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Greville on Catholic Emancipation

Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville was a political diarist in the nineteenth century. These are his comments on the Tory government's passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829.

February 6th

I was in the House of Commons. Peel was very feeble, and his case for himself poor and ineffective; all he said was true enough, but it was only what had been said to him over and over again for years past, and he did not urge a single argument for acquiescing now which was not equally applicable to his situation two years ago. However, everybody was so glad to have the measure carried that they did not care to attack Peel or his speech.

However, thank God, the event is accomplished, no matter how; probably it could not have been done without the concurrence of these Tories, who have, I think, certainly lost their character by their conduct; and there is this evil in the history of the measure, that a blow will have been given to the reputation of public men in general which will, I strongly suspect, have an important though not immediate effect upon the aristocratic influence in this country, and tend remotely to increase the democratic spirit which exists...

To O’Connell and the Association, and those who have fought the battle on both sides of the water, the success of the measure is due. Indeed, Peel said as much, for it was the Clare election which convinced both him and the Duke [of Wellington] that it must be done, and from that time the only question was whether he should be a party to it or not...

February 8th

I dined yesterday with all the Huskissonians at Grant’s.

Huskisson is in good humour and spirits, but rather bitter; he said that if Peel had asked the advice of a friend what he should do, the advice would have been for his own honour to resign. I said I did not think Peel would have got credit by resigning. He said, ‘But don’t you think he has quite lost it by staying in?’ He owned, however, that the Duke could not have carried it without Peel, that his influence with the Church party is so great that his continuance was indispensable to the Duke.

The Greville Memoirs (ed. Henry Reeve) 4th ed. (Longmans, Green & Co., 1875).

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Last modified 4 March, 2016

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