Grey, Charles (1764-1845) (DNB00)
GREY, CHARLES, second Earl Grey, Viscount Howick, and Baron Grey (1764–1845), statesman, eldest surviving son of General Sir Charles Grey, K.B., afterwards first Earl Grey [q. v.], by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of George Grey of Southwick, Durham, was born at his father's seat at Fallodon, near Alnwick in Northumberland, on 13 March 1764. When he was six years old he was sent to a preparatory school in Marylebone, London, where be remained very unhappily for three years, and was then removed to Eton. Subsequently he went to King's College, Cambridge, where he took several prizes for English composition and declamation, and his school verses, contributed to the 'Musæ Etonenses,' published in 1795, prove him to have been a good classical scholar; but, in his own opinion, he did not owe much to his career at school or college. He quitted Cambridge in 1784, and travelled in the suite of Henry, duke of Cumberland, in France, Italy, and some parts of Germany. In July 1786 he was returned member for Northumberland, which he continued to represent until in 1807 he declined to contest the seat again on the ground of the expense of the election. His first speech In the House of Commons was made in opposition to an address of thanks to the crown for Pitt's commercial treaty with France on 21 Feb. 1787, and it at once placed him in the first rank of parliamentary debaters. Addington says that he `went through his first performance with an éclat which has not been equalled within my recollection.' Dissenting from the opinions of his family he attached himself early and indissolubly to the opposition, and became one of Fox's most trusted lieutenants. Shortly after his first speech he was named one of the managers of the impeachment of Warren Hastings, and undertook in particular that portion of the case which related to the treatment of Cheyt Singh. He took part in the debates on the Prince of Wales's debts in 1787, and on the question of the regency in 1788. (For his refusal to assist the Prince of Wales in denying the marriage with Mrs. Fitzherbert see Russell, Memorials of Fox, ii. 289; Holland,Memoirs of the Whig Party, ii. 139; Moore, Sheridan, i. 447-8, and Quarterly Review, xciv, 420). From this time until 1801 he continued, especially upon his war policy, a steady opponent of Pitt; at the same time he strenuously denounced the course taken by the leaders of the French revolution, and discountenanced the extreme democrats whom the example of France stirred into activity in England. He was a member of the Whig Club, and having joined the 'Society of the Friends of the People,' for furthering constitutional reform, was chosen to present its parliamentary petition, and took principal charge of the question of parliamentary reform, which remained under his guidance for forty years. On 30 April 1792 he gave notice that he would introduce the question in the following session, and accordingly in 1793 moved to refer the petition of the `Friends of the People' to a committee; but in this and succeeding sessions he failed in this endeavour, and a specific plan of reform, which he proposed in 1797, was defeated by 256 to 91 votes. (For his later criticism upon the `Friends of the People,' and his own share in the society, see General Grey, Life of Earl Grey, pp. 10-11; Holland, Memoirs of the Whig Party, i. 15; Russell, Memorials of Fox, iii. 22.)
When not occupied in parliament he lived principally in Northumberland or with his father, then general in command of the south of England. In 1794, on 18 Nov., he married Mary Elizabeth, daughter of William Brabazon Ponsonby, afterwards first Lord Ponsonby, of Imokilly and Bishop's Court, Kildare. He lived during the sessions of 1795 to 1798 in Hertford Street, Mayfair, and in 1799 took a house on Ham Common for two years; the recess he principally spent at Howick, or with Lord Frederick Cavendish at Holker in Lancashire. His marriage brought him into intimate relations with the principal members of the liberal party in Ireland, and gave him new interest and knowledge of Irish affairs. In 1798 he was a witness to character on behalf of Arthur O'Connor, who was tried at Maidstone for complicity in the Irish rebellion, and he was strongly opposed to the existing system of government in Ireland. He constantly resisted any attempt on the part of ministers to evade responsibility by sheltering themselves under the royal prerogative, and demanded that full information should be laid before parliament in regard to military operations. Thus, he moved for papers relative to the convention with Spain on 13 Dec. 1790; he moved resolutions respecting the preparations for a Russian war on 12 April 1791; he moved for information respecting the cause of the fresh armament on 2 June in the same year, and opposed strongly what he considered the unnecessary war with the French republic in an address to the crown on 21 Feb. 1792, which was negatived without a division. He also opposed the treaties with Sardinia in 1794. But when war had once begun he was strongly in favour of its vigorous prosecution. In accordance with his general opposition to Pitt he spoke against the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in 1794, the Traitorous Correspondence and Seditious Meetings Bills in 1795), and the Alien Bill in 1799, and moved that the existence of a republic in France ought not to be an obstacle to peace. He also moved the reduction of the grant to the Prince of Wales from 65,000l. to 40,000l. in which he was defeated by 169 votes. After the rejection of his motion for reform in 1797 be joined in the general whig secession from parliamentary attendance, a course which he afterwards regretted; but, unlike Fox and the party in general, he appeared in his place in 1800 to resist step by step the progress of the Act of Union, being prompted in this by his acqaintance with the Irish liberal leaders. One of his grounds of opposition was the belief that the addition of a hundred Irish members to the House of Commons in its unreformed state would only increase the parliamentary predominance of ministers, and he wished to provide seats for the Irish members by purchasing and extinguishing an equal number of English rotten boroughs.
