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has cast upon him of dishonourable conduct towards his
rival is dispelled by a speech of Canning acknowledging
Peel's loyalty in the strongest terms. If there was any-
thing like manoeuvring in the transaction, it was prob-
ably on the part of Canning himself. The new ministry
was joined by some of the Whigs. There followed, of
course, a breach between Canning and the Tory wing
of the party, with angry denunciations of the " seceder '*
by hot-headed and irresponsible Tories ; but Canning's
bitterest assailant was the Whig leader, Grey, who not
only refused to coalesce, but denounced Canning as a
false pretender to the championship of civil and religious
liberty, pointing to his share in all the measures of
repression and his opposition to the repeal of the Test
and Corporation Acts. Canning was so stung that he
thought of transferring himself to the House of Lords to
answer the attack in person. Death closed the affray. 1827
Canning, febrile by nature and worn out with contention,
died. What he would have done had he lived, or how
he would have fared, who can say? His pledges to
uphold the Test and Corporation Acts and to oppose
parliamentary reform were too deep to be renounced, yet
in fulfilling them he must have fallen.

On Canning's death, after a faint attempt to prolong
the life of his ministry under the feeble and lacrymose
Goderich, the ball rolled back to the Tory and anti-
catholic section. Wellington became prime minister, but 1823
at his side was Peel. As Irish secretary, and afterwards


as home secretary, Peel had now displayed his administra-
tive power and shown his tendency, which was always
to administrative reform and against organic change.
He had also established his power as a debater, in which
line he had presently no peer, as his chief opponent
thought, and his skill in managing the House, on which
it was said at an after day that he could play as on an
old fiddle. In knowledge of commerce and finance he
had no rival among the political leaders except Huskis-
son, with whom, in that field, he had rendered the coun-
try the highest service by leading it safely back to cash
payments. All administrative or legal abuses Peel was
prompt and able to reform. As a signal that the door
of law reform was opened, Eldon was dropped from the
administration. A vigorous policy of retrenchment in
the offices of government was set on foot. Improvements
were made in police and criminal law. It was thus
that Peel hoped to avert organic change. But the need
of organic change and the demand for it were now too
strong. First fell the Test and Corporation Acts. Their

1828 repeal was moved by Lord John Russell, a scion of the
illustrious Whig house the representative of which had
fallen a martyr to patriotism by the side of Algernon
Sidney under the tyranny of Charles II. To this
Wellington and Peel submitted, both of them probably
nothing loath ; for men of their sense, however attached
to the church establishment, could set no value on a law
which, its teeth having been drawn by periodical Acts of
Indemnity, had become a mere standing insult to a large
and worthy section of the community.

In Ireland, after the union, rebellion had sunk to abor-

1803 tive conspiracy. About its last spasm had been the murder


of an unpopular judge in the streets of Dublin. Plunket,
once the most eloquent opponent of the union, had, as a
member of the united parliament, avowed his conversion to
it, and Grattan had sat as member of an English borough
and voted for a coercion Bill. But the rent and tithe war
still went on. The rent war was intensified by the sub-
division of the land into small freeholds, falsely so-called
since they were held by sufferance, to multiply vassal
votes for the landlord, and by the increase of absentee-
ism, an evil sure to follow the union, unless the great
land-owners would learn, what wealth and leisure sel-
dom learn, the necessity of social duty. In the collection
of rents for absentee or unloved landlords, still more of
tithes for an alien church, the officers of ' the law and the
law itself were made hateful to the people, and agrarian
conspiracy under wild and fantastic forms, such as White-
boyism, widely prevailed. Hideous atrocities, such as the
carding of rent-collectors or tithe-proctors, were committed
by a savage peasantry fighting for the land, which was
their life. The potato continued to beget low culture,
uncertain harvests, periodical famines, and at the same
time a reckless increase of population. Not the greatest
or the most deeply seated of all the evils, though the
most patent, was the exclusion of catholics from parlia-
ment and the offices of state, already condemned by Pitt
and the best of English statesmen, as well as by reason
and justice.

