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influence of the Duke of Devonshire.
In 1829 he gave his strenuous assistance to the Government in carrying the great measure of Catholic Emancipation, of which he had been an advocate ever since his first appearance in Parliament. When, after the accession of William IV., the struggle began for a reform of the House of Commons, so that it might more fully represent the interests, feelings, and opinions of the people, he took up the question with his customary vehemence. At the dissolution of Parliament he boldly contested the county of York against Mr Stuart Wortley, who stood in the interest of the great landholders; and, in spite of a thousand difficulties, carried his election triumphantly.* He had no sooner taken bis seat in the House than he gave notice in the Commons of his intention to bring forward, in a fortnight, the question of parliamentary reform ; but before the fortnight had elapsed, the Wellington Government was a thing of the past ; and Earl Grey, the Whig leader, was engaged in forming an administration.
Of that administration it was inevitable that Brougham should be a member, but it was a surprise to everybody when it was found that the office selected for him, or rather, the office he had selected, and upon which he insisted, was that of Lord Chancellor.
“It was amusing," says a contemporary historian, “to see how that announcement was everywhere received with a laugh; in most cases with a laugh which he would not have objected to,
* This was the high-water mark of Brougham's career ; thenceforward he gradually declined. I think the success was too much for his excitable nature, and intensified his temper of jealousy and irritability, his restless and insatiable vanity. From this time he lost more and more of his never very large measure of self-control.
-a laugh of mingled surprise, exultation, and amusement. The anti-reformers laughed scornfully, dwelling upon certain declarations of his against taking office, and upon his incompetency as an equity lawyer—facts which he would not himself have disputed, but which his party thought should be put aside by the pressure of the time. To his worshippers, there was something comic in the thought of his vitality fixed down upon the woolsack, under the compression of the Chancellor's wig. Some expected a world of amusement in seeing how he got on in a position so new-how the wild and mercurial Harry Brougham would comport himself among the peers, and as the head of the law. Some expected from him the realisation of all that he had declared ought to be done by men in power, and as the first and most certain boon, a scheme of national education, which he would carry with all the power of his office and his pledged political character. Others sighed while they smiled-sighed to give up the popular member for Yorkshire, and found that his country had had the best of him.” *
This was indeed true.t Never was any man more discredited by the difference between promise and performance than Henry Brougham, and never was a popular hero more quickly dethroned from his place in the affections of the people.
Brougham became Lord Chancellor, and, as a matter of course, received a peerage with the title of Baron Brougham and Vaux.
* It was the feeling of his mother. When Parliament adjourned, Brougham took a journey to Brougham Hall, in Westmoreland, to visit her, and ask her blessing on a Lord Chancellor. The good old lady was still in the full enjoyment of all her rare faculties. While she reciprocated her son's warm affection, and was proud of his genius and services, and the glorious position he had attained, she could not help saying to him, “My dear Harry, I would rather have embraced the member for Yorkshire ; but God Almighty bless
+ H. Martineau, “ History of the Peace,” ii. 410.
Parliamentary reform and Chancery reform engaged the attention of the active Chancellor when he escaped from the laborious duties of his court, and in the debates of the Upper House and the councils of the Cabinet his irrepressible energy soon secured him a prominent position.
The famous Reform Bill was introduced into tbe House of Commons, on the 2nd of March, by Lord John Russell. I need not dwell on the sweeping nature of its provisions; on the dismay and wrath it excited in the breasts of Tory borough-mongers and the privileged classes generally; or the enthusiasm it awakened among the great body of the people. In the Lower House it was fiercely opposed, and, on the occasion of the second reading, ministers were defeated by a majority of eight. On the following day the Opposition declined to go into committee on the Ordnance Estimates, which virtually amounted to a refusal of the supplies. Ministers offered their resignations; the king refused to accept them. They then demanded a dissolution of the new Parliament. To this the king not unnaturally objected; but on fresh representations from Lord Grey he yielded. He would go instantly, he would go that moment, and dissolve Parliament by his own voice (22nd April.) “As soon as the royal carriages could be got ready,” said his ministers. “ Never mind the carriages; send for a hackney coach,” replied his Majesty ; and the saying spread over the kingdom, and greatly enhanced the popularity of the "Sailor King."
” At the gate Lord Durham, the Lord Privy Seal, found but one carriage waiting—the Lord Chancellor's. He gave
orders to drive first to Lord Albemarle's, the Master of the Horse. Lord Albemarle, who was breakfasting, started the entrance of Lord Durham, asking what was the matter. “You must have the King's carriages ready immediately.” “ The King's carriages ! Very well; I will just finish my breakfast.”
“Finish your breakfast ! Not you ; you must not lose a moment. The King ought to be at the House." “ Lord bless me ! Is there a revolution ?" “Not at this moment; but there will be if you stay to finish your breakfast.” This was enough ; and in a wonderfully brief space of time the royal carriages drove up to the Palace. The King was ready and impatient; he walked with an unusually brisk step; "and so did the royal horses, in their passage through the streets, as was observed by the curious and anxious observers."
Now turn we to the Lower House. The picture it presented is thus described by a contemporary historian :
“It was crowded, expectant, eager, and passionate. Sir Richard Vyvyan was the speaker of the Opposition, and a very strong one. A question of order arose as to whether he was or was not keeping within the fair bounds of his subject, which was a reform petition, whereas he was speaking on dissolution or no dissolution. The Speaker appears to have been agitated from the beginning, and there were several members who were not collected enough to receive his decision with the usual deference. Honourable members turned upon each other, giving contradictions, sharp, angry, even abusive. Lord John Russell attempted to make himself heard, but in vain : his was no voice to pierce through such a tumult. The Speaker was in a state of visible emotion. Sir Richard Vyvyan, however, regained a hearing ; but as soon as he was once more in full flow, boom! came the cannon which told that the king was on his way, and the roar drowned the conclusion of the sentence. Not a word more was heard for the cheers, the cries, and even shouts of laughter-all put down together, at regular intervals, by the discharges of artillery. At one moment Sir Robert Peel, Lord Althorp, and Sir Francis Burdett, were all using the most vehement action of command and supplication in dumb show, and their friends were labouring in vain to procure a hearing for them. The Speaker himself stood silenced by the tumult, till the cries took more and more the sound of Shame! Shame!' and more eyes were fixed upon him till he could have made himself heard, if he had not been too much moved to speak. When he recovered voice, he directed that Sir Robert Peel was entitled to address the House. With occasional uproar, this was permitted ; and Sir Robert Peel was still speaking when the Usher of the Black Rod appeared at the bar to summon the Commons to his Majesty's presence."
Meanwhile, in the House of Lords, the Peers had assembled in unusual numbers. Brougham had left the woolsack, and the Earl of Shaftesbury had temporarily occupied the chair as Speaker. Lord Wharncliffe rose to move an address to the King, praying that he would not dissolve the present Parliament. The Ministerialists interrupted him; and no fewer than five peers were on their feet at once, each endeavouring to gain a hearing. At last, Lord Wharncliffe was permitted to make his motion, and it seemed possible that it might be carried by acclamation, when Lord Shaftesbury was compelled to vacate the woolsack by the appearance of the Lord Chancellor in a state of much excitement, and crying out, with strident voice : “I never yet heard that the Crown ought not to dissolve Parliament whenever it thought fit, particularly at a moment when the House of Commons had resorted to the extreme step of refusing the supplies."