The Political History of England - Vol XI - From Addington's Administration to the close of William - IV.'s Reign (1801-1837)
by George Brodrick
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[Pageheading: NAVARINO.]

This hope was not likely, nor was it destined, to be realised. The Porte remained inflexible, and would grant no armistice; indeed, it had summoned a contingent of ships from Egypt, and a fleet of twenty-eight sail under Ibrahim Pasha was lying in the Bay of Navarino awaiting further reinforcements. Admiral Codrington, who commanded the allied fleet, now before Navarino, showed much forbearance. In concert with the French admiral, he warned Ibrahim Pasha not to leave the harbour, and obtained assurances which were speedily broken. Futile negotiations went on during the early part of October, ending in a massacre among the inhabitants of the coast by the direction of Ibrahim. The admirals of the allied fleet no longer hesitated. On the 20th the fleet entered the harbour. The first shots were fired by the Turco-Egyptian fleet, which was skilfully ranged in three lines, and in the form of a horseshoe. An action ensued, which lasted four hours, and resulted in the almost complete destruction of the Ottoman armament. Had the allied fleet at once proceeded to Constantinople, the Greek question might perhaps have been settled promptly, instead of being left to perplex cabinets for two years longer.

The news of Navarino reached England when the ministry of Lord Goderich was already tottering, and caused its members far more anxiety than satisfaction. Probably the wisest of them foresaw that, unless immediate action were taken, Russia would declare war single-handed against Turkey and enforce her own terms, but nothing in fact was done, and Wellington, on coming into power, found the question of our relations with Turkey and Greece still open. In spite of his own share in bringing about the co-operation of Russia with Great Britain, he was by no means prepared for a crusade on behalf of Greek independence, or for a definite rupture with Turkey. Hence the memorable phrases inserted in the king's speech of January 29, 1828, which described the battle of Navarino as "a collision wholly unexpected by His Majesty" and as "an untoward event," which His Majesty hoped would not be followed by further hostilities. These expressions, however much in accord with the pacific tone of the treaty of London, provoked an outburst of indignation from the friends of Greece in both houses. Lords Holland and Althorp, Lord John Russell, and Brougham recorded earnest protests against any disparagement of Admiral Codrington's action. The infatuation of the Porte, and the consequent war with Russia, checked further agitation on the subject, and Wellington's government was able to fall back on the policy of non-intervention proposed, though not always practised, by Canning. But the reactionary tendency of Wellington's foreign policy betrayed in the king's speech had its effect in alienating the more liberal of his colleagues. Nor was his position strengthened by his irresolute home policy. During the session of 1828 issues were raised which inevitably divided and ultimately broke up the cabinet.

[Pageheading: TEST ACTS REPEALED.]

The first of these difficulties was caused by the success of Lord John Russell's motion for the repeal of the test and corporation acts, under which dissenters were precluded from holding municipal and other offices. It was, indeed, a grave blot on the consistency of reformers that, while the claims of Roman catholics, and especially of Irish Roman catholics, had been vehemently urged for nearly thirty years, those of protestant nonconformists had been coldly neglected. Their legal disabilities, it is true, had gradually become almost nominal, and an indemnity act was passed yearly to cover the constant breaches of the obnoxious law. Still, the law was maintained, and was stoutly defended by such tories as Eldon on the principle that it was an important outwork of the union between Church and State. Even the Canningite members of the government supported it against Russell's attack, but on the very opposite ground—that it had become a dead letter. However, the measure for its repeal was carried in the house of commons by a majority of forty-four, including some well-known Churchmen. This measure would assuredly have been rejected in the house of lords had not Peel judiciously procured the insertion of a clause substituting for the sacramental test a declaration binding the office-holder to do nothing hostile to the Church. Thus modified, it passed the house of lords, with the assent of several bishops, in spite of the implacable opposition of Lords Eldon and Redesdale, and the Duke of Cumberland. But the declaration was amended by the addition of the words "upon the true faith of a Christian," which incidentally continued the statutable exclusion of Jews.

The enforced acceptance of this enactment was equivalent to a decisive reverse, and could not but injure the prestige of the government, but it did not actually cause a schism in the cabinet. It was otherwise when the duke proposed a corn bill in lieu of that rejected at his instance in the previous year. The difference between these measures was not very material, but the duke insisted upon certain regulations of detail, which Huskisson persistently opposed. Peel suggested a compromise which, after long altercation and some threats of resignation, was adopted. But the effect was to weaken the government still further in the eyes of the public, inasmuch as the principle of duties on a graduated scale had prevailed at last against the declared opinions of the duke. The inevitable rupture was only deferred for a few weeks, and arose out of motions for disfranchising East Retford and Penryn—a premonitory symptom of the great reform bill. These were among the most corrupt of the old "rotten boroughs," and the scandalous practices which flourished in both of them had more than once shocked even the unreformed parliament. In 1827 a bill for disfranchising Penryn had actually been carried by the house of commons in spite of Canning's dissent, and one for disfranchising East Retford would probably have been carried, but that it was introduced too late.

The motions now introduced by Lord John Russell and Charles Tennyson respectively could scarcely have been thrown out by the same house, but squabbles arose in the cabinet, partly on the comparative guiltiness of the two venal constituencies, but chiefly on the disposal of the seats to be vacated. It was agreed at last that Penryn should be merged in the adjacent hundred, and the majority of the cabinet, represented by Peel, were for dealing in like manner with East Retford. The liberal section, however, represented by Huskisson, was bent on transferring its representation to Birmingham, and voted against Peel in the house of commons. Having thus vindicated his independence, Huskisson, somewhat too hastily, placed his resignation in the hands of the premier on May 20. The duke, having fairly lost patience with his insubordinate colleagues, was equally prompt in accepting it, and declined to receive the explanations offered. In the end, Palmerston, Dudley, Grant, and Lamb, followed the fortunes of Huskisson, and Wellington's government was completely purged of Canning's old supporters.

[Pageheading: THE CLARE ELECTION.]

Two military officers, without political experience, were now imported into the ministry. Sir George Murray succeeded Huskisson at the colonial office, and Sir Henry Hardinge replaced Palmerston as secretary at war, but was not admitted to the cabinet; Lord Aberdeen became foreign secretary, and Vesey Fitzgerald president of the board of trade, while Lord Francis Leveson Gower succeeded Lamb as chief secretary for Ireland. So purely tory an administration had not been formed since the days of Perceval. Looking back we can see that, for that very reason, it was doomed; but to politicians of 1828 Wellington's ascendency seemed assured, and it was not actually broken for above two years. By far the most important event of domestic history within that period was the crisis ending in the catholic emancipation act, and this crisis was immediately precipitated by the almost casual appointment of Vesey Fitzgerald. He was a popular Irish landlord, who had always supported catholic relief, and his re-election for the county of Clare was regarded as perfectly secure. The landlords were known to be entirely in his favour, and Irish tenants, miscalled "forty shilling freeholders," had been used to vote obsequiously for the candidate of their landlords. Indeed, these counterfeit freeholds had been manufactured recklessly throughout Ireland for the very purpose of extending landlord influence. Perhaps the recent defeat of a Beresford at Waterford by a nominee of Daniel O'Connell, who had made himself the leader of the movement for Catholic relief, ought to have undeceived the Irish tories, but no one could have foreseen so daring an act as the candidature of O'Connell himself, notwithstanding that, as a catholic, he was incapable of sitting in the house of commons.

The contest began on June 30 and lasted five days. All the gentry and electors of the higher class supported Fitzgerald, but all the poorer electors, headed by their priests, flocked to the poll and voted for O'Connell, who, on Fitzgerald's retirement, was triumphantly elected. The violence of O'Connell's language was unmeasured, and as was said by Sheil, "every altar became a tribune," but perfect order was maintained throughout. The terrorism which has since disgraced Irish elections and vitiated the whole representation of Ireland had no place in this startling victory, and the impression produced by it was thereby infinitely enhanced. Two conclusions were instantly drawn from it: the one, that electoral power in Ireland could not safely be left in the hands of the forty-shilling freeholders; the other, that, whether or not they were disfranchised, nothing short of political equality of the catholics of Ireland could avert the risk of civil war. It is seldom that momentous changes can be so clearly traced to a single cause as in the case of catholic emancipation. The whole interval between July, 1828, and April, 1829, was occupied by the discussion of this question, or circumstances arising out of it, and it may truly be said to have filled the whole horizon of domestic politics. The first and final recognition by a responsible government of emancipation as a political necessity dates immediately from the Clare election.

