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was able to muster some 300 votes in the lobby compelled Lord John to give way in details. The Bill was practically reduced into a project for converting the tithe composition into a rent-charge ; and the rent-charge was ultimately fixed at seventy-five instead of seventy per cent. of the composition. Nor was this all. It was part of the implied contract between the two parties that, if the one side gave way on Appropriation, the other side should yield Municipal Reform ; and, as a matter of fact, the Tory party thenceforward gave up their attempt to abolish local self-government in Ireland. But its leaders refused to confer on the smaller Irish towns the only franchise which the Liberal party thought tolerable; and, as the Tories in the Lords and the Liberals in the Commons equally refused to give way, the Municipal Bill was lost. Lord Melbourne, with the careless indifference which was inseparable from his character, thought that there was little to be regretted in these circumstances. His Ministry had carried two out of its three Irish measures, and he never paused to reflect that the one which was lost was precisely that which was most popular in Ireland; and that one of those which were carried was carried by the sacrifice of that portion of it which his Ministry had been pledged to pass. Lord John did not regard the matter with equal complacency. Yet even he was disposed rather to be thankful for what the Tithe Act did than to regret what it omitted to do. He could write in his old age— A measure which changed the collection of tithes from a question between tithe proctor and peasant into a question between landlord and tenant, with a percentage of twenty-five per cent to the landlord for the cost and trouble of collection . . . was one of immense value to the whole body of small occupiers in Ireland. No measure has tended more to the peaceful progress of Ireland than the Tithe Act of 1838. No competent critic will deny the truth of this paragraph. Yet no fair critic will omit to reflect that it states only half the truth. The real question for Lord John to decide at the time, and for posterity to determine now, was whether he was justified in abandoning the position which he had formally laid down in 1835, that no measure on the Irish Church could be satisfactory or final which did not contain an Appropriation Clause. In answering this question it should be recollected that the circumstances of 1835 differed materially from those of 1838. In 1835 it was the first duty of a Whig leader to obtain the formal disapproval by Parliament of the change of Government in the autumn of 1834. In 1838 William IV. was dead. The new sovereign was as cordial in her support, as the late King had been suspicious in his distrust, of the Whig Ministers. The country, while it showed itself on the whole favourable to the continuance of the Administration, displayed no desire for the Appropriation Clause. It even showed no disposition to resent the conduct of the Lords; and the question, therefore, for Lord John to consider, was whether he should retire from office while the House of Commons was still willing to give him a majority, or abandon a policy which he had not the least chance of carrying. Different persons will answer this question in different ways. Without attempting to reply to it in these pages, it may perhaps be as well to point out that the course which Lord John pursued forms an exact parallel to that adopted by his great rival, Sir Robert Peel. Both in 1829 and in 1845 Sir Robert Peel found himself compelled to abandon a policy to which he was pledged, and to promote measures which he had previously opposed. The Conservatives were loud in condemning Sir Robert Peel, just as the Radicals in 1838 were loud in condemning Lord John Russell. The Conservatives have never forgiven their great leader. The Radicals have perhaps only forgiven Lord John because the cause which he abandoned in 1838 was stronger than the strongest statesman : and the disendowment of the Irish Church has made men forget the significance of the famous Appropriation Clause. For it should never be forgotten that, though the Appropriation Clause was abandoned by its author, time and events have vindicated his prescience. He failed in 1838, not because he was wrong, but because he was before his time. And the Act which was at last carried in 1869 was a proof that, though “the people of England never took up warmly the Appropriation Clause, and, indeed, were not persuaded that the Protestant Church in Ireland could be that miserable monopolising minority which Fox had described it to be,” Lord John Russell was right in 1835; and that right, however successfully it may be resisted for a time, will in the end prevail. * Recollections and Suggestions, p. 315.
IF the session of 1837–8 was memorable for the abandonment of the Appropriation Clause, it was also remarkable for the vigour and skill with which Lord John fought the battle of his party. It must be recollected that, in a House which was almost evenly divided as to numbers, nearly all the debating power was on the Conservative side. Nothing could be weaker than the Treasury bench in the House of Commons, except perhaps the Treasury bench in the House of Lords. The Duke of Bedford, writing to Lord John on the 24th of August, said—
It is a very inefficient Government, and, with the exception of yourself, and perhaps Lords Melbourne and Howick, there is not a man amongst them fit to be called a Minister.
The Viceroy on the 28th of July, after a short visit to London, said very much the same thing :-
It is very unpleasant, even in confidence to you, to say disparaging things of those with whom one has been personally and politically connected. But I really do not think, except you and Melbourne, that there is a single man in the Government for whom, at present, the country cares a straw. . . . You would be quite surprised if I were to enumerate the number of persons who held this language in London while I was last there.
Mr. Sydney Smith used similar language —
I only mention Lord John Russell's name so often because . . . he is beyond all comparison the ablest man in the whole Administration ; and to such an extent is he superior that the Government could not exist a moment without him. If the Foreign Secretary were to retire, we should no longer be nibbling ourselves into disgrace on the coast of Spain; if the amiable Lord Glenelg were to leave us, we should feel secure in our colonial possessions; if Mr. Spring Rice were to go into holy orders, great would be the joy of the three per cents. A decent, good-looking head of the Government might easily be found in lieu of Viscount Melbourne. But, in five minutes after the departure of Lord John Russell, the whole Whig Government would be dissolved into sparks of Liberality and splinters of Reform."
This weakness of the Government naturally compelled Lord John to make unusual exertions; and, though he was far from well during a great part of the session, he never before spoke so frequently. His extreme followers were, indeed, discontented with the marked moderation of his views. “Russell is a Whig, Stanley is a Tory, Peel is a Radical,’ was the observation of a discerning bystander;” and Lord John did not attempt to mitigate the annoyance which the Radicals felt at his opposition to organic Reform by unbending to them in private life. Like Mr. Pitt at the beginning, and Sir Robert Peel in the middle, of the century, he took no pains to win the good-will of his followers. His father wrote to him at the end of the session—
I hear in more quarters than one that there are circumstances in which you are to blame, and in which you give great offence to your followers (or tail) in the House of Commons by not being courteous to them, by treating them superciliously, and de haut en bas, by not listening with sufficient patience to their solicitations or remonstrances—or whatever it may be—with many other complaints of that sort. I tell you what I hear with freedom, because I am your father and best friend, and no one else could tell you what I now do.
This extract from the Duke's letter will explain the first Lord Lytton's famous lines :—
Next, cool and all unconscious of reproach,
Sydney Smith's Works, iii. 100, mote.
* Sir Charles Grey, a man who had held high judicial office in India, who subsequently served on the Special Commission over which Lord Gosford presided in Canada, and who had lately been returned to Parliament. I owe the anecdote to my father, who heard Sir C. Grey give this opinion.