In 1801 a great change in his mode of life took place by his establishment at Howick in Northumberland, between Berwick and Newcastle, then the property of his uncle, Sir Henry Grey, to which he was much attached, and where he afterwards spent most of his time when absent from parliament. A very pleasant description of this place and of the family life there is given by his son, General Grey (Life of Lord Grey, p. 402). This greater remoteness from London (four days' journey), coupled with a growing indisposition to play a public part, owing to his father'a unwelcome acceptance of a peerage from Addington, and the consequent prospect of his own removal from the House of Commons, and the serious expense of frequent journeys to town or much residence there, helped considerably to detach him from politics during the last years of Fox's life. It was with difficulty that he could be induced to come to London even on important occasions, and when there his distress at his absence from home considerably impaired his value as a counsellor. Fox was obliged to write to him begging him to bring his wife to town with him. `God knows,' he said, `when you are in town without her you are unfit for anything, with all your thoughts at Howick, and as the time for which your stay may be necessary may be uncertain you will both be in a constant fidget and misery.' He remained at Howick during the whole of 1802, but he came to town in the spring of 1803, while the question of peace or war with France was in suspense. His views were, however, on this point no longer in complete harmony with those of Fox. He took no part in the debates upon the preliminary treaty of October 1801, and in 1803 was by no means disposed to go all lengths with Fox for the purpose of supporting the peace of Amiens. He did not believe that Bonaparte sincerely desired peace, nor did he consider that England had any lack of justification for a renewal of the war if she desired it. He moved an amendment to Lord Hawkesbury's address to the crown on 23 May 1803, assuring the king of determined support in the war, but lamenting the failure of his attempts to maintain the peace. His speech was made under all the disadvantage of following immediately upon one of Pitt's greatest efforts. The amendment was rejected after a splendid but unwise speech of Fox's on the second night of the debate by 398 to 67.
In the end of 1801 some overtures had been made to Grey for his inclusion in the Addington administration, but he did not encourage them. He called it, in writing to Fox a year later, the `happiest escape' he ever had in his life. In April 1803 his father, a supporter of Addington, by whom he had been created a baron in 1801, informed him that fresh overtures would probably be made to him, and he again declined to entertain them. He could only join the cabinet with Fox, and only if a majority of its members were whigs. He was at this time averse to any coalition, feeling that the Grenville party were too much identified with Pitt's policy at home and abroad. As the year 1803 went on he became gradually more favourable to a union with the Grenvilles, although he pointed out that Pitt was only joining with Fox in order to prepare his own reinstatement in office. On the formation of Pitt's cabinet there was some suggestion of an offer of an office to Grey, but he at once caused it to be known that he could not take office without Fox, which meant practically a self-exclusion from office as long as Fox and the king should live.
The Grenvilles and the whigs were now drawn together into a closer opposition to the new ministry; but Grey, though he attended the house in 1805, did not take a leading part, upon any question except the rupture with Spain. In moving an amendment to the address, moved by Pitt on 11 Feb., he vigorously attacked the government policy in regard to the affairs of Spain; and again on 20 June he moved for an address praying the king not to prorogue parliament until full information of the relations with foreign powers had been laid before the house, and in calling attention to the state of Ireland he demanded the immediate and entire concession of the catholic claims. His motion was lost by 261 to 110.
