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Chapter XXVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 3


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The debate lasted four nights, and was kept up with the greatest spirit and vigour. The division was taken between three and four o'clock in the morning, when it was found that in a house of 611 members the numbers were - for the motion, 322; against it, 289; leaving the government in a minority of 33. A cabinet council was held on the following day, when it was unanimously resolved to await the result of the debate on the Irish tithe question on the same evening. Lord John Russell, on the report of the committee being brought up, moved the following resolution: - "That it is the opinion of this house that no measure upon the subject of tithes in Ireland can lead to a satisfactory and final adjustment which does not embody the principle contained in the foregoing resolution." He referred to the principle of the appropriation clause. On this an animated debate followed, which lasted till one o'clock in the morning. When the house divided, it was found that the resolution was carried by a majority of twenty-seven; the numbers being - ayes, 285; noes, 258.

As these divisions took place on a question of vital policy, Sir Robert Peel had no alternative but to resign. Accordingly, he announced his decision in the house next day. After the extraordinary efforts that he had made, and considering the circumstances under which he was called upon to assume the reins of government, it must have been very painful to him to be thus cut short in his patriotic labours; but he bore the disappointment with admirable spirit, and retired from his position so gracefully that he was warmly cheered from all parts of the house. In making his parting announcement, he said: "The government, being firmly resolved to adhere to the principle of their own bill, and not to adopt the principle of the vote of last night, felt it to be their duty as public men to lay their offices at the disposal of his majesty. I have been anxious to make this explanation as briefly as I can, and in a manner the least calculated to give offence, or excite angry feelings. My whole political life has been spent in the house of commons; and whatever may be the conflict of parties, I, for one, shall always wish, whether in a majority or a minority, to stand well with the house of commons. Under no circumstance whatever, under the pressure of no difficulties, under the influence of no temptation, will ever advise the crown to forego that great source of moral influence which consists in a strict adherence to the spirit, the practice, and even the letter of the constitution."

It may be as well to dispose here of the Irish church question; for although lord Morpeth, on the part of the Melbourne administration, brought in a bill for settling the question, which passed the house of commons by a majority of 26 votes, and which contained the appropriation clause, - in the house of lords, this clause was struck out, and it was otherwise altered in committee so materially that, when sent back to the commons, they scarcely knew their own offspring. The bill was therefore disowned, and thrown out.

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