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whatever in either House of Parliament. Admitting, then, that if the Sovereign is to retain any independent functions at all, he must have a certain amount of liberty left him in the choice of those who are called upon to co-operate with him, it remains to be seen how far the Sovereign is entitled to exercise this choice in deference to a mere personal caprice on the one hand, or to personal and private conceptions of the public advantage on the other. At the time of the dissolution of a Ministry, there is seldom more than a very narrow field of selection open to the Sovereign for the nomination of a Prime Minister who shall at once command the general confidence of Parliament, and be able to combine with himself a number of adherents to fill the several official departments in the Government. Where the Sovereign is in any perplexity in making his choice, the practice has of late been either to resort to the advice of some experienced counsellor, who may be supposed to be personally removed from the arena of party conflict, or to be superior to the coarser passions aroused by these conflicts (such as was, or seemed to be, the Duke of Wellington in the earlier part of the present reign), or to consult the outgoing Prime Minister as to the state and prospects of parties in Parliament, or to make tentative overtures to a series of prominent statesmen in order to see which among them can alone, at the time, form a Government. The following extract from the Duke of Buckingham's memoirs, giving a brief report of her present Majesty's selection of Sir Robert Peel as her Prime Minister to succeed Lord Melbourne in 1839, represents what has been the customary practice of the present reign. 'Sir Robert Peel had an interview with the Queen, when Her Majesty repeated 'Statement' of King William IV. 301
'that she had parted with her Ministers with great 'regret, acknowledging that they had given her entire 'satisfaction; and stated that, as it had become neces'sary to take some step towards the formation of 'another administration, she had sent for him at the
* suggestion of the Duke of Wellington. The conver'sation that followed has not been reported, but Sir 'Robert subsequently in the House of Commons affirmed
* that no one could have expressed more fully, more 'naturally, or more becomingly, the regret which Her 'Majesty felt for the loss of her late advisers, or prin'ciples more strictly constitutional with respect to the 'formation of a new Government.'1
The history of William IV.'s reign exhibits some extreme instances of the active interference of the Sovereign in the selection and dismissal of Ministers, on grounds not, presumedly, of personal caprice, but of independent views of public utility. In the Memoirs of Baron Stockmar there is published for the first time a remarkable document written by King William IV. himself, in the year 1835, and purporting to be 'A 'Statement of His Majesty's general proceedings and of
* the principles by which he was guided from the period 'of his accession in 1830 to that of the recent change
* in the administration, January 14, 1835.' The King relates that upon his accession to the throne he determined without any hesitation 'to maintain in the 'administration of the affairs of the country those who 'had been the confidential servants of his late brother;' and that on the resignation, in 1830, of that Govern
1 Memoirs of the Court» and Cabinets of William IV. and Victoria. By the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. Vol. ii. p. 384.
ment, headed by the Duke of Wellington, His Majesty was advised by the Lord Chancellor to address himself to Earl Grey, who consented to take upon himself the trust proposed on the condition that a measure for the extensive reform of Parliament should receive the King's countenance and support. On Lord Grey and his colleagues bringing forward a proposition for an increase of the Peerage ' which appeared to His Majesty 'so unreasonably extensive, so injurious to the charac'ter of that branch of the Legislature, and so degrading 'in its effects to the aristocracy of the country,' th;U the King refused to acquiesce in it, the Government resigned, and His Majesty sent for Lord Lyndhurst, the late Lord Chancellor, and 'requested him to communi'cate with the Duke of Wellington and others who 'might be disposed to come to his assistance and to 'attempt to form an Administration.' After some ineffectual attempts to accomplish the purpose, the Duke of Wellington and Lord Lyndhurst stated to His Majesty that their endeavours had become hopeless, and ' advised His Majesty to resort again to Earl Grey, 'and to make the best terms he could with him with 'respect to the Peerage question, if his Lordship should 'consent to return to the direction of his counsels." When Earl Grey resigned, in 1834, it occurred to the King ' that advantage might be taken of this state of 'affairs to effect a union of parties, of which the object 'should be Conservative, and this became the subject 'of communications to Lord Melbourne, and through « him to the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel and 'Mr. Stanley.' 'After fully weighing every contin'gency, he determined to entrust to Viscount Mel'bourne, whom he had employed in the communications, Dismissal of Lord Melbourne. 303
'the reconstruction of the Administration.' The King then gives an account of one of the most remarkable pieces of modern history in respect to the relation of the Sovereign to the Ministers of the Crown,—that of his peremptory dismissal of Lord Melbourne's Government in 1834, in spite of their having constant majorities in the House of Commons. The death of Lord Spencer on the 1 Oth of November, and the consequent elevation to the House of Lords of Lord Althorp, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, led to Lord Melbourne's proposing that Lord John Russell should succeed Lord Althorp as leader of the House of Commons. 'His 'Majesty objected strongly to Lord John Russell; he 'stated, without reserve, his opinion that he had not 'the abilities nor the influence which qualified him for 'the task, and observed that he would make a wretched 'figure when opposed by Sir Robert Peel and Mr. 'Stanley.' The King objected equally, if not more, to Mr. Abercrombie; and Lord Melbourne persisted in urging the nomination of Lord John Russell. 'But 'His Majesty had further objections. He considered 'Lord John Russell to have pledged himself to certain 'encroachments upon the Church, which His Majesty 'had made up his mind and expressed his determina'tion to resist.' 'Nor did His Majesty conceal from 'Lord Melbourne that the injudicious and extravagant 'conduct of Lord Brougham had tended to shake his 'confidence in the course which might be pursued by 'the Administration of which he formed so prominent 'and so active a feature, and in its consistency.' Finally, His Majesty made up his mind to communicate to Lord Melbourne 'his regret that circumstances did not in his opinion justify his sanctioning the arrange'ment he had proposed, or the continued existence of 'an Administration so situated; and this intimation 'was reduced to writing, to prevent any misconception,
* and in order that His Majesty might relieve himself 'from the embarrassment of the verbal opening of a
* painful communication.' The King adds, that he 'knows that it is, or has been, the opinion of some that 'he has acted prematurely, and that if he had agreed 'to the arrangement proposed by Lord Melbourne 'the Administration would have fallen to pieces 'and dissolved itself soon after the opening of Parlia'ment.'1
The following words of Lord Palmerston, cited in Baron Stockmar's Memoirs, and - reproduced in Mr. McCullagh Torrens' Life of Lord Melbourne, give a summary view of the real facts of this dismissal.
'The Government, therefore,' writes Lord Palmerston, 'have not resigned, but are dismissed; and they
* are dismissed not in consequence of having proposed 'any measure of which the King disapproved, and 'which they nevertheless would not give up, but be'cause it is thought they are not strong enough in the 'Commons to carry on the business of the country, and 'their places are to be filled by men who are noto'riously weak and unpopular in the Lower House, how'ever strong they may be in the Upper one. It is 'impossible not to conclude that this is a preconcerted 'measure, and therefore it may be taken for granted 'that the Duke of Wellington is prepared at once to 'undertake the task of forming a Government.'s
1 Memoirs of Baron Stoclemar, vol. i. p. 314.
* Memoirs of Baron Stoekmar, vol. i. p. 309. Also Memoirt of Lord Melbourne, vol. ii. p. 38.