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Numerous petitions were presented for the repeal of the said acts.
On presenting petitions from North Shields and from Braunton, Mr. Liddell said, he would take occasion to observe that he entirely concurred in the prayer of the petition, more especially in that part of it which referred to the practice of requiring sacramental tests. He regretted that it would be impossible for him to attend in his place when the motion, of which notice had been given by a noble Lord, would come before the House; consequently, he should not be able to give the proposition for the repeal of the Corporation and Test acts that support, to which he considered it entitled, and which it should otherwise receive at his hands.
He would therefore avail himself of the present opportunity, of expressing in a few words, his opinions upon the subject, and the reasons which induced him to entertain them. He was aware, that in so doing, he might be accused of pursuing an irregular course; but he thought that every individual having the honour of a seat in that House, in such a case, was bound to consult the dictates of his own feelings, and more particularly when he represented a large body of people. It had been said, that the law in question constituted a bulwark of the church; but he was of a different opinion; and as a warm friend and sincere admirer of the discipline and doctrines of the church of England, he was decidedly opposed to these Tests, and thought it most desirable to repeal them.Ordered to lie on the table.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer [Henry Goulburn] having moved the order of the day, for going into a Committee of Supply, Lord Normanby rose, and spoke to the following effect: — If, Sir, I avail myself of the opportunity, on a motion which is usually one of form, but which, on some occasions, is resorted to as the constitutional one for purposes of important communication — if I have recourse to such an extraordinary proceeding on this occasion, I can assure you, Sir, and the House, that it is with the most unfeigned reluctance that I adopt it; and I trust that my excuse for doing so will be found in the universal disappointment created by certain explanations not being given, which it was expected would have been made on Friday evening. That disappointment has now spread from one end of the country to the other. As that evening passed over without explanation, which was looked upon, by general understanding, as the evening on which these explanations were to take place, I thought it would be desirable that such an opportunity as the present should be afforded of giving full explanations to all those who may consider that their conduct required it. In referring, Sir, to the omission of explanation on a former evening, I am perfectly ready to believe, that that omission did not proceed from any unwillingness on the part of those from whom it was expected to enter into the fullest account of their conduct; but that they founded the reason of that omission in their conviction, that that peculiar occasion was not suited to the explanation. It is as an independent member of parliament, unconnected with all the parties whose conduct is affected by the transactions, in reference to which an explanation is expected, that I bring the subject now before the House.
When I had determined to bring it forward, I intimated that intention to the right hon. the members for Liverpool and for Harwich, and I came to the determination, with the conviction, that the course I had determined to pursue, was the best that I could adopt towards those right hon. gentlemen, with a view of affording them an opportunity of laying whatever explanation they may deem requisite before the House and the country. I assure the right hon. gentlemen, that a hostile feeling of any description I do not entertain towards them. And with respect to this administration, I took an opportunity, at an early period of the session, of stating that I by no means intended to offer an uncompromising opposition to it; I stated my intention of waiting for the measures which they should propose, and in being determined by the character of those measures, either in withholding from, or in giving to, it my support. As to the two administrations which have preceded the present, I was unconnected with them; indeed I was out of the country almost the whole time of their duration, and I did not give a single vote, or state any opinion respecting them. For many members of those administrations, however, I wish to state that I had a private regard; but, in the course am now pursuing, I beg to state, that it has been taken without concert, and that with whatever blame it may be visited, I alone am responsible for it. The course I have now to pursue is a short one, more particularly as it is enjoined upon me rather to ask information respecting the conduct of others, than to offer arguments. There was a general impression, that the discussion upon these explanations would originate with my right hon. friend (Mr. Tierney). Now, why such an impression should have prevailed I am at a loss to account; as it has been stated, by the head of the late administration (Lord Goderich) that it was dissolved in consequence of the irreconcileable differences that arose between the two right hon. gentlemen now members of the same cabinet, and sitting on the opposite bench.
I say, Sir, I am at a loss to account, why it should be expected that they should remain there silent, and that an explanation should be expected to originate with my right hon. friend, who has retired from office, and who has not been connected with, those differences, except through the intervention of his communications with one of them. It must be notorious, that, in another place [i.e. the House of Lords], a noble Lord at the head of the late administration, stated, that the immediate cause of the dissolution of that administration was the irreconcileable differences between two right hon. gentlemen, with reference to the chairmanship of the Finance Committee, and the appointment of my noble friend (Lord Althorp), who was named for that office, I will only say, that there is no member of the twenty-one appointed on that committee more eminently qualified than my noble friend, to discharge that office with credit to himself, and with satisfaction and benefit to the country.
I now come to the statement which was made by Lord Goderich in another place, in which the conduct of the right hon. gentleman is immediately involved. After some preliminary remarks, introductory of the circumstances attendant on the nomination of my noble friend to the chairmanship of the Finance Committee, the noble Lord proceeded: — " It did happen, without my being aware at the time that such a step had been adopted, that a communication on the subject had been made, though not with a view in any degree to pledge the government to the individual in question (Lord Althorp), for the purpose of ascertaining whether, if ministers should feel disposed to recommend his nomination as chairman of the committee, he would undertake the duty? That communication, I beg to say again, was certainly made without my knowledge; it was also made without the knowledge of the member of the government, who, from his situation, must necessarily be materially interested in all matters relating to that subject; I mean, that the communication had been made without the immediate knowledge of the chancellor of the Exchequer. But it was not made at all as a point that was settled, and it was not made in a manner to pledge the government, or to bind it in any way, at least as I understood, afterwards. Had any objection been made, it was not intended to persist in the appointment. When I learnt that the communication had been made, the result of which to myself was personally nothing but satisfactory, from the opinion I entertained of the individual, the first question I asked was, whether there had been any previous communication with the chancellor of the Exchequer? I was informed but lament it, and I thought it an oversight. It seemed to me an unfortunate circumstance, that any thing should have passed upon the subject beyond our own immediate circle. I begged that no time should be lost in putting my right hon. friend in possession of what had been said, and in explaining to him the whole of the circumstances. This was done by my right hon. friend, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He explained to the chancellor of the Exchequer fully, alt that had occurred upon the subject. No objection was made by the chancellor of the Exchequer — no offence was taken by him at the time, as far as I have heard, to any thing that had been done. It did, however, so happen, that the next day — after he had had the subject under his consideration — he found that there were very strong objections to the proposed appointment which had been so submitted to him. He stated those objections to me; but I understood them to refer much more to the fact, that no previous communication had been had with him, than to the individual who had been named, and to whose appointment he could not accede. Explanations followed between the chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and various letters passed between them, I certainly considered those explanations perfectly satisfactory; and so, I have every reason to believe, did the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He was so entirely convinced, that he had removed the objections of the chancellor of the Exchequer, that he never communicated to me the correspondence that had passed between the chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. gentleman who originally suggested the name of the individual qualified to be chairman of the committee. I had no reason to believe that there was any such difference of opinion, as would leave any party concerned to conceive, that if the appointment had been persisted in, it would be impossible for the individual objecting to remain a member of the government.
All this, the House will bear in mind, took place between the end of November and the beginning of December; and, on the 22nd of December, I received a letter from the chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he first of all stated to me his objection to the appointment proposed, as a matter of form. He also mentioned the general grounds, of a public nature, on which he rested his resistance to the nomination that had been made; and he concluded his letter by observing, that under these circumstances, and feeling these objections so strongly upon principle, he felt it his duty to place his office entirely at my disposal. The conclusion I drew certainly from that letter was, that my right hon. friend tendered the resignation of his place, if the proposed nomination took place. It was utterly impossible not to see that that was the obvious meaning of the communication. I felt it my duty so to consider it. In answer to my right hon. friend, I stated, that he had greatly misunderstood the share I had in the previous discussion, which he called a negotiation. I explained to him, in writing, as I have explained to your lordships, how this misapprehension had arisen. I assured him there was no ground for saying, that any negotiation had been settled and concluded without his approbation; for, in fact, I had not been aware of it until it was passed. The result was, that while, on the one hand, the chancellor of the Exchequer, though, he was pressed in the strongest manner not to risk that consistency which is the conformation of the government, and though the most earnest endeavours were made to satisfy him, that there was no sufficient reason for the objections he felt to the proposed nomination — always referred to his first letter, which involved his resignation, as the necessary consequence of that appointment: on the other hand, the Secretary of State for the Colonies distinctly and unequivocally stated, not only in conversation, but in writing, that he felt his own honour and character to be so involved in the maintenance of that nomination, that it was utterly impossible that he could acquiesce in any change."
The noble Lord, at the head of the late administration, then proceeded to state, that the explanations went on, that he found the difference irreconcileable, and so reported the matter to his majesty, when the administration was dissolved. Now, Sir, that which principally strikes the mind in the detail of this affair is, that the right hon. gentleman, the member for Harwich, did not at once impress the mind of the prime minister with the full extent of the difficulty under which he laboured — that he did not at once state, that his objections rested on public grounds, and that he departed from the noble Lord, leaving him secure in the opinion that the matter was easily explainable. This was the statement of the noble Lord himself, and he was well known to be above all guile, and incapable of misrepresentation. It plainly appears, that in the opinion of Lord Goderich, the objection of the right hon. gentleman applied solely to the manner of the nomination. If so, it was a mere slight — a thing which would excite a feeling of chagrin, but which was to be easily removed by explanation. If the objection stood upon public grounds, then, indeed, the difficulty would be greater; but Lord Goderich thought it was not so. It is to be borne in mind, that Lord Goderich is an impartial witness in this case. It was he who introduced the right hon. gentleman to the government; and he has declared, that he understood from that right hon. gentleman, that his objection rested upon no public grounds, and was one easy of explanation.
Then, Sir, what I ask is this — how came the right hon. gentleman to allow the matter to remain quiescent in the minds of his colleagues, and to bring it forward at a distant period, unexpectedly and most inconveniently, as the result shewed; although I do not impute to the right hon. gentleman any intention in so reserving himself? Upon these facts I make no comment: I express no opinion: I merely ask for explanation. All I say is, that when we see a right hon. gentleman, as in this case, not in habits of intimacy with his colleagues, not at once disclosing the state of his mind to them, but at intervals coming forward and renewing and perpetuating points of opposition and difference, until at length the administration, of which he is a member, falls beneath these repeated assaults — all I say is, that there is something in all this which demands explanation before the world can be brought fully to understand it.
This is all I have to say upon this point. But, when the right hon. Secretary for the colonies volunteered — in a manner uncalled-for and gratuitous — his explanation, it did appear to me singular that he should omit all mention of this quarrel. At the same time, I must say, that I have found it equally difficult to understand the extraordinary non sequitur of Lord Goderich — that when what had occurred was reported to him, the course for him to pursue was — not to decide, but to resign. I will now proceed, Sir, to that which is the more important part of my inquiry — I mean the principles upon which the government is to be conducted. When it was known to me that the right hon. gentleman had joined the present administration, it did certainly at first appear to me, that he had made some personal sacrifice in doing so. It was this impression on my mind, and on the minds of others, that created that extraordinary interest in the expected explanation of the right hon. gentleman. The opportunity for that explanation occurred at Liverpool; and I assure the right hon. gentleman that I read with great interest and real pleasure, the report of what occurred there. Sir; I will not enter into the question as between party and party — between man and man — as to what has been the conduct of the right hon. gentleman towards his late friends. If any ground of complaint of his conduct exist as to that point, I disclaim all knowledge of it. I know that there is a particular sort of disclaimer, which is understood to imply a concealed reproof: but I sincerely declare, that I have no such meaning upon the present occasion. I have always looked upon the right hon. gentleman as a great public benefactor — as the first of great practical reformers — and I think him so much the more valuable, being in place, and especially when his principles are triumphant — far more so than if he were a mere item in a minority, out of place. If, then, his principles are triumphant, I hail his appearance in his present place with the greatest satisfaction. Connected with this fact, however, there is, Sir, a circumstance, to which I must advert. I have said, that I have read the speech of the right hon. gentleman at Liverpool. I have read reports of it in the London papers; and it is but bare justice to say, that I never read reports more clear, more satisfactory, or exhibiting more direct internal evidence of accuracy and truth. By internal evidence, I mean such evidence as can be collected from the fact of the substance and the sentiments being throughout the same in all the papers, with those slight variations of expression which are themselves a proof of the report having been taken fairly. It is impossible for me to suppose, that a set of men so respectable as the London reporters, and who discharge their very difficult and important duties with so much impartiality and talent, — it is impossible for me to suppose, that such a body of persons should have entered into a conspiracy to misrepresent the language, or compromise the character, of any public man; but I regret to say that there are individuals, by whom the authenticity of the reports of the right hon. Secretary's speech at Liverpool have been disputed. I would not have troubled the House with this fact, if peculiar circumstances had not led me to think it desirable that it should be mentioned. Last evening, a speech was put into my hand, published in a Liverpool paper, which was materially at variance with the reports of the speech of the right hon. Secretary for the colonies, which had been published in the London journals. I am informed, that a person in town has stated, that this report of the speech, which was in a paper called the "Liverpool Courier," was corrected by the right hon. Secretary himself.
Mr. Huskisson here intimated, across the table, that he had neither sanctioned nor corrected any report of his Speech at Liverpool.
Lord Normanby . — The only purpose for which I refer to this, report is, to notice that many most important passages are omitted; and these omissions consist of the passages which afforded me the greatest pleasure in the perusal. The first omission is in that part of the speech in which (according to the London papers) the right hon. gentleman, after stating the offer made to Lord Harrowby, went on to say — Notwithstanding, however, these unfavourable contingencies which were observable in the beginning of December, it was my anxious wish to see the administration continued by the same men and on the same principles. I wished to have upheld the government in its then state; and, so dear were the principles it espoused to my own feelings, that I would rather have fallen in the attempt to reconstruct its organization, than have withheld my poor services, or have kept back on such an occasion. Important as this part of the speech is, in the report of the Liverpool Courier it is — it will be difficult to conceive by what accident — entirely omitted. The next passage to which I shall advert is one of considerable importance. It is to this effect — It so happened, that the duke of Wellington, after consulting only with one individual, Mr. Peel, who possessed talents and integrity for the public service, I believe came next to myself.
I will not disguise from my constituents, that when this communication was made to me, it was in most general terms. I was, in fact, merely asked if I felt any individual objection, or laboured under any particular motive or influence, to preclude me from taking any part in the ministry which the duke of Wellington was commanded to form. To an application so general I could only give a general reply. I could only state, that I was not precluded by party, or party connexions, to forego any attention to what I believed, in my own mind and judgment, to be due to the interests of my country; and that, provided the new administration were formed upon the principles which I had espoused, and which I thought indispensable to the welfare of the community, and provided also, I could see a pledge for the guarantee of the due operation of my principles, I was not deprived by any pledge of party, or engagement with others, from participating in their promotion. That was the general answer I gave to the general application I received. Here again is another passage to the same effect — I was under no feeling of obligation to consult others on such an occasion provided the stipulation for the principles which I advocated was complete, and my personal honour uncommitted. And shortly after follows another passage, repeating the idea of guarantees — Could I then, when my own great measures, or those of the men with whom I had acted, were conceded, refuse my concurrence, without a compromise, to the offer which had been made me? I did not look to the right or to the left, I prepared for the best I could accomplish, and think I acted judiciously.
Now, Sir, with respect to the contradiction given by the duke of Wellington, in another place, to this alleged statement of the right hon. gentleman, I will read only one extract from it to the House. The speech itself is short and distinct. I may here observe, that it is not necessary for me to inquire, how far it may be consistent with the character of public men to offer or to require guarantees. If individuals about to enter into the same cabinet are united by common principles, any guarantee from one to the other would be wholly out of the question. However, without inquiring how far any may have been deemed necessary in the present instance, I will read the words of the noble duke, and they are such as would, I fear, bar the most limited construction of any pledge or guarantee having been asked or given. The noble duke is represented to have said — Is it to be supposed that the right hon. gentleman, to whom I understand the noble earl to allude, ever used such expressions as are ascribed to him at the Liverpool election. If I had entered into any such wholesale bargain, I should have tarnished the right hon. gentleman's name as much as I should have disgraced my own. But if I gave a guarantee to my right hon. friend, what have I done for the other members of the government? Is there nobody else in the government but my right hon. friend? Every minister surely forms a part of it. Every one of them is equally at liberty to state his opinions upon every subject he may choose to propose for the consideration of government. I appeal to my noble friends, whether they ever belonged to a cabinet, in which questions were discussed more freely? Now, the inference which I draw from this is, that the noble duke considers the right hon. gentleman correct in speaking of a guarantee, if he places reliance on the three or four members who with him belonged to the preceding cabinet; but against this that noble Lord has a counter-guarantee, in the seven or eight other individuals who go to make up the new one. The noble duke himself seems to have interpreted the meaning of the right hon. gentleman somewhat in this way; for he says —
It is much more probable, though I have not thought it worth my while to ask for any explanation on the subject, that my right hon. friend stated, not that he had concluded any wholesale bargain with me, but that the men of whom the government is now composed are in themselves a guarantee to the public that their measures will be such as will be conducive to his majesty's honour and interests, and to the happiness of the people.
That is what the right hon. gentleman said, if I am not mistaken; and not that I had given him any guarantee for the principles of the government. Now, Sir, as I am quite sure that the right hon. gentleman could never have stated what the noble duke thus supposes he did state; as I am quite sure that the right hon. gentleman could never have stated, as the simple justification of his adherence to the government, his conviction that the members of that government would pursue such measures as would be conducive "to his majesty's honour and interests, and to the happiness of the people" — the fact being, that a large majority of the members of the government had opposed the measures which the right hon. gentleman himself had declared were conducive to those ends; as I am quite sure that the right hon. gentleman could never have said any thing like this, I now ask him, in the perfect spirit of candour and fairness, to state to the House what it was that he really did say. Before I sit down, however, I feel that I should not completely fulfil the object which I have had in view in trespassing upon the patience of the House if I did not add a few words with respect to certain important, although comparatively minor points, on which I am desirous of obtaining some explanation from the right hon. gentleman. Those points are, the Catholic question, our domestic commercial policy, and our foreign policy. With respect to the first of these points, we have been told that the cabinet is to be strictly neutral on the Catholic question. Sir, I am glad to hear that. But, at the same time, I cannot help agreeing with what was said last year by the right hon. gentleman, now the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that whatever might be the declared neutrality of the then cabinet on that subject, the opinion of the right hon. gentleman who at that period was at the head of the government had a natural tendency to the advancement of the question. The converse of that proposition must be equally true. The right hon. Secretary for the Colonies will no doubt contend, that he joined the government on the ground, that patronage was to be equally distributed, without reference to the Catholic question. I am far from saying that it is not intended to maintain such a neutrality. But, does not patronage naturally flow in the direction which corresponds with the opinions of the individual who is at the head of public affairs, and to whom, therefore, that patronage principally belongs? Indeed, that was last year assigned as a reason by the present Secretary of State for the Home Department, for not taking a part in the administration of which Mr. Canning was the head. The right hon. gentleman distinctly stated, that the influence of the situation of prime minister gave a bias to the subject, which was not consistent with his views of it, and therefore he declined to hold office under Mr. Canning. That reasoning was even admitted by Mr. Canning himself, who remarked that the situation he held was not sought for by him, and was accepted only in compliance with the commands he had received. I do not mean to deny, that the alleged arrangements respecting patronage are fairly meant, but I repeat, that patronage naturally flows according to the bias of those in whose custody it is held; and, where the possessor has an anti-catholic feeling, it must be expected that, in a majority of instances, that patronage will be directed according to that feeling. I have heard on this subject an opinion which to me seems quite a paradox. It is said, that the more the government is opposed to the question, the greater is its' chance of success. If this be true, the supporters of the measure have only to change their vote, and thus give the benefit of their opposition to the measure. But, Sir, this is a grave subject. Look at the comparative state of Ireland last year, and at the present moment. Is it possible that we can conceal from ourselves, that the tranquillity which pervaded Ireland last year was not apathy, but the confidence entertained by the Catholics of Ireland, in the sentiments of the then cabinet?
Now, Sir, as this is not to be a question of to-day or to-morrow, is it nothing in what temper we leave seven millions of our fellow-subjects to wait the decision which they consider as of the utmost importance to them? Leaving that point, however, with a hope that in the course of two or three months something will be done respecting it, I proceed to the consideration of the other topics which I mentioned. On that of our commercial policy, a distinction must be drawn between our colonial and our general policy. With regard to our colonial policy, I am quite persuaded of the advantages which will result to the country, from the right hon. gentleman's remaining in office. But with reference to our general commercial policy, it should be recollected, that the right hon. gentleman was formerly assisted by the opposition side of the House, but was counteracted in his views by some of those who are now his colleagues. There was the amendment made in the Corn-bill last year by the noble duke and his friends. That amendment was either an important one, or it was not. If it was not important, how can the noble duke and his coadjutors exonerate themselves from the imputation of faction in pressing it? If it was important, how can the right hon. gentleman and his colleagues exonerate themselves from the imputation of captiousness in throwing up the bill? The right hon. gentleman is now the colleague of the men who, but last year, defeated his own measure.
Sir, with respect to our foreign policy, I feel that it is a subject of great delicacy. Many things have occurred, since the formation of the present government, which, I own, I regard with alarm. First, there was the tone of the Speech from the Throne — a tone, the more to be lamented, as it was so strikingly contrasted by the cordiality and graciousness of the French King's Speech. Nor, Sir, am I quite satisfied with the cold and constrained acquiescence in the Treaty of London; as if it is to be carried into effect, not because it is a desirable measure, but merely because it is a treaty. If the argument, however, respecting that treaty be one of consistency, there is no man more committed to its execution than the noble duke at the head of the government, who signed the protocol; although, certainly, I am not prepared to say that the Protocol and the Treaty are exactly the same.
Sir, my apprehensions have been increased by other occurrences. With the utmost astonishment I have heard it asked — What is there new in the foreign policy of Mr. Canning? The inference being, that Mr. Canning's foreign policy was the same as that of his predecessor. Sir, if such a notion had been broached any where but where it was, either at home or abroad, in a cabinet or a café, it would have been received with undisguised amazement. I perfectly recollect what was said of a note found by Mr. Canning, in the portfolio of his predecessor; but of this I am sure, that but for Mr. Canning, there it would have remained to the present hour. The broad distinction between the policy of Mr. Canning and the policy of his predecessor, is recognised throughout the whole continent. I have never been in any foreign society in which it has not been unequivocally acknowledged. And here, Sir, I beg leave to say, that I feel most happy to bear my testimony to the universal and concurrent feeling, at home and abroad, with respect to the distinguished merits of that great statesman. With him I never had any personal connection. He is now no more; and his party are scattered to the winds. In the present cabinet his name must not be mentioned. It would be the signal for discord. Throughout the whole continent, however, I well know, from verbal and from written communications, that the death of Mr. Canning was considered, by almost every individual, as a personal calamity; and he was universally characterised as the constitutional minister of England. Sir, when I recollect by what means Mr. Canning obtained this unexampled popularity in foreign countries — when I recollect that he obtained it by consulting, and not by sacrificing, the interests of his own country — when I recollect that he obtained it by freeing England from the disgraceful shackles of her connexion with the Holy Alliance — when I recollect that he obtained it by vindicating her high and independent station among the nations of Europe — when I recollect all these things, I cannot but consider the universal testimony which has been borne to his merits as reflecting more honour on his memory, than belongs to all the blood-bought trophies of the noble duke at the head of his majesty's government.
Sir, I am aware of the delicacy of the task which I have now brought to a conclusion. I have anxiously endeavoured to avoid going beyond what the necessity of the case seemed to me to require. I have been induced by imperative, perhaps mistaken, but certainly sincere, feelings of public duty, to adopt the step which I have taken. Whatever my political conduct may have been, I have the satisfaction to know, that it has never lost me the good opinion of a single connexion, or, as far as I know, made me a single enemy. If, therefore, I have, in the course of my observations this evening, given offence to any one, it has been unintentional, and I shall sincerely regret it. But I will no longer detain the House from hearing that statement for which, on every account, they must be so anxious.
