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population approached the magic numbers of two or four thousand would have been subjected to an almost irresistible temptation to press a few visitors into their houses on the Census night. And they accordingly instructed a competent officer to prepare two lists of boroughs—one for disfranchisement, the other for semi-disfranchisement—basing his report on the number of houses in each borough and the amount of assessed taxes paid in it. The officer selected for this duty, Lieutenant Drummond, was well known afterwards for his services in the Irish Office. The principles on which he acted may still be read in his biography. He prepared a list of fifty-six boroughs for total, and of thirty other boroughs for semi-disfranchisement; and the Ministers acted on his report and framed the third Reform Bill accordingly.
One other alteration of importance was made in the measure. The former Bills had contemplated a considerable reduction in the numbers of the House of Commons. The new Bill made no alteration in its numbers. This circumstance increased the efficiency of the measure, since by enabling the Administration to confer additional members on populous places, it pro tanto decreased the voting power of the smaller places which had escaped the meshes of Schedules A and B.
The debates on the third Reform Bill were not protracted to the ridiculous extent which had wearied both Parliament and public in the preceding summer. Read a first time on the 12th, it passed its second reading on December 17; and Ministers, satisfied with the progress which they had thus made, suffered the House to adjourn for a well-earned holiday. After the recess twenty-two nights' work enabled the Government to carry the Bill through committee. On March 22, 1832, it was read a third time, and on the following day it was passed. +
Buring the whole of these discussions the heat and burden of the affray had fallen on Lord Althorp and Lord John. Night after night these two had borne almost alone the task of defending both the principles and the details of the Bill. As the result of their labours Lord John was able to say on its final stage that—
They were now about to take it up to the other House of Parliament as complete in its integrity and as full in its efficiency as when it was first introduced to the notice of the House.'
He was convinced that, if Parliament should refuse to entertain the measure, it would place in collision that party which opposed all Reform . . . and that which desired Reform extending to universal suffrage. The consequence of this would be that much blood would be shed in the struggle between the contending parties, and he was perfectly persuaded that the British constitution would perish in the conflict.
This warning, however, had no influence with the Tories. Mr. Goulburn at once declared that
The Bill was pregnant with danger to almost every interest in
the State. Indeed, the only chance of salvation which the country now had was that this Bill, though sent from the House of Commons, might never be passed into a law by the assembly to which it was now going.
Words such as these, uttered by a statesman who had held high and responsible office, held out little hope of peace, and Ministers awaited accordingly with undisguised anxiety the decision of the Lords. Happily for Lord John his temperament always enabled him to shake off the cares of business during the intervals of leisure, and, on the completion of his own labours, he went down to Woburn for quiet and fresh air. He returned to town at the beginning of April, and on April 6, three days before the debate on the second reading in the Lords, assembled a company of choice spirits at breakfast at his own residence. Those old official rooms had perhaps never before rung with such genuine laughter, excited by such boisterous fun ; the humour of some of the sayings first uttered at that breakfast table is still alive, and three of the company who left together laughed all the way to Cockspur Street, where they were “all three seized with such convulsions of cachinnation [that they were obliged to separate] and reel each his own way with the fit.”
Hansard, xi. 853. * Moore's Memoirs, vi. 263. The company consisted of Lady Hardy and
one of her daughters, Lord William Russell, Moore, Rogers, Luttrell, and Sydney
Yet the circumstances were grave enough to check hilarity. It is true that in the week that succeeded Lord John's breakfast party the Lords consented to read the Reform Bill a second time. But Ministers who were behind the scenes knew that the second reading of the measure was not the most critical stage, and they dreaded the alterations which might be made in the Bill in committee. Their fears were well founded. On May 7 Lord Lyndhurst moved the postponement of the disfranchising clauses till the enfranchising clauses had been considered, and carried his motion against the Government by 151 votes to 116. To
The immediate consequence of the vote [wrote Lord John'] was a meeting of the Cabinet to consider their new position. With the exception of the Duke of Richmond, the Cabinet were unanimous in thinking that no course was left to them but that of proposing to the King to sanction a creation of peers sufficiently numerous to over. bear the opposition of the Lords. The King, however, shrank from the alternative now proposed to him. Lord Lyndhurst was sent for, and informed that the King was determined, if possible, to form a Government on the principle of carrying an extensive reform in the representation of the people. The Duke of Wellington informed Lord Lyndhurst that he would endeavour to form a Government in compliance with the King's wishes. But Sir Robert Peel declined to make himself responsible for a Bill which, in his opinion, as he
had often and publicly declared, would entail great calamities on the country.
