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Taken from Norman Gash, The Age of Peel (London, Edward Arnold, 1973), with the kind permission of Professor Gash. Copyright of this document, of course, remains with him.
The third reform bill passed the Commons in March 1832. When it went up to the Lords it received, with the help of moderate Tories (the Waverers), a small majority of 9 on the second reading. After the Easter recess, however, the opposition carried (7 May) an amendment in committee postponing the disfranchising clauses of the bill. Grey informed the king that the cabinet would resign unless they were empowered to create at least fifty peers to ensure the passage of the bill and the king accepted their resignation on 9 May. By 15 May it was clear that Wellington would be unable to form an administration and that nobody else was prepared to do so. It was not, however, until 18 May (the day after the debate from which the extracts below are taken) that the king ended the crisis by agreeing to make enough peers to guarantee the safety of the bill. The following extracts illustrate the opposed points of view on the constitutional issue. The one additional comment on Grey's statement of what has become the accepted modern view is that whereas the dissolution of the House of Commons by ministers is an appeal to a third party, namely the electorate, the creation of fresh peers is an act of ministers themselves, who are thus both judge and jury in their own cause. As against this, the general election of 1831 had clearly given the cabinet in the modem phrase a 'mandate' to pass a reform bill.
Ministers found, in the course of last Session, that there was a large majority in this House against the principle of the Reform Bill. Now, My Lords, what is the ordinary course for a Minister, under such circumstances, to pursue? My Lords, it is, to alter the measure to endeavour to make it more palatable to that branch of the Legislature which is opposed to it. But, in this case, the Minister says 'no, I will next Session bring in a Bill as efficient as that which has been just rejected.' And what did the Minister do? My Lords, I have no hesitation in saying that, notwithstanding the opposition of this House, he brought in a measure stronger and worse than any one of the measures before introduced; and this measure he wished to force through the House by a large creation of Peers. How many Peers it is not necessary to state; it is enough to say, a sufficient number to force it through the House. It is only necessary for me to state the proposition. If this be a legal and constitutional course of conduct if such projects can be carried into execution by a Minister of the Crown with impunity, there is no doubt that the Constitution of this House and of this country is at an end. I ask, my Lords, is there anybody blind enough not to see that if a Minister can, with impunity, advise his Sovereign to such an unconstitutional exercise of his prerogative as to thereby decide all questions in this House, there is absolutely an end put to the power and objects of deliberation in this House an end to all just and proper means of decision. I say, then, my lords, thinking as I do, it was my duty to counsel his Majesty to resist this advice. And, my Lords, my opinion is, that the threat of carrying this measure of creating Peers into execution, if it should have the effect of inducing noble Lords to absent themselves from the House, or to adopt any particular line of conduct, is just as bad as its execution: for, my Lords, it does by violence force a decision on this House, and on a subject, my Lords, on which this House is not disposed to give such a decision.
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