The question of catholic emancipation had been the only reason for the resignation of Pitt in 1801, but we have seen that he resumed office in 1804 under a pledge not to re-open it. It is certain that he never contemplated a complete emancipation of the catholics without safeguards for the interests of the established church. Such a safeguard (though ineffective against a future attack through disestablishment) was provided by the act of union,[84] which inviolably united the Irish and English churches. The catholic leaders, on their part, were profuse in their disavowals of hostility to that establishment and to the protestant government in Ireland. In their first solemn memorial, presented by Grenville on March 25, 1805, they expressly declared that "they do not seek or wish, in the remotest degree, to injure or encroach upon the rights, privileges, immunities, possessions, and revenues appertaining to the bishops and clergy of the protestant religion, or to the churches committed to their charge". They further volunteered an expression of their belief that no evil act could be justified by the good of the Church, and that papal infallibility was no article of the catholic faith. Thenceforward, frequent motions in support of the "catholic claims" were made in both houses of parliament. In 1810 such a motion was proposed in a very eloquent speech by Grattan, but Castlereagh, though a staunch friend of the cause, deprecated it as inopportune, since the catholics had injured themselves by imprudent conduct, and fresh declarations inconsistent with their former assurances. The motion was therefore rejected, and a similar fate befell motions of the same kind in the two following years, especially in the house of lords, where Eldon inflexibly resisted any concession, and always commanded a majority.

[Pageheading: CATHOLIC RELIEF.]

When Liverpool replaced Perceval as prime minister in 1812, catholic emancipation became an open question in the cabinet. In that year Canning succeeded in carrying triumphantly a resolution pledging the house of commons to consider the question seriously in the next session, and a like resolution was only lost by one vote in the house of lords. Accordingly, in 1813, Grattan's motion for a committee of the whole house on catholic disabilities was accepted, and a bill for their removal passed its second reading. But it was loaded with vexatious securities in committee and wrecked by the vigorous opposition of the speaker, Abbot, who on May 24 carried by a majority of four an amendment withholding the right to sit and vote in parliament. After this, the bill was of course abandoned, but another was unanimously passed exempting from penalties Roman catholics holding certain military and civil offices, to which, by a harsh construction of law, they were not eligible. In 1817 the question was debated at great length in the house of commons, and several leading men took part in it, but the motion for catholic relief was again defeated by a majority of twenty-four. It was revived in 1819 by Grattan, who delivered on this occasion one of his greatest speeches, and succeeded in reducing the majority to two only. In 1821 a further advance was made by Plunket's success in obtaining a committee to consider the claims of the catholics. This was carried by a majority of six, and followed up by two bills, removing all catholic disabilities with very slight exceptions, but subject to stringent and somewhat illusory securities for the loyalty of the priesthood. Ultimately on April 2 a comprehensive measure of catholic relief passed the house of commons by a majority of nineteen. All the most influential members of the lower house now voted in its favour, but the attitude of the upper house remained unchanged. The spirit of Eldon still ruled the peers, and his speech against Plunket's relief bill contains a complete armoury of protestant arguments. But the catholics had a still more doughty opponent in the Duke of York, who delivered on this occasion the first of his famous declarations, binding himself to life-long hostility. As Eldon said, "he did more to quiet this matter than everything else put together".[85]

The year 1821 marks a turning point in the history of the catholic question, since the protestant cause, no longer safe in the house of commons, was felt by its champions to depend on the crown and the house of lords. But it would be an error to suppose that catholic relief was ever a popular cry in this country, like retrenchment and reform. On the contrary, the feelings of the masses in Great Britain were never roused in regard to it, and, if roused at all, would probably have been enlisted on the other side. It would be too much to say that the controversy was merely academical, for it was keen enough to split up parties and produce dualism in cabinets. But it was never a hustings question. It filled a much larger space in the minds of statesmen than in the minds of the people, and even among statesmen it was so far secondary that it could be treated as an open question in Liverpool's ministry for a period of fifteen years. No doubt the disturbed state of Ireland, which ultimately supplied the motive power for carrying the emancipation act, contributed at an earlier stage to damp the zeal of its advocates. Whatever the merits of the union, it had failed to pacify the country, thereby verifying the warning of Cornwallis, that, although Ireland could not be saved without the union, "you must not take it for granted that it will be saved by it".

In 1800, the very year of the union, the habeas corpus act had been suspended and another act passed for the suppression of rebellion. Though repealed in the following year, these coercive measures were renewed in 1803, after Emmet's abortive rising, and continued in 1804. In 1805, when they expired, special commissions were appointed for the repression of crime in the south and west of Ireland. In 1807 the habeas corpus act was again suspended and a rigorous insurrection act passed which continued in force until 1810. In that year a Catholic Committee was formed, anticipating the more notorious Catholic Association. An essential part of the scheme was the formation of a representative assembly in Dublin, to discuss and procure redress for the wrongs of catholics. This project was put down by the Irish government, which treated it as a breach of the convention act of 1793. The next ten years seem to have been somewhat quieter in Ireland, and the disturbances which followed the peace in Great Britain had no counterpart in that country. Still, it was thought necessary to suppress another catholic convention in 1814, and to renew the insurrection act, which remained in force with one interval till 1817. It can well be imagined that a population so lawless, and so prone to horrible outrages which shock Englishmen more than a thousand crimes against property, should have excited little general sympathy by their complaints of political grievances. These grievances were justly denounced by party leaders, but in the eyes of ordinary politicians, and still more of electors, coercion rather than concession was the appropriate remedy for the ills of Ireland.

[Pageheading: CATHOLIC RELIEF.]

Canning, however, though suspected of lukewarmness, did not let the question rest in 1822. On April 30, while still out of office, he introduced a bill which he could scarcely have expected to become law, for enabling Roman catholic peers to sit and vote in the house of lords. This bill was passed in the commons by a majority of five, but rejected in the lords by a majority of forty-four, in spite of somewhat transparent assertions that it was not intended to prejudice the main issue. On April 18, 1823, an angry protest from Burdett against the "annual farce" of motions leading to nothing was followed by a quarrel between Canning and Brougham, who accused Canning, then foreign secretary, of "monstrous truckling for the purpose of obtaining office"; and when Plunket moved, as usual, for the relief of catholics, a temporary secession of radicals took place, which left him in a ridiculous minority. In spite of this discomfiture, Lord Nugent succeeded in carrying through the commons a bill, granting the parliamentary franchise to Roman catholics in Great Britain. The bill was lost in the lords, and the question remained dormant in 1824; but in 1825 it received a fresh impulse. This time it was Burdett who, at the instance of Lansdowne and Brougham, appeared as spokesman of the catholics. His action was in some respects inopportune, as the "Catholic Association," founded by O'Connell and Sheil in 1823, was now usurping the functions of a government, and regularly levying taxes under the name of "rent". The necessity of suppressing it, though not apparent to Lord Wellesley, the lord-lieutenant, was strongly felt on both sides of the house of commons. A bill for this purpose, but applicable to all similar associations, was rapidly carried by large majorities in both houses, and the opposition was fain to rely mainly on the declaration that it would be put in force against catholic associations only, and not against those of the Orangemen, as the more violent of the Irish protestants were called. It is needless to say that it was evaded by the former, but on March 1, while it was still before the house of lords, Burdett took courage to move another preliminary resolution in favour of the catholics, and obtained a majority of thirteen. A bill founded on this resolution was at once introduced.

The debates on this bill were memorable in several respects and opened the last stage but one in the long history of catholic relief. In the first place, more than one opponent publicly avowed his conversion to it; in the second place, now that its "settlement" was actually within view, the necessity of providing a counterpoise became admitted. Accordingly, one independent member proposed a state grant of L250,000 a year for the endowment of the catholic clergy, who might thus be indirectly bound over to good behaviour, while another proposed the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders. Both of these bills were read a second time, but held over until the fate of the main relief bill should be determined. That bill passed the house of commons on May 10, 1825, by a majority of twenty-one, and Peel tendered his resignation to Lord Liverpool.[86] Two days later, the Duke of York, on presenting a petition against the bill in the house of lords, delivered another speech which fell like a thunder-clap on the country, and has been celebrated ever since as an audacious breach of constitutional usage. In this speech, he justified the inflexible attitude of his father, whose mental disorder he expressly attributed to the agitation of the catholic question. He concluded by declaring that his principles were the same, imbibed in early youth and confirmed by mature reflection, and that he would maintain them up to the latest moment of his existence, "whatever might be his situation in life". It is certain that, in thus pledging himself, he acted without having consulted the king, who somewhat resented so direct an allusion to his prospect of succession. Still, the sensation produced by the duke's utterance was prodigious, and he remained the favourite champion of the protestant cause until his death. Brougham attacked him with furious sarcasm in the commons, but the lords threw out Burdett's relief bill by a majority of forty-eight, and the No-popery cry influenced the general election of 1826. In that year no further effort was made by the friends of catholic claims, but O'Connell showed his growing power in Ireland by exciting a political revolt of the peasantry at Waterford, and procuring the defeat of Lord George Beresford.