In January 1806 Grenville and Fox came into power, and in their administration Grey, now, by his father's elevation to an earldom, become Lord Howick, was first lord of the admiralty. He applied himself with his usual conscientiousness to the discharge of the duties of this office, and while it was under his control the success of the British naval operations was signal. Upon the death of Fox, Howick succeeded to his position as leader of the whig section of the government, and after some negotiation he became secretary for foreign affairs, with the lead in the House of Commons. By the perfect confidence which he inspired in Lord Grenville he maintained for many years the entire union between the whigs and Grenville's personal following. Upon assuming the duties of foreign secretary he found the negotiations with Napoleon for a peace, which had been begun by Lord Yarmouth and continued by Lord Lauderdale, drawing to a close. Some attempt was made to throw upon him the blame of the failure of these negotiations, but it was not in his power to bring the French govenment to accept the terms originally furnished as a basis for peace. Though not responsible specially for the abortive expeditions to Constantinople and to South America, he also had to bear his share of the unpopularity caused by them; but his term of office was too short to test his capacity. Howick had long been a supporter of the catholic claims, and was anxious to conciliate the agitators, though emancipation was admittedly impracticable for the moment. In 1807, after vainly attempting through Lord Ponsonby to moderate the activity of the Irish catholic leaders, he moved on 5 March for leave to bring in a bill for the admission of catholics to the army and navy. The first night's debate was successful, but the court began to assume an attitude of opposition to the measure, and by 12 March Howick already foreboded the break-up of the ministry. Before introducing the bill Howick had informed the king of its scope, both verbally and in writing. The king, however, had not understood the explanation, and when it at last became clear to him he insisted upon the withdrawal of the bill. The cabinet yielded (15 March), but thought it their duty to avow their own sentiments. The king then insisted that they should promise not to introduce any more measures of this disturbing character. The ministry refused to give a pledge which they regarded as unconstitutional. On the 15th they were dismissed, and Howick remained out of office for twenty-four years.
The new ministry dissolved parliament before the end of the month. Lord Howick had been led by the Duke of Northumberland to suppose that his return for Northumberland would not be opposed, and had delayed his departure from London accordingly. To his surprise he found that Lord Percy was to be suddenly brought forward against him. The expense of a contest would be enormous, the issue very doubtful. He abandoned the contest, and for a few months sat for Lord Thanet's borough of Appleby; but his father died on 16 Nov., and he succeeded to the peerage as second Earl Grey. He took his seat in January 1808. For some years he had little personal influence. He exerted himself to control Whitbread and his friends, who were anxious to see peace concluded upon any terms. Ponsonby, in concert with him and Lord Grenville now in perfect agreement, followed Whitbread's speech on his peace resolutions by immediately moving the previous question. The disunion became in this way so patent that Grey no longer dissuaded Grenville from abandoning his attendance in parliament, and only pressed him not to formally disband the opposition. He used his influence to restrain the opposition from a merely factious antagonism. He made his first speech in the House of Lords on 27 Jan. 1808 on the motion for a vote of thanks to the forces engaged at Copenhagen, and moved for papers on 11 Feb.; but he left town in April, when his uncle, Sir Harry Grey, died, and did not appear in parliament again during the session. His letters, however, show how strongly he deprecated the untimely activity of the catholics in presenting their petition, and how indignant he was when the veto, which Lord Grenville had been authorised to accept on their behalf, was repudiated by the Irish prelates in the autumn. He was anxious that the whigs should announce that they would regard this concession as a condition of their support to the catholic cause; but in this he was overruled by Grenville, Whitbread, and the Duke of