European Leaders

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On the 21st of March, 1831, Lord John Russell moved the second reading of the bill; but the majority for it was so small that ministers were compelled to make modifications. After a stormy debate there was a majority of seventy-eight against the government. The ministers, undaunted, at once induced the king to dissolve Parliament, and an appeal was made to the nation. A general election followed, which sent up an overwhelming majority of Liberal members, while many of the leading members of the last Parliament lost their places. On the 21st of June the new Parliament was opened by the king in person. He was received with the wildest enthusiasm by the populace, as he proceeded in state to the House of Lords in his gilded carriage, drawn by eight cream-colored horses. On the 24th of June Lord John Russell again introduced his bill, this time in a bold, manly, and decisive manner, in striking contrast with the almost suppliant tone which he assumed before. On the 4th of July the question of the second reading was brought forward. The discussion was carried on for three nights, and on division the great majority of one hundred and thirty-six was with the government. The only hope of the opposition was now in delay; and factious divisions were made on every point possible as the bill went through the committee. The opposition was most vexatious. Praed made twenty-two speeches against the bill, Sugden eighteen, Pelham twenty-eight, Peel forty-eight, Croker fifty-seven, and Wetherell fifty-eight. Of course the greater part of these speeches were inexpressibly wearisome, and ministers were condemned to sit and listen to the stale arguments, which were all that the opposition could make. Never before in a legislative body was there such an amount of quibbling and higgling, and "speaking against time;" and it was not till September 19 that the third reading came on, the obstructions in committee having been so formidable and annoying. On the 22d of September the bill finally passed in the House of Commons by a majority of one hundred and six, after three months of stormy debate.

But the parliamentary battles were only partially fought; victory in the end was certain, but was not yet obtained. It was necessary that the bill should pass the House of Lords, where the opposition was overwhelming.

On the very evening of September 22 the bill was carried to the Lords, and Lords Althorp and Russell, with one hundred other members of the Commons, entered the Upper House with their message. The Lord Chancellor Brougham advanced to the bar with the usual formalities, and received the bill from the hands of Lord John Russell. He then resumed his seat on the woolsack, and communicated to the assembled peers the nature of the message. Earl Grey moved that the bill be read a first time, and the time was agreed to. On the 3d of October the premier addressed the House in support of the bill,--a measure which he had taken up in his youth, not so much from sympathy with the people as from conviction of its imperative necessity. There was great majesty in the manner of the patrician minister as he addressed his peers; his eye sparkled with intelligence, and his noble brow betokened resolution and firmness, while his voice quivered with emotion. Less rhetorical than his great colleague the Lord Chancellor, his speech riveted attention. For forty-five years the aged peer had advocated parliamentary reform, and his voice had been heard in unison with that of Fox before the French Revolution had broken out. Lord Wharncliffe, one of the most moderate and candid of his opponents, followed. Lord Melbourne, courteous and inoffensive, supported the bill, because, as he said, he dreaded the consequences of a refusal of concession to the demands of the people, rather than because he loved reform, which he had previously opposed. The Duke of Wellington of course uttered his warning protest, and was listened to more from his fame as a warrior than from his merits as a speaker. Lord Brougham delivered one of the most masterly of his great efforts in favor of reform, and was answered by Lord Lyndhurst in a speech scarcely inferior in mental force. The latter maintained that if the bill became a law the Constitution would be swept away, and even a republic be established on its ruins. Lord Tenterden, another great lawyer, took the side of Lord Lyndhurst, followed in the same strain by Dr. Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury. On a division, there was a majority of forty-one peers against the bill.

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