[Pageheading: CATHOLIC RELIEF.]

In the session of 1827, before Canning succeeded Lord Liverpool, Burdett renewed his motion of 1825 on the catholic question, but found himself defeated by four votes. The division had taken place in a full house, after the fierce encounter, already mentioned, between Copley and Canning; but it cannot be regarded as a decisive token of contrast between the old and the new parliament, since relief was now claimed without any mention of "securities". The subject was in abeyance during the short administrations of Canning and Goderich, but was raised again by Burdett in May, 1828, after the repeal of the test and corporation acts. The number of votes on the catholic side, 272, was the same as in 1827, that on the protestant side, 266, was less by ten, the result being a majority of six for the motion. A similar resolution was lost in the house of lords, as a matter of course; but the language held by the new lord chancellor, Lyndhurst, and by Wellington himself, as prime minister, prepared observant men for an impending change of policy. Then followed the Clare election, which revealed nothing which might not have been foreseen, but which had the same effect in precipitating the removal of catholic disabilities as the Irish famine afterwards had in precipitating the repeal of the corn laws.

We now know that Peel had made up his mind to yield shortly after the Clare election,[87] partly influenced by the alarming reports of Anglesey, the Irish lord-lieutenant, on the state of Ireland. We also know that Wellington himself was more than half convinced of the necessity of concession, and was preparing to strengthen his government for the coming struggle, in the event of Peel feeling bound to retire. Meanwhile a vacancy in the ministry had been created by the Duke of Clarence's resignation of his office of lord high admiral. In spite of the limitations imposed on his power, he had insisted on hoisting his flag, and assumed command. For this he was severely reprehended by the king and Wellington, and was virtually forced to resign office. Melville now became once more first lord of the admiralty, and was succeeded by Ellenborough at the board of control. Ellenborough retained his former office of lord privy seal, which Wellington was holding in reserve with a view to strengthening the government. But the public of those days remained in entire ignorance of their intentions until the meeting of parliament on February 5, 1829.

The speech of George Dawson, Peel's brother-in-law, at Derry, on August 12, had greatly startled protestants. As it was never publicly disavowed, Brunswick clubs were formed to repel the rising tide of sympathy with the catholics, but the only tangible indication of Wellington's personal sentiments favoured the belief that nothing would be done. The circumstances under which this indication was given were peculiar. The duke had written a letter to the Roman catholic archbishop of Dublin, an old correspondent, deprecating agitation on the catholic question, as likely to prejudice its future settlement, of which, however, the duke saw "no prospect".[88] This letter was improperly sent by the archbishop to O'Connell as well as to Anglesey. O'Connell read it to the Catholic Association as a sign of conciliatory inclinations; Anglesey's reply suggested, at least, that agitation might continue. He was promptly recalled, and his recall was rendered the more significant by the appointment of the Duke of Northumberland, a known "protestant," as his successor. What the public could not then know was that behind all other difficulties, political or personal, lay the almost insuperable difficulty of inducing the king to allow the cabinet to be even consulted. Indolent and unprincipled as George IV. was, he was still capable of rousing and asserting himself. Probably no one but Wellington could have prevailed against his anti-catholic prejudices, shared, as they were, not only by most of the peers, both spiritual and temporal, but also by the mass of the English people. At this juncture Peel informed the duke that, rather than risk the success of the proposed measure, he would remain at his post. His example was followed by his "protestant" colleagues.


During the winter of 1828-29 the strongest pressure was brought to bear on the king by his ministers to procure his consent to a measure of relief, accompanied by safeguards. Though he afterwards assured Eldon that he had never explicitly given such a consent, the old chancellor, on seeing the documents, felt obliged to express a contrary opinion. It is certain that he gave way most reluctantly, and probable that his scruples were as sincere as was consistent with his character; but he knew well that, if he dismissed his ministers, he would be left isolated, and he bowed to necessity. Indeed even the "protestant" members of the cabinet had urged him to yield. His assent was, in fact, only given by degrees; after each member of the cabinet, who had previously opposed catholic emancipation, had had a separate interview, the king consented on January 15 to the consideration of the subject by the cabinet, but reserved the right to reject its advice. After this no great difficulty was experienced in obtaining the royal assent to the introduction of a bill.[89] Accordingly the king's speech, delivered by commission on February 5, 1829, distinctly recommended parliament to consider whether the civil disabilities of the catholics could not be removed "consistently with the full and permanent security of our establishments in Church and State". This recommendation, however, was preceded by a severe condemnation of the Catholic Association and the expression of a resolution to put down the disorders caused by it. The sensation produced by the king's speech was increased by the simultaneous resignation by Peel of his seat for the university of Oxford. Considering that he was originally preferred to Canning mainly on protestant grounds, he could not have honourably acted otherwise. Many of his old friends stood by him, in spite of differences on the catholic question, and Eldon's grandson, who had been proposed as a candidate, was set aside as too weak an opponent. Ultimately Sir Robert Inglis was put forward by the "protestants," and was returned by 755 votes against 609. Peel obtained a seat for the borough of Westbury,[90] and moved a preliminary bill for suppressing the Catholic Association. This passed both houses in February, but was already ineffective when it became law, since the association had been shrewd enough to dissolve itself upon the advice of its English well-wishers. The catholic relief bill was therefore introduced under favourable auspices.

The motives which actuated Wellington and Peel in espousing the cause which they had so persistently opposed admit of no doubt whatever. In the memoir which Peel left as embodying his own defence, no less than in his speech introducing the emancipation bill, he affects no essential change of conviction. He rests his case entirely on the public danger of leaving the question "unsettled" after the disclosures of the Clare election, and argues calmly, as the agitators had been arguing for nearly thirty years, that no settlement was practicable short of complete, though not unconditional, surrender. There is no pretence of consistency. All the constitutional, political, and religious objections to civil equality between protestants and catholics in Ireland remained unanswered and unabated. Indeed the increasing power and defiant tone of the catholic demagogues might well have appeared a crowning reason for refusing them seats in parliament. Peel, however, had adopted, and pressed upon Wellington, the delusive opinion of Anglesey that by "taking them from the Association and placing them in the house of commons" they might be reduced to comparative impotence. He lamented, it is true, the premature announcement of a new policy by Dawson, and he had submitted his own resignation to the duke in the belief, apparently sincere, that he could render better service in an independent position. But he seems not to have felt the least scruple in urging the duke to break all his pledges to his protestant supporters, and conciliate the followers of O'Connell. Nor did his advice fall on unwilling ears. Trained in a vocation where private conscience is subordinate to military duty, where enemies must sometimes be welcomed as allies if it may further the plan of campaign, and where a masterly retreat is as honourable as a victory, Wellington did not shrink from undertaking the part of an opportunist minister. He had always regarded himself as a servant of the crown and the nation, rather than as a party leader, and he saw no personal difficulty in adopting any political measure as the less of two evils. Having once satisfied himself that civil war in Ireland was the only alternative to emancipation, he abandoned resistance to it as he would have abandoned a hopeless siege, and called upon his tory followers to change their front with him.

