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

George thought the matter over a few days


Daniel

O'Connell was undoubtedly one of the greatest advocates a popular cause has ever had in modern times. He was an Irishman who had become one of the most successful advocates in the Irish law courts, and as a popular orator he had no rival in his own country. He had made himself the leader in Ireland of the movement for Catholic Emancipation, and he had kindled an enthusiasm there which any English statesman of ordinary intelligence and foresight might easily have seen it would be impossible to extinguish so long as there was a struggle to be fought. {54} Canning had always been in favor of Catholic Emancipation. Lord Liverpool was, of course, entirely opposed to it, and almost until the last the Duke of Wellington held out against it. George the Fourth, for all his earlier associations with Fox and Sheridan, declared himself now to have inherited to the full his father's indomitable conscientious objection to any measure of Catholic Emancipation. George seemed, in fact, to have suddenly become filled with a passionate fervor of Protestant piety when any one talked to him about political equality for his Catholic subjects. He declared again and again that no earthly consideration could induce him to fall away from the religious convictions of his father on this subject, and the coronation oath had again become, to use Erskine's satirical phrase, "one of the four orders of the State." When reading some of George's letters and discourses on the subject, it is almost impossible
not to believe that he really must have fancied himself in earnest when he made such protestations. In private life he frequently delivered long speeches, sometimes with astonishing fluency, sometimes with occasional interruptions of stammering, in vindication of his hostility to any proposal for Catholic Emancipation.

[Sidenote: 1827--Lord Liverpool's successor]

In the common language of the political world of that time the members of a Government who opposed the Catholic claims were called Protestant ministers, and the members in favor of the Catholic claims were described as Catholic ministers. In fact, it has had to be explained, for the sake of clearness, by some recent writers, that the word "Catholic" was constantly used in George the Fourth's time merely to signify pro-Catholic. When Canning was spoken of as a Catholic statesman there was not the least idea of describing him as a member of the Church of Rome, and, indeed, the words "Roman Catholic" hardly come up in the controversies of those days. When Mr. Lecky spoke during a recent Parliamentary debate of Catholics and Protestants, he was gravely rebuked by some divines of the Established Church who were under the impression that he was in some way or other truckling to the {55} claims of the Papacy when he used the word "Catholic" to describe the worshippers in the Church of Rome. Mr. Lecky was put to the trouble of explaining that he used the words "Protestant" and "Catholic" in the ordinary significance given to them during long generations of political controversy.

A crisis was suddenly brought about by the illness of Lord Liverpool. The Protestant statesman was stricken down by an attack which for a time deprived him of consciousness, and even after his partial recovery left him in a state which made it clear to all his friends that his work as an administrator was done. There was no hope whatever of his resuming official work, and the question which mainly occupied the mind of the King and of those around him was not what was to become of Lord Liverpool, but whom it would be most convenient for the King to appoint as his successor. Naturally every eye was turned on Canning, whether in hope or in fear. As Lord Palmerston said of himself many years later, so it might be said of Canning, he was the "inevitable man." The whole civilized world was filled with his fame. His course of policy had made England stronger than she had ever been since the death of the younger Pitt. Even King George could not venture to believe in the possibility of passing him over, and King George's chief objection to him was found in the fact that Canning was in favor of the Catholic claims. George thought the matter over a few days, consulted Lord Eldon and other advisers, and found that nobody could inspire him with any real hope of being able to form an enduring Ministry without Canning.


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