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Biographical Notices of Lord Melbourne. London: 1848.
THERE are some men, of whom, if we value, who were far less usefully employed than their memory, it is important to produce, as himself. During this time be read more and soon as possible after the world has heard thought more than perhaps any person of his that they are no more, a just appreciation. own station and standing. His knowledge of We mean men in whose characters the lights the classical languages rendered their most and shadows were in a certain degree vague difficult authors as familiar to him as if they and unsettled, and whose manner was fre- had written in French or in English ; and quently confounded with a nature or mind of his mind was imbued with, and constantly which it was but a false and superficial index. brooding over those writings which best re
Certain gentlemen in the House of Com-cord the eloquence and wisdom of antiquity. mons who get up early, who have always In modern history and literature there was their watch in their hand, who rush from hardly any work with which he was not accommittee room to committee room, and quainted ; and all the nice points and dogmas rarely miss any division on any subject, of theology were perpetually turned over by are generally considered by their family, his inquisitive and speculative mind. His and sometimes by their acquaintances, and morning's ride, indeed, was often as serious even ordinary lookers-on, as men of business an occupation to him, as were, to Pliny, the and activity. The Peer whom we are now two hours which he passed in a dark room, mourning, was not a man of this class : his and which he considered, though he was external habits were, in appearance, those of merely thinking, the most important portion indolence; he went into society in the even- of his day's labors. By this quiet process of ing; he had the air of a lounger in the morn- study and thought he gradually brought his ing; he attended indifferently to things of mind to an elevated level
, all beneath which · small importance; and consequently he was he considered mean and worthless ; all above, called idle, and for many years of his life visionary and extravagant. Popular clamor decried as idle, by a vast variety of persons and aristocratic pretension were alike disVOL XVI. NO. III.
tasteful to him ; mere honors he despised ; | the case with young orators) too studied and
the grand simple” which the famous Duke adorned, he made on this occasion a great of Queensbury, then Earl of March, gave to impression; and if the Whigs had remained George Selwyn as the beau-ideal of taste, was in power, he would have been named to an the characteristic of his understanding. important situation under them. As it was,
Such was the statesman whose career and he followed the party into opposition; and character we are now about to sketch-a there remained for some time—the bitter statesman whom it was almost impossible for and not undistinguished antagonist of the the public to understand from afar, and whom men who had ridden into authority on the it was even difficult for those who had only old King's prejudices.* casual opportunities of approaching him to Many years did not, however, elapse judge with correctness.
without producing great changes in the The late Viscount Melbourne was born on state of affairs. The illness of King George the 18th of March, 1779 ; being at this time III., the appointment of the Prince of Wales the second son of the first Lord Melbourne, as Regent, the assassination of Mr. Perceval, nobleman not particularly remarkable him and the various attempts which were then self, but married to a lady celebrated in her made to form a mixed administration, gave a day for the charm of her manners and the new color to questions, and a new position strength of her understanding. The eldest to persons. Great military successes abroad son, Mr. Peniston Lamb, lived much in the serious disturbances at home followed. world, but took little interest in politics. Amidst these events Mr. Lamb gradually Mr. William Lamb, intended for a profession, ceased to act as a party man, and he and was sent in the mean time to Eaton, Glasgow, Mr. Ward, afterwards Lord Dudley, became and Cambridge; and so distinguished himself conspicuous for standing, as it were, on the at these places by his abilities, that in 1802 verge of the two contending factions. The Mr. Fox, ever the gracious and politic patron latter sat with the Tories, but frequently of rising merit, drew the attention of Parlia- spoke for the Whigs; the former sat with ment to the youthful scholar by quoting a Whigs, but spoke frequently for the Tories. passage from one of his university composi- Both, then young, were listened to with tions.*
great attention, and held a high position in In 1805 Mr. Peniston Lamb died, and Mr. the House of Commons, where they were William Lamb having thus become the rep- frequently complimented for their great resresentative of his family, was brought into pectability, talents and independence. Their the House of Commons. His talents, as we principles were the same—an inclination have seen, were already known there, and as rather to support the prerogatives of Govhe took his seat on the ministerial benches, ernment than to give any great extension to he was selected by the Grenville Adminis- popular power; but a strong conviction that tration to move the address to the Crown at the Government as constituted should be the opening of the session of 1806. With conducted with justice and intelligence; that an appearance strikingly handsome, a deliv- all monopolies, whether in trade or religion, ery bold and energetic, and a style evidently ought to be modified or abolished, and that formed with care, but not (as is frequently the general policy of our civil administration
at home, and of our affairs abroad, should be * Mr. Fox, March 16, 1802. Character of the in accordance with the character of a great Duke of Bedford. The passage is one taken from empire, eminently commercial and under the an essay on the “ Progressive Improvements of Mankind," an oration delivered by Mr. Lamb in the chapel of Trinity College, on the 17th Decem * In 1807, he seconded Mr. Brand's motion relaber, 1798. Mr. Fox says—“I will conclude with tive to the late change of ministry. In 1810. See applying to the present occasion a beautiful passage Mr. Fuller's motion for the abolition of sinecure from the speech of a very young orator. It may be offices. thought, perhaps, to savor too much of the sanguine + See the debates on the Indemnity Bill, 11th views of youth to stand the test of a rigid philosophi- March, 1818, and Lord Brougham's speech, of which cal inquiry; but it is at least cheering and consola- the following is an extract : “ It was a matter of tory, and that in this instance it may be so exempli- much regret to him, and to those with whom his fied, is, I am confident, the sincere wish of every honorable friend was generally in the habit of actman who hears me. Crime,' says he, “is a curse ing, that a person of his (Mr. Lamb's) great respectonly to the period in which it is successful; but ability--that a person of so much weight in that virtue, whether fortunate or otherwise, blesses not House and in the country, from his accomplishonly its own age, but remotest posterity, and is as ments, his talents, and his character, should have beneficial by its example, as by its immediate ef- | lent himself to the support of such a measure as fects.""
