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an act of autocracy in dismissing its advisers; and, though its conduct in doing so was consistent with the principles, it was opposed to the practice, of the English constitution. As Lord Dalling wrote years afterwards, it was impossible to justify the change of' Ministry ‘on the ground that the late Earl Spencer was no more, and that it was necessary to replace Lord Althorp—an honest man of respectable talents—by Lord John Russell, an honest man of very eminent talents.’ 1 But there was great difficulty in condemning the conduct of the Crown by a resolution of the House of Commons. In theory every act of the Crown is performed on the advice of a responsible Minister; and it was the peculiar characteristic of the change of Administration in 1834 that, while it was impossible to suppose that it was effected on the advice of the Ministers who were removed, it was still more difficult to imagine that it was due to the counsel of the Minister who succeeded them, and who, at the time of the crisis, was a thousand miles from the royal palace. Technically, indeed, Sir Robert Peel, by accepting oflice, had made himself responsible for the policy of his sovereign; but the doctrine of responsibility after the fact, however plain to lawyers and statesmen, was not likely to be equally clear to a popular assembly. Lord Spencer thought the difficulty should be faced.
I think in the House of Commons you have no option. The King having followed he change in the Administration by an appeal to the people, I think the people have a right to demand that the representatives elected in answer to that appeal should be called upon to say at once whether they approve of the dismissal of the late Government or not. . . . The continuance of the present Ministry would be a great evil. My belief is that. they will be succeeded by a Radical Administration; and I admit that, from the experience I had of the hostility of the two parties, I personally dislike the Radicals more than I do the Tories. But, if an Administration, be it what it may, is’ permitted to continue in existence who came into office in the. manner this Administration did, an injury will be done to the
constitution of the country: and therefore I hope that, whoever may be their successors, they at least will be turned out.
Lord John was of the same opinion; and it appears from a memorandum in his handwriting that he wished the amendment to the Address to conclude with a humble representation to His Majesty. that the expectations of the country will not be' satisfied with anything short of men who will fairly and frankly adopt the liberal and comprehensive principles on which the Reform Act was founded, or with anything less than the measures which the House of Commons recently dissolved was. prepared to adopt. ' i '
But his friends thought otherwise; and the amendment; which was ultimately proposed concluded by merely lamenting that the progress of Reform
has been interrupted and endangered by the unnecessary dissolution of a Parliament earnestly intent upon the prosecution of measures to which the wishes of the people were most anxiously and justly directed. '
The amendment which was thus moved was entrusted to Lord Morpeth. The debate upon it commenced on the 24th of February, and was protracted over three sittings. Lord John spoke on the second day of the debate. He had the wisdom to rest his whole case on the assertion that he had no confidence in the Government of Sir Robert Peel. He had the generosity, at the same time, to pay his great rival the compliment of saying that, on the occasions ‘when he_ had supported the late Administration, his support was most effective, and when he opposed them his opposition was fair and manly.’ But _ '
If I be asked to place my confidence in the right hon; baronet, . . . I declare at once and without reserve that it is wholly out of my power to do so. I cannot confide in the right hon. baronet’s friends: I cannot put my trust in the party with which he has long associated. :
This speech—like that which he had made in the previous week—raised Lord John’s reputation as a dehater and a,
leader. Mr. Newman, writing to him from Mamhead, congra; tulated the Whigs on having such a leader; the same diarist, whose opinion has already been quoted, recorded that—
Lord John Russell, by universal admission, even of his enemies, made an excellent speech. . . . John has surpassed all expectations hitherto as leader, which is matter of great exultation to his party. “
But, though the success of Lord John’s speech was undoubted, the results of the debate were not quite so satisfactory. The Whigs had relied on a majority of from thirty to' forty votes; and the amendment was only carried by a majority of seven. On this occasion, as on the election of a Speaker, more than 300 members supported Sir Robert Peel; and it consequently became evident that, on all matters of essential importance, the Minister could command the support of more than five-elevenths of the House of Commons.
Only one inference could be drawn from this state of things. The Whigs, it was plain, must either abandon all hope ofdisturbing the Ministry, or they must obtain the co-operation of all sections in the House who were opposed like themselves to a Conservative Administration. In fact, they could not command a majority without the assistance of the Radicals under Mr. Crete, and of the Irish under Mr. O’Connell.
Concert even with the Radicals, however, was hardly tolerable to Whigs of the old school like Lord Grey.1 Concert with Mr. O’Connell was an unclean thing, not even so much as to be named among them; and by a chain of circumstances, over which Lord John had almost accidentally lost control, he was already drifting into concert with both these parties.
