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for the sake of peace had been endeavouring to keep in the background. Mr. Ward, the member for St. Albans, at once gave notice of a motion pledging the House to the reduction of the temporal possessions of the Church of Ireland, and Mr. Stanley offered to relieve his colleagues from the embarrassment of his presence by resigning office. The Lord Chancellor in vain endeavoured to patch up the quarrel by suggesting that the Ministry should appoint a royal commission to decide whether the revenues of the Church were in excess of its requirements; but Mr. Stanley saw that the appointment of this commission would commit him to the principle of appropriation, and, in company with three other members of the Cabinet—the Duke of Richmond, Lord Ripon, and Sir James Graham—retired from office."
The expedient which the Chancellor had suggested, though it did not heal the schism in the Cabinet, enabled the Ministers to get rid of Mr. Ward's motion; but in the explanations which followed Lord John again took occasion to commit himself and his colleagues to the policy on which he was resolved.
The appointment of this commission involved a great principle—it involved the principle that, if it was ascertained by facts and by evidence that the revenues appropriated to the Irish Church ought to be applied to different purposes than those to which they were made tributary, or that they ought to be reduced, his Majesty's Ministers would not shrink from the performance of their duty, but prepare a measure for the consideration of the House, founded on, and in accordance with, that report.
Gentlemen she added] asked what was the Government? He said the Government was the Government of Earl Grey, and of his noble friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was their Government, framed on the principle that reform was necessary in the Church of Ireland.
Lord William was staying with his brother, Lord John, at this time. Writing to Lord Tavistock on March 12, 1835, he said, ‘I remember breakfasting with John the morning after he made his famous declaration (upset the coach). He said to me, “My friends are all very angry with me for my speech last night.” I asked him what he had said. “Take the paper and read.” I did so, and replied, “I think you were quite right. I approve of every word.” Had he quitted the Cabinet then (and Palmerston was for turning him out), how high he would have stood.”
There could be no misapprehension about the meaning of these sentences. Irish Church Reform a few days before had been a question on which Lord John had himself avowed that differences existed in the Cabinet. Irish Church Reform was now stated by Lord John to be the principle on which the existence of the Government depended.
The political differences of colleagues usually lead to estrangements in private life, and few Ministers who have parted from one another in office have remained good and close friends afterwards. It is creditable both to Mr. Stanley and Lord John that their personal friendship for one another was not diminished by their disagreement. On the very day on which the schism was announced, the King held a levee, and Lord Melbourne, Lord John, and Mr. Stanley were laughing with such unfeigned good humour at some ridiculous story that Lord Melbourne was telling, that the bystanders inferred that the separation had been averted. Eight months afterwards Mr. Moore met the Duke of Richmond and Lord John at Holland House and declared that—
It was amusing to see the Duke with Lord John, whom he had not met for some time, and whom he patted on the back and played with like a schoolboy, quizzing him good-humouredly upon some of the points on which they now differ in politics."
With Mr. Stanley Lord John remained ‘Johnny’ to the last. The defection of four members naturally weakened the Whig Administration. But at the same time it made the Cabinet a little more harmonious. The members of it, indeed, did not take advantage of the occasion to recast their Tithe Bill, but they introduced a few alterations in it to make it a little more palatable. Lord John, however, was far from satisfied with this conduct. He frequently offered to resign, he was with difficulty persuaded to remain in office, and he at last only consented to do so on condition that he was allowed to speak out even more strongly than he had yet done.” The opportunity soon arrived. On June 23 Mr.
* Moore's Memoirs, vii. 56, 73. * Greville Memoirs, iii. 98.
Littleton, moving the House into committee on the Tithe Bill, explained the few alterations which it was intended to make in it. And Mr. O'Connell, declaring that Ministers ought to be as ready as those who had seceded from them to assert their principles, asked the House to pledge itself to an amendment that the surplus revenues of the Church should be applied to purposes of public utility. In the course of the debate which ensued, Sir Robert Peel drew attention to the different language used on the subject of appropriation by different members of the Cabinet, and, with an inaccuracy which was not usual in him, declared that Lord John had stated that ‘the Church in Ireland' is the greatest grievance of which any country ever had to complain. Lord John had no difficulty in correcting the inaccuracy.
I did not say, as the right hon. gentleman supposes, that the Church of Ireland was the greatest grievance that any country had ever suffered. So far from it, I stated that the revenues of the Church were too great for its stability, thereby implying that I desired and contemplated the future stability of the Church. . . . That was my opinion then, and is now ; I have seen no reason to alter it.
