Sunday, 16 February 2014

Not that Spencer Perceval

Readers of this blog, being of above average intelligence and knowledge,  will remember that Spencer Perceval (1762-1812) was the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Ireland 1809 - 1812.

Wikepida says this of Perceval.   A follower of William Pitt, Perceval always described himself as a "friend of Mr Pitt" rather than a Tory. Perceval was opposed to Catholic emancipation and reform of Parliament; he supported the war against Napoleon and the abolition of the slave trade. He was opposed to hunting, gambling and adultery, did not drink as much as most Members of Parliament, gave generously to charity, and enjoyed spending time with his twelve children.

You may not have known that, but surely you remember that Perceval is the only British Premier to have been assassinated. He was shot in the lobby of the (old) House of Commons on 11th May 1812, and died immediately.

But I do not wish to write about that Spencer Perceval. You ask "was there another?". 

Indeed there was.  He was a son of Spencer Perceval (the one named above). He lived from 1795 - 1859, was a High Tory Member of Parliament, and was greatly opposed to the 1832 Reform Act.

You'll doubtless do your own research on the Reform Act.  Google may help. 

But you'll do better to read all about it in: "Perilous Question === Reform or Revolution?  Britain on the Brink" by the superb biographer Antonia Fraser (Public Affairs Books,  USA, or  Weidenfeld and Nicholson,  Great Britain) 2013.

(It will surprise you greatly to know that I have recently read this book).

The Reform Act had to do with making the House of Commons more representative of urbanization and the increased  population ( but not more representative of the people:  universal suffrage did not come about in the U.K.  until 1928)

Tories such as the reactionary Duke of Wellington and Queen Adelaide were vehemently opposed to any reform.

King William IV ("Sailor Bill") had no enthusiasm for Reform, but he also wanted to be thought of as a wise and caring Monarch. He had read his tea-leaves and he knew that public sentiment was all for reform - especially in the light of the famous Bristol Riots.

The Reform Bill  was finally enacted into law thanks (in a great part) to the patient wisdom of Earl Grey (1764 - 1845)   a Whig - who was  Prime Minister (1830 - 1834) - (back in the day when Premiers could sit in the House of Lords), and for whom "Earl Grey Tea" is named.

Spencer Perceval the Younger was utterly opposed to reform.  He knew that God was on his side.  God was on his side because the 1831 cholera epidemic was a sure sign of God's judgment. (It had nothing to do with poor sanitation and the lack of pure water!).

"Perceval's main message from God was a fearful one: the nation trembled on the verge of destruction. In every district there were disorders, respect within the ranks of society no longer existed, and there was also 'the frightful collision of the two Houses of Parliament' ....... what was to be done? He would read from the Holy Book, declared Perceval, about God's mercy and his judgments. And so he proceeded to do, long, long passages about  Israel, its transgressions, its atonements, ......... This was the truth: they had departed from God , and God had departed from them. When it came to detail, and it did, Perceval gave the destruction in Bristol as a sample of God's wrath. And he spent some time denouncing 'the liberal mind that is marching through Europe', adding that it was blasphemy to attribute power to the people, since all power came from God". (Perilous Questions pp  199/200)

Poor benighted Perceval.  Surely he was a man of another age, with almost antediluvian views.


In 2007, Graham Dow the Bishop of Carlisle (U.K.)  asserted that the floods in Cumbria and other places were God's judgment on immorality and greed.

Jack Trick (he of the infamous anti-Catholic "Chick Comics")  said that Hurricane Katrina (2005) was God's wrath over United States pressure on Israel.



Perceval thought that the outbreak of cholera was an expression of God's judgments against political reform. (But it was the poor people and  not the parliamentary reformers who were most stricken by cholera),

Bishop Dow said that floods in northern England were God's judgment on greed and immorality. (But was there no immorality and greed in other parts of the U.K.?

Jack Chick said that Katrina was God's wrath because of American foreign policy regarding Israel.(If that's the case how was it that Katrina struck Louisiana and not Washington DC  where the foreign policy and political decisions are made?)

I'll leave you to figure out that nonsense.

In the meantime remember Spencer Perceval,  and be careful how you read and interpret the bible).

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