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DEATH OF THE SPEAKER—MR. GRENVILLE ELECTED IN HIS PLACE
COMMITTEE ON THE REGENCY—THE HOUSEHOLD BILL-CONDUCT OF THE PRINCES-ADDRESS TO THE PRINCE OF WALES FROM THE IRISH PARLIAMENT RECOVERY OF THE KING-DECISIVE MEASURES OF LORD BUCKINGHAM–IRISH PROMOTIONS AND CREATIONS—DISSENSIONS IN THE ROYAL FAMILY-MR. GRENVILLE APPOINTED SECRETARY OF STATEMR. ADDINGTON ELECTED SPEAKER-LORD BUCKINGHAM RESIGNS THE GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND.
The one absorbing subject which for the last few weeks had engrossed the public mind, almost to the exclusion of every other consideration, kept the Parliament sitting close up to Christmas-day, in the year just expired. On the 23rd of December, a resolution, vigorously opposed by Lord North as instituting a fiction in lieu of the royal authority, was adopted, empowering the Chancellor to affix the Great Seal to such Bill of Limitations as might be necessary to restrict the power of the future Regent; but Ministers had no sooner succeeded in carrying their object to this important stage, than a new impediment presented itself. On the 2nd of January, 1799, Mr. Cornwall, Speaker of the House of Commons, died. It was immediately decided
that Mr. Grenville should be proposed to succeed him. On all accounts, it was indispensable to hasten this arrangement, as the functions of the Commons were unavoidably suspended in the interim. A serious obstacle arose from the informality of the proceeding, the sanction of the royal approbation being necessary, according to custom, upon the nomination of a new Speaker. The elastic character of the Constitution, however, although not providing direct remedies for such special cases, admits of adaptation to the most unforeseen exigencies; and so urgent was the pressure of affairs at this agitating juncture, that the irregularity was passed over by the tacit consent of all parties.
MR. W.W. GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Whitehall, Jan. 2nd, 1788.* MY DEAR BROTHER,
You will probably not be a little surprised at the contents of this letter. The Speaker died this morning at about nine o'clock, and after some consideration, it has been determined that I should be proposed to the House to succeed him. I am not quite sure whether the choice will come on to-morrow or Monday. The situation is a new one, it having always been held, that the King's commands are necessary for the election of a Speaker, and his approbation for confirming him in his situation. But this cannot be had under the present circumstances; nor can the House take any steps to supply the deficiency till they have a Speaker. At the Restoration and Revolution, the House, in both instances, chose a Speaker, who
* This is the date in the original, but it is evidently a mistake. Mr. Grenville forgot that he was in a new year.
was acknowledged as such, and was never afterwards confirmed by the King.
With respect to myself, the time for deliberation has not been long. But/upon the whole, I think the decision which I have made is clearly right. If the King recovers before Parliament is dissolved, it is clearly understood that my acceptance of this situation is not to prejudice my other views; and in the public opinion, the having filled this office, though but for a short time, will rather forward them. If the Regent goes on without dissolving, I am then in a situation which, though perhaps not perfectly pleasant, is nevertheless respectable, and will give me occupation. If they dissolve, and carry the Chair against me in the new Parliament, I do not see how I stand worse, in any respect, for having held this office. Such is my reasoning, and I think you will approve it. As far as I can judge, there is no doubt of my carrying it now. I have not yet heard whether they start any opponent, but I think they have none whose personal connexions can materially vary the proportion between the two parties : it is very sufficiently decisive.
I have not heard the account of to-day at St. James's. Nothing can be better than all the accounts, both public and private, for the last three or four days. It is certainly not sanguine to entertain the very best hopes ; and the progress has even been more rapid than Willis expected; so that I think we may look with some confidence to March or April at latest. Ever most affectionately yours,
W. W. G.
MR. W.W. GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Whitehall, Jan. 4th, 1789. MY DEAR BROTHER,
The plan for the Regency was sent to the Prince of Wales in a letter from Pitt, three days ago, with an expression of his readiness to give any explanation, either in person or in any
other manner that he might intimate. Yesterday his answer was received, directed to the Cabinet. It is long, and with much affectation of good writing, and is in parts of it well expressed, in other parts confused and timid. It ends, however, with saying that if these restrictions are adopted by Parliament he will accept.
I have no doubt of carrying the Chair to-morrow, but not a little doubt whether I ought to have accepted it. The die is, however, now cast. The restrictions will, I think, pass without much difficulty.
I still adhere strongly to my opinion about the prorogation, because I think there is a wide difference between exercising during the King's health a power which he commits to your discretion, but which he might if he pleased regulate by instruction at any moment, and exercising the same power now when you are to state that the King is prevented by infirmity from attending at all to the administration of his Government. I am sure that your acting in the manner you speak of is liable to, and will probably bear, the very worst construction in the minds of the public here; and I cannot for the life of me conceive what fear there can be that the two Houses will not adjourn, considering that the great point which they all wish, is that they may not be obliged to pledge themselves. The extraordinary anxiety in those whom you see, to get you to prorogue, is, in my opinion, a very strong proof of their being actuated by that sort of wish.
I have not time to write any more, except to express my anxiety to hear how Lady B. and your child go on. Ever most affectionately yours,
W. W. G.
There was no doubt about the issue of the election to the Speakership. “Your brother William will certainly be Speaker,” writes Lord Bulkeley on the 3rd, “ and has already stood the hoax at White's, where it was debated last night whether he should wear a wig or his own hair.” The election went off to the entire satisfaction of Mr. Grenville, who, reporting the event, says that “the majority, though quite large enough, would have been larger if they had divided half an hour later, as nearly forty of my friends were locked out below, and about eleven of theirs.” With his customary philosophy, he made the best of everything; but he does not disguise from Lord Buckingham that he had strong doubts in his mind whether he ought to have accepted the Chair. The Opposition might, probably, have been stronger against his election, but for the belief that prevailed that the King was getting rapidly better. “ The progress of the King,” observes Mr. Grenville on the 7th, “is such, according to our accounts, that it is by no means impossible, nor even a very improbable case, that before the Irish Bill can pass, he may re-assume his Government.”
Another contingency that weighed with the floating mass of undecided politicians was the rumour which now began to be circulated that the Regent would not dismiss the existing Ministers till the end of the session.
LORD MORNINGTON TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Jan. 6th, 1789. MY DEAR LORD,
As I understood that Sir W. Young and Bernard wrote you an account of the division last night, which placed Grenville so honourably in the Chair of the House of Commons, I did not trouble you with any letter by the post of yesterday ; but I