The Constitutional History of England From 1760 to 1860
by Charles Duke Yonge
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from 1760 to 1860




Mr. Hallam's "Constitutional History" closes, as is well known, with the death of George II. The Reformation, the great Rebellion, and the Revolution, all of which are embraced in the period of which it treats, are events of such surpassing importance, and such all-pervading and lasting influence, that no subsequent transactions can ever attract entirely equal attention. Yet the century which has elapsed since the accession of George III. has also witnessed occurrences not only full of exciting interest at the moment, but calculated to affect the policy of the kingdom and the condition of the people, for all future time, in a degree only second to the Revolution itself. Indeed, the change in some leading features and principles of the constitution wrought by the Reform Bill of 1832, exceeds any that were enacted by the Bill of Rights or the Act of Settlement. The only absolutely new principle introduced in 1688 was that establishment of Protestant ascendency which was contained in the clause which disabled any Roman Catholic from wearing the crown. In other respects, those great statutes were not so much the introduction of new principles, as a recognition of privileges of the people which had been long established, but which, in too many instances, had been disregarded and violated.

But the Reform Bill conferred political power on classes which had never before been admitted to be entitled to it; and their enfranchisement could not fail to give a wholly new and democratic tinge to the government, which has been visible in its effect on the policy of all subsequent administrations.

And, besides this great measure, the passing of which has often been called a new Revolution, and the other reforms, municipal and ecclesiastical, which were its immediate and almost inevitable fruits, the century which followed the accession of George III. was also marked by the Irish Union, the abolition of slavery, the establishment of the principle of universal religious toleration; the loss of one great collection of colonies, the plantation of and grant of constitutions to others of not inferior magnitude, which had not even come into existence at its commencement; the growth of our wondrous dominion in India, with its eventual transfer of all authority in that country to the crown; with a host of minor transactions and enactments, which must all be regarded as, more or less, so many changes in or developments of the constitution, as it was regarded and understood by the statesmen of the seventeenth century.

It has seemed, therefore, to the compiler of this volume, that a narrative of these transactions in their historical sequence, so as to exhibit the connection which has frequently existed between them; to show, for instance, how the repeal of Poynings' Act, and the Regency Bill of 1788, necessitated the Irish Union; how Catholic Emancipation brought after it Parliamentary Reform, and how that led to municipal and ecclesiastical reforms, might not be without interest and use at the present time. And the modern fulness of our parliamentary reports (itself one not unimportant reform and novelty), since the accession of George III., has enabled him to give the inducements or the objections to the different enactments in the very words of the legislators who proposed them or resisted them, as often as it seemed desirable to do so.



Mr. Hallam's View of the Development of the Constitution.—Symptoms of approaching Constitutional Changes.—State of the Kingdom at the Accession of George III.—Improvement of the Law affecting the Commissions of the Judges.—Restoration of Peace.—Lord Bute becomes Minister.—The Case of Wilkes.—Mr. Luttrell is Seated for Middlesex by the House of Commons.—Growth of Parliamentary Reporting.—Mr. Grenville's Act for trying Election Petitions.—Disfranchisement of Corrupt Voters at New Shoreham.


The Regency Bill.—The Ministry of 1766 lay an Embargo on Corn.—An Act of Indemnity is Passed.—The Nullum Tempus Act concerning Crown Property; it is sought to Extend it to Church Property, but the Attempt fails.—The Royal Marriage Act.—The Lords amend a Bill imposing Export Duties, etc., on Corn.


Mr. Grenville imposes a Duty on Stamps in the North American Colonies.—Examination of Dr. Franklin.—Lord Rockingham's Ministry Repeals the Duty.—Lord Mansfield affirms a Virtual Representation in the Colonies.—Mr. C. Townsend imposes Import Duties in America.—After some Years, the Civil War breaks out.—Hanoverian Troops are sent to Gibraltar.—The Employment of Hanoverian Regiments at Gibraltar and Minorca.—End of the War.—Colonial Policy of the Present Reign.—Complaints of the Undue Influence of the Crown.—Motions for Parliamentary Reform.—Mr. Burke's Bill for Economical Reform.—Mr. Dunning's Resolution on the Influence of the Crown.—Rights of the Lords on Money-bills.—The Gordon Riots.


Changes of Administration.—The Coalition Ministry.—The Establishment of the Prince of Wales.—Fox's India Bill.—The King Defeats it by the Agency of Lord Temple.—The Ministry is Dismissed, and Succeeded by Mr. Pitt's Administration.—Opposition to the New Ministry in the House of Commons.—Merits of the Contest between the Old and the New Ministry.—Power of Pitt.—Pitt's India Bill.—Bill for the Government of Canada.—The Marriage of the Prince of Wales to Mrs. Fitzherbert.—The King becomes Deranged.—Proposal of a Regency.—Opinions of Various Writers on the Course adopted.—Spread of Revolutionary Societies and Opinions.—Bills for the Repression of Sedition and Treason.—The Alien Act.—The Traitorous Correspondence Act.—Treason and Sedition Bills.—Failure of some Prosecutions under them.


The Affairs of Ireland.—Condition of the Irish Parliament.—The Octennial Bill.—The Penal Laws.—Non-residence of the Lord- lieutenant.—Influence of the American War on Ireland.—Enrolment of the Volunteers.—Concession of all the Demands of Ireland.—Violence of the Volunteers.—Their Convention.—Violence of the Opposition in Parliament: Mr. Brownlow, Mr. Grattan, Mr. Flood.—Pitt's Propositions Fail.—Fitzgibbon's Conspiracy Bill.—Regency Question.—Recovery of the King.—Question of a Legislative Union.—Establishment of Maynooth College.—Lord Edward Fitzgerald.—Arguments for and against the Union.—It passes the Irish Parliament.—Details of the Measure.— General Character of the Union.—Circumstances which Prevented its Completeness.


A Census is Ordered.—Dissolution of Pitt's Administration.—Impeachment of Lord Melville.—Introduction of Lord Ellenborough into the Cabinet.—Abolition of the Slave-trade.—Mr. Windham's Compulsory Training Bill.—Illness of the King, and Regency.—Recurrence to the Precedent of 1788-'89.—Death of Mr. Perceval.—Lord Liverpool becomes Prime-minister.—Question of Appointments in the Household.—Appointment of a Prime-minister.


The Toleration Act.—Impropriety of making Catholic Emancipation (or any other Important Matter) an Open Question.—Joint Responsibility of all the Ministers.—Detention of Napoleon at St. Helena.—Question whether the Regent could Give Evidence in a Court of Law in a Civil Action.—Agitation for Reform.—Public Meetings.—The Manchester Meeting.—The Seditious Meetings Prevention Bill.—Lord Sidmouth's Six Acts.


Survey of the Reign of George III.—The Cato Street Conspiracy.—The Queen's Return to England, and the Proceedings against her.—The King Visits Ireland and Scotland.—Reform of the Criminal Code.—Freedom of Trade.—Death of Lord Liverpool.—The Duke of Wellington becomes Prime-minister.—Repeal of the Test and Corporation Act.—O'Connell is Elected for Clare.—Peel Resigns his Seat for Oxford.—Catholic Emancipation.—Question of the Endowment of the Roman Catholic Clergy.—Constitutional Character of the Emancipation.—The Propriety of Mr. Peel's Resignation of his Seat for Oxford Questioned.


Demand for Parliamentary Reform.—Death of George IV., and Accession of William IV.—French Revolution of 1830.—Growing Feeling in Favor of Reform.—Duke of Wellington's Declaration against Reform.—His Resignation: Lord Grey becomes Prime-minister.—Introduction of the Reform Bill.—Its Details.—Riots at Bristol and Nottingham.—Proposed Creation of Peers.—The King's Message to the Peers.—Character and Consequences of the Reform Bill.—Appointment of a Regency.— Re-arrangement of the Civil List.


Abolition of Slavery.—Abridgment of the Apprenticeship.—The East India Company's Trade is Thrown Open.—Commencement of Ecclesiastical Reforms.—The New Poor-law.—State of Ireland.—Agitation against Tithes.—Coercion Bill.—Beginning of Church Reform.—Sir Robert Peel becomes Prime-minister.—Variety of Offices held Provisionally by the Duke of Wellington.—Sir Robert Peel Retires, and Lord Melbourne Resumes the Government.—Sir Robert Peel Proposes a Measure of Church Reform.—Municipal Reform.—Measures of Ecclesiastical Reform.


Death of William IV., and Accession of Queen Victoria.—Rise of the Chartists.—Resignation of Lord Melbourne in 1839, and his Resumption of Office.—Marriage of the Queen, and Consequent Arrangements.—The Precedence of the Prince, etc.—Post-office Reform.—War in Afghanistan.—Discontent in Jamaica.—Insurrection in Canada.—New Constitution for Canada and other Colonies.—Case of Stockdale and Hansard.


Sir Robert Peel becomes Prime-minister.—Commercial Reforms.—Free-trade.—Religious Toleration.—Maynooth.—The Queen's University.—Post-office Regulations.—The Opening of Letters.— Naturalization of Aliens.—Recall of Lord Ellenborough.—Reversal of the Vote on the Sugar Duties.—Refusal of the Crown to Sanction a Bill.—The Question of Increase in the Number of Spiritual Peers.—Repeal of the Corn-laws.—Revolution in France, and Agitation on the Continent.—Death of Sir Robert Peel.—Indifference of the Country to Reform.—Repeal of the Navigation Laws.—Resolutions in Favor of Free-trade.—The Great Exhibition of 1851.