Bedford. In 1809 he attended the House of Lords, but the conduct of the opposition in the House of Commons, and in especial Wardle's attacks on the Duke of York, keenly disgusted him, and led him to hold himself aloof. By May 1809 he considered the opposition practically disbanded by its own conduct. On 23 Sept., when Perceval found the government also disunited, he wrote to Grey and Grenville to request a conference with a view to a coalition, but Grey rejected the overture (see Colchester, Diaries, ii. 215-317; Twiss, Eldon. ii. 97: Rose, Diaries, ii. 381). In 1810 he presented the petition of the English catholics in the House of Lords, and supported Lord Donoughmore's motion to refer the Irish petition to a committee, and on 13 June he moved an address to the king on the state of the nation, in which he reiterated his adherence to parliamentary reform. At the end of the year, when the return of the king's madness raised again the question of the regency, there was some disagreement between Grey and Grenville, who had taken opposite sides upon the question in 1788. Grey, however, took no part in the debates as to the terms upon which the prince was to assume the regency, and, having gone to town on the first announcement of the king's illness, returned to Northumberland on 29 Nov., when it was reported to be passing off; but the amendments to the resolutions of the ministry, proposed by Lord Holland in the House of Lords, were almost entirely his composition. He did not return to town till January 1811, and learnt on the way that the prince had at last sent for Lord Grenville. The prince commissioned the two lords to draft his reply to the address of parliament. This they did, only to see it set aside in favour of one prepared by Sheridan and Adam, which they in consequence refused to have anything to do, and on 11 Jan. they wrote to the prince declining to offer any opinions upon it. Their ground was that it was impossible to undertake the responsibility of advising the prince if their advise was to be afterwards submitted to the alteration of secret and irresponsible counselors. The prince next day employed Lord Holland to effect a reconciliation, and Grey and Grenville again undertaking the task, on 21 Jan. returned an answer to the question which the prince had put to them, and advised `an immediate and total change of public councils, and announced that they were prepared to make the necessary arrangements. Difficulties, however, soon arose owing to the prince's desire to designate particular persons for particular places, and on 2 Feb.Grey announced that the prince did not intend to change his ministers, a fact which he had had learned the night before from Lord Hutchinson and Adam. At the close of the year of restrictions upon the regency the prince again expressed an intention of turning to the whig leaders; but the result of the negotiation, which he entrusted to the Duke of York, was that Grey and Grenville declined to attempt any union with the existing ministry. Thus at the beginning of 1812 it appeared that there was no longer any prospect of Grey's assuming office. Upon the death of Perceval, however, in May fresh negotiations took place for the reconstruction of the regent's ministry. Lord Wellesley; was commissioned to form an administration, and applied to Grey on 23 May, and they had already almost arrived at an agreement when other difficulties put an end to Wellesley's attempt. The overtures were renewed on 1 June, but Grey and Grenville refused to join a cabinet which was to be based upon a system of counteraction, the representatives of one party balancing those of another. Lord Moira then undertook the task, but failed, owing to the refusal of the whig lords to enter any administration unless it was protected from intrigue by an entire change in the household, where the Yarmouth influence was sovereign. Upon this the prince was stubborn, all the more because he had bitterly resented Grey's allusion to this subject after the failure of negotiations in January in a speech in the House of Lords, in which he attacked Lady Hertford as 'an unseen and pestilent secret influence which lurked behind the throne.' Accordingly all attempts at a coalition having failed. Lord Liverpool became first lord of the treasury on 8 July. Grey was fiercely attacked in debate for his conduct towards the prince regent, and though he defended himself firmly, many of the whigs thought that he had been too unbending in the matter (see Buckingham, Courts and Cabinets of the Regency).
