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Chapter LIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 5

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In the House of Lords the second reading was carried on the 28th of May by a majority of 47, and the bill was finally passed on the 25th of June. But the downfall of the Peel Ministry was inevitable. In a letter to the Duke of Wellington, of the 18th of February, Lord Stanley had said that, whatever might be the result of the Corn Bill, the days of the existing Government were numbered, and that the confidence of his party in Sir Robert Peel had been so shaken, " that, in spite of his pre-eminent abilities and great services, he could never reunite it under his guidance."

The history of the final defeat of the Peel Administration, which followed upon the triumphant completion of his fiscal reforms, belongs to another period of this history; but we may glance forward at the last speech delivered by Sir Robert Peel before he left office, in which he spoke of these events in words which can never be omitted from the history of the times. He said: "With reference to honourable gentlemen opposite, I must say, as I say with reference to ourselves, neither of us is the party which is justly entitled to the credit of those measures. There has been a combination of parties, and that combination, and the influence of Government, have led to their ultimate success; but the name which ought to be, and will be, associated with the success of those measures, is the name of the man who, acting, I believe, from pure and disinterested motives, has, with untiring energy, by appeals to reason, enforced their necessity with an eloquence the more to be admired because it was unaffected and unadorned - the name which ought to be associated with the success of those measures, is the name of Richard Cobden. Sir, I now close the address which it has been my duty to make to- the House, thanking them sincerely for the favour with which they have listened to me in performing the last act of my official career. Within a few hours, probably, that favour which I have held for the period of five years will be surrendered into the hands of another - without repining - I can say without complaint - with a more lively recollection of the support and confidence I have received than of the opposition which, during a recent period, I have met with. I shall leave office with a name severely censured, I fear, by many who, on public grounds, deeply regret the severance of party ties - deeply regret that severance, not from interest or personal motives, but from the firm conviction that fidelity to party engagements - the existence and maintenance of a great party - constitutes a powerful instrument of government. I shall surrender power severely censured also by others who, from no interested motives, adhere to the principle of protection, considering the maintenance of it to be essential to the welfare and interests of the country. I shall leave a name execrated by every monopolist who, from less honourable motives, clamours for protection because it conduces to his own individual benefit; but it may be that I shall leave a name sometimes remembered with expressions of good-will in the abodes of those whose lot it is to labour, and to earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow, when they shall recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food, the sweeter because it is no longer leavened by the sense of injustice."

The League met on the 2nd of July, and resolved that an Act of Parliament having been passed providing for the abolition of the corn laws in February, 1849, it was expedient to suspend active operations, and to take steps for closing its affairs with as little delay as possible. " If Sir Robert Peel," said Mr. Cobden, at that meeting, "has lost office, he has gained a country. For my part, I would rather descend into private life with that last measure of his which led to his discomfiture in my hand, than mount to the highest pinnacle of human power."

The subscribers to the League Fund were called upon only for an instalment of the 250,000 which they had determined to raise. Out of that fund they voted to Mr. James Wilson, their chairman, a sum of 10,000. Subsequently a collection was set on foot, which terminated in the presentation to Mr. Cobden of a sum of 80,000, in acknowledgment of his great personal sacrifices, and also to set him free for the political service of his country.

No greater proof of how far even a reformed Parliament was from duly representing the people could be afforded than the contrast between the general conviction that had prevailed, from the first announcement of these measures, of the Minister's approaching downfall, with his wide-spread popularity as shown in that latest mirror of public opinion - the daily and weekly press. In the course of our narrative we shall have to show the important effects of these measures upon the welfare of the country, continued and completed as they have been by the ablest of those statesmen who served with Sir Robert Peel, and acknowledged him as their guide and example.

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