William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne
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William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne (15 March 1779 – 24 November 1848) was a British Whig statesman who served as Home Secretary (1830–1834) and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1834 and 1835–1841).
- My principles are, as I believe, the Whig principles of the revolution. The main foundation of them is the irresponsibility of the crown, the consequent responsibility of ministers, and the preservation of the power and dignity of parliament as constituted by law and custom. With a heap of modern additions, interpolations, facts and fictions, I have nothing to do.
- Letter to Lord Holland (10 December 1815), quoted in Philip Ziegler, Melbourne: A Biography of William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne (1976), p. 70
- [T]he possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.
- Speech in the House of Commons (27 June 1817)
- If I'd been Lord Grey, I would have knocked him down.
- It is...in my humble opinion, not a desirable thing for us to be dependent for our nourishment on foreign supplies, and I think it would be wise even to sacrifice something of commercial prosperity to the national safety and independence. This...is my strong feeling, and I have great doubt whether our commerce has not been increased by our agricultural prosperity. I entirely agree...that any change in the present system would be an evil.
- I now, my Lords, frankly declare that I resume office unequivocally and solely for this reason—that I will not abandon my Sovereign in a situation of difficulty and distress, and especially when a demand is made upon her Majesty, with which I think she ought not to comply—a demand, in my opinion, my Lords, inconsistent with her personal honour, and which, if acquiesced in, would make her reign liable to all the changes and variations of political parties, and render her domestic life one constant scene of unhappiness and discomfort.
- [T]hough I am ready to consider any measure for the purpose of alleviating that distress, I can never hold forth that this can be produced by changes in the Constitution, or by changing the persons who administer the public affairs. I am greatly opposed to this, because, if the existence of national distress is to be looked on as a reason for organic changes in the Constitution, or in the individuals who compose the Government, there is an end of all stability in public affairs. In every state of the country, I fear it will not be difficult to make out such a case of poverty and suffering, as may upon such principles support an argument for great and immediate alteration. We have lived lately in a time of great change and of many new measures. It is supposed that these measures have produced disappointment, and that the Catholic Emancipation, for instance, has not ended in the tranquillity which was expected from it, and that the Reform-bill has not improved the condition or situation of the people at large, and that those who have recommended these measures do not enjoy with the country the same popularity that they formerly did. How this may be, I know not. But this I do know, that if there is disappointment, it does not arise from the vicious principles, or the ill-working of the measures themselves but from the wild, unfounded, exaggerated expectations of their effects which were indulged in and anticipated. A man does not know himself, nor is he a safe judge of his own conduct. But I believe myself never to have contributed to the raising of these wild and illusory hopes. What I have not done before, I will not do now, because I feel certain that measures from which great, extended, and permanent benefit is intended, will be very likely to terminate in failure, and consequently in general discontent.
- Speech in the House of Lords (3 February 1842)
- I say, Archbishop, all this reforming gives a deuced deal of trouble, eh? eh? I wish they'd let it all alone...I say, Archbishop, what do you think I'd have done about this slavery business, if I'd had my own way? I'd have done nothing at all! I'd have left it all alone. It's all a pack of nonsense! Always have been slaves in all the most civilised countries; the Greeks and Romans had slaves; however, they would have their fancy, and so we've abolished slavery; but it's a great folly.
- Remarks to Richard Whately, quoted in E. Jane Whately (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Richard Whately, D.D. Late Archbishop of Dublin. Volume II (1866), pp. 451-452
- Agitate, agitate, agitate.
- In Torrens, Life of Lord Melbourne, Volume I, p. 320, and in Walpole's History of England from Conclusion of the Great War, Volume III, p. 143
- By the bye, there is one thing we haven't agreed upon, which is, what we are to say. Is it to make our corn dearer or cheaper, or to make the price steady? I don't care which: but we had better all be in the same story.
- Discussing the 1841 Budget (c. April 1841), attributed to Melbourne in a letter from Lord Clarendon to Lord John Russell (22 March 1851), quoted in Spencer Walpole, The Life of Lord John Russell: Volume I (1889), p. 369
- I wish I were as cocksure of anything as Tom Macaulay is of everything.
- Lloyd C. Sanders (ed.), Lord Melbourne's Papers (1889), p. xii
- I don't like the middle classes, the higher and lower classes, there's some good in them; but the middle class are all affectation and conceit and pretence and concealment.
- Speaking to Queen Victoria, quoted in P. J. Helm, Modern British History, Part One: 1815-1914'. (1965), p. 53
- What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damned fools said would happen has come to pass.
- W. M. Torrens Memoirs of William Lamb, Second Viscount Melbourne (1890), p. 234
Quotes about Melbourne
- When the King sent for him [Melbourne] he told Young "he thought it a damned bore, and that he was in many minds what he should do—be Minister or no." Young said, "Why, damn it, such a position never was occupied by any Greek or Roman, and, if it only lasts two months, it is well worth while to have been Prime Minister of England." "By God that's true," said Melbourne; "I'll go."
- Charles Greville, diary (4 September 1834), quoted in The Greville Diary, Including Passages Hitherto Withheld from Publication, Volume I, ed. Philip Whitwell Wilson (1927), p. 468
- Melbourne swore that Henry VIII was the greatest man who ever lived, and Allen declared if he had not married Anne Boleyn we should have continued Catholics to this day, both of which assertions I ventured to dispute. ... Melbourne loves dashing opinions.
- Charles Greville, diary (13 September 1834), quoted in The Greville Diary, Including Passages Hitherto Withheld from Publication, Volume I, ed. Philip Whitwell Wilson (1927), p. 179
- Yesterday at Holland House; nobody there but Melbourne. We were talking of Reform, and Lord Holland said, "I don't know if we were right about Reform, but this I know, that if we were to propose it at all, we were right in going the lengths we did, and this was Canning's opinion." Melbourne said, "Yes, I know it was, and that was mine, and that was the reason why I was against Reform."
- Charles Greville, diary (19 September 1834), quoted in The Greville Diary, Including Passages Hitherto Withheld from Publication, Volume I, ed. Philip Whitwell Wilson (1927), p. 473
- Melbourne, to do him justice, is destitute of humbug, does not see things through the medium of his wishes or prejudices, but thinks impartially, and says what he thinks.
- Charles Greville, diary (23 March 1842), quoted in The Greville Diary, Including Passages Hitherto Withheld from Publication, Volume II, ed. Philip Whitwell Wilson (1927), p. 177
- The Queen don't like his [Robert Peel] manner after—oh! how different, how dreadfully different, to that frank, open, natural and most kind, warm manner of Lord Melbourne.
- Queen Victoria to Melbourne (8 May 1839), quoted in The Letters of Queen Victoria: A Selection from Her Majesty's Correspondence between the Years 1837 and 1861, Vol. I.—1837–1843, eds. Arthur Christopher Benson and Viscount Esher (1908), p. 159