For some years he played no very conspicuous part in politics. He continued to support the catholic claims, deprecated the assumption by England of the post of principal in the Spanish war, and protested against the principal expressed in the Swedish treaty of 1813, and afterwards in the treaty of Vienna by which the great powers arrogated to themselves the right of disposing at will of the fortunes and territory of smaller but independent states. After the conclusion of the peace and the downfall of the catholic hopes he began to slowly sever himself from Lord Grenville. Their separation dated from the congress of Vienna, when Grey maintained that the allies had no right to interfere with the internal affairs of France. They continued to act together in opposition to the new corn laws after the peace, though upon the abstract justice and expediency of protection Grey's opinion was never definitely formed. But in 1817 he condemned the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act and the other acts of the same character, which Grenville supported. Grey was, however, left in a very small minority against the government. On 12 May he brought before the House of Lords Lord Sidmouth's circular of 27 March, advising the lord-lieutenant that persons publishing or selling seditious libels might be arrested and held to bail, and attacked it in a speech which occupied four hours in the delivery, and was a model of legal argument. He afterwards corrected and printed it. From this time, without any formal severance, he and Grenville ceased to act together. When the bill for the queen's divorce was introduced in 1820 he was active in opposition to it, having, indeed, while its introduction was as yet uncertain, assured Lord Liverpool that, should the tories be dismissed for refusing to bring in a divorce bill, he would not take their place, and though he won the respect of the nation he also became so hateful to the king that his exclusion from office during the king's life was absolute. Upon the death of Castlereagh there was some expectation that he might be sent for to form a ministry, and he actually placed himself in communication with Brougham upon the subject, but the expectation never was realized. When Canning came into power, though the whigs generally supported him, Grey refused any co-operation, and delivered an elaborate attack upon him, especially upon his conduct in foreign affairs and in regard to the catholic claims, and again justified his conduct at this juncture in his speech upon the second reading of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill in 1829. The death of George IV made him again a possible minister. In 1828 and 1829 there had been occasional rumours that he was likely to join the duke's ministry, and there is some ground for thinking that in 1830 he would not have been unwilling to do so. When the Duke of Wellington proposed to dissolve, Grey delivered a great speech against a dissolution on 30 June 1830, and moved the adjournment of the house, but his motion was lost by 56 to 100. In the new parliament he took his place as leader of the opposition, and his speech upon the address was in fact a manifesto of his party. He warmly advocated parliamentary reform. The duke in his reply, which was a counter-manifesto, committed the blunder of declaring the existing system of representation as near perfection as possible. Reform was thus handed over to the whigs. On 15 Nov. the government was defeated upon Sir H. Parnell's motion with regard to the civil list, and next day the king sent for Grey. His commission was almost a failure at the outset owing to differences of opinion as to the place to be offered to Brougham (Croker Papers, ii. 80). Brougham refused to be attorney-general. Grey knew that without Brougham's co-operation it would be vain to attempt to form a ministry; but to his surprise the king ultimately consented in Brougham taking the chancellorship. The ministry which he formed was characteristic of him; it was almost exclusively composed of peers or persons of title, and his own family was well represented in it. From the first the king showed that he would be difficult to manage upon the reform question. Grey appointed Lords Durham and Duncannon, Lord John Russell, and Sir James Graham a committee of the cabinet, to prepare a scheme of reform, and would have been content with a comparatively limited plan, but the popular enthusiasm carried him away. Parliament met on 3 Feb. 1831, and the bill was announced; it was introduced on 1 March in the House of Commons, and the second reading carried by the bare majority of one on 22 March. Ministers were defeated by eight votes on Gascoyne's motion on 19 April, and with some difficulty they prevailed upon the king to consent to a dissolution on 22 April.
Returning with a much increased majority they passed the bill in the commons by a majority of 136 on 8 July. Grey introduced it into the House of Lords, and delivered a very powerful speech in its favour upon the second reading, but it was thrown out by forty-one. With great prudence he resolved not to resign, but to reintroduce the bill, and thus averted a very dangerous crisis. Accordingly, with considerable alterations, the bill was again brought in, again passed by the commons, and again laid by Grey before the House of Lords. On 9 April 1832 he moved the second reading, and on the 14th carried it by a majority of nine. On 7 May he moved for a committee of the whole house upon the bill. He was met by Lyndhurst's motion to postpone the disfranchising clauses. In spite of Grey's most strenuous opposition and threats of resignation, Lyndhurst obtained a majority of thirty-five. On 9 May Grey announced that the ministry had tendered, and that the king had accepted, their resignation. This crisis had long been foreseen. At the end of the