The Greville Memoirs Volume 2 Chapter XVIII

The Greville Memoirs Volume 2 Chapter XVIII is in The Greville Memoirs Volume 2 Chapter XI.

Debate in the House of Lords — Lord Harrowby's Position — Hopes of a Compromise — Lord Melbourne's View — Disturbances caused by the Cholera — The Disfranchisement Clause — The Number '56' — Peers contemplated — The King's Hesitation — 'The Hunchback' — Critical Position of the Waverers — Bill carried by Nine in the Lords — The Cholera in Paris — Moderate Speech of Lord Grey — End of the Secession — Conciliatory Overtures — Negotiations carried on at Newmarket — Hostile Division in the Lords — Lord Wharncliffe's Account of his Failure — Lord Grey resigns — The Duke of Wellington attempts to form a Ministry — Peel declines — Hostility of the Court to the Whigs — A Change of Scene — The Duke fails — History of the Crisis — Lord Grey returns to Office — The King's Excitement — The King writes to the Opposition Peers — Defeat and Disgrace of the Tories — Conversation of the Duke of Wellington — Louis XVIII. — Madame du Cayla — Weakness of the King — Mortality among Great Men — Petition against Lord W. Bentinck's Prohibition of Suttee heard by the Privy Council — O'Connell and the Cholera — Irish Tithe Bill — Irish Difficulties — Mr. Stanley — Concluding Debates of the Parliament — Quarrel between Brougham and Sugden — Holland and Belgium — Brougham's Revenge and Apology — Dinner at Holland House — Anecdotes of Johnson — Death of Mr. Greville's Father — Madame de Flahaut's Account of the Princess Charlotte — Prince Augustus of Prussia — Captain Hess — Hostilities in Holland and in Portugal — The Duchesse de Berri — Conversation with Lord Melbourne on the State of the Government.

28 Mar 1832. There appear to have been as many differences of opinion as of people on the discussion in the House of Lords when the Bill was brought up, and it seems paradoxical, but is true, that though it was on the whole satisfactory, nobody was satisfied. Lord Grey complained to me that Lord Harrowby was too stiff; Lord Harrowby complained that Lord Grey was always beating about the bush of compromise, but never would commit himself fairly to concession. Melbourne complained last night that what was done was done in such an ungracious manner, so niggardly, that he hated the man (Harrowby) who did it. The ultra-Tories are outrageous 'that he gave up everything without reason or cause;' the ultra-Whigs equally furious 'that he had shown how little way he was disposed to go in Committee; his object was to turn out the Government;' and what is comical, neither party will believe that Harrowby really is so obnoxious to the other as he is said to be. Each is convinced that he is acting in the interests of the other. What a position, what injustice, blindness, folly, obstinacy, brought together and exhibited! If ever there was a man whose conduct was exempt from the ordinary motives of ambition, and who made personal sacrifices in what he is doing, it is Lord Harrowby, and yet there is no reproach that is not cast upon him, no term of abuse that is not applied to him, no motive that is not ascribed to him. No wonder a man who has seen much of them is sick of politics and public life. Nothing now is thought of but the lists, and of course everybody has got one. The Tories still pretend to a majority of seven; the Government and Harrowby think they have one of from ten to twenty, and I suspect fifteen will be found about the mark. The unfortunate thing is that neither of our cocks is good for fighting, not from want of courage, but Harrowby is peevish, ungracious and unpopular, and Wharncliffe (age 55) carries no great weight. To be sure neither of them pretends to make a party, but then their opponents insist upon it that they do, and men shrink from enlisting (or being supposed to enlist) under Wharncliffe's (age 55) banner. However, notwithstanding the violence of the noisy fools of the party, and of the women, there is a more rational disposition on the part of practical men, for Wharncliffe (age 55) spoke to Ellenborough yesterday, and told him that though he knew he and Harrowby were regarded as traitors by all of them, he did hope that when the Bill came into Committee they would agree to consult together, and try and come to some understanding as to the best mode of dealing with the question, that it was absurd to be standing aloof at such a moment; to which Ellenborough replied that he perfectly agreed with him, was anxious to do so, and intended to advise his friends to take that course.

