. Earl Granville and

350. the Duke of Richmond, Ib. v. 208,

b Ib. v. 2, pp. 462-467. pp. 1069, 1070. This was in accord-

c Memoir of Marryat, preQxed to ance with Prince Albert's idea of the

Bohn's ed. of his ' Pirate.' duty of the queen towards her niinis-

d See Stockmar's Mem. v. 2, pp. ters. Ib. v. 165, p. 44.



288 THE SOVEREIGN.

Queeu Consort, the forbearance and firmness of our gracious queen were
Victoria. exercised to require that the language of an important despatch
calling for the surrender, by the United States Government, of
certain persons who had been illegally taken from the Trent, a
British vessel, by an American ship-of-war should be so modified
as to make the demand as conciliatory as possible, in order to avert
the prospect of war with a kindred people. 6

Upon the transfer of the government of India from the rule of
the East India Company to that of the crown, in 1858, the queen
made numerous valuable suggestions in regard to the new constitu-
tion for India, the direction of the Indian army, and the policy to
be pursued towards the natives, most of which 'were adopted by
ministers. One important suggestion, which the cabinet would not
accept, was afterwards forced upon them by public opinion, and by
Parliament/ In 1859, her Majesty differed with the prime minister
and the foreign secretary upon a question of foreign policy. The
whole cabinet were then appealed to, when the queen's opinion was
sustained, s

Her wise ' But in no instance has the power of the crown been
so exercised as to expose it to check, or censure, or



tive - embarrassment of any kind. 11 It may be asserted with-

out qualification, that a sense of general content, of
sober heartfelt loyalty, has year by year gathered
around the throne of Victoria.' 1 The present writer
would add to this his sincere conviction, that attachment
to the person and throne of our gracious queen is not
confined to the mother-country, but extends with equal
if not greater intensity to the remotest bounds of her
immense empire ; and that few could be found, even in
lands that owe her no allegiance as a sovereign, who
would not willingly unite in a tribute of respect and
admiration for Victoria, as a woman, a mother, and a
queen.

Death of In the year 1861, her Majesty and the nation sus-

Consort. tallied a grievous loss in the death of the Prince Consort.

The queen herself in a few lines which she has caused

" Earl Russell in Hans. D. v. 178, Ib. pp. 458, 484, 486.
p. 72. Martin's Pr. Consort, v. 5, h See Karl Russell, in Hans. D. v.

pp. 418-420. 175, p. (515.

f Martin's Pr. Consort, v. 4, pp. ' Ed. Rev. v. 115, p. 211. Mr.

200-205, 2;52, 284, 810. Foster, in Hans. D. v. 228, p. 150.



QUEEN VICTORIA AS A SOVEREIGN. 289

to be inserted in a published collection of his Royal
Highness's speeches, bore a tender and touching testi-
mony to 'the -ever- present, watchful, faithful, invaluable
aid which she received from the Prince Consort in the
conduct of the public business;' thereby 'proclaiming
the irreparable loss to the public service, as well as to
herself and to her family, which the prince's death has
occasioned.' j

The shock of this sudden calamity compelled the Shock to
Queen to withdraw, for a season, into retirement ; and Majesty
she has never since been able to resume to the full occasioned
extent as before her public and ceremonial duties. But death of
while her long-continued seclusion has been a source of the l lce>
universal regret, and even of complaint, ' it is the only
reproach which her people have ever addressed to her.'
Ten years after this great affliction befell her, two of
the leading statesmen of England publicly testified to
her unabated zeal and efficiency in the performance of
all other duties appertaining to her exalted station.
Thus Earl Granville said : ' I do not know any time of
her life when her Majesty has given more attention than
she does at present to the current business of the state, Her mi-
or when the interest she takes in all parliamentary and JntTon^o
administrative measures, the knowledge she takes care affairs of
to possess on all important measures, whether home
or foreign, and the supervision she exercises over all
appointments to be made, and honours to be distributed,
have been more strikingly shown.' k And a few weeks
afterwards, Mr. Disraeli took occasion to observe that
while her Majesty was at present unable, on account of
her health, 'to resume the performance of those public
and active duties which it was once her pride and
pleasure to fulfil,' yet that ' with regard to those much
higher duties which her Majesty is called upon to per-
form, she still performs them with a punctuality and a



j Prince Albert, Speeches, &c. p. 67. k Hans. D. v. 208, p. 1069.

