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Prorogation of Parliament page 2

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The plot thickened as it proceeded. It was suspected that the conservative section of the whigs wished for office, and that Sir Robert Peel wished to have them. Mr. Stanley (now lord Stanley, in consequence of the death of his grandfather, the earl of Derby), Sir J. Graham, and the duke of Richmond had a meeting at the duke of Sutherland's, to consider what they should do, in consequence of proposals made to them to join the administration. But as they would not pledge themselves to forward conservative measures to the extent required, Sir Robert Peel was obliged to form a government of tories exclusively. On the 10th of the month the arrangements were completed, and the following were announced as the members of the cabinet: - First lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer, Sir R. Peel; lord chancellor, lord Lyndhurst; president of the council, lord Rosslyn; privy seal, lord Wharncliffe; secretary of the home department, Mr. Goulburn; secretary of the foreign department, duke of Wellington; secretary of the colonial department, lord Aberdeen; first lord of the admiralty, earl de Grey; secretary for Ireland, Sir II. Hardinge; president of the board of control, lord Ellenborough; president of the board of trade, and master of the Mint, Mr. Baring; paymaster of the forces, Sir E. Knatchbull; secretary at war, Mr. Herries; master general of the ordnance, Sir G. Murray. Not in the cabinet: Postmaster general, lord Marlborough- lord chamberlain, lord Jersey; lord steward, lord Wilton; master of the horse, duke of Dorset; groom of the stole, marquis of Winchester; treasurer of the navy, lord Lowther; first commissioner of land revenue, lord Granville Somerset; chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Mr Wynn; attorney-general, Sir F. Pollock; solicitor-general, Sir W. Follett. In Ireland: - Lord lieutenant, earl of Haddington; lord chancellor, Sir E. Sudgen; commander- in-chief, Sir H. Vivian; attorney-general, Mr. Penne- father; solicitor-general, Mr. Jackson. In Scotland: - Lord advocate, Sir W. Rae; solicitor-general, Mr. M'Neill.

Sir Robert Peel did all in his power to form out of the materials at his disposal a ministry that should command the confidence of the country. On the 16th he issued an address to his constituents at Tamworth, in which he announced the policy that should guide the new government. He declared his intention to correct all proved abuses and real grievances; to preserve peace at home and abroad; to resist the secularisation of church property in any part of the United Kingdom; to fulfil existing engagements with foreign powers; to observe a strict economy in the public expenditure; and promised an impartial consideration of what was due to all interests, agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial. He said: - "With regard to the reform bill itself, I accept it as a final and irrevocable settlement of a great constitutional question; a settlement which no friend to the peace and welfare of the country would attempt to disturb either by direct or insidious means. I will carry out its intentions, supposing those to imply a careful review of old institutions, undertaken in a friendly spirit, and with a purpose of improvement." On the 23rd the lord mayor of London gave a banquet to the new premier and the members of his government, with a select party of friends. In responding to the toast of his health, he expressed more fully the views by which he was to be guided in his administration. The satisfaction expressed at the elevation of the son of a cotton spinner to the highest office that can be held by a subject in the greatest empire in the world, was a source of the liveliest gratification to a large section of the commercial community, who regarded his name as the brightest in their roll of fame. The first public manifestation of this feeling was a meeting of the city- bankers and merchants held at the London Tavern on the 23rd of December. Its object was to vote an address to the king, expressing approbation and gratitude for his dismissal of the late ministry, and calling Sir Robert Peel to his councils. But the reformers, headed by Mr. Grote, mustered in such force, that no resolution could be passed, and the meeting broke up in confusion. An address to the king, however, in support of the new ministry, from the merchants, bankers, ship-owners, and others connected with the city of London, received 5,730 signatures.

The first reform parliament was dissolved by proclamation on the 30th of December, after an existence of only one year and eleven months. This proceeding was regarded by the reformers as a sort of political sacrilege; a manifest flying in the face of the people; a clear declaration of an intention to destroy popular rights. It was stated " that men high in office had, in the bitterness of their mortification and passion, not hesitated to implicate the queen by name as the leader of the irresponsible advisers of a violent course; and the whigs everywhere asserted that the real object of this change was the gradual repeal of the Reform Act, and the guasi-restoration of the close borough system by means of the gradual narrowing of the franchise."

