Douglas William Claridge Northfield.

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consequence of opposition to its measures by hostile majorities,
but in consequence of conflicting opinions among its own
members, on certain questions involving either public prin-
ciples, or considerations of policy so grave, that a compromise
upon them was inconsistent with personal honour or a sense
of public duty. If they, who agreed generally in their views
of public affairs, could not with honour adjust their differences
on specific measures pending in the Parliament, how could I,
who disagreed in general views, and was still more opposed
to their specific measures that are still pending, than any
among themselves could be — how could I, with honour or
advantage to the King's service, unite with any portion of the
late government ?

To prevent a possible misrepresentation to the King, that
it was I who refused to listen even to the King's proposal to
consider the possibility of a union, I added these words : —
" Lord Melbourne justly observes that measures still under
discussion or open to review, which he considers vital and
essential measures, have lately encountered opposition from
those with whom Your Majesty has desired Lord Melbourne
to communicate, — and I must therefore express my entire

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concurrence in the opinion which Lord Melbourne has already
expressed to Your Majesty, that there can be no successful
result of negotiations, in which, according to his own expres-
sion, Lord Melbourne would have everything to demand and
nothing to concede."

The answer from the King to this was from himself— a
very civil one— admitting that he thought the objections to
union unanswerable. His practical conclusion was, to put the
formation of the Government into the hands of Lord

The curtain will be drawn up on Thursday next at five
o'clock, and the performances commence immediately after-
wards. Lord Althorpe, I apprehend (of course by particular
desire), will repeat the character of Chancellor of the
Exchequer; but I have not heard what changes are con-
templated in the other dramatis persona^ or whether any part
has been assigned to Lord Durham,* who seems to breathe,
through the Times of this morning, dissatisfaction with the
present state of affairs. Ever most truly yours,

(Signed) Robert Peel.

The allusion in this letter to Lord Althorp is signi-
ficant. It was well known that he had long desired to
shake off the cares of office. " Nature," he used to say,
" intended me to be a grazier, but men will insist on
making me a statesman." But his character and
influence were such that without his support it was
notorious that Lord Melbourne could neither hope to
form a Ministry, nor would have accepted the re-
sponsibility of acting as their leader. To his pressing
solicitations, therefore, Lord Althorp yielded, sacrificing
his personal inclinations to the good of his party. But
his continuance in office was precarious. His father
Lord Spencer was failing in health, and on his death, and
Lord Althorp's consequent elevation to the House of
Lords, the Ministry must lose his support in the Lower
House, where it was all-important in binding together

^ No part wax assigned to him.

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iS34. D^A ^^ OF LORD SPENCER. 3 1 9

the discordant elements of the Liberal party. The
events of the session of 1834 made it more than ever
clear that without his aid the Ministry would find them-
selves seriously crippled. They were, moreover, far
from being in perfect accord among themselves. Not
only, too, were the opinions of several of their number,
in regard especially to the Church in Ireland, viewed
with extreme suspicion by the King, but the secession
of two at least of their most important members, who
shared His Majesty's misgivings, was imminent, if
these opinions were pressed.

Such was the state of things when early in October
Lord Melbourne learned that Lord Spencer's death
might be hourly expected. Upon this he wrote to the
King (loth November, 1834) that he " apprehended the
most serious difficulty and embarrassment would be
the consequence of this event." ' The same night Lord
Spencer died, when Lord Melbourne again wrote to
the King : "In the difficulty produced by this event,
the first point to be looked to is to secure the continu-
ance of the present Earl Spencer's services in some
high and responsible office. His character and influ-
ence in the country render this a matter of primary
importance." He then proceeded to express his
apprehension that Lord Spencer would adhere to
his formerly expressed resolution to retire from office
on his father's death, but he still hoped "that a
sense of duty and the evident difficulties of the
country would be sufficient to overcome this deter-
mination." To this the King replied the same day
that he was quite sensible of the value of Viscount
Althorp's services in any station or situation, and of the

' The extracts from this and the other letters which passed between Lord
Mdbowne and the King, are taken from the copj famished to Lord Lyndhurst
inmediatelj afterwards bj the King.