He went on to say that the necessity of Coercion Acts, measures ‘peculiarly abhorrent to those who pride themselves on the name of Whigs,’ imposed on Ministers the special duty of looking ‘deeper into the causes of the long-standing and permanent evils of that country;' and after an able argument on the nature of Church property, and on the right of the legislature to deal with it, he concluded—
I am well aware that on this subject, above all others, an attempt will be made to raise the cry of ‘The Church is in danger.' Whatever success that cry may have, I am prepared to abide by the opinions which I have expressed. I am not prepared to continue the government of Ireland without fully probing her condition. I am not prepared to propose Bills for coercion and the maintenance of a large force of military and police without endeavouring to improve, as far as lies in my power, the condition of the people. . . . If the cry to which I have alluded should be raised and prove successful, and if that dissolution, which has been invoked with such loud cheers by many gentlemen opposite, should take place, let it come . . . I will not be a Minister to carry on systems which I think founded on bigotry and prejudice. Be the consequence what it may, . . . I am content to abide by these opinions, to carry them out to their fullest extent, not by any premature declaration of mere opinion . . . but by going on gradually, from time to time improving our institutions, and, without injuring the ancient and venerable fabrics, rendering them fit and proper mansions for a great, free, and intelligent people.
In the whole of his previous career Lord John had never spoken with so much vigour; even in the debates on the Reform Bill his words had never elicited such hearty cheering. Mr. Ward, as the author of Appropriation, rose at once to beg Mr. O'Connell after these ‘manly declarations’ to withdraw his amendment; and, though Mr. O'Connell declined to do so, he expressed his ‘admiration of the sentiments of the noble lord.' Here is what a much older friend thought of Lord John's speech:
I cannot help hastening to tell you that you have relieved me from a most heavy weight of suspense and anxiety by your noble speech of Monday last. ‘Je reconnais mon sang,' if I may apply such a quotation, roturier as I am, to the blood of the Russells. But I do recognise in that speech all that I have ever admired and loved in you, and, let what will happen with others, you at least come safe and unsinged out of the furnace, and a devil of a furnace it is, to be sure. . . . The character of one such man as you is worth all the convocations of bishops and parsons that ever were yet—convocated. I have no other word for it.
Here is Lord John's answer:-
My dear Moore, You cannot doubt that I am very much gratified by your letter. My friends in general, I am glad to say, have, both in the House and out of it, cheered me on with more praise than I deserve, and I believe, by dint of encouragement, they will at last make me what by nature I am not, namely, a good speaker.
But there are occasions on which one must express one's feelings or sink into contempt. I own I have not been easy during the period for which I thought it absolutely necessary to suspend the assertion of my opinions in order to secure peace in this country.
If there is no hesitation or shrinking among us at the helm, we shall still pass through the straits in safety; but if there is, I can see no seamark which can afford hope to the country. Remember me kindly to Mrs. Moore.—Ever yours truly, J. RUSSELL.
‘The straits, however, were very narrow, and, if there was no shrinking at the helm, there was grievous lack of discipline in the crew. On the day that followed that on which Lord John was writing, the council took place at which the Cabinet agreed to proceed with the Coercion Bill which the Irish Secretary, Mr. Littleton, had privately assured Mr. O'Connell should not be introduced in its integrity. Mr. O'Connell, declining to allow Mr. Littleton the advantage of secrecy, detailed the whole transaction publicly to the House of Commons, and, in the general confusion which followed, Lord Grey retired from office and was succeeded by Lord Melbourne. Lord John, in the heat of the crisis, acted in a manner which reminds the reader of his boyhood. “Seeing that nothing more was to be done that night, I left the Cabinet and went to the opera.’
It was Lord John's hope—and the wish was shared by Lord Melbourne and Lord Althorp—that the King, in accepting Lord Grey's resignation, would have sent for Sir Robert Peel, and it was with much reluctance and heavy misgivings that the Ministers resumed the thankless task of carrying on the government. In the short period which remained to them they succeeded in passing a modified Coercion Bill through both Houses of Parliament, and in carrying a modified Tithe Bill through the Commons. But the Tithe Bill was rejected by the Lords, and Ireland was thus deprived of the remedy which thoughtful and tolerant men like Lord John were anxious to secure her.
Thus, during the session of 1834, the Whig Ministry had been weakened by the secession of the Duke of Richmond, Lord Ripon, Sir J. Graham, and Mr. Stanley, and decapitated by the retirement of Lord Grey. It had failed to secure the measure dealing with tithes in Ireland, on which its existence seemed at one time to be staked ; and, though posterity owes it a deep debt of gratitude for passing the Poor Law of 1834, that reform rather tended to increase its unpopularity