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own apology for hopeless resistance is its salutary im-
pressiveness as a lesson against light tampering with the
constitution. This is the weakest part of his career.

In temper the debates did no dishonour to the political


character of the country. Considering the vast interests,
personal as well as public, which were at stake, and the
passions which were called into play, there was little of
violence or disorder. Once or twice, at trying moments,
self-control gave wayo Once, to prevent a duel, it was
necessary to give two members into the custody of the
sergeant-at-arms. O'Connell's tendency to vituperation
could not be altogether suppressed. But, on the whole,
the spirit of men of sense and of English gentlemen
prevailed, and parliamentary decorum was preserved.
It was a good omen of future re-union and patriotic
co-operation under the altered constitution.

1831 The Reform Bill passed its second reading in the House
of Commons by three hundred and two to three hundred
and one, a majority of one. Even with that unreformed
parliament the voice of public opinion which called upon
it to put an end to its own existence had been powerful
enough to prevail. But the measure met with defeat in
committee on a motion against the proposed diminution of
the existing number of representatives for England and

1831 An appeal to the country followed. With some diffi-
culty the king, whose fears had by this time been excited,
was induced to dissolve parliament. It appears that a
protest of- the Tories against dissolution, which seemed to
him to touch his prerogative, at last decided his consent.
Scenes of extreme excitement were being enacted in both
Houses when he came down to the House of Lords and
summoned the Commons to the bar. The sound of the
cannon which announced his coming was the death-knell

1831 of oligarchic government. In the election, reform every-
where swept the free constituencies and sent the govern-


ment back with its numbers overwhelmingly increased.
The Bill was now carried in the House of Commons by 1831
three hundred and sixty -seven to two hundred and thirty-
one, a majority of one hundred and thirty-six. From
the Commons it passed to the Lords. Had the Lords
been wise and known their hour they might in all proba-
bility still have secured important amendments in their
own favour. Not being wise or knowing their hour,
they threw out the Bill by one hundred and ninety-nine
to one hundred and fifty-eight, a majority of forty-one. 1831
It was remarked that of those who voted against the Bill
most were peers not of old creation but of new. The
Commons, voting confidence in the government by a great
majority, brought their House into direct collision with
the Lords.

The country was in a state of excitement verging on
civil war. The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but
the Bill was the cry. Language, threatening not only
to the House of Lords but to hereditary monarchy, was
held. In England, as in France, the bishops and clergy,
suspected as the black soldiery of reaction, were the
special objects of popular hatred. The National Union
threatened to stop the payment of taxes. Riot broke 1831
out in several places, Wellington's windows were smashed,
and the iron shutters of Apsley House long remained
the duke's mute appeal against popular ingratitude.
The scene of the most violent outbreak was Bristol,
where the mob sacked and burned the Mansion House,
the bishop's palace, and a number of private houses ; while
authority, civil and military, paralyzed by the dominant
spirit of revolution, looked on helplessly at the havoc.
Still the Lords held out in spite of the electric appeals of


Brougham, though he literally conjured them on his
knees. That thunderbolt of debate found a doughty
opponent in Lyndhurst, who, once a radical in sentiment,
and still a radical in temperament, having taken the Tory
shilling, boldly, unscrupulously, and effectively served that
cause. Eldon could only wail.

The Bill, having again passed the Commons by a great
majority, was allowed to pass its second reading in the
Lords House, but was killed by a hostile motion in
committee. The ministers then applied to the king for
leave to overcome the opposition of the Lordfe by a
swamping creation of peers, like that which had carried
the Treaty of Utrecht, but on a larger scale. The king

1832 demurring, the ministers resigned. The king then called
on the Tories to form a government and frame a Reform
Bill of their own. Wellington, ever loyal, deemed it his
duty to his sovereign to throw himself into the breach.
" Run for gold and stop the duke " was then the cry. But
Peel's wisdom prevailed. The Whig ministers returned
to office with their royal master's permission to create

1832 peers. The peers then surrendered and allowed the Bill
to pass in a thin House. They had done the worst they
could for themselves by obstinately holding out, instead
of coming to terms, and at last giving way to a threat.
Thus the great oligarchy passed to its long account in
history. Immense rejoicings followed. The light of hope
had dawned on the cottage. Machine -breaking and rick-
burning ceased. The golden age had begun.