that which was now under consideration."
sway of free, but not of democratic institu- | events, appeared on the hustings and were
successful.* These opinions, though not precisely Whig It was when these elections were actually nor Tory, were in reality becoming, about going on, that there arrived the startling news this time, the opinions of the day; and al- of the revolution in Paris ; a revolution made ready in men's minds was shadowed out the in opposition to a deliberate attempt to put idea of a new party, as the centre at which down the constituted liberties of France ; the Liberal Conservative and Conservative and which, being achieved with a heroism and Liberal were at last to meet. In 1827 such concluded with a moderation rare in history, a party was formed, and in power. Mr. I created, even among the most mild and temCanning was its first leader ; Mr. Huskinson perate men, such an enthusiasm, in favor of its second; and Mr. Lamb, who had accepted reforms calculated to extend the principle of the office of secretary for Ireland under the self-government, as, since the great revoluone,f held it as long as the other continued tion of 1688, had not been felt within these to serve in the Duke of Wellington's adminis- realms. tration—that is, until the vote on the question Parliament met amidst the fall on all sides of East Retford in 1828. I All the circum- of governments which had abused or overstances attending the rupture which then stretched their authority, and amidst the took place, have been so much before the almost universal rise of constitutions or the public, that it would be superfluous here to extension of constitutional privileges. Nodilate upon them; but we do think it worth where was the cause of the people lost while to mention a fact not generally known amidst the excesses of the mob. The heart viz: that, in the summer of 1830, Mr. Hus- of England swelled with a generous emulation. kinson was asked whether he and his friends Why," said Englishmen, “ when men would accept office, and returned for answer throughout the world are asserting their rights a declaration that the support thus solicited and amending their institutions; why should could not be given to any ministry which did we not improve and renovate ours ?” That a not include Lord Grey and Lord Lansdowne. ruined house or a decayed tree or a green This declaration is notable, inasmuch as it mound should have a representative in Parranged a body of eminent political men, who liament, and that Birmingham and Manchester had of late years stood between the Whigs should not, was, in sooth, an inconsistency and the Tories, frankly by the side of the which, in a moment of general change, might acknowledged Whig leaders. It was also seem well worthy of correction. Our country, timely. The death of George IV. took place it is true, had won its way to wealth and at this moment. It occasioned new elections, to greatness in spite of such defects or sinwhilst the angry feelings created by the bill gularities in its form of government. For, for granting Roman Catholic emancipation in fact, if you establish a public assembly, were still at their height. The Tory candi- and give to that assembly the free right of dates had their old committees disorganized, discussion ; in whatever way it is created, and their old speeches thrown in their teeth. | out of whatever elements it is composed, the A more than usual number of Whigs, but heart and mind of the nation in which it especially a more than usual number of per-' resides will become visible in it; and such sons neither exclusively Whig nor Tory, and assembly will assume, in moments of excitetherefore open to the impression of passing | ment, a popular character, and become, upon
the whole, the advocate of popular rights. * See Parliamentary Debates, 1816, 1817, 1818. The council of Castille, the parliament of
+ This offer of Mr. Canning's was the more flat- Paris, the early assemblies of our own wartering, since Mr. Lamb, who had just retired from the representation of Staffordshire, for which he like barons, are proofs of this general princihad been elected member in 1819, was not at the ple. But a great and civilized nation requires time in Parliament, and had to be returned for a not only to have its wants supplied but its Government borough.