Notice had been given of a resolution to be moved by Peel on March 5, preparing the way for the catholic relief bill, when the king raised fresh obstacles to its progress. As the day drew near, George, encouraged by the Duke of Cumberland, grew very excited. He had violent interviews with his ministers, and finally on March 3 he informed Wellington, Lyndhurst, and Peel that he could not assent to any alteration in the oath of supremacy. The three ministers accordingly tendered their resignations, which were accepted. But the king soon found that no alternative administration was possible, and on the following day the existing ministers received permission to proceed with the bill.[91]


Peel's great speech on March 5, in favour of his resolution, contains a comprehensive review of the Irish question, as well as an elaborate defence of his own position, resting solely on grounds of expediency. He advocated the measure itself as the only means of pacifying Ireland, reducing the undue power of the catholics, and securing the protestant religion. It was simple in its main outlines, applying to the whole United Kingdom, and purporting to open all political and civil rights to catholics, with a very few specified exceptions. It contained, however, a number of provisions, in the nature of securities against catholic aggression. By the new oath, to be substituted for the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, a member of parliament, or holder of an office, was no longer required to renounce transubstantiation, the invocation of saints, or the sacrifice of the mass. But he was still obliged not only to swear allegiance, but to profess himself resolved to maintain the protestant settlement of the crown, to condemn absolutely all papal jurisdiction within the realm, and to disclaim solemnly any intention of subverting the existing Church establishment or weakening the system of protestant government. Moreover, priests were expressly denied the privilege of sitting in parliament. Catholics were still excluded from the high positions of sovereign, regent, lord chancellor of England or Ireland, and lord-lieutenant of Ireland. They were enabled to become ministers of the crown, but were debarred from the power of advising the crown on presentations to ecclesiastical dignities or benefices, nor were they allowed to exercise such patronage in their personal capacity. They were still to be disabled from holding offices in the ecclesiastical courts, or in the universities, and their bishops were forbidden to assume diocesan titles already appropriated by the establishment. Other clauses were directed against the use of catholic vestments except in their chapels and private houses, and against the importation of Jesuits or members of similar religious orders, with a saving clause for those already resident and duly registered. Two other safeguards, often proposed, were deliberately omitted from the bill. There was no provision for a state endowment of catholic priests, or for a veto of the crown on the appointment of catholic bishops. These omissions, whether justifiable or not, were pregnant with serious consequences.

The debates in both houses on Peel's bill, as it was rightly considered, are chiefly interesting as throwing light on contemporary opinion. The arguments for and against it had been fairly exhausted in previous years, and would carry no great weight in a later age. The constitutional objections to it, which seemed vital to Eldon, and weighty to every statesman of his time, were at a later date put aside, when they were pleaded against the dissolution of the Irish church, directly guaranteed by the act of union. The criticisms on the personal consistency of Wellington and Peel belong to biography rather than to history. But no one can read the speeches of leading men on either side without recognising the superior foresight, at least, of those who opposed the bill, and distrusted the efficacy of the safeguards embodied in it. Two assumptions underlay the whole discussion, and were treated as axioms by nearly all the speakers. The one was that catholic emancipation must be judged by its effect on the future peace of Ireland; the other, that it could not be justified, unless it would strengthen, rather than weaken, protestant ascendency, then regarded as a bulwark of the constitution. Posterity may contemplate it from a different and perhaps higher point of view; but it is certain that, if its consequences had been foreseen by those who voted upon it, the bill would have been rejected. It is no less certain that its adoption was a victory of the educated classes, represented by nomination-boroughs, over the unrepresented masses of the people.

The actual result in the division lists was all that its promoters could have desired. Though the secret had been so well kept by the government that few of its supporters knew what to expect, and though piles of petitions showed the preponderance of protestant sentiment outside parliament, that sentiment was not reflected in the division lists. The first reading of the bill in the house of commons was carried by a majority of 348 to 160; the second reading by a majority of 353 to 180; the third reading by a majority of 320 to 142. The debates were enlivened on the protestant side by a brilliant speech from Michael Sadler, a tory friend of the working classes, returned by the Duke of Newcastle for Newark, and a violent invective from Sir Charles Wetherell, the attorney-general, who was thereupon dismissed from office. Peel, who had borne the brunt of these attacks, replied on March 30, when the bill was sent up to the lords, and on April 2, the second reading of it in the upper house was moved by Wellington. His candid admission that he was driven to concession by the fear of civil war has since become historical, and served as the watchword of many a lawless agitation in Ireland. It was natural that most of the peers, and especially of the spiritual peers, who took part in the discussion should be opponents of the measure, but Lloyd, Bishop of Oxford, severed himself from the rest of his order, and vigorous speeches were made in support of it by Anglesey and Grey, neither of whom could be regarded as friendly to Wellington's government.


Anglesey, who had been recently dismissed from the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland, went beyond the duke in the use of purely military arguments; Grey ventured to prophesy not only a future reign of peace in Ireland, but an extension of protestantism, as the consequence of catholic emancipation. The hopeless attempt of Lyndhurst to vindicate his own consistency, and a forensic duel between Eldon and Plunket, who had been raised to the peerage in 1827, relieved the monotony of the debate, but probably did not influence a single vote. The old guard of the anti-catholic party remained firm, but the mass of tory peers followed their leader in his new policy, as they had followed him in his old, and the relief bill was read a third time in the house of lords on the 10th, by a majority of 104. Three days later it received the royal assent. Lord Eldon had virtually encouraged the king to refuse this, at the last moment, though he was too honest to accept the assurance of George IV. that the bill was introduced without his authority. But the son of George III. had not inherited his father's resolute character. After a few childish threats of retiring to Hanover and leaving the Duke of Clarence to make terms with the ministry, he abandoned further resistance and capitulated to Wellington, as Wellington had capitulated to O'Connell.

The disfranchisement of the forty-shilling freeholders and the substitution of a ten-pound suffrage was the price to be paid for catholic emancipation, and no time was lost in completing the bargain. In days when it is assumed that every change in the electoral franchise must needs be in a downward direction, it may well appear amazing that so wholesale a destruction of privileges enjoyed for thirty-six years should have provoked so feeble an opposition. It is still more amazing that it should have passed without a protest from O'Connell himself, who had solemnly vowed to perish on the field or on the scaffold rather than submit to it. Yet so it was. These ignorant voters, it is true, had never ventured to call their souls their own, and had only ceased to be the servile creatures of their landlords in order to become the servile creatures of their priests. Still, it was they who, by their action in the Waterford and Clare elections, had forced the hand of the government, and achieved catholic emancipation. It may safely be said that after the reform act of 1832 it would have been politically impossible to disfranchise them; and even in the unreformed parliament it would have been scarcely possible if gratitude were a trustworthy motive in politics. On the other hand, the government could never have secured a majority for catholic emancipation, unless it had been distinctly understood to carry with it the extinction of democracy in Ireland. This, rather than declarations and restrictions of doubtful efficacy, was the real "security" on which the legislature relied for disarming the disloyalty of Irish catholics. For some time it answered its purpose so far as to keep the representation of that disloyalty within safe limits in the house of commons. But it naturally produced a contrary effect in Ireland itself, and was destined to be swept away before a fresh wave of agitation.

A few days before the relief bill passed the house of commons an episode occurred which is chiefly interesting for the light which it throws on the ideas then prevalent in the highest society. In 1828 Wellington had presided at a meeting for the establishment of King's College, London, an institution which was to be entirely under the influence of the established church, and which was intended as a counterpoise to the purely secular institution which had been recently founded under the title of the "London University". The Earl of Winchilsea, a peer of no personal importance, but a stalwart upholder of Church and State, published in the Standard newspaper of March 16, 1829, a virulent letter, describing the whole transaction "as a blind to the protestant and high church party," and accusing the prime minister of insidious designs for the introduction of popery in every department of the state. The duke at once sent Hardinge with a note couched in moderate language, demanding an apology. Winchilsea made no apology, but offered to express regret for having mistaken the duke's motives, if the duke would declare that when he presided at the meeting in question he was not contemplating any measure of catholic relief. Whereupon the duke demanded "that satisfaction which a gentleman has a right to require, and which a gentleman never refuses to give". A hostile meeting took place on March 21 in Battersea fields. The duke intentionally fired wide, and Winchilsea, after discharging his weapon in the air, tendered a written apology, in conformity with the so-called rules of honour. The duke was conscious that his conduct must have "shocked many good men," but he always maintained that it was the only way, and proved an effectual way, of dispelling the atmosphere of calumny in which he was surrounded. It is probable that he judged rightly of his contemporaries, and that he gained rather than lost in reputation by an act which, apart from its moral aspect, risked the success of a great measure largely depending on the continuance of his own life. It may be noticed that he afterwards became not only the personal friend of his antagonist, but the most influential member of the Anti-Duelling Association.[92]


Another episode, or rather sequel, of the great contest on catholic relief had more serious political consequences. Though O'Connell was the undoubted leader of the movement, and might almost have claimed to be the father of the act, he was most unwisely but deliberately excluded from its benefits. His exclusion was effected by a clause which rendered its operation strictly prospective, for the very purpose of shutting out the one catholic who had been elected under the old law. It had been decided by a committee of the house of commons that he was duly returned, the only question being whether he could take his seat without subscribing the oath now abolished. This question was brought to a test by the appearance of O'Connell in person in the house itself. The speaker, Charles Manners-Sutton, declared that he could not properly be admitted to be sworn under the new law, upon which O'Connell claimed a hearing. A long and futile discussion followed as to whether he should be heard at the table or at the bar. In the end he was heard at the bar, and produced a very favourable impression upon his opponents as well as his friends by the ingenuity of his arguments and the studied moderation of his tone. His case, however, was manifestly untenable from a legal point of view, and a new writ was ordered to be issued for the county of Clare.