The circumstances were these. It is the custom of the leaders of great parties, on the eve of a new session, to ask their friends to meet them in order that they may have the
1 The Duke of Bedford wrote to Lord John at the end of February: ‘ Grey at preSent seems to me to have too great a horror of the Radicals (so called). But there is a medium, and you may act in co-operation with these men for a great public good without trusting them or placing implicit confidence in them. Grey should remember that, without these Radicals, he would not have been where he is in public estimation, or have carried the Reform Biil.‘
opportunity of explaining their policy. But the circular invitations, which are thus sent out, are despatched by the ‘whips’ of the party—if the expression be permissible—and not by its leaders. The ordinary course was followed in ,1835. Lord John, who, after leaving the Pay Office, had moved into lodgings in Queen Street, Mayfair, and who consequently had no room of his own large enough to accommodate two or three hundred people, asked his friends to meet him on February 18 at Lord Lichfield’s house in St. James’s Square. Mr. Warburton, the member for Bridport, forwarded a bundle of these circulars to Mr. O’Connell, with a private note asking that gentleman to address and send them to his Irish supporters. On the receipt of these circulars Mr. O’Connell wrote—
MY LORD,-—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your circular on the subject of the Speaker, and the accompanying private note.1 I have transmitted the letters to most of the Irish members. ' I reckon with a good deal of confidence on sixty-two Irish members on the vote for Mr. Abercromby. I should think there cannot be less than sixty at the very lowest.2
I enter very cordially into the views which I understand are entertained by your Lordship for the ensuing campaign. I think I may venture to promise that the Irish members of the popular party will avoid all topics on which they may differ with you and your friends, until the T arias are routed, and that you will find us
1 Le. the note from Mr. Warburton, vide infra.
' 2 Sir J. Hobhouse had written to Lord John on February 3 : ' Lord Wellesley sent a letter to me to-day from Blake (Remembrancer) stating that the choice of Abercromby and you had given great satisfaction, and that sixty-five Irish members would be in London by the 19th to vote against Sutton. Blake stiggested that you should write to some of the Irish members; and, perhaps. if you would write to James Grattan, or any other comparatively quiet man, it would be as well. But I have told Lord Wellesley that it would not be ex~ pedient for, you to correspond with O'Connell or any Repealer with whom you are not personally acquainted, and that I was quite sure you would not do so. At the same time I have taken care that it should be known (through Warburton) that the circulars are considered a sufficient notification and that no slight or disrespect was intended.’
perfectly ready to co-operate in any plan which your friends may deem most advisable to effect that purpose. In short, we will be steady allies without any mutiny in your camp, Indeed this after all is pure selfishness, because we see clearly that, if the present Administration remain in office, a civil war, with all the 'horrors of religious, I should say sectarian, rancour, must be the inevitable consequence. They are already letting slip the sanguinary Orange gang. Who shall succeed—Orangists or Catholics—is not of much importance ; but my opinion certainly is that the Catholic party will triumph, but triumph amidst the desolation of the country and its ultimate loss to British connection. We Irish are, therefore, directly and personally inter; ested in the defeat of the present Ministry. I know Ireland well, and am convinced that the lives of the Catholics in part of our province, and of the Protestants in the rest of the island, depend upon such a change of men as shall ensure the repression, instead of the excitement and encouragement, of the Orange faction. They will, if they come to blows, be defeated with more facility than you may imagine. But what a horrible alternative—submission to insult, injustice, and murder on the one hand, or fbellum plus quam civile’ on the other! And yet in sober sadness I do say that upon this alternative the present Government fling Ireland. ,
i I leave town with my family to-morrow evening by Holyhead, so 'as to he in London by the 17th without fail. I hope to assist in mustering a large Irish force in St, James’s Square on Wednesday.—I have the honour to be, my Lord, your very obedient, humble servant, DANIEL O’CONNELL.
On a matter it may, perhaps, of such importance, be as well to place side by side the draft reply which Lord John originally drew up, and the amended draft of the answer which he apparently ultimately returned to Mr. O’Connell after receiving the letter from Lord Duncannon, which will be quoted :—
Orzjg'inal draft marked by Lard
yalm, ‘ draft per/zaps 100 short Revised draft.
SIR,—I am much obliged to you for your letter from Dublin of the inst; I know not what'may have been the communica-. tions made to you ‘