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advantages of securing them in some high and re-
sponsible office, but he ** always considered that the
embarrassment which the event which has happened
would entail upon the Government, of which he is a
member, would be chiefly felt in the loss of his services
in the House of Commons."

The next day Lord Melbourne wrote again to the
King, expressing anxiety to wait upon the King and
receive His Majesty's commands.

" Your Majesty," he added, " will recollect, that the Govern-
ment in its present form was mainly founded upon the personal
weight and influence possessed by Earl Spencer in the Home
of Commons^ and upon the arrangefnent which placed in his
Iiands the conduct of the business of Government in that
assembly. That foundation is now wit/idrawn by the eleva-
tion of that nobleman to the House of Peers ; and in these
new and altered circumstances, it is for Your Majesty to
consider whether it is your pleasure to authorise Viscount
Melbourne to attempt to make such fresh arrangements as may
enable Your Majesty's present servants to continue to conduct
the affairs of the country, or whether Your Majesty deems it
advisable to adopt any other course."

Lord Melbourne concluded by stating his inten-
tion to wait upon the King at Brighton next day to
assist His Majesty's views by " a full and unreserved
personal communication upon the present state of
affairs." The language of his letter was certainly not
that of a man confident that he could make arrange-
ments to fill with satisfaction to himself the void created
by the removal of Lord Spencer to the House of Peers.
So at least the King appears to have read it, for in his
reply, while echoing Lord Melbourne's words above
quoted, he adds : "He cannot help feeling also, that
the Government exists by that [the Commons] branch
only of the Legislature, and therefore that the loss of

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Viscount Althorp's services in that House must be
viewed also with reference to that contingency."

Even before his interview with Lord Melbourne it
is more than probable that the King had come to the
conclusion that a change of Ministry was necessary.
He was much blamed at the time and since, as though
he had ex propria motu dismissed his Ministers. But
some excuse may surely be found for him in the way
Lord Melbourne spontaneously put before His Majesty
the fact, that the very foundation on which his Ad-
ministration rested was withdrawn,' urging what Lord
Grey had previously done, as appears from a passage
in one of the King's letters, that without Lord Spencer
the Government could not go on.

The difficulties which had thus been presented to
the King's mind were not removed by his personal
conference with the Premier. Lord Melbourne's
biographer admits that, although himself convinced
that Lord Spencer s ministerial aid was not indis-
pensable, " he could not bring himself to say so to
a weak and suspicious Sovereign." The loss of Lord
Spencer, it appears however, was by no means the
only difficulty. In the King's memorandum of the
interview, dated the 14th of November, he says —

His Majesty was aware also, from what Lord Melbourne
had stated to him, that both Lord Lansdowne and Mr. Spring
Rice had signified their intention of retiring, if the measures
contemplated by some of their colleagues should be pressed ;
hence a schism in the Cabinet was threatened upon a leading
<juestion, and one upon which His Majesty was in feeling
and principle opposed to the advocates of encroachment

The alternative which now presents itself could therefore
not be long deferred, and His Majesty might find himself
called upon to make his decision at a period and under
circumstances which might be productive of much greater
embarrassment and difficulty than any which could pos-


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322 CHANGE OF GO VERNMENT. chap. xn.

sibly in his opinion result from a change of Government at

Lord Melbourne has fairly admitted that he could not
hope for success from any attempt at coalition at present, any
more than he did when he accepted his present office, and
His Majesty had reason therefore to apprehend the accession of
strength and official aid must be sought in the ranks of those
whom His Majesty could not look upon as being influenced by
those Conservative principles for which he gave credit to his
lordship and to some of his colleagues, to whom he looked
for a correspondence of feeling with a confidence which the
introduction of others less willing to support the established
institutions of the country could not fail to diminish. Hence
both His Majesty and his principal Ministers would be found
in a false position.*