Mr. Secretary Huskisson rose, and spoke to the following effect: — Sir, whatever may be the motives which actuate the noble Lord on any occasion, I am perfectly persuaded that they will be found to do him honour; and that, in the exercise of his public duty, he will be invariably guided by the purest and most laudable considerations. For myself, I feel deeply indebted to the noble Lord for the step which he has this evening taken, and still more so for the manner in which he has taken it. Ever since my return from Liverpool, I have been, day after day, led to expect that an opportunity would be afforded me of submitting to the House an explanation of my conduct. What have been the circumstances which changed the intention of those who had expressed their determination to elicit that explanation, it is not for me to say. I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving me this occasion.
The contrast exhibited between the manly and straight-forward course which the noble Lord has pursued, and the proceedings in this House on Friday last — followed up, as those proceedings were, by an attempt out of doors, to convert them into the means of injury to my character — will not speedily be effaced from my recollection. At the same time, Sir, while I most sincerely rejoice at having this opportunity given me of explaining the circumstances, as far as I am connected with them, which attended the breaking up of the late administration, and the formation of the present, I certainly must add, that I offer that explanation, under feelings of difficulty and anxiety, greater than any that I ever before experienced, when rising to address this House. If no other interest attaches to these transactions about which I am going to address the House, than the circumstance of their involving the personal character and honour of the individual, I know enough of this House, from long experience, to feel assured that they will extend to any hon. member — not to myself in particular — their best indulgence during his vindication. This they would, I am persuaded, readily do, if the matter were a mere private transaction; but when the object of the inquiry affects the honour of a public man — and here I entirely agree with the noble Lord, that the character of such a person becomes public property, — and more especially if, at the time, the individual holds a high seat in the councils of his sovereign, and by the favour of that sovereign discharges the duties of one of the most important offices of the state — when the object becomes so marked, from that moment it ceases to be of a personal nature, and assumes a public character of the greatest general importance. It is on the latter ground, and on the latter ground alone, that I now claim that attention and that indulgence, which, I am persuaded, in the situation in which I am placed, there is no hon. gentleman with right feelings will not be induced to grant me, whatever may be the political differences existing between us.
Sir, before I proceed to answer any of the questions which have been put to me by the noble Lord, or to advert to the subject at all, I trust I may be allowed to state, and that without the slightest reserve or qualification, that, since my return from Liverpool, I have not had, either directly or indirectly, any communication whatever with any of my noble and right hon. friends in the administration; either with reference to what I am reported to have said at Liverpool; or with reference to what some of them are reported to have said elsewhere; or with reference to what I am now about to say to the House, I wish to state this most fully and explicitly; and I hope that every hon. gentleman who hears me will bear it in mind during the whole course of the explanation into which I am about to enter. Whatever may be the impression, or whatever the consequences, of that explanation, I wish it to be distinctly understood by the House that I, and I alone, am responsible. At the same time I can assure my right hon. friends near me — and I am persuaded that they will give me credit for the assurance — that it has not been from the slightest want of confidence in them, that I have abstained from any such communication; but because I felt that, if I made it, both they and I should be exposed to the imputation of casting our parts, or comparing notes, together: an imputation from which we shall now, I trust, stand perfectly free. It is not my intention, Sir, to enter at all into any of the transactions which occurred between the period of my return to England, and the period at which the noble Lord has taken up the inquiry; namely, the period at which the name of the noble member for Northamptonshire, Lord Althorp, was first introduced, as connected with this subject. — I believe, indeed I know — that it was in the middle of November, my noble friend Lord Goderich, while talking with with me one morning at his office, upon general business, casually stated in conversation, that my right hon. friend, the then master of the Mint (Mr. Tierney), had suggested to him, that it might be exceedingly desirable to ask Lord Althorp whether he would be disposed to undertake the office of chairman of the intended Finance Committee. My noble friend further told me, that he had had a good deal of conversation with my right hon. friend, in the course of which my noble friend stated, that from long habits of personal esteem and friendship for the noble member for Northamptonshire, he should be very glad to make use of that noble Lord's talents for business in any capacity; but that, as the subjects to which the attention of the committee were to be directed were so connected with this House, he wished rather to consult those members of the administration who had seats in it. My noble friend did not ask me my opinion upon the subject. He merely stated, what had passed between himself and my right hon. friend, the then master of the Mint; and added, that he considered that the talents, and the inclination for business of the noble member for Northamptonshire, must render him well qualified for the situation of chairman of the committee of finance. I expressed my doubts on that point; not as to the fitness of the noble member for Northamptonshire for being placed on the committee, for it was impossible that there could be any difference of opinion between my noble friend and myself on that point, but I expressed my doubts, how far the industry and talents of the noble member for Northamptonshire, great as every one acknowledged them to be, had been especially directed to such objects as would qualify him for presiding over a committee of that nature. To this observation my noble friend replied, "Turn the matter over in your mind;" and so the conversation between us ended. And here, I beg to observe, that my noble friend did not state to me whether or not he had made a similar communication to any other members of the administration; nor did he desire me, or authorise me, to make a similar communication to any one.
A few days after this at the breaking up of a cabinet dinner, my right hon. friend, the then master of the Mint (Mr. Tierney), asked me, if I had turned over in my mind the conversation which I had had with my noble friend at the head of his majesty's government. I told him, that I had been considering the subject; and that upon the whole, whatever my first impressions might have been, I was then strongly inclined to believe, that it would be for the public interest to endeavour to secure the services of the noble member for Northamptonshire, as chairman of the intended committee of finance. I Sir, I considered that conversation, as well as my previous conversation with Lord Goderich, merely as I would the conversation of any two gentlemen, desirous to come to a correct conclusion on a subject on which they had a common object in view. The conversation to which I last alluded, took place on the 19th of November. Some days after, my noble friend at the head of his majesty's government, told me that he had heard from my right hon. friend, the master of the Mint — that my right hon. friend had been sounding the noble earl (Spencer) the father of the noble member for Northamptonshire, respecting the probability that the noble member would accept the situation of chairman of the committee of finance if it were offered to him. There again my right hon. friend undoubtedly adopted a proper course in going to the head of the government, and telling him what he had been doing. When, however, my noble friend mentioned the circumstance to me, I told him what had passed between my right hon. friend, the master of the Mint, and myself on the 19th of November. My noble friend then said, "Is the chancellor of the Exchequer acquainted with this?" I immediately replied, that I did not know whether or not he was acquainted with it; and that I had not been desired, or authorised, to make any communication to him on the subject; but that I took it for granted he had been made acquainted with it. My noble friend said, that if he had not, it was an oversight. I remarked that it was not my oversight; and that I did not hold myself responsible for it. My noble friend then requested me to see my right hon. friend, the chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Herries) and state to him what had occurred. The next day my right hon. friend called on me at my office; and I stated to him all that had passed on the subject between me and my noble friend at the head of the government, as well as between me and my right hon. friend, the master of the Mint. And here I am bound to say, that when I made that communication to my right hon. friend, the chancellor of the Exchequer, he seemed to take the same view of the case that we had done. We then entered into a discussion on other matters in the course of which, my right hon. friend, the master of the Mint, quite unexpectedly, and by accident, called on me. I told him what had passed. He said, "I am going to Brighton to-morrow, and under those circumstances I called upon you to talk to you about this very affair of the Finance Committee." We then discussed the subject; compared lists of the members of the intended committee, and, as I supposed, advanced a good deal in the business.
On the next day, however, the 29th of November, I received a communication from my right hon. friend, the chancellor of the Exchequer, expressing a wish to see me; and, when we met, he informed me that he had some reason to take a different view of the subject from that which occurred to him on the day before, with respect to the person to be appointed chairman of the Finance Committee. He expressed his regret, that the intention of appointing Lord Althorp chairman had become a subject of conversation about town, and he also mentioned, as a great inconvenience, that several other names of the intended members of the committee were publicly spoken of. This my right hon. friend expressed his regret at; and I shared it with him; for unquestionably it is exceedingly improper that matters should be divulged, and made the subject of discussion out of doors, which ought to be strictly confined within the walls of the council-room; more especially under a mixed administration like that which, at the time, existed.
What did I do upon receiving this communication? I wrote off immediately, though it was late in the day when I saw the chancellor of the Exchequer, to my right hon. friend (Mr. Tierney) at Brighton, expressing my great regret at hearing that these matters had been divulged abroad, and adding my earnest and anxious request, that the best means would be taken to prevent in future the repetition of any such improper disclosures; and, that above all, no other application should be made for any member to be upon the committee, without further consideration; and a copy of this letter I sent, on the same evening to the chancellor of the Exchequer, to show the feeling which I entertained upon these informal statements, and in order, as far as the means were in my power, to allay any unpleasant sensation which might have been raised in my right honourable friend's mind, from what had passed upon this business.
This occurred on the 29th of November; and, on the 2nd of December I received from my right hon. friend (Mr. Tierney), an answer, in which he distinctly stated, that he felt as strong an objection as any man could feel to these improper disclosures, and felt as anxious a wish, that our arrangements and discussions should be unknown, save to ourselves. He further assured me in this letter, that he had never mentioned the name of a single member of the committee; and that with respect to Lord Althorp, we were at perfect liberty, either to put him into the chair of the Finance Committee, or not, as we pleased; and, as a proof of this being the case, he enclosed me an extract of a letter which he had received from Lord Althorp, in reply to one transmitted by him to the noble Lord, to know whether, in case he should be applied to to become chairman of the committee, he would, or would not, consent to fulfil the duties of the office. The noble Lord's reply was, that if my right hon. friend (Mr. Tierney) should, at the proper time, think it his duty to suggest his name for the situation, and the suggestion should meet with the concurrence of the other members of the government, and provided also, that certain arrangements were made respecting the committee, he (Lord Althorp) should not feel himself indisposed to accept the chairmanship. So that, up to the time to which I am referring, the nomination of Lord Althorp, so far from being a complete and determined act, was unsettled and conditional, and remained merely as a topic which had been handled in casual conversation. On the day of my receiving this answer from Brighton I transmitted it under cover to the chancellor of the Exchequer, who subsequently returned it to me unaccompanied by a single observation. This is the whole of the correspondence, — this the whole of what passed concerning the nomination of Lord Althorp — as far as I am informed or concerned.
I beg, Sir, to add fairly and honestly — for I scorn disguise — that the matter, as it has occurred, strikes me as being of the most trifling and unimportant nature; and, although the chancellor of the Exchequer might have felt that some slight was conveyed at the name not having been originally mentioned to him, I am persuaded that every one who impartially views the question at issue, will feel that it was only an apparent slight. It would certainly have been a slight had it been so intended; but I solemnly declare that, on my part, no slight whatever was intended. It is my duty to add, that between the 2nd and the 26th of December, I did not hear one word more about the matter. Whether any thing passed between others, I do not know, and cannot be answerable for; but I repeat, that from the 2nd to the 26th, of December, I am bound to declare the subject had never been revived either to or by me. Before the 26th, however, when it was again agitated, there had occurred many circumstances which tended materially to impair the strength and to shake the stability of the administration. Some of the principal of them are of a nature so notorious as to render it unnecessary for me to state them; while there are others which have Come to my knowledge in such a manner, as to preclude me from stating them to the House; but the impression that struck my mind from them all was, that the administration, as constituted at that time, was exposed to the greatest difficulties. These were tome ominous signs, which I could not mistake; but nevertheless, I can take upon myself sincerely to state, that on the 23rd of December, when, not having been out of town during the preceding period of which I have been speaking, I went for four or five days, on a visit to my noble friend the Secretary of War, in the country, I had determined to use my best efforts to keep that government together, and had prepared myself, in the best manner I could, to arrange the business for the approaching meeting of parliament.
On the day I left London, I did, by word of mouth to some, and by letters to others of my colleagues, state my distinct feeling to be this — whatever might be the risk, I would rather bear the trial of meeting the business of the country in the House, than appear, under all the circumstances, to shrink from the struggle. On the 23rd of December, I went on a visit to my noble friend the Secretary at War. On the 26th, I received a communication from Lord Goderich, enclosing one from the chancellor of the Exchequer, to the effect stated by my noble friend in the other House of parliament; namely, that my right hon. friend would resign if Lord Althorp's appointment were persevered in. My right hon. friend had misconceived or misunderstood the noble Lord touching the nomination, and thought that the government had pledged themselves to the intended chairman of the committee. When I received this communication from my noble friend I was left at liberty to mention it to the noble Secretary at War, at whose house I was; I did impart it to him accordingly, and, at the same time, after stating the pains which I had taken, up to that moment, to reconcile and arrange these differences, and the hopes I had of being able to accomplish it, I deliberately informed my noble friend that I could no longer, with any chance of being able usefully to conduct the affairs of the government, remain in office, and that I clearly saw the administration was at an end; I saw that the full and cordial co-operation on which I had depended was not likely to be continued, — that the members of the government did not seem likely to pull together, in the degree of cordiality that could assure their continuance; and feeling therefore convinced, that unless the most perfect co-operation and good understanding prevailed, any endeavours on my part to promote the public interests would be useless, I determined not to expose them to instability or jeopardy, or to risk my own character or injure my sphere of usefulness, such as it might be, by continuing any longer a member of a government so constituted. I then told my noble friend, the Secretary at War, that I despaired of being able to accomplish that which, up to the time I refer to, I had not given over the hope of effecting, and could no longer consent to remain in office.
This, Sir, occurred on the 27th of December, and on the 28th I returned to town, and waited upon Lord Goderich. To my noble friend I laid open my mind, as I do now to the House. He told me distinctly and explicitly, that the question of the chairmanship of the committee of finance was, in the abstract, of trifling importance; for there were a number of members of parliament quite as competent to perform the duties as Lord Althorp was; without meaning, in any degree to disparage the noble Lord's just pretensions. But I could not dissemble, that the manner in which this obstacle had unfortunately arisen, could not, in my judgment, be easily overcome; and that, from the moment it was indispensably required that this particular arrangement should be abandoned I could not recede, without admitting such a concession as I knew would be hailed by some as a subject of triumph — would tend to lower me in the public mind — would expose me even in this House to be taunted for my want of firmness — and have consequently much diminished the measure of my usefulness in the official sphere which I then occupied. The abstract question was itself, I repeat, of no moment; but it became raised by accompanying circumstances, into vital importance, and assumed a pregnant and imposing form.
On the 29th of December, a Cabinet council was summoned, to take into consideration a question of great public importance. I must now beg the House to pay attention to dates and circumstances; for they are, in this stage, of so much importance, that I must be particular with respect to them, at the risk of being tedious. On the morning of the 29th, before the Cabinet council met, I waited on my noble friend, Lord Goderich, whose mind must have been prepared for such communications, by what had passed the day before. I told him that the difficulty which had been raised out of the question was such, that I could no longer consider myself in his majesty's service — that it was my intention humbly to tender my resignation to his majesty — that I had written a letter to the king;, conveying that tender; and, under these circumstances, I told my noble friend, that in order to prevent any inconvenient inferences, I would attend the Cabinet that day, but that I certainly would not take any part in its deliberations. My noble friend immediately stated to me in reply, "Then if you have come to this determination, my Administration is altogether at an end; for if you retire, I will not remain an hour longer in office, and the inevitable consequence is that there is an end of the Administration." My noble friend then suggested to me, what it was very proper he should suggest, and what had occurred to myself — that before meeting the Cabinet, as it was appointed upon a subject connected with the foreign policy of the country, it would be right to state what I had stated to him to the noble earl at the head of the Foreign Department, in order that he might judge how far, under such circumstances, he would proceed to bring forward the measures he had to suggest. I made to the noble earl the same communication I had made to Lord Goderich, and received from him the same observation. On that day, the marquis of Lansdowne came from Bow-wood, to attend the council, and he was to return the next morning. It occurred to me, that from the situation of the noble marquis in the Cabinet, it was not desirable that he should so return without knowing the determination I had come to. I therefore made the communication to Lord Lansdowne, and his lordship stated to me in reply, what had been stated by the two other noble peers; namely, that what I intended to do would be the dissolution of the Administration. The noble marquis returned next morning to Bow-wood. A circumstance just then occurred, which, though having no necessary connexion with what I am relating, must nevertheless be mentioned. I allude to the arrival of the Infant of Portugal in London; for his intended visit to Windsor the next day prevented my then sending in my letter of resignation. I postponed sending it for two or three days for this reason — it was suggested to me, and very strongly, by those to whom I had made my communications, that, necessarily and indispensably, the step I was about to take would break up the administration; and I was asked, whether it would not be better to request Lord Goderich to consider of the resignation tendered by the chancellor of the Exchequer. I yielded to this suggestion; and, on the first of January, I wrote a letter to my noble friend, requesting that he would ascertain distinctly from the chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he persisted in his resignation; and I further told my noble friend, that I should suspend any step, until I knew the result, which I begged him to communicate to me as soon as he received it. My noble friend carried on the correspondence with the chancellor of the Exchequer. He urged him to recall his determination; but was not successful in persuading him to do so.
On the 8th of January, Lord Goderich went to Windsor, waited on his majesty, and telling the whole difficulties of the case, opened to his majesty the situation of the government. — My noble friend did what he was bound in duty to do — he laid before his majesty fully, fairly, and honestly, the real state of the difficulties and perplexities into which the government was thrown. This is my decided opinion, as to the conduct of my noble friend; and no man will doubt that he acted disinterestedly and impartially, and according to the honest dictates of his judgment. He acted wisely in not concealing any part of the truth from his Sovereign — whether he intended, when he went, to suggest any thing, I do not know.
This took place on the 8th of January. On the 10th, two days after this communication was made by Lord Goderich to his Sovereign, and after the administration was thereby at an end, the marquis of Lansdowne returned to town. I am now obliged to advert to the noble marquis, not certainly from any thing which has been said by my noble friend, but in order to clear up an insinuation which has been most unwarrantably thrown out in another place, with reference to the sincerity of my communications in that quarter. My noble friend returned to town on the evening of the 10th. I had received no communications from the noble duke, or from any Other quarter, that his grace was charged by his majesty with the duty of forming a new administration. The noble marquis on his arrival in town, wrote to me to ask if I had sent in my resignation. I replied, that I had not; and I added, that a noble and learned Lord had a communication to make to the marquis. The next day I saw the noble marquis, and asked whether he had received from the noble and learned Lord any communication such as I had alluded to? The noble marquis replied in the negative; but he added, that he had received a communication from earl Dudley, who apprised him of what was the intended communication to which I had alluded in my letter. I did not at that time know what were the intentions of those charged to form a new administration. I only said to the noble marquis, if you receive any thing of consequence, any thing growing out of this communication, acquaint me with it, and give it proper consideration. He then told me the grounds upon which he found it impossible to connect himself with the new administration. These were chiefly considerations involving the Catholic question, and other matters arising out of the state of affairs in Ireland; and I am free to say, that I declared, in reply to Lord Lansdowne, that these were not reasons which had force enough to preclude me from exercising my judgment, provided a solicitation to remain in office were made to me.
I am the more desirous of alluding to this interview with my noble friend, because it has been insinuated, that I have been guilty of the trick of sounding the sentiments of my noble friend upon the announced intention of the duke of Wellington's offer to him of a share in the government, and then basely interposing to prevent that application from being made [A. murmur of "No."]. I say, yes. That charge has been insinuated against me. I have seen it in print, and I will assert my right to answer that as well as every other imputation, which may have been levelled at me. The House must be aware, that there are other modes of influencing public opinion, than by statements made in this House; and, standing here as a public man, I feel bound to repel the charge which has been insinuated against me elsewhere. I solemnly declare, then, that from the moment I had the communication with my noble friend, the marquis of Lansdowne, I considered my lips as sealed. I considered, that I was not at liberty to communicate on the subject, either With my right hon. friend, or the noble duke, or to mention the noble marquis's name in any way whatever, with reference to the formation of a new administration. Indeed, if I had mentioned the noble marquis's name to the noble duke, what would have been the inference drawn from it? That I was inviting the duke to make a sham proposal to the noble marquis, when I knew that it would not he accepted. I might, upon this point, appeal to my noble friend, the earl of Carlisle, and ask him whether I did not, when I saw him two days after the communication I had had with Lord Lansdowne, state to him in confidence, that what Lord Lansdowne had said, precluded me from saying one word about his lordship to any person connected with the formation of a new administration.
I trust the House will excuse me for entering into these details, which I however feel it necessary to do, because honesty, plain-dealing, and straight forward conduct in public men, constitute their strongest claim on the good opinion of the country. In like manner, I have been charged with having made a communication to all my colleagues in the late administration, except the chancellor of the Exchequer, with respect to the appointment of the noble Lord opposite, as chairman of the committee of finance. And I have also been charged with having canvassed my colleagues to support that appointment against the feelings of the chancellor of the Exchequer. I state distinctly now, what must have been known to many persons before, that I never communicated on that subject with any person except Lord Goderich and my right hon. friend opposite (Mr. Tierney), before the transaction took a course which rendered further communication necessary. I think, Sir, I have shown, that as far as relates to the late administration, I did, up to the last moment of its existence — up to the last moment when it could possibly administer the affairs of the country — use every effort to keep the elements of which it was composed together. I appeal to my right hon. friend opposite, and to every member of the late government, whether there has been any want of zeal or industry on my part — whether I did not sacrifice time, health, every thing that was dear to me, to the endeavour to prevent the breaking-up of the administration. Having travelled over so much matter, I now come to that part of the subject which embraces the explanation which I really think was called for by the circumstances attending the declaration which I lately made to my constituents. I have now arrived at what the noble Lord opposite has been pleased to call the more important part of the subject — and in that I agree with him — namely, the explanation of what I am reported to have said at Liverpool, respecting my communication with the duke of Wellington, on the subject of the formation of the present ministry. Upon this point, I really must say, that I was not prepared to expect that the noble Lord opposite would chime in with the animadversion made, in another place, respecting my recent address to my constituents, by calling it a gratuitous explanation, as though I had done something quite unnecessary in offering any explanation to my constituents.
Lord Normanby observed, that the right hon. gentleman had misunderstood him, if he supposed he meant to cast any blame upon him for his conduct in that particular.
Mr. Secretary Huskisson proceeded. — The noble Lord certainly said, that I made a gratuitous explanation to my constituents, and the same remark, I am sorry to say, has been made, with something of a sneer, in another place. Notwithstanding the unfeigned respect I entertain for the great constitutional learning of the distinguished individual to whom I now allude, I must confess that I retain upon this point much of what seems now-a-days to be considered absolute prejudice. It appears to me, however it may to others, that when a member of this House accepts office under the Crown, and consequently vacates his seat, and when, his seat being so vacated, he offers himself again to his constituents, and solicits their confidence, or rather a renewal of their confidence, and of the trust which they before reposed in him, it is very natural, and quite in accordance with the theory and practice of the British constitution, to make such a statement as his constituents not only have a right to demand, but as they are almost exercising a duty in demanding, when they entertain any feelings of suspicion or jealousy. The doctrines of the school which would oppose such explanations between a member and his constituents, are not yet popular in Liverpool; and if the noble individual in question, placed in my situation, had attempted to convince the electors of Liverpool, that they had no right to expect a declaration from a candidate, or had told them that the king's writ said nothing about questions and explanations — not all the noble Lord's virtues, transcendent abilities, and high character, would have appeared to them such a guarantee, as to induce them to return him to parliament.
