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growing desire to abandon the question on which the Ministry had been founded ; but Mr. O'Connell desired to thrust the Municipal Bill into the forefront of the battle, while the King was anxious to postpone its introduction to the distant day when an Irish Poor Law was passed and in operation. Lord John forwarded Sir H. Taylor's letter to the Prime Minister, who returned it with the observation, ‘I see Sir H. Taylor considers you to have decided upon giving up the Appropriation Clause.” But he made no remonstrance; and, as Lord John was detained at Oakley, where Lord Tavistock was residing, by his wife's illness, and the meetings of the Cabinet were consequently postponed, Ministers had no opportunity of considering the details of their policy till the eve of the session. Though the Speech from the throne * recommended early consideration for the Irish Municipal Bill, the Irish Tithe Bill, and the Irish Poor Law, the Cabinet had not made up its mind how to deal with the second of these measures when Parliament met. The Irish Municipal Bill was more forward, and a week after the meeting Lord John, in asking leave for its introduction, made a great speech on Irish policy. Three thousand five hundred Irish Protestants had just met in Dublin, and had passed a series of resolutions denouncing Lord Mulgrave's conduct and the formation of the General Association. Lord John quoting from a speech—in which Mr. Fox had avowed his desire that the whole Irish government should be regulated by Irish notions and Irish prejudices, and his belief that the more Ireland was under Irish government, the more she would be bound to English interests—proceeded to argue that Lord Mulgrave had acted upon the principles laid down by Mr. Fox. The formation of the General Association was not due to any neglect on the part of the Irish Government, but to the conduct of the Tory party in the House of Lords. “As the forcible phrase of Lord Plunket expressed
* Lord Melbourne to Lord John, Jan. 5, 1837.
* The King made an excuse of the Duchess of Gloucester's illness not to open Parliament in person Lord Melbourne told Lord John that no King had ever stayed away before except on account of some personal infirmity of his own.
it, in speaking of the Catholic Association, it is the spawn of your own wrong.' Lord John added–
Can we wonder at such things? . . . Your oppression taught them to hate—your concessions to brave you : you exhibited to them how scanty was the stream of your bounty; and how full the tribute of your fear.
The speech gave infinite satisfaction to Lord Mulgrave, who sent at once from Dublin—
Just one line to say how delighted I am with your bold and brilliant speech.
Lord Melbourne awaited the result with some anxiety. Writing on the following morning, before he had read the newspaper, he said—
I hope you have said nothing damned foolish. I thought you were rather teeming with some imprudence yesterday.
He had no reason to complain of his colleague when he had read his clear and vigorous defence of Lord Mulgrave's policy. Nor did he complain when, in winding up the debate, Lord John referred to the position of the Irish Church and stated his intention of postponing any Bill on this subject till a later period of the session.
But no personal feeling of mine, no false pride on my part, shall stand in the way of a settlement of this great question.
Lord Melbourne at once put the natural interpretation on these words, and expressed his concurrence with them.
What you said at the end of the debate is understood to intimate pretty plainly the giving up the Appropriation Clause." Is it necessary to bring that question again before the Cabinet 2 I rather fear the wrong-headedness of some of them. It would be a pity, now that we are well launched before the wind with good principles, to run the risk of having our course interrupted by any foolish differences amongst ourselves.
It is clear, therefore, that, in the first ten days of February 1837, Lord John and Lord Melbourne were agreed on aban
Mr. Greville evidently understood Lord John's words in the same way. (Memoirs, iii. 388.)
doning Appropriation, and on pressing forward the other Irish measures for the relief of the Irish poor and for the reform of Irish municipalities. In accordance with this determination, Lord John, on the 13th of February, introduced the Irish Poor Law. The speech in which he explained its provisions afforded a striking proof of his moral courage. Nothing that the Whigs had done was so unpopular as the Reform of the English Poor Law; and Lord John went out of his way to defend the principles on which the Act of 1834 had been based. Courage often succeeds where pusillanimity fails; and the House received Lord John's proposal with more favour than he had expected. The King wrote to him on the 14th of February—
He rejoices to learn that the measure . . . has been so well received, in general, by the House of Commons. His Majesty derives great satisfaction from any proof that there may be questions of public interest and utility, the discussion of which is divested of that party spirit which unfortunately prevails to so great an extent at this period.
The preliminary success which was thus achieved was soon followed up. Four days later, on the 17th of February, the House read the Irish Municipal Bill a second time without a division. On the 23rd it resolved itself into committee on this measure, after the Government had defeated a motion of Lord Francis Leveson's, supported by the whole strength of the Tory party, by 322 votes to 242.
