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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

Melbourne was a thoroughly easy


style="text-align: justify;">When the time came for the renewal of the Company's charter, the Government had made up their mind that the renewal should be conditional on the abolition of the commercial monopoly, and that the trade between the dominions of King William and the Eastern populations should be thrown open to all the King's subjects. The measure passed through both Houses of Parliament with but little opposition. Mr. Molesworth is perfectly right in his remarks as to the different sort of reception which would have been given to such a measure if the charter had come up for renewal before the Act of Reform had abolished the nomination boroughs and the various other sham constituencies. But it is a striking proof of the hold which the representative principle and the doctrines of free-trade were already beginning to have on public opinion that the monopoly of the East India Company should not have been able to make a harder fight for its existence. The wonder which a modern reader will be likely to feel as he studies the subject now is, not that the monopoly should have been abolished with so little trouble, but that rational men should have admitted so long the possibility of any justification for its existence.

The renewal of the Charter of the Bank of England gave an opportunity, during the same session, for an alteration in the conditions under which the Bank maintains its legalized position and its relations with the State,

and for a further reorganization of those conditions, which was in itself a distinct advance in the commercial arrangements of the Empire. Other modifications have taken place from time to time since those days, and it is enough to say here that the alterations made by the first reformed Parliament, at the impulse of Lord Grey and his colleagues, were in keeping with the movement of the commercial spirit and went along the path illumined by the growing light of a sound political economy.




[Sidenote: 1834--Retirement of Lord Grey]

Lord Grey was growing tired of the work of that Administration. It had been incessant work, and its great successes of later years had been checkered by some disappointments, which, although not deep-reaching, were irritating and disturbing. Some of his most capable colleagues had broken away from him, and he probably began to feel that the reformers all over the country expected more of him than he saw his way to accomplish. In 1834 he asked to be relieved from the duties of his office, and the King consented, probably with greater good-will than he had felt in acceding to some of Lord Grey's previous requests, and accordingly Lord Grey ceased to be Prime Minister. With his resignation of office Lord Grey passes out of this history and takes an abiding place in the Parliamentary history of his country. He can hardly be called a great statesman, for he had been mainly instrumental in bringing to success and putting into legislative form the ideas of greater men, but his must be regarded as a distinguished and noble figure among England's Parliamentary leaders. He was especially suited for the work which it was his proud fortune to accomplish at the zenith of his power, for no one could be better fitted than he for the task of discountenancing the wild alarms which were felt by so many belonging to what were called the privileged classes at the thought of any measures of reform which might disturb the existing order of things, and lead to red ruin and the breaking-up of laws. On Lord Grey's retirement he was succeeded as Prime Minister by Lord Melbourne, who had previously been Home Secretary. Lord Melbourne might have been thought just the sort of {234} person with whom King William could easily get on, because such a Prime Minister was not likely to vex his sovereign's unwilling ear by too many demands for rapid and far-reaching reform. Melbourne was a thoroughly easy, not to say lazy, man. He was certainly not wanting in intellect, he had some culture, he was a great reader of books and a great lover of books, and he was often only too glad to escape into literary talk and literary gossip from discussions on political questions and measures to be introduced into Parliament. He was fond of society, made himself generally agreeable to women, and was usually well acquainted with the passing scandals of high social life.

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