Having, Sir, almost by accident, stumbled on that unfortunate word "guarantee," I must fairly own, that I did more than once, use the word in the course of my address to my constituents at Liverpool; and I will further say, that under the like circumstances, even after all that I have heard, I should probably use it again. I must freely state the great surprise I feel that this word — this unfortunate word "guarantee," about which so much nonsense has been uttered, and so much malice has been at work, for the last ten days — should have been the subject of so much misconception amongst the community of this metropolis. I am at a loss to conceive what sort of understandings that class of persons must possess, amongst whom the statements to which I have just alluded circulated. Suppose for a moment, that my right hon. friend near me, or the noble duke at the head of the government had communicated with me on the principles of a contract to be made — a bargain to be entered into between parties, having between them opposite and conflicting interests — if they had thus bartered their own honour and character, how could they expect to keep the matter a secret? Is it to be believed that the noble duke would have sent to five or six gentlemen of untarnished honour and reputation, for the purpose of offering them such an insult? Can it be imagined that the duke of Wellington, with his exalted notions and nice sense of honour, was such a driveller as not to see that the offensive proposition, even if accepted, would be useless; because it would destroy the value of the services of those who were base enough to lend themselves to so base a transaction? On the part of the noble duke, of my noble friend at the head of the Foreign Department, and of myself, I positively deny that any such proposition was originated, entertained, or ever in the contemplation of any one of them. Should I, I ask, have displayed any prudence — using that word in its meanest sense — in going to Liverpool, and exposing myself to such an imputation, when it was positively certain, that, ill a few days after, my statement would be contradicted by those persons to whom it had' been applied. I say, therefore, that I do not retract one syllable of what I said at Liverpool respecting guarantees: I will not qualify it in the slightest degree; but I beg the House to allow me to inform them what it was I really did say. I will not be answerable for the precise words in which I addressed my constituents. I will not be answerable to the noble Lord opposite for the accuracy of reports of what I said — reports made amidst the din, and noise, and interruption of a hustings at a popular election — made, too, by reporters, who, however able, skilful, and intelligent, attended probably for the first time at an election at Liverpool, and perhaps labouring under the further disadvantage — but of this I know nothing — of bad accommodation. I am ready to say, what it was I stated to my constituents. I stated that, before I consented to form part of the present administration, I sought for explanation, as well in respect, of principles, as of pending measures, of, the general policy of the administration — that having received an understanding in respect of those measures, and in respect of those principles, which appeared to me satisfactory, I considered that the best guarantee which could be offered to me of the execution of those measures, and of the furtherance of those principles, and of the understanding that they would not be departed from, was that the individuals who were, in some respect, the framers of those measures, and whose duty it would be to carry them into execution, were to continue in the offices which they held. I stated to my constituents, that the guarantee which I received was of this nature — that the explanation which I had sought and obtained had been satisfactory to me, and that the continuance of my friends in office was the best possible guarantee that the acts of the administration would accord with the explanation I had received. I stated my belief that our foreign policy would remain unchanged; and I asked my constituents, whether they thought the noble earl at the head of the Foreign-Department [Earl of Dudley] was a person likely to remain in office for the purpose of frustrating the treaty which he had framed — thus destroying his character, in the face of the country and the world? I recollect perfectly well, that I illustrated my argument in this manner. I asked those who were captiously questioning me, and hinting their suspicions, whether it was likely that my noble and right hon. friends had entered into a conspiracy to destroy their honour and character, by a dereliction of the public principles, and by a sacrifice of the measures to which they stood pledged? That my meaning was such as I have now stated, must have been obvious to every person at Liverpool: and that it was obvious to them, I know to be the fact. At' Liverpool people are much in the habit of dealing in securities and legal instruments; and when I spoke of guarantee in the way I did, they were aware that I was not speaking of an instrument under hand and seal, covenanting the execution of some particular engagement — that, in fact, I was alluding only to assurances and understandings, that my colleagues would not sacrifice any principle, or forego any measure, which they considered essential to the interests of the country.
If I am really called upon to state what passed between the noble duke and myself, I will willingly do so. I appeal to my right hon. friend near me, whether, up to the very morning when a list of the new government, by some accident, appeared in a newspaper, the noble duke did not consider, that I was at liberty to wait (notwithstanding the explanations and understandings which had been given) until I saw the construction of the whole government, in order that I might judge whether that construction afforded the best security for the enforcement of the principles and measures to which I have alluded. I am unwilling to mix my right hon. friend up in the present discussion, or to induce him to say one word on the subject; but I state in his presence, and he will contradict me if I am wrong, that when the noble duke applied to me to form part of the administration I told his grace, that I expected that Lord Dudley, Mr. Grant, and Mr. Lamb, should be members of it. I did not ask for any stipulation on this point; nor did I communicate with any one of those individuals. I left it to the duke to do that, if he thought proper. The noble duke made a separate communication to each. If the noble duke had omitted to do so, should have considered myself at liberty to withdraw from any connexion with the administration. Each having received a separate proposal and a separate explanation from his grace, they communicated with each other, and we then jointly requested an interview with his grace, in order that we might understand the explanations which we had received separately, in the same sense, one with the other. I ask of the House, whether it is possible that persons having the feelings of gentlemen could have acted otherwise? I have before stated, that the reporters, to whose general skill, diligence, and impartiality, I am most ready to bear witness, misconceived what I stated; but my constituents at Liverpool did not, as I have reason to know, labour under any such misconception. I will state the grounds upon which I make this assertion, and I request the attention of the House, as my character is, in some degree, interested upon the point; and I would likewise take the liberty of requesting the particular attention of the learned gentleman opposite (Mr. Brougham). The letter which I hold in my hand, I received this morning by post. So far, I am glad that this explanation has been postponed from Friday until this evening; since it has enabled me to procure the evidence of a witness above all suspicion — no friend of mine — either personally or politically — a witness, whom I never saw in my life until I met him on the hustings at the day of election; — one who, above all persons was most interested carefully to watch what I did say; because he had undertaken to reply to what might fall from me. I shall ever feel grateful to the writer of this letter, inasmuch as from a real sense of fair dealing, which always forms part of the character of Englishmen, however opposed in politics — from a mere sense of charity, if I may use the expression, befitting the character of a minister of religion, who saw a person suffering under unjust imputations — he came forward to give testimony in my behalf. The gentleman to whom I allude is the rev. Mr. Shepherd. The learned gentleman opposite knows that he is incapable of stating any thing that is not correct [" hear!" from Mr. Brougham]; and moreover, he has no motive for any thing which he states on this occasion, except to satisfy justice. If I had not received this letter, the House would have been in possession of nothing more than my own assertion of what I intended to say at Liverpool, opposed to imperfect reports; but I trust the House will do me the justice to believe, that in such a case I should have confidently relied upon my character with them, and should not have deigned to call upon any witness to support my statement. Mr. Shepherd's testimony, however, is voluntary, and comes from a quarter whence of all others I least expected it, and therefore I do not scruple to make use of it. Mr. Shepherd, I should observe, stood close beside me on the hustings, and therefore could not fail to hear distinctly all that passed. The letter is in the following terms: —
Sir; on reading my Morning Chronicle this evening, it appears to me that the London reporters must have greatly misunderstood an important part of your last speech at the hustings, on the occasion of your re-election. As I stood close to you on that occasion, and attentively remarked what you said, as it was my duty to do, in the circumstances in which I was placed, I have a distinct recollection, that when you spoke of guarantees, you said you found them in the composition of the cabinet, and especially in the introduction of Lord Dudley, Mr. Grant, and one more, whom I do not at this instant call to mind. Of personal guarantees, as demanded from, and given by, the duke of Wellington, you did not say one word. Accordingly, my reply to what you said was, that I doubted whether, in the composition of the cabinet, you would find sufficient support for your liberal views. Perhaps, before you receive this, you will have run the gauntlet in the House of Commons. Should it arrive in time, however, I think it but right to put it at your disposal. Ministers have sufficient to answer for, without being inconvenienced by the errors of the gentlemen of the press. Your's, &c. W. SHEPHERD.
There is a postscript which I will read for the benefit of the learned gentleman.
P.S. — I take it for granted Mr. Brougham will have some comments to make on the transaction; but that, on this point, he may not proceed on wrong grounds, I wish you to communicate the contents of this letter to him. I am quite ready to obey the reverend writer's injunctions in this respect.
Mr. Brougham. — It is quite unnecessary. I accept the right hon. gentleman's personal guarantee [a laugh].
Mr. Secretary Huskisson. — I trust, Sir, I shall hear no more after this evening of a subject in relation to which I have been clearly misrepresented. Having stated thus much on the subject of a mistaken word, and the uses that have been made of it, I am ready to own fairly, that with respect to political principles, and the measures growing out of them, from the very first, I have been under great apprehension that we (his majesty's existing government) are very likely to differ among ourselves.
Gentlemen talk of the measures and principles connected with our foreign and domestic policy; but these matters are not unfrequently made the subjects of much loose and vague declamation. I acknowledge that there are certain measures and principles, in relation to which it is necessary — absolutely necessary — to have an understanding, or it is impossible for a cabinet to agree: but it appears to me, that if a fair and distinct understanding subsist between the members of a government, as to general principles, that is sufficient. Sir, I do not know what people mean by talking of the principles of our domestic and foreign policy, except in so far as the application of principles relates to measures to be adopted, in regard to foreign and domestic affairs. Of the principles we never lose sight; but their application must mainly, if it does not entirely, depend on the nature of particular circumstances and events. If I may be allowed to illustrate the point by a reference to subjects which I introduced in the course of my speech at Liverpool, I will say, that the expedition to Portugal in the last year, and our recent interference in the affairs of Greece, form parts of our foreign policy during the last eighteen months; and grow not so much out of any general system, as they proceed from the effect of necessity operating under particular circumstances. With respect to measures of domestic policy, I will take the question of the silk trade. In reference to that branch of our manufacture, I thought it desirable to assimilate its condition to the condition of the other great branches of our trade. That was the application of a general principle to a particular case; but the hon. gentlemen, late members for Lincoln and Coventry (Mr. Williams and Mr. Ellice) but not now in the House, opposed the application of a principle (from which, I believe, they were not averse in the main) in this particular instance. The hon. members, as I have already said, did not oppose the general principle, but its peculiar application as it regarded the silk trade. They not only considered the principle sound, but the measure in question judicious, if applied at a proper time. However, they contended that that was not the precise time for its introduction and application. The application of general principles, then, can only mean their application at the proper time, in reference to the existing circumstances of the country. When I say, that the general principles of our policy are not now altered, I may be allowed to refer to what my noble friend, at the head of the cabinet, has said in another place.
Other gentlemen have quoted documents. I trust that I also may be permitted to do so. The noble duke says — It cannot, of course, be forgotten, that I was a member of Lord Liverpoool's cabinet, and that, in being so, I was a party to the greater part of the measures upon which it proposed to conduct the business of the present administration; that I concurred in those measures, and that, equally with others I share their full responsibility. How, then, could I, with the least show of consistency — the slightest regard for character — depart from the maintenance and prosecution of measures to which I already stand pledged. Sir, in these words I find a guarantee — if there were none elsewhere — of the noble duke's intention to maintain the established principles of our domestic and foreign policy. The noble duke supported the expedition to Portugal, and his signature is attached to the Protocol drawn up at St. Petersburg, on the subject of Greece. That Protocol bears his name, and involves his assent to our policy, in relation to the matter referred to, independently of the noble duke's verbal declaration to the same effect. Attempts have been made to insinuate the connection of the noble duke with the narrow and bigotted policy of other courts than our own, and to identify him with all that is reprehensible in the bad faith and insincerity of foreign politicians. In answer to these imputations, I refer the noble duke's calumniators to his own declarations and acts. These afford the best tests of his real views and principles. Sir, it is impossible to attack the principles of the present administration, without at the same time aspersing the character and measures of the late administrations. I again refer to the conduct of the noble duke now at the head of the cabinet, on the subject of Portugal. It should be recollected that when that undertaking was questioned in parliament, the noble duke had vindicated it in his place in the other House. The imputation, then, of illiberality in the duke of Wellington, and the charge of inconsistency brought against myself for taking office under him, are alike unfounded.
Sir, I feel it to be really impossible, notwithstanding the call made upon me by the noble Lord, to enter into a narrative of all the explanations and understandings that have taken place between me and the noble duke at the head of the cabinet, previous to my accepting the office which I have now the honour to hold. Observations, charging me with inconsistency in the discharge of my public duty, have been levelled against my character in various ways. To take one of many instances — the appointment of the Finance Committee — I have been accused of abandoning my principles on that question. But how does the case stand? In several interviews which I had with the noble duke and in the course of which we discussed together the various topics connected with the formation and operation of the existing government, it accidentally escaped my attention to ask a question relative to the Finance Committee. When the subject occurred to me, I was at the moment confined to my room by indisposition, and I wrote to the noble duke for the purpose of ascertaining his feelings and sentiments on the subject. I hold in my hand the noble duke's written answer to that communication — it is perfectly and entirely satisfactory. Let persons say what they will of a pledge — a stipulation — or a guarantee, I call the communication in question by none of these names — it is simply a question asked on my part and an answer given by the noble duke — but no bond was required.
I again say, Sir, call it what you will, pledge, stipulation, or guarantee — I fearlessly ask whether, in this particular instance, the Finance Committee, nominated on Friday evening by my right hon. friend, the Home Secretary, has not in its construction — in the principles of economy that may be expected to proceed from its members — and in the investigation which it will, doubtless, be enabled to make into the income and expenditure of the country — I fearlessly ask whether, in all these particulars, it does not appear, that the present government have fully, honourably, and completely, redeemed its pledge? If you call this a pledge, it is a pledge that has been completely and entirely redeemed.
Sir, I have exhausted myself and the House on the subject of explanations. I have given a statement with respect to what passed at Liverpool, and hon. members, I trust, are satisfied. Having made this statement, I now declare, that I will not be compelled ever again to reiterate it, or to return to the subject by any means which may be selected to force me to do so. There is one more point to which I am desirous of adverting before I sit down. A question has been put to me in another place, where it is impossible that I could answer it. The question to which I allude is this — whether I had not declared, that I never would consent to form part of an administration, of which the duke of Wellington or my right hon. friend near me (Mr. Peel) were members? Sir, I most unequivocally, positively, and distinctly, deny, that I ever did make such a declaration. Looking to the quarter whence this question has been put — respecting, as I do, the feelings of filial piety that dictated it — and revering with an almost equal degree of piety, the memory of him whose fame the feeling that dictated that question was mistakenly intended to protect — I say no more upon a subject like the present, than to express my opinion, that matters so entirely and purely of a private nature as this, are not fit to undergo a public discussion in parliament. This, which is my firm conviction, in addition to the place and manner in which the question was put, renders it unnecessary for me to add another word. Sir, I am well aware that the necessary consequence of the course of policy I have adopted, and the natural result of the principles I have long been in the habit of advocating, is to expose my character to obloquy, and my motives to misrepresentation, by two opposite classes of the community. That part of it which consider all improvement as dangerous innovation, are naturally opposed to me. That other portion of the public which, looking only at abstract principles, never allow for the existence and effect of artificial difficulties, and which always overlook the obstacles that stand in the way of the application of those principles — whether those obstacles grow out of the existing state of society, its established feelings, or (if you will) its honest but unwise prejudices, this part also are hostile to a moderate and practical reformer. I have endeavoured to steer a middle course, and I know that I have been despised and censured by the zealots of both; but, as long as I shall have the honour to retain a seat in this House — as long as I shall have a place in his majesty's councils — so long shall I, through good report and evil report, pursue the course which I have hitherto pursued, and adhere to the principles which have hitherto formed my guide of action. As long as I act in this manner, and upon these principles, I shall expect to receive from the friends who surround me, and also from the House at large, that which I have hitherto received with satisfaction and gratitude, I mean their support and approbation to the measures which I have suggested; but if my friends should, unfortunately, take a different view of the public interests from that which my judgment and my information, such as they may be, suggest to my mind, my duty is clear, and I know what course I have to take. I have ever held, and I now hold, that a public man is not at liberty to reject the call of his sovereign for his services, so long as there is nothing in the mode and nature of that call, which is derogatory from his personal honour or inconsistent with his public principles. It was because I felt that sentiment in its fullest force, that I acceded to the call which his majesty did me the honour of making upon me. I feel honoured far beyond my deserts, by the confidence which my sovereign shows that he reposes in me, by calling me to the high situation which it is now my pride to fill. I feel honoured, too, by the support which I have received, on all occasions, from this House, and by the approbation which I have met with from a great part of this enlightened and opulent country. So honoured, I seek no other honour; I have no further personal ambition to gratify; I have no further honour to acquire; and I say, without the slightest disguise or reservation, that if, with increasing business and diminished health, and with the natural desire for tranquillity and repose which comes upon all of us at a certain period of life, I find that I cannot enjoy that confidence which is so necessary to the proper execution of the duties of my office, I shall certainly act upon the admonition of my private feelings; I shall not be slow to seek retirement, but shall be most happy to let the noble duke now at the head of the government place the seals of my department in abler and more efficient hands.
Mr. Herries said: — I rise, Sir, with the most unfeigned embarrassment, and with the most unqualified sense of the difficulty of the task, to address the House. I have no intention of entering into so large an explanation as that into which my right hon. friend has entered, for circumstances do not call upon me to do so; but I feel myself bound to obey the call which the House has made upon me, and to offer an explanation on some part of my public conduct which appears to some individuals to be compromised in certain important transactions which have recently taken place. Under ordinary circumstances I should certainly feel inclined to except to such a call; but as it involves consequences most important to my character, both as a public man and a private individual, I am inclined to depart from the rule which I would lay down for the general guidance of public men, and to offer an explanation, which, after all, is an explanation which affects two private individuals rather than the public at large. I hold, that to make lightly such disclosures as I am now imperatively called upon to make, is a most pernicious practice to which public men ought not to submit; inasmuch as appeals to the public can never be made by public men, without their suffering a diminution of respect in the minds of the people of the country. I think it necessary to say thus much as a justification for myself in making a statement which bears a relation to certain recent transactions in the cabinet. Such statements, in addition to their tendency to lower, in the general estimation, those who make them, are productive of this further evil, that they have a tendency to sow among those between whom concord, harmony, and union should prevail, if the business of the public is to be faithfully and efficaciously discharged, sentiments of discord and disunion, and to perpetuate in their breasts feelings of mistrust and jealousy, which are as injurious to the public, as they are painful to the individuals who entertain them.
Sir, there are two points on which I understand it is indispensably necessary for me to offer an explanation. However, before I proceed further, I must express my surprise at some circumstances which I have learned this night, for the first time, from the speech of my right hon. friend, who has just sat down. There are circumstances of great importance relating to the transactions which my right hon. friend has detailed to the House, — circumstances, too, relating to my own conduct and that of my right hon. friend, — which have been made known to me now for the first time this night. To those circumstances I shall come in the course of my speech, after I have detailed to the House the transactions to which I have referred, as they are known to myself and to several gentlemen whom I have now the honour of addressing. The accusation, if so I may call it, which is laid at my door with reference to these transactions and to the dissolution of the late cabinet, is in its nature two-fold. First of all it is stated, that owing to the difference of opinion which had sprung up between my right hon. friend and myself, I was the principal cause of the dissolution of the late cabinet. Now, that may not be a great imputation on any man; for individuals are sometimes compelled to take a part in circumstances over which they have no control, and are thus obliged to create divisions, which, of their own free will, they would have been the foremost to deprecate, and the most anxious to avoid. It does not therefore follow that — supposing it to be true that I was the cause of the dissolution of the late cabinet, which I beg leave most positively to deny — I am liable, to any blame upon that account. In passing, however, I will take the opportunity of saying, that I shall hereafter prove that I was not the cause of its dissolution. But, as it has been insinuated, that I so conducted my department of the government as to give impartial men reason to believe that there was a deliberate and premeditated desire on ray part to produce that effect, I will meet the insinuation with a direct and positive contradiction. I will not blink the charge which has been brought against me. I will state the insinuation to my discredit in its fullest and broadest extent; for, in all cases, where charges are made in the shape of insinuations, the fairest, the simplest, the most honourable, nay, the safest, way of dealing with them, is to state the insinuation in the utmost length to which it can, be carried in the shape of accusation — to grapple with it afterwards as a distinct accusation — and then to give it as distinct and overwhelming a refutation. That is the proper way of dealing with blind hints and dark surmises. I therefore repeat once more, that there is no truth whatever in the allegation, that the difference which sprung up between my right hon. colleague and myself was the cause of the dissolution of the late cabinet. I say, that in all the rumours which have been propagated, about design, and artifice, and stratagem, — a supposition, by-the-by, which involves the blackest charges against me; for it imputes to me a treacherous communication with some parties out of the cabinet of which I was a member, — -there is not one word of truth. I deny them most unequivocally. They are false and unfounded in every particular, and have not even the slightest shadow of a foundation.
I will first simply detail to the House my situation with respect to the Finance Committee, and will then call upon it to draw from my detail such inferences as they may suppose just and natural. I will confess, that I had certainly occupied myself very closely with that project, which I conceived to be one of paramount importance, in the present state of our financial concerns. I will now state that which, perhaps, is not known to every person who hears me — that that same Finance Committee, from which we all expect so many useful and important results, was originally proposed by me to the right hon. gentleman, who, at the time of his death, filled the situation of first Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. It had been previously laid before the government which preceded that of Mr. Canning; but I believe that, even in that case, I have a right to say, that the proposition came from myself. I mention this circumstance merely to show, that I had a deep interest, and an anxious feeling, in the successful execution of that which I may be permitted to look upon as my own substantive proposition. It did not come to me as an indifferent proposition. I was anxious that it should be rendered in the highest degree productive of all the public benefits of which I was sure it might be made productive, if it were properly car-lied into execution.
My right hon. friend has this night stated to the House, that for some time, about the middle of November last, he was in communication with two of my colleagues on he subject of the appointment of chairman for the committee of finance; first, with the noble Lord who was at the head of the government, and next with a right hon. gentleman whom I have in my eye, and who, at that time, held the office which I have now the honour to fill. My right hon. friend has stated his regret, that those communications were not forwarded to me, in whose department matters of that kind are generally settled, and he has likewise added, that the occasion on which those communications were first made known to me was an occasion specifically appointed by himself for that purpose. I am convinced that my right hon. friend has mentioned correctly that which was the impression on his own mind, but I feel bound to say, that the occasion on which I first heard of those communications was one on which a casual circumstance had taken me to the office of my right hon. friend. When I first called there my right hon. friend was not within. I therefore left word that I wished to see him on business, at the earliest opportunity. Shortly afterwards, my right hon. friend sent to me to say, that he should be happy to see me at his office. In consequence of that message, I went to my right hon. friend, but under the impression that I was to see him upon the business for which I originally sought him. In the course of that interview I was told, that it had been suggested, I do not know by whom, that Lord Althorp should be appointed chairman of the proposed Finance Committee. That proposition was new to me, it was the first time I had ever deemed it necessary to think of a person for the chairman. I had not negociated on the subject. I had received numberless applications from different persons upon the subject; some of whom thought that I, from my official situation should be placed in the chair. To all such applications I had either refused to give an answer; or, if I did give an answer, I had replied, that I could not and would not give any information, as to who was, or who was not to be, the chairman of the committee. I now call upon my right hon. friend to do me the justice to state, that when mention was first made to me of the intention to place Lord Althorp in the chair, I said, that with all the respect which I bore for the high private character of that noble Lord, and with all the satisfaction which I should experience in acting with him on any committee, I must object to his being appointed chairman of this committee. Such was the answer which I gave to a communication which I by no means considered at the time to be so distinct, as I afterwards discovered that it was intended to be. The right hon. gentleman who then filled the office of Master of the Mint, came into the room after the conversation began; and he, too, adverted to the subject of the Finance Committee, The conversation which then ensued upon it was not long; but it turned more on the I object to which the labours of the committee were to be directed, than to the names of the persons who were to be put upon it, or to the individual who was to act as its chairman. The interview was terminated by the intervention of another person, and, as I have before stated, did not continue any considerable time. On leaving the office of my right hon. friend, I went to my own house; and when I got there, I reflected on the communication which had just been made to me. Some doubts then suggested themselves to me as to the propriety of the course which was proposed to be pursued. I wrote in consequence to the noble Lord who was then at the head of the government, requesting an immediate interview with him upon the subject of it. My noble friend could not grant me the interview which I requested, on that day; but appointed a meeting for the next morning at ten o'clock. At that hour I waited on my noble friend, and with a declaration of my regret — first, that any step had been taken on a subject on which the step taken was not likely to lead to success; secondly, that the steps taken had not been better adapted to promote the benefits which ought to be derived from the appointment of the committee; and lastly, not confining myself to the objections which I had to the appointment upon principle, with a strong remonstrance upon the slighting manner in which I had been treated throughout the whole transaction. The House will see that it was quite impossible for me entirely to lose sight, in this explanation, of every thing which had taken place previously to that communication having been made to me. There is not a single individual whom I have the honour to address, in whose recollection the circumstances will not be fresh, which took place before my accession to the office of chancellor of the Exchequer; not one, in whose recollection they are fresh, who will not perceive, that those very circumstances made it, and could not but make it, unavoidable that I should be peculiarly jealous to maintain the dignity and character attached to my situation. It cannot have escaped the memory of the House that there were individuals who had made themselves so conspicuous in opposing my appointment to office, as to render any interference on their part against me a thing which I could not, as a man of honour, submit to for a moment. It was, however, more from reflection than from the impulse of the moment — for my feelings are not in general of an irritable nature — that I was induced to think seriously of the objection which I had started to the appointment of the noble Lord; and after reflection, without consulting with any person — a point which, in this instance, is most essentially material — I repaired to the noble Lord at the head of the government, and represented to him all the objections, public as well as personal (and the public objections were extremely strong), which had occurred to me with regard to the proposition which had been made to me on the previous day. I am bound in candour to state, that my noble friend expressed to me his sincere regret at what had taken place; that he received the communication I then made to him with considerable agitation; — that he admitted that a wrong had been done me which ought to be repaired; and that no time ought to be lost in obviating the objections which I had so frankly and so fairly stated. There were witnesses present — one of them I see at this moment in the House — who can state distinctly in what manner my objections were urged upon Lord Goderich, and in what manner they were received by him.
