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

Adopted the views that Lord Lyndhurst professed to advocate


Grey introduced the third Reform Bill on March 27, 1832. The first reading passed, as a matter of course, but when the division on the motion for the second reading came on on April 14, there was only a majority of 9 votes for the Bill: 184 peers voted for it and 175 against it. Of course Lord Grey and his colleagues saw, at once, that unless the conditions were to be completely altered there would be no chance whatever in the House of Lords for a measure of reform which had passed its second reading by a majority of only 9. The moment the Bill got into committee there would be endless opportunities afforded for its mutilation, and if it were to get through the House at all, it would be only in such a form as to render it wholly useless for the objects which its promoters desired it to accomplish. This dismal conviction was very speedily {174} verified. When the Bill got into committee, Lord Lyndhurst moved an amendment to the effect that the question of enfranchisement should precede that of disfranchisement. Now this proposal was not in itself one necessarily hostile to the principle of the Bill. It is quite easy to understand that a sincere friend to reform might have, under certain conditions, adopted the views that Lord Lyndhurst professed to advocate. But the Ministry knew very well that the adoption of such a proposal would mean simply that the whole conduct of the measure was to be taken out of their hands and put into unfriendly hands--in other words, that it would
be utterly futile to go any further with the measure if the hostile majority were thus allowed to deal with it according to their own designs and their own class interest.

[Sidenote: 1832--The Peers and the third Reform Bill]

Lord Lyndhurst was a man of great ability, eloquence, and astuteness. He was one of the comparatively few men in our modern history who have made a mark in the Law Courts and in Parliament. As a Parliamentary orator he was the rival of Brougham, and the rivalry was all the more exciting to the observers because it was a rivalry of styles as well as of capacities. Lyndhurst was always polished, smooth, refined, endowed with a gift of argumentative eloquence, which appealed to the intellect rather than to the feelings, was seldom impassioned, and even when impassioned kept his passion well within conventional bounds. Brougham was thrilling, impetuous, overwhelming, often extravagant, scorning conventionality of phrase or manner, revelling in his own exuberant strength and plunging at opponents as a bull might do in a Spanish arena. Lyndhurst's amendment was one especially suited to bring to his side the majority of the Waverers. It was plausible enough in itself, and gave to many a Waverer, who must have had in his mind a very clear perception of its real object, some excuse for persuading himself that, in voting for it, he was not voting against the principle of reform. When the division came to be taken on May 7, 151 peers voted for the amendment and 116 against it, thus showing a majority of 35 against {175} the Government, by whom of course the amendment had been unreservedly opposed.

The country saw that a new crisis had come, and a crisis more serious than any which had gone before. There was only one constitutional course by which the difficulty could be got over, and that was by the King giving his consent

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