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 XII1
The Peers and the Reform Bills

Earl Grey's Administration which came into office in November 1830 is generally remembered as the Ministry which overcame the opposition of the House of Lords to the Great Reform Bill in the summer of 1832 by prevailing upon William IV to threaten to use his royal prerogative of creating new peers in order to break a deadlock between the two Houses of Parliament. While this is, in very general terms, what happened, it is often forgotten that in fact forty new peers were made during Grey's Administration, and that nine were advanced in the peerage. It is some measure of the numerical weakness of the Whigs in the Upper House at this time that even after these additions and promotions---the majority of which were made in 1831---Grey was still obliged to ask the King to undertake to create fifty new peers in order to coerce the Lords to give way over the Reform Bill in 1832. It is no less a measure of the rising wrath and resentment of the Tories that they chose to denounce all Earl Grey's honours, even the modest twenty-two conferred to celebrate the new King's coronation in September 1831, as designed to promote the sinister purposes of a reforming Ministry. The practice of sending frequent reinforcements to the House of Lords, which had seemed perfectly natural and praiseworthy when it was the Tory phalanx there that was being strengthened, was now perceived to be altogether reprehensible. It was plain that the King was a mere child in the hands of his unscrupulous Machiavellian Ministers. 'God preserve our poor monarch!' exclaimed Wellington fervently.2

The distinction which the Tories chose to draw between these Whig creations and the creations made by previous Administrations was that the former were being made for a specific pur

____________________
1
The first four paragraphs of this chapter have been collated from material originally embodied elsewhere in the author's typescript. [Ed.]
2
Despatches, Correspondence and Memoranda of Arthur, Duke of Wellington (8 vols., 1867-80), Vol. VII, pp. 520, 535.

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