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from conviction—not from some overpowering necessity; but so far as we can judge, from the menace of a fresh creation”? I assure you that my great object in public life for the last six months has been to vindicate the authority and maintain the character of the House of Lords. I think that is the institution most exposed to danger from the shortsighted folly of the times; and also the institution which, if it remain erect in character, is most likely to serve as a rallying point for the returning good sense and moderation of the country. Now I doubt whether the House of Lords will not lose more of character and authority by yielding against its conviction on the Second Reading of the Bill of Reform, than by compelling the Government to resort to a coup d'état, and to carry the Bill by a fresh creation. I admit it is a very disputable question, and that very powerful arguments may be adduced in support of the opposite conclusion. The certainty of carrying the whole Bill, principle and details; the infusion of a popular and democratic spirit into the House of Lords; the cheapening of hereditary honours; the preponderance of a party, and that the worst party—half Whig and half Radical—are all evils the magnitude of which it would be vain to deny. But on the other hand I do not see much prospect of a successful struggle on details. The principle of the Bill having been admitted on the Second Reading, the first great outwork will have been carried. All the hopes and expectations of final success on the part of the assailants and of Reformers throughout the country will have been naturally and justifiably raised. The very
constitution of the resisting force fits it much more for a pitched battle than for the desultory warfare of committee. The absent but powerful allies—the proxies, are there lost; and I own I despair of your being able to extort any effectual concessions in committee. I think the Bill will pass (the Second Reading having been carried) without important modifications. The gain will be that no new Peers are created, or rather that no valid pretence for creating new Peers is given. That is all; for Peers may be created for other objects, and probably soon will be. The loss on the other hand will be this:—The Government will have effected its object by the menace of an unconstitutional act. They will have gained the prize without incurring the odium and disgust of the crime. They will have established a precedent for future Governments, more tempting, more easily followed, and therefore more dangerous, than would be the actual commission of a revolting act. Why have we been struggling against the Reform Bill in the House of Commons? Not in the hope of resisting its final success in that House, but because we look beyond this Bill; because we know the nature of popular concessions, their tendency to propagate the necessity for further and more extensive compliances. We want to make the Descensus as difficilis as we can ; to teach young inexperienced men charged with the trust of government, that though they may be backed by popular clamour, they shall not override on the first spring tide of excitement every barrier and breakwater raised against popular impulses; that the carrying of extensive changes in the Constitution without previous deliberation shall not be a holiday task; that there shall be just what has happened—the House sick of the question ; the Ministers repenting they brought it forward : the country paying the penalty for the folly and incapacity of its rulers. All these are salutary sufferings that may, I trust, make people hereafter distinguish between the amendment and the overturning of their institutions. Suppose we had given way, that we had acquiesced in the Bill, and given no trouble to the Ministers, my firm belief is that the country, so far from being satiated with our concessions, would have lost all reverence and care for remaining institutions, and have had their appetite whetted for a farther feast at the expense of the Church or the Monarchy. Now this is the principle on which, if I were a Peer, I should vote against the Second Reading of the Reform IBill. I would make the Ministers incur the odium of the act which they menace, and the responsibility which will attach to it at the bar of a future, and a better judging public. I would trust that the example set by this House of Lords would tell with effect, not immediately, but ultimately, even upon the new Peers, the instruments of its present degradation. Mine is a melancholy view, as it excludes the prospect of success: it excludes, however, participation in the crime, and gives to the present House of Lords the honour of determined, though fruitless, resistance.
“Ne non procumbat honestè Respicit; haec etiam cura cadentiserat.” "
* Ovid, Fastorum, lib. ii. v. 833.
The commencement of a new sheet reminds me with shame of the length and the haste with which I have written to you.
Believe me, my dear Lord Harrowby,
I should have written probably with more reserve, if I did not consider myself a spectator of the fray; with no interest, personal or political, in its issue ; no interest at least in obstructing a settlement of the Reform question, even if I had the slightest wish, which I have not, but directly the reverse, to resume official labours.
MY DEAR SIR INOPERT, Wo: Aoy, In our conversation at Hatfield about Sir Robert Walpole I could not but observe how very accurately you had studied the life and character of that Minister. Being now closely engaged in writing a ‘History of England during the IReign of George the First,' I have had of course to draw a character of Walpole, and I should take it as a particular kindness if you would do me the favour of looking at it (it is not long) and telling me whether you think it generally true. . . . . . Any opinion which you might be so good as to give me would not be quoted or published in my work, but would merely induce me to reconsider and correct a delineation which I should wish to have impartial, and which it is not perhaps very easy to make so.
Believe me, &c.,