Dismissal of Lord Palmerston.—Theory of the Relation between the Sovereign and the Cabinet.—Correspondence of the Sovereign with French Princes.—Russian War.—Abolition of the Tax on Newspapers.—Life Peerages.—Resignation of two Bishops.—Indian Mutiny.—Abolition of the Sovereign Power of the Company.—Visit of the Prince of Wales to India.—Conspiracy Bill.—Rise of the Volunteers.—National Fortifications.—The Lords Reject the Measure for the Repeal of the Paper-duties.—Lord Palmerston's Resolutions.—Character of the Changes during the last Century.




Mr. Hallam's View of the Development of the Constitution.—Symptoms of approaching Constitutional Changes.—State of the Kingdom at the Accession of George III.—Improvement of the Law affecting the Commissions of the Judges.—Restoration of Peace.—Lord Bute becomes Minister.—The Case of Wilkes.—Mr. Luttrell is Seated for Middlesex by the House of Commons.—Growth of Parliamentary Reporting.—Mr. Grenville's Act for trying Election Petitions.—Disfranchisement of Corrupt Voters at New Shoreham.

The learned and judicious writer to whom is due the first idea of a "Constitutional History of England," and of whose admirable work I here venture to offer a continuation, regards "the spirit of the government" as having been "almost wholly monarchical till the Revolution of 1688," and in the four subsequent reigns, with the last of which his volumes close, as "having turned chiefly to an aristocracy."[1] And it may be considered as having generally preserved that character through the long and eventful reign of George III. But, even while he was writing, a change was already preparing, of which more than one recent occurrence had given unmistakable warning. A borough had been disfranchised for inveterate corruption in the first Parliament of George IV.[2] Before its dissolution, the same House of Commons had sanctioned the principle of a state endowment of the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland, and had given a third reading to a bill for the abolition of all civil restrictions affecting members of that religion. It was impossible to avoid foreseeing that the Parliamentary Reform inaugurated by the disfranchisement of Grampound would soon be carried farther, or that the emancipation, as it was termed, of all Christian sects was at least equally certain not to be long delayed. And it will be denied by no one that those measures, which had no very obscure or doubtful connection with each other, have gradually imparted to the constitution a far more democratic tinge than would have been willingly accepted by even the most liberal statesman of the preceding century, or than, in the days of the Tudors or of the Stuarts, would have been thought compatible with the maintenance of the monarchy.

When George III. came to the throne, he found the nation engaged in a war which was occupying its arms not only on the Continent of Europe, but in India and America also, and was extending her glory and her substantial power in both hemispheres. Inter arma silent leges. And, while the contest lasted, neither legislators in Parliament nor the people outside had much attention to spare for matters of domestic policy. Yet the first year of the new reign was not suffered to pass without the introduction of one measure limiting the royal prerogative in a matter of paramount importance to the liberty of the people, the independence of the judges. The rule of making the commissions of the judges depend on their good conduct instead of on the pleasure of the crown had, indeed, been established at the Revolution; but it was still held that these commissions expired with the life of the sovereign who had granted them; and, at the accession of Anne, as also at that of George II., a renewal of their commissions had been withheld from some members of the judicial bench. But now, even before the dissolution of the existing Parliament, the new King recommended to it such a change in the law as should "secure the judges in the enjoyment of their offices during their good behavior, notwithstanding any demise of the crown;" giving the proposal, which was understood to have been originally suggested by himself, additional weight by the very unusual step of making it the subject of a speech to the two Houses in the middle of the session. A bill to give effect to it was at once brought in, and, though the Houses sat only a fortnight longer, was carried before the dissolution.

The close of the year 1762, however, saw the restoration of peace; and the circumstances connected with the treaty which re-established it gave birth to a degree of political and constitutional excitement such as had not agitated the kingdom for more than half a century. That treaty had not been concluded by the minister who had conducted the war. When George III. came to the throne he found the Duke of Newcastle presiding at the Treasury, but the seals of one Secretary of State in the hands of Mr. Pitt, who was universally regarded as the guiding genius of the ministry. The other Secretary of State was Lord Holdernesse. But, in the spring of 1761, as soon as the Parliament was dissolved,[3] that statesman retired from office, and was succeeded by the Earl of Bute, a Scotch nobleman, who stood high in the favor of the King's mother, the Princess Dowager of Wales, but who had not till very recently been supposed to be actuated by political ambition, and who was still less suspected of any statesman-like ability to qualify him for the office to which he was thus promoted. It was presently seen, however, that he aspired to even higher dignity. He at once set himself to oppose Pitt's warlike policy; and, on the question of declaring war against Spain, he was so successful in inducing the rest of the cabinet to reject Pitt's proposals, that that statesman resigned his office in unconcealed indignation. Having got rid of the real master of the ministry, Bute's next step was to get rid of its nominal chief, and in the spring of 1762 he managed to drive the Duke of Newcastle from the Treasury, and was himself placed by the King at the head of the administration. So rapid an elevation of a man previously unknown as a politician could hardly fail to create very widespread dissatisfaction, which was in some degree augmented by the nationality of the new minister. Lord Bute was a Scotchman, and Englishmen had not wholly forgiven or forgotten the Scotch invasion of 1745. Since that time the Scotch had been regarded with general disfavor; Scotch poverty and Scotch greediness for the good things of England had furnished constant topics for raillery and sarcasm; and more than one demagogue and political writer had sought popularity by pandering to the prevailing taste for attacks on the whole nation. Foremost among these was Mr. John Wilkes, member for Aylesbury, a man of broken fortunes and still more damaged character, but of a wit and hardihood that made his society acceptable to some of high rank and lax morality, and caused his political alliance to be courted by some who desired to be regarded as leaders of a party; many of the transactions of the late reign having, unfortunately, not been favorable to the maintenance of any high standard of either public or private virtue. On Lord Bute's accession to office, Wilkes had set up a periodical paper, whose object and character were sufficiently indicated by its title, The North Briton, and in which the diligence of Lord Bute in distributing places among his kinsmen and countrymen furnished the staple of almost every number; while in many the Princess of Wales herself was not spared, as the cause, for motives not obscurely hinted at, of his sudden elevation. So pertinacious and virulent were the attacks thus launched at him, coinciding as they did, at least in one point, with the prejudices of the multitude, that they were commonly believed to have had some share in driving Lord Bute from office, which, in the spring of 1763, he suddenly resigned, hoping, as it might almost seem, thus to throw on his successor the burden of defending his measures. The most important of these measures had been the conclusion of the Treaty of Versailles, which, when it was first announced to Parliament, had been vehemently attacked in both Houses by Pitt and his followers, but had been approved by large majorities. Wilkes, however, not without reason, believed it to be still unpopular with the nation at large, and, flushed with his supposed victory over Lord Bute, was watching eagerly for some occasion of re-opening the question, when such an opportunity was afforded him by the King's speech at the prorogation of the Parliament, which took place a few days after Lord Bute's resignation.

Lord Bute had been succeeded by Mr. George Grenville, who had for a time been one of his colleagues as Secretary of State; and on him, therefore, the duty devolved of framing the royal speech the opening sentences of which referred to "the re-establishment of peace" in terms of warm self-congratulation, as having been effected "upon conditions honorable to the crown and beneficial to the people." Wilkes at once caught at this panegyric, as affording him just such an opportunity as he had been seeking of renewing his attacks on the government, which he regarded as changed in nothing but the name of the Prime-minister.[4] And, four days after the prorogation,[5] he accordingly issued a new number of The North Briton (No. 45), in which he heaped unmeasured sarcasm and invective on the peace itself, on the royal speech, and on the minister who had composed it. As if conscious that Mr. Grenville was less inclined by temper than Lord Bute to suffer such attacks without endeavoring to retaliate, he took especial pains to keep within the law in his strictures, and, accordingly, carefully avoided saying a disrespectful word of the King himself, whom he described as "a prince of many great and amiable qualities," "ever renowned for truth, honor, and unsullied virtue." But he claimed a right to canvass the speech "with the utmost freedom," since "it had always been considered by the Legislature and by the public at large as the speech of the minister." And he kept this distinction carefully in view through the whole number. The speech he denounced with bitter vehemence, as "an abandoned instance of ministerial effrontery," as containing "the most unjustifiable public declarations" and "infamous fallacies." The peace he affirmed to be "such as had drawn down the contempt of mankind on our wretched negotiators." And he described the present minister as a mere tool of "the favorite," by whom "he still meditated to rule the kingdom with a rod of iron." But in the whole number there was but one sentence which could be represented as implying the very slightest censure on the King himself, and even that was qualified by a personal eulogy. "The King of England," it said, "is not only the first magistrate of the country, but is invested by the law with the whole executive power. He is, however, responsible to his people for the due execution of the royal functions in the choice of ministers, etc., equally with the meanest of his subjects in his particular duty. The personal character of our present amiable sovereign makes us easy and happy that so great a power is lodged in such hands; but the favorite has given too just cause for him to escape the general odium. The prerogative of the crown is to exert the constitutional power intrusted to it in such a way, not of blind favor and partiality, but of wisdom and judgment. This is the spirit of our constitution. The people, too, have their prerogative; and I hope the fine words of Dryden will be engraven on our hearts, 'Freedom is the English subject's prerogative.'"

