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Peel's defence of his acceptance of office: 24 February 1835

Sir Robert Peel

Taken from Hansard, 3/XXVI/215-227

On 8 July 1834 Earl Grey went to William IV to ask for permission to resign his post as PM following a disagreement with Lord Wellesley over policy towards Ireland. The following day he announced his decision to the House of Lords. The Tories failed to form an administration but nevertheless, Grey refused to return to office. He was succeeded as PM by Lord Melbourne who relied heavily on Lord Althorp as his leader in the House of Commons. In November 1834, Earl Spencer died and Althorp succeeded to his father's title and seat in the House of Lords, thus removing the mainstay of the government in the lower House.

The king, William IV, already was irritated by Melbourne's government and chose to ask for the PM's resignation; the king asked the Duke of Wellington to advise him about a possible successor. Wellington suggested Sir Robert Peel as PM and then formed an interim ministry until Peel returned from holiday in Italy and formed his first ministry. The Whigs condemned the king's action of appointing a ministry and criticised Peel for calling for a dissolution of parliament upon taking office. In his speech, Peel took full responsibility for those actions.

Peel's acceptance of office necessitated him standing for re-election at his Tamworth constituency: he used the opportunity to publish a detailed political statement: the Tamworth Manifesto.

I shall in the first place, refer to the circumstances under which the present Government was constituted. I shall defend the course which I thought it my duty to advise the King to pursue at the period of its formation and give accurate delineations of the measures which it is the intention of his Majesty's Government to introduce; those explanations the House has a right to require, and I should shrink from that duty which is imposed upon me if I did not avow a willing disposition to afford them. I stand here as the Minister of the Crown - placed in this situation by no act of my own - in consequence of no dexterous combination with those to whose principles I have been uniformly opposed, and which whom I might frequently have made, had I been so inclined, a temporary alliance for the purpose of embarrassing the former Government. I stand here in fulfilment of a public duty, shrinking from no responsibility, with no arrogant pretensions of defying or disregarding the opinions of the majority of this House, yet still resolved to persevere to the last, so far as is consistent with the honour of a public man, in maintaining the prerogative of the Crown, and in fulfilling those duties which I owe to my King and to my country.

In vindication of the course which I have pursued, it is necessary that I should refer to the circumstances which preceded the dissolution of the last Government. I have been asked whether I would impose on the King in his personal capacity, the responsibility of the dismissal of that Government? In answer to this question, I will at once declare, that I claim all the responsibility which properly belongs to me as a public man; I am responsible for the assumption of the duty which I have undertaken, and, if you please, I am, by my acceptance of office, responsible for the removal of the late Government. God forbid that I should endeavour to transfer any responsibility which ought properly to devolve upon me to that high and sacred authority which the constitution of