Three days after this division, Miss Fox (Lord Holland's sister) wrote to a friend—
My brother is delightfully well, and Lord John's spirits rise with the occasion. His speeches this year are in the noblest style of statesmanlike oratory and enlarged views. You cannot imagine how high he stands, not only in the estimation of his friends, but in that of his enemies. It is quite astonishing to see the energy of mind overcome the weakness of his bodily frame.
The Government had not won so great a victory during the two years in which Lord Melbourne had held office. It was encouraged by its success to introduce its Church Rate Bill. Three years before, during the administration of Lord Grey, Lord Althorp had endeavoured to abolish church rates, applying 250,000/. a year from the land tax to the repair of parish churches. The proposal did not meet with much support. Nonconformists contended that there was no reason why the State should apply its resources to the support of an institution which, from their standpoint, was already too rich. The project was accordingly withdrawn; but, before its withdrawal, Lord John distinctly avowed his desire to maintain the Church, and his belief that all classes should contribute to its support.' Lord John desired, in 1836, to deal with the subject on the lines which had already found favour with Lord Althorp. But the Cabinet was of opinion that it was unwise to touch it until the other measures of relief to the Dissenters and of Church Reform had passed. Their passage would determine whether the Church had surplus revenues of her own which could be made available for the repair of the fabrics. If Parliament, after full deliberation, decided that there was no available surplus, its decision would afford a good reason for the pro. posed measure.” In the result it was discovered that the bishops' estates, with good management, could be made more than sufficient for the income of the bishoprics; and the surplus, it was thought, could not be better applied than to the purposes for which church rates had been levied. The Ministry accordingly decided on a scheme of this character; and, as it was contrary to the opinion which Lord John had expressed, it was entrusted to Mr. Spring Rice. Its introduction led to a long debate, and the Ministry only eventually succeeded in passing its preliminary resolution by 273 votes to 250.” This division destroyed the effect which had previously been produced by the great majority on the Irish Corporation question. Politicians began again to speculate on a defeat of the Ministry, a change of Government, and a dissolution of Parliament; and, when the session was interrupted on March 23 by the Easter recess, these rumours were still prevalent. Lord John had been suffering through the session from influenza and cough. Illness compelled him to absent himself from the House for a few days before the Easter holidays, and to husband his own strength, in anticipation of the extraordinary efforts which it was obvious would be indispensable after Easter. A week after Parliament reassembled, on April 10, the House of Commons was asked to read the Irish Municipal Bill a third time; and Lord John took occasion to say that “this was a vital question to the present Administration.' He thus deliberately staked the existence of the Ministry on the success of the measure. But the declaration only encouraged Tory peers to fresh opposition. On May 5, after a great meeting at Apsley House, they went down to the House of Lords, and, on the advice of the Duke of Wellington, postponed the further consideration of the Municipal Bill until June 9, in order that the other measures relating to Ireland might be before them. This unusual proceeding was calculated to irritate extreme Radicals; and many of them thought that Lord John should have replied to the challenge of the Peers by withdrawing the Tithe Bill, which had been introduced into the Commons on the 1st of May. Instead of doing so, in a
| Hansard, xxii. 1048, and xxiii. 507.
* The opinion quoted in the text was Lord Palmerston's.
* The narrowness of this majority was not the only inconvenience which resulted from this motion. On the formation of Lord Melbourne's Administration the Archbishops and Bishops who were serving on the Ecclesiastical Commission agreed to continue on it on the understanding that Ministers were prepared (1) “to act on the Report already given in by the commissioners in respect to the arrangement of bishoprics, transferring all the privileges of the two bishoprics which are to be united with others to the two new sees; (2) to resist any motion which may be made in Parliament hostile to the Church; (3) to refuse committees, if moved for, on matters connected with the Church Establishment; (4) in respect to church rates not to depart from the principle of Lord Althorp's measure, “which we understand to be that it is the duty of the State to provide that the churches of the Establishment be kept in decent and substantial repair.’ Mr. Spring Rice's measure was therefore a violation of this pledge, and the Bishops, with their original lay colleagues on the commission, declined, ‘while this measure is pending, to concur in submitting any further recommendation to his Majesty as commissioners for considering the state of the Established Church in England and Wales.” Lord Melbourne, confronted with the pledge that he had given, frankly admitted that he had forgotten it, but that if he had remembered it he should have informed the Primate explicitly that he had changed his opinion. Copies of the whole correspondence are among the Russell papers. So far as I am aware, the transaction has hitherto been entirely unknown.