These were the last sentences of No. 45. And in the present day it will hardly be thought that, however severe or even violent some of the epithets with which certain sentences of the royal speech were assailed may have been, the language exceeds the bounds of allowable political criticism. With respect to the King, indeed, however accompanied with personal compliments to himself those strictures may have been, it may be admitted that in asserting any responsibility whatever to the people on the part of the sovereign, even for the choice of his ministers, as being bound to exercise that choice "with wisdom and judgment," it goes somewhat beyond the strict theory of the constitution. Undoubtedly that theory is, that the minister chosen by the King is himself responsible for every circumstance or act which led to his appointment. This principle was established in the fullest manner in 1834, when, as will be seen hereafter, Sir Robert Peel admitted his entire responsibility for the dismissal of Lord Melbourne by King William IV., though it was notorious that he was in Italy at the time, and had not been consulted on the matter. But as yet such questions had not been as accurately examined as subsequent events caused them to be; and Wilkes's assertion of royal responsibility to this extent probably coincided with the general feeling on the subject.[6] At all events, the error contained in it, and the insinuation that due wisdom and judgment had not been displayed in the appointment of Mr. G. Grenville to the Treasury, were not so derogatory to the legitimate authority and dignity of the crown as to make the writer a fit subject for a criminal prosecution. But Mr. Grenville was of a bitter temper, never inclined to tolerate any strictures on his own judgment or capacity, and fully imbued with the conviction that the first duty of an English minister is to uphold the supreme authority of the Parliament, and to chastise any one who dares to call in question the wisdom of any one of its resolutions. But The North Briton had done this, and more. No. 45 had not only denounced the treaty which both Houses had approved, but had insinuated in unmistakable language that their approval had been purchased by gross corruption (a fact which was, indeed, sufficiently notorious). And, consequently, Mr. Grenville determined to treat the number which contained the denunciation as a seditious libel, the publication of which was a criminal offence; and, by his direction, Lord Halifax, as Secretary of State, issued what was termed a general warrant—a warrant, that is, which did not name the person or persons against whom it was directed, but which commanded the apprehension of "the authors, printers, and publishers" of the offending paper, leaving the officers who were charged with its execution to decide who came under that description, or, in other words, who were guilty of the act charged, before they had been brought before any tribunal. The warrant was executed. Wilkes and some printers were apprehended; Wilkes himself, as if the minister's design had been to make the charge ridiculous by exaggeration, being consigned to the great state-prison of the Tower, such a use of which was generally limited to those impeached of high-treason. And, indeed, the commitment did declare that No. 45 of The North Briton was "a libel tending to alienate the affections of the people from his Majesty, and to excite them to traitorous insurrections against the government." Wilkes instantly sued out a writ of habeas corpus, and was without hesitation released by the Court of Common Pleas, on the legal ground that, "as a member of the House of Commons, he was protected from arrest in all cases except treason, felony, or a breach of the peace;" a decision which, in the next session of Parliament, the minister endeavored to overbear by inducing both Houses to concur in a resolution that "privilege of Parliament did not extend to the case of publishing seditious libels."

In his life of Lord Camden,[7] who was Chief-justice of the Common Pleas at the time, Lord Campbell expresses a warm approval of this resolution, as one "which would now be considered conclusive evidence of the law." But, with all respect to the memory of a writer who was himself a Chief-justice, we suspect that in this case he was advancing a position as an author engaged in the discussion of what had become a party question, which he would not have laid down from the Bench.[8] The resolution certainly did not make it law, since it was not confirmed by any royal assent; and to interpret the law is not within the province of the House of Commons, nor, except when sitting as a Court of Appeal, of the House of Lords. We may, however, fully agree with the principle which Lord Campbell at the same time lays down, that "privilege of Parliament should not be permitted to interfere with the execution of the criminal law of the country." And this doctrine has been so fully acquiesced in since, that members of both Houses have in more than one instance been imprisoned on conviction for libel.

The legality of the species of warrant under which Wilkes had been arrested was, however, a question of far greater importance; and on that no formal decision was pronounced on this occasion, the Lieutenant of the Tower, in his return to the writ of habeas corpus, and the counsel employed on both sides, equally avoiding all mention of the character of the warrant. But it was indirectly determined shortly afterward. The leaders of the Opposition would fain have had the point settled by what, in truth, would not have settled it—another resolution of the House of Commons. But, though it was discussed in several warm debates, Grenville always contrived to baffle his adversaries, though on one occasion his majority dwindled to fourteen.[9] What, however, the House of Commons abstained from affirming was distinctly, though somewhat extra-judicially, asserted by Lord Camden, as Chief-justice of the Common Pleas. Wilkes, with some of the printers and others who had been arrested, had brought actions for false imprisonment, which came to be tried in his court; and they obtained such heavy damages that the officials who had been mulcted applied for new trials, on the plea of their being excessive. But the Chief-justice refused the applications, and upheld the verdict, on the ground that the juries, in their assessment of damages, had been "influenced by a righteous indignation at the conduct of those who sought to exercise arbitrary power over all the King's subjects, to violate Magna Charta, and to destroy the liberty of the kingdom, by insisting on the legality of this general warrant." Such a justification would hardly be admitted now. But, in a subsequent trial, a still higher authority, the Chief-justice of the King's Bench, Lord Mansfield, held language so similar, that, once more to quote the words of Lord Campbell, "without any formal judgment, general warrants have ever since been considered illegal."

However, the release of Wilkes on the ground of his parliamentary privilege gave him but a momentary triumph, or rather respite. The prosecution was not abated by the decision that he could not be imprisoned before trial; while one effect of his liberation was to stimulate the minister to add another count to the indictment preferred against him, on which he might be expected to find it less easy to excite the sympathy of any party. Wilkes had not always confined his literary efforts to political pamphlets. There was a club named the Franciscans (in compliment to Sir Francis Dashwood, Lord Bute's Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, as well as Lord Sandwich, the First Lord of the Admiralty, was one of its members), which met at Medmenham Abbey, on the banks of the Thames, and there held revels whose license recalled the worst excesses of the preceding century. To this club Wilkes also belonged; and, in indulgence of tastes in harmony with such a brotherhood, he had composed a blasphemous and indecent parody on Pope's "Essay on Man," which he entitled "An Essay on Woman," and to which he appended a body of burlesque notes purporting to be the composition of Pope's latest commentator, the celebrated Dr. Warburton, Bishop of Gloucester. He had never published it (indeed, it may be doubted whether, even in that not very delicate age, any publisher could have been found to run the risk of issuing so scandalous a work), but he had printed a few copies in his own house, of which he designed to make presents to such friends as he expected to appreciate it. He had not, however, so far as it appears, given away a single copy, when, on the very first day of the next session of Parliament, Lord Sandwich himself brought the parody under the notice of the House of Lords. If there was a single member of the House whose delicacy was not likely to be shocked, and whose morals could not be injured by such a composition, it was certainly Lord Sandwich himself; but his zeal as a minister to support his chief kindled in him a sudden enthusiasm for the support of virtue and decency also; and, having obtained a copy by some surreptitious means, he now made a formal complaint of it to the House, contending that the use of the name of the Bishop of Gloucester as author of the notes constituted a breach of the privileges of the House. And he was seconded by the bishop himself, whose temper and judgment were, unhappily, very inferior to his learning and piety. It is recorded that he actually compared Wilkes to the devil, and then apologized to Satan for the comparison. But the Lords were in a humor to regard no violence against Wilkes as excessive; and, submitting to the guidance of the minister and the prelate, resolved that the "Essay on Woman,"[10] as also another poem by the same writer, a paraphrase of the "Veni Creator," was "a most scandalous, obscene, and impious libel," and presented an address to the King, requesting his Majesty "to give the most effectual orders for the immediate prosecution of the author." And, in the course of the next few weeks, the House of Commons outran the peers themselves in violence and manifest unfairness. They concurred with the Lords in ordering No. 45 of The North Briton to be burnt by the common hangman, an order which was not carried out without great opposition on the part of the London populace, who made it the occasion of a very formidable riot, in which the sheriffs themselves incurred no little danger; and, by another resolution, they ordered Wilkes to attend in his place to answer the charge of having published the two works. But at the time when they made this order it was well known that he could not obey it. A few days before he had been challenged by a Mr. Martin, who till very recently had been one of the Secretaries of the Treasury, and who was generally believed to have prepared himself for the conflict by diligent practice with a pistol; and in the duel which ensued Wilkes had been severely wounded. It was not only notorious that he had been thus disabled, but he sent a physician and surgeon of admitted eminence in their profession, and of unquestioned honor, to testify to the fact at the bar of the House; and subsequently he forwarded written certificates to the same purport from some French doctors who had special knowledge of gunshot wounds. But the Commons declined to accept this evidence as sufficient, and directed two other doctors to examine him. Wilkes, however, refused to admit them: his refusal was treated as a sufficient ground for pronouncing him "guilty of a contempt of the authority of the House," and for deciding on his case in his absence; and, on the 19th of January, before the case had come on for trial, a resolution was carried that "Mr. Wilkes was guilty of writing and publishing The North Briton (No. 45), which this House had voted to be a false, scandalous, and seditious libel, and that, for the said offence, he be expelled the House." At a later period of the year, he was tried on the two charges of publishing No. 45 and the "Essay on Woman," was found guilty of both, and, as he did not appear to receive judgment, in November, 1764, he was outlawed.