The excitement throughout the country caused by the knowledge that the Whig Ministers had resigned, and that a Tory Government was in process of formation, made the Duke of Wellington's attempt hopeless. Lord Ebrington carried an address imploring “his Majesty to call to his councils such persons only as will carry into effect, unimpaired in all its essential provisions, that Bill for reforming the
Smith. It was at this breakfast that Sydney Smith told the story of Leslie going to Jeffrey to explain some point in an article about the North Pole, and of Leslie complaining that Jeffrey had exclaimed impatiently ‘Oh, damn the North Pole.’ Sydney Smith consoled Leslie by telling him in confidence that he himself had once heard Jeffrey speak disrespectfully of the Equator.
' The text is compressed from Lord John's own account in A'ecollections and Suggestions, p. 100 sq.
VOL. I. N
representation of the people which has recently passed the House of Commons.' And on the following Monday, May 14, Mr. Baring, who was supposed to have accepted office in the new Ministry, intimated clearly that the attempt to form a Cabinet would not be proceeded with."
This confession forced the King to recall his old Ministers, and the Cabinet unanimously resolved that Lord Grey should not return to office unless he were “armed with the power to create peers in a number sufficient to carry the Bill should any of its essential provisions be interfered with in its further progress through the House of Lords.' This power was not exercised. The King used his private influence to secure the passage of the measure, and a sufficient number of Tory peers were induced to stay away, and thus render the opposition of the remainder nugatory. Lord John thought it very questionable “whether the manner in which the vote of the House of Lords was nullified by the compulsory absence of a great many of the majority was not more perilous for their authority than the creation of peers which the Cabinet of Lord Grey proposed.’ And he went on to declare, in a passage which shows how much more clearly he understood the principles of constitutional government than most of his contemporaries —
It seems to me that a House of Lords sympathising with the people at large, and acting in concurrence with the enlightened state of the prevailing wish, represents far better the dignity of the House, and its share in legislation, than a majority got together by the long supremacy of one party in the State, eager to show its ill-will by rejecting Bills of small importance, but afraid to appear, and skulking in clubs and country houses, in face of a measure which has attracted the ardent sympathy of public opinion.”
Tory peers, however, “skulked in clubs and country houses,’ and the Bill passed triumphantly through committee without much debate, and with no important alteration. It was read a
" It was in this debate that Lord John, after paying a high compliment to Sir Robert Peel, said that “he was sure that the Right Hon. Baronet would not form part of a Cabinet into which honour could not enter.”— Hansard, xii. 930. Cf. A'ecollections and Suggestions, p. 107.
* Ibid. p. 1 Io.
third time by a majority of eighty, and on June 5 Lord John had the satisfaction of asking the Commons to agree to the amendments, which were little more than formal and verbal, made by the Lords. Two days afterwards the Bill received the royal assent." Lord John's share in the Reform Act was celebrated by the late Lord Lyttelton in the following verses:–
Were spurned by a Prince of the fell Stuart line,
/ In England's worst days, when her rights and her laws
While England was celebrating the triumph of Reform, One of the greatest of modern authors, stricken to the death, was embarking on a little steamer on the Rhine and coming home to die. He reached London on the evening of June 13, and remained at an hotel in Jermyn Street, too exhausted to be carried further till the beginning of July. The newspapers, fresh from the conflict on Reform, teemed with paragraphs about the health of Sir Walter Scott, and one ‘well-meaning’ though ill-informed' writer suggested
'It ought perhaps to be added that Lord John took a very active part in the legislation which may be described as supplemental to the Reform Act, and *Pecially in the Division of Counties and Boundaries of Boroughs Bill—a measure of which he had charge.