The House of Lords in the Age of Reform, 1784-1837: With an Epilogue on Aristocracy and the Advent of Democracy, 1837-1867

By A. S. Turberville | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
The Aftermath of War

The Administration of Lord Liverpool which had brought the great war to a victorious conclusion and taken a leading part in restoring peace to Europe, was to last for fifteen years. The Prime Minister was outwardly quite unimpressive, and apparently devoid of personality. So oppressed was he by the anxious responsibilities of his position that, on his own confession, he viewed every morning's letters with such distaste that he could hardly bring himself to open them. He could never free his mind from harassing apprehensions of troubles and disasters that might be happening somewhere in the world of politics for him to encounter. Yet he presided over a Cabinet containing many statesmen of much greater distinction than himself with considerable aplomb. The truth is he was a more remarkable man than he appeared to be. Just as his dull and heavy exterior hid an acute sensitiveness, so his semblance of respectable mediocrity covered not merely great integrity and exceptional business capacity, but also a combination of cool judgement, tact, and ability to manage men which won his colleagues' confidence and made them ready to accept him as their leader. As a speaker he was not at all inspiring, but he always knew his case thoroughly and put it clearly, never was ruffled, never said too much or too little; and these are considerable virtues even in a speaker who is quiet and dry.1

Liverpool was in most things a thorough-going disciple of Mr. Pitt, but he was inclined to be critical of his great master's peerage-policy. Observing that the character of the House of which he was himself so distinguished an ornament had been much altered by Pitt's creations, he once expressed the view that, 'a considerable creation of Peers is a great evil to the constitution'. He especially deprecated the withdrawal of a large

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1
Harriet Martineau, History of the Thirty Years Peace, Vol. II, pp. 125-6.

-163-

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