So far, it may be said to have been a drawn battle. If, on the one hand, the minister had procured the expulsion of Wilkes, on the other hand Wilkes had gained great notoriety and a certain amount of sympathy, and had, moreover, enriched himself by considerable damages; and again, if the nation at large was a gainer by the condemnation of general warrants, even that advantage might be thought to be dearly gained by the discredit into which the Parliament had fallen through its intemperance. But the contest between Wilkes and the ministry was only closed for a time; and when it was revived, a singular freak of fortune caused the very minister who had led the proceedings against him on this occasion to appear as his advocate. To avoid the consequences of his outlawry, he had taken up his abode in Paris, waiting for a change of ministry, which, as he hoped, might bring into power some to whom he might look for greater favor. But when, though in the course of the next two years two fresh administrations were formed, it was seen that neither Lord Rockingham, the head of the first, nor the Duke of Grafton and Mr. Pitt (promoted to the Earldom of Chatham), the heads of the second, had any greater sympathy with him than Mr. Grenville, he became desperate, and looked out for some opportunity of giving effect to his discontent. He found it in the dissolution of Parliament, which took place in the spring of 1768. In spite of his outlawry, he instantly returned to England, and offered himself as a candidate for London. There, indeed, he did not succeed, though the populace was uproarious in his support, and drew his carriage through the streets as if in triumph. But, before the end of the month, he was returned at the head of the poll for Middlesex, when the mob celebrated his victory by great riot and outrages, breaking the windows of Lord Bute, as his old enemy, and of the Lord Mayor, as the representative of the City of London, which had rejected him, and insulting, and even in some instances beating, passers-by who refused to join in their cheers for "Wilkes and Liberty."

He had already pledged himself to take the necessary steps to procure the reversal of his outlawry; and, in pursuance of his promise, he surrendered in the Court of King's Bench. But his removal to prison caused a renewal of the tumults with greater violence than before. The mob even rescued him from the officers who had him in custody; and when, having escaped from his deliverers, he, with a parade of obedience to the law, again surrendered himself voluntarily at the gate of the King's Bench Prison, they threatened to attack the jail itself, kindled a fire under its walls, which was not extinguished without some danger, and day after day assembled in such tumultuous and menacing crowds, that at last Lord Weymouth, the Secretary of State, wrote a letter to the Surrey magistrates, enjoining them to abstain from no measures which might seem necessary for the preservation of peace, even if that could only be effected by the employment of the soldiery. The riots grew more and more formidable, till at last the magistrates had no resource but to call out the troops, who, on one occasion, after they had been pelted with large stones, and in many instances severely injured, fired, killing or wounding several of the foremost rioters. So tragical an event seemed to Wilkes to furnish him with exactly such an opportunity as he desired to push himself into farther notoriety. He at once printed Lord Weymouth's letter, and circulated it, with an inflammatory comment, in which he described it as a composition having for its fruit "a horrid massacre, the consummation of a hellish plot deliberately planned." Too angry to be prudent, Lord Weymouth complained to the House of Lords of this publication as a breach of privilege, and the Lords formally represented it to the House of Commons as an insult deliberately offered to them by one of its members. There could be no doubt that such language as Wilkes had used was libellous. In its imputation of designs of deliberate wickedness, it very far exceeded the bitterest passages of The North Briton; and Lord Weymouth's colleagues, therefore, thought they might safely follow the precedent set in 1764, of branding the publication as a libel, and again procuring the expulsion of the libeller from the House of Commons. There were circumstances in the present case, such as the difference between the constituencies of Aylesbury and Middlesex, and the enthusiastic fervor in the offender's cause which the populace of the City had displayed, which made it very doubtful whether the precedent of 1764 were quite a safe one to follow; but the ministers not only disregarded every such consideration, but, as if they had wantonly designed to give their measure a bad appearance, and to furnish its opponents with the strongest additional argument against it, they mixed up with their present complaint a reference to former misdeeds of Wilkes with which it had no connection. On receiving the message of the Lords, they had summoned him to appear at the bar of the House of Commons, that he might be examined on the subject; but this proceeding was so far from intimidating him, that he not only avowed the publication of his comment on Lord Weymouth's letter, but gloried in it, asserting that he deserved the thanks of the people for bringing to light the true character of "that bloody scroll." Such language was regarded as an aggravation of his offence, and the Attorney-general moved that his comment on the letter "was an insolent, scandalous, and seditious libel;" and, when that motion had been carried, Lord Barrington followed it up with another, to the effect that "John Wilkes, Esq., a member of this House, who hath at the bar of this House confessed himself to be the author and publisher of what the House has resolved to be an insolent, scandalous, and seditious libel, and who has been convicted in the Court of King's Bench of having printed and published a seditious libel, and three[11] obscene and impious libels, and by the judgment of the said Court has been sentenced to undergo twenty-two months' imprisonment, and is now in execution under the said judgment, be expelled this House." This motion encountered a vigorous opposition, not only from Mr. Burke and the principal members of the Rockingham party, which now formed the regular Opposition, but also from Mr. Grenville, the former Prime-minister, who on the former occasion, in 1764, had himself moved the expulsion of the same offender. His speech on this occasion is the only one which is fully reported; and it deserved the distinction from the exhaustive way in which it dealt with every part of the question. It displayed no inclination to extenuate Wilkes's present offence, but it pointed out with great force the circumstance that the supporters of the motion were far from agreement as to the reasons by which they were guided; that some members of the greatest authority in the House, while they had avowed their intention of voting for the expulsion, had at the same time been careful to explain that the comment on Lord Weymouth's letter was not the ground of their vote; that so great a lawyer as Mr. Blackstone had asserted that that comment "had not been properly and regularly brought before the House," but had founded his intention to vote for the expulsion solely "upon that article of the charge which related to the three obscene and impious libels mentioned in it, disavowing in the most direct terms all the other articles." That, on the other hand, other members of deserved weight and influence, such as Lord Palmerston and Lord F. Campbell, had disdained the idea of regarding "the article of the three obscene and impious libels as affording any ground for their proceeding." So practised a debater as Mr. Grenville had but little difficulty, therefore, in arguing against the advocates of expulsion, when they were so divided that one portion of them did, in fact, reply to the other. But it would be superfluous here to enter into the arguments employed on either side to justify the expulsion, or to prove it to be unjustifiable, from a consideration of the character of either Wilkes or his publication. The strength and importance of Mr. Grenville's speech lay in the constitutional points which it raised.

Some supporters of the ministers had dwelt upon the former expulsion, insisting that "a man who had been expelled by a former House of Commons could not possibly be deemed a proper person to sit in the present Parliament, unless he had some pardon to plead, or some merit to cancel his former offences." By a reference to the case of Sir R. Walpole, Mr. Grenville proved that this had not been the opinion of former Parliaments; and he contended, with unanswerable logic, that it would be very mischievous to the nation if such a principle should be now acted on, and such a precedent established, since, though employed in the first instance against the odious and the guilty, it might, when once established, be easily applied to, and made use of against, the meritorious and the innocent; and so the most eminent and deserving members of the state, under the color of such an example, by one arbitrary and discretionary vote of one House of Parliament, the worst species of ostracism, might be excluded from the public councils, cut off and proscribed from the rights of every subject of the realm, not for a term of years alone, but forever. He quoted from "L'Esprit des Lois" an assertion of Montesquieu, that "one of the excellences of the English constitution was, that the judicial power was separated from the legislative, and that there would be no liberty if they were blended together; the power over the life and liberty of the citizens would then be arbitrary, for the judge would be the legislator." And, having thus proved that it would be a violation of the recognized constitution to found a second expulsion on the first, he proceeded to argue that to expel him for this new offence would be impolitic and inexpedient, as a step which would inevitably lead to a contest with the constituency which he represented, since, "in the present disposition of the county of Middlesex, no one could entertain a doubt that Wilkes would be re-elected. The House would then probably think itself under a necessity of again expelling him, and he would as certainly be again re-elected. The House might, indeed, refuse to issue a new writ, which would be to deprive the freeholders of Middlesex of the right of choosing any other representative; but he could not believe that the House would think it fit to inflict such a punishment on the electors of a great county. Should it not do so, the other alternative would be to bring into the House as representative and knight of the shire for Middlesex a man chosen by a few voters only, in contradiction to the declared sense of a great majority of the freeholders on the face of the poll, upon the supposition that all the votes of the latter were forfeited and thrown away on account of the expulsion of Mr. Wilkes." It seemed premature to discuss that point before it arose, and therefore the Speaker contented himself for the present with saying that "he believed there was no example of such a proceeding; and that, if it should appear to be new and unfounded as the law of the land, or even if any reasonable doubt could be entertained of its legality, the attempt to forfeit the freeholders' votes in such a manner would be highly alarming and dangerous."

Few prophecies have been more exactly fulfilled. The House did expel Mr. Wilkes; he did offer himself for re-election, and was re-elected; and the minister, in consequence, moved and carried a resolution that "John Wilkes, Esq., having been, in this session of Parliament, expelled this House, was and is incapable of being elected a member to serve in this present Parliament." And, in pursuance of this vote, a writ was again issued. At the end of another month the proceeding required to be repeated. Wilkes had again offered himself for re-election. No other candidate had presented himself, and, in answer to an inquiry, the under-sheriff reported that "no other candidate had been proposed but John Wilkes, Esq., and that no elector had given or tendered his vote for any other person." Once more the House resolved that he was "incapable of being elected," and issued a new writ. But on this second occasion the ministry had provided a rival candidate in the person of the Honorable H.K. Luttrell. He was duly proposed and seconded; a poll was taken and kept open for several days, and, as it appeared at the close that 1143 votes had been given for Wilkes and 296 for Mr. Luttrell, the sheriff again returned Wilkes as duly elected.