The general election which ensued gave an overwhelm-
ing majority to the reformers, though rather to the Whigs
than to the Radicals, whose comparative disappointment
showed that the excitement was already abating.


The number of six hundred and fifty-eight members
for England and Wales, which the first Bill had reduced,
was in this last restored. A further respite was given to
the abuse of the freemen's vote in boroughs. The county
franchise was extended to fifty-pound tenants-at-will,
otherwise the Bill, after its stormy course, passed nearly
in its original form.. The net result for England and
Wales was the disfranchisement of fifty-six nomination
boroughs ; the withdrawal from thirty boroughs of one
member each, and from Weymouth and Melcombe Regis
of two out of their four ; the grant of a member apiece to
twenty-two large towns or metropolitan districts, includ-
ing the great manufacturing towns of Manchester, Birm-
ingham, and Leeds, and of one member apiece to twenty
smaller towns ; an increase of the number of county
members from ninety -four to one hundred and fifty-nine;
a ten-pound franchise for the boroughs; while in the
county constituencies to the forty-shilling freeholders
were added copyholders, leaseholders for terms of years,
and tenants-at-will paying a rent of fifty pounds. In
Scotland the result was a county constituency of ten-
pound property holders and some classes of leaseholders ;
a borough constituency like the English, of ten-pound
householders practically elective in place of nomination.
In Ireland the union had done the work of disfranchise-
ment. But the ten-pound household franchise was
extended to the boroughs. Both in Scotland and in Ire-
land the number of members was slightly increased be-
yond the union settlement ; an indication that the union
was regarded, not as an unalterable compact, but as a
fusion of two nations into one with united powers of self-
organization, though with ancient boundaries, political,


legal, and ecclesiastical, which it was still necessary to

The amendment extending the franchise to fifty-pound
tenants-at-will, called from the mover. Lord Chandos,
heir of the Duke of Buckingham, was of the highest im-
portance. The tenant farmers, to whom it gave votes,
were under the influence of the landlord, and their in-
terest was bound up with his. This was the one great
Tory victory, and it won back for the land-owning aris-
tocracy and gentry, with the seats for the counties, not a
little of the political power which, by the Bill as originally
framed, they would have lost.

To lessen the abuses, expenses, and riot of elections,
the Act introduced regular registration, improved the
arrangements for polling, and reduced the number of
polling days from fifteen to two. An improvement was
afterwards made in the constitution of committees for
the trial of election petitions, with a view of checking
the corruption of which the small free boroughs were the
chief seats. But corruption is protean in its forms.
Bribery at elections is expelled, only to give place to
bribery between elections. Where public principle is weak,
ambition and cupidity will find a way.

Here the tide of parliamentary reform was stayed.
Radicals made attempts to go further ; to extend the
franchise yet more widely ; to shorten the duration of
parliaments ; to introduce the ballot, a name of revo-^
lutionary terror in those days •; but in vain. Whiggism
showed its aristocratic and conservative side, and it
received the loyal support of the leader of the Tory
opposition in its resistance to democratic innovation.
The borough-mongering oligarchy had fallen ; a large


