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333 Deaths of Robert Hall, Rowland
Negotiations with Mr. O'Connell 375 Dissolution of the Ministry
Louis Philippe accepts the Crown 430 | Artists
HISTORY OF THE PEACE.
of the reign of George IV._ is one of remarkable interest and importance in the retrospect, though the complaint of the time was of stagnation of public business. It is true that, for three sessions, scarcely any thing was done of what is commonly called public business. In regard to variety of subject, the records of Parliament perhaps were never before so meagre for three consecutive sessions. At the same time, the registers of the period are full of ministerial correspondence, ministerial explanations, and ministerial difficulties : for this there was ample reason; and in this lay the deep importance and interest of the period.
It is common for society to complain of loss of the public time, and postponement of public business, when a change of ministry, or other event, induces explanation of their personal conduct on the part of public men. It is common to complain of such explanations, as if statesmen were obtruding their personal concerns upon a public which does not care for them, but wants to be about its own business. But this is, wherever held, a vulgar error, and a most pernicious one. Every true statesman knows that his personal honor is a national interest; and every enlightened citizen knows that the highest distinction of a nation is the rectitude of its rulers; and that no devotion of time, thought, patience, and energy, can be too great for the object of upholding the standard of political honor among statesmen. In the most ordinary times, therefore, the enlightened citizen will eagerly receive, and earnestly weigh, the statements of public men with regard to their official conduct, aware that the postponement of legislative acts is a less evil than that of failing to discharge
every conscience, to decide upon every reputation, as it comes into question, and thus to ascertain that the moral ground is firm and secure before proceeding to political action. If it be thus in ordinary times, much stronger was the obligation to prove the conduct and reputation of statesmen at the period we are now entering upon. If, during the next three years, ministerial difficulties and explanations seem to be endless, there must be some cause; the embarrassment must be, in fact, a characteristic of the time.
We have witnessed the admission into the Cabinet of two men who were called “political adventurers;
»1 and we have recognized in this event the sign that a new time had arrived, requiring for its administration a new order of men. Though the new men had acted and succeeded in their function, the struggles and perplexities of the transition from one state of society and government to another had yet to be gone through ; and the beginning of these struggles and perplexities is what we have now to contemplate. We shall see ministry after ministry formed and dissolved. We shall see that the difficulty lay, not in finding competent men, — for able men abounded at that time, - but in determining what great principle, of those afloat, should so preponderate as to determine the government of the country. In the trial of this all-important point, the next three years cannot now be said to have been wasted, though at the time the vexation was severe, of seeing great questions standing still, ordinary legislative business thrust aside, and a temper and language of political bitterness rising up, such as could never have been anticipated among men of rational capacities and gentlemanly education. The King opened the new Parliament in person on the 21st of
November, declaring in his speech that he called the
Houses together for the special purpose of declaring and accounting for the measures taken by government in opening the ports to some kinds of grain and pulse, in consequence of the scarcity produced by the drought of the summer. In answer to various complaints in both Houses about the scanty revelations of the speech, Lord Liverpool and Mr. Canning pleaded the special nature of the business which occasioned the present sitting, and promised the regular supply of information and suggestion at the regular time,-after the Christmas recess. Ministers obtained the indemnity they sought for opening the ports during the recess; and, with one exception, little else was done before Christmas. But that exception was a brilliant and most significant one. Mr. Canning accounted to Parliament, and obtained its enthusiastic sanction, for sending troops to Portugal.
1 Annual Register, 1865, p. 175.
2 Ante, p. 150.