A debate of singularly angry excitement arose on the reception of this return. Even lawyers, such as Mr. De Grey, the Attorney-general, and Sir Fletcher Norton, who had been Attorney-general, were not ashamed to denounce the conduct of the sheriff in returning Mr. Wilkes as "highly improper and indecent," as "a flying in the face of a resolution of the House of Commons;" and Sir Fletcher even ventured to advance the proposition that, "as the Commons were acting in a judicial capacity, their resolutions were equal to law." Lord North, too, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as we learn from the "Parliamentary History," "spoke long, but chiefly to the passions. He described Mr. Wilkes and his actions in a lively manner; showed the variety of troubles which he had given the ministry; and that unless, by voting in Mr. Luttrell, an end were put to this debate, the whole kingdom would be in confusion; though he owned that he did not think that measure would put an end to the distractions. He spoke much more to the expediency than to the legality of the measure proposed."

On the other side, it was contended by several members, Burke and Mr. Grenville being of the number, that "the House of Commons alone could not make a law binding any body but themselves. That, if they could disqualify one person, they could disqualify as many as they pleased, and thus get into their own hands the whole power of the government;" and precedents were produced to prove that votes of the House of Lords, and also of the House of Commons, regarding their own members, had been disregarded by the judges of the Court of King's Bench as being contrary to law. But the minister was secure of the steadiness of his adherents, and a majority of 221 to 152 declared that Mr. Luttrell had been duly elected.

But Lord North was correct in his anticipation that their vote would not put an end to the agitation on the question, and it was renewed in the next session in a manner which at one time threatened to produce a breach between the two Houses.

The "Parliamentary History" closes its report of the debate on the resolution by which Mr. Luttrell was seated with a summary of the arguments used in it, taken from the "Annual Register," which, as is universally known, was at this time edited by Mr. Burke. It is a very fair and candid abstract, which, in fact, puts the whole question on one single issue, "that the House of Commons is the sole court of judicature in all cases of election, and that this authority is derived from the first principles of our government, viz., the necessary independence of the three branches of the Legislature." But, though that doctrine was fully admitted by the Opposition, they made "that very admission a ground for reviving the question in the next session, by moving for a resolution which should declare that, 'being a Court of Judicature, the House of Commons, in deciding matters of election, was bound to judge according to the law of the land, and the known and established law of Parliament, which was part thereof.'" It was understood that this resolution, if carried, was intended as a stepping-stone to others which should condemn the decision of the previous session; yet it seemed such a truism that even the ministers could not venture to deny it; but they proposed to defeat the object of its framers by adding to it a declaration that the late decision was "agreeable to the said law of the land." And we might pass on to the subsequent debate, in which the constitutional correctness of that addition was distinctly challenged, did it not seem desirable to notice two arguments which were brought forward against the motion, one by an independent member, Mr. Ongley, the other by the Attorney-general. Mr. Ongley contended that "a power of preserving order and decency is essentially necessary to every aggregate body; and, with respect to this House, if it had not power over its particular members, they would be subject to no control at all." The answer to this argument is obvious: that a right on the part of the House to control the conduct of its members is a wholly different thing from a right to determine who are or ought to be members; and that for the House to claim this latter right, except on grounds of qualification or disqualification legally proved, would be to repeat one of the most monstrous of all Cromwell's acts of tyranny, when, in 1656, he placed guards at the door of the House, with orders to refuse admission to all those members whom, however lawfully elected, he did not expect to find sufficiently compliant for his purposes. Mr. De Grey's argument was of a different character, being based on what he foretold would be the practical result of a decision that expulsion did not involve an incapacity to be re-elected. If it did not involve such incapacity, and if, in consequence, Mr. Wilkes should be re-elected, he considered that the House would naturally feel it its duty to re-expel him as often as the constituency re-elected him. But one answer given to this argument was, that to expel a second time would be to punish twice for one offence, a proceeding at variance not only with English law but with every idea of justice. Another, and one which has obtained greater acceptance, was, that the legitimate doctrine was, that the issue of a new writ gave the expelled member an appeal from the House to the constituency, and that the constituency had a constitutional right to overrule the judgment of the House, and to determine whether it still regarded the candidate as its most suitable representative.

The ministers, however, were, as before, strong enough in the House to carry their resolution. But the Opposition returned to the charge, taking up an entirely different though equally general position, "That, by the law of the land and the known law and usage of Parliament, no person eligible by common right can be incapacitated by vote or resolution of this House, but by act of Parliament only." It is remarkable that, in the debate which ensued, two members who successively rose to the dignity of Lord Chancellor, Mr. Thurlow and Mr. Wedderburn, took different sides; but nothing could shake the ministerial majority. The resolution was rejected. And when Lord Rockingham proposed the same resolution in the House of Lords, though it was supported by all the eloquence of Lord Chatham, he was beaten by a majority of more than two to one, and the ministers even carried a resolution declaring "that any interference of the House of Lords with any judgment of the House of Commons, in matters of election, would be a violation of the constitutional rights of the Commons."

Even these decisive defeats of the Opposition did not finally terminate the struggle. The notoriety which Wilkes had gained had answered his purpose to no slight extent. The City had adopted his cause with continually increasing earnestness and effect. It had made him Sheriff, Alderman, Lord Mayor, and had enriched him with the lucrative office of City Chamberlain; and, as one of the City magistrates, he subsequently won the good opinion of many who had previously condemned him, by his conduct during the Gordon Riots, in which he exerted his authority with great intrepidity to check and punish the violence of the rioters. And when, in 1782, Lord Rockingham became, for the second time, Prime-minister, he thought he might well avail himself of the favor he had thus acquired, and of the accession to office of those whom the line which they had formerly taken bound to countenance him, to bring forward a motion for the expunction of the resolutions against him which had been passed in 1770. It was carried by a largo majority; and though this was as evidently a party division as those had been by which he had been defeated twelve years before, still, as the last resolution on the subject, it must be regarded as decisive of the law and practice of Parliament, and as having settled the doctrine that expulsion does not incapacitate a member who has been expelled from immediate re-election.[12]

The establishment of this rule, and the abolition of general warrants, were, however, not the only nor the most important result of these proceedings. They led indirectly to an innovation which, it is hardly too much to say, has had a greater influence on the character and conduct of Parliament, and indeed on the whole subsequent legislation of the country, than can be attributed to any other single cause. Hitherto the bulk of the people had enjoyed but very scanty and occasional means of acquiring political education. At times of vehement political excitement, or any special party conflict, pamphlets and periodical essays had enlightened their readers—necessarily a select and small body—on particular topics. But standing orders of both Houses, often renewed, strictly forbade all publication of the debates which took place in either. To a certain extent, these orders had come to be disregarded and evaded. Almost ever since the accession of the House of Brunswick, a London publisher had given to the world an annual account of the Parliamentary proceedings and most interesting discussions of the year; and before the middle of the reign of George II, two monthly magazines had given sketches of speeches made by leading members of each party. The reporters, however, did not venture to give the names of the speakers at full length, but either disguised them under some general description, or at most gave their initials; and sometimes found that even this profession of deference to the standing orders did not insure them impunity. As late as the year 1747, Cave, the proprietor and editor of the Gentleman's Magazine, was brought to the bar of the House of Commons for publishing an account of a recent debate, and only obtained his release by expressions of humble submission and the payment of heavy fees. The awe, however, which his humiliation and peril had been intended to diffuse gradually wore off; the keen interest which was awakened by the ministerial changes at the beginning of the reign of George III., which have been already mentioned, naturally prompted a variety of efforts to gratify it by a revelation of the language concerning them which was held by statesmen of different parties; and these revelations were no longer confined to yearly or monthly publications. More than one newspaper had of late adopted the practice of publishing what it affirmed to be a correct report of the debates of the previous day, though, in fact, each journal garbled them to suit the views of the party to which it belonged, and, to quote the words of the historian of the period, "misrepresented the language and arguments of the speakers in a manner which could hardly be considered accidental."[13] The speakers on the ministerial side in the debates on the Middlesex election had been especial objects of these misrepresentations; and, at the beginning of 1771, one of that party, Colonel Onslow, M.P. for Guilford, brought the subject before the House, complaining that many speeches, and his own among them, had been misrepresented by two newspapers which he named, and that "the practice had got to an infamous height, so that it had become absolutely necessary either to punish the offenders or to revise the standing orders."[14] And he accordingly moved "that the publication of the newspapers of which he complained was a contempt of the orders and a breach of the privileges of the House, and that the printers be ordered to attend the House at its next sitting." The habitual unfairness of the reports was admitted by the Opposition; but the publishers complained of evidently felt assured of their sympathy (which, indeed, was sufficiently, and not very decorously, shown by its leaders inflicting on the House no fewer than twenty-three divisions in a single night), and, relying on their countenance, they paid no attention to the order of the House. A fresh order for their arrest having been issued, the Sergeant-at-arms reported that he had been unable to execute it, by reason of their absence from their homes; on which the House, not disposed to allow itself to be thus trifled with, now addressed his Majesty with a request that he would issue his royal proclamation for their apprehension. And Colonel Onslow made a fresh motion, with a similar complaint of the publishers of six more newspapers—"three brace," as he described them in language more sportsman like than parliamentary. Similar orders for their appearance and, when these were disregarded, for their apprehension, were issued. And at last one of those who had been mentioned in the royal proclamation, Mr. Wheble, printer of the Middlesex Journal, was apprehended by an officer named Carpenter, and carried before the sitting magistrate at Guildhall, who, by a somewhat whimsical coincidence, happened to be Alderman Wilkes. Wilkes not only discharged him, on the ground that there was "no legal cause of complaint against him," but when Wheble, in retaliation, made a formal complaint of the assault committed on him by Carpenter in arresting him, bound Wheble over to prosecute, and Carpenter to answer the complaint, at the next quarter sessions, and then reported what he had done in an official Letter to the Secretary of State. Thomson, another printer, was in like manner arrested; and, when brought before Mr. Oliver, another alderman, was discharged by him. And when, a day or two afterward, a third (Mr. Miller) was apprehended by Whetham, a messenger of the House of Commons, Mr. Brass Crosby, the Lord Mayor, and the two Aldermen, signed a warrant committing Whetham to prison for assaulting Miller. Whetham was bailed by the Sergeant-at-arms, who reported what had occurred to the House; and the House, as the Lord Mayor and Alderman Oliver were members of it, as representatives for London and Honiton, ordered that they should attend the House in their places, to explain their conduct, and that Mr. Wilkes should attend at the bar of the House. Wilkes, declining to recognize the validity of the resolutions which had seated Colonel Luttrell for Middlesex, refused compliance with such an order, writing a letter to the Speaker, in which he "observed that no notice was taken of him as a member of the House; and that the Speaker's order did not require him to attend in his place." And he "demanded his seat in Parliament, and promised, when he had been admitted to his seat, to give the House a most exact detail of his conduct." But the Lord Mayor pleaded the charters of the City as a justification of his act in releasing a citizen of London who had been arrested on a warrant which had not been backed by a City magistrate, and demanded to be heard by counsel in support of his plea. His demand, however, was refused, and he and Alderman Oliver were committed to the Tower; but, as if the ministers were afraid of re-opening the question of Colonel Luttrell's election for Middlesex, they evaded taking notice of Wilkes's disobedience to their order by a singularly undignified expedient, issuing a fresh order for his appearance on the 8th of April, and adjourning till the 9th.