previous year Grey and his colleagues had debated whether, in the event of a further rejection of the bill by the House of Lords, they should urge the king to make a sufficient number of peers to pass the bill. Brougham advocated it; Grey at first opposed it as an unconstitutional use of the prerogative, but on 1 Jan. 1832 the ministry decided, if necessary, to urge this course upon the king. After their defeat in May they did so, but without success; the king declining this advice they could no longer stand between him and the popular pressure for the immediate enactment of the bill. But no alternative ministry could be formed. The Duke of Wellington and Lyndhurst failed in the attempt, in which Peel would not even join. Grey's ministry was recalled. On 17 May the king gave them his written authority to create the necessary peers, and the mere threat, which Grey subsequently declared he had never meant to execute, overcame the resistance of the lords, who saw that a further contest would be hopeless. During the following year, especially upon his Irish policy. Grey was very much under the influence of Stanley, and it was his Irish policy which led to his overthrow in 1834. Both upon the renewal of the Coercion Act and upon the appropriation of the surplus revenues of the Irish church, dissension broke out in the ministry. Stanley and Graham resigned upon the latter question. Littleton, the chief secretary, anxious to conciliate O'Connell towards his tithe bill, began an intrigue with Brougham's assistance, and induced Lord Wellesley, the lord-lieutenant, to write to Grey on 23 June, deprecating the renewal of the severer clauses of the act of 1833. Hitherto his letters had been favourable to severe coercion. Grey, however, who had a personal dislike of O'Connell, strongly desired the renewal of the whole act, and prevailed on the cabinet on 29 June, in spite of Lord Wellesley's letter, to agree to that course, and on introducing the bill into the House of Lords on 1 July he read Wellesley's earlier letters, but not his letters of 23 June. Meantime Littleton had sent for O'Connell, and had privately assured him that there would be no severe coercion. After Grey's speech O'Connell thought that he had been deceived, and exposed his whole negotiation with Littleton to the House of Commons on 3 July. Littleton's explanations only made more public the already considerable disunion in the cabinet. Grey gladly seized the opportunity of quitting a career no longer agreeable to his age or tastes. He resigned, justified his resignation in 'a very moving and gentleman-like speech,' admirably delivered on 9 July in the House of Lords, and thenceforth lived in retirement until his death on 17 July 1845 (see Lord Hatherton's Memoir; Edinburgh Review, cxxxiv. 291-302; Parliamentary Debates, xxiv. 1019, 1308, xxv. 119). He refused the privy seal which Lord Melbourne offered him in his first administration, having previously declined the king's invitation to form an administration of his own. During 1834, indeed, his wish to retire was so strong that it was believed that, apart from Littleton's intrigue, he would not have held office to the end of the session.
Grey was the very type of the old whig nobleman, punctiliously honourable and highminded, and devoted to the constitution and to popular liberty as he understood them. At the same time his views were narrow, he was personally diffident and timorous in reform, and even less democratic than many of his opponents. (For his general opinions and comments on passing events see Le Strange's Correspondence of Princess Lieven and Earl Grey, 1824-34, London, 1890, a collection of his letters to the wife of the Russian ambassador, with whom he maintained a most intimate friendship.) At the time when, after his long exclusion from office, he became prime minister, he had outlived the power of feeling or inspiring enthusiasm; but it was perhaps fortunate that at a moment of so much popular excitement the ministry was led by so cold a man. He was a great orator and a great debater, and, like all great orators, was very nervous just before rising to deliver his greatest speeches. He was exceedingly ready in apprehending complicated statements of fact, and in bringing them home to his hearers.
Grey was very fortunate in his family life. Lord Malmesbury (Memoirs, ii. 16) draws a curious picture of the father and children occupied in endless disputations, and the children addressing their parents by their christian names. Grey had fifteen children, ten sons and five daughters, of whom the fifth son, Henry, succeeded him in the earldom, and is still(1890)living; Charles(1804-1870)[q. v.] was colonel of the 7lst foot; Frederick (1805-1878) and George admirals, the former being G.C.B.; and John and Francis rectors respectively of Houghton-le-Spring, Durham, and Morpeth, Northumberland. His eldest daughter, Louisa Elizabeth, married the Earl of Durham. Most of his life was spent at Howick, which he was always unwilling to leave. In 1810 he lived in Portman square, London, and from 1823 to 1826 he wintered at Devonport for his wife's health; but after her death in 1824, except when in office, he lived at Howick. There is a statue of him at Newcastle, with an inscription by Sydney Smith. He was a knight of the Garter, a privy councillor, an elder brother of the Trinity House, a governor of the Charter-house, and a vice-president of the Marine Society.[Life of Lord Grey, by Sir Frederick Grey; Lord Holland's Memoirs of the Whig Party; Buckingham's Courts and Cabinsts of the Regency, George IV, and William IV; Correspondence of William IV and Lord Grey; Roebuck's Hist. of the Whig Ministry; Spencer Walpole's Hist. of England, i. 286. iii. 259; Greville Memoirs, 1st and 2nd ser.; Lord John Russell's Memorials of Fox; Moore's Life of Sheridan; Moore's Diary; Croker Papers.]