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Majesty was not satisfied by the argument which I submitted for his consideration.
'Lord BATHURST to Mr. PEEL.
Council Office, January 17, 1829.
666 MY DEAR MR. PEEL,
"Many thanks for having been good enough to send me the paper which you had sent to the King, and the receipt of which he mentioned to me.
"It is certainly what the King seemed to admit it to be—a good statement; and I should say an argumentative one, if my gracious Master had not denied it to be one.
"Yours very sincerely,
The day before the meeting of Parliament, Mr. Peel tendered the resignation of his seat for the University of Oxford. 'He 'did so,' he says, 'upon the impulse of private feelings, rather 'than a dispassionate consideration of the constitutional re'lations between a representative and his constituents.' He appears to have entertained great doubt whether he was taking a proper course, although his motives and scruples were unquestionably delicate and honourable. This resignation has always appeared to us to have been an error in judgment: it was quite certain that it would have no practical effect,—if indeed it could have had any, it would have been an act of criminality on his part to expose to any hazard a measure of such paramount importance, and to put in jeopardy the peace of the Empire in deference to the prejudices of the University. Great difference of opinion prevailed in the academical body, and (as he says) there had been indications, even before the events of 'the autumn of 1828, that the opposition to concession on the 'part of the University was gradually becoming less decided.' Some traces of this change may be found even in the very absurd letters of Dr. Lloyd, the then Bishop of Oxford, Sir Robert's ci-devant tutor, for whose opinion the Minister seems to have felt a degree of respect which the correspondence of the Prelate does not justify.
This fact alone proves that it would have been infinitely wiser to have brought the whole case, and the reasons by which he had been actuated, before the world, and have given the University time for forming a calm judgment upon it, rather than to challenge a contest, while academical and clerical minds were in an excited state, and when, in consequence, his re-election could not be otherwise than doubtful. The result proved that his resignation was a mistake; he suffered the mortification of a defeat, which stimulated the exertions of the opponents of the Ministerial measures, and renewed the scruples of the King.
His Majesty, who appears to have turned over to the AntiCatholic side, either from capricious antipathy to his former friends, or a vague notion that he would be more popular by espousing the sentiments of his father, and his brother, the Duke of York,-began to cabal against his own ministers, and while giving ostensibly his full sanction and authority to the Duke of Wellington, he allowed Lord Eldon and the Tory malcontents to have constant access to his person, and did not conceal from them that nothing would better please him than that they should succeed in defeating the measures of his Government. Meanwhile, the speech from the throne was delivered, the cause was safe in the House of Commons, and the only question which remained was, how the Duke was to turn the majority in the Lords, of the former year, into a majority the other way: he accomplished this by a judicious mixture of firmness, tolerance, and conciliation, and by his habitual influence over the mind of the King. When urged by some of his impatient allies, to compel every man connected with his Government to vote for emancipation, without reference to his opinions, or to any former votes, and when told what was said about the expediency of turning out the refractory members, as they were called, he replied, I have undertaken this business, and am determined to go through with it. Nobody knows the difficulties I have had with my Royal master-nobody knows him so well as I do. I will succeed, but I am as on a field of battle, and must fight it out my own way.'
Peel, having been returned for Westbury after his ejection from the University of Oxford, took his seat in the House of Commons on Tuesday the 3rd of March. The deliberations of the Cabinet had gone on all along with perfect harmony and unanimity, on the outline and on the details of the measures to be submitted to Parliament, under the impression that the sanction of the King was secured to these proceedings. Mr. Peel gave notice, on the 3rd of March, that he would bring on the question upon the 5th; when, in the midst of the interest and curiosity produced by the near approach of the great contest, London was startled by a sudden rumour that the Government was out. On Tuesday, March 3rd, the King suddenly commanded the attendance of the Duke, the Chancellor, and Peel at Windsor. There he kept them for five hours, talking himself incessantly, and making a desperate effort to escape from the consent he had reluctantly been induced to give to the Bill (as he himself acknowledged), only because he had no other alternative. His Majesty pretended that he had never fully understood the manner in which his Ministers proposed to effect the object in view; and when the desired explanations had been made to
him, he said that he could not agree to any alteration in the oath of supremacy, and as there had been a misunderstanding on his part on that point, the sanction he had given ought not to be binding on him, and he must retract a consent given under an erroneous impression, and which was disapproved by his deliberate and conscientious judgment. Hoping that he had succeeded in making some impression on the three Ministers, he inquired what course, after this declaration of his own sentiments, they intended to pursue. They all replied that they should announce their resignations to Parliament on the following day. He made vehement appeals to their loyalty, more particularly to the Duke of Wellington, and used the most earnest endeavours to induce them to retract this resolution, but without shaking their firmness in the slightest degree; and he at last let them depart, having accepted their several resignations, which they communicated to their astonished colleagues the same day at a Cabinet dinner.
