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32

THE REFORM BILL

Next day (May 9) arrived the King's letter. Declining to make so 'large an addition to the Peerage,' he accepted their resignations, but asked them to 'continue in discharge of their official functions' until the new Ministry was formed.

It is important to remember that throughout the ten 'Days of May,'x) the Whig Ministers were in charge of the ordinary running of the administration, though they were in no position to make decisions of policy. None of them was for an hour superseded by a Tory. The anomalous state of affairs is indicated by a letter which Grey wrote from Downing Street on May 14 to inform Lord Hill, commandirig the troops in England, that two privates from the barracks at Birmingham had joined Attwood's Political Union, and had stated that 'the greater part of their conrades are prepared to follow their example.' 'lam no longer in a situation,' adds the fallen Prime Minister, 'to offer any advice, but I cannot help suggesting that the most expediënt course would be to remove the regiment immediately from Birmingham to some other quarter, without attracting publick notice to the cause of it atpresent.' Thus, if the Revolution had broken out that week, there would have been no really responsible Ministers to suppress it or to negotiate with its chiefs.

But in fact the Revolution was timed for the moment of Wellington's taking office, and not before. To some extent, though by no means entirely, the 'Days of May' were due to a misunderstanding. The King's intention was to get the Bill passed unaltered, but, in order to avoid peer-making, to have it passed by the Tories. The people thought that the Bill as well as the Ministry was in danger. William commissioned Lyndhurst to take soundings a), and then asked Wellington to

1. May 9-18.

2. to take soundings: to find out the depth at sea; here figuratively: to try to find out quietiy what people think or intend to do.

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