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

There were comparatively few Tories in the House


the regular season for its {165}

holiday has come on; and if the rank and file of Opposition can once be brought to believe that a certain measure is to be passed no matter what number of weeks or months it may occupy, the rank and file is very apt to make up its mind that there is no use in throwing good months after bad, and that it might be as well to get the thing done, since it has to be done, without unlimited sacrifice of personal comfort. Still, the leaders of the Tory Opposition were not deterred by Lord Althorp's proclamation from maintaining their work of obstruction for some time yet. The impatience and anger of the country rose higher and higher. A reforming member of the House was in an unlucky plight indeed if he happened to be caught by one of the amendments proposed from the benches of Opposition and, believing that it had something reasonable in it, allowed his too sensitive conscience to persuade him into supporting it by his vote. Into such a plight fell a worthy alderman of the City of London--who had been sent into the House of Commons as a Radical reformer. This well-meaning person had permitted himself to become satisfied that there was something to be said for one of the Opposition amendments, and in a moment of rash ingenuousness he voted for it. He was immediately afterwards formally censured by his constituents and by the body to which he officially belonged. He was informed by solemn resolutions that he had been sent into the House of Commons to help the Government in passing
the Reform Bill, and it was more or less plainly intimated to him that he had no more right to the exercise of his independent opinion on any of the details of the measure than a private soldier on a battle-field would have to exercise his individual judgment as to the propriety of obeying or disobeying the order of his commanding officer. The poor man had to make the most fervid assurances that he had meant no harm in voting for the Opposition amendment, that he was thoroughly devoted to the cause of reform, and to the particular measure then before the House of Commons, and that never again was he to be induced by any arguments to give a vote against the Government on any {166} section or sentence or line of Lord John Russell's Bill. Then, and not until then, he was taken back into favor.

[Sidenote: 1831--The Reform Bill passes the Commons]

The Bill, however, did get through committee at last. The Government contrived by determined resistance and untiring patience to get their scheme of reform out of committee in substantially the condition they wished it to have. Then came the third reading. It was confidently assumed on both sides of the House that there would be a long debate on the motion that the Bill be now read a third time. In the House of Commons, however, it often happens that the assumption of a forthcoming debate as a certainty is itself the one cause which prevents the debates from being long. So it happened on this important occasion. Every Tory took it for granted that his brother Tories would keep the debate going for an indefinite time, and in this fond faith a good many Tories felt themselves in no hurry to get to the House, and were willing to leave the first hour or two at the disposal of their colleagues. When the sitting began, and, indeed, when the motion for the third reading came on, there were comparatively few Tories in the House, and the great leaders of Opposition were not present. There was confusion in the ranks of the Tories, and the crowded benches of the Reformers thundered with clamorous shouts of "Divide! Divide!" Now, it takes a very heroic orator indeed to continue declaiming for a long time when a great majority of the members present are bellowing at him


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