VOL. I. U



290 THE SOVEREIGN.

precision which have certainly never been surpassed
and rarely equalled by any monarch of these realms.' 1
During the present reign three questions, previously
undetermined, and that intimately affect the personal
rights of the sovereign, have been discussed and dis-
posed of. They will fittingly claim our attention before
we proceed to define the constitutional position of the
crown in public affairs. They concern

1 . The appointment of officers of the royal house-

hold.

2. The right of the sovereign to employ a private

secretary.

3. The constitutional position of a prince consort.

1. As to the Appointment of Members of the Household.
Appoint- Owing to the gradual introduction of the usages

ments in , . , , . , , , .

the royal which have been incorporated by time into the unwritten
hokTcon- ^ aw ^ ^ ie British Constitution, it was not until the end
trolled by of the reign of George II. that it became customary
to make alterations in the household establishment of
our sovereigns upon a change of ministry. 111 But it is a
fundamental principle of parliamentary government,
that ' the responsible servants of the crown are entitled
to advise the crown in every point in which the roya'l
authority is to be exercised;' 11 and nothing could tend
more to enfeeble an administration than that certain
high offices, held during pleasure, should be altogether
beyond their control. Accordingly, from the accession
of George III. it became a recognised practice to con-
cede this privilege to every successive administration.

Thus we find that when George III. dismissed the North minis-
try, in 1782, he was obliged to dismiss the Earl of Hertford from
the office of lord chamberlain, which he had held for fifteen years ;



1 Speech at Hughenden, Sept. 20, m Par!. D. v. 23, p. 412.
1871. - Mr. Poiisonby, Ib. p. 431.



APPOINTMENTS IN THE ROYAL HOUSEHOLD.



291



and to appoint the Earl of Effingham, whom he disliked, to be
treasurer of the household. Even the aged Lord Bateman, who
was the king's personal friend, was obliged to resign his office of
master of the buckhounds. Similar difficulties, in regard to ap-
pointments in the household, attended the formation of the Portland
ministry in the following year.! 1

In 1812, when negotiations were set on foot for the reconstruc-
tion of the ministry, after the assassination of Mr. Perceval, the
premier, a question was raised as to whether the appointment of
officers in the royal household should form part of the proposed
ministerial arrangements, or should be left to the determination of
the sovereign. Lords Grey and Grenville, having been invited by
the Prince Regent to join the new administration, declined to do so
unless the actual incumbents of these offices were first dismissed.
The Prince Regent was advised by Lord Moira, who conducted the
negotiations with the Whig leaders, to resist this stipulation ; and,
accordingly, the attempt at a reconstruction of the cabinet resulted
in failure. But it has since come to light that the difficulty arose
from the unskilful management of the dispute. The Prince Regent
himself was quite willing to allow a change to be made in his house-
hold, and the officers of the household had all privately resolved to
resign as soon as the new ministry had been completed, leaving their
places at the disposal of the new cabinet. This intention had been
made known to Sheridan, but, either from accident or design, he did
not communicate it to his friends.^ In the subsequent explanations
in Parliament, it was admitted that an incoming administration, had
a right to claim the removal of the great officers of the household,
although the exercise of such a right on the present occasion was, for
special reasons, deemed inexpedient and impolitic. 1 ' The principal
officers of the royal household are invariably chosen from amongst
members of the two Houses of Parliament, and it is but reasonable



Online LibraryAlpheus ToddOn parliamentary government in England : its origin, development, and practical operation (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 85)