01 Apr 1832. Wharncliffe (age 55) got Lord Grey to put off the second reading for a few days on account of the Quarter Sessions, which drew down a precious attack from Londonderry, and was in fact very foolish and unnecessary, as it looks like a concert between them, of which it is very desirable to avoid any appearance, as in fact none exists. The violence of the Tories continues unabated, and there is no effort they do not make to secure a majority, and they expect either to succeed or to bring it to a near thing. In the meantime the tone of the other party is changed. Dover, who makes lists, manages proxies, and does all the little jobbing, whipping-in, busy work of the party, makes out a clear majority, and told me he now thought the Bill would get through without Peers. The Government, however, are all agreed to make the Peers if it turns out to be necessary, and especially if the Bill should be thrown out, it seems clear that they would by no means go out, but make the Peers and bring it in again; so I gather from Richmond, and he who was the most violently opposed of the whole Cabinet to Peer-making, is now ready to make any number if necessary. There is, however, I hope, a disposition to concession, which, if matters are tolerably well managed, may lead to an arrangement. Still Wharncliffe (age 55), who must have a great deal to do in Committee, is neither prudent nor popular. The Tories are obstinate, sulky, and indisposed to agree to anything reasonable. It is the unity of object and the compactness of the party which give the Government strength. Charles Wood (age 31) told me the other day that they were well disposed to a compromise on two special points, one the exclusion of town voters from the right of voting for counties, the other the metropolitan members. On the first he proposed that no man voting for a town in right of a £10 house should have a vote for the county in right of any freehold in that town. That would be half-way between Wharncliffe's (age 55) plan and the present. The second, that Marylebone should return two members, and Middlesex two more—very like Grey's proposition which Harrowby rejected—but I suggested keeping the whole and varying the qualification, to which he thought no objection would lie.

01 Apr 1832. At the Duchesse de Dino's ball the night before last I had a very anxious conversation with Melbourne about it all. He said that 'he really believed there was no strong feeling in the country for the measure.' We talked of the violence of the Tories, and their notion that they could get rid of the whole thing. I said the notion was absurd now, but that I fully agreed with him about the general feeling. 'Why, then,' said he, 'might it not be thrown out?'—a consummation I really believe he would rejoice at, if it could be done. I said because there was a great party which would not let it, which would agitate again, and that the country wished ardently to have it settled; that if it could be disposed of for good and all, it would be a good thing indeed, but that this was now become impossible. I asked him if his colleagues were impressed as he was with this truth, and he said, 'No.' I told him he ought to do everything possible to enforce it, and to make them moderate, and induce them to concede, to which he replied, 'What difficulty can they have in swallowing the rest after they have given up the rotten boroughs? That is, in fact, the essential part of the Bill, and the truth is I do not see how the Government is to be carried on without them. Some means may be found; a remedy may possibly present itself, and it may work in practice better than we now know of, but I am not aware of any, and I do not see how any Government can be carried on when these are swept away.' This was, if not his exact words, the exact sense, and a pretty avowal for a man to make at the eleventh hour who has been a party concerned in this Bill during the other ten. I told him I agreed in every respect, but that it was too late to discuss this now, and that the rotten boroughs were past saving, that as to the minor points, the Waverers thought them of importance, looked upon them as securities, compensations, and moreover as what would save their own honour, and that the less their real importance was the more easily might they be conceded. We had a great deal more talk, but then it is all talk, and à quoi bon with a man who holds these opinions and acts as he does? Let it end as it may, the history of the Bill, and the means by which it has been conceived, brought forward, supported, and opposed, will be most curious and instructive. The division in the Lords must be very close indeed.

01 Apr 1832. Orloff, who was looked for like the Messiah, at last made his appearance a few days ago, a great burly Russian, but no ratification yet.1

Note 1. Of the Belgian Treaty.