The King told Lord Melbourne that he should send
for the Duke of Wellington, and his lordship returned
to London to inform his astonished colleagues that
their reign was at an end. Before leaving Brighton,
however, he wrote to Lord Spencer to tell him what
had occurred ; and the language of his letter shows
that he thought his correspondent would be neither
surprised nor grieved, " as it would both relieve him
from any further annoyance, and also fall in with his
own opinion, viz. that it would be better that the
Tories should make one more effort to form a Govem-

' Mr. Torrwis, in writing his * Life of Lord Melbourne,* does not seem to have
had before him the correspondence we have quoted. He dwells upon the King's
complaints about " the recent antics of the Chancellor," and his general dis-
satisfaction with him, as one of the chief motives of His Majesty's decision.
Such topics are not even hinted at, either in the King's letters, or in his memor-
andum quoted in the text. It was well known at the time that the Kingi at
Lord Melbourne's desire, altered the letter dispensing with the further services
of the Ministry, omitting a passage which, it was thought, might wound the
feelings of some of the Cabinet. Mr.jTorrens says (vol. ii. p. 40) : " The personal
allusions to Lord John and the Chancellor were thus omitted, together with the
imprudent declaration of Royal hostility to Irish Church Reform." The copy
furnished to Lord Lyndhurst of this first letter is now before us. It contains not
a word that can by possibility be referred either to Lord Broughham or to the Irish

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ment." The King^s decision, he added, whether wise
or not, he was convinced had been come to con-
scientiously, and upon his own conviction, and not in
consequence of any other advice or influence whatever.
(* Life of Lord Melbourne,' vol. ii. p. 41.)

Reaching London late in the evening, Lord
Melbourne had resolved to delay till next day the
announcement to his colleagues of what had taken
place. But by an evil chance Lord Brougham called
on his way home from dining at Holland House.
Mad with rage on learning what had occurred, he at
once concluded that the King's decision was the result
of a party intrigue, of which Queen Adelaide was the
head. He posted off to the Times office with the
news, and next morning the Cabinet learned from that
paper, at the same time as the rest of the world, that
they were no longer in office, and that " the Queen
had done it all,"

Meanwhile the Duke of Wellington, who had not
seen or communicated with the King for more than
three months, received a royal summons at Straths-
fieldsaye, as he was starting for the hunting field. He
posted off at once, and reached Brighton late on the
evening of the 15th. No one was more surprised than
the Queen to find the Duj^e's name unexpectedly on
her list of guests for the day, for the King had told her
nothing of what had been going on. The Duke was
quite unprepared to find how matters stood. The
Government had still an overwhelming majority in the
House of Commons ; and although it was tolerably clear
that, if things went on a little longer as they had for
some time been doing, it must break up, he pressed upon
the King, as it might have been expected he would,
the inexpediency and danger of discarding a Ministry
who could plead this warrant for its continuance. For

V 2

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324 CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT. chap. xii.

a new Minister to carry on the Government successfully
with the present House of Commons was hopeless ;
and it was by no means certain that a reaction in the
country had taken place, which would upon a new
election strengthen his hands sufficiently to make this
task more feasible. While urging these views, the
King's secretary, Sir Herbert Taylor, entered, and
called His Majesty's attention to the paragraph in that
morning's Times, with the offensive charge in it
against the Queen. The King jumped to the conclusion,
as nobody but Lord Melbourne knew the previous
night what had taken place at their meeting, that he
was the delinquent. " You see, Duke," he said, " how
I am betrayed, and insulted : will your grace compel me
to take back people who have treated me in this way ? "
The Duke, thinking that the treatment was certainly
not what the King was entitled to expect, especially
as Lord Melbourne had by his letters almost courted
the result which had taken place, yielded to His
Majesty's wishes. He would however only act under
Sir Robert Peel, who had gone to Italy for the winter,
for he considered that except with him at its head no
Conservative Government was possible. The Duke
seems not to have doubted that Lord Lyndhurst would
follow his example, and he left the King, promising to
communicate at once with him, and to despatch a
messenger to Italy in search of Sir Robert Peel.

