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Item - BSL - Wellington 1831



The Duke of Wellington Writes a letter on Black Edged Paper
Still Mourning the Death of King George IV


Wellington by de Goya

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS (1769 1852)

Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington is between tours as Prime Minister of England having seen the death of George IV and the Tories turned out of Office. The Whigs led by Lord Grey attempted to pass the grand Reform Bill, however, the House of Lords still under Wellington's influence, had just defeated it and there was a new call for new elections. Here is Wellington's handwritten and autographed  letter (ALS) in which he tries to help an old friend, Sergeant Major Hanley.

Historical Note

Arthur Wellesley, the son of the Earl of Mornington, was born in Dublin in 1769. After being educated at Eton and a military school at Angers he received a commission in the 73rd Infantry. Eventually Wellesley obtained the rank of captain and became aide-de-camp to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1797 Wellesley was sent to India. With Napoleon gaining victories in Egypt, Wellesley was dispatched to deal with Tippoo Sahib of Mysore. As brigade commander under General George Harris he impressed his superiors throughout the Seringapatam expedition and was made administrator of the conquered territory. Wellesley returned to England in 1805 and the following year he was elected as the MP for Rye in Sussex. A year after entering the House of Commons, the Duke of Portland appointed Wellesley as his Irish Secretary. Although a member of the government, Arthur Wellesley remained in the army and in 1808 he was sent to aid the Portuguese against the French. After a victory at Vimeiro he returned to England but the following year he was asked to assume command of the British Army in the Peninsular War. In 1812 the French were forced out of Spain and Wellesley reinforced his victory against the French at Toulouse. In 1814 Wellesley was granted the title, the Duke of Wellington. He was then put in command of the forces which defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in June, 1815. Parliament rewarded this military victory by granting Wellington the Hampshire estate of Strathfieldsaye.

In 1818 the Duke of Wellington returned to politics when he accepted the invitation of Lord Liverpool to join his Tory administration as master-General of the Ordnance. In 1829 Wellington assisted Robert Peel in his efforts to reorganize the Metropolitan Police. In 1828 Wellington replaced Lord Goderich as prime minister. Although Wellington and the Home Secretary, Robert Peel, had always opposed Catholic Emancipation they began to reconsider their views after they received information on the possibility of an Irish rebellion. As Peel said to Wellington: "though emancipation was a great danger, civil strife was a greater danger". King George IV was violently opposed to Catholic Emancipation but after Wellington threatened to resign, the king reluctantly agreed to a change in the law.

In 1830 unemployment in rural areas began to grow and the invention of the threshing machine posed another threat to the economic prosperity of the farm labourer. The summer and autumn of 1830 saw a wave of riots, rick-burnings and machine-breaking. In a debate in the House of Lords in November, Earl Grey, the Whig leader, suggested that the best way to reