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

But would be occupied only by mob orators


This

is an argument which had just been used with regard to Catholic Emancipation; which was afterwards to {146} be used with regard to free-trade and the introduction of the ballot and household suffrage; and which will probably be used again and again so long as any sort of reform is demanded. Of course it need hardly be said that when Sir Robert Inglis referred to mob orators he used the phrase as a term of contempt applying to all speakers who advocated principles which were not the principles represented by the Tory aristocracy. A Tory landlord spouting any kind of nonsense to the most ignorant crowd would not have been, according to this definition, a mob orator; he would have been a high-bred Englishman, instructing his humbler brethren as to the way they ought to go. Sir Robert also indulged in the most gloomy prophecies about the evils which must come upon England as the direct result of the Reform Bill if that Bill were to be passed into law. The influence of rank and property would suddenly and completely cease to prevail; education would lose its power to teach and to guide; the House of Commons would no longer be the place for men of rank, culture, and statesmanship, but would be occupied only by mob orators. Art after art would go out and all would be night, if we may adopt the famous line of Pope's which Sir Robert somehow failed to introduce.

[Sidenote: 1831--Peel's speech on the Reform Bill]

The

second speech in the debate to which we may refer was that of Sir Robert Peel. It was a necessity of Peel's position just then, and of the stage of political development which his mind had reached, that he should oppose the Reform Bill. But in the work of opposition he had to undertake a task far more difficult to him in the artistic sense than the task which the destinies had appointed for Sir Robert Inglis to attempt. Inglis, although a man of ability and education, as collegiate education then went, was so thorough a Tory of the old school that the most extravagant arguments he used came as naturally and clearly to his mind as if they had been dictated to him by inspiration. But a man of Peel's high order of intellect, a man who had been gifted by nature with the mind of a statesman, must sometimes have found it hard indeed to convince himself that some of the arguments he used against reform {147} were arguments which the history of the future would be likely to maintain. Peel's genius, however, was not one which readily adopted conclusions, especially when these conclusions involved a change in the seeming order of things. We have seen already that he was quite capable of taking a bold decision and accepting its responsibilities when the movement of events seemed to satisfy him that a choice one way or the other could no longer be postponed.

The whole story of his subsequent career bears evidence of the same effect. His genius guided him rightly when the fateful moment arrived at which a decision had to be made, but when left to himself his inclinations always were to let things go on in their old way. He had not yet seen any necessity for a complete system of Parliamentary reform, nor was he likely, in any case, to have approved of some of the proposals contained in the Bill brought in by Lord John Russell. The speech he delivered appears, by all the accounts which reach us, to have been a genuine piece of Parliamentary eloquence. Peel did not, as may well be imagined, commit himself to some of the extravagances which were poured forth in absolute good faith by Sir Robert Inglis. But the very nature of his task compelled him sometimes to have recourse to arguments which, although put forward with more discretion and more dexterity than Inglis had shown, seemed nevertheless to belong to the same order of political reasoning.


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