share of political power had been transferred to the
middle class; the manufacturing interest had been ad-
mitted to its place in the representation ; these were
the grand results. The working classes, both in town
and country, most completely in the country, were still
left outside the political pale. From them had been
taken, by the abolition of the popular suffrage, which
in a few boroughs had by custom prevailed, such repre-
sentation as they had. The Whigs had better have sacri-
ficed symmetry, and left scot-and-lot and potwallers alone.
The peers had been deprived of their nomination
boroughs, and with them of much of their influence
over the popular House. The Duke of Norfolk had
lost his eleven members. Lord Lonsdale his nine, Lord
Darlington his seven, the Duke of Rutland, the Marquis
of Buckingham, and Lord Carrington each of them his
six. Still the Lords had many sons and nephews in the
Commons. As a House they had undergone coercion on
the demand of the Commons, and could no longer be
deemed a co-ordinate branch of the legislature. On
questions of first-rate magnitude no more was left them
than a suspensive veto. On secondary questions their
power of obstruction remained the same, and continued
to be exercised almost as freely as before. They were
still a House of hereditary land-owners, unfit in that
respect for the impartial revision of legislation, especially
when it affected the landed interest. What is called
parliamentary reform had been reform only of the House
of Commons, and of that only by extension of the fran-
chise. Statesmanship would perhaps have prescribed a
simultaneous re- organization of the two Houses so as to
keep them in unison with each other and preserve the


balance of the constitution. But a comprehensive revi-
sion of the constitution is an idea which has never been
entertained, and which, while the predominance of party
continues, it would be hopeless to entertain. Loud cries
which, when the lords threw out the Reform Bill, had
been raised for the abolition of a hereditary peerage, died
away when the Bill had passed. The people had gained
their substantial object and they are not easily moved to
theoretic innovation.

The working classes generally had welcomed the Bill,
thinking it would bring relief to their sufferings, while
the more democratic among them hoped that the ball of
political change, once set rolling, would roll on. They,
however, did not fail to see that this was a middle-class
measure, or to give vent to their class jealousy and dis-
trust. Hence presently arose Chartism, the agitation for
the people's charter, the six points of which were univer-
sal suffrage, vote by ballot, annual parliaments, payment of
representatives, equal electoral districts, and abolition of
property qualification. Chartism, hov/ever, fell into bad
hands, allied itself with protectionism, and after signing
monster petitions and leading to some outbreaks of
violence went to its grave. Socialism as yet had hardly
reared its head in the political field. Its prophet was the
visionary Owen. Francis Place, the arch-Radical, though
an extremist in political reform, was not a socialist. In-
dividual liberty and political equality were his creed. He
supported a Poor Law Amendment Bill framed on strictly
economic lines.

The crown also had succumbed in regard to the matter
of the creation of peers, to which the king manifestly
consented against his will. It lost by whatever increased


the authority of the Commons as the representation of the
people. Nor were representatives of the people so likely
to become courtiers and " king's friends " as the wealthy
purchasers of nomination boroughs.

Croker, when the Reform Bill had passed, left the House
of Commons, saying that it was no longer a place for a
gentleman. It was no longer a place exclusively for the
landed gentry with their social recruits from commerce
arid their borough nominees. The manufacturer had found
his way there, though as yet on a small scale. So had
popular leaders, demagogues the gentry called them,
such as Cobbett, the sledge-hammer pamphleteer, and
Hume, the rude apostle of retrenchment. One man had
found his way there who had been a prize-fighter, perhaps
not more* disreputable than his backers. Yet it was still a
House of landed gentlemen. They had regained, or were
soon to regain, the counties; the tenants-at-will, en-
franchised under the Chandos clause, everywhere voting
with the landlord. They had influence over the rural
boroughs, and they had still the spell of rank and social
position, powerful with the middle classes even in a
party election. The really democratic element in the new
House was very small. It was unrepresented in the cabi-
net, of the fourteen members of which eleven bore the
title of Lord, one that of Baronet. Grey could say that
he never read the newspapers. The House was still
governed by the gentleman's sentiment and manners.
Latin quotations were still in fashion. The unclassical
Hume, to conform to that fashion, called omnibuses
omnihi. The commercial policy of the country, so far as
it affected the land-owners' rents, remained protectionist,
and he was a Whig statesman who denounced as madness
VOL. II — 23