The ministers now moved the appointment of a select committee to investigate the whole affair; and the committee, before the end of the month, made an elaborate report, which, however, abstained from all mention of the offence committed by the printers, and confined itself to an assertion that "the power and authority of the House to compel the attendance of any commoner had ever extended as well to the City of London, without exception on account of charters from the crown or any pretence of separate jurisdiction, as to every other part of the realm." And this assertion may be regarded as having been uphold by the refusal of the judges to release the Lord Mayor and Alderman when they sued out writs of habeas corpus; and they consequently remained prisoners in the Tower till they were released by the prorogation.

But with this report of the committee the matter was suffered to drop. The transaction had caused almost unprecedented excitement, which was not confined to the City, for the grand-juries of many English counties and a committee of the Dublin merchants showed their sympathy with the Opposition by sending up addresses to the imprisoned City magistrates; and the ministers had a prudent fear of keeping alive an agitation which had not been always free from danger to the public tranquillity.[15] In effect, the victory remained with the Opposition. No farther attempt was made to punish any of the printers; and, though the standing orders which forbid such publication have never been formally repealed, ever since that time the publishers of newspapers and other periodicals have been in the constant habit of giving regular details of the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament. And one enterprising publisher, Mr. Hansard, has for many years published a complete record of the debates in both Houses, which is continually appealed to in the Houses themselves, by members of both parties, as a manual of political and parliamentary history.

The practice, as it now prevails, is one of the many instances of the practical wisdom with which this nation often deals with difficult subjects. The standing order is retained as an instrument which, in certain cases, it may possibly be expedient to employ; as, in fact, it has been employed in one or two instances in the present reign, when matters have been under consideration which, however necessary to be discussed, were of such a nature that the publication of the details into which some speakers deemed it desirable to go was regarded by others as calculated to be offensive to the taste, if not injurious to the morals, of the community at large. But the very fact of such an occasional enforcement of the standing orders under very peculiar circumstances implies a recognition of the propriety of its more ordinary violation; of the principle that publication ought to be the general rule, and secrecy the unusual exception. And, indeed, it is, probably, no exaggeration to say that such publication is not only valuable, as the best and chief means of the political education of the people out-of-doors, but is indispensable to the working of our parliamentary system such as it has now become. The successive Reform Bills, which have placed the electoral power in the hands of so vast a body of constituents as was never imagined in the last century, have evidently regarded the possession by the electors of a perfect knowledge of the language held and the votes given by their representatives as indispensable to the proper exercise of the franchises which they have conferred. And, even if there had previously been no means provided for their acquisition of such information, it is certain that the electors would never have consented to be long kept in the dark on subjects of such interest. In another point of view, the publication of the debates is equally desirable, in the interest of the members themselves, whether leaders or followers of the different parties. Not to mention the stimulus that it affords to the cultivation of eloquence—an incentive to which even those least inclined or accustomed to put themselves forward are not entirely insensible—it enables the ministers to vindicate their measures to the nation at large, the leaders of the Opposition to explain their objections or resistance to those measures in their own persons, and not through the hired agency of pamphleteers, and each humbler member to prove to his constituents the fidelity with which he has acted up to the principles his assertion of which induced them to confide their interests and those of the kingdom to his judgment and integrity. Secrecy and mystery may serve, or be supposed to serve, the interests of arbitrary rulers; perfect openness is the only principle on which a free constitution can be maintained and a free people governed.

It seems convenient to take all the measures which, in this first portion of the reign before us, affected the proceedings or constitution of Parliament together; and, indeed, one enactment of great importance, which was passed in 1770, it is hardly unreasonable to connect in some degree with the decision of the House which adjudged the seat for Middlesex to Colonel Luttrell. Ever since the year 1704 it had been regarded as a settled point that the House of Commons had the exclusive right of determining every question concerning the election of its members. But it was equally notorious that it had exercised that right in a manner which violated every principle of justice and even of decency. Election petitions were decided by the entire House, and were almost invariably treated as party questions, in which impartiality was not even professed. Thirty years before, the Prime-minister himself (Sir Robert Walpole) had given notice to his supporters that "no quarter was to be given in election petitions;" and it was a division on one petition which eventually drove him from office. There was not even a pretence made of deciding according to evidence, for few of the members took the trouble to hear it. A few years after the time of which we are speaking, Lord George Germaine thus described the mode of proceeding which had previously prevailed: "The managers of petitions did not ask those on whose support they calculated to attend at the examination of witnesses, but only to let them know where they might be found when the question was going to be put, that they might be able to send them word in time for the division." The practice had become a public scandal, by which the constituencies and the House itself suffered equally—the constituencies, inasmuch as they were liable to be represented by one who was in fact only the representative of a minority; the House itself, since its title to public confidence could have no solid or just foundation but such as was derived from its members being in every instance the choice of the majority. Yet, so long as petitions were judged by the whole House, there seemed no chance of the abuse being removed, the number of judges conferring the immunity of shamelessness on each individual. To remedy such a state of things, in the spring of 1770 Mr. G. Grenville brought in a bill which provided for the future trial of all such petitions by a select committee of fifteen members, thirteen of whom should be chosen by ballot, one by the sitting member whose seat was petitioned against, and one by the petitioner. The members of the committee were to take an oath to do justice similar to that taken by jurymen in the courts of law; and the committee was to have power to compel the attendance of witnesses, to examine them on oath, and to enforce the production of all necessary papers; it was also to commence its sittings within twenty-four hours of its appointment, and to sit from day to day till it should be prepared to present its report. It was not to the credit of the ministers that they made the passing of such a bill a party question. The abuse which it was designed to remedy was notorious, and Mr. Grenville did not exaggerate its magnitude when he declared that, "if it were not checked, it must end in the ruin of public liberty." He was supported by Burke, and by two lawyers, Mr. Dunning and Mr. Wedderburn, both destined to rise to some of the highest offices in their profession; but he was opposed by the Attorney-general, by Lord North, as leader of the House, and by Mr. Fox—not yet turned into a patriot by Lord North's dismissal of him from office. The debates, both in the whole House and in committee, were long and earnest. Some of the ministerial underlings were not ashamed to deny the necessity of any alteration in the existing practice; but their more favorite argument was founded on the impropriety of the House "delegating its authority to a committee," which was asserted to be "an essential alteration of the constitution of the House of Commons." Lord North himself had too keen an instinct of propriety to deny the existence of a great evil, and contented himself with pleading for time for farther consideration; while the Attorney-general confined his objections to some details of the bill, which it would be easy to amend. Others, with too accurate a foresight, doubted the efficacy of the measure, and prophesied that the additional sanction of the oath, by which its framer hoped to bind the committees to a just and honest decision, would, "like oaths of office and Custom-house oaths, soon fall into matters of form, and lose all sanction, and so make bad worse." On the other hand, besides the arguments founded on the admitted greatness of the evil to be remedied, it was shown that the institution of committees, such as the bill proposed the appointment of, was sanctioned by numerous precedents; and though the committees—sometimes consisting of as many as two hundred members—were by far too large to make it probable that all would bestow a careful attention on the whole case, there was "nothing in the journals of the House to show that their decisions were not regarded as final, or as requiring no subsequent confirmation from the whole House." Generally speaking, Lord North could trust the steadiness of his majority; but, to his great surprise, on this occasion he found himself deserted by the country gentlemen, who voted in a body for the bill, although their spokesman, Sir W. Bagot, had been in no slight degree offended by some remarks of Burke, who, with a strange imprudence, had claimed a monopoly of the title of "friends of the constitution" for himself and his party, and had sneered at the country gentlemen, as "statesmen of a very different description, though, by a late description given of them, a Tory was now the best species of Whig." And the union of the two bodies proved irresistible; the bill was carried by a majority of sixty-two, and the government did not venture to carry on their resistance to it in the House of Lords, any interference by which would, indeed, have been resented by the Commons, as a violation of their privileges.