Whatever may have been the influences at work, whether or not, as the Times asserted, " the queen had done it all," there is no doubt that during the past year the king had manifested symptoms of reviving conservatism, and he was supposed to have intended to break up the ministry on the resignation of earl Grey; but the prompt declaration of lord Brougham and others, that they had no intention of following that statesman's example by resigning, induced him, contrary to his wish, to continue them longer in office. The warm protestant address to the Irish prelates was trumpeted through the country, and dwelt upon as a proof of the king's dislike to the ministerial plan of church inquiry and reform. This appears to have been the main cause of the dismissal of the ministry; and the removal from the commons of lord Althorp, and the oratorical tour of the lord chancellor in the north, only secondary pretexts. Moreover, the loss of popularity by the Melbourne cabinet, and the impression which had gained ground that it was weak and incompetent, offered a favourable opportunity for its dismissal. It was looked upon as only a residuum of the original Grey ministry. After the close of the parliamentary session, it had been assailed by Mr. O'Connell with his wonted tact and power of vituperation, in a series of letters addressed to lord Duncannon. The press attacked it for dilatoriness in its reform movements, and the incapacity of its members, dwelling with particular force on the inconsistencies of lord Brougham in the autumn, in the alternate championship of radicalism and conservatism, and especially on his lordship's alleged declaration at Inverness, that if little had been done in the last session, less would be done in the next. The shopkeepers were dissatisfied at the continuance of the window duties; the agriculturists with the malt duty; the political economists with the corn laws; the friends of popular intelligence with the retention of the newspaper stamp; and the speculative radicals with a refractory peerage, and the resistance which it had offered to further organic changes. Amidst these discontents, the débris of the great reform ministry of 1830 disappeared.

But with the advent of toryism, however modified, came vivid recollections of former misrule. With the liberal party, which constituted the great mass of the people in the United Kingdom, there was not room for a moment's hesitation between the men, who had devoted their lives to the cause of reform, and those by whom that cause had been strenuously resisted till the hour of its triumph. It is true that Sir Robert Peel yielded with a good grace to circumstances, and there was no doubt that he would faithfully redeem any pledges he had given. But although he did not attempt to base his policy on the well-known principles of his party; though he solicited the co-operation of men who had been the able and eloquent champions of reform; though he could appeal to his own past life, to the currency bill, the jury act, and the acts for the amendment and consolidation of the criminal law, to prove that he was himself a true practical reformer; though he was willing to extend some relief to the dissenters, and to make all possible concessions to public opinion, yet it was felt that his cabinet was composed of men of a totally different spirit - men who hated reform in every shape, and who, however they might disguise their antipathies, could never be heartily reconciled to the new order of things. They were still recognised as the old inveterate opponents of popular rights, whose lives were associated with deeds of oppression, and who had never washed their hands of the monopoly, jobbing, and corruption of the old system. How could such men be expected to work faithfully and effectively the new parliamentary machinery? Was there not, on the contrary, the greatest reason to apprehend that their party propensities would impel them to thwart the action of the new system by every means in their power, and so to verify their own sinister predictions? Besides, it was not forgotten that the late ministry had been harassed and impeded in every possible form by the conservative opposition in parliament, and that in Ireland, particularly, the sound policy on which they rested had been cut from under them by their subordinates in office, who, being either Orangemen or tories, did everything to obstruct or neutralise the good intentions of the government they were paid to serve. The change of ministry was therefore regarded by the liberal party in Ireland as a great national calamity. But while the whigs in England were negligently relying on their strength, the tories were assiduously and silently increasing their force at the registries; the freeman franchise and the £50 tenant- at-will clause were the chief instruments by which they laboured to secure their restoration to power. O'Connell immediately set to work organising an agitation with the express object of hurling them from the position they had so unexpectedly attained. The first thing he did was to establish the " Anti-Tory Association," of which he was the moving spirit. It met generally three times a-week, and at every meeting he delivered a long and effective speech. The appointment of Mr. Sugden as lord chancellor roused his indignation to the utmost.

