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

After much indecision and mental flurry


that if the House of Lords were

allowed to stand much longer in the way of the Reform Bill the result would be probably a political revolution which would abolish the House of Lords altogether. Therefore the ministers could make no terms with the King short of those which they had offered, and as the King did not see his way to accept their conditions there was nothing left for them but to resign office. Accordingly Lord Grey tendered his resignation and that of his colleagues, and the King, after much indecision and mental flurry, thought he could do nothing better than to accept the resignation, and try to find a set of ministers more suitable to his {177} inclinations. He sent for Lord Lyndhurst and entered into conversation with that astute lawyer and politician, and Lord Lyndhurst advised him to send for the Duke of Wellington. The Duke was sent for, but the Duke had not much to say which could lend any help to the King in his difficulties. Wellington saw distinctly enough that there was no alternative but that which lay in the choice between reform and some sort of popular revolution. We have seen already in these volumes how Wellington preferred to accept Catholic Emancipation rather than take the risk of plunging the country into civil war. In the case of the Reform Bill he would have acted, no doubt, upon the same principle if driven to the choice, but after the repeated and energetic denunciations of reform which he had delivered in the House of Lords he did not think that it would be a fitting
part for him, even for the sake of helping the sovereign out of his constitutional trouble, to be the Prime Minister by whom any manner of Reform Bill should be introduced. Wellington therefore strongly urged the King to send for Sir Robert Peel, and declared that he himself would lend all the support he possibly could to a Peel Administration. Peel was sent for accordingly, but Peel was too far-seeing a statesman to believe that he could possibly hold office for many weeks unless he yielded to the full demands of the country, and his political principles would not have allowed him to go so far as that. He did his best to make it clear to the King that no administration but a reform administration could stand, and that, if a reform administration had to be accepted, there was nothing better to be done than to invite Lord Grey and Lord John Russell back again to office.

Meanwhile the country was aroused to a fervor of enthusiasm in favor of reform, which seemed only to increase with every delay and to grow stronger with every opposition. Public meetings were held in Birmingham of larger size than had ever been gathered together in England before, and resolutions were passed by acclamation which were almost revolutionary in their character. In many cities and towns appeals were made for a run on the {178} bank, a run for gold, and there were alarming signs that the advice was likely to be followed to such a degree as to bring about utter confusion in the money market. In the City of London an immense meeting was


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