Now there arose for the catholic Celts of Ireland a
leader of their own race and after their own heart.
Daniel O'Connell, who first made his mark as the prince
of advocates in jury cases, was a genuine son of Erin and
a devout catholic. He was a man of burly figure, with a


typically Celtic face, a voice so .mighty that he could
make himself heard by vast multitudes in the open air, a
boundless flow of what to peasant ears seemed eloquence,
and a thorough mastery of the passionate Irish heart.
That the Liberator, as his followers styled him, was a
patriot, and earned, at the hands of his countrymen, the
lofty monument which rises over his grave at Glasnevin,
there can be no doubt. If he was foul-mouthed, untruth-
ful, and somewhat perfidious, if he had in him a strain
of the savage, and it could be justly said of him that in
any case in which his vanity or his passion was excited
you might as well have to deal with an Ashanti chief, this
was less his fault than the fault of those who had long
oppressed and degraded his race. ' Base,' ' brutal,' and
'bloody ' were words familiar to his lips. His violence of
language had brought on him a duel in which he by chance
killed his man, and a challenge from the hot-blooded Peel,
then Irish secretary, whom he had reviled. A great
Catholic Association had been formed in Ireland to en-
force the catholic claim. On the other hand, in the
protestant north of Ireland had been formed for the
maintenance of protestant ascendancy the Orange lodges,
not aptly named after one who had ever been the politic
friend of toleration, though instinct with the spirit
that had closed the gates of Derry. Orangism was
extended to England ; it found its way into the army ;
it put at its head the hated Duke of Cumberland ; it was
suspected of designs on the succession to the throne.
In the minds of a large part of the British people still
lived the memories of Smithfield and Guy Fawkes, still
burned the hatred of popery which half a century before
had burst forth in the Lord George Gordon riots. The


king's brother, the Duke of York, a debauchee, whose
scandalous loves with a harpy had given rise to a parlia-
mentary investigation which forced him to resign the
commandership-in-chief and lent some impetus to the
reform agitation, registered in the House of Lords a
solemn vow that in whatever situation he might be, in
other words, if he should succeed his brother on the
throne, he never would consent to Catholic Emancipation.
His words were printed by the Protestants in letters of

When Canning, a friend of emancipation, became min-
ister, the Catholic Association was dissolved. It was i825
revived under the leadership of O'Connell when in Can- i828
ning's place came the anti-catholic ministry of Wellington
and Peel. Soon it took decisive issue with the govern-
ment. At the election for the county of Clare Mr. Vesey
Fitzgerald was the candidate of the government and the 1828
landlords. The peasant freeholders, catholics and Celts,
broke away from their landlords, followed their priests,
and elected O'Connell, who, being a catholic and unable
to take the oaths, could not sit. The order and discipline
maintained by the peasantry during the contest were
noted by shrewd observers as a proof that the revolution-
ary feeling was deeply seated. Wellington and Peel,
Peel perhaps more distinctly than Wellington, saw that
the hour for concession had now come. The great soldier
shrank, as he said, from civil war. A few battalions
would have easily disposed of any army which the Cath-
olic Association could have put in the field. It was moral
and not physical force that failed the government. The
better mind of England was now, as Peel must have
keenly felt, on the side of emancipation. Winged by


public opinion, even the light arrows of satire shot by
Tom Moore and Sydney Smith had told. At the back of
the movement in favour of toleration was the force of the
general movement in favour of reform. To the Duke of
Wellington, little concerned about the number of the
sacraments or the identity of anti-Christ, retreat from a
position which had been turned presented itself as a
strategical operation, though when he was taunted with
apostasy, the man of honour was aroused in him and he
forced the offender to fight a duel. To the dismay and
horror of all high protestant Tories and Orangemen it
was announced that a Tory government would grant
Catholic Emancipation. Peel, whose conscience was some-
what punctilious, wished to resign, and was prevented
only by the earnest entreaty of the duke. He did resign

1829 his seat for the University of Oxford and was defeated
on standing for re-election by Sir Robert Inglis, a pro-
testant beyond reproach. Oxford, it should always be
remembered, was then not so much a university as a
citadel of the established church, and it was not by learn-
ing, of which, saving theology, there was little, or by
science, of which there was none, but by the wrath of the
clergy that Peel was deprived of his seat.