Had Lord Lyndhurst consulted merely selfish
interest, he might well have hesitated to forego his
office of Lord Chief Baron, with its handsome salary,
for the uncertain tenure of that of. Lord Chancellor.
For uncertain he must have known it to be, with the
combination of both Whigs and Radicals which was
sure to follow upon the act of the King. But he was
not the man to turn back from the appeal made to him

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by the King, and his friend the Duke of Wellington ;
and he at once gave in his consent to the Duke's
arrangements, waiting for Sir Robert Peel's return, to
confirm his nomination as Chancellor, and never doubt-
ing that Peel would undertake the onerous task
which had been so unexpectedly thrown upon him.
One thing is certain. Lord Lyndhurst always main-
tained that the King had reason on his side, and he
accepted his full share of the responsibility of the dis-
missal of Ministers which attached to himself and his
friends from taking office as tneir successors. In doing
so he used the very words of Lord Melbourne's letter
to the King of the nth of November. "When," he
said, " Lord Melbourne went to His Majesty, and said
the foundation on which his Cabinet had been formed had
been taken away, it was for His Majesty to say whether
he should refer to other counsels, or whether Lord
Melbourne should endeavour to continue the Govern-
ment. * * * If I had been called upon to act in such
circumstances, I should have acted exactly as His
Majesty acted. I consider myself one of the Ministers
responsible for what was done." (Hansard, 3rd Series,
vol. xxvi. 129-30.)

On Sir Robert Peel reaching London (9th December)
he immediately put himself in communication with
Lord Lyndhurst, on whose courage and loyal support
he knew he could count under all circumstances. The
difficulties which he saw ahead made such a colleague
of especial value both in council and in action. They
acted in concert in all their deliberations, and it was
after a Cabinet dinner at Lord Lyndhurst's that Peel's
letter to his constituents, known as the " Tam worth
Manifesto," announcing the character of his future
policy, was discussed and finally settled.' This letter,

* Lord Campbell, with more than his usual recklessness, says ('Life,' p. 95) :

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which gave promise of several measures of legal,
fiscal and ecclesiastical reform, was well received
by the country. In England the effect was visible in
the large preponderance of Conservative members
returned to the new Parliament. In Scotland the
balance of votes remained unaltered, while in Ireland
the number of Mr. O'ConneU's adherents turned the
scale in favour of the Liberal party.

That party were not slow to seize the advantage
given to them by what the King had done. It furnished
them with that best of electioneering influences, a
good cry. The abuse of the Royal Prerogative in
seeking to over-ride the people's will as represented
by the Liberal majority of the former Parliament, was
descanted upon with a vehemence of invective which
knew no bounds, and in which the men who had
reluctantly come to the King's assistance were
denounced as selfish intriguers, even by those who
were cognizant of the real state of the facts ! ' The
triumph of party was, as usual, more thought of than

"Peel, on returning from Italy, although he acquiesced in Lord Lyndhurst's
appointment as Chancellor, reposed little confidence in him^ and wUhatU consulting
him wrote his * Tamworth Manifesto^ "

* " The great fault of the present time," Lord Melbourne wrote to Lord
Auckland (i ith of February, 1835), " is that men hate each other so damnably ; for
my part, I love them alL" The language of not a few of his supporters must then
have been very little to his taste, for the records of what was said by them at the
time, both in and out of Parliament, speak little to their credit. Here is a specimen
of the sort of stuff with which Mr. Joseph Hume entertained the House of
Commons (27th of February, 1835) • " What was Lord Lyndhurst? He was an
apostate — a notorious apostate from the principles of his early youth. There were
many Honourable Members in the House who could prove it. Th^ rememberea,
the time when he wets brought from America^ where he had heen educated in rep^
lican principles J and where he had imlnbed doctrines, which he afterwards openly
professed, far more radical than any which I have ever avowed." One wonders
who the Honourable Members were who could speak to the facts here so con-
fidently asserted. The republican principles and radical doctrines of a child of three
years old, which Copley was when he was brought from America, would have been
a curious contribution to human story. Why, one might ask, are men who from
Whigs become Tories called apostates, and never those who from Tories become

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the interests of the State ; and, whatever measures
might be brought forward by Sir Robert Peel, how-
ever urgent in themselves, however salutary, it was
resolved by his opponents should be resisted, as the
projects of " sham Reformers." But it was hoped they
might be kept from being so much as launched by
such defeats in the early stages of the session as must
compel Sir Robert Peel to resign.