After my interview with Lord Goderich, I lost no time in again seeing my right hon. friend, in order that I might communicate to him, in the strongest terms possible, the powerful objections which I felt to the appointment of Lord Althorp as chairman of the committee. That interview, though I sought it at an early hour, did not take place till late in the day. In consequence of that circumstance, I drew up a letter to my right hon. friend before I went to him. Whilst I was finishing it, I received information from my right hon. friend, that he had returned to his office and was anxious to see me. I went to the right hon. gentleman, and whilst I was with him, stated some of the public and general, as well as some of the private and personal, objections to which the choice of Lord Althorp, as chairman of the committee, was inevitably exposed. On my return from that interview, feeling that it was necessary for me to do something more than merely lodge a protest against that choice, I concluded the letter which I had previously drawn up, and enclosed it in another to my right hon. friend, stating that I had sent to him the letter which I had told him at the last interview that I had composed, as my written protest against conferring the powers of chairman of the Finance Committee upon Lord Althorp. Sir, I received from my right hon. friend, not on that day but on the next, an answer, which I considered perfectly satisfactory. It was such an answer as I should have expected to receive from my right hon. friend. It contained an expression of his regret, that he and my noble friend should have unintentionally done any thing of which I thought I had a right to complain. My right hon. friend likewise stated his reasons for acting as he had done, and sent me a letter, which he said he had written to my right hon. colleague, the Master of the Mint, in the nature of a request or injunction, that no further proceedings should be taken for the present as to the Finance Committee, and that great caution should be used in making any communication as to the names of its members or its intended chairman.
Sir, in this situation the matter rested for some time, when my right hon. friend showed me a letter which he said that he had received from the right hon. the Master of the Mint, disclaiming having gone so far as my right hon. friend appeared to suppose, and explaining, without any equivocation or draw-back, how far he had really gone. I am sure the House will agree with me in thinking, that at this period of the transaction, I had a right to conclude that nothing further would be done in it, without some communication with me. I had explained — I had protested — I had objected — nay, I had done more — I had explained the grounds of my objection in writing. I had not said "I dislike this or that man for such and such private reasons;" I had not alleged any personal or peculiar pique against the noble chairman; I had adopted nothing but public grounds as the grounds of my opposition. Having made my objection openly and fairly, having lodged my protest, both verbally and in writing, having received an assurance, that there was no intention on the part of either my noble or my right hon. friend, to offer an affront to me, or to interfere unduly with my office, and having received assurances from both my friends that the proceedings in the transaction were, if I may use such an expression, stayed, I was justified in suffering the matter to rest, without entering into any further communications. After the various assurances I had received on the subject, I was of opinion that I might wait until some further communication was made to me on the subject; and I likewise thought, that it was more fitting that a communication on such a subject should be made to me than that it should come from me. I must now, however, inform the House, that within three or four days after I had received the assurances to which I have just alluded, there commenced a series of proceedings, which led to the abdication — should I call it? or the disappearance of the head of the government — nay, to the very abeyance of the government itself, — and then to the subsequent mysterious restoration of it to its previous head, on the 19th of December. On the 20th, the government was again perfected: and now I will ask, whether my noble friend would have thought it either just, or fair, or prudent, or decorous, in me, whilst the government was in its agony, or I may rather say in its dissolution — would not my noble friend have thought it most unkind and unfeeling, and I will even add absurd, for me to have mooted, at such a time, such a question as who was to be chairman of the Finance Committee? Can any blame attach to me for having suspended my proceedings on such a question, from the 2nd of December to the 22nd, and not, as my right hon. friends had stated, the 26th, considering all that had passed in the interval? Have I not accounted for any apparent delay on my part, in what I have stated; namely, that there was not in that interval any day, except the 3rd, or the 4th, or the 5th, in which it was possible for me, without being guilty of an ill-timed obtrusion, to have renewed my communication respecting the Finance Committee? To whom, in that interval, could I have addressed any communication? How could I have worded it? How could I have begun it? No government was in existence; but as soon as there was, and as the day was drawing near when it would become necessary to bring the subject of the Finance Committee before parliament, I took the first opportunity that presented itself; and, the very day after the restoration of the government, I addressed a letter to the noble Lord at its head, and that letter I will now read to the House. The House will observe, that this was done to guard myself from all misunderstanding, being sensible, from all that had passed, that there was an intention, which I will not refer to more particularly, because it does not belong to my justification, but which proved to my conviction, that the nomination already made was to be supported. There may be some present who know more about the transaction than I do. I had no official communication on the subject; and I therefore speak as a person perfectly uninformed. Under these circumstances, I thought it right that my communication with the head of the government should state precisely how I stood with respect to the Finance Committee. The letter is in these terms: — 21st Dec, 1827. My dear Goderich; — It is now full time that some further steps should be taken with respect to the committee of finance. It would, I believe, naturally be my duty to bring that subject under the consideration of the Cabinet; but after what has passed (and I advert to it with much pain), I feel that it is not at present in my hands. I must, therefore, learn from you, as head of the government, what is the course intended to be pursued for the formation of this committee, and the regulation of its proceedings. What has hitherto been done in this matter has taken place without consultation or communication with me, although it would seem to belong principally to my department of the public business. A negotiation has been carried on, and completed by Mr. Tierney, with your sanction and that of Mr. Huskisson, for the nomination of the chairman of the committee. The government is, I presume, fully committed to the individual fixed upon for the purpose, and to the noble House, of which he is a member; and this proceeding, as I am given to understand, has been adopted with a view, in a great measure, to a political object, and as being calculated to strengthen the hands of the administration. I doubt much whether that view be correct, and whether the calculation be a just one. But I have an objection to the arrangement upon a much higher ground. I conceive, that in order to derive in the utmost possible degree from this important measure all the public benefit which it is capable of affording, and at the same time to avoid the inconveniences to which it is liable, all political views — views of the narrower kind — all those which are connected with particular parties and influences only, should be utterly discarded in the formation of the committee. It appears to me, that these objects would be best secured if the committee were composed of the most eminent individuals of the several parties in the House of Commons, and the chair filled by some person of high character and respectability, either entirely unconnected, or connected as little as possible, with any of the political parties into which the House is divided. Whether this be a proper view of the subject, and whether, if it be so, you could yet proceed upon such a principle, you are best able to judge. I do not feel that I could act in it upon any other. In order, therefore, to relieve you from any difficulty, as connected with my situation, respecting the course which you may deem it expedient to pursue, I beg to assure you, that if by putting my office into other hands you can more satisfactorily execute this difficult measure, you may command my most ready and cheerful resignation of it. I place it (and I beg it to be understood as being done in the most friendly manner) entirely at your disposal. Now, I ask, was there any thing in this letter calculated to defeat the object of the committee — to embarrass the proceedings of the government — or to push matters to that extreme which defied all possibility of arrangement? It was competent to the noble Lord to deny any thing which I had assumed as fact, if the noble Lord had reason to believe that I was mistaken. It was competent to the noble Lord to object to any principle which I had laid down, if the noble Lord was prepared to contend that such principle was erroneous. Nothing can be more obvious than this — if the principle was not sound, I might, I ought, to have been told so; and the other principle, whatever it might be, to which a preference was given in the cabinet, distinctly asserted. But no such denial was given, no such assertion was made; but, on the contrary, a declaration on the part of the noble Lord, that I was mistaken, in (a great degree, as to the part which I supposed the noble Lord to have taken in the transaction. The answer of my noble friend was as follows: — My dear Herries; — I received your letter of the 21st, and I agree with you, that the time is at hand when it will become necessary to consider the direction of the Finance Committee in all its bearings, with a view to the public good, and the satisfaction of all parties. When Mr. Huskisson returns to town, this matter must be brought to a final issue. I owe it, however, to myself to say, that you have greatly misconceived the degree in which I was a party to the nomination of Lord Althorp to fill the chair of that committee. I thought I had sufficiently explained to you verbally, that I conceived the communication to be nothing more than casual, and I regret that it was made. When Mr. Tierney suggested to me the appointment of Lord Althorp, I said it was a proposition that ought to be well considered; but, from my regard for the individual, and my old friendship towards him, I was disposed towards it. The matter ended here. When Mr. Tierney afterwards mentioned the circumstance again, I said, that if the members of the House of Commons inclined to his nomination, I should not object; but that it could not be acted on without a consultation with the government. When I subsequently understood from Mr. Huskisson, that a sort of communication had been made to Lord Althorp on the subject, my first inquiry was, as to whether you had been spoken to on the subject, and to my great surprise, I was given to understand you never had. I then thought it right to state, that you were a party to whom direct reference should be made. With respect to the latter part of your letter, in which you place your office in my hands, I cannot conceive that you have made out a case to justify you in so proceeding; but I hope that you will take no steps until an opportunity has been given for bringing the whole matter under full consideration. Sir, I read this letter to show that, in fact, no answer was given to the objections made in my communication to the noble Lord. On the terms I had there stated, I was ready to continue to hold office; and the only step I had then taken had been that of putting my resignation conditionally into the hands of Lord Goderich, if he thought that, by means of that resignation, he could better carry on the business of his government. I come now to a circumstance of greater importance. The next communication was of a personal nature between the noble Lord and myself. This took place on the 29th of December; and on that day he mentioned my communication to him, and requested to know from me distinctly, whether I had made up my mind to resign my situation if Lord Althorp was appointed chairman of the committee? I answered that my resignation was not fairly required of me — that I had not offered to resign — but that the grounds on which I proposed to conduct the business of my office had been fully stated in my letter to him, and that it was for him to determine whether he would make use of the offer I had there made, in the event of his wishing to arrange the proceedings of the government in a different manner. My communication, however, never received the slightest attention: there was not even an approach to an adjustment, by a discussion of the merits of the subject, and I was not informed whether the further arrangement was to be left to the opening of parliament, or any other period. I was only asked, whether I intended to resign? My answer to that question was, "look to my letter, and you will there see the grounds on which you must determine whether I do resign or not." But, if I had been informed at that time, that my right hon. friend, at the same time and on the same ground as that of the appointment of the chairman of the Finance Committee, had tendered his resignation, the case might have been very-different. I was left in utter ignorance of that circumstance. It was not until I saw the letter of the 5th of January, that I learned, for the first time, he had made a point of that kind, and had spoken of his resignation in consequence of the difference upon the subject. I positively declare, that up to that moment I knew nothing of the tender of his resignation. In the course of the communication between me and the noble Lord, it was never once mentioned that the matter was not, as I supposed it to be, quite concluded; it was never intimated, that no engagement had been entered into, which was not considered as absolutely binding upon the parties. My answer to the noble Lord's letter was to this effect: "If the matter be as you represent it — if it be still open to discussion, let us consider it." But I was told in reply, that though the question was not closed by any positive pledge, yet that there was an understanding that it must be so considered, and that it was, therefore, no longer open to discussion. I would put it, then, to any man of honour and feeling, if he had been placed in my situation, what else could he have done but what I did? I was told, on the one hand, that as nothing was formally concluded, I had no just ground for resigning; and, on the other hand, while I was thus told that nothing was formally concluded, I was also told, that the matter was not open to discussion. I could not consent to hold office upon such conditions. I again referred to my former letter, and in order to illustrate what I felt on the subject, to shew likewise the absence of every thing like paltry and ungentleman-like feeling on my part towards my right hon. friend; and to convince the House that I acted, in this instance, on the same principle on which I have always proceeded, both as concerns my own feelings and the public service, I will read the last letter which passed between myself and the noble Lord. I had seen him shortly before, and a conversation had taken place nearly to the same effect as our letters. In answer to some questions of the same kind as those he had written to me, such as, Do you persist in resigning, if this appointment be made? I did undoubtedly say, "Look at my letter." I added, "if any thing now be proposed, I am ready to consider it; I will hear what you have to bring forward, but if you merely ask me, whether I adhere to my resolution, I certainly answer I do." Notwithstanding these reiterated declarations verbally, of my determination to adhere to the resolution I had on mature deliberation adopted, my noble friend still pressed me to depart from it. He sent me another letter, to which, within half an hour, I returned this answer: — Jan. 7, 1828. My Dear Goderich: — I have as you requested in your last letter (and as I promised in my answer that I would), carefully reconsidered the subject of my letter of the 21st of December. I regret to be compelled to state, that the reconsideration. so bestowed upon it has not conduced to any alteration of the judgment which I had previously formed and communicated to you. The question at issue, and upon which your judgment, not mine, is to be formed, is obviously not the mere nomination of Lord Althorp. That nomination cannot be treated as an insulated point, disconnected from the circumstances under which it was determined upon, and the manner in which it was settled; nor (which is of much more importance) can it be fairly considered without reference to the principles by which I have stated that I think every step in the formation of the committee of finance ought to be guided. In your last communication to me, you gave me to understand that I had been mistaken in supposing that a conclusive engagement with Lord Althorp had been made. It appears from your view of the matter, that little more had been done than to ascertain that Lord Althorp would undertake the office. If such be the case, I cannot but observe that it renders the positive determination to adhere peremptorily to that choice, and even to refuse all discussion of the reasons upon which I think a different course ought to be pursued, not only more unintelligible to me, but more difficult for me to acquiesce in. I should have thought that it might, upon such grounds, have still been an open question. Let me take this opportunity of renewing the assurance which I have already given you, that your determination, as the result of your judgment in this matter, to advise the king to confide to other hands the seals which I now hold, will not have the slightest tendency to diminish the friendship which I feel both for you and for Huskisson; nor to abate the sincere wishes which I entertain for the future success of your administration. I feel that where parties of such unequal weights are placed, by an unfortunate concurrence of circumstances, in two opposite scales, there ought not to be a moment's hesitation (with reference to the interests of the government) in so disposing of me as to retain the invaluable services of our common friend. Surely, Sir, the House will agree with me, that this was not a letter written in the spirit of a man who wished to injure, much less to overturn the government to which he belonged. But it was my clear conviction, that I could not abandon this part of the duty of my department, under these circumstances, without making a sacrifice, not only of public principle — but of the respect due to personal character, which nothing on earth should induce me to do. And here I feel myself called upon most; distinctly to disclaim having ever entertained any personal objection to the appointment of the noble Lord opposite, whose high and estimable qualities I admire as much as any of his friends. My right hon. friend, I perceive, bears testimony to what I say regarding my respect for the noble Lord's talents and accomplishments. There is no point on which I am more anxious to set myself right than this. I repeat, that so far from standing on any personal objection to the noble Lord, I should have had much satisfaction in transacting business with him as chairman of the committee, from the esteem in which I held his character, if I had considered his appointment to that situation consistent with that principle, the soundness of which I have never heard disputed in this House. To the letter I have just read, I received no answer. The principle on which I objected to the noble Lord's appointment, and I admit I objected to it strongly, was one, I repeat, which I have never heard disputed. It was wholly independent of any thing of a personal nature. I had stated my opinion, that to render the committee as important and useful as possible, it should be composed of persons in the least degree connected with party. This rule seemed to me to apply, in a particular manner, to the chairman of the committee, who will have to hold the balance impartially on a subject, as to which the House is divided into so many, and such various opinions. It appeared to me infinitely better to choose any other person than one who, if not the leader, was at least prominent among the leaders of a party; and I think this objection must, on reflection, be readily admitted. On some of the points likely to come under the consideration of the committee, the noble Lord would probably have found himself pledged by his previous and repeated declarations in the strongest manner. Would not that circumstance alone render the noble Lord, however estimable his talents and character, less eligible than one not so pledged and not so predetermined? There is one point as to which the public will look with much anxiety, indeed I may say with intense anxiety, to the proceedings of this committee. Many members of this House attach the highest importance to the maintenance of a sinking fund, and there are many, I know, who treat it as an idle and useless incumbrance. I will not on this occasion enter into that question; but I may say, in passing, that the sinking fund has, I believe, no enemy more hostile, than the noble Lord. For my own part, I feel deeply the importance of having a real surplus of revenue applicable to the reduction of the debt. It can hardly fail to happen, that, among the subjects that will come across that committee, this should not be one; and I do think it is one on which the noble Lord is rather disqualified from sitting as the chairman. He is irrevocably pledged upon it. I recollect some of his speeches, to which I listened at the time with the greatest attention; and I am sure that any hon. gentleman who has attended to the noble Lord's conduct for some years past, cannot have failed to perceive that he is decidedly hostile to the principle of a sinking fund. I considered that this sort of positive declaration, on points of deep importance, rendered the noble Lord less eligible, however able in other respects, for that particular situation, than if he had not been so pledged. This was one of the reasons why I felt myself justified in opposing the appointment of the noble Lord; and there were others which, though of some importance, I will not advert to at present. Generally, however, I will say, that the noble Lord was too prominent a member of one of the extreme parties of the state, if I may use the expression, to become the most eligible chairman under all the circumstances.
Sir, I have, I hope, satisfactorily explained to the House the course which I felt it my duty to pursue on the occasion so often alluded to. I have, I hope, satisfied their minds so as to remove every doubt they may have harboured, that no unnecessary delay has taken place upon my part, in making the communication between the two periods, and that all the unworthy suspicions whispered abroad as to motives will no longer be found to exist. I hope that no idea will be any longer entertained of attributing to me any thing like a design to embarrass the government at a particular crisis. I have accounted for the delay. I have stated how my application was received, and how willing I was to discuss the subject. I have stated what was also most material, my ignorance of the intended resignation of my right hon. friend. From these facts, I am obliged to draw this conclusion; namely, that certain circumstances had shaken the government to its foundation before the 21st, when I wrote the letter I have read to the House, nay, had led to its dissolution before that time; but of which, to my extreme surprise and very deep regret, my noble friend in another place, in giving his account of the causes of that dissolution, omitted to make any mention. I say that circumstances were known before the 21st, to those connected with the government, which made them foresee the dissolution that was about to take place. I further say, that this letter and proceeding of mine was taken advantage of, as a convenient opportunity for doing that which sooner or later must have happened [hear, hear]. I say that I know it was so taken advantage of. I say that I know it was discussed, whether my letter should not be made use of in the manner it has been, [hear, hear], I will speak out plainly in my own defence. Sink or swim, I will defend my honour. With all the respect I entertain for Lord Goderich — with all my friendship for him — I must, when his conduct, by an unfortunate concurrence of circumstances, calls my character and honour in question, defend myself in the best manner my situation will allow me. I say then that no minister could take such a trifling fact as this — such a paltry subject of difficulty as this — to the foot of the throne, and leave it there as a difficulty and embarrassment, unaccompanied by any advice as to the removal of it, without virtually giving in his own resignation of office at the same time [cheering]. I hope I have not, in the warmth of debate, infringed upon the rule I laid down for myself at starting; for I think that a man connected with government ought to be cautious that he does not, in making his defence, declare more than is strictly and absolutely necessary for that purpose. I hope the House will think that I have not said more than is necessary for that purpose. But I feel that if I were to pursue this subject further, I should transgress the limits I have imposed on myself, and which I hold it a sacred obligation not to pass.
My vindication, then, I will confine to two points. First, that my conduct was not the cause of the dissolution of the ministry; and secondly, that throughout the whole transaction there was not a part of it which evinced a design to effect that object. It will require very little evidence to prove the impossibility of such having been my design; indeed, in my opinion, it wants no evidence that any man's common sense will not furnish him with. It is from the exercise of that common sense that the whole country has come to the conclusion of the impossibility of my having effected what has been attributed to me. An individual is recently introduced into the government, under circumstances to which I will not advert further, than by saying, that great objections were raised to his introduction, and three months after, on his offering his resignation, that mere circumstance is alleged to have dissolved the cabinet. Is it possible that any man can believe such a thing? It is absurd upon the very face of it: and yet this is the very case that is now imagined.
There is one other subject to which I wish to call the attention of the House before I close, what I conceive to be a complete vindication of my conduct and character on this occasion. It has been pretended, in some unworthy insinuations thrown out against me, not only that I designedly managed my resignation, so as to produce the effect it is asserted to have produced, but that I did it in consequence of some communications between myself and other parties. It has been stated, in some of the public papers, that I have had communication with parties out of the government on this question — that is, with reference to persons who were in office I before the late dissolution. It has even been hinted that I have held communication on the subject with the very highest personage in the state. Now, I declare, upon my word of honour as a gentleman, and as I hope to be saved, that I have never had any communication with any individual on this question, out of the circle of my own colleagues. I declare that I have received no advice from any man, nor did I, on my word of honour — my right hon. friend near me advises me not to speak on the subject, but I think it right and fit I should speak — nor did I, on my word of honour, make the least communication in the high quarter alluded to; nor do I believe that any of the passing circumstances were known there until they were made known by my noble friend. That I believe; but with respect to myself, I can solemnly affirm, that there exists not the shadow of a reason for the insinuation, that has been thrown out against me on that point. I have now nothing more to trouble the House with — nothing but to thank it for the patience and kindness with which they have listened to me [loud cheers].
Mr. Tierney said, he felt it necessary to observe in answer to what had fallen from his right hon. friend, who had alluded to him as wishing formally to originate a debate of this kind, that he had harboured no such intention, that he had felt no desire to bring a charge against any one. But, knowing that explanations would be called for, and feeling anxious to be present when the subject was brought forward, he merely asked his right hon. friend on what day he would take his seat, as it would be inconvenient for him to attend on the Friday, as he was about to go to Brighton. This he told his right hon. friend; but as to originating any debate, he had not the least idea of doing so. — He should now state a very few facts to the House, facts with which he was intimately connected. The matter had been brought to such a pitch by the two right hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House, I that it might appear malicious in him if he did not come forward. Part of what they had advanced was accurately stated; but their statement was not altogether accurate. It was perfectly true that, early in the month of November, he did suggest to his noble friend, Lord Goderich, the propriety of nominating another noble friend, Lord Althorp, to the situation of chairman in the Finance Committee. He had taken this step solely for the purpose of strengthening the government; for he thought it a matter of great importance that, in an inquiry of so extensive a nature, they should avail themselves of the assistance of one of the most respectable and intelligent noblemen in the kingdom. Now, when the right hon. gentleman, who spoke last, said, that he should have selected for that situation a person who was not of any party, he begged leave to observe, that he had done so; for the noble Lord had never given in his adhesion to the late government; he had never declared that he would support it; all he had said was, that, if the measures proposed by that government met his views, then he would afford it his assistance. The answer of Lord Goderich to this suggestion was, that he thought most highly of Lord Althorp; that in the early part of his life, he was in habits of intimacy with that nobleman, and that nothing would give him greater pleasure than to see Lord Althorp appointed chairman of the committee; but he added, "This is a matter that more concerns you of the House of Commons; consult with the leader in that House, the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, and what he decides on, I will agree to." He did, in consequence, consult his right hon. friend, and he intimated his approbation of the suggestion — a fact which no one had attempted to deny. — He here had the consent of the prime minister, and of the Colonial Secretary to the nomination; but further than this he did not take any step on the occasion. He would here say to the right hon. gentleman who spoke last, that if what he was doing, with respect to the appointment of Lord Althorp as chairman of the Finance Committee, had, in his mind, even the appearance of giving offence, he would not have touched the matter. He declared, upon his honour, that it was an unintentional slip — a proceeding which he did not think would lead to any discord whatever, but that it would, on the contrary, tend to strengthen the government. He had felt it necessary to consult his noble friend, earl Spencer, on the subject, and he had asked him to obtain from his noble friend below him, Lord Althorp, an answer to this question; namely, whether if an application were made to him to fill the situation of chairman to the committee, he would accept of the appointment? He had done this because he felt that he should have cut a very foolish figure if, after the nomination was agreed to on the part of the government, the noble Lord should have thought proper not to act. Having made this communication to earl Spencer, he received, in answer to it, a letter from Lord Althorp, couched in such terms as must prove to the right hon. gentleman opposite, that it was impossible for any man to conceive or to suppose that any conclusive step had been taken. That letter ran thus: — "I write to you in consequence of a message which you desired my father to give me. I understand your message was, that you had thoughts of proposing that I should take the chair of the Finance Committee; but before I give a definite answer, I wish to know whether certain arrangements will be agreed to by his majesty's government." This was the answer; and it showed that he had not bargained with, or attempted, in any way, to influence Lord Althorp. On the 28th of December, when he made a call, he found the two right hon. gentlemen opposite sitting together. To the best of his recollection the words made use of to him were, "I am glad you are come, for we have been talking over the committee." He was not very accurate in the recollection of words, but he believed his right hon. friend would bear him out in the statement, that it was then said, that the course which had been taken was cordially concurred in.