"The tories," he said, " have again come in, and their first act has been to appoint an Englishman. And what! - is the bar so degraded that it will not call a bar-meeting; that it will not remonstrate; that it will not protest against degradation of Irish talent? "

On the accession of Sir Robert Peel to power, the Conservative Association of Ireland was dissolved at the suggestion of its leader, the Rev. Dr. Boy ton, a fellow of Trinity College. He was at that time the great champion of political protestantism, and having a strong apprehension of papal ascendancy in Ireland, his logical and vehement eloquence had a great effect on the public mind.

But the ultra-protestant or Orange party were by no means disposed to lay down their arms.

The care bestowed on the registries told strongly in favour of the conservatives at the English elections. The exertions they made to secure a majority were immense. It was believed at the time that the Carlton Club had expended nearly a million sterling in securing the success of their candidates in every possible way in which money could be made available. In the counties and boroughs, the whigs and radicals lost about 100 seats, but after all, the conservatives could muster only 302 members, against 356. The contests were unusually numerous and severe, but the reform act machinery worked so well, that the elections were for the most part conducted in a very orderly manner. In many places the closeness of the poll was remarkable. It was a neck and neck race between the rival candidates. In the metropolitan boroughs the ministerialists were everywhere defeated. Not one of the sixteen seats in this vast centre of influence could the government, with all its lavish expenditure, obtain. In some of the provincial towns, however - Bristol, Exeter, Newcastle, Hull, York, Leeds, Halifax, and Warrington - a tory supplanted a whig. At Liverpool the contest was intensely exciting. During the last hour of polling were seen in every direction vans, gigs, and flies in rapid motion, and the price of a vote rose from £15 to £25.

The result was the return of lord Sandon, a moderate tory; Sir Howard Douglas, the other conservative candidate, being defeated by Mr. Ewart. In Lancashire and Hampshire both the liberal candidates were defeated. Manchester, Birmingham, Bolton, Sheffield, Preston, and most of the manufacturing towns, returned liberals. On the whole, the government had a small majority of the 500 English members, which was justly regarded as an astonishing fact, "considering how lately the country had been shaken to its foundations by the reform tempest, and eminently instructive," says Sir A. Alison, "as to the strength of the religious, loyal, and orderly feelings which characterised a large portion of the English people." Eminently instructive, also, he might have, added, as to the folly of the alarms that were excited during the reform agitation, that the monarchy and the aristocracy would be swept away, and that England would fall under the power of an unmitigated communism and rampant democracy. In Scotland, however, the Reform Act had wrought a complete revolution, and the mass of the electors so long excluded from political power used the privileges they had obtained with great zeal in favour of the party to which they were indebted for their enfranchisement. The whole of the burghs, twenty in number, returned liberal members. Five of the counties were gained by the tories and three by the whigs, where respectively they had formerly failed. Glasgow, whose voice had been neutralised by returning one representative of each party, now returned two liberals. Serious disturbances took place at Jedburgh when lord John Scott, the tory candidate, made his appearance. At Hawick, in the same county, the rioting was still worse. The persons who came to vote for him were spit upon, pelted with stones, and severely struck. In some cases they were thrown into the stream that runs through the town, and subjected to the most shocking indignities, which the judges who afterwards tried the cases declared to be " worse than death itself."

But the new government met its Nemesis in Ireland. O'Connell and the priests were resolved that, so far as in them lay, protestant ascendancy should not be re-established in that country. The Anti-Tory Association was but one of many names and forms which the Protean agitation had assumed, and all were brought to bear with concentrated power upon every point to secure the - defeat of the ministerial candidates. Minor differences were sunk for the occasion, and all forces were combined against the government. The consequence was that amongst the large constituencies the cause of reform was almost everywhere successful. In Kerry, in Meath, in Youghal, and Tralee, the candidates returned were the sons and nephew of O'Connell. He himself stood a severe contest for Dublin, and was returned with Mr. Ruthven, but was unseated on petition. It was during this contest that he recommended that a "death's head and cross-bones" should be painted on the door of every elector who would support the " nefarious and blood-stained " tithe system.

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