On the election of the Speaker, the first of these
defeats was inflicted, by the election of Mr. Aber-
cromby in opposition to the Government nominee,
Mr. Manners Sutton. An amendment to the Address
was also carried, after three nights' debate in the
Commons, by a majority of seven, expressive of
regret that the progress of salutary reforms had been
interrupted and endangered by the dissolution of
the late Parliament. A similar amendment was moved
by Lord Melbourne in the House of Lords. He
could not have hoped for success, but the motion
afforded an opportunity for Lord Brougham, in concert
with whom the amendment had been drawn up, to
make a furious onslaught upon the Ministry for
giving countenance to what he stigmatised as an
unprecedented abuse of the Royal Prerogative. As
no member of the late Government had stronger
reason than himself for resentment at what the King
had done, the bitterness of his invective is easily
understood, Not even his friend Lyndhurst was
spared ; but going the length of suggesting that his
change of views on the Catholic question had been
due, not to honest conviction, but to the wish to
retain office, he provoked the Chancellor into giving
him such a negative as had not often been heard in the
House of Lords,

The noble and learned Lord has dared to say that

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I pursued the course I took for the purpose of retaining my
possession of office. I deny peremptorily the statement of the
noble and learned Lord. I say, if I may make use of the
expression, he has uttered an untruth in so expressing himself.
So far from that measure being brought forward and supported
by us with a view to preserve our places, it must be well
known that we hazarded our places by pursuing that course.
What right, then, has the noble and learned Lord in his fluent,
and, I may say, flippant manner, to attack me as he has dared
to do ? (Hansard, 3rd Series, vol. xxvi. 127.)

Later in the evening, Lord Brougham tried to
explain that his language imputed no such charge;
but with his wonted lack of good taste, although Lord
Lyndhurst then took occasion to apologise for the
warmth he had evinced. Brougham sulkily declined to
retract any of the expressions he had used. This
may have been due to the fact that he was still smart-
ing under the severity of Lyndhurst's exposure of the
misstatements on which his wild declaration had been
based, and especially of the charge which he had
brought against the Duke of Wellington, that he had
repudiated his personal responsibility for the King's
act, whereas the Duke had immediately before avowed
in the broadest terms that the whole Ministry accepted
that responsibility in its fullest extent.

It is one of the evils of writing speeches, as
Brougham did, beforehand, that the speaker does not
like to have his studied bursts of noble indignation
thrown away, and so ignores the facts which render
them inapplicable. Lyndhurst could make large
allowances for his friend's peculiarities, and he was
not the man to forget what Brougham had done in
making him Chief Baron. Angry as the words
were which passed between them on this occasion,
they made no breach in their friendship — a fact to
which Brougham bore testimony a few months after-

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1835. SIJi R. PEEL RESIGNS. 329

wards during the debate on the Corporation Reform
Bill (30th August) in the words, "In all our con-
flicts, political and professional, nothing has for a
moment interfered with that friendship which unites
us personally." (Hansard, 3rd Series, vol. xxx. 447.)
It says much for Lord Lyndhurst's forbearance that
this was so, for the provocation he had received
from the intemperate energy of Brougham during the
immediately preceding months was such as might
well have occasioned a lasting estrangement.

Lord Brougham fought with double zeal, because
he looked to being thereby enabled to resume the
seat upon the Woolsack from which he had been so
suddenly deposed. Great was his chagrin to find, when
Peel resigned (April 1835), after being defeated by a
majority of 33 on a motion of Lord John Russell in
regard to the temporalities of the Church of Ireland,
that this hope was not to be realised. But he was so
far appeased for the time, that he became a zealous

Online LibraryDouglas William Claridge NorthfieldSpecial surgery in wartime → online text (page 28 of 45)