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THE DAYS OF MAY

35

The attempt to form a Tory Ministry was frustrated by the House of Commons. The Whig Ministers had tried to render the work of the Cabinet-makers easy, on condition that 'the Bill' was passed. But the Commons would have none of it. There, on the evening of May 14, all manoeuvres and subtletieswereswept away by a wave of angry distrust, feit by Whig and Tory alike, at the prospect of anti-Reformers passing the Reform Bill as the price of office. When from both sides of the House one private member after another rose to express the abhorrence feit by any plain man at this ridiculous, dangerous, and dishonourable shift*), the other Tory chiefs saw that Peel was in the right.

Hearing that the Lower House was unmanageable, Wellington next day (May 15) abandoned the attempt to form a Cabinet, and Grey was again sent for. The Commons, by preventing the formation of a Tory Ministry, had averted an organised insurrection in the great cities of England and Scotland, though if we are to judge by the debates very few members were aware of it. Still less did the Whig and Tory magnates, with whom lay the decision of the Cabinet crisis, discuss their conduct in relation to the impending2) insurrection. Yet few contingent historical propositions3) are more certain than this, that if the Duke had taken office there would have been a rebellion.

The disturbances of the winter had died away at the beginning of the year 1832, though cholera and bad trade continued. But with the return of order came an increasing deter-

1. shift: change from one position to another; also trick, artifice.

2. to impend: to hang threateningly over, to be imminent.

3. contingent historical proposition: statement of a historian what would have happened, in his opinion, if something had been done or had occurred which as a matter of fact has not been done or has not occurred.

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