Then was shown both the folly of stirring up so needlessly the inflammable materials of Irish sedition and the futility of imagining that catholic emancipation, right or wrong, would prove a healing measure. Having exhibited the better side of his character in his speech before the house of commons, O'Connell exhibited its worst side without stint or shame in his addresses to the Irish peasantry. Skilfully avoiding the language of sheer treason, he set no bounds to his coarse and outrageous vituperation of the nation which had sacrificed even its conscience to appease Ireland; nor did he shrink from denouncing Wellington and Peel as "those men who, false to their own party, can never be true to us". The note which he struck has never ceased to vibrate in the hearts of the excitable people which he might have educated into loyal citizenship, and the spirit which he evoked has been the evil genius of Ireland from his day to our own. He openly unfurled the standard of repeal, but the repeal he demanded did not involve the creation of an Irish republic. Ireland was still to be connected with Great Britain by "the golden link of the crown," and though agitation was carried to the verge of rebellion, the great agitator never actually advised his dupes to rise in arms for a war of independence. Short of this he did all in his power, and with too much success, to inflame them with a malignant hatred of the sister country. If the promoters of catholic emancipation had ever looked for any reward beyond the inward satisfaction of having done a righteous act, they were speedily and wofully undeceived.


[83] Wellington to Peel, January 9, 1828, in Parker, Sir Robert Peel, ii., 27.

[84] Lecky, History of Ireland, v., 358-60, n.; Stapleton, Life of Canning, ii., 131-34.

[85] Eldon to Sir William Scott, Twiss, Life of Eldon, ii., 416. For Eldon's Speech, see Twiss, iii., 498-512.

[86] Parker, Sir Robert Peel, i., 372-75.

[87] Parker, Sir Robert Peel, ii., 54-60.

[88] Wellington to Curtis, December 11, 1828, Wellington, Despatches, etc., v., 326.

[89] For the king's qualified assent see Parker, Sir Robert Peel, ii., 82-85; Peel's Memoirs, i., 297, 298, 310.

[90] See Peel's Memoirs, i., 3, for his unpopularity at Westbury.

[91] Peel's Memoirs, i., 343-49; Greville, Memoirs, i., 189, 190, 201, 202.

[92] See Maxwell, Life of Wellington, ii., 231-36, for the incident.



It is now time to turn to the general course of foreign policy during the closing years of the reign of George IV. The only foreign problems which gave serious trouble during this period were the Eastern and Portuguese questions. The influence which the former exercised on domestic policy has rendered it necessary to trace its course as far as the battle of Navarino in the last chapter. We must now take up the other question where we left it, at the recognition of the independence of Brazil and the expulsion of the Spanish troops from the mainland of America.

Peter I., Emperor of Brazil, though an independent sovereign, was still heir-apparent to the throne of Portugal, and the ultra-royalists hoped that, in spite of the provisions of the Brazilian constitution, his succession to his ancestral crown would restore the unity of the Portuguese dominions. The death of King John VI. on March 10, 1826, brought the matter to a crisis. Four days before his death he had appointed a council of regency which was to be presided over by his daughter, Isabella Maria, but from which the queen and Dom Miguel, then twenty-three, were both excluded. By this act the absolutist party were deprived of power until they should be restored to it by the action of the new king, or by a revolution. The regency wished the new king to make a speedy choice between the two crowns; and it was anticipated that he would abdicate the Portuguese crown in favour of his seven-year-old daughter, Maria da Gloria. The absolutists on the other hand hoped that the king might by procrastination avoid the separation of the crowns.

What was their surprise when they discovered that the king had indeed determined to procrastinate, but in such a way as to displease the absolutists as much as the friends of constitutional government? No sooner had the news of his father's death reached Peter at Rio Janeiro, than he issued a charter of 145 clauses, conferring a constitution on Portugal. This constitution which was destined to alternate for nearly a generation with absolute monarchy or with the revolutionary constitution of 1821, had the advantage of being the voluntary gift of the king. It was, however, composed in great haste, and, except that it retained the hereditary nobility as a first chamber in the cortes, was almost identical with the constitution established in Brazil in the previous December. Among other provisions it subjected the nobility to taxation and asserted the principle of religious toleration. A few days later, on the 2nd of May, King Peter executed an act of abdication in favour of his daughter Maria, providing, however, that the abdication should not come into effect until the necessary oaths had been taken to the new constitution and until the new queen should have been married to her uncle, Dom Miguel.


This compromise pleased nobody. It is true that it seemed to make permanent the separation of Brazil from Portugal, since the former state was destined for Peter's infant son, afterwards Peter II.; but the Brazilian patriots would have preferred a more definite abandonment of the Portuguese throne, and Peter's half-measure of abdication was one of the main causes of the discontent which drove him to resign the Brazilian crown five years later. The Portuguese liberals were alarmed at the prospect of a restoration of Dom Miguel to power, while the absolutists were indignant at the imposition of a constitution. From the very first it encountered opposition. The new constitution was indeed proclaimed on July 13, and the necessary oaths were taken on the 31st. But on the same day a party, consisting mainly of Portuguese deserters in Spanish territory, proclaimed Miguel as king and the queen-mother as regent during his absence. Miguel, however, gave no open support to this party; on October 4 he actually took the oath to the new constitution, and on the 29th he formally betrothed himself at Vienna to the future Queen of Portugal. But the Portuguese insurgents were not deterred by the apparent defection of the prince whose claim to reign they asserted, and they received a thinly disguised encouragement from the Spanish government, which certainly did nothing to interfere with their organisation in Spanish territory. On the 10th the last insurgents had been expelled from Portuguese territory, but in November they were openly joined by some Spanish soldiers, and on the 22nd of that month they invaded the Portuguese province of Traz-os-Montes. Another division made a simultaneous irruption into the province of Alemtejo. This latter body was quickly expelled from the kingdom and marched through Spanish territory to join its more successful comrades in Northern Portugal. The whole province of Traz-os-Montes had fallen into the hands of the absolutists in a few days, and its defection was followed by that of the northern part of Beira, when the arrival of British forces gave the constitutional party the necessary encouragement to enable them to arrest the progress of the insurrection.

As in 1823, the Portuguese government, represented in London by Palmella, applied for British assistance against the ultra-royalists at home. But on the present occasion Portugal was able to appeal to something more than the general friendship of Great Britain. By the treaties of 1661 and 1703, renewed as recently as 1815, Great Britain was bound to defend Portugal against invasion, and Portugal now claimed the fulfilment of these treaties. The formal demand was received by the British ministry on December 3, but it was not till Friday, the 8th, that official intelligence was received of the invasion. Not a moment was lost in despatching 5,000 troops to Portugal. This resolution was formed by the cabinet on the 9th, approved by the king on the 10th, and communicated to parliament on the 11th. On the evening of the 12th Canning was able to inform the house of commons that the troops were already on the march for embarkation.

The debate in the house of commons on the address in answer to the royal message announcing the request of the Portuguese government, was the occasion of two of the most famous speeches that Canning ever delivered. After recounting the treaty obligations of this country to Portugal, and the circumstances of the Portuguese application for assistance, and disclaiming any desire to meddle with the domestic politics of Portugal, he referred to a previous anticipation that the next European war would be one "not so much of armies as of opinions". "Not four years," he proceeded, "have elapsed, and behold my apprehension realised! It is, to be sure, within narrow limits that this war of opinion is at present confined: but it is a war of opinion that Spain (whether as government or as nation) is now waging against Portugal; it is a war which has commenced in hatred of the new institutions of Portugal. How long is it reasonable to expect that Portugal will abstain from retaliation? If into that war this country shall be compelled to enter, we shall enter into it with a sincere and anxious desire to mitigate rather than exasperate, and to mingle only in the conflict of arms, not in the more fatal conflict of opinions. But I much fear that this country (however earnestly she may endeavour to avoid it) could not, in such case, avoid seeing ranked under her banners all the restless and dissatisfied of any nation with which she might come in conflict. It is the contemplation of this new power in any future war which excites my most anxious apprehension. It is one thing to have a giant's strength, but it would be another to use it like a giant. The consciousness of such strength is undoubtedly a source of confidence and security; but in the situation in which this country stands, our business is not to seek opportunities of displaying it, but to content ourselves with letting the professors of violent and exaggerated doctrines on both sides feel that it is not their interests to convert an umpire into an adversary."