The Bill threw open to catholics parliament and all the
great offices except that of regent, that of the lord-lieu-
tenant of Ireland, and that of the chancellor, who ap-
pointed to crown livings and kept the conscience of the
king. The crown remained limited to the protestant
line by the Act of Settlement, which could not have been
altered "without civil war. To qualify concession and as
sops to the opposition, two riders were annexed. By one

1829 the Catholic Association was suppressed ; the other took


away the franchise from the forty-shilling freeholder
whose electoral insurrection in Clare had decided the day.
The act gave the electoral franchise to English catholics
from whom hitherto it had been withheld.

Catholic Emancipation, said the shrewd and cynical
Melbourne, was a question in which all the clever fellows
were on one side, and all the damned fools on the other,
and the damned fools were right. Right the fools could
not be in upholding gross injustice, while the fear of
divided allegiance and political subserviency to a foreign
pope, which formed the only rational motive for exclu-
sion, has by experience been almost dispelled. That the
result so far as Ireland was concerned was a disappoint-
ment, that she remained disaffected, disturbed, in constant
need of coercion acts, is too true. Concession had been
robbed of its grace by delay and enforcement; granted
by Pitt it would have been welcomed as a boon, and
would have knit the heart of Ireland to the union. After
all, it was not full, since the state church of the protes-
tant minority continued to wring its tithes from the
catholic people. But, above all, the statesmen of that
day were mistaken in thinking that in the religious dis-
abilities lay the chief seat of the malady, and that reli-
gious emancipation would, therefore, be a sovereign cure.
The chief seat of the malady lay, as the sequel clearly
showed, not in the religious disabilities, but in the tenure
of land, and in the relations between landlord and tenant,
bad in themselves, and embittered by the vengeful mem-
ories of a disinherited race. In their misery and hope-
lessness the peasantry multiplied recklessly, fearfully
over-peopled the country and overflowed into England,
lowering the wages and the condition of the labourer
VOL. u вАФ 22


there. In Scotland, at the time of the union, there was
no question like the Irish land question ; respect for the
Scotch religion, therefore, sufficed. Concurrent endow-
ment of the two churches, the catholic and the protestant,
might, as some thought, have bound the catholic priest-
hood to the support of government arid order. Some
.project of that kind seems to have suggested itself to
Pitt. But the consent of English and Scotch protestan-
tism could hardly have been obtained to the endowment
of the church of/ anti-Christ.

All the more because it had incurred among its party
the reproach of weakness by yielding to the repeal of the
Test Act and of apostasy by its conversion on the catholic
question, did the Tory government set its face as a flint
against parliamentary reform. There was yet time for a
moderate measure of concession which would probably
have averted sweeping change. But Wellington closed
that door by declaring, in the House of Lords, that the
constitution was humanly speaking incapable of im-
provement, and that he would be no party to the
slightest alteration. It is probable that he was carried
further than he meant to go. Master of the eddies of
battle, he was not so complete a master of the drift of his
own speech. Surprised at the extraordinary impression
which he at once saw that his words had made, he, as he
sat down, asked a colleague at his side what he could
have said to create such a sensation, and was answered
with a gesture and an ejaculation of dismay. He was,
however, inflexible, if not blind. A second retreat was
too much. Huskisson, the friend of Canning, and half a
Liberal, had, with some other friends of Canning, passed
1828 into the Tory government. It was moved as a mild


measure of reform to transfer the franchise from East
Retford, a borough convicted of corruption, to the great
manufacturing city of Birmingham. The question was
declared open by the government. But Huskisson, hav-
ing voted for the Bill, and finding himself opposed to his
leader, weakly pu^ his resignation in the duke's hand, not
meaning it to be accepted. The iron hand closed upon
it ; Huskisson was dropped from the cabinet ; with him 1828
departed the other Canningites, and the last hope of con-
cession. So it is that systems, when worn out and
condemned, prefer, as it appears, death to reform. In
truth, the owners of a rotten-borough parliament, with
all its power and patronage, might not without reason
think that for them reform was death.