Mr. Huskisson. — I cordially concurred in it.
Mr. Herries denied that he had used the word cordially.
Mr. Tierney said he would leave out the cordiality. He then produced a list of members of that House taken from all sides, and including seventy-five or seventy-six names, from which he told his right hon. friend, he might, if convenient, form the select committee of finance. To show that his feeling with respect to the appointment of the committee was not narrow or contracted, he begged to observe, that there was not the name of a single member of the committee which had been formed, that was not to be found in his list. That conversation occupied but a short time; perhaps half an hour. He then left town for Brighton; and, such was the conviction on his mind that no difference of opinion existed, that if, on the road, he had been questioned by any political friend, he would have said, "Every thing is settled; for I have with me the premier and the chancellor of the Exchequer." It was not till the 1st of December that he received the letter which had been alluded to by his right hon. friend; but that letter did not even mention the name of the chancellor of the Exchequer, much less did it advert to his views or feelings. It came entirely from his right hon. friend, as a suggestion of his own. He there stated, that it would prove inconvenient, if lists of those who were intended to be placed on the committee were shown about; and he expressed a wish that no notice of the list should be taken to Lord Althorp himself. He was desirous that the matter should not be noticed until they were nearer the meeting of parliament. That letter gave him no information whatever, as to the sentiments entertained by the right hon. gentleman who spoke last. Although it subsequently appeared to have been written in consequence of information derived from that right hon. gentleman, yet it contained not a syllable with respect to his feelings on this subject. He wrote a letter, in consequence of that to which he had just referred, in which he stated, that he had not shewn the list — that he would not show it — and that no application for that purpose had been made to him.
He further declared, that so far as Lord Althorp was concerned, he meant not to say a word; and he sent to his right hon. friend the communication which Lord Althorp had previously made to him. That letter was shown to the right hon. gentleman on the 3rd or 4th of January; and how, after receiving that letter, he could imagine that any definite arrangement had been come to, was to him inconceivable. But the right hon. gentleman had spoken out fairly; and, from what he had said, it appeared, that he had, for some time, been acting under a feeling or soreness, in consequence of some differences that had taken place. He, perhaps, was one of those who differed from the right hon. gentleman; but, while in the cabinet, as one of the colleagues of the right hon. gentleman, he never showed any thing but the most cordial and candid feeling towards him. Therefore, in whatever he had done, he could not be supposed to have been actuated by any sinister or personal motives. There appeared to be a good deal of misunderstanding as to the conduct which he (Mr. Tierney) had pursued; but he was ready to meet every thing that could be advanced against him, with reference to any part of his conduct in this business; and he begged leave to assure the right hon. gentleman, on his word of honour, that the only communications which he had had on the subject of the committee were three — one on the 19th of November, the meeting which he had with the right hon. gentleman on the 28th of November at his office, and the letter which he had written to his right hon. friend. These were the only three communications he had had on the subject; and they contained nothing which could lead him to believe, that any change was contemplated. It was not until the 9th of January, in the morning, after the government had been dead for four and twenty hours, that he knew any thing of the course which had been adopted. Gentlemen might be surprised, but the fact was, that he never heard one syllable on the subject till the 9th of January; until that time he never knew that any resignation had been sent in; until that time he was wholly ignorant of the matter. He knew not that any intrigue was going on; he knew not that any dissatisfaction existed; he never heard one single word on the subject until the 9th of January. The right hon. gentleman might ask very reasonably, as he (Mr. Tierney), by proposing Lord Althorp, was said to have been the means of dissolving the government, why he had taken such a step? He had done so, because he was convinced of his efficiency; and he would tell the right hon. gentleman, that he had to encounter more difficulty in persuading the noble Lord to take the office, than the right hon. gentleman could meet with in getting him to resign it. He accepted the office against the grain, not wishing to have such a situation thrust upon him. In justice to all parties, he should like to know how it happened, if there were an objection to the noble Lord, that no person ever mentioned it to him? How did it happen that the right hon. gentleman sitting in the cabinet, said nothing about the objection? He never insinuated that he was adverse to their going on with the committee of finance, if the noble Lord were at the head of it. On the 29th of December, when coming out of the cabinet room, he asked the right hon. gentleman, "Pray, Mr. Henries, what do you mean to do about the committee of finance?" This was at the last council which he attended while he was in office; another met after the government was dead, on the 9th of January. But what was the answer to his interrogation? "Oh," said the right hon. gentleman, "we must talk about the matter." He (Mr. Tierney) then said, "I have looked into the reports, and I find that the former committee was appointed by ballot." On which the right hon. gentleman observed, "Yes, after a debate." So far from his having any idea at the time, that things had come to such a pass, that gentlemen were about to resign in consequence of his proposition, that he, in pure sincerity of heart, spoke to the right hon. gentleman on the subject of the Finance Committee. The hon. gentleman said, that his whole wish was to make up the difference that existed. If that were so, why did not the right hon. gentleman speak to him on the subject? On other points, he (Mr. Tierney) might be beaten; but on that particular point, the point of reconciliation, he was sure to have been successful. With respect to his opinions, he would refer to his letter of the 21st of December. The right hon. gentleman thought it very hard that he should be considered as entertaining a wish that the government should blow up; yet, from the 21st to the 27th of December, he had not given any notice of his private objection. And then, on the 3rd or 4th of January, there occurred such — he knew not what to call it — such an earthquake in the government, that, it appeared, he felt it improper to interfere. Now he did not mean to bring a charge against the right hon. gentleman for his conduct in this matter: all he desired was to justify himself. The right hon. gentleman had, on the26th December, mentioned his objection to the colonial secretary; on the 29th he stated to Lord Goderich his intention to resign; and, during the whole time, from the 21st to the 30th of December, a correspondence was going on between two members of the government, each threatening to resign, of which he (Mr. Tierney) was entirely ignorant. The right hon. gentleman, if he understood him rightly. said, "Don't believe that I had any hand in overturning the government. The plan for overturning the government was laid before." If this were so, it ought to be made the ground of impeachment against some one; for if he knew that such a plan had existed, and did not disclose its authors, he would be guilty of a dereliction of duty. He was bound, on the part of his majesty's government, to state it. If such a system were tolerated, there was no safety for public men: no man could serve the king under such circumstances; it was impossible. — He had seen the speech in the newspapers, which his right hon. friend had delivered elsewhere. In that speech his noble friend Lord Goderich and himself were described as most amiable persons; but, in some way or other, it appeared, a cabal, a party, had been formed for blowing up that amiable government. If the speech of his right hon. friend were to be credited, he had come off with flying colours; and yet he (Mr. Tierney) must observe, that appearances were against him to this extent, — that his explanation was not sufficiently full. A plain man in the country asked "Why was the government of Lord Goderich overturned?" And the answer was, because the chancellor of the Exchequer would not have Lord Althorp as chairman of the committee. This was the whole of the answer. Now, he did not mean to say, that the right hon. gentleman who spoke last cherished any wish to overturn the government; but that right hon. gentleman, he believed, felt some degree of hostility to it on certain matters — matters which were wormwood to him. He did not censure the right hon. gentleman's opinions; but it did appear that, for some reason or other, he was out of humour with the government; and indeed he had said, that no man could be in a good humour with a government carried on as that had been. He (Mr. Tierney), viewing what had taken place, would say, that the individual who was at the head of the late government was a very good man, but he thought he was not sufficiently energetic to meet the times, and control the circumstances in which he was placed. On the 19th or 20th of December, a cabinet council was held, at which the restoration of Lord Goderich (as it had been called by the right hon. gentleman — for gentlemen were always very pleasant when the House was blown up, and they found themselves on their legs) took place. That restoration occurred on the 19th of December, and he certainly understood it was at that council fully canvassed and settled, how far Lord Goderich could be re-adopted as minister. He would ask, was the right hon. gentleman there? If so, did he make any objection? Did he make any observation to Lord Goderich as to what his own sentiments were? And lastly, was not that the time to have advanced any objection, or to have put forward any observation which his mind might have suggested relative to the ministry? Unquestionably it was; but the right hon. gentleman remained silent; he said not one word on the subject. It looked just as if he had agreed to bolster up the government at night, that he might blow it up the next morning. On the 19th of January he adhered to the government, and on the following day he sent in his resignation. Could that, he demanded, be called fair play? — He thought the right hon. gentleman was bound to bring his opinions before the government, in order that he might ascertain what the sentiments of the government were. The right hon. gentleman had said, that he was anxious, at the time, for discussion. Why, then, did he not introduce the subject. The cabinet was the place for discussion. There he might have had discussion to his heart's content: there he might have had information of every description. He believed, that had the right hon. gentleman taken this straightforward course, he would have been in a minority of two; and then he might, without inconsistency, have given up his situation. His right hon. friend, it appeared, had come to the cabinet, on the 19th of December, determined to take no part in the proceedings, and the right hon. gentleman had also come with his resignation in his pocket. Both these gentlemen had kept their pistols half cocked, in order that they might the more readily make use of them. All the circumstances to which he had referred were carefully bottled up; and suddenly the right hon. gentleman, who had previously expressed no dissent to what was going on, declared his determination to resign. He had not the slightest reason to believe that the government was at an end. Indeed, the last determination of his right hon. friend which he had heard of was, that though apprehensive that the government could not go on, he would rather die on the field than abandon the service of his king. Now this was exactly his (Mr. Tierney's) opinion. He thought so too. And, by-the-by, he did not abandon the service, but was killed the other day in "a chance-medley" [A laugh]. Could any body believe that Lord Goderich, without any communication with any body, and simply of his own idea, — Lord Lansdowne, too, being at that very time a member of the cabinet, — could any body, he would ask, believe that Lord Goderich, without conferring with any of his colleagues, went to the king, and said, that, for such and such reasons, he found it necessary to lay down the government? For his own part, he could not believe it. In charity he could not believe it. The right hon. gentleman who spoke last, had said, that he knew what the reason of this proceeding was. He did not know any thing about it. But he could not believe that Lord Goderich could have acted thus without a motive. Who could wonder that upon this the ministry was put an end to? There were the ministers pull-hauling one another about, and the king of course said, as he ought to have said, "Send me some man of talent or influence enough to control these disputants." Such being the state of things, he had fallen back into the ranks in which he had been used to march; and, he must say, with the most implicit obedience to the will of his majesty. — He did not know that there were any other material facts upon which he ought to touch. There were several parts of the right hon. gentleman's speech to which he might reply, but with which he would not meddle; though certainly he had never, in the whole course of his life, heard a more inviting speech. But, at the same time, he knew, that if there was the slightest ground for it, any thing that he said might be attributed to soreness at being turned out of office; and he had seen so much of men taking up a violent and intemperate line, on being turned out, that he would give no one an opportunity of fixing this imputation on him. He begged leave to say, that, leaving office without any soreness, he should discharge his duty without any reference to what had passed. He knew that a great many gentlemen had refused to repose confidence in the present government. Now, to the noble duke at the bead of the administration, and to the right hon. gentlemen opposite, he did give his confidence, because it must be given somewhere; and he heartily wished that the noble duke might be enabled to control the jarring and discordant elements, over which he had been called upon to preside. But, let him not hear any thing about Mr. Canning's friends. As to Mr. Canning's friends, he troubled himself no more about them than he did about the passengers in the street. They ought not to care any thing about them; they had not behaved well to them. What could the good people of Liverpool have to do with the reasons why they joined Mr. Canning? What occasion could there be for any man to entertain his constituents with any thing of the kind? The right hon. gentleman who had trumped up several awkward words, had talked about the government being in abeyance. There was no such thing when he joined Mr. Canning. He did not join Mr. Canning during a state of alarm. No; and more than that — for a year and a half before he joined Mr. Canning, he had supported that gentleman's measures. Nearly all the support which that gentleman had received, came from the opposition side of the House, when others would have cut the throats of Mr. Canning and his friends at every step they took, if it had not been for the support of that side of the House. He had supported Mr. Canning long before he joined him. He had joined Mr. Canning because he thought that the country had a strong wish to see those two parties who had for some time been approximating in measures and opinions, join together and form a mixed government. He thought that the same wish still prevailed throughout the country. It was for this reason, then, that he had joined with Mr. Canning; but he had never joined with Lord Liverpool. He had never given his support to Lord Liverpool's policy. Indeed, he had never been able to find out what the policy of that noble Lord was. He knew very well what Lord Liverpool's policy was with respect to the Catholic question. It was this: — Any man might entertain his own opinion of that measure; any man might support that question in the House; but then he was told he must distinctly state that this was merely his own opinion, and not that of the cabinet; or he might propose it in the cabinet if he chose to take the trouble, knowing, as he must know, what the fate of it would be. This was Lord Liverpool's policy with respect to the Catholic question. What his other policy was, however, he did not know, and therefore he did not know what the policy of the present government would be in other affairs. How was it to be with respect to free and liberal opinions? When he heard, as he had heard, that the policy of the Greek treaty was to be persevered in, what did it mean? Every body knew that the secret article of that treaty authorized the representatives of the contracting powers to meet together, and take into consideration the resorting to ulterior measures, in the event of the Turk refusing to accede to the proposed mediation. Why, then, the door was open, and the way was plain to my Lord Dudley. — He again said, that he joined Mr. Canning on account of what he believed to be the wishes of the country, and because he could do so without sacrificing any one principle of his own. He had sacrificed no principle: though he certainly exacted nothing of Mr. Canning, yet he told the right hon. gentleman what he thought about a great many things, and what he meant to do on a great many occasions. As to parliamentary reform, for instance, he told Mr. Canning that, though he was too old and too experienced a man to hope to see it carried, yet he desired the right hon. gentleman would distinctly understand, that in taking him in, he took in a man who would always vote for a parliamentary reform. Mr. Canning readily agreed with him that he should do so, and, knowing probably, as well as he did, how little chance the question had of being carried, merely added, with a smile, that he hoped he would not fight for parliamentary reform, on the Treasury bench, and he (Mr. T.) promised that he would not; but that he would go up a bench or two higher whenever he had occasion to speak upon it [a laugh.]
The repeal of the Test and Corporation acts he told Mr. Canning he was pledged to support, and that he should support it at all times. This was all he had said to Mr. Canning. — Now as to the policy of Mr. Canning with regard to Ireland. What had been the policy of the late government, and of that which had preceded it? It had been the policy of both the cabinets antecedent to Mr. Canning's to prevent the Catholic Question by all fair means from being carried. He did not mention it as casting any fault upon the right hon. gentlemen who had belonged to those cabinets; he merely meant to state the fact, that the policy of those cabinets was to watch that question narrowly, and if possible to keep it down. Now, Mr. Canning's policy was directly opposite. It was his policy to watch for, and to seize, the first opportunity of passing it. And yet he was to be told that the policy of Mr. Canning and of the other two cabinets, were the same. Had not Mr. Canning also introduced a measure for the purpose of enabling Catholic peers to vote in the House of Lords? And yet Mr. Canning's policy was the same with that of the cabinets that had preceded his. Now he would say that Mr. Canning's policy was one thing, and the policy of the other cabinets another and a different thing. He was quite sure that he entertained every respect for the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Peel) opposite, but then to say that the Catholics were to have the same confidence in him, their open and avowed opponent, as they were to have in Lord Lansdowne, their open and avowed friend, was absurd. He did rejoice at another right hon. friend of his (Mr. Lamb) going back to Ireland; and the right hon. gentleman, he believed, would do all the good to that country he could. He was glad to hear that the noble marquis (Anglesea) had gone to that country, and he rejoiced to see the Irish with a chancellor who was one of the best and soundest of lawyers, and who was not addicted to meddle with politics. What, however, was to happen now, he did not know. What change was; to take place he did not know. But this was his point; — namely, that the policy of Lord Liverpool was one in which the friends of Mr. Canning ought not to agree. That policy was to get rid of Mr. Canning when they were strong, and to take him in when they were weak. There had, too, been a policy to sully the fame of that statesman by every expression of vituperation that imagination could suggest; and now his friends, not relinquishing that policy, came forward and said "this is the way in which we sanctify his memory." Having said thus much upon dates and facts, so far as they had come to his knowledge, he should now sit down with repeating, that, for his part, he had never taken part in any proceeding which was intended as a slight upon the right hon. gentleman who spoke last.
Mr. Herries, in explanation, said, he thought it right in reply to that part of the right hon. gentleman's observation, which related to a conversation on the 29th of December, in the cabinet room, to state, that he then supposed the right hon. gentleman to be acquainted with what had passed; and that his address to him had appeared as extraordinary to him, as his had to the right hon. gentleman. He added, that in using the words "I know," with reference to the intention of making the difference between him and the right hon. Secretary for the colonies the means of dissolving the government, he meant to say, that he drew the positive conclusion from the circumstance that it must be so.
Colonel Wood said, that, with all the reluctance which he felt at intruding himself upon the notice of the House, he felt it his duty to say one word upon this question. The noble Lord in the course of his opening speech that night, having unnecessarily and invidiously contrasted the foreign policy of Mr. Canning with that of his noble predecessor, he hoped the House would excuse him if he set him right upon that subject. It did not seem to him to be necessary to Mr. Canning's reputation to contrast his policy with that of his predecessor, and in the way in which the subject had been introduced, injustice was done to both. The noble Lord had said, that he had heard with surprise that Mr. Canning found the line of foreign' policy already marked out, in a note accidentally discovered in some portfolio, and which never would have come to light; had it not been for Mr. Canning's appointment to the foreign office. Now, he had heard Mr. Canning declare, that the foreign policy, especially with respect to the new States of South America was founded oil a note, found in the portfolio in the foreign office, as it had been decided upon by his predecessor. He was sure that if Mr. Pitt and Mr. Canning were to revisit the earth, they would approve of the government of the duke of Wellington, knowing as they must, that that government would promote, in the highest degree, the happiness and prosperity of the country. He himself had the most entire confidence in the duke of Wellington's administration; as he felt that no man had a greater interest in preserving the peace, and watching over the welfare, of the country, than the man who, by his prowess, had so greatly contributed to establish both. The House, he thought, would be more usefully employed in contemplating the future, than in raking up discussions upon the past.