the proposal to repeal the Corn Laws. The class, or
combination of classes, educated at the two great uni-
versities remained in fact the predominant influence, the
standard of public principle, the practical motor of the
political machine. Against the inroad of extreme de-
mocracy upon the House of Commons the non-payment
of members was the surest safeguard. To remove this
no serious attempt was made. On the other hand, the
theory that the member is the mere delegate and mouth-
piece of his constituency, against which Burke had nobly
protested, had made way, and may be regarded as a
detraction from the power of the House of Commons.
At a meeting of the liverymen of London it was resolved
that " for one man to represent another means that he is
to act for that other and in a manner agreeably to his
wishes and instructions, and that members chosen to be
representatives in parliament ought to do such things as
their constituents wish and direct them to do." Strictly
construed, this would mean that the representative was a
messenger and that the only citizens who were to have no
opinion or voice of their own were those who formed the
great council of the nation.

To this period of legislative change perhaps may be
traced the idea, now prevalent, that legislative change is
a normal function of a government, and that a govern-
ment which allows a session to pass without some measure
of innovation betrays unworthiness to rule.

In the party system of government there had been a
break during the early autocracy of Pitt. The French
Revolution had once more drawn the party lines, yet they
had been disregarded under the pressure of public danger
in the formation of the Grenville administration. By the


Reform struggle they were again sharply drawn, though
on both sides there were marked shades of difference
among the sections of which the parties were composed.

In the reform of abuse so flagrant, and, with revolution
abroad in Europe, so plainly dangerous, men by interest
and character conservative had. in great numbers taken
part. These men might with literal truth say that they
were for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the
Bill. From the first sign of general change they recoiled,
though that sign was nothing more revolutionary than a
proposal to devote a part of the worse than useless wealth
of the Irish hierarchy to the purposes of national educa-
tion. Upon that question the Whig government was
deserted by Mr. Stanley and Sir James Graham, the first
of whom soon turned the fire of his rhetoric, which was
very hot, on his old friends.

After this defection, the tide of reaction was so
evidently rising that the king, now cured of his brief
fancy for popularity, and sensible that royalty was his
trade, ventured on a stroke of personal government, des-
tined probably to be the last of its kind, and to prove
by its failure that the ministry now was the ministry
of the Commons, not of the king.

Grey, old, weary, being, by an indiscretion of his Irish
secretary, Littleton, embroiled with O'Connell, and hav-
ing thereby lost Lord Althorp, whose character was the
mainstay of the government in the Commons, had re-
signed. He had been succeeded in the premiership by 1834
Lord Melbourne, an easy-going man of the world,
sagacious though not brilliant, little troubled with
convictions, and affecting to be less troubled by them
than he was. The indispensable Althorp, after return-


ing to the chancellorship of the exchequer, was by the
death of his father, Lord Spencer, transferred from the
Commons to the Lords, and thus practically killed as
an effective statesman. The weakening of the govern-
ment in the Commons gave the king a pretext, though
not a constitutional ground, for dismissing his ministers
and putting the premiership in the hands of the Duke of

1834 Wellington, by whom it was passed to Peel. Peel, look-
ing for no crisis, was then in Italy. Had he been on the
spot it is probable that his caution would have condemned
the venture as premature. As it was, his sense of duty
to his sovereign prevailed. He went to the country
and, thanks largely to the operation of the Chandos

1835 clause, came back with a gain of seats which showed
that reaction had set in. In England he had a decided
majority, but Scotland and Ireland ttirned the scale.
Beaten on the Speakership, he yet continued to hold office
for three months, during which his main objects, the
reconciliation of his party with the new order of things
and the promulgation of its amended programme, had
been gained. He definitively accepted for himself and
his followers the settlement of the Reform Bill. He
opened an attractive budget of practical reform, including
commutation of tithe, reform of the ecclesiastical courts,
a measure for legalizing the marriages of dissenters, an in-
quiry into church revenues with a view to their better
distribution, and a promise of municipal reform. He
re-baptized his party, which thenceforth was not Tory,
but Conservative. He took up for it a new posi-
tion as the party of practical improvement opposed
to political innovation. To be leader of such a party ^^
no one was better fitted than himself. Heir of a greaf"^^


