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


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Nevertheless, the results actually attained in the first two years were briefly these: first, the chargeable letters delivered in the United Kingdom, exclusive of that part of the Government's correspondence which formerly passed free, had already increased from the rate of about 75,000,000 a year to that of 208,000,000; secondly, the London district post letters had increased from about 13,000,000 to 23,000,000, or nearly in the ratio of the reduction of the rates; thirdly, the illicit conveyance of letters was substantially suppressed; fourthly, the gross revenue, exclusive of repayments, yielded about a million and a half per annum, which was sixty-three per cent, on the amount of the gross revenue of 1839, the largest income which the Post Office had ever afforded. These results, at so early a stage, and in the face of so many obstructions, amply vindicated the policy of the new system. But by its enemies that system was loudly declared to be a failure, until the progressive and striking evidence of year after year silenced opposition by an exhaustive process.

The Parliamentary proceedings of 1839 were closed by an elaborate review of the session by Lord Lyndhurst, which he continued annually for some time while the Liberals were in power. This display took place on the 24th of August, when the noble and learned lord moved for a return of all bills that had arrived from the House of Commons since the commencement of the session, with the dates at which they were brought up. After directing the attention of the House to the Irish Municipal Corporations, the affairs of Canada, the recommendations of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the administration of justice, to which their special attention had been directed in the speech from the throne, he passed under hostile review the whole conduct of the Ministers during the session. He gave a history of the household question. He stated that the out-going administration actually carried on the negotiation with their successors, and the result was this, that the Cabinet whose resignations had been just accepted advised Her Majesty to reinstate them in their offices, for that was the constitutional inference of the conduct they had pursued. A proceeding like that had never before taken place, and he trusted in God it would never occur under any circumstances again. Adverting to the recent police acts, Lord Lyndhurst said they had become necessary, in consequence of disturbances for which the Ministers were deeply answerable. It was they who first aroused the people; it was they who first sent forth the watchword, "Agitate, agitate, agitate!" and they it was who were responsible for the consequences that had followed. Agitation was convenient, to place them in power; agitation, up to a certain point, was necessary to maintain them there: they wished the flood to go so far, and no farther, and that there its proud waves should be stayed. But it was much easier to raise than to control the tempest. Unprincipled men made use of the multitude for their own ambitious purposes, and for the attainment of their own personal objects. They rode into power upon the shoulders of the people, and then it became inconvenient that those tumults and that violence to which they owed their elevation should be continued; then it became necessary to coerce and restrain; and then the deluded followers found out for the first time the duplicity and unworthiness of those whom in former times they eulogised and extolled.

Lord Melbourne repelled this attack on his administration with great spirit and effect. He remarked that the main business of the Legislature, after all, was not to make laws, but to consider the estimates, to watch the public expenditure, to retrench what was superfluous, to correct what was amiss, and to furnish the Crown with those supplies and subsidies which it thinks it necessary to afford. But when noble lords looked at the volume of acts they had framed, they would find it sufficiently bulky, and perhaps sufficiently faulty in its nature to produce an additional crop of statutes in the next session. Language of the grossest kind had been applied by the noble baron to the transactions which had grown out of the Jamaica bill. Ile used the word "intrigue." "I have heard that word from many quarters," said Lord Melbourne; "I have heard other mean, base, and vile expressions applied to the conduct of that measure through the other House. I utterly deny and repel the word. I say that there was no intrigue, no mismanagement, neither was there anything mean, base, or perfidious in the whole of the transactions which then took place. I do not like to be betrayed into the language of strong asseveration, because truth does not require such language; but I utterly disclaim the imputations and insinuations thrown out by the noble and learned lord."

Lord Brougham expressed an opinion that the country wished for the return of the Conservatives to power, because they would be compelled to grant useful reforms and measures of administrative improvement, which the present Cabinet had neither the means of carrying nor the will to introduce. The Duke of Wellington assured Lord Melbourne that his only wish had been to see a Government in the country, and he hoped that the noble viscount would now turn over a new leaf, and really govern the country in future.