Mr. Stanley said: — After the explanations already given by the three right hon. gentlemen who have addressed the House — competent as they, from their immediate connection with the events to which these explanations referred, were — the House would doubtless regard it as unseasonable, if not impertinent, if I were to make any comments upon the dissolution of the late cabinet. If, on the breaking up of that government, there were any plots, intrigues, machinations, or counter-machinations — if by any combination of circumstances results were developed unexpected and in consecutive — if, upon any occasion, dissensions of two right hon. gentlemen who now sit together in the same cabinet were or were not made a means of excluding certain right hon. and noble friends of mine from office — if, in fine, any thing had happened in these transactions beyond the plain and straight-forward course which is already known to the public, and the world at large, my subordinate situation in the government exempts me from any knowledge or responsibility for them. My duty, therefore, upon this occasion, lies within a small compass, and I think I shall have complied with all that the House can expect of me when I state — and that I shall do as concisely as I possibly can — the reasons why, with reference to the change of principles of the government, I have been compelled — reluctantly I acknowledge — to decline acting further under the directions of the right hon. gentleman who fills the situation of Colonial Secretary for this country. Before, however, I proceed to that, there is one circumstance, of a personal nature, to which I wish to advert, and that because the circumstance does not relate to myself. I could have wished that, during what I am going to say, the right hon. Secretary to the Colonies had been present; but in his absence I shall communicate to the House what I have been requested to state respecting him. The noble marquis, whom I am proud to call my friend, the late Secretary for the Home Department, understanding that some notice had been taken of a speech of his the other night in the House of Lords, and a construction put upon that speech, as if it raised an implication that, in the communication which he had with the right hon. gentleman on the 11th, he had not met with that entire confidence which he expected — that noble marquis has authorised me to state openly, and once for all, that what he meant to say was this, that when he met the right hon. Secretary upon the 11th, it was under feelings of the most entire confidence — that he had no reason to doubt but that the confidence was mutual — and that as the conversation in question had been alluded to out of doors as if it was unsanctioned, and that Mr. Huskisson had made an improper use of a confidential conversation, the noble marquis has desired me to say, that there was not the least colour for such a charge; that he disclaimed it altogether; and that, with respect to what passed between him and Mr. Huskisson, the noble marquis had no charge whatever to make against the right hon. Secretary. — Having said thus much upon the subject, I now proceed to say a few words upon the motive why I did not continue in the situation which I had the honour to hold, and why I cannot give the I present government that steady and pledged support, which all governments have a right to expect from their subordinate members. I know it is the creed of many men who fill public employments, that I they ought to regulate their conduct by that of some other individual, whose acceptance of place under a government is with them a sufficient warrant, for their support, and whose exclusion would justify their dissent from, and opposition to, its' measures. I envy those gentlemen the simplicity and accommodating nature of their reasoning, by which they contrive to divest themselves of all trouble of thinking for themselves, but I cannot say that I have the boldness to imitate their example. God forbid that I should be wanting in deference and respect for the opinions of those who are my superiors in age, ability, and political experience. There are men, for whose principles I have an unfeigned admiration, whose conduct I should be proud to imitate; and whose manly, straight-forward, honourable, and consistent course, upon the present occasion, must command my respect and praise. But, that species of political slavery which acknowledges the influence, not of conviction, but of example — which requires a blind acquiescence, and exacts an unqualified adherence and submission — I cannot promise to any one. My decision, as to the course which I ought to pursue with respect to the present cabinet, has been founded upon a deliberate and cool calculation of its members, and of the measures which are likely to emanate from them. I have come to that decision with the greatest reluctance; for I fairly own, that I anticipated much satisfaction and advantage from the situation in which I was placed — satisfaction and advantage, because I should find myself placed in immediate connection with the great and statesmanlike views of the right hon. gentleman who is Colonial Secretary, and whom I shall still call my friend, although we no longer co-operate together in office. I say that, in the colonial department, I could feel no greater pleasure than in executing his orders; because I firmly believe that he acted honestly, and in accordance with excellent principles; to no one of which, as far as I was capable of understanding them, I did not give my cordial and unqualified consent. But, whilst I thus pay this homage to the talents of that right hon. gentleman, it is but justice to myself to say, that it is with surprise and regret that I look at the choice of associates which he has made, to act with, or rather under, at this moment. I cannot but consider, that whatever may be said of the want of union in the late administration — and circumstances have been stated to show that there was a want of union — no man living who looks at the present cabinet can say, that they are a united or consistent government. Every one must see the strange medley of men and principles of which it is composed — such, indeed, as has seldom been seen under any government. I know it will be told, and it is easy to say, that "we have voted together, acted together, and given votes on the same question — we are all harmony and peace, and nothing can be better united or more consistent than we are." All this is easy to say, but I want this test before I am satisfied, — experience to prove it. I want some understanding, that the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies will be able to carry into effect all those principles to which he is fairly and honestly attached. But what security do the present ministry hold out for the probable accomplishment of such an object? As to the harmony of the present government, — as to its union, — as to the community of principles among its members, — I must see evidence of the whole before I can believe. For my part, it appears to me to be just the reverse in its constitution. It seems to me to be one of those heterogeneous junctions which Horace so well describes the capricious goddess as taking pleasure in — "Cui placet impares Formas atque animos sub juga ahenea Sævo mittere cum joco. So ludicrously painful is the contrast of these gentlemen, that they make a joke of each other's principles. Having this opinion of the members of the government, I felt that I could not give them that pledged support, which, under other circumstances, I would willingly do; and it only remains for me to say what impression the undertaking which was said to be given, as to their conduct upon particular points, has made on my mind. If I could understand the exact terms which had been used; — if any ever had been used — in which that undertaking was given, I would give an opinion upon the question. But until I do understand those terms, I must suspend my judgment. There has been so much special pleading about the actual receiving or giving of the words, that it is difficult to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. The words "guarantee," "agreement," "understanding," "stipulation," and "pledge," have been used, and have been all disclaimed. The right hon. gentleman is angry at having it said, that he made any stipulation whatever, and yet, in the next breath, he tells us that he told the duke of Wellington it was a necessary condition of his accepting office, that his three friends should come in with him. And this we are told is not a stipulation. I agree with the right hon. gentleman, that it is not a satisfactory stipulation; because we have no security for the extent to which he means to execute it. But, are we to be told that, having had one concession made to him by the admission of a new party to the cabinet, it was out of his power to obtain terms upon other points of great public importance? Much has been said, but I have yet to hear the answer to the question, "Whether or not will the policy of Mr. Canning be acted upon; or is the right hon. gentleman determined to adhere to that only, with or without a guarantee?" If the answer is in the affirmative, all I can say is, that the government shall have my support. I wish they would give me the opportunity of bringing to their side my humbled; but, to say the truth, I see no great reason to hope that they mean to do any thing to deserve it. I could have gladly supported the right hon. Secretary in his well-meant reforms, and useful measures, for the colonial department. But, can I forget that the very nobleman whose system it is intended to reform, is himself in the cabinet? I could support the right hon. gentleman's views of a free trade, but I know those views have their opponents in the cabinet — his foreign Corn-bill; but that the very duke of Wellington, who marred the measure last year, is now at the head of the government. And, seeing the cabinet thus arranged, is my à priori impression weakened by what I have lately heard from one of the right hon. gentleman's colleagues in the cabinet (Lord Ellenborough), who recently denounced Mr. Canning as a dangerous innovator? The present cabinet differs from the policy of Mr. Canning, or it does not. Is it forgotten, that the leading members of Lord Liverpool's government all went out of office to a man, rather than serve under that right hon. gentleman as premier? Did this proceed from principle, or from the ebullition of personal pique? That I shall leave to others to determine. One thing was certain, that there was a discordance in their policy, wide enough to warrant the separation. The seceders knew that Mr. Canning was inclined and committed to a certain line of liberal policy — they withdrew from him at a time when he was about to carry those principles into operation. That very circumstance, and that alone, was enough to justify me and my friends in giving all support to Mr. Canning's principles, which, forsooth, we are gravely assured, are the principles of the men now in office, who were the men who did their utmost to resist and defeat him. There is one question on which it is impossible not to see that a signal alteration has been made by the constitution of the present government; I need not say that I allude to that momentous subject of Ireland and the Catholic claims. The people of that unhappy country looked to the late administration, if not with confidence, at least with good will; but, by the present cabinet, their hopes of success must be thrown back for a considerable period, although they never can be utterly extinguished. We are told — but it really is too flimsy for an argument — that it was impossible for the late ministry to have carried the Catholic question; but the people of Ireland well knew that, among the members of the late government, they had a strong body of friends, ready to take every favourable opportunity of promoting their cause; that they were determined to push it forward, whoever might be its friends or foes — not injudiciously or mischievously: but to make it their first and leading object, for the attainment of which they were ready to sacrifice themselves, if necessary. It is now asserted, that there is a majority in the cabinet in favour of concession. Such a statement is absurd. Do we not know perfectly well, that on the one side there is coolness, lukewarmness, and indifference, not to say insincerity — while, on the other side, there is zeal, sincerity, and honest determination, not to say bigotry? I except, of course, my right hon. friend (Mr. Huskisson). I am not throwing out any imputation of indifference or lukewarmness against him. Against the Catholics, I see ranged all the leading members of the cabinet — the prime minister and the leader of the House of Commons — one of those who abandoned his office because, when Mr. Canning came into power, too much influence would attach to the appointment of first Lord of the Treasury in favour of the Catholic question. This was the ground assigned by the present Home Secretary, for refusing to join Mr. Canning; and he cannot now mean to contend that the Catholic question, under the change, remains unchanged. I, therefore, look to the present administration without confidence, but not without hope; for I have hope, in the first place, in the memory of that great statesman, whose eloquence, only eight months ago, resounded within these walls, and re-echoed to the remotest corner of the empire. That eloquence is now mute; and I cannot recall the past without the most painful recollections of all his powers and excellencies. But, although he is lost to the country, I cannot believe, in spite of what I now witness, that his principles have not survived. I cannot but believe that he occasioned such a change in the feelings and opinions of the country, that it never can return to the state from which he raised it. I am convinced that the old and stubborn spirit of Toryism is at last yielding to the increased liberality of the age — that Tories of the old school — the Sticklers for inveterate abuses under the name of the wisdom of our ancestors, the "laudatores temporis acti," are giving way on all sides — that the spirit which supported the Holy Alliance, the friend of despotism rather than the advocate of Struggling freedom, is hastening to the fate it merits, and that all its attendant evils are daily becoming matters which belong to history alone. I have hopes that the gentlemen who, no more than a year ago, displayed so much ancient and exploded Toryism on their temporary exclusion with the recovery of their offices have recovered their good humour — that calm retirement and a summer's sojourn in the country have brought them to their senses, and have shewn them how blind they were to the real interests of the country. If they have arrived at this conviction, I hope to see them second the liberal spirit of the age, and, by supporting the policy of Mr. Canning, deserve the Confidence of parliament and the country. If this be the happy result, at least we may say that the late administration has not lived in vain; and proud would be the honourable and noble persons who have just relinquished place to have bartered the possession of it for the maintenance and enforcement of those principles, and that system of policy, which they are satisfied will promote the best interests of the empire. I ought to apologise for troubling the House so long, and, perhaps, for attaching to myself an undue importance; but I thought it right to state frankly my feelings upon the present occasion. I shall be happy at all times to support the measures of government, if I can do so consistently; and it will give me much greater pleasure to give them my honest and conscientious assistance, than to find myself compelled to give their measures a reluctant but determined opposition.
Mr. Wilmot Horton said, he did not rise to obtrude his opinions, but he had been accidentally placed in a situation of responsibility, from which he would not shrink. The noble Lord at the head of the late administration had sent for him that morning, requesting some conversation on the subject about to be discussed in the House of Commons this evening. Lord Goderich had subsequently written a letter to him, which, for his own justification, he would take the liberty of reading: — February 18,1828. In reference to the conversation I had with you this morning, on the subject of what may pass in the House of Commons to-night, I venture to rely on your kind and friendly feelings towards me, in case any thing should be said which may seem to require explanation on my part, and which, in consequence of my communication with you, you may have it in your power to explain. I certainly have no desire that any unnecessary explanation should be given, and should be particularly sorry to impose such a task upon you, or in any degree to fetter your opinion on the general question; but you may be enabled to render me an essential service, and I trust you may do it, if necessary, without compromising yourself or any one else. He had understood the present master of the Mint to state, that, in his opinion, the noble Lord lately at the head of the government had availed himself of the circumstances of his resignation, for the purpose of putting an end to a cabinet which, for other reasons, it was desirous to terminate. If he were mistaken, he hoped the right hon. gentleman would correct him before he proceeded further. That right hon. gentleman had read a letter of his own, dated the 7th of January (in answer to a communication from the noble Lord), explaining the principles on which he tendered his resignation, being desirous not to prejudice the government beyond what, under the circumstances, could not be avoided. When a letter was read, it was absolutely necessary, for the due understanding of it, that that to which it was a reply should also be read. He (Mr. W. Horton) had understood Lord Goderich to state, that, from the period of the explanation being given by the Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Huskisson) to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Herries), namely, between the 9th and the 21st of December, he had no reason to suppose that any dissatisfaction remained in the mind of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Herries). The House would distinctly recollect, that Mr. Herries said, in allusion to that fact, that he had not pressed his objections until a subsequent period, as he did not think it a matter of sufficient importance at that period. The noble Lord distinctly stated to him (Mr. W. Horton), that he did not know, and had no reason to believe, that the right hon. gentleman entertained any permanent dissatisfaction, until he received on the 21st of December, the letter of the right hon. gentleman, in which he detailed the reasons which induced him to give in his resignation, on the ground of the appointment of the chairman of the Committee of Supply. With this introduction, he would proceed to read the letter of the noble Lord: — January 4, 1828. My dear Herries — The more I reflect upon this unfortunate question respecting the finance committee, the more I am convinced that the view which you have taken up is founded on a misconception, both of the circumstances which took place at the end of November, and of the consequences that would result from placing Lord Althorp in the chair of that committee. I am quite convinced that there was no intention whatever of treating you with disrespect, or of exposing you to the embarrassment of not being in your proper place, in all that relates to a matter so closely connected with your department. It is certainly unfortunate, then, that any thing whatever was said to Lord Althorp, before it was settled that something should be said; but it by no means follows from that circumstance, that the government ought to be placed in jeopardy, if it can be avoided, especially at a moment so peculiarly inconvenient to the king's service, and to the public interest, as the present must necessarily be. Now, as to the appointment itself, I must say, that it appears to me that you greatly over-rate the objections and difficulties." [He would not read the noble Lord's argument, as he did not think it necessary to the purpose for which he produced this letter] — " I wish very much you would well consider the matter before you decide to withdraw from the government, under circumstances which would cause so much embarrassment." [The embarrassment to which the noble Lord here alluded was the probable resignation of other members of the government in consequence of that of Mr. Herries] — " If I thought I was counselling anything discreditable to you personally, nothing would induce me to lay this view of the case before you; but we all owe much to the king and to the public good; and, although I feel every day more and more the extent of the sacrifice which office requires, and the pressure, bodily and mental, which it imposes, I feel that we ought, if possible, to meet parliament, to justify our measures, and then leave it to parliament to take what course they may choose in deciding upon our fate. Having discharged this duty to his noble friend, he now wished to say a few words as to the situation in which the government found itself. The hon. gentleman who spoke last had stated his reasons for doubting whether certain pledges would be redeemed, and whether the principles of policy in the colonial department would not be changed. On this point he would only say, in justification of himself, and of the noble Lord formerly at the head of that department, that no such change of policy would be found to take place. He was prepared to assert, before the finance committee should prove the fact, that all the elements of improvement in the colonial system were in progress. That progress was necessarily slow, but the foundation had been laid, and little more remained but to complete the work, by carrying the plans into execution. This was the deliberate conviction of his mind, and not a mere matter of assertion. The great change was in a course of being accomplished; contrasting the policy which is to be with the policy which was. The hon. gentleman had also stated his reasons, why he withdrew, not his confidence so much as his support from the present ministry. He also might be allowed to explain shortly on what grounds, as at present advised, he should give his determined support to the existing cabinet. He must say for his own part — he did not know whether the majority of the House would concur with him; — but it was his decided opinion, that if his right hon. friend the Secretary for the Colonies, believed, and had reason to believe, that the course-of policy to be pursued by the government was fairly, openly, and honourably, to act on the principles of Mr. Canning; if he thought that those principles would be carried into effect by the present government; if he hoped that those measures of improvement would be followed up — for when he spoke of Mr. Canning's principles, he would say, that his system was a combination of improvements, which might have been prosecuted by other statesmen, but which by him, and by him alone, were concentrated into one focus — and it was not to be apprehended, that any material retrogradation would arise when those principles were firmly fixed — if his right hon. friend had felt the conviction, that he could assist in carrying those principles into execution, and if he had shrunk through cowardice from joining those with whom he had formerly acted, he would have stood immeasurably lower in the estimation of the country than he now did [a laugh]. These were his honest and candid opinions. It might be well for gentlemen to treat them with mirth, but he avowed them as his sincere sentiments. The House and the country had been sufficiently drugged with personalities. It was high time to look to measures, and not to engage in discussions of personal disputes. They should wait to see whether the principles which were professed would be carried into execution. That would be an object more worthy the attention of the House than any individual dissent ions. He earnestly trusted that that night was the last on which the attention of the House would be bestowed to the gratification of mere curiosity.
Lord Althorp said, that as his name had been so repeatedly brought forward in the present discussion, he should feel himself guilty of disrespect to the House, if he did not state shortly the very little part which he had personally had in the transaction principally in question. But before he entered into that explanation he begged to assure the right hon. the master of the Mint, that he had never, for one moment, conceived that that right hon. gentleman was influenced by any personal grounds in objecting to his nomination as chairman of the finance committee. He was quite satisfied that the right hon. gentleman had not acted from any impulse of which he had a right to complain. The right hon. gentleman and his right hon. friend had stated fully and correctly, what had passed on the subject of the proposed arrangement. His right hon. friend, as had been stated, had sent a message to him, through Lord Spencer, the purport of which, as he understood, was to ascertain whether if he were proposed as chairman of the finance committee, he would accept of the office. His answer was, that he wished first to have some time to consider of the proposition; and he did afterwards write to his right hon. friend in the words which had been stated. He told his right hon. friend, that he was willing to accept the appointment; but, on the clear understanding, that in doing so he should be at liberty in the committee either to oppose or to support the measures of government as his judgment should direct. He felt the laborious nature of the duty which he was about to undertake, and the great responsibility which its functions involved, and accepted it much against his will; but he thought, at the same time, that as a member of that House, he could not justifiably refuse the office. His right hon. friend had stated, and stated most truly, that if any subsequent difficulty should arise on the point — if the slightest objection to his appointment should be felt in any quarter — if either his right hon. friend, or any of those with whom he acted, should change their opinions, and conceive it more expedient to appoint any other person, he, so far from taking offence, would, as he stated in his letter to his right hon. friend, feel himself relieved from a laborious duty, and one which he was not about to undertake with any feeling of eagerness or satisfaction. After this communication of his, nothing passed on the subject until about the middle of December, when he felt a curiosity to know how the business was going on, and he called on his right hon. friend to ask him the question, on the 14th of December. His right hon. friend informed him that the matter was still quite open, that nothing further had passed, but that he meant to propose his appointment in the cabinet. And this was all that he knew upon the subject. The objections to his appointment had been alluded to by the master of the Mint. It seemed there were two objections. The right hon. gentleman objected to him as being closely connected with party. He was perfectly ready to admit that, for the greater portion of his life, he had been a decided party man: he avowed it: he was not ashamed of it; because acting with a party-was generally the best method of attaining any public benefit: but, what had occurred last spring had entirely separated him from party: he now knew of no party to which he belonged; and it was surely an unfortunate time for the right hon. gentleman to object to him as a party man, at the very moment when he had ceased to be so. He repeated, that he was not now a party man, and he had no immediate prospect of being so again. Another objection of the right hon. gentleman to him was, that he had preconceived opinions on the subject of finance. He acknowledged that he had such opinions; but he believed that his hon. friend, just placed in the chair of that committee (Sir H. Parnell) had even more strongly preconceived opinions than himself. At the same time he was well aware that that hon. friend had attended to the subject, and understood it a great deal better than he could pretend to do. The right hon. the master of the Mint, however, wished to have a man at the head of the finance committee, who had, what he called no fixed opinions: and if that was the only thing which could satisfy him, the best course, in his opinion, would have been, to select a chairman from among those who had never thought at all upon the subject. It was rather unfortunate, however, for the right hon. gentleman's ground of objection, that the secretary for the colonies had that night stated, that he had told Lord Goderich, when the matter was discussed, that his principal objection was not, that Lord Althorp had fixed opinions, but that he did not think he had attended sufficiently to those questions which must be agitated in a finance committee. The master of the Mint had, on the contrary, maintained, that his opinions were much too firmly fixed, on every thing connected with these subjects. Certainly, he had fixed opinions; he was willing to admit that he had them, and to declare them. He had a decided opinion, that the keeping up a sinking fund, for the mere sake of saying that they had a sinking fund, was a highly disadvantageous mode of disposing of the resources of the country. He did not say, however, that he was not open to conviction upon that subject. All he wished to be understood to say, was, that he should hold that opinion, until he found such good reasons offered in the committee, or any where else, as might induce him to change it He had thought it necessary to trouble the House with this explanation, and he would not now trespass further on their attention.
Sir G. Warrender said, he could not feel himself at liberty to place any confidence in a government, which contained among its leading members, men so strongly pledged to oppose Catholic emancipation, as his right hon. friend the Secretary for the Home Department. He recollected very well that the right hon. gentleman stated, that his principal ground for refusing to remain in office under the late Mr. Canning, was his advocacy of that question, as the head of the government; and he recollected equally well, that the right hon. gentleman declared, that if that question was acceded to by any government of which he was a member, he should feel bound to retire instantly from office. If, then, the right hon. gentleman held those opinions, must it not be supposed that they were, in some measure, the tenure of office, and that the opinions of the head of the government would influence all the members of that government? He had held office for sixteen years under Lord Liverpool, and yet there was no opinion entertained of the Catholic question, by the members of that cabinet, which could lead to such an effect upon those connected with the government. Was it not plain, however, that the declared opinions of the head of a government, that he held his office by-hostility to the Catholic claims, must affect the subordinate members of that government; and that all its supporters would either have the zeal of their opposition strengthened, or their warmth in the cause of emancipation weakened, by the declaration that resistance to the claims of the Catholics was one of the principles of the government? Upon these grounds, and from no disrespect to his right hon. friend, whose talents and abilities he knew and appreciated, he could not support the government, and must look at all its movements with a distrustful eye. With regard to the question which had been agitated that night, he certainly must say, that, admiring as he did the genius and talent, and cherishing the memory, of Mr. Canning, he did look upon the construction of the new government with very mixed feelings. Some of those feelings arose from the opposition — the personal opposition — which had been offered to that great man's government last year; and the others originated in the suspicion, that there might have been some of his principles sacrificed in the junction which had taken place. He, however, found that there was a guarantee for the support of the principles of Mr. Canning; and he found that guarantee — mot as the right hon. Secretary had stated, from the persons who remained in the government, but from those he found to be left out. If he recollected right, there was one learned Lord (Eldon), than whom no member of the cabinet was at all times so constantly opposed to every part of the policy, both foreign and domestic, of the late Mr. Canning; and when he found that learned Lord had neither been consulted nor thought of, in the late arrangements, he thought he saw a plain proof above all others, that the policy of Mr. Canning was to be persevered in. When the right hon. Secretary had no longer an adversary so powerful as that learned Lord to contend against, there was reason to hope, that he would be allowed to persevere in that system of policy, in which he had taken such an active part, and of which he might be considered as the distinguished supporter. Upon these grounds, he saw reason to think that the policy of the last government would be maintained; but he, at the same time, felt bound to say, with pain, that the declarations of the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, with respect to the Catholic question — a question he had supported, to his utmost power, during his life — prevented him from reposing that confidence in its professions, which he might otherwise have entertained.
Lord Milton said, that if he could agree with the hon. member opposite, respecting the conversation which had taken place that night — if he could see nothing in the present debate but the gratification of an idle curiosity, he would admit that the House had spent a great many hours to very little purpose. But, when he considered the disclosures which had been made; and when he reflected that it was of the last importance, that the characters of men employed in high official situations should be rightly and thoroughly understood, he could not regret the time that had been bestowed on the inquiry. With respect to what had been stated by the right hon. the master of the Mint, he was free to confess, that that right hon. gentleman, in many parts of his speech, had made out a good case for himself. But, at the same time, the right hon. gentleman must give him leave to express his fears, lest there might be some persons in the country who, from some parts of his statement, might suspect that more of private than of public feeling formed the groundwork of his actions, on the occasion in question; because he had, more than once, in the course of his speech, referred to certain objections to his entrance into the cabinet; and those objections might be construed into a ground of jealousy on the subject of the nomination of his noble friend as chairman of the committee of finance. He lamented that the statement of the right hon. gentleman should have furnished any handle for such a supposition as this; because it was most unfortunate when the people had any reason to believe, that the conduct of men acting in a public capacity was influenced by feelings of a private nature. With respect to the right hon. the Secretary for the Colonies, he must confess that his forming part of the present administration was the only ground upon which he built a hope of a good administration of the public affairs. He confessed, however, at the same time, that he should have been much better pleased, if he could have understood that the right hon. gentleman had obtained some more substantial guarantees, for the carrying into effect the measures to which he was pledged, than those to which he had alluded. The question was, how that right hon. gentleman happened to be in office? and the answer which he gave, and always repeated, to that question was, "I and certain others are in office; and that circumstance is a sufficient guarantee that our measures will be carried into execution." That, indeed, would be perfectly well, if the government of this country were divided into separate departments — if there were one government for the colonies, another for the financial department, a third for the army, and others for the various other great branches of the public service. But this was not the case. There was but one government; and if men wished to understand its principles, they must look to the individual who was placed at its head. If he wanted an authority on this point, he could appeal to the language of the right hon. the Home Secretary in the last session, who distinctly, and he thought triumphantly, stated, that he could no longer continue a member of the government, because the individual at its head was pledged to measures, or at least had avowed opinions, utterly dissonant from his own. It appeared from this, that he (Lord Milton) could have no stronger argument for withdrawing the little share of support which he had felt it his duty last session to furnish to the government, than the conduct of that right hon. gentleman himself. It was somewhat extraordinary that the right hon. the Secretary for the Colonies seemed to take credit to himself for not having entered into any stipulations. Now, he hoped he was mistaken in his notions on this head. He hoped it would turn out, that the right hon. gentleman had sufficient influence in the cabinet to procure his measures to be carried into effect; but when he recollected what had occurred last session, and considered to whom was attributable the defeat of that great measure, for the accomplishment of which the country looked to the right hon. gentleman, and when he saw the very individual who was the author of that defeat at the head of the government, he confessed he could not look forward with any sanguine expectations to the completion of that most important measure — a measure, the discussion of which it would be impossible for the right hon. gentleman to elude. He knew, indeed, that it was intended to bring the question forward, and, as was said, on the same principles as before; and he trusted he was too fearful in his anticipations. But if the measure should be carried through that House, and he defeated in the House of Lords, what would the country think? Would it not be thought that the right hon. gentleman had obtained but a poor guarantee for the accomplishment of his measures? He did not mean to say that the right hon. gentleman could have obtained sufficient guarantees. He did not know that the noble duke at the head of the administration was capable of giving them. He could not, of course, be answerable for the conduct of the House of Lords, but he could be answerable for his own conduct in the House of Lords, and for the influence of the government not being Unduly exercised. He was apprehensive the country would think that the right hon. gentleman had obtained but a slight guarantee, if he had only procured seats in the cabinet for himself and two or three others. It would be thought to be rather a barter for seats, than a means of carrying into effect the principles which were professed and proclaimed.