In his reply at the close of the debate Canning vindicated his consistency in resisting Spanish aggression upon Portugal, while offering no resistance to the military occupation of Spain by France, which had not yet terminated. He pointed out that the Spain of his day was quite different from "the Spain within the limits of whose empire the sun never set—the Spain 'with the Indies' that excited the jealousies and alarmed the imaginations of our ancestors". He admitted that the entry of the French into Spain was a disparagement to the pride of England, but he thought it had been possible to obtain compensation without offering resistance in Spain itself. Then came the famous passage: "If France occupied Spain, was it necessary, in order to avoid the consequences of that occupation, that we should blockade Cadiz? No. I looked another way—I sought materials of compensation in another hemisphere. Contemplating Spain, such as our ancestors had known her, I resolved that if France had Spain, it should not be Spain 'with the Indies'. I called the new world into existence to redress the balance of the old."[93]


The two speeches were greeted with applause both in parliament and in the country, but their vanity was excessive. So far from "creating the new world," Canning had merely recognised the existence of states which had already won their own independence, and even so he was only following the example of the United States. It was not only extremely foolish, but altogether disingenuous, to maintain that the recognition of the South American republics had been resolved on as a counterpoise to French influence in Spain. The reasons which prompted this recognition were commercial, not political, and it had been announced to the powers as our ultimate policy before any invasion of Spain had taken place. The king had only consented to the step on condition that it was not to be represented as a measure of retaliation, and Canning himself when he delivered these speeches knew that the French had promised to evacuate Spain in the following April.[94] But however little justified by facts, the two speeches made a profound impression throughout Europe. Whatever Canning might desire, it was quite clear that he contemplated the possibility of a military alliance between this country and the revolutionary factions on the continent, and the impression gained ground that he desired to pose as the champion of liberalism against legitimate government.

The first detachment of the British army reached Lisbon on Christmas day. It was not destined, however, to play an active part in the Portuguese struggle. The insurgent army was as greatly discouraged as the loyal troops were elated by its arrival, and the government was moreover enabled to employ a larger force on the scene of hostilities. The insurgents were in consequence driven out of the province of Beira and the greater part of Traz-os-Montes. A new invasion from Spanish territory, supported by some Spanish soldiers and Spanish artillery, took place during January, 1827. The greater part of the province of the Minho fell into the hands of the rebels, and on February 2 they captured the important town of Braga. But the forces of the regency proved too strong for them, and early in March the insurgents evacuated Portugal altogether. The Spanish government, now that little could be effected by further assistance to the Portuguese refugees, determined at length to perform the duties of a neutral power, and disarmed them.

The British troops remained in Portugal till March, 1828. By that time the disturbances had assumed a purely domestic character, and it was ultimately decided to recall them. But a firmer policy than that actually followed would have been necessary in order to extricate Great Britain from the strife of Portuguese factions, in which her recent action had given a decided advantage to the constitutional party. That party had been driven into opposition before the British troops were recalled. On July 3, 1827, King Peter had issued a decree appointing Dom Miguel his lieutenant, and investing him with all the powers which belonged to him as king under the charter. Miguel, after visiting London, arrived at Lisbon on February 22, 1828, and was sworn in as regent four days later. As he was twenty-five years old, and therefore of full age according to Portuguese law, he could not with any show of equity have been kept out of the regency longer. Miguel's installation as regent was followed by a series of riots as well on the part of the absolutists, who desired to make him king, as on the part of the constitutionalists who feared that he would make himself king. It was not long before he definitely identified himself with the absolutist party.


On March 14 the cortes were dissolved. On May 3 Miguel summoned the ancient cortes in his own name, and on June 26 they acknowledged him as king. The immediate result of this act was that all the ambassadors, except those of Spain and the Holy See, quitted Lisbon, and the lapse of time did not induce them to change their attitude towards Miguel. A further complication was introduced by Peter's definite abdication in favour of his daughter on March 3, executed before he had any suspicion of Miguel's designs, which placed Miguel in the position of regent for his infant niece instead of for his brother. After this formal abdication Peter despatched his daughter to Europe, intending that she should proceed to Vienna. When, however, she arrived at Gibraltar on September 2, her conductors, hearing of Miguel's usurpation, determined to take her to England, and she landed at Falmouth on the 24th. Peter, on hearing of Miguel's usurpation, naturally considered the regency terminated, and claimed to act as the guardian of the infant queen; the Brazilian ministers in Europe acted as his agents, while his partisans assembled in England and attempted to use this country as a basis for warlike operations in Portuguese territories.

The situation of 1826 was thus reversed. Instead of an ultra-royalist party resting on Spain, a constitutionalist party resting on Brazil and attempting to rest on England was now threatening the established government at Lisbon. Wellington was anxious to maintain a strict neutrality, but he failed to prevent a ship of war and supplies of arms and ammunition going from Plymouth to Terceira in the Azores, where Donna Maria was acknowledged as queen. He succeeded, however, in preventing a larger armament, which had been raised under the name of the Emperor of Brazil, with Rio Janeiro as its nominal destination, from landing at Terceira. This action, though the logical consequence of the British opposition to the conduct of Spain in 1826, was severely criticised in England as equivalent to an intervention on behalf of Miguel.

Meanwhile Canning's attempt to prevent the separate action of Russia in the Eastern question had been doomed to disappointment. The destruction of the Turkish navy at Navarino was naturally regarded at Constantinople as an outrage, and the Porte demanded satisfaction from the ambassadors of the allied powers. This they refused to grant on the ground that the Turks had been the aggressors, and they in their turn demanded an armistice between the Turkish troops and the Greek insurgents. As the Porte remained obdurate, the ambassadors of France, Great Britain, and Russia, acting in accordance with their instructions, left Constantinople on December 8, 1827. But though war seemed imminent, the tsar still disowned all idea of conquest, and professed to desire nothing further than the execution of the treaty of London. A protocol was accordingly signed on the 12th by which the three powers confirmed a clause in the treaty, providing that, in the event of war, none of them should derive any exclusive benefit, either commercial or territorial.

The British government imagined that the powers might still effect their object by diplomacy, and that it would not be necessary to abandon the Turkish alliance. But any such idea must have been rudely shaken by the hati-sherif of December 20. In that document the sultan enlarged on the cruelty and perfidy of the Christian powers and summoned the Muslim nations to arms: he denounced Russia in particular as the prime mover of the Greek rebellion, the instigator of the other powers, and the arch-enemy of Islam; and he declared the treaty of Akkerman, by which the outstanding disputes between Russia and the Porte had been settled in October, 1826, to have been extorted by force and only signed in order to save time. This defiance of Russia, if not of all Christendom, was followed by a levy of Turkish troops and the expulsion of most of the Christian residents from Constantinople. No course was now open to Russia but to make war. It remained to be seen whether any other power would join her. On January 6, 1828, a Russian despatch announced the tsar's intention of occupying the Danubian principalities, and suggested that France and Great Britain should force the Dardanelles and thus compel the Porte to comply with the provisions of the treaty of London.


It is possible that if the direction of British foreign policy had remained in the hands of Goderich and Dudley, our government might have lent its support to a settlement of the Eastern question which would in effect have been the work of Russia only. The more daring policy of Canning, by which Great Britain had attempted to take the lead as opportunity offered, either in active co-operation with Russia or in active opposition to her, could only be directed by a more versatile statesman than the nation now possessed. The accession to office of Wellington, though it left Dudley at the foreign office, was really marked by a return to the policy of Castlereagh, a policy which, if not brilliant, was at least honourable, consistent, and considerate, and which in the hands of Wellington was managed with a sufficient measure of firmness, though with less tact and insight than had been shown by Castlereagh. The first object of this policy was to keep the special grievances of Russia distinct from the complaints which Europe at large or, in the present situation, the three allied powers were able to bring against the Porte. By so doing the British government hoped to prevent Russia from dragging other powers into a war for her private benefit, and also to render it impossible for Russia to use her special grievances as a lever by which she might effect a separate settlement of the general question. For some years this policy was successful. Russia did indeed wage a separate war with the Turks, but the Greek question was settled by the three powers conjointly, and Great Britain rather than Russia took the lead in the settlement. It was only after Palmerston had succeeded to the direction of our foreign policy in 1830, that it was discovered how far the victory of Russia in war had placed her in a position to dictate the general policy of the Ottoman court.