By accepting the repeal of the Test Act the government
had estranged churchmen. By granting Catholic Emanci-
pation it had estranged protestants. By its retrenchments
it had estranged those whose salaries it had retrenched.
To wreak their vengeance the malcontents allied them-
selves with the opposition, and the last Tory government
fell. The tide of general agitation was, by this time,
running high, and in the heart of the suffering classes
there had sprung up a passionate hope of deliverance
by political change. The country was full of ferment
and of political clubs which were at last united in a
national association. In the more intellectual classes
political and social speculation had awakened from the
trance into which the struggle with Napoleon had thrown
it. On the continent revolution had rolled away
the stone which the Holy Alliance had laid upon its
sepulchre, and had recommenced its march by over-
turning the reactionary monarchy of the absolutist


Bourbons in France, and substituting the citizen mon-
1830 archy of Louis Philippe, the son of Egalite. England

felt the contagion ; nor was she this time repelled by

Jacobin crimes. Her own crown had passed from the
1830 sybarite Tory, George IV., to the sailor, William IV., a

man of homely character, and inclined to play the popular




nPHE hour had struck, and Grey, with his Whig follow-
ing, came in to carry parliamentary reform. Reforming
the government was, but it was still aristocratic. Tradi-
tion and the chances of political war together had done
for the British aristocracy what the deepest policy might
have dictated, dividing it between the political parties,
giving it the leadership of both, and putting progress
under its control. Whig magnates were lords of pocket-
boroughs which they sacrificed to the country and
their party. Democracy was represented in the cabi-
net, if at all, by Brougham the chancellor, who with
all his volatility and violence, proved in the end no un-
tamable patriot. The leader in the Commons was Lord
Althorp, the chancellor of the exchequer, an excellent man
of business, noted and trusted as a paragon of downright
honesty, all the more perhaps because he was somewhat
bovine and lacked the gift of speech. Lord Durham,
Grey's son-in-law, wayward and overflattered, showed
how an aristocrat might throw himself into a popular
cause, court the people, and be a high aristocrat still.
Palmerston and other followers of Canning joined the
government, though Canning had been a sworn oppo-
nent of parliamentary reform. They adhered to their
master's general liberalism without the particular and
almost unaccountable exception.



1831 On the memorable 1st of March, 1831, the Reform Bill
was brought in by Lord John Russell, chosen for that
honour, though he was not in the cabinet, on account
of his devotion to the cause, in which he had already
moved, and his historic name. It was a drastic measure,
and to Tories sounded like the knell of doom. Grey
was no revolutionist, but he thought that to be final, his
measure must be complete. In England the Bill made
a clean sweep of the rotten boroughs ; deprived a num-
ber of petty boroughs of one member ; gave representa-
tion to Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, and other large
towns and metropolitan districts ; gave a large additional
representation to the counties ; in the counties gave copy-
holders and leaseholders as well as freeholders votes ;
for the towns established a uniform ten-pound household
suffrage, abolishing the more extended suffrage in the few
boroughs in which by custom it had prevailed. Corpora-
tions were deprived of their electoral monopoly.

On Scotland, in place of representation by superiorities
or corporations, elective representation, nearly on the same
scale as that of England, was bestowed. In Ireland the
boroughs were taken from the close corporations and
given with the same qualifications as in England to the
citizens at large.