Lord Morpeth said, he had no wish to enter upon the discussion of the subjects which had been opened by the right hon. the Secretary for the Colonies, and the right hon. the Master of the Mint. The merits of their case were now before this House and the country; and it would be for the House and the country to form their deliberate judgment on the respective value of the statements severally made by the two right hon. gentlemen, the "Arcades" of the present cabinet. But there was one part of the speech of the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, upon which he could not help offering a few words. More he was sensible it would be superfluous to urge, but less it would be a dereliction of duty to utter. Having long looked to that right hon. gentleman as the representative of Mr. Canning's policy, and believing that policy to be intimately connected with the best interests of the country, he had seen the right hon. Secretary rise that evening with anxious hope; he had listened to his statements with deep attention; and, he was sorry to add, that he had heard him conclude with profound disappointment. It was, however, but justice to premise that, in respect of the statements lately made by him at Liverpool, that right hon. gentleman had made out his case most satisfactorily. What he complained of was this — when the right hon. gentleman, in common with those of his colleagues, who were supposed to participate in his views, separated himself from those members of the late government who had joined his departed friend in his hour of utmost need — acting, it must be believed, from the sincere conviction they entertained of the value of those principles which he advocated — when the right hon. gentleman allied himself to those who, it was now matter of notoriety (unless indeed the country had been most grossly deceived), had long differed from Mr. Canning on subjects of the most vital concernment — to those who, but in the preceding year, had manifested the strongest disposition to thwart the measures, and embitter the repose of the deceased minister — when the right hon. gentleman united himself with men who declined to follow his remains to the grave, he thought, and doubtless so did a majority of the country, that the right hon. gentleman would rest his justification upon demonstrating, that he had still maintained his principles, and that his sense of what was due to the public service had led him to sacrifice the natural feelings of a man, or rather of a friend, to the sterner duties of a patriot. With no small degree of surprise, therefore, and with yet greater pain, had he collected from the right hon. gentleman's speech of that evening, that the only security or guarantee for the perseverance of the present government in that policy, and those measures, was an impression, which the right hon. gentleman had been pleased to adopt in his own mind, that there was really so perfect a concurrence of opinion between him and his new colleagues in office, as would have made any more actual or matter-of-fact bargain or understanding between them, not only unnecessary, but degrading. Leaving the utter insufficiency of this statement to the remarks which had already been made upon it by his hon. friend (Mr. Stanley), in respect to the Catholic question, he would only observe, that he could make no secret of his own opinion, that it was of the last importance to the repose of the world at large, that Mr. Canning's system should be persevered in. The foreign relations of this country ever since they had passed under the control of that lamented statesman, had been governed by a policy, of which, consummate as he believed its wisdom to have been, and admirable as he considered its effects, he knew nothing more wise, more excellent, or more honourable — no, not even the well-timed recognition of the South American republics, not even the well-planned expedition to Portugal, than the sagacity displayed in the treaty of the 6th of July of last year, and the whole course of policy by which it had been succeeded. However that policy might be decried by some as dangerous, or sneered at by others as impracticable, he felt that it was inseparably connected with the glory of England and the happiness of the world. These measures, although no longer directed in the cabinet by the intelligent mind of the illustrious statesman with whom they had originated — although no longer enforced in this House by his powerful eloquence, his irresistible persuasion, and his unrivalled felicity of diction — although the voice was now mute which had once given that enunciation an energy not to be disputed, and the last consolation, which, in the absence of all this living persuasion, the House could have received, had that evening been swept away by the statement of the right hon. gentleman opposite — his sentiments with regard to the policy of Mr. Canning remained unchanged, and his opinion of its bearing on the public welfare unaltered; nor could he refrain from looking upon the right hon. gentleman as one who had abandoned those who were most willing to promote his own enlarged and intelligent views, and as having gone over to a body, which was inclined to thwart and to discourage them; and as having, above all, left the party of his late illustrious friend, without a leader, an existence, or a name.
Lord Palmerston said, that his right hon. friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, having appealed to him to confirm the correctness of some parts of the statement which he had made, he had great pleasure in doing so. Of some of the facts he was, as his right hon. friend had truly said, cognizant; and, in respect of these, he was able to bear his most willing testimony. Much discussion had arisen in respect of the principles upon which his noble friend in another House, his right hon. friend near him, and himself, had consented to join the present administration. It had been attempted to be shewn, that they could not have been justified in so joining the new government, unless they had previously obtained sufficient assurance and guarantee, as to the nature of the measures in which they might be called on to concur; and his right hon. friend, in particular, had been accused of abandoning one party in order to join another hostile to his own views of foreign and commercial policy. Now, looking either to their own situation, or to the character of those members of the government with whom they had to deal, it must surely be manifest to the House, that no such stipulations as those suggested that evening, could have been, for one moment, proposed or entertained. But, as had been already observed by his right hon. friend, he and his noble and right hon. friend felt it to be their duty to the public, to parliament, and to themselves, to ascertain, by the most direct and explicit means, what were the opinions and views of the individuals whom they were so invited to join, before they agreed to become constituent members of the government about to be formed. When application, for example, was first made to him, the only answer he could give to a proposal, general in its nature, was, that he should wish, in the first instance, to know of what individuals it was purposed to constitute the government, of which he was so invited to be a member. But, when he found that it was wished that his right hon. friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, should retain his office — that his noble friend at the head of the foreign department, should continue in that post, to direct our foreign relations — and his right hon. friend, the President of the Board of Trade, to direct the management of our commercial interests, he felt it to be quite unnecessary to seek further as to either the persons or the principles of the new administration. At the same time, he could need no better evidence of the sincerity with which the duke of Wellington must be disposed to carry on the measures to which they were pledged, than the simple fact of their continuance in their former offices. In respect, then, of our foreign relations, our commercial relations, and our general foreign policy, he had found that there existed no obstacles, either on the ground of principle, or of policy, which should oppose his acceding to the proposal to enter into the new government. — There was, indeed, a third question, of the greatest importance to the House and the country, to which he wished to allude: he meant the Catholic question, and he would ask, if a line of demarcation ought to be drawn in the choice of ministers merely on that account? There were, unfortunately, two parties, one for, and the other against, that measure; but surely no man could conscientiously say, that this ought to be a barrier against their acting together — that this great question should be carried by the simple decision of ministers, or even of the House, without trusting to the opinion of the public. It was by public opinion alone, excited and encouraged by the discussions in parliament, that this measure could ever be fully carried into effect: for, unless the public mind was prepared for the change, it would be worse than useless to adopt it. But even considering, in that point of view, the conduct of those members of the cabinet who had acted with the last ministry, and who had joined the present, they were fully justified in the part which they had taken. In the present cabinet there was a greater number of members who had voted for Catholic emancipation, than there was in that of Lord Liverpool: they could have no interest in swaying the public opinion; they had only to look to their own conduct, and he felt perfectly convinced that on this question, and indeed on every other, whether connected with our policy, foreign or domestic, they had pursued a course which was strictly honourable, and which would bear the strictest investigation. On the Catholic question in particular, they had had the most satisfactory explanation with the noble duke at the head of the government. His grace had stated, that it was his intention to observe the strictest neutrality on that point — neither to use his influence in opposing or in forwarding the measure. On that subject, and on every other which had been mentioned to the noble duke, he and his friends had received every explanation and satisfaction, short of such stipulations as men of honour could not grant, nor any man of honour require. After alluding to the fact, that the government of Ireland was intrusted by the present government to the same Lord lieutenant and chief secretary which had been designed and appointed by the last, and declaring that the whole of the practice of the government was in exact accordance with the principles of those who preceded them, the noble Lord concluded by declaring, that whenever those principles were abandoned, those who joined the present government could still find a security for the maintenance of their own views by retiring from office.
Mr. Littleton rose to exculpate his right hon. friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, from the blame of not having before given an explanation, and professed himself ready, to take that blame on himself — if blame attached to any person. On the return of his right hon. friend to town, he conveyed to him his belief, that it was the intention' of the gentlemen opposite, to put some questions to him on the Monday following. On Monday his right hon. friend attended in his place, when it was understood that those gentlemen meant to postpone putting their questions till the motion for a Committee of Supply on Wednesday. It was notorious, not only that his right hon. friend did attend in his place that evening, but that he was ready to give every information, and was anxious he should be called on to give it; but when the time came for appointing the Committee of Supply, the intention of questioning his right hon. friend was postponed till the appointment of the Committee of Finance on Friday. His right hon. friend came down to the House that night with the intention of making the explanation, but no opportunity was afforded him. For his part, he would express his satisfaction that the discussion had been delayed until this night; for it had given his right hon. friend an opportunity of reading a letter from Mr. Sheppard, by which he was completely borne out in his own statements, that there was at Liverpool no question of any guarantee, in the sense in which that word had been understood. He had felt at this complete explanation no ordinary satisfaction; for he had sat sixteen years in that House, and had supported the principles, and the line of conduct, followed by his right hon. friend. He had heard with satisfaction, the assurance that the noble duke had given, that this policy was not to be changed; and he was more satisfied on this head, as that assurance did not test on verbal pledges. Not that he was not as much disposed as any man to place his confidence on what that noble person asserted; but circumstances might arise which might make him adopt a new line of policy. But he now saw, by the continuance of three ministers in office, the government pledged in three departments — the department of the colonies, the department of commerce and trade, and the foreign department — to a continuation of the policy of the late administration. With regard to the Catholic question, he felt not uneasy; as he saw that the noble Secretary at War, who had been introduced into the cabinet on account of that question, had not been removed. His right hon. friend had satisfied him, that that question was still placed on the same basis as it was placed by Mr. Canning. The guarantees received were such, he thought, as were safe and consistent with honour. He could not say that that question was precisely in the same situation when he saw the right hon. member for Oxford who had objected to Mr. Canning's administration, on account of its favouring the Catholics, again in office; but it was his settled conviction, that there was no member of the administration more liberal or more candid, than that right hon. gentleman: and he considered his return to office as a guarantee of the continuance of the liberal policy of the government in our domestic concerns. But, though the government should be disposed to change, it could not be denied that it had been partly impelled into its liberal policy by the House of Commons; and the spirit of that House would still remain to keep the policy of the country consistent with the same principles. It was not possible at present to govern this country by any other than liberal measures. A country like this, wealthy and intelligent, and blessed with free institutions could not be governed in total disregard of the opinions of the people. He was satisfied that the government, as it was now constituted, would pursue a liberal policy; and, as long as it did, it should have his support, and no longer. He felt satisfied, that the noble duke would observe a strict neutrality as to the Catholic question; and, he hoped a more perfect neutrality than was observed by Lord Liverpool. He should not be satisfied, however, if the patronage of the Crown was all employed to support the views of those who opposed the Catholic question. That patronage had been employed, not to support the Catholics, but to bribe the most distinguished members of two professions, that they might oppose the Catholics; and thus, not only were the Catholics excluded from power, but the best and most able Protestants were bribed to oppose them. The hon. gentleman concluded by saying, that he should support the government, because he believed that it would have an honest regard to the pledges it had given.
Mr. T. Duncombe commenced by alluding to a passage in one of the letters read by Mr. Herries, and addressed to Lord Goderich, in which that right hon. gentleman expressed a hope, that his lordship's administration would stand, and that the country would not be deprived of the services of their mutual friend. Now, he wished to know who that mutual friend was?
Mr. Herries. — "Mr. Huskisson, of course."
Mr. Duncombe then wished to know, how it came to pass, that the right hon. gentleman should have informed the House, that it was for the first time that night he had ever heard of the resignation, or intended resignation, of the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, although allusion was manifestly made to the circumstance in several places in those letters? The noble Lord, lately at the head of the administration, had, in another place, given what was called a very fair account of the early stage of the disorder which had proved fatal to the cabinet; but he should have explained why the head fell nerveless and paralysed to the ground without any notice whatever to the other members. The right hon. gentleman ought to have explained the cause of the dissolution. It was stated by the noble Lord, that a dispute arose about the appointment of Lord Althorp as chairman of the Finance Committee, which had produced an irreconcilable breach between two members of the cabinet; but how that breach had been made up, and how the two members continued to sit in the same cabinet, the House had yet to learn. The House and the country, however, must learn from them how they could now sit side by side; how their pulses, which formerly were so irregular, could beat so soon in unison. The House must learn by what means the quietus had been produced, and how the direful wrath had been appeased. These and other circumstances still more complicated the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies had still to explain. There were one or two points, however, to which, without entering at large on the subject, he wished to call the attention of the right hon. gentleman. It had been stated, and never satisfactorily contradicted, that he had said, that nothing should ever induce him to unite in office with the duke of Wellington and Mr. Peel. He would not, however, ask for so much as this, and would be contented with the belief, that the words used were — that "he never would join the destroyers of his lamented friend." This, he believed, was the fact. Now, few virtues were so good and Christian-like as that of forgiveness; but the doctrine varied considerably when it applied to oneself, and when it applied to a friend, and a distinction ought to have been made. He was willing even to believe, that the statement was not correct; but still it had been currently reported, and no attempt had been made to disprove it, or to soften it down, as a noble Lord had done in another place, by representing it as a political occurrence which his friends wished to forget. He would only say, however, that if such an assertion had been made, the right hon. gentleman ought to say so, and admit that he ought not to have delivered it. He did not stand up as the champion of Mr. Canning; but he might say, even with the little experience he had, that the House never would be satisfied, unless a more full and satisfactory explanation was given. Several statements had been made and contradicted: more would follow, and would probably be contradicted also, not only here but elsewhere; and therefore a few more explanations must take place before the question could be set at rest. They must, in fact, be brought to the bar of public opinion; and if their deeds were bad, they should not be allowed to pass unnoticed and uncensured. There was a mystery altogether about the late change, which, he hoped yet to see cleared up, by the rising of the curtain which concealed persons of great consequence, incorporeal as well as corporeal.
It had been credibly affirmed, that there was a mysterious personage behind the scene, who concerted, regulated, and influenced, every arrangement. "There is," said the hon. gentleman, "deny it who can, a secret influence behind the throne, whose form is never seen, whose name is never breathed, who has access to all the secrets of the State, and who manages all the sudden springs of ministerial arrangement, — At whose soft nod the streams of honour flow, Whose smiles all place and patronage bestow. Closely connected with this invisible, this incorporeal person, stands a more solid and substantial form, a new, and formidable power, till these days unknown in Europe; master of unbounded wealth, he boasts that he is the arbiter of peace and war, and that the credit of nations depends upon his nod; his correspondents are innumerable; his couriers outrun those of sovereign princes, and absolute sovereigns; ministers of state are in his pay. Paramount in the cabinets of continental Europe, he aspires to the domination of our own; even the great Don Miguel himself, of whom we have lately heard and seen so much, was obliged to have recourse to the purse of this individual, before he could take possession of his throne. Sir, that such secret influences do exist is a matter of notoriety; they are known to have been but too busy in the underplot of the recent revolution. I believe their object to be as impure as the means by which their power has been acquired, and denounce them and their agents as unknown to the British constitution, and derogatory to the honour of the Crown. He trusted that the duke of Wellington, and the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, would not allow the finances of this great country to be controlled any longer by a Jew, or the distribution of the patronage of the Crown be operated upon by the prescriptions of a physician [a laugh].
Mr. Secretary Peel said, he did not rise to offer any thing in explanation of the causes of the dissolution of the late administration. Of those causes he knew absolutely nothing; and he was never aware of the existence of the correspondence which had been laid before them that night until he had heard it read. Knowing nothing, then, of those causes beyond what every gentleman knew who read the public papers, no consideration on earth should induce him to enter upon a discussion of them, or to pronounce any opinion. upon them. He could not proceed further without noticing one or two expressions in the speech of the hon. gentleman who had just sat down, as to the mysterious, incorporeal, and incomprehensible, being of which he had spoken. He did not know where it existed. He had, for some years, been in the service of his majesty, and he never was aware that any of the measures of the government had been thwarted by this incomprehensible being, nor had he ever found that the other more substantial personage had interfered, in the way stated by the hon. gentleman, with the financial affairs of the country. As he was perfectly ignorant of the existence of any species of influence like that alluded to by the hon. member, he could not afford him any information upon that point. — He was not aware that there was any explanation required by that House from him, regarding the circumstances attendant upon his return to the office which he had the honour to fill. He was ready to answer any question which might be put to him respecting the circumstances and reasons which had induced him to join the present administration. He was willing to state every thing that was material, and should any omission be pointed out to him, he would gladly supply it. Upon the night of the 9th of January, while then residing in Sussex, he received at midnight a letter from his grace the duke of Wellington, stating, that he had been commissioned by his majesty to form a new ministry, and requesting that he would, without delay, return to London, as his grace was anxious to confer with him in the first instance, upon the subject. He left the place where he was residing that night, and arrived in London early on the following morning. He waited immediately upon the duke of Wellington. His grace repeated to him the substance of what he had written; namely, that his majesty had applied to him for the purpose of consulting him respecting the formation of a new administration: he said that he was the first person to whom he had applied, and asked if he was willing to form a part of it. He then asked his grace who was to occupy the situation of prime minister? To which the duke replied, that he believed his majesty intended that he should fill that situation, but that he had requested his majesty, if such were his intention, to postpone his determination a little, in order that he might have an opportunity of making up his mind upon the subject. He then stated to the duke of Wellington, that if he were to stand in the capacity of prime minister he, (Mr. Peel) for one, was perfectly willing to serve under him in any capacity, and he took that opportunity of stating to the duke his opinion, that, the men most fit for the reconstruction of the cabinet, men whose principles were the most acceptable to himself and to the country, were to be found among those who had formed part of Lord Liverpool's administration. He stated to his grace, that, under existing circumstances, he saw-no course so likely to soften down the prejudices of parties as that to which he had alluded. He added, that if he could be satisfied of the duke's becoming prime minister, if his grace also contemplated the resignation of the office of commander-in-chief, he should not hesitate to take a part in his administration. He then said, that if he were at liberty to express his opinion respecting the manner in which the government should be reconstructed, he would then do so, which would also give the noble duke an opportunity of learning how far his opinions were in accordance with his own. He then stated to the noble duke, that, taking into consideration the state of the country, the state of the House of Commons as to the talents of public men there, and the general condition of our foreign and commercial relations, he did not think it consistent with his duty to withhold his opinion, that the country could not be governed upon any exclusive principles. He had stated, that it was impossible to narrow their views to the mere personal opinions which might be entertained by particular men, but that they must carry them much further; and looking, as he had said, to the state of the country generally, and to the state of that House also — divided as it was in opinion almost equally upon the Catholic question, the numbers being 276 to 272 — he believed it to be impossible, with satisfaction to the country, to form a government founded either on the principle of excluding the Catholic question altogether, or of making the carrying of that question a sine qua non. Looking to the agitated state of the commercial and agricultural interests, it did appear to him, that the government should be formed upon such grounds as were not likely to promote one of those interests to the injury of the other, but that it should be so composed as to promote the interests of all. Looking also to the state of Europe, and to that part of it more especially which might be said to be remaining in a state of conflict, he thought that the course which the government should pursue was, a course of moderation, and that it should act as mediator between the contending parties. The duke of Wellington then said, that his own opinions on these subjects were in precise concurrence with his; and that he was happy to find that their views coincided so entirely. — Some right hon. gentlemen had thought fit to impute to him, and to some noble and right hon. friends near him, a sacrifice of the opinions which they formerly professed to entertain, by their joining the present government. He should say, in answer to such imputation, that if he had taken any other course than that which he had, he should have been justly chargeable with inconsistency. He had stated in that House, on a former occasion, that the ground on which he had refused to act in the administration of Mr. Canning was the Catholic question, and that alone; and if that could have been put aside, there was no public ground on which he would have refused to act with him as prime minister. He had made that declaration at the time verbally, and he had afterwards put it upon record; namely, about two days before he relinquished the office of Secretary of State for the Home Department. On the 9th of April last — and there could be no public inconvenience in referring to the circumstance now — the then chancellor, Lord Eldon, waited upon him at the command of his majesty, for the purpose of ascertaining whether any change had taken place in the sentiments he had avowed respecting the appointment of Mr. Canning. He had a conversation with Lord Eldon on the subject, and said he wished to have an opportunity of explaining himself personally, both to his majesty and to Mr. Canning; but that as he deemed it a matter of some importance, he would also express his opinion on the subject to him. (Lord Eldon) in writing. He accordingly did write a letter to the Lord Chancellor, of which he would now read a part. This letter was dated April 9: — My dear Lord Chancellor, — To prevent any misconception, allow me to commit to writing the substance of what I stated to you this morning. I must candidly say, that I wish to see the present government resting on the same footing as it did before Lord Liverpool's misfortune. As regards myself, I am content with my situation, and wish for no change; and, with the single exception of the difference of opinion respecting the Catholic question, I am ready to act with them in every other matter. I can assure you, that I esteem and respect them, and should consider it a great misfortune for his majesty to be deprived of the services of any of them, particularly of the services of Mr. Canning. I can say with the greatest truth, that with the single exception of the Catholic question, my opinions are in accordance with theirs. This extract would show what his opinions then were, and such they remained. The government which was then formed having been dissolved, how could he refuse to enter again into the king's service? And if he did re-enter it, was he not right in advising the ministry to be reconstructed from those with whom he agreed? There was nothing inconsistent in any thing he had done in this respect; and as to the jealousies and personal animosities towards Mr. Canning, which were so much talked about, he had indulged in. no such feelings. On the day of the date of the above letter, he said, in that House, that the transfer of the office of prime minister from Lord Liverpool to Mr. Canning, differing as he did in opinion with that right hon. gentleman on the Catholic question, constituted a great difficulty in, the way of his entering that administration. He felt, upon such an important domestic question, that if he took office, he should, from his situation in the Home Department, necessarily have to come in frequent collision with the head of the government, who differed from him respecting it: and, as he could never, under such circumstances, continue to act with satisfaction to himself, he decided that he could not take part in that administration. But, when the duke of Wellington took the office of prime minister, no such ground of objection existed, and he felt himself at liberty to join his government. His recollection of what passed on the formation of that government was very much in accordance with what had been stated by his noble friend, the Secretary at War, for, from the moment that the duke of Wellington determined that an offer should be made to the members of Lord Liverpool's government, the duke said, "let us put the matter to them fairly and freely upon public grounds." No stipulations were offered or required, but there was a spontaneous desire on the duke's part, to make such propositions to those individuals as must prove acceptable to all. The duke felt the importance of preserving unchanged the existing policy respecting the general affairs of Europe, especially as concerned the affairs in the East; and he felt also, that it would be a great public advantage to secure the valuable assistance of earl Dudley in the Foreign-office. On the 10th of January the noble duke had assured him, that no change should take place in the government of Ireland; and although some dissatisfaction had been expressed, in some quarters, respecting the appointment of the right hon. gentleman who was secretary for that country, he could only say, that if it were left to name any person to that office, he could not select an individual better qualified than that right hon. gentleman. — Respecting the Catholic question, every member of the present administration was at liberty to take what line of conduct he might choose: it was deemed to be an open question; and the patronage of Ireland was to remain neutral, as it was pledged to be in Mr. Canning's government. The noble duke had agreed in opinion with him on these points; and he believed that it was his intention to act steadily and honestly up to the declarations which he had made upon this subject. — With respect to the corn question, that had been referred to as a reason why a union never could take place between the remnant of two former administrations. Now, what-fever was the value of the objection, it did not apply to him. He had expressed no dissent from the principles of the corn bill brought in by Mr. Canning: and, in fact, at the time when Mr. Canning's state of health rendered it doubtful whether he could bring it forward, it had been agreed that, in the right hon. gentleman's absence, he should introduce it to the House. A noble Lord opposite (Milton) had spoken of the amendment moved by the duke of Wellington upon that bill, which ended in its rejection; and had inferred that, from that event, there could be no junction in a government between the noble duke and the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies. Now, he denied that there was any evidence that the duke of Wellington was hostile to the principle of that bill. He had sat in the cabinet when it was introduced; he had voted for the second reading of it; and there was nothing, as regarded principle, which could be objected to him for having altered the details. The amendment which the noble duke had moved to the bill which had been lost, formed no bar to his supporting another bill brought in upon similar principles. But the fact was, that a consistency and a unanimity of opinion was called for, or affected to be called for, in the members of the government, which it was folly to suppose ever could exist. In consenting to become a member of an administration, he did not surrender, or believe that he was bound to surrender, his opinions to any man. He protested that he never would enter the service of the Crown, or of the country, if the terms were, that he was implicitly to adopt the views of any minister — of Lord Liverpool, of the duke of Wellington, or of Mr. Canning. With respect to the last-mentioned right hon. gentleman, if the Catholic question could have been put out of sight, and if Mr. Canning had asked him to become a member of his administration, he should have answered — " There are matters on which we do not think alike; but we have sat in the same cabinet for five years, and I know of no cause which should preclude me from serving with you, or under you." For, could it be supposed that any head of an administration ought to expect — or would any one who acted with him consent that he should be permitted — to lay down his personal opinions like a formula, to which every one about him was bound, without objection or qualification, to subscribe? He repeated, that he would have served with the late Mr. Canning, or under him. He saw no point on which he ought to have declined to do so, except the single point of the Catholic question. A noble Lord had spoken of the policy of the South American question, and of the expedition to Portugal. He had concurred in the South American policy. He believed that many of the South American colonies had, at the time in question, established a de facto independence of the mother country, and that it was time that that independence should be formally acknowledged. As for the expedition of Portugal — he found Portugal in a state of danger which gave him every disposition to act, and as the question stood, he was not bound to call principle to his aid upon the subject, for we found the country bound by treaties, from which it was impossible, in honour or in justice, for her to depart. He did not stand there as the " laudator temporis acti," but he repeated — that perfect agreement in any administration could not, and ought not, to be looked for. It could not fairly exist. He was ready to serve in the government, if he could; but never unless he were allowed to retain his own views and feelings upon ten thousand possible questions, which, in the complicated state of society, would arise, and to provide for which, by any arrangement or settlement of principle, was impossible. He thought that the proposal which the noble duke at the head of affairs had made to the members of the present administration was one which it was impossible for any of them to reject; unless those who meant to say, that the fact of their once having been in office under Mr. Canning precluded them from taking office under anybody else. The explanations given upon this point seemed to him fully satisfactory. The hon. member who spoke last gave little encouragement to explanation, when he declared, that he would not be satisfied although parties should go on explaining to eternity; but he believed that every circumstance which required notice had been accounted for. The same hon. member charged his right hon. friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, with having given a pledge to his friends and to the country, that he never would take office under the duke of Wellington, or —
Mr. T. Duncombe said, "No." He had merely said that which was the fact; namely, that the right hon. gentleman had declared he never would act with those who caused the destruction of Mr. Canning.