Wellington experienced no difficulty in striking out a line of policy along which he could carry France with him. On February 21 De la Ferronays, who had been recalled from the French embassy at St. Petersburg to occupy the post of foreign minister in the new liberal administration, which had been formed in France in December, 1827, despatched a note urging the immediate employment of energetic measures against the Porte. He saw that the hati-sherif gave special occasion of war to Russia, and he was naturally anxious to anticipate her isolated action by combined measures of coercion. He had, however, nothing better to suggest than the execution of the Russian proposals of January 6. Wellington, in his reply, dated the 26th, rightly minimised the seriousness of the hati-sherif, and characterised the proposed measures of coercion as destined to be ineffectual. He also expressed the fear that if the three powers combined to make war on the Turks there would be a general insurrection of the subject races in the Turkish dominions which might last indefinitely. He therefore proposed first to settle the Greek question by local pressure, after which he anticipated no serious trouble about events at Constantinople. On the same day he drafted a memorandum to the cabinet in which he proposed that the allied squadrons should proceed to the Archipelago, blockade the Morea and Alexandria, destroy the Greek pirates, stop the warfare in Chios and Crete, and call upon the Greek government to withdraw the forces which were operating in western and eastern Greece respectively under the command of two foreign volunteers, General Church and Colonel Fabvier. In other words, he proposed to coerce not the Porte but the actual combatants, Greece and Egypt, and to check each party where it was the aggressor. If the prime object of the government in the eastern question was the maintenance of order, these proposals were excellent. The one capital defect of the whole scheme was that it ignored the Russian desire for war, which rendered it impossible for the tsar to postpone the settlement of his own grievances until an arrangement should be come to on the Greek question; on the other hand, by isolating the Greek question, it left it possible for the western powers to proceed with its solution in spite of the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and the Turks.[95]


Russia's determination to act singly was, however, already made. On the same day, February 26, on which Wellington sketched his policy, Nesselrode issued a despatch declaring that war was inevitable, including among his reasons the repudiation of recent treaties by the Porte and the proclamation by it of a holy war. At the same time he endeavoured to disarm any possible opposition on the part of the powers by an invitation to them to make use of the coming war to carry out the treaty of London. In any case Russia would execute the treaty, but if she were left to herself, the manner of execution would be determined by her own convenience and interest.[96] So far Russia had done nothing directly inconsistent with the maintenance of her concert with France and Great Britain, whose representatives had been sitting in conference with hers at London since January, 1827. But the reference in this last note to the possibility of a settlement of the Greek question according to the convenience and interest of Russia appeared like a threat of breaking up the alliance in case France and Great Britain refused to send their fleets to the Mediterranean. At least Wellington so understood it, and, rather than be a party to the war, he dissolved the conference of London in the middle of March. But he soon found that by so doing he lost the co-operation of France, and he was therefore compelled to accept the assurances of Russia that she intended to keep within the limits of the treaty of London, and to regard the Mediterranean as a neutral area. The conference was in consequence reopened at the beginning of July. Meanwhile hostilities had actually begun between Russia and the Turks. Russia declared war on April 26. On May 7 her troops crossed the Pruth. They rapidly overran the Danubian provinces, and on June 7 crossed the Danube into Bulgaria. They were destined, however, to spend more than a year between the Danube and the Balkans before they could force their way into Rumelia.

During the interval considerable progress was made with the settlement of the Greek question. The treaty of London in providing for the autonomy of Greece had specified no boundaries, and the first problem demanding the attention of the powers that had assumed the task of the settlement of Greece was to determine the limits within which that settlement was to be effected. It might be urged that all the Greeks who had accepted the armistice imposed by the powers in consequence of the treaty of London had a right to share in the settlement at which that treaty aimed. But the armistice had been broken by Greek attacks on Chios and Crete, and Wellington held that the powers were, in consequence, free from any obligation imposed by the nominal acceptance of the armistice. He, accordingly, desired to adopt the simple principle of granting the proposed autonomy to those parts of Greece in which the insurrection had proved successful, namely, the Morea and the AEgean Islands, and refusing it in Northern and Central Greece, where the Turkish forces still held their own. But the British cabinet was far from being unanimous; many, among whom Palmerston was specially prominent, urged the concession of a greatly increased territory. The changes which took place in the British ministry towards the end of May, 1828, deprived Palmerston of his share in its deliberations, and by substituting Aberdeen for Dudley at the foreign office, placed our foreign relations under the direction of a man of talent and experience, who had already exercised an important influence on British policy and who was more in sympathy with the policy of the prime minister than Dudley had been, but who was not content, like Dudley, to be a mere cipher in the department over which he was called to preside. Aberdeen, though opposed to the narrow boundaries which Wellington wished to assign to liberated Greece, was no less antagonistic than his chief to any attempt to make the new Greek state politically important; and he was even of opinion that the Russian declaration of war had released Great Britain from any further obligation under the treaty of London.

Such were the composition and policy of the British government when the conference of London reassembled in July. The differences between the powers had prevented any active intervention in Greece, since the battle of Navarino. The ports in the Morea, still occupied by Ibrahim, had indeed been blockaded, but it had been found impossible to induce Austrian vessels to acknowledge a blockade of such questionable legality, and the allied fleets had even permitted the embarkation of Ibrahim's sick and wounded together with 5,500 Greek prisoners, who were sold into slavery on their arrival at Alexandria. The renewal of the concert of the three powers was followed by a rapid change in the situation. On the 19th it was decided that France should send an expedition to expel the Turco-Egyptian troops from the Morea, while Great Britain should render her any naval assistance that might be necessary. This step was valued by the British government as definitely committing France to a share in the settlement of the Greek question, and therefore interesting that power in opposition to any attempt at a separate settlement by Russia. It also furnished a safe outlet for French military ardour, disappointed by the results of the Spanish expedition. In fact, the evacuation of Spain, which was in progress at the date when this agreement was concluded, materially reduced the strain which the new undertaking imposed upon the French government. France immediately prepared to send out a force amounting to nearly 22,000 men. But before they could arrive, the greater part of their task had been performed by other hands.


Codrington's conduct in permitting the embarkation of the Turkish sick and wounded with their prisoners had given great dissatisfaction at home, and the cabinet had resolved on his recall before the ministerial crisis of the latter part of May. That crisis occasioned a fortnight's delay, and, in consequence, Codrington was able, before his successor arrived, to make a naval demonstration before Alexandria and on August 6 to obtain the consent of Mehemet Ali to the following proposals: an exchange of prisoners was to take place, involving the liberation of the recently enslaved Greeks, and the Egyptian army was to be withdrawn from the Morea, but Ibrahim was to be allowed to leave behind 1,200 Egyptian troops to help to garrison five fortresses which were held by the Turks. Before either the new London protocol or the Alexandria convention could be carried into effect, further differences had arisen. Russia had proclaimed a blockade of the Dardanelles and ordered her admiral to carry it out. This proceeding was regarded by the British government as a breach of faith and a menace to British commerce. It was, however, impossible to abandon co-operation with Russia for fear that the Greek question might become involved in the issues at stake between her and the Porte. Wellington, in consequence, contented himself with obtaining certain exemptions from the operation of the blockade on behalf of British subjects trading with Turkey, and with the exclusion of the Russian fleet from the operations conducted in the Mediterranean in accordance with the orders of the London conference. The French force for expelling the Egyptians from the Morea arrived almost simultaneously with the Egyptian transports for removing them. On October 5 Ibrahim set sail for Egypt, with 21,000 men, leaving 1,200 behind in the five fortresses in accordance with the terms settled at Alexandria. The French began their attack on the remaining fortresses two days later, and by the end of November had expelled all the Turks from the Morea. By the terms of their engagements, they ought now to have departed. But it was hardly to be expected that France would so readily abandon the advantage that the presence of her troops gave her in the settlement of the eastern question.