01 Apr 1832. I have refrained for a long time from writing down anything about the cholera, because the subject is intolerably disgusting to me, and I have been bored past endurance by the perpetual questions of every fool about it. It is not, however, devoid of interest. In the first place, what has happened here proves that 'the people' of this enlightened, reading, thinking, reforming nation are not a whit less barbarous than the serfs in Russia, for precisely the same prejudices have been shown here that were found at St. Petersburg and at Berlin. The disease has undoubtedly appeared (hitherto) in this country in a milder shape than elsewhere, but the alarm at its name was so great that the Government could do no otherwise than take such precautions and means of safety as appeared best to avert the danger or mitigate its consequences. Here it came, and the immediate effect was a great inconvenience to trade and commerce, owing to restrictions, both those imposed by foreigners generally on this country and those we imposed ourselves between the healthy and unhealthy places. This begot complaints and disputes, and professional prejudices and jealousies urged a host of combatants into the field, to fight about the existence or non-existence of cholera, its contagiousness, and any collateral question. The disposition of the public was (and is) to believe that the whole thing was a humbug, and accordingly plenty of people were found to write in that sense, and the press lent itself to propagate the same idea. The disease, however, kept creeping on, the Boards of Health which were everywhere established immediately became odious, and the vestries and parishes stoutly resisted all pecuniary demands for the purpose of carrying into effect the recommendations of the Central Board or the orders of the Privy Council. In this town the mob has taken the part of the anti-cholerites, and the most disgraceful scenes have occurred. The other day a Mr. Pope, head of the hospital in Marylebone (Cholera Hospital) came to the Council Office to complain that a patient who was being removed with his own consent had been taken out of his chair by the mob and carried back, the chair broken, and the bearers and surgeon hardly escaping with their lives. Furious contests have taken place about the burials, it having been recommended that bodies should be burned directly after death, and the most violent prejudice opposing itself to this recommendation; in short, there is no end to the scenes of uproar, violence, and brutal ignorance that have gone on, and this on the part of the lower orders, for whose especial benefit all the precautions are taken, and for whose relief large sums have been raised and all the resources of charity called into activity in every part of the town. The awful thing is the vast extent of misery and distress which prevails, and the evidence of the rotten foundation on which the whole fabric of this gorgeous society rests, for I call that rotten which exhibits thousands upon thousands of human beings reduced to the lowest stage of moral and physical degradation, with no more of the necessaries of life than serve to keep body and soul together, whole classes of artisans without the means of subsistence. However complicated and remote the causes of this state of things, the manifestations present themselves in a frightful presence and reality, and those whose ingenuity, and experience, and philosophical views may enable them accurately to point out the causes and the gradual increase of this distress are totally unable to suggest a remedy or to foresee an end to it. Can such a state of things permanently go on? can any reform ameliorate it? Is it possible for any country to be considered in a healthy condition when there is no such thing as a general diffusion of the comforts of life (varying of course with every variety of circumstance which can affect the prosperity of individuals or of classes), but when the extremes prevail of the most unbounded luxury and enjoyment and the most dreadful privation and suffering? To imagine a state of society in which everybody should be well off, or even tolerably well off, would be a mere vision, as long as there is a preponderance of vice and folly in the world. There will always be effects commensurate with their causes, but it has not always been, and it certainly need not be, that the majority of the population should be in great difficulty, struggling to keep themselves afloat, and, what is worse, in uncertainty and in doubt whether they can earn subsistence for themselves and their families. Such is the case at present, and I believe a general uncertainty pervades every class of society, from the highest to the lowest; nobody looks upon any institution as secure, or any interest as safe, and it is only because those universal feelings of alarm which are equally diffused throughout the mass but slightly affect each individual atom of it that we see the world go on as usual, eating, drinking, laughing, and dancing, and not insensible to the danger, though, apparently indifferent about it.

