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 XV
After the Reform Act: (2) Revival

After all, nothing had actually happened to the House of Lords in 1832. Its threatened inundation by Whig upstarts had not taken place. The big Tory majority remained. The fact that the Whig Government had been so reluctant to have recourse to so revolutionary a scheme even at the unparalleled crisis of the Reform Bill suggested that in controversies of less moment it might be defied with impunity. Loss of prestige is a form of injury by no means irreparable; by vigorous action it might be recovered. Such would appear to have been the reasoning of the least imaginative and most obstinate of the ultra-Tories: such as Cumberland, Buckingham, Newcastle and Londonderry. The last two were particularly strident and vociferous. Newcastle, tall and burly, delivering speeches in a loud but husky voice and with extravagant gesticulation, merely advertised the essential vacuity of his mind. Londonderry, a brother of Castlereagh, had more in him than Newcastle and was an absolutely straightforward man, but he was quite reckless, dashing in to try conclusions with Brougham without the slightest fear or hesitation, although he was incapable of delivering a connected speech.1 Londonderry bemoaned Welligton's impassivity, which was 'making the House of Lords, as the Radicals pronounced it, of no use to the country'.2 The Duke was willing to make hostile speeches, but not to press the Government to a division. In his cautious policy he was supported by Peel, much the best parliamentarian and the most far-sighted statesman in the Tory party. Peel was willing to bide his time in its interests, and able (as events were shortly to prove) to transform its whole outlook and character. To him the vapid Newcastles and Londonderrys of the Upper House were merely a nuisance.

____________________
1
Random Recollections of the House of Lords, pp. 94-7, 107-15.
2
Courts and Cabinets of William IV and Victoria, Vol. II, p. 37.

-333-

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