Front Page Titles (by Subject) 23.: The Ministerial Crisis 23 JUNE, 1866 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868
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23.: The Ministerial Crisis 23 JUNE, 1866 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868, ed. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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The Ministerial Crisis
Daily News, 25 June, 1866, p. 3. Headed: “The Ministerial Crisis. / Westminster.” Reported identically in substantives in the Morning Star, and the Daily Telegraph; the version in The Times is a generally compressed rewording with some additions. (Clippings of the Daily News and The Times reports are in the Mill-Taylor Collection.) The meeting of the electors of Westminster was held on Saturday evening in the Pimlico Rooms, Winchester Street, W.T. Malleson in the chair, “to urge the propriety of dissolving Parliament, and voting unabated confidence in the Ministry,” following Gladstone’s defeat on the Reform Bill (see the debate and votes on 18 June in PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 184, cols. 536–643). The room was about half full, and there were only some eight or nine on the platform. Malleson apologized for Grosvenor’s unavoidable absence, assuring the audience of his loyalty to the cause. Of Mill he said, “the whole country was proud, and he believed that they would seldom find in the history of the House of Commons any occasion on which a new member had so suddenly risen to so prominent a position, had so rapidly established himself in the House of Commons, and had so soon made a firm place for himself in the hearts of his fellow-countrymen. (Cheers.)” (Daily Telegraph.) Probyn moved, Merriman seconding, a resolution expressing confidence in the Ministry. Mill, “on rising, was greeted with tremendous applause, the whole assembly rising and cheering with extraordinary vehemence.”
he said they were called together that evening in order that they might ask themselves the question whether or not the people of Westminster cared for reform. That was the question before them, and that was the only question. Who would be the men for whom her Majesty would send to form an administration if she accepted the resignation of her present advisers of course they could not tell, but he could state what her Majesty ought to do, if she followed the old constitutional practice of sending for the leader of the victorious party, and that was to send for Mr. Lowe. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) It was he who carried with him the triumphant majority the other night, for although he was the only man amongst the opponents of the present bill who in direct terms declared he was against all reform whatever, yet all who had heard, as he had done, the shouts of rejoicing which greeted every anti-popular sentiment to which Mr. Lowe gave utterance, would know that the whole of the sympathies of the tory party were against any measure of reform, whatever it might be.1 He believed that there were only two opinions as to what might be the course the conservatives would pursue if they were able to form a ministry—first, whether they would propose a reform bill at all; and second, whether they would propose a reform bill which was not reform. They said that any bill on this subject must be a compromise. Well, the liberal party made a compromise at the commencement of the session, and a very great compromise it was. They gave up the best part of the matter in dispute to the tories, and now after the liberals had given up to them the better half they cried halves for the remainder. (Laughter.) The difference was split with them in the first instance, and now they wanted to split the other part. But it was worse even than that, and he was going to tell them something which they had all the means of knowing, but which few had paid much attention to, and a very significant and characteristic process it was. He would tell them what was proposed by one of the best of the tory party. They all knew, perhaps, that a political party had heads and tails. The tails of the liberal party sometimes thought that the heads were not quite so good as they should be, but the tory heads were unquestionably a great deal better than the tails. One of the best of the tory heads was Sir Stafford Northcote, a gentleman for whom every one ought to entertain a very sincere respect, because it was to him, in conjunction with Sir Charles Trevelyan, that they owed those competitive examinations by which government appointments, instead of being given, as they used to be, to party connexions for political purposes, were given to proved fitness tested by fair examination.2 Now, when a man agreed that all the spoils of office and all the booty of political life, which unprincipled politicians desired to appropriate for the interests and advancement of their party, should be given up not for the reward of political subserviency, but to persons of whatever class or rank who could prove themselves qualified for public appointments, although they might never have, perhaps, seen the face of a member of parliament, nothing should persuade him that such a man was really a tory, aor wished to postpone the interests of the people in order that he might advance the prosperity of his own party. That was what he thought of Sir Stafford Northcote. Well, what did theya put Sir Stafford Northcote up to do? They followed out their usual tactics in putting up their best men to do their shabbiest things. All present knew how much had been said about large numbers of working people being admitted to the franchise, and how solemnly parliament had been warned that if they let in many more there might be a majority, who would be induced to let in others, until at length the door was opened so wide that all were let in, and that then Heaven knew what would be the result. Now what did they think Sir Stafford Northcote proposed?3 If a working man could occupy a 10l. house it must in most cases be by letting some part of it, but Sir Stafford Northcote proposed to disfranchise all such persons, unless they were able to show that, after deducting all they received from letting, they paid 10l. or 7l., or whatever other sum might be agreed upon, to their landlord. bProbably he would have spared those who were at present on the register, but he would not consent that any one hereafter should be on the register who did not pay to his landlord that 10l. or 7l., or other sum. That was a condition which very few working men could fulfil;b and if that proposition came from one of the