04 Apr 1832. Charles Wood (age 31)2 came to me yesterday, and brought a paper showing the various effects of a different qualification from £10 to £40 for the metropolitan districts, to talk over the list, but principally to get me to speak to Harrowby about a foreseen difficulty. The first clause in the Bill enacts that fifty-six boroughs be disfranchised. This gave great offence in the House of Commons, was feebly defended, but carried by the majority, which was always ready and required no reason; it was an egregious piece of folly and arrogance there, here it presents a real embarrassment. I told him I knew Harrowby had an invincible repugnance to it, and that the effect would be very bad if they split upon the first point. He said he should not defend it, that all reason was against it, but that there it was, and how was it to be got rid of? I suggested that it should be passed over, and that they should go at once to the boroughs seriatim. He said if that clause was omitted a suspicion would immediately arise that there was an intention of altering Schedule A, and nothing would avert that but getting through a great part of it before Easter, and that this might be difficult, as the longest time they could expect to sit would be three days in Passion Week. He talked a great deal about the country expecting this, and that they would not be satisfied if it was not done, and all the usual jargon of the Reformers, which it was not worth while to dispute, and it ended by my promising to talk to Lord Harrowby about it. This I did last night, and he instantly flew into a rage. He said 'he would not be dragged through the mire by those scoundrels. It was an insolence that was not to be borne; let them make their Peers if they would, not Hell itself should make him vote for fifty-six; he would vote for sixty-six or any number but that, that he would not split with the Tories on the first vote; if indeed they would consent to fifty-six he would, or to anything else they would agree to, but if the Government brought this forward no consideration on earth should prevent his opposing it.' We then discussed the whole matter, with the proposed amendments which Wood and I had talked over with reference to the metropolitan members and town and county voting, and I am to go to-day and propose that after the second reading is carried they should adjourn till after Easter, and give a little time for the excitement (which there must be) to subside, and to see how matters stand, and what probability there is of getting the thing through quietly.

Note 2. Mr. Charles Wood (age 31), afterwards Viscount Halifax, but at this time private Secretary to Earl Grey, whose daughter he married.

06 Apr 1832. I called on the Duke of Richmond on Wednesday morning, and told him what had passed between Wood and me, and Lord Harrowby and me afterwards. He was aware of the difficulty, and regretted it the more because he might have to defend it in the House of Lords. He wished me very much to go to Downing Street and see Lord Grey himself if possible before the levee, and he suggested that the words fifty-six might be left in blank by Lord Grey's own motion, that this would be in conformity with the forms of the House. I set off, but calling at home on my way found Lord Harrowby at my door. He came in, and was anxious to know if I had said anything; he was more quiet than the night before, but still resolved not to agree to fifty-six, though anxious to have the matter compromised in some way. Lord Harrowby wanted to adjourn after the second reading, but owned that the best effect would be to get through Schedule A before Easter. Yesterday I saw Wood; he harped upon the difficulty and the old strain of the country. I suggested the point of form which Richmond had mentioned, but he said that could not be now in the Bill, as it was sent up from the Commons, that if they were beaten on fifty-six the country would consider it tantamount to throwing out Schedule A, and would highly approve of a creation of Peers, and that, in fact (if they wished it), it would be the best opportunity they could have. I told him that it would heap ridicule upon all the antecedent proceedings, and the pretext must be manifest, as it would appear in the course of the discussions what the real reason was. In the middle of our conversation Ellice came in, and directly asked if my friends would swallow fifty-six, to which I said, 'No.' We had then a vehement dispute, but at last Wood turned him out, and he and I resumed. We finally agreed that I should ask Lord Harrowby whether, if Lord Grey of his own accord proposed to leave out the words fifty-six, but with an expression of his opinion that this must be the number, he (Lord Harrowby) would meet him with a corresponding declaration that he objected to the specification of the number in the clause, without objecting to the extent of the disfranchisement, it being always understood that what passes between us is unauthorised talk, and to commit nobody—'without prejudice,' as the lawyers say.

