The Bill came on for second reading in the House of Lords on 9th of April, and the Duke of Wellington spoke out as strongly against the measure as he had spoken against the First Reform Bill brought in by the Government. He was, however, much more indiscreet in this speech than he had been on the former occasion, and he went so far as to declare his conviction, that the King himself was not in favour of any such measure of Reform as his Ministers were endeavouring to force upon the House of Lords. The Duke, indeed, exceeded himself in his indiscretion on this occasion; for he declared his full belief, that if the King's real feelings only could be made known to the country, Lord Grey would never have the slightest chance of passing such a measure as that which he had been reckless enough to introduce to Parliament. The Waverers, however, were not altogether satisfied with the rash declarations of the Duke of Wellington, and they supported the second reading, and thus enabled the reading to be carried by a majority of nine. Thus they satisfied their purpose and their policy by enabling the Government to carry their measure another stage; while, at the same time, making it clear to the Opposition that if the Government refused to give way on some material points, the Bill could be so mutilated by the help of the Waverers as to make it utterly unsatisfactory to the country. Accordingly, the Waverers gave the next helping hand to the Opposition. Lord Lynd-hurst proposed an amendment which the Government properly declared to be hostile to the conduct of the Bill; and the Waverers supported Lord Lyndhurst, and his motion was carried by a majority of thirty-five.
Lord Grey at once addressed himself to the King, and as the King still hesitated about granting him the power to make new Peers, Lord Grey instantly tendered his resignation. The resignation was accepted; indeed, there was nothing to be done but to accept it, or to give in to Lord Grey's demands King William knew well that when Lord Grey had once made up his mind it would be useless for even the Sovereign to attempt any argument or persuasion with him. Lord Grey and his colleagues went out of office; and the King was left, metaphorically, face to face with the country, face to face with the possibility of revolution. The King sent for Lord Lyndhurst, and pathetically, perplexedly, besought for help and counsel. Lord Lyndhurst had only one piece of advice to give, the only piece of advice any Tory could have given under the circumstances, and that was to send for the Duke of Wellington. The Duke was sent for; and the King implored him to undertake the formation and the leadership of a new Government. The Duke of Wellington had encountered many terrible risks and difficulties in his time; but he had never encountered any risk or any difficulty when there was not the slightest chance of any good purpose whatever being served by the attempt. He told the King bluntly that he did not believe it would be possible for him to get together any Government which could face the crisis; and in order not to be wanting in advice of some kind, he recommended the King to send for Sir Robert Peel, and try what Peel could do. Then, and for ever after, while Peel's life lasted, the Duke of Wellington looked up to Peel with a genuine and a generous admiration as the man who could do anything, if anything was possible to be done. So the King sent for Peel; but Peel saw that this was a case in which he could do nothing. Peel was one of the most rising men of the time.
He must have known that he had a great career before him; and he was quite unselfish and patriotic enough to think little of risking that career, if only thereby something could be done to serve the Sovereign and the State. But he was an intensely practical man, and he did not see that either Sovereign or State could be served by his simply dashing his head against a stone wall. So he told the King that it would be utterly impossible for him to keep together a Ministry against the House of Commons and against the country, and he declined to attempt the impossible task. Then the King in despair sent for the Duke of Wellington again and made it something like a point of duty and of loyalty with him to help the Sovereign out of his dilemma. The Duke, who never was, and never could be, a politician, was willing after such an appeal to dash his head against the stone wall, and so he did actually attempt to get together an administration composed of men who would stand up with him as opponents of Reform, the House of Commons, and the country. The attempt utterly failed. Indeed, to say that it failed is to give an inadequate idea of its futility. No sooner was it made than it had to be abandoned. There were no men outside Bedlam who would undertake to co-operate in such a task.
What was the poor bewildered King to do ? He could think of nothing, and nothing could be suggested to him but to send for Lord Grey again, and request Lord Grey to reconstruct his Ministry and go on with the Reform Bill. While all this was happening the public mind was growing more and more furious and the popularity of the patriot King had entirely gone under. William was now denounced every day and every night in the streets of London, and through all the great towns of England, Ireland, and Scotland. When his carriage was seen in the West-end streets of London it became instantly surrounded by hooting, hissing, fist-shaking mobs. Indeed, the poor Sovereign had to be most carefully guarded in order to secure him against the possibility of some direct personal attack. Now King William was a brave man, and an honest man; and we may be sure that he did not take any account of the personal danger; but he had enjoyed the popularity which came around him of late years, and it pained him to find himself an object of distrust and dislike to so large a proportion of his subjects. What course but one was left for him to pursue ?