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

Brougham flatly declined the offer


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CHAPTER LXXI.

REFORM.

[Sidenote: 1830--Brougham and the ministry]

The King had no other course left open to him than to send for Lord Grey and invite him to form an Administration. Lord Grey was quite ready for the task, and must, for some time back, have had his mind constantly occupied with plans for such an arrangement. About some of the appointments there was no difficulty whatever. It was obvious that Lord Melbourne, Lord Althorp, and Lord John Russell would be invited to take office, but there was a certain difficulty about Brougham. The difficulty, however, was not about offering a place to Brougham; the only trouble was to find the place which would suit him, and his acceptance of which would also suit his leaders and his colleagues. Nothing could be more certain than the fact that Brougham must be invited to a place in the new Administration. He was a strong man with the country, and he now had a distinct following of his own.

Among the yet unenfranchised districts, especially in the North of England, Brougham probably counted for more, so far as the question of reform was concerned, than all the other reformers in Parliament put together. It would be idle to think of creating a Reform Ministry just then without Henry Brougham. The new Administration could

not possibly get on without him. But then it was by no means certain that the new Administration could get on with him, and no one could understand this difficulty better than the stately and aristocratic Lord Grey. Grey had simply to choose between encountering an uncertainty or undertaking an impossibility, and of course he chose the former alternative. He had to invite Brougham to take office, but the question was what office it was {123} most advisable to ask him to take. Brougham was offered the position of Attorney-General, the acceptance of which allows a man to retain his seat in the House of Commons, while it puts him directly on the way to a high promotion to the judicial bench. Brougham flatly declined the offer, and seemed to be somewhat offended that it should have been made to him. Then Lord Grey thought of offering him the dignified position of Master of the Rolls, coupled with the exceptional arrangement that he was still to retain his seat in the House of Commons. Lord Grey was naturally very anxious to conciliate Brougham, and looked with much dread to the prospect of Brougham breaking off from the negotiations altogether and retaining his seat in the House as an independent critic of the Ministry. Nothing could well be more alarming to the head of the new Administration than the thought of Brougham thus sitting as an independent critic, prepared at any minute to come down with the force and fury of his eloquence on this or that section of the new Reform Bill, and to denounce it to the country as utterly inadequate to satisfy the just demands of the people. The King, however, suggested, with some good sense, that Brougham as a dissatisfied Master of the Rolls still sitting in the House of Commons might prove an inconvenient and dangerous colleague.

Lord Grey thought the matter over once more, and began to see another way of getting out of the difficulty. Why not give to Brougham the highest legal appointment in the service of the Crown, and thus promote him completely out of the House of Commons? Why not make him Lord Chancellor at once? This offer could not but satisfy even Brougham's well-known self-conceit, and it would transplant his eloquence to the quieter atmosphere of the House of Lords, where little harm could be done to the surrounding vegetation by its too luxuriant growth. In plain words, it might be taken for granted that the House of Lords would reject any reform measure, however moderate, when it was first introduced to the notice of the peers, and therefore no particular harm could come from Brougham's presence in the hereditary assembly. But {124} Brougham in the House of Commons might, at any time, be so far carried away by his own emotions, and his own eloquence, and his own masterful temperament as to bring his colleagues into many a difficulty, and force on them the unpleasant alternative of having to choose between going further than they had intended to go or failing to keep up with Brougham as the accredited and popular promoter of reform.


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