Meanwhile the negotiations made slow progress. On November 16 a protocol was issued placing the Morea with the neighbouring islands under the guarantee of the powers. Wellington had opposed any extension of the guarantee to Central Greece on the ground that the allies had to provide both the necessary military force and the cost of maintaining the Greek government, so that any undertaking beyond the Morea would involve heavy expense without rendering lighter the task of maintaining order. But the real decision of the question lay not with the diplomatists at London, but with the diplomatists on the spot. Representatives of the three powers had been sent to Poros to make detailed arrangements in accordance with the terms of the treaty of London. Stratford Canning, who represented Great Britain, was one of the supporters of an extended frontier, and in the end the ambassadors at Poros drew up a protocol in favour of erecting Greece south of a line connecting the Gulfs of Arta and Volo into a hereditary principality, which was also to include nearly all the islands. Even Samos and Crete were recommended to the benevolent consideration of the courts. All Mohammedans were to be expelled from this territory. The tribute payable to Turkey was to be fixed at 1,500,000 piastres, but this was to be paid not to the Turkish government, but to those who might suffer pecuniary loss by the confiscation of lands hitherto owned by Mohammedans.


The spring of 1829 was marked by events which went far to cancel the arguments on which Wellington had based his case for a restricted frontier. Not only the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth but Acarnania and AEtolia were liberated by the Greek forces under Sir Richard Church the castle of Vonitza falling on March 17, Karavasara shortly afterwards, Lepanto on April 30, and Mesolongi on May 17.[97] Meanwhile the terms agreed upon at Poros had been adopted and further defined by the conference at London on March 22. It was now provided that the future hereditary prince was to be chosen by the three powers and the sultan conjointly, and that the terms were to be offered to the Porte by the British and French ambassadors in the name of the three powers; any Turkish objections were to be weighed.[98] It was not till June that Robert Gordon and Guilleminot, representing Great Britain and France respectively, were able to lay these proposals before the Porte, and it was only after a Russian army under Diebitsch had crossed the Balkans that the Porte on August 15 accepted them, and even then only with extensive modifications. These limited the new state to the Morea and the adjacent islands, and left the tribute assigned to the same purposes as before the revolt; a limit was to be set to the military and naval forces of Greece, and Greeks were not to be allowed to migrate from Turkish dominions to the new state.

Wellington was of opinion that these concessions were adequate. He attached great importance to the consent of the Porte, to dispense with which seemed to him a sure method of encouraging a general revolt in the Turkish dominions; and he also advocated a limited frontier in the interests of the Ionian Islands. He doubted whether it would be found possible to remove Capodistrias, who had been elected president of Greece for a period of seven years on April 14, 1827, from his office to make room for a hereditary prince, and he felt sure that if Capodistrias were once granted Central Greece he would not hesitate to attempt the conquest of the Ionian Islands. Capodistrias had in fact refused to accept any of the arrangements proposed by the London conference, and was still engaged in the vigorous prosecution of the war. Wellington did not, however, succeed in inducing France and Russia to remain content with the Turkish concessions. Diebitsch's successful march through Rumelia encouraged Russia to demand more, and filled the minds of the French ministers with the wildest schemes of aggression. They actually proposed to Russia that the northern part of the Balkan peninsula should be divided between Austria and Russia while the whole peninsula south of the Balkans, with Bulgaria to the north, was to be formed into a new state under the sovereignty of the King of the Netherlands, whose hereditary dominions were in their turn to be divided between France, Great Britain, and Prussia.

Such chimerical projects were based on the assumption that Constantinople lay at the mercy of the army of Diebitsch; and this was believed to be the case not only by the court of Paris, but by that of London, and even by that of Constantinople. But no one knew better than Diebitsch how precarious his situation was, and, if Russia wished to obtain advantageous terms, it was necessary for her to make the most of the illusion while it lasted. On September 14 the peace of Adrianople was signed, which established the virtual independence of the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia and secured for all powers at peace with Turkey a free passage for merchant ships through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles; Russia received a small addition to her Asiatic territories, and Turkey accepted both the treaty of London of July 6, 1827, and the protocol of London of March 22, 1829. The difficulties raised by Turkey's opposition to the full terms of the protocol were thus swept aside, and it was now clear that, if that protocol was to be further modified, it would be modified out of regard for the interests of Europe not by way of concession to Turkey. France and Great Britain were naturally averse from a settlement of the question by Russia alone, even when that settlement was on lines to which they had given their consent, and they might have been expected to propose some alteration in the scheme. But the conciliatory action of Russia rendered such proposals needless. On September 29, only fifteen days after the treaty, Aberdeen received a formal proposal from Russia that Turkey should be offered a restriction of the Greek boundary in return for a recognition of the total independence of Greece.[99] This proposal removed Wellington's fear that the new principality might be used as a basis for an attack on the Ionian Islands; while the maintenance of Turkish suzerainty seemed less important after the apparent prostration of Turkish military power in the recent war.

It now remained for the allied powers to select a prince to whom the new crown should be offered. This subject engaged their attention from October, 1829, to January, 1830. Finally, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, widower of the Princess Charlotte, was selected, greatly to the annoyance of King George IV. On February 3 Prince Leopold was formally offered the sovereignty of Greece as an independent state, bounded on the north by a line drawn from the mouth of the Aspropotamo to Thermopylae. Before accepting the crown he made an effort to obtain a stronger position for its future prince. He asked for a complete guarantee of independence from the three powers, some security for the Greek inhabitants of Crete and Samos, an extension of the boundary to the north, and financial and military support. The powers on February 20 decided to grant the guarantee and a loan of L2,400,000, and to allow the French troops to remain in Greece for another year, but refused the extension of territory and would not recognise the right of the Greek state to interfere in the affairs of Crete and Samos. Leopold accepted the crown on these conditions on February 24, and they were accepted by the Porte on April 24. Capodistrias, who had no desire to make way for another ruler, invited Leopold to the country, but suggested that he would not be well received and that he would have to change his religion.[100] These considerations, combined with other causes, induced him to renounce the crown on May 21.


One other foreign event exercised the minds of Wellington's cabinet during the last months of George IV.'s reign. This was the French punitive expedition to Algiers, which resulted In the conquest of that state. The expedition was originally planned in concert with Mehemet Ali of Egypt, and appeared to Wellington to be prompted by the idea that the defeat of the Turks by Russia afforded a convenient opportunity for a partition of Turkish territory. The British government was able by means of diplomatic pressure to induce Mehemet Ali to refrain from co-operating, but it could not deny the justice of the French expedition or prevent it from sailing.


[93] Stapleton, Life of Canning, iii., 220-25, 227-35.

[94] See Lloyd, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, N.S., xviii. (1904), 77-105.

[95] Wellington, Despatches, etc., iv., 270-79.

[96] Ibid., pp. 280-86.

[97] So S. Lane-Poole, writing from Church's papers, English Historical Review, v., 519.

[98] Hertslet, Map of Europe by Treaty, p. 142.

[99] Wellington, Despatches, etc., vi., 184.

[100] See the letters in the Annual Register, lxxii. (1830), 389-401.



The year that elapsed between the prorogation of parliament on June 24, 1829, and the death of George IV., on June 26, 1830, was barren in events of domestic importance. While Ireland was torn by faction, and the Orangemen of Ulster rivalled in lawlessness the catholics of the other provinces, England was undergoing another period of agricultural and commercial depression. The harvest of 1829 was late and bad; the winter that followed was the severest known for sixteen years; and a fresh series of outrages was committed by the distressed operatives, especially by the silk weavers in the east of London and the mill hands in the midland counties. In the district of Huddersfield, where the people bore their sufferings with admirable patience, a committee of masters stated as a fact that "there were 13,000 individuals who had not more than twopence half-penny a day to live on". When parliament met on February 4, 1830, the prevailing distress was recognised in the king's speech, but in guarded terms, and the ministers attributed it in the main, probably with justice, to unavoidable causes. This gave the enemies of free trade and currency reform an opportunity of renewing their protests against Peel's and Huskisson's financial policy. They failed to effect their object, but Goulburn, the chancellor of the exchequer, initiated a considerable reduction of expenditure and remission of taxes. The excise duties on beer, cider, and leather were now totally remitted, those on spirits being somewhat increased. The government even deliberated on the proposal of a property tax, and, stimulated by a motion of Sir James Graham, actually carried out large savings in official salaries. On the whole, this session was the most fruitful in economy since the conclusion of the peace. The system of judicature, too, was subjected to a salutary revision throughout Great Britain by the amalgamation of the English and Welsh benches, and the concentration of courts in Scotland. As the charter of the East Indian Company was about to expire, a strong committee was appointed to consider the whole subject of its territorial powers and commercial privileges. This committee was not the least beneficial result of a session which has left no great mark on the statute-book.

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