06 Apr 1832. I heard yesterday, however, from Keate, who is attending me (and who is the King's surgeon, and sees him when he is in town), that he saw his Majesty after the levee on Wednesday, and that he was ill, out of sorts, and in considerable agitation; that he enquired of him about his health, when the King said he had much to annoy him, and that 'many things passed there (pointing to the Cabinet, out of which he had just come) which were by no means agreeable, and that he had had more than usual to occupy him that morning.' Keate said he was very sure from his manner that something unpleasant had occurred. This was, I have since discovered, the question of a creation of Peers again brought forward, and to which the King's aversion has returned so much so that it is doubtful if he will after all consent to a large one. It seems that unless the Peers are made (in the event of the necessity arising) Brougham and Althorp will resign; at least so they threaten. I have seen enough of threats, and doubts, and scruples, to be satisfied that there is no certainty that any of them will produce the anticipated effects, but I am resolved I will try, out of these various elements, if I cannot work out something which may be serviceable to the cause itself, though the materials I have to work with are scanty. The Ministers were all day yesterday settling who the new Peers shall be, so seriously are they preparing for the coup. They had already fixed upon Lords Molyneux, Blandford, Kennedy, Ebrington (age 79), Cavendish, Brabazon, and Charles Fox, Littleton, Portman, Frederick Lawley, Western, and many others, and this would be what Lord Holland calls assimilating the House of Lords to the spirit of the other House, and making it harmonise with the prevailing sense of the people.

08 Apr 1832. Lord Harrowby was out of town when I called there on Friday, so I wrote to him the substance of my conversation with Wood. Yesterday he returned. In the evening I met Wood at dinner at Lord Holland's, when he told me that he found on the part of his friends more reluctance than he had expected to give up the fifty-six, that he had done all he could to persuade them, but they made great objections. Moreover he had had a conversation with Sandon which he did not quite like, as he talked so much of holding the party together. All this was to make me think they are stouter than they really are, for I am better informed than he thinks for.

08 Apr 1832. Yesterday morning I got more correct information about what had passed with the King. Lord Grey went to him with a minute of Cabinet requiring that he should make Peers in case the second reading was thrown out.3 To this he demurred, raised difficulties and doubts, which naturally enough alarm the Government very much. However, when he got back to Windsor he wrote two letters, explaining his sentiments, from which it appears that he has great reluctance, that he will do it, but will not give any pledge beforehand, that he objects to increasing the Peerage, and wants to call up eldest sons and make Irish and Scotch Peers, that he did not say positively he would make the Peers, but that he would be in the way, and come up when it was necessary. They think that he has some idea that his pledging himself beforehand (though in fact he did so two months ago) might be drawn into an improper precedent. However this may be, his reluctance is so strong that a great deal may be made of it, as it is probable (if he continues in the same mind, and is not turned by some violence of the Opposition) that he will resist still more making Peers when the Bill is in Committee to carry the details, some of which he himself wishes to see altered, but the difficulty is very great. It is impossible to communicate with the Tory leaders; they will not believe what you tell them, and if they learnt the King's scruples they would immediately imagine that they might presume upon them to any extent, and stand out more obstinately than ever. I went to Harrowby last night, and imparted to him the state of things, which I shall do to nobody else. To Wharncliffe (age 55) I dare not. He is not indisposed to Wood's compromise, and I trust this will be settled, but he still leans to putting off the second reading till after Easter, and if the Tories also resolve upon that (which they are mightily disposed to do) he will not separate from them on that point, and they are sure to carry it. Unless this was accompanied with some declaration from them that they would be disposed to concede the great principles of the Bill, I think the Government would consider it such an indication of hostility as to call for an immediate creation of Peers, and I doubt whether the King could or would resist. There are many reasons why it would be desirable to make the second reading a resting-place, and adjourn then till after Easter, provided all parties consented, but it would be very unwise to make it the subject of a contest, and nobody would ever believe that the real reason was not to get rid of Schedule A by hook or by crook, or of a good deal of it. Harrowby will, I am sure, not divide against them on this, and they will not give it up; that there are means of resistance, if they were judiciously applied, I am sure, and if there were temper, discretion, and cordiality, the Bill might be licked into a very decent shape.