manufacturer and great land-owner, thus representing
both the interests, early trained in office, thoroughly
master of the public business, especially in the depart-
ment, now so important, of finance and trade, a first-rate
debater and a skilful manager of the House of Commons,
courageous yet cautious and patient, thoroughly conser-
vative yet an open-minded reader of his times, Robert
Peel seemed sent to his party by its good genius to
steer it through the inevitable transition, regain for it
the confidence of the nation, and guide it back to power.
He was not without his weak points. His failings were a
shyness, strange in one who swayed a great public as-
sembly, which impaired his personal influence, and made
him sometimes close when he had better have been com-
municative ; an excess of caution, the result of critical
positions as well as of a youth passed in office ; and an
over-sensitiveness about his own character which betrayed
itself not only in unnecessary vindications, but, as his
temper was hot though generally under strict control, led
him to challenge more than one assailant to a duel. Nor
was he equally popular with all sections of the party.
Stiff old Tories of the Eldonian school might still with-
hold their confidence. Aristocracy might not quite forget
that Peel was a cotton-spinner's son. Yet the mass of
Conservatives saw the value of their leader and when
upon the passing of a resolution in favour of the secular-
ization of part of the surplus revenues of the Irish church
he announced his resignation to the House, the cheers of 1835
sympathy, not from his own side alone, amidst which he
sat down were morally the voice of victory.




npHE Melbourne Ministry was now restored to office,
but hardly to power. The Whigs, its only assured
following, were outnumbered in the House of Commons
by the opposition consisting of Tories and Conservatives.
For its majority it was dependent partly on the Radicals,
who lent it a cold, uncertain, and somewhat contemptuous
support ; partly on O'Connell and his " tail," whose sup-
port was not only uncertain, especially on Irish questions,
but highly compromising in British and protestant eyes,
so that the alliance with him, nicknamed the Lichfield
House Compact, was morally a heavy drag on the govern-
ment. A precarious union was enforced among these
sections by the formidable force of the common enemy,
whose return to power would have been fatal to them all.
The Prime Minister, shelved in the House of Lords, could
do little more than show his good temper and discretion
in the leadership of a hopeless minority. Liberal in creed,
but Conservative in grain, in all things a sceptic, not
having sought the premiership, but liking it when events
had wafted him into it, he wanted no more change than
was needful for the filling of his part as the Reform
premier and would gladly have put off all change to the
morrow. Brougham had been excluded from the re-
constructed cabinet by indiscretions and escapades which



passed all bounds ; he had played most fantastic tricks in
a tour of vanity through Scotland. Fortunately, however,
for his former colleagues his electricity at first found
vent in combats with Lyndhurst rather than in vengeful
attacks on the administration. The leader in the House
of Commons, the soul of the government in home affairs,
was Lord John Russell, who for the present proclaimed
the finality of his Reform Bill, though he was in the
sequel fain once more to woo for his flagging sails the
breeze which had first borne him into power. Lord John
was a good tactician, but no match for Peel, whose ascen-
dancy in the House had now been completely established.
With a powerful minority in the Commons and a Tory
House of Lords, Peel had a veto on legislation. His own
tendency and policy were not obstruction but moderation.
In practical reform he would probably have been will-
ing to go further had he not been checked by the Tory
section of his party in the House of Commons and by the
Toryism of the House of Lords. Over the Toryism of
the House of Lords he maintained a somewhat precarious
control through the Duke of Wellington, who, though
opposed to change, was a practical strategist and generally
recognized in Peel the commander-in-chief of the party.
Peel's ambition was very cautious, and he had no intention
of precipitating the fall of the Whig government that he
might go on another forlorn hope.

Bound up with reform of parliament and sure to at-
tend it, was municipal reform. The close corporations
had in fact been the chief organs of electoral abuse and
corruption. Commissioners of inquiry to prepare complex
subjects for parliament were becoming instruments of
government. A commission of inquiry into the state

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