At first the duration of the bill was limited to seven years; but in 1774 it was made perpetual by a still larger majority, the experience of its working having converted many who had at first opposed it, but who now bore willing testimony to its efficacy. Unhappily, though the House could make the bill perpetual, at least till formally repealed, it could not invest its good effects with equal durability. After a time, the same complaints were advanced against the decision of election committees that had formerly been employed to discredit the judgments of the whole House. The success or failure of a petition again became a party question; and as in a committee of an odd number the ministerialists or the Opposition must inevitably have a majority of at least one member, before the end of the reign it had become as easy to foretell the result of a petition from the composition of the committee as it had been in the time of Walpole. And it was with the approval of almost all parties—an approval extorted only by the absolute necessity of the case—that, after one or two modifications of Mr. Grenville's act had been tried, Mr. Disraeli induced the House to surrender altogether its privilege of judging of elections, and to submit the investigations of petitions on such subjects to the only tribunal sufficiently above suspicion to command and retain the confidence of the nation, the judges of the high courts of law.

We shall probably be doing the House of Commons of the day no injustice, if we surmise that the degree in which public attention had recently been directed to the representation, and the interest which the people were beginning to show in the purity of elections, as the principle on the maintenance of which the very liberties of all might depend, had some share in leading the House to establish the wholly new, though most necessary, precedent of punishing a constituency for habitual and inveterate corruption. It may be called the first fruits of Mr. Grenville's act. At the end of the same year in which that statute had been passed, a select committee had sat to try the merits of a petition which complained of an undue return for the borough of New Shoreham. And its report brought to light an organized system of corruption, which there was too much reason to fear was but a specimen of that which prevailed in many other boroughs as yet undetected. It appeared from the report, founded as it was on the evidence and confession of many of the persons inculpated, that a society had long existed in New Shoreham, entitled the Christian Club, which, under this specious name, was instituted, as they frankly acknowledged, for the express purpose of getting as much money as possible at every election from the candidates they brought in. The members of the club were under an oath and bond of L500 not to divulge the secrets of the club, and to be bound by the majority. On every election, a committee of five persons was nominated by the club to treat with the candidates for as much money as they could get. And, in pursuance of this system, when, on the death of Sir Stephen Cornish, one of the members for the borough, five candidates offered themselves to supply the vacancy, this committee of five opened negotiations with them all. The offers of the rival purchasers were liberal enough. One (General Smith) proposed to buy the entire club in the lump for L3000, adding a promise to build 600 tons of shipping in the town. A second (a Mr. Rumbold) was willing to give every freeman L35; and his offer was accepted by the committee, who, however, cautioned him that no freeman was entitled to the money who was not a member of the Christian Club. He willingly agreed to this limitation of his expenditure, and both he and the club regarded the matter as settled. He paid every freeman who belonged to the club his stipulated bribe, and on the polling day they tendered eighty-seven votes in his favor, the entire constituency being something under one hundred and fifty. The general, finding his L3000 declined, did not go to the poll; but a Mr. Purling and Mr. James did, the latter polling only four votes, the former only thirty-seven. What bribe Mr. Purling had given was never revealed; but by some means or other he had contrived to render himself the most acceptable of all the candidates to Mr. Roberts, the returning officer. Roberts had himself been a member of the Christian Club, but had quarrelled with it, and on the day of the election, as Rumbold's voters came up, he administered to each of them the oath against bribery. They took it without scruple; but he took it on himself to pronounce seventy-six of them disqualified, and to refuse their votes; and, having thus reduced Mr. Rumbold's voters to eleven, he returned Mr. Purling as duly elected.

Mr. Rumbold, not unnaturally, petitioned against such a return; when Mr. Roberts admitted the facts alleged against him, but pleaded that he had acted under the advice of counsel, who had assured him that it was within his own discretion to admit or to refuse any votes that might be tendered, and that he might lawfully refuse any "which in his own mind he thought illegal." It is a striking proof of the laxity which prevailed on every quarter in electioneering practices, that the House, to a great extent, admitted his justification or excuse as valid. By a strange stretch of lenity, they gave him credit for an honest intention, and contented themselves with ordering him to be reprimanded by the Speaker. But the case of the bribed freemen and of the borough generally was too gross to be screened by any party. All agreed that the borough must be regarded as incurably corrupt, and deserving of heavy punishment. The Attorney-general was ordered to prosecute the five members of the managing committee for "an illegal and corrupt conspiracy;" and a bill was brought in to disfranchise and declare forever incapable of voting at any election eighty-one freemen who had been proved to have received bribes, and to punish the borough itself, by extending the right of voting at future elections to all the freeholders in the rape of Bramber, the district of Sussex in which New Shoreham lies, an arrangement which reduced the borough itself to comparative insignificance. Mr. Fox opposed the bill, on the ground that the offence committed could be sufficiently punished by the ordinary courts of law. But he stood alone in his resistance; the bill was passed, and a salutary precedent was established; the penalty inflicted on New Shoreham being for many years regarded as the most proper punishment for all boroughs in which similar practices were proved to prevail.

And it might have continued to be thought so, had corruption been confined to the smaller boroughs; but there was no doubt that in many large towns corruption was equally prevalent and inveterate, while there were also many counties in which the cost of a contest was by far too large to be accounted for by any legitimate causes of expenditure. And consequently, as time wore on, severer measures were considered necessary. Some boroughs were deprived of the right of election altogether; in others, whose population or constituency was too numerous to make their permanent disfranchisement advisable, the writ was suspended for a time, that its suspension might serve both as a punishment and as a warning, a practice which is still not unfrequently adopted. But no plan could be devised for dealing with the evil in counties, till what seemed hopeless to achieve by direct legislation was, in a great degree, effected by the indirect operation of the Reform Bill of 1832. The shortening of the duration of an election, which was henceforth concluded in a single day, and the multiplication of polling places, which rendered it impossible to ascertain the progress of the different candidates till the close of the poll, were provisions having an inevitable and most salutary effect in diminishing alike the temptation to bribe on the part of the candidate, and the opportunity of enhancing the value of his vote by the elector. The vast increase of newspapers, by diffusing political education and stimulating political discussion, has had, perhaps, a still greater influence in the same direction. And, as bribery could only be brought to bear on electors too ignorant to estimate the importance of the exercise of the franchise by any higher test than the personal advantage it might bring to themselves, it is to the general diffusion of education among the poorer classes, and their gradually improved and improving intelligence that a complete eradication of electoral corruption can alone be looked for.


[Footnote 1: "Constitutional History," vol. iii., p. 380; ed. 3, 1832. The first edition was published in 1827.]

[Footnote 2: Grampound. Corrupt voters had been disfranchised in New Shoreham as early as 1771, and the franchise of the borough of Cricklade had been transferred to the adjoining hundreds in 1782.]

[Footnote 3: Parliament was dissolved March 19. Lord Bute succeeded Lord Holdernesse March 25.]

[Footnote 4: The greater part of Lord Bute's colleagues did, in fact, retain their offices. Lord Egremont and Lord Halifax continued to be Secretaries of State; Lord Henley (afterward Lord Northington) retained the Great Seal; Lord North and Sir John Turner remained as Lords of the Treasury; and Mr. Yorke and Sir Fletcher Norton were still Attorney and Solicitor General.]

[Footnote 5: Parliament was prorogued April 19, and The North Briton (No. 45) was published April 23.]

[Footnote 6: A letter of the Prince Consort examines the principle of ministerial responsibility with so remarkable a clearness of perception and distinctness of explanation, that we may be excused for quoting it at length: "The notion that the responsibility of his advisers impairs the monarch's dignity and importance is a complete mistake. Here we have no law of ministerial responsibility, for the simple reason that we have no written constitution; but this responsibility flows as a logical necessity from the dignity of the crown and of the sovereign. 'The King can do no wrong,' says the legal axiom, and hence it follows that somebody must be responsible for his measures, if these be contrary to law or injurious to the country's welfare. Ministers here are not responsible qua ministers, that is, qua officials (as such they are responsible to the crown), but they are responsible to Parliament and the people, or the country, as 'advisers of the crown.' Any one of them may advise the crown, and whoever does so is responsible to the country for the advice he has given. The so-called accountability of ministers to Parliament does not arise out of an abstract principle of responsibility, but out of the practical necessity which they are under of obtaining the consent of Parliament to legislation and the voting of taxes, and, as an essential to this end, of securing its confidence. In practice, ministers are liable to account for the way and manner in which they have administered the laws which they, conjointly with the Parliament, have made, and for the way they have expended the moneys that have been voted for definite objects. They are bound to furnish explanations, to justify their proceedings, to satisfy reasonable scruples, and the answer, 'We have, as dutiful subjects, obeyed the sovereign,' will not be accepted. 'Have you acted upon conviction, or have you not?' is the question. 'If you have not, then you are civil servants of the crown, who counsel and do what you consider wrong or unjust, with a view to retain your snug places or to win the favor of the sovereign.' And this being so, Parliament withdraws its confidence from them. Herein, too, lies that ministerial power of which sovereigns are so much afraid. They can say, 'We will not do this or that which the sovereign wishes, because we cannot be responsible for it.' But why should a sovereign see anything here to be afraid of? To him it is, in truth, the best of safeguards. A really loyal servant should do nothing for which he is not prepared to answer, even though his master desires it. This practical responsibility is of the utmost advantage to the sovereign. Make independence, not subservience, the essential of service, and you compel the minister to keep his soul free toward the sovereign, you ennoble his advice, you make him staunch and patriotic, while time-servers, the submissive instruments of a monarch's extreme wishes and commands, may lead, and often have led, him to destruction.