best, most honest, and most liberal members of the conservative party, what might they expect from the others? (Hear, hear.) Now, as to the foreign policy of the tories, he wished all those present could have listened as he had done to the five hours of solemn abuse of the Italians, in which the tories had indulged when the Reform Bill should have been brought under discussion.4 Liberals, panting to help and defend the noble Italians against the calumnies heaped upon them, were restrained from entering upon the discussion, clest they should have delayed the bill on which the hearts of reformers were setc . But now came the question of the present government. All knew the noble manner in which they had held up the banner of the people through the late stormy session. Their political enemies had been taunting them and insulting them day after day, saying that here was a government which started with a clear majority of seventy, and had converted it into a minority of eleven. Well, so they had, and why had they done it? There was a majority of seventy pledged to support a liberal government, and who would have supported them if they had followed out Lord Palmerston’s policy of doing nothing, and glossing it off as an excellent joke.5 The government might have a seven years’ undisturbed lease of power if they had adopted a similar course—that is, if they had determined on doing nothing in the way of reform. But they had chosen to resign office, to receive baiting, taunts, and insults, directed against them all; but more particularly against Mr. Gladstone, the greatest parliamentary leader which the country had had in the present century, or, perhaps, since the time of the Stuartsd, by those who ought to have been in ecstacies of admiration at the way in which he outdid himself and at the beautiful feeling which animated his eloquence. Like Hotspur, he had been nettled and stung by pismires ,6 that annoyance had been inflicted in the hope that either he might be led to give way to something like foolish irritability, or that those eloquent lips, which gave such happy expression to every feeling that became an honest and upright politician, might deny to themselves the utterance of honest indignationd. Whatever the speculation might have been, it had been defeated—the hopes of the opponents of the government had not been fulfilled. (Hear, hear.) eAs to dissolution, he, as member for Westminster, was the last who should speak to his constituents of a dissolution; because, perhaps, he was the only member of the House of Commons whose election had cost him nothing.e It would appear to him the most natural thing that his constituents might not like to incur this great expense twice in the same twelve months. (Yes, yes.) It was very natural that they should not wish it, and he should not have the face to ask it for himself. If they thought they could fight this battle more advantageously with any other candidate than himself—any candidate who would bear the expenses that must necessarily be incurred, or part of them—he trusted that no consideration for himself would induce them to refrain from taking that course. fSo far from thinking himself slighted, he would be the first to condemn them if they lost the seat on the chance of preserving it for him.f They had, above all things, to consider how they could carry this bill and support the government, and he most sincerely hoped that no other consideration would induce them to allow that object to be interfered with.
gAt the close of the honourable member’s speech the meeting with one accord declared that the electors would pay the expenses of his election 50 times, if necessary, and would esteem themselves honoured in having him as their representative. The resolution was then agreed to. In reply to a question from an elector, Mr. Mill said that Captain Grosvenor had not suffered in the estimation of his political friends by his vote in favour of Sir R. Knightley’s amendment for an instruction to the committee to add to the Reform Bill provisions against bribery and corruption .7 It was a question of tactics. He voted the other way; but, no doubt, Captain Grosvenor thought his vote was in favour of the best policy, and it had not shaken the confidence of the Liberal party in the honourable and gallant gentleman’s political honesty.g
[Another resolution in support of the Ministry was moved and accepted unanimously. The meeting concluded, as usual, with a vote of thanks to the chairman.]
[1 ]Robert Lowe had led the “Adullamites,” the Liberals dissenting from parliamentary reform, who had voted with the Conservatives to defeat the Reform Bill. Mill refers specifically to his speeches of 13 March, cols. 141–64, and of 31 May, cols. 1625–50.
[2 ]Charles Edward Trevelyan (1807–86), who had served with the East India Company, had, while Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, co-authored with Northcote the “Report on the Organisation of the Permanent Civil Service,” PP, 1854, XXVII, 1–31, which led to Civil Service examinations.
[a-a]TT nor an aristocrat in the ordinary sense of the term. No doubt, Sir Stafford Northcote wanted good government rather than the government of a class; and yet what did they think the tory party had.
[3 ]Motion on the Representation of the People Bill (14 June, 1866), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 184, col. 449.
[b-b]TT He did not wish to do the honourable baronet any injustice, and, therefore, he assumed that it was his intention to spare those already on the register; but so adverse would the plan he proposed be to working men that, if applied to those who occupied 10l. houses, it would disfranchise most of them.
[4 ]Debate on the State of Europe (11 June), ibid., cols. 117–76.
[c-c]TT but they did not do so because they knew that the object of the other party was to delay the Reform Bill, and because Mr. Gladstone, in his usual noble manner, said what ought to have been said on the subject
[5 ]Henry John Temple (1784–1865), Lord Palmerston in the Irish peerage, a member of every administration except those of Peel and Derby from 1807 till his death, Prime Minister 1855–58 and 1859–65, and best known for his control over foreign affairs.
[6 ]Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I, I, iii, 240; in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974), p. 853.
[7 ]Rainauld Knightley (1819–95), M.P. for Northamptonshire South, made the motion in his Speech on the Representation of the People Bill (28 May, 1866), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 183, cols. 1320–1; Grosvenor’s vote is recorded ibid., col. 1345.