reason satisfied; and when a moment comes # We may mention as a fact that comes within our own personal knowledge, that when Mr. Lamb's in which some absurdity in its condition is resignation was pending, he received a message from made manifest, and there appears a probabila very high authority, stating that the king was ity that that absurdity can safely be removed, very anxious that Mr. Lamb should remain in office,
no argument drawn from the past will and observing, that in this case he would of course be elevated to a seat in the Cabinet. Mr. Lamb had withstand the instant cry for its abolition. not voted with Mr. Huskinson on the question of the East Retford franchise, but he declined at once lis * A pamphlet by Lord Dover, in 1830, gives a tening to the suggestion.
very accurate account of these elections.
Thus, when the new parliament met, the | and the leaders of the procession, who had demand for parliamentary reform was over borne it triumphantly in by the front door whelming. The Duke of Wellington felt of the department, had to beg permission to that his government was not the government convey it out again by a back door into a which ought to grant such a reform, and he hackney-coach. On this occasion, the resoretired. Lord Grey was entrusted with the lute indifference of the Government, and the formation of a new administration. The
com posure of the Home Secretary, who was noble earl desired, at this critical moment, to looking out of the window of his office at construct his cabinet on the broadest basis. Whitehall
the scene beneath—the very Mr. Poulett Thompson, as representative absence from the streets of the soldiery and of the Radical party, was made Vice President police, who were known to be prepared of the Board of Trade ; Mr. Wynn, as repre- though invisible, awed the multitude into a sentative of the once powerful Grenville sense of their insignificance; and if among party, became Secretary at War; the Whigs the immense masses of men that were suffered of eminence, as a matter of course, had to pass quietly through our tranquil and well stations allotted to them. Mr. Huskinson,* guarded city,there were any who had hoped to unfortunately, had no longer to be provided work out from this demonstration any objects for: a melancholy accident had not long of violence, they went back to their homes since deprived England of one of the most and remained there for years under a full illustrious statesmen of the nineteenth cen- conviction of their impotence, and of the tury; but Lord Palmerston took the Foreign absurdity of the schemes they had meditated. Office; Mr. Charles Grant the India Board ; The conduct of Lord Melbourne at the and Lord Melbourne, who had assumed this time of which we are speaking, was the title since the demise of his father two years theme of universal praise : indeed, we have before, became Secretary of State for the dwelt upon it at some length, since we know Home Departnz.:nt. At this moment, the that it weighed considerably with King Wilcountry was ravaged with mysterious fires; liam when he had subsequently to select a and there seemed all the symptoms of a new prime minister. general agrarian insurrection. The state of We return from this digression. the metropolis itself was so alarming that the Lord Grey had not been many weeks in late premier—a man not given to unnecessary office, when his famous Reform Bill was fears—had considered it unsafe, a few days introduced to Parliament. In him this act previous to his quitting the government, for
was one of singular consistency; it closed a the king to attend the lord mayor's dinner in Jong political life, with a proposition almost the city. Lord Grey could not safely have identical with that with which his distinchosen an incapable man to guide the course guished public career may be said to have of internal administration at such a time; and opened. With many, however, in his adminthe wisdom of his selection soon became ap- istration the case was different.
Neither parent. During the eventful period of which Lord Melbourne, nor those with whom he we have been speaking, and during the periods, was most connected, had ever been parliaas eventful, which shortly afterward succeed- mentary reformers. Lord Melbourne espeed, the peace of the country was steadily cially had distinguished himself in more than preserved.
one contest with Sir Francis Burdett on this In 1830 and 1831, the agricultural dis- very subject. Many were curious to see the turbances were suppressed. In 1832, the course that he would now take. It was bold political unions in towns disappeared.
and statesman-like. “I have been against But where excitement has once existed it reform, was his argument, “when it was a does not easily or immediately subside. The question of theory; and speculative men trade-unions followed the political unions, were for unsettling the public mind, as to the and in 1834 a petition from these societies merits of a constitution, which, however dewas escorted through London by an assem- fective, was a noble work, under the benefit blage of about 100,000 persons. But on its of which we have grown to a great eminence being carried to the Home Office, the petition among nations; but when I find what was was calmly refused acceptance, on account formerly a question of doctrine among a few of the numbers by which it was accompanied ; theorists, has become the prevailing idea
among great masses of the English people ; * Lord Dudley, whose health was at this time already affecte was the only important member of Mr. Huskinson's party omitted in this distribution of * We have not space to quote his language, but office.
we give its meaning.