Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/333

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245
THE KING'S "EXPERIMENT"

population of the large towns was ready to be launched on the metropolis. "What was to be done—peers or no peers? A cabinet sat nearly all day, and Lord Grey went once or twice to the king. He, poor man, was at his wits' end, and tried an experiment (not a very constitutional one) of his own by writing to a number of peers, entreating them to withdraw their opposition to the bill." [1] The letter to which Mr. Charles Greville refers is evidently the following circular:—

" St. James's Palace, May 17th, 1832.

"My Dear Lord,— I am honoured with his Majesty's command to acquaint your lordship, that all difficulties to the arrangements in progress will be obviated by a declaration in the House to-night from a sufficient number of peers, that in consequence of the present state of affairs, they have come to the resolution of dropping their further opposition to the Reform Bill, so that it may pass without delay, and as nearly as possible in its present shape.

" I have the honour to be yours sincerely,
" Herbert Taylor."

Such a request, coming from such a quarter, was not only weighty in itself, but necessarily implied after all that had taken place, that his Majesty suggested this course as the only means of avoiding the creation of a large number of additional peers. The majority of the House were thus placed in the unenviable position of being compelled to choose whether they would see a hundred members added to the number of their opponents to carry a measure which was hateful to them, or to abandon for a time their rights, privileges, and duties as legislators. They chose the latter alternative, and during the remainder of the discussion on the bill, not more than between thirty and forty attended at any one time. By this means, and this only, the bill was eventually carried.

On these grounds John Doyle appears to have founded his theory that William the Fourth was a sincere convert to Reform. [2] In one



  1. Greville's "Memoirs," ii. p. 303.
  2. This was the idea of all Tories of the day. The terrible effects of the Reform Bill were amusingly predicted by John Wilson Croker to the king himself; they have not of course been fulfilled. See "Journal of Julian Charles Young" (Memoir of Charles Mayne Young, vol. i. p. 231).