1831 There followed, inside and outside parliament, an im-
mense debate, in which every tongue and pen was called
into play. Outside parliament, reform had its thunder-
ing organ in the Times, which founded a power destined
largely to sway opinion down to our own day. In argu-
ment, reform easily swept the field. Who could devise
a rational defence of the representation of a mound or an
old wall ; the return of ninety members by forty-six places,


with less than fifty voters each ; the nomination of one
hundred and fifty-seven members by eighty-four men ; the
election of the majority of the House by fifteen thousand
out of three million male adults; the exclusion of copy-
holders and leaseholders ; or the existence of the beggarly
and corrupt nest of Cornish boroughs ? Who could plausi-
bly maintain that the manufacturing interest ought to be
denied its share of political power ? The Tories pointed
to the number of eminent men who, through the nomina-
tion boroughs, had found entrance to public life. There
was force in the argument where the patron was generous
and allowed his nominee to be independent ; but nomi-
nees generally were bound to go with their patrons, while
for one young Pitt or Canning there were nominated a
dozen mere retainers and agents of private designs. It
was alleged that all great interests were practically re-
presented. The manufacturing interest, whose seats were
new-born cities, was hardly represented at all, while the
overwhelming preponderance of the landlord interest was
attested by corn laws, game laws, and laws of every kind
framed for the benefit of the land-owner. Gross anomaly,
had there been nothing more, would have called for reform,
since it deprived the constitution of respect.

The only real defence, or rather the plea for caution and
forecast, was that on which the Duke of Wellington
touched when he asked how, with a House of Commons
elected on democratic principles, the king's government
was to be carried on. The House of Commons was no
longer the mere representation of the people, one of two
co-ordinate branches of the legislature, and subject to th(3
supreme authority of the crown. It had drawn to it
the sovereign power, executive as well as legislative, since


the ministers were the creatures of its choice. How
sovereign power was to be wisely and safely exercised
by an assembly of six hundred and fifty-eight men elected
by popular suffrage, was a problem to which in these great
debates attention was not sufficiently directed, and which
still remains unsolved. Popular representation may give
expression to the will of the people, though distorted by
the passions, the corruption, the trickery, and the various
accidents of elections ; but what is wanted is government,
not by will, but by the reason of the community, the
ascendancy of which popular representation without safe-
guards can hardly be trusted to secure.

In the parliamentary debates Lord Grey is dignified
and impressive, he speaks with the weight of age and
long devotion to the cause of reform. To the Lords he
speaks as one of their own order with which he stands or
falls. Macaulay is lucid and very brilliant in exposition
of a clear case. But, on the whole, the debates are some-
what disappointing to one who looks in them for great
lessons of statesmanship. There will hardly be found
in the speeches of the framers a distinct forecast of the
practical effects of their measure, or a clear idea of
the polity which they expected and intended to produce.
They seem scarcely to be aware that they are profoundly
altering the practical constitution. Nor do they dwell, as
might have been expected, on that necessity of admitting
the newly-born interest to a share of political power
which was not the least obvious or the least pressing
reason for the change. The speeches on the other side
were either carping attacks on the special provisions of
the Bill, or vague declamations against democracy and
predictions of revolution and ruin. Some attempted to


misapply the principles of private property to the fran-
chises and charters of the rotten boroughs, and contended
that to justify forfeiture delinquency must be proved ; as
though power intrusted by the state for a public purpose
could not by the same authority be resumed. The
delinquency was proved by the record of misgovernment.
As in early days the crown had chosen at its discretion
from time to time the boroughs to be represented in the
House of Commons, the wisdom of our ancestors was
really on the side of free selection. The defenders of
rotten boroughs of course vowed that, though opposed to
the plan before them, they were not enemies to all reform.
Why had they resisted the transfer of the franchise from
East Retford to Birmingham? Croker and Wetherell,
w^ho did most of the fighting on that side, were mere
mouthpieces of prejudice or of the vested interests of
abuse and corruption. In their criticism there is nothing
statesmanlike or instructive.

Peel was fettered by Wellington's fatal declaration and
by his party ties. Had he been free, it may be surmised
that instead of opposing the measure he would have
accepted it with a good grace, and amended it in the
conservative sense, as, with the forces at his command,
the House of Lords being entirely with him, he might
certainly have done. His large mind could not possibly
share the reactionary fanaticism of Croker and Wetherell
or have been deluded by the sophistries of chartered right.
His speeches are wanting in elevation and breadth. His

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