"But to revert to the law of responsibility. This ought not to be in effect a safeguard for law itself. As such, it is superfluous in this country, where law reigns, and where it would never occur to any one that this could be otherwise. But upon the Continent it is of the highest importance; as, where the government is an outgrowth of a relation of supremacy and subordination between sovereign and subject, and the servant, trained in ideas natural to this relation, does not know which to obey, the law of the sovereign, the existence of such a law would deprive him of the excuse which, should he offend the law, and so be guilty of a crime, is ready to his hand in the phrase, 'The sovereign ordered it so, I have merely obeyed,' while it would be a protection to the sovereign that his servants, if guilty of a crime, should not be able to saddle him with the blame of it."—Life of the Prince Consort, v., 262.]

[Footnote 7: "Lives of the Lord Chancellors," c. cxliii.]

[Footnote 8: Indeed, the opinion which Lord Campbell thus expresses is manifestly at variance with that which he had previously pronounced in his life of Lord Northington, where he praised the House of Lords for "very properly rejecting the bill passed by the Commons declaring general warrants to be illegal, leaving this question to be decided (as it was, satisfactorily) by the Courts of Common Law."]

[Footnote 9: From a speech of Mr. Grenville delivered at a later period (February 3, 1769, "Parliamentary History," xvi., 548), it appears that the Secretaries of State who signed this general warrant did so against their own judgment. "They repeatedly proposed to have Wilkes's name inserted in the warrant of apprehension, but were overruled by the lawyers and clerks of the office, who insisted that they could not depart from the long-established precedents and course of proceeding." And in one of these debates, Mr. Pitt, while denouncing with great severity Grenville's conduct in procuring the issue of this particular warrant, was driven to a strange confession of his own inconsistency, since he was forced to admit that, while Secretary of State, he had issued more than one general warrant in exactly similar form.]

[Footnote 10: Strange to say, it does not seem absolutely certain that Wilkes was the author of the "Essay on Woman." Horace Walpole eventually learned, or believed that he had learned, that the author was a Mr. Thomas Potter. (See Walpole's "George III.," i., 310; and Cunningham's "Note on his Correspondence," iv., 126.)]

[Footnote 11: These are the words of the resolution.—Parliamentary History, xvi., 537. But it does not appear what the three libels were. The "Essay on Woman" was one, the paraphrase of "Veni Creator" was a second; no third of that character is mentioned.]

[Footnote 12: The last resolution is approved by Mr. Hallam. "If a few precedents were to determine all controversies of constitutional law, it is plain enough from the journals that the House has assumed the power of incapacitation. But as such authority is highly dangerous and unnecessary for any good purpose, and as, according to all legal rules, so extraordinary a power could not be supported except by a sort of prescription that cannot be shown, the final resolution of the House of Commons, which condemned the votes passed in times of great excitement, appears far more consonant to first principles."—Constitutional History, iii., 357.]

[Footnote 13: Adolphus, "History of England," i., 484.]

[Footnote 14: An idea of the license which the newspapers complained of had permitted themselves at this time may be derived from the manner in which one of them had introduced a speech of Mr. Jeremiah Dyson, M.P. for Weymouth, and a Commissioner of the Treasury: "Jeremiah Weymouth, the d——n of the kingdom, spoke as follows." And it may seem that the Opposition (for the affair was made a party question) can hardly be acquitted of a discreditable indifference to the dignity of the House in supporting a resolution of Colonel Barre, that "Jeremiah Weymouth, the d——n of this kingdom, is not a member of this House." On which the previous question was moved by the ministers, and carried by 120 to 38.—Parliamentary History, xvii., 78. And an instance of rather the opposite kind, of the guarded way in which the most respectable publications were as yet accustomed to relate the transactions of Parliament, may be gathered from the account of the proceedings in the case of Wilkes, given in the "Annual Register" for 1770—drawn up, probably, by Burke himself—in which Lord Camden is only mentioned as "a great law lord;" Lord Chatham as "Lord C——m;" Lord Rockingham as "a noble Marquis who lately presided at the head of public affairs;" the King as "the K——;" Parliament as "P.;" and the House of Commons as the "H. of C."—Annual Register, 1770, pp. 59-67.]

[Footnote 15: On more than one occasion there had been disturbances in the City, and in the streets adjacent to the Houses of Parliament, which were little short of riot. One day the mob paraded effigies of the principal ministers, which, after hanging and beheading them, they committed to the flames with great uproar. On another day Mr. Charles Fox (as yet a vehement Tory) complained to the House that the mob in Palace Yard had insulted him, breaking the glasses of his chariot, and pelting him with oranges, stones, etc.—Parliamentary History, xvii., 163.]


The Regency Bill.—The Ministry of 1766 lay an Embargo on Corn.—An Act of Indemnity is Passed.—The Nullum Tempus Act concerning Crown Property; it is sought to Extend it to Church Property, but the Attempt fails.—The Royal Marriage Act.—The Lords amend a Bill imposing Export Duties, etc., on Corn.

The prosecution of Wilkes was not the only act of Mr. Grenville's administration which excited both the Parliament and the people. In 1764 the King was attacked by a serious illness, and, as the Prince of Wales was an infant scarcely two years old, it was manifestly necessary to make arrangements for a Regency, in the event of the throne becoming vacant while the heir was still a minor. A similar necessity had arisen in the preceding reign on the death of the present King's father, and a bill had accordingly been introduced by Mr. Pelham, the minister of the day, which, in the event of the reigning sovereign dying during the minority of the boy who had now become the immediate heir to the throne, vested both the guardianship of his person and the Regency of the kingdom in his mother, the Princess Dowager of Wales, who, however, in the latter capacity, was only to act with the advice of a council, composed of her brother-in-law, the Duke of Cumberland, and nine principal officers of state. It was not concealed by either the King or the Duke that they would have preferred a different arrangement, one which would have conferred an uncontrolled Regency on the Duke himself; but the bill was passed by great majorities in both Houses, and served in some respects as a model for that which was now to be brought forward, the difference being that the Regent was not to be expressly named in it. To quote the words of the royal speech, the King "proposed to the consideration of the two Houses whether, under the present circumstances, it would not be expedient to vest in him the power of appointing from time to time, by instrument in writing under his sign-manual, either the Queen or any other member of the royal family usually residing in Great Britain, to be the guardian of the person of his successor, and the Regent of these kingdoms, until such successor should attain the age of eighteen years, subject to such restrictions and regulations as were specified and contained in an act passed on a similar occasion in the fourteenth year of the late King; the Regent so appointed to be assisted by a council, composed of the several persons who, by reason of their dignities and offices, were constituted members of the council established by that act, together with those whom the Parliament might think proper to leave to his nomination."

It may be doubted whether such a power as his Majesty desired was quite consistent with the principles of the constitution. Parliament had, indeed, granted Henry VIII. the still greater power of nominating a series of successors; but the appointment which he consequently made by will was eventually superseded, when, on the failure of his immediate descendants, the representative of his elder sister, whom he had passed over, was seated on the throne, to the exclusion of the descendants of his younger sister, to whom he had given the preference. In France, the last two kings, Louis XIII. and XIV., had both, when on their death-beds, assumed the right of making the arrangements for the Regency which would become necessary, the heir to the throne being in each case a minor; but in each instance the arrangements which they had made were disregarded.

However, on the present occasion the minister (who must be taken to have framed the King's speech) and the Parliament agreed in the propriety of conferring the nomination of the Regent on the King himself;[16] and the bill might have passed almost without notice, had it not been for a strange display of the Prime-minister's ill-temper and mismanagement. Mr. Grenville was at all times uncourtly and dictatorial in his manner, even to the King himself; he was also of a suspicious disposition; and though he was universally believed to have owed his promotion to his present office to the recommendation of Lord Bute,[17] he was extremely jealous of his predecessor. He professed to believe, and probably did believe, that the King was still greatly under Lord Bute's influence (though, in fact, they had never met since that minister had quitted the Treasury), that Lord Bute was still as closely connected with the Princess of Wales as scandal had formerly reported him to be, and that George III., under the pressure of their combined influence, would be induced to name his mother rather than his wife as the future Regent. And he was so entirely swayed by this ridiculous and wholly groundless fear, that, when the bill to give effect to the royal recommendation was introduced into the House of Lords, he instigated one of his friends to raise the question who were included in the general term "the royal family," which Lord Halifax, as Secretary of State, answered by saying that he regarded it as meaning "those only who were in order of succession to the throne." Such a definition would have excluded the Queen as effectually as the Princess Dowager; and when Mr. Grenville found the peers reluctant to accept this view (which, indeed, his own Lord Chancellor pronounced untenable), he then sent another of his colleagues to represent to the King that his mother was so unpopular that, even if the Lords should pass the bill in such a form as rendered her eligible for nomination, the Commons would introduce a clause to exclude her by name. With great unwillingness, and, it is said, not without tears, George III. consented to the bill being so drawn as to exclude her, and it passed the Lords in such a form. But when it reached the Commons it was found that if the leaders of the Opposition hated Bute much, they hated Grenville more. They moved the insertion of the name of the Princess Dowager as one of the members of the royal family whom the King might nominate Regent, if it should please him. Even Grenville had not the boldness publicly to disparage his royal master's royal mother; the Princess's name was inserted by a unanimous vote in the list of those from whom the King was empowered to select the Regent, and the amendment was gladly accepted by the House of Lords.[18]

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