Our interview with His Majesty lasted for the long period of five hours there was unintermitted conversation during the whole time, but nothing material passed excepting that the purport of which I have faithfully reported. At the close of the interview the King took leave of us with great composure and great kindness, gave to each of us a salute on each cheek, and accepted our resignation of office, frequently expressing his sincere regret at the necessity which compelled us to retire from his service.' (Memoir, p. 347.)
No secret seems to have been made of this sudden revolution in the march of events, but the consternation of one side and the revived hopes of the other were of very brief duration. The King had no sooner perpetrated this momentary act of vigour, than he became alarmed at his own exploit. He knew it would be impossible to form any other Government, and the same night he surrendered at discretion to the Duke of Wellington, desiring him and his colleagues to withdraw their resignations, and giving them full leave to proceed with the measures of which notice had been given in Parliament.
The Bill went forward with constantly increasing adhesions, but with undiminished ill-humour on the part of the King, who did not disguise his resentment against the converts. The Duke of Cumberland kept his mind in a state of irritation; the Duke of Newcastle, Lord Eldon, Lord Mansfield, and others of the Anti-Catholic peers continually presented themselves to him with petitions against the Bill, and earnest entreaties that he would interpose his authority and influence to obstruct its success. He did not any more venture openly to oppose the Duke, but he desired a person high in his confidence and regard, to inform all the Peers in his household that it was
his wish they should vote against the Bill; an unconstitutional commission, which the person to whom it was given prudently and properly declined to execute. Of these curious circumstances, however, Sir Robert has not thought fit to preserve any memoranda for the public entertainment or instruction. He has limited himself to the task of proving that the part which he played as Minister in 1829, was one prescribed by duty and conscience, and which was adopted with the singleminded object of promoting the interest and well-being of the country.
Putting the question upon that issue, and examining the evidence and the arguments he adduces in support of his conduct, we think no candid and unbiassed mind can pronounce any other sentence than that upon this occasion he deserved well of his country, and, as we began by remarking, such is the judgment that had been already very generally given long before his death, and even long before this Memoir was composed; but we cannot but be struck with the reflection that the more clearly Sir Robert Peel saw the course which it behoved him to take in 1829, the more perplexed we are in trying to account for the whole tenour of his previous conduct in the opposite course, without looking for the solution of it in motives of personal ambition, the reality of which we should most reluctantly admit, and the more readily disbelieve, because such motives had undoubtedly no influence whatever upon his conduct in 1829. But when he was asking for a posthumous acquittal of the charges brought against him by his enemies, and a posthumous confirmation of the praises bestowed upon him by his admirers, he must surely have felt conscious that impartial truth would always cause it to be remembered that his conduct, on the Catholic Question, taken as a whole, was productive of evils, which the devotion and patriotism of the better part of it served only imperfectly to repair. He was splendidè mendax in 1829, and the magnitude of the service he then performed, entitle him to full pardon for his former errors; but those errors and that service combined, produced consequences the effects of which are still felt, and may be felt for generations to come, for they not only were the means of breaking up long-standing political connexions, the dissolution of which was in itself an evil of no small importance, but they afforded to the country the pernicious example of concessions which had been long and obstinately refused to reason and justice, but were made to violence and intimidation; and it brought forth instances of inconsistency so flagrant, and in many cases so unaccountable, as to shake public confidence in the sincerity and the honour of public men.
ART. XI.-1. Papers relative to Recruiting in the United States.
2. Correspondence with the United States respecting Central America. 1856.
3. Secretary Marcy's letter of May 27. 1856 to Lord Clarendon. New York: 1856.
WHATEVER question may arise between two nations, that
question itself can never be of so much importance as the spirit in which it is debated. The smallest questions have caused implacable wars; the greatest have been easily subjected to arrangement. Questions are, in fact, sometimes raised by a government either for the sake of leading to a quarrel, or for the sake of obtaining an humiliating admission from the government opposed to it. When such is the case, a controversy is as likely to be prolonged and is as incapable of friendly settlement if it concern an acre of barren territory, as if it concern a valuable province or a mighty empire. An antagonist who does not mean to be satisfied cannot be satisfied; and what nations in their dealings with each other have to look to is, that none should use, or be allowed to use with impunity, a tone which, from the fact that concession to it would be derogatory, renders such concession difficult and dangerous, if not impossible.
These remarks lead us to observe that our relations with the United States, ever since their independence, have been in a very singular condition. There are no two countries in the world which ought to be united so closely by sympathy and interest as Great Britain and the United States; there are no two countries, nevertheless, which are more constantly involved in disputes. Various treaties have been made between them; but each treaty, though assented to with apparent satisfaction at the time, has been the subject of future disagreement, the end of each successive discussion being the cession of some point to the United States, which Great Britain did not deem it had conceded previously. It is worth while, before entering upon those subjects which have recently been discussed by the two Governments, to endeavour in some degree to point out the causes of that series of periodical differences which has during so many years disagreeably agitated us, and agreeably excited our Transatlantic offspring.
We are not amongst the unfriendly critics of American institutions. There is a mighty polity in the great Transatlantic Commonwealth founded by our children, which may well, on some grounds, challenge the admiration of statesmen who deem, like VOL. CIV. NO. CCXI.