Mr. Secretary Peel continued. He would not moot the point with the hon. gentleman; for the principle was that which he desired to go upon. Was there never to be an end of the desire to make every transient hostility interminable? The noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Affairs had treated this dangerous and unreasonable desire as it deserved, when he had spoken of the praise which was due to Mr. Canning, for having forgotten his personal difference with the late marquis of Londonderry, the instant that the country seemed likely to be assisted by their union. For himself, he could only say, that if it was a point of honour to recollect one's own quarrels, or the quarrels of one's friends, he thought it an act incomparably more noble, to forget those animosities when the public interest would be served by burying them in oblivion. He hoped, therefore, most sincerely, that there would be an end of these demands for explanation, and of explanation itself, as of every other circumstance which could tend to impede that cordial union for the promotion of the public welfare, which he was sure, if it was permitted to do so, would distinguish the conduct of the present ministry. If government was allowed to take its course, as much unanimity and as much exertion would mark the administration of the duke of Wellington, as had distinguished any ministry that had ever existed in the country; certainly as much as could belong to any ministry capable of being formed in the existing state of parties. He trusted that what had been done already, since the business of the session had commenced, had evinced at least a disposition, from which no evil to the country would be expected. As far as he was concerned, his object should be to do that which he had recommended; namely, to forget all differences which had existed, and to ask only, how far the expectations of the public from the government as it stood was likely to be realized. He had never sought to be recalled to office. His being replaced in it was neither of his asking nor of his particular desire: but, since he was in office, he would steadily perform that which he believed to be his duty: he would execute the trust which, in taking place, he had contracted with the Crown and with the nation; especially aiming to promote the union of the ministry with which he was connected, and to avoid exciting any differences by which its stability could be endangered. — One word more was all with which he would detain the House. It referred to a subject which it was right should be fully understood, as connected with the dissolution of the late ministry and the formation of the present. On the 8th of January, when his majesty had commissioned the noble duke at the head of affairs to form a new government, his majesty had accompanied his commands for that purpose with the following declaration: — "I commit to you the formation of a new ministry: the last administration has been dissolved. But it is my duty to inform you, that, if that administration had not been dissolved by acts of its own, I would have remained faithful to it to the last." There were circumstances which made it expedient that this fact should be known. For himself, he believed it was impossible to attribute the dissolution of the late government, to any other than the causes which had been brought before the House in the course of the explanations of the evening. He repeated, that he thought there had been discussion enough. If there was any point connected with his personal acceptance of office that wanted explanation, he was ready to give it to any member who might call upon him. But he thought his right hon. colleagues had gone as far as it was necessary, or possible, for them to go.
Mr. Secretary Huskisson rose to explain. He said, he trusted that his peculiar situation would excuse his intrusion upon the House for a few moments. The declaration of the hon. member opposite, as to what he had heard of his pledge not to join the opponents of Mr. Canning — those words of his which the hon. member had converted into a pledge, and which he could only have heard by some scandalous violation of private confidence — had been so much talked of and so grossly misrepresented, that he would state what they really were. He had never uttered any thing like the words that were imputed to him; namely, "that he would never again take office with those who had persecuted Mr. Canning to the death" — to the death, or to destruction; for it mattered little what the precise expression was which was thus sought to be put into his mouth. What he had said was this — when he returned to England in August, he had used the expression, that "his wounds were too green, and too fresh, to admit of his serving in the same ministry with those who had deserted the service of their country when the ministry of his friend, Mr. Canning, had been formed." He complained scarcely less of the violation, of private confidence which would have betrayed his real words, than of their conversion into the monstrous calumny which he had now refuted; but there was a difference, and a wide one, between his speaking of his feelings while his wounds were green and fresh, and a declaration of hostility, which was to bind his conduct to eternity. The right hon. gentleman went on to justify himself against the want of confidence imputed to him by the right hon. member for Knaresborough. If there had been any design or any cabal, to him it was entirely unknown. So late as the 26th of December, he had the firmest intention of remaining in the councils of the country. Of this he could not give a stronger proof than by stating, that after that time two persons of great eminence, politically opposed to him, had intimated plainly, that the embarrassments of the government were so evident, that some measures ought to be taken, and that they were disposed to address the king upon the subject. To this communication he had answered, that the point was one upon which he could give no opinion; but that, whatever resolution they might take, he thought they ought decidedly to state it first to Lord Goderich. It was in consequence of this occurrence, that Lord Goderich had waited on his majesty on the 8th of January; and at that time he had absolutely not been aware whether the noble Lord went to submit his grievances to the king, or to propose some plan by which those grievances might be remedied.
Mr. Brougham said, that at so late an hour he should not be suspected of intending to trespass long upon the patience of the House. Indeed, the subject in debate was one upon which an immense deal of what was needless had already been said, and upon which it might have been sufficient, by taking up the question at the right point, to have said very little. The right hon. gentleman, the late chancellor of the Exchequer, had explained to the House every thing but the short facts which it was desirous to have explained. As to the few material points which had, been suggested by the noble opener of the debate, there had been a very abundant discussion upon all the other topics, but upon those the country was nearly as much in the dark as ever. As the story stood, it illustrated the well-known saying of chancellor Oxtenstern to his son. — " You see with how little wisdom the world can be governed." The whole of the late ministry appeared to have been in a doubt for some time, whether it was the ministry at all, or whether office belonged to some other party, and was vested in some other place. Two members of the cabinet were walking about in considerable uncertainty whether they belonged to the cabinet or not. The head of the government was chiefly distinguished for always moving about with the resignations of two of his chief officers in his pockets; and for an apparent alarm, when they left him, as to what he should do to provide himself with new ones. Then the letter of the right hon. the present master of the Mint made a considerable figure in the scene: it answered all questions, and was referred to in all emergencies. The noble Lord at the head of Administration was terrified lest he should lose his chancellor of the Exchequer. But the right hon. gentleman was inexorable, and constantly referred to his letter of the 22d of December. "But pray do not resign," said the noble Lord at the head of affairs. "My letter of the 22d of December," said the chancellor of the Exchequer. "But I am agitated beyond measure," said the noble Lord. "My letter of the 22d of December," continued the chancellor of the Exchequer. The noble Lord pleaded almost in tears; but still the stony-hearted chancellor of the Exchequer pointed to his letter of the 22d of December. In short, not a word could be got out of the right hon. gentleman, but a stern reference to his letter of the 22d of December! Then the quarrel between the two right hon. gentlemen opposite was of the most extraordinary description. It was endless, hopeless, walls of brass were raised to divide the contending parties for ever. To communicate with each other was impossible. Then both parties communicated to a third person; but still, each with a caution, that what he said was, on no account, to be repeated to the other. Every possible course resorted to, to avoid the possibility of a reasonable explanation, which would have put an end to the difficulty altogether. This was the state of things in the cabinet: in the House of Commons it was scarcely more intelligible. The right hon. the master of the Mint spoke of his anxiety to make up the government: but the proceedings taken to that end were the most extraordinary it was possible to conceive. For Lord Goderich, he could bear witness to the conduct of that noble Lord while a member of the House of Commons; and he had no hesitation in declaring, that the country was indebted to him for his services there. The honourable feeling and amiable disposition of the noble Lord were the theme of commendation by all who knew him: and he must say, that he felt a good deal surprised at the tone of sarcasm in which the late chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken of the noble Lord. For himself, he was not surprised that the noble Lord had been distracted, surrounded as he was with such elements of discord as the House had seen that night. If any one wanted the history of his distress, the two right hon. gentlemen on the other side had given a very good account of it. For how could any man alive, unless he was a military man as well as a politician, have controlled and quelled the tumults of the right hon. gentleman. Unless he was a soldier with a provost-martial at his back, how could he reduce them to any show of order? The only chance for a civilian would have been to have carried them both to Bow-street, and have had them sworn to keep the peace, before he swore them in members of the cabinet. All which were measures of discipline too strict for the mild and amiable character of Lord Goderich to resort to. The facts, however, of the right hon. the late chancellor of the Exchequer, in his address to the House, were peculiarly worthy of attention. The right hon. gentleman scoffed at the thought of his having broken up the late ministry. He said that it was a joke, a farce, a hollow pretext, and twenty other things beside, to accuse him of having broken up the government. The dissolution was brought on by some other cause — by a design, an intrigue, a cabal, to dissolve the administration.
Mr. Herries said, the hon. and learned, gentleman was in error. He had used no such terms, nor any like them. He had not spoken of any cabal.
Mr. Brougham said, that he himself did not recollect the word "cabal.:" it had been recollected for him by an hon. friend on his right hand. But it was a matter of no consequence. It should not be called a cabal, but a simple design, a plan, any thing the right hon. gentleman thought fit. That such a plan, or design, however, did form part of the right hon. gentleman's argument was beyond denial; and the right hon. gentleman had put the fact in the strongest way. He said, "I know it." The House would not forget those words, from the loud cheers by which they had been followed. The high Tory party — who supported the right hon. gentleman because they knew that he would go any lengths to serve them, consistently with his duty — as soon as they heard the words, "I know it," uttered a cheer which rent the House; upon which the right hon. gentleman had repeated the words, 'with an appeal to the table, as could be testified by the hon. members near him. Now, as a constitutional lawyer, he would offer an opinion to the House. He entirely agreed with his right hon. friend, the member for Knaresborough, that if any person, being of the privy council, conceived a design to put an end to the king's government — if any party (also of the privy council) knew of that design, not being himself a sharer in it, and did not disclose it to the king, that person's secrecy was an impeachable offence. Now, let the House mark — no sooner did the right hon. the late chancellor of the Exchequer hear this opinion of the right hon. member for Knaresborough, than he straightway began to explain, that he had not meant to say that he knew the thing, but only that he must have known it. Presently it came to this that he had reason to conclude, to infer, to think, and so forth. The right hon. gentleman also, in his extreme modesty, found a cause why he could not have dissolved the government. It was impossible that so insignificant a person as he was in the cabinet could have accomplished such an act. Now the right hon. gentleman in this point, certainly did himself injustice: it was impossible that a gentleman, who had been near breaking up a government in August, and absolutely did break up one in January, could be properly called insignificant. — The hon. and learned gentleman then proceeded to examine the letters of Lord Goderich and Mr. Herries, and contended that, from those letters, it appeared that, at the time when that right hon. gentleman complained of having been overlooked and neglected in the appointment of Lord Althorp, he must have known that that appointment was not finally decided upon. It had been talked of, and with the approbation of Lord Goderich. The letter of Lord Goderich distinctly stated, not that he was not a party to the mention of the appointment, but that it was not final. Early in December, the right hon. gentleman was acquainted with the fact, that nothing finally was concluded upon. He was informed of what was done, and made no objection; and yet, three weeks afterwards, he talked of having arrangements made behind his back, and of the caballing, planning, appointing, determining, and finally arranging, a matter in which he ought to have been, but was not, officially consulted. But another ray of light broke in upon them in this matter. That was the letter of Lord Goderich in January. That letter, which went into a detail so long, that it might be called prolix, clearly showed, that the right hon. gentleman was mistaken. It admonished him on the subject of his mistake, and advised him to reconsider his offer of resignation. After all these repeated communications, the right hon. gentleman complained that it was intended to thwart him in his office. What object could the right hon. the member for Liverpool, or the right hon. the member for Knaresborough, have in thwarting him? They both denied it, and declared, that, from the time of his appointment, they had uniformly behaved towards him with the greatest kindness. What, then, could be meant by the complaint of being thwarted? The House had, upon this occasion, been let a little into the secret of the manner in which part of the business in that House was arranged. It appeared that one member of the cabinet pulled out from his pocket a list of some seventy names, from which the committee was to be selected. Many hon. members imagined, in their simplicity, that, the House elected committees of this kind, but no such thing. From the secrets which had slipped out, it seemed that though they were permitted to go through the form, they were spared the trouble of the selection. One member, pulling out his list, said, "have you any objection to this or that man?" and the other replied, by asking whether there was any objection to another. And they not only saved the House the trouble of electing the committee, but even the committee was not allowed to elect its chairman. Some intelligent member of the cabinet not only anticipated the names of the men whom the House were to choose as the committee, but also the name of the individual whom that committee were to select as their chairman; and he had never found that those anticipations were not accurate. — But to return. The right hon. gentleman had stated, that he was too insignificant to blow up the government, and the inference he would have the House to draw was, that the destruction of that ministry was preconcerted. Now, let the House consider what were the objections of the right hon. gentleman to Lord Althorp — that he was a party man. Why, the reverse of that was the cause why he had been named, in the first instance. He had never been recognized as a party man. He was at the head of a set of gentlemen who acted independently, without reference to the views of any party. But, it appeared that Lord Althorp stood committed on the bullion question, and had given a strong opinion respecting the sinking-fund. Were the committee, he begged to ask, to be precluded from making any inquiries respecting the bullion question? Were they not to inquire into the expenditure, into the rise of salaries, in consequence of the depreciation of the currency, into the increase of taxes, as the result of the same cause 1 If they were not, they need not send to Downing-street for the appointment of a committee; they could appoint one themselves, and it would not be difficult to get those who would move and second a motion for such a committee. When he said this, he begged to be understood as not meaning to quarrel with the committee. It was as fair a committee as he could desire; by one third fairer than any Finance Committee he had before seen. He augured well from its formation; and he had no doubt that it would inquire into the rise of salaries, into the increase of taxes, and into the bullion question. That question was at the root of all these — the sinking-fund was only part and parcel. Yet the late chancellor of the Exchequer, because he considered Lord Althorp as committed on the bullion question, was prepared rather to resign On the 21st of December, than consent to that appointment; although the right hon. gentleman had not objected to the appointment of sir H. Par-nail, a gentleman who was not only committed on the bullion question, but had written a book upon it. He had spoken on the subject a hundred times, and always with effect. He had moved finance resolutions over and over again, in which the sinking-fund was mentioned; he was a political economist, at the head of a set of political economists, and was even a member of the political economists' club; and yet, with all these qualities, so objectionable in the eyes of the late chancellor of the Exchequer, he had made no sort of objection whatever to his appointment; though, rather than consent to the nomination of Lord Althorp with only one of those objectionable qualities, he was prepared on the 21st of December to resign his situation. The right hon. gentleman could not consent to this appointment, as it derogated from his dignity: about that dignity he was quite solicitous, so as to be angry with Lord Goderich's administration, and yet at a nod or a beck from the duke of Wellington he became mild as a lamb. The moment the field marshal gave the word of command, he was all obedience, and gave up, without a murmur, his office of chancellor of the Exchequer, resigned the golden gown, in which he (Mr. B.) had seen him sworn into office in the court of Exchequer, and retired to the less dignified, the less responsible, and certainly the less lucrative, office of Master of his majesty's Mint. — The hon. and learned gentleman went on to say, that they had now sat till two o'clock in the morning, and he who began the discussion was not better informed on the subject than at the outset. He had heard many statements, and much anecdote, some of a gay and some of a more serious character; but something untold still remained behind, which would have explained the matter at once. Would it not have been better to say at once," you wish for information as to the cause of the late break up, but I will not tell you? "For his own part, however well others had acquitted themselves in this explanation, he must confess that the statement of the right hon. gentleman had given him no satisfaction; it still left some doubts on his mind; the shifting of his ground, first assenting, or at least not objecting, to the appointment of Lord Althorp, afterwards protesting against it, and then attributing the dissolution of the ministry to a preconcerted plan on the part of others. — As to the statement of the right hon. gentleman who spoke last, he was surprised he should have found it necessary to occupy the time of the House in making a defence, where there was no charge. It was true he had obtained a triumph, if that could be called a triumph, where there was no antagonist. It reminded him of a person who had gone into a court of justice, and having got himself into the dock, and seeing' a jury in the box, demanded to be put upon his trial; but on being informed that he could not be tried, as there was no charge against him, left the dock, boasting of his triumphant acquittal. The right hon. gentleman boasted of the consistency of his conduct, in resigning office in April last, and re-entering it at present. That, however, was not the question. Why had not some of his right hon. friends near him imitated that conduct, and declined office for a similar reason; namely, that the person at the head of the government possessed too much influence upon a question which they held to be so important to the country? — As to the lengthened statement of the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, to prove that he had not got a guarantee, it was wholly unnecessary. Did any man believe that it could have been meant that he had got a guarantee in the legal sense of the word? A guarantee should be written, and on a stamp. By the statute of frauds, for preventing corrupt practices, no guarantee could be legal unless it was in writing, and on a proper stamp. Now, he would ask, was it necessary for the right hon. gentleman to show that he had not a guarantee of that description? Beyond that, then, the statement of the right hon. gentleman did not go, on the subject of pledges or guarantees. Still, however that statement was the most important they had heard that night. If a man spoke to an audience of having had conversations, explanations, and understandings, with another on a particular subject would they not apply those conversations explanations, and understandings, to that subject, just as much as if it were written would the million in Ireland understand these conversations, &c, to apply to the policy of the measures of one or other on the parties with whom they were had would it not be said, that explanation was the result of conversation, and that the result of that explanation, in the case before the House, was the acceptance of office by the right hon. gentleman?, But it was said, that the guarantees were understood to be implied by the presence, in the same cabinet, of the Secretary for Ireland, the President of the Board of Trade, and the noble Secretary at War. Were these the guarantees? He was afraid the public would not so consider them. Let the House look to the situation of Ireland, and ask, whether a change for the better had taken place. — The learned gentleman here alluded to the late sentence of eighteen months' imprisonment against Mr. Eneas Macdonnell, in Dublin, for a libel on archdeacon French; and after remarking that it was much more severe than the punishment of many atrocious libels against some of the highest personages in this country, asked, could any man doubt that the judges who sentenced Mr. Macdonnell considered, not that they had the author of a libel on Mr. French before them, but the active, and zealous, and persevering, agent of that hated body, the Catholic Association. Then it was said, that the right hon. gentleman had a guarantee for the foreign policy of the country in the person of Lord Dudley. But who sat on the same bench with him, as member of the same cabinet? A young nobleman, who certainly possessed hereditary claims to great sagacity, and yet, somehow or other, had not yet succeeded in establishing himself in the possession. That young nobleman had stated, that he had never been opposed to the foreign policy of Mr. Canning, yet he could not disguise the fact, that he had always been of opinion, and in that his opinion remained unchanged, that Mr. Canning was a dangerous man. Yet these were the discordant materials, of which the guarantees for the policy of Mr. Canning were made up ! As to the guarantee for free trade in the person of a right hon. gentleman (Mr. C. Grant), the House, without in any way detracting from that gentleman's merit, would know what value to set upon it when they recollected the events of last summer, and saw in them an efficient counter-guarantee in the policy of the duke of Wellington. One point more he would advert to. He meant the dilemma between which the late under Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Stanley), whose talents all admired, had placed some members of the present, who had belonged to the late ministry. Either the members who resigned when Mr. Canning became prime minister did so from personal hatred to him, or from opposition to his principles. If they went out from the former feeling, it snowed a disposition at once weak and contemptible, and such as should ever prevent any friend of Mr. Canning's from joining with them; if from hostility to Mr. Canning's principles, how could those who affected to be guided by those principles, take office under men who had thus publicly opposed them? This was an argument to which he had heard no answer; and he believed it would be very difficult to give a good one. — Upon the subject of the construction of this new administration there would still be much to say, as well as with reference to the treatment experienced by that lamented person, to whom allusion had so frequently been made. He wished to abstain from touching further upon this topic. He was not about to bring a charge against any man, nor indeed to find fault with any person's conduct. Those to whom he referred must have feelings by I which they were swayed; and to the operation of those feelings, of which they ought to be the best judges, he left them, But, while he made this allusion to one class of the members of the late government, there was another, from which he could not withhold his highest admiration, for the display of generous and dignified feeling which had characterized their uniform conduct — unawed by power, or deterred by the weak and childish effeminacy of abstaining from the manifestation of feelings which, when true, always did honour to human nature — in coining forward feelingly and gallantly to rescue the memory of their departed friend, from the unsafe keeping of some of his surviving colleagues. — For his own part, seeing the manner in which this government had been abolished, and afterwards so re-constructed, to the exclusion of some men with whom the parties had professed to act while in office, and the admission of others with whom they had not had the same degree of cordiality, the excluded being those in whom the public were, he believed, disposed to place implicit confidence — he confessed he could not anticipate much from the change which had recently taken place. With respect to those who no longer formed a part of the administration, he might now and then have thought of some of them, that they had failed a little in the exhibition of that promptitude and firmness, which ought to; belong to persons of their reputation and character. As this had, he knew, been more especially said of Lord Lansdowne, of whom it had been insinuated, that he had not put himself sufficiently forward, so as to have prevented all this mischief, by acting in resistance to these machinations, with the vigour and firmness which became him, he wished to say, that the vindication of Lord Lansdowne's conduct did not belong to him, while that noble Lord himself was so much better capable of sustaining it; but he would nevertheless take leave to say, that no charge was more unfair than that which would attach this degree of responsibility to one who was placed in so delicate and perplexing a situation; that such a man, possessing boundless fortune, great and commanding talents, equanimity and magnanimity of temper, the highest virtue, the most extensive popularity, should be placed in the: altered government — not first, but something like second, and at times, hardly that — was, indeed, a perplexing and harassing position: it was one of too equivocal, too uncertain, a character, to enable him to put forward — indeed, it rendered impossible that he should put forward — that manly vigour of character which he knew that noble Lord eminently to possess, from a more than thirty years' intimate acquaintance, qualities which he knew naturally and habitually to belong to him. For his noble friend to be charged by his worst enemies, at this, which he might call advanced, period of his public life, with only wanting the forwardness of pert intermeddling and interference, was a high gratification to his friends. It was to say of him this, and it was no small praise, that, as in his early years his character had been tempered with the discretion and foresight which other men could only attain at riper years, so in his maturer age, he united the experience of his more confirmed character, with the modesty of youth.
The Committee of Supply was then postponed till Wednesday.
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