The 27th of August being the day appointed for the prorogation of Parliament, the Queen, escorted by the great officers of State, took her seat in the House of Lords, when the Speaker of the House of Commons, accompanied by some of the members, presented himself at the bar, and mentioned to Her Majesty the principal results of a most laborious session - the City Police Bill; the bill for the improvement of the discipline of prisons; the bill for enabling the magistrates to organise a constabulary force wherever it might be called for by the circumstances of the district; the bill for suppressing the Portuguese slave-trade, and the reduction of the postage. The Queen then read the speech from the throne, in which she expressed her satisfaction with the performances of the session, and especially with the measure for the reduction of the postage, which, she trusted, would be a relief and an encouragement to trade, and that, by facilitating intercourse and correspondence, it would be productive of much social advantage and improvement. Referring to the prosecution of the Chartists, the Queen said: - " It is with great pain that I have found myself compelled to enforce the law against those who no longer concealed their design of resisting by force the lawful authorities and of subverting the institutions of the country. The solemn proceedings of the courts of justice, and the fearless administration of the law by all who are engaged in that duty, have checked the first attempts at insubordination; and I rely securely upon the good sense of my people, and upon their attachment to the constitution, for the maintenance of law and order, which are as necessary for the protection of the poor as for the welfare of the wealthier classes of the community."

On the return of Lord Melbourne to power, considerable alterations took place in the construction of the Cabinet. The Marquis of Normanby changed places with Lord John Russell, who went to the Colonial office. Mr. Francis Baring was made Chancellor of the Exchequer in the place of Mr. Spring Rice, who was raised to the peerage, by the title of Baron Monteagle, and was soon after appointed Comptroller of the Exchequer, with a salary of 2,000 a year; Sir John Newport having retired from that post on a pension. Mr. Paulet Thompson succeeded Sir John Colborne, afterwards Lord Seaton, in the government of Canada. The Earl of Clarendon became Lord Privy Seal, and Mr. Macaulay Secretary at War, with a seat in the Cabinet in the room of Viscount Howick, who had quitted the administration because he had disapproved of the political import of the changes taken altogether, and they were unalterably fixed without seeking his concurrence. Mr. Charles Wood, the brother-in-law of Lord Howick, also resigned shortly after, and was replaced by Mr. Moore O'Ferral as Secretary of the Admiralty. Mr. Wyse became one of the Lords of the Treasury, and Mr. Sheil Vice-President of the Board of Trade, at the head of which was Mr. Labouchere.

The proceedings of Parliament having ceased to occupy public attention, the time had come for political demonstrations of various kinds through the country, giving expression to the feelings that had been excited by the state of public affairs and the conduct of the Government. The first and most remarkable of these was a banquet, given at Dover, on the 30th of August, to the Duke of Wellington, as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, at which nearly 2,000 persons sat down to dinner. The toast of the day was proposed by Lord Brougham, who occupied a peculiar position, as a Liberal ex-Chancellor opposing a Liberal administration, and wishing to see them supplanted by their Conservative opponents. He was greeted with tumultuous cheering when he rose to propose the health of the Duke of Wellington. The speech was very eulogistic, adapted entirely to the atmosphere of excitement in which it was delivered. "Although no man," observed Lord Brougham, " on such an occasion is entitled to entertain any personal feelings on his own behalf, it would be affectation, it would be insolent ingratitude, were I not to express the sentiments which glow within my bosom at being made the instrument of making known those feelings which reign predominant in yours. ^Enough, however, of myself. Now for my mighty subject. But," he continued, " the choice you have made of your instrument - of your organ, as it were, on this occasion - is not unconnected with that subject, for it shows that on this day, on this occasion, all personal, all political feelings are quelled - all strife of party is hushed; that we are incapable, whatever may be our opinions, of refusing to acknowledge transcendent merit, and of denying that we feel the irresistible impulse of unbounded gratitude. And I am, therefore, asked to do this service, as if to show that no difference of opinion upon subjects, however important - no long course of opposition, however contracted, upon public principles - not even long, inveterate habits of public opposition - are able so far to stifle the natural feelings of our hearts, so far to obscure our reason, as to prevent us from feeling, as we ought, boundless gratitude for boundless merit. Neither can it pluck from our minds that admiration proportioned to the transcendent genius, in peace and in war, of him who is amongst us to-day; nor can it lighten or alleviate the painful, the deep sense, which the untired mind never can get rid of, when it is overwhelmed by a debt of gratitude too boundless to be repaid. Party - the spirit of party - may do much, but it cannot operate so far as to make us forget those services; it cannot so far bewilder the memory, and pervert the judgment, and quench and stifle the warmth of the natural affections, and eradicate from our bosoms those feelings which do us most honour and are the most unavoidable, and, as it were, dry up the kindly juices of the heart; and, notwithstanding all its vile and malignant influence on other occasions, it cannot dry up those juices of the heart so as to parch it like very charcoal, and make it almost as black. But what else have I to do? If I had all the eloquence of all the tongues ever attuned to speak, what else can I do? How could a thousand words, or all the names that could be named, speak so powerfully - ay, even if I spoke with the tongue of an angel - as if I were to mention one word, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington? the hero of a hundred fields, in all of which his banner has waved in triumph; who never - I invoke both hemispheres to witness (bear witness, Europe! bear witness, Asia!) - who never advanced but to cover his arms with glory; the captain who never advanced but to be victorious - the mightier captain who never retreated but to eclipse the glory of his advance by the yet harder task of unwearied patience, indomitable to lassitude, the inexhaustible resources of transcendent skill, showing the wonders, the marvels of a moral courage never yet subdued. Despising all that thwarted him with ill-considered advice - neglecting all hostility, so he knew it to be groundless - laughing to scorn reviling enemies, jealous competitors, lukewarm friends - ay, hardest of all, to neglect despising even a fickle public, he cast his eye forwards as a man might - else he deserves not to command men - cast forward his eye to a time when that momentary fickleness of the people would pass away, knowing that, in the end, the people are always just to merit."

The reply of the Duke of Wellington was a perfect contrast to this oratorical flight, in its quietness and modesty. But if the great chiefs of the Conservative party were moderate in the expression of their feelings during the vacation, some of their followers went to the opposite extreme of violence and indiscretion. At a dinner of the Conservative Registration Society, on the 30th of October, Mr. Bradshaw, the member for Canterbury, dared to speak of the young Queen in the following terms: - "Brought up under the auspices of the citizen King of the Belgians, the serf of France, and guided by his influence, the Queen thinks if the monarchy lasts her time, it is enough. But the people of England will never consent that the Crown shall be degraded and debased for the inglorious ease of any created being, nor that the personal wishes and caprices of the Sovereign shall direct the conduct of the executive. The monarchy has its rights, but it has also its duties. The people of this country will not be trampled on by Pope or Sovereign; still less will they endure that a petty German prince shall hold the fair realm of England in fee-farm. We have not forgotten the forced abdication of the second James, nor are we ignorant that the title to the throne of these realms is derived from a Protestant princess. No one can regret more than I do the growing unpopularity of the Queen and her Court. But look at the composition of that Court, and its acts. The courtiers and ministers are identical. Their petty and criminal intrigues are carried into every department of the State. The courts of former sovereigns have been as frivolous, more vicious even, than the present; but the government of the country and the direction of public affairs have been carried on by statesmen of known and recognised ability, honour, and independence - men who were neither the boon-companions of the Sovereign, nor the willing slaves of his follies and caprices. I believe, in my conscience, that the favourite equerries are younger, better looking, and better dressed men than Sir Robert Peel; that Lord Melbourne can tell a tale meet for a lady's ear much better than the Duke of Wellington; and that neither Lord Stanley nor Sir James Graham can compete with my Lord Normanby in the getting up of a pageant; but are these the qualities which the people of England prize so much as to sacrifice to them their religion, their national honour, and the care of their ancient institutions? "

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