Note 3. This Cabinet minute of the 3rd of April, 1832, and the King's remarks upon it, have been printed in the 'Correspondence of William IV. and Earl Grey,' vol. ii. p. 307.

08 Apr 1832. I went to see Sheridan Knowles' new play the other night, 'The Hunchback.' Very good, and a great success. Miss Fanny Kemble acted really well—for the first time, in my opinion, great acting. I have not seen anything since Mrs. Siddons (and perhaps Miss O'Neill) so good.

08 Apr 1832. The Duke of Wellington made a very good speech on Irish affairs on Friday, one of his best, and he speaks admirably to points sometimes and on subjects he understands. I wish he had let alone that Irish Education—disgraceful humbug and cant. I don't know that there is anything else particularly new. Orloff is made a great rout with, but he don't ratify. The real truth is that the King of Holland holds out, and the other Powers delay till they see the result of our Reform Bill, thinking that the Duke of Wellington may return to power, and then they may make better terms for Holland and dictate to Belgium and to France. If the Reform Bill is carried, and Government stays in, they will ratify, and not till then. The cholera is disappearing here and in the country.

09 Apr 1832. Saw Lord Harrowby yesterday morning. He can't make up his mind what is best to be done, whether to go into Committee or not. He rather wishes to get through Schedule A, but he won't vote against the Tories if they divide on adjourning. Then went to Wood and told him there would be no difficulty about fifty-six. Lord Grey came in, and talked the whole thing over. He said he was ill—knocked up—that in his speech to-day he should be as moderate and tame as anybody could wish. From what Wood said, and he himself afterwards, I should think they wish to adjourn after the second reading, but to make a merit of it if they do. Duncannon, whom I saw afterwards, seemed to be of the same opinion, that it would be best not to sit in Passion Week. At night Wharncliffe (age 55) came back from Yorkshire. He is all for getting into Schedule A, and making no difficulties about fifty-six or anything else, and Harrowby, now that he fancies the Government want to adjourn, rather wants not, suspecting some trick. Upon going all over the list, we make out the worst to give a majority of six, and the best of eighteen, but the Tories still count upon getting back some of our people. We had a grand hunt after Lord Gambier's proxy; he sent it to Lord de Saumarez, who is laid up with the gout in Guernsey, and the difficulty was to get at Lord Gambier and procure another. At last I made Harrowby, who does not know him, write to him, and Wood sent a messenger after him, so we hope it will arrive in time.

11 Apr 1832. The day before yesterday Lord Grey introduced the Reform Bill in a speech of extreme moderation; as he promised, it was very 'tame.' The night's debate was dull; yesterday was better. Lord Mansfield made a fine speech against the Bill; Harrowby spoke well, Wharncliffe (age 55) ill. Nothing can equal the hot water we have been in—defections threatened on every side, expectations thwarted and doubts arising, betting nearly even. Even de Ros came to me in the morning and told me he doubted how he should vote; that neither Harrowby nor Wharncliffe (age 55) had put the question on the proper ground, and his reason for seceding from the Opposition was the menaced creation of Peers. I wrote to Harrowby and begged him to say something to satisfy tender consciences, and moved heaven and earth to keep De Ros and Coventry (who was slippery) right, and I succeeded—at least I believe so, for it is not yet over. Nothing can equal the anxiety out of doors and the intensity of the interest in the town, but the debate is far less animated than that of last year. As to our business, it is 'la mer à boire,' with nobody to canvass or whip in, and not being a party. We shall, however, I believe, manage it, and but just.

11 Apr 1832. I saw Keate this morning, who had been with the King. His Majesty talked in high terms of Ellenborough and of Mansfield. It is difficult to count upon such a man, but if the second reading is passed I do not believe he will make Peers to carry any points in Committee, unless it be the very vital ones, but it is very questionable if the Opposition will fight the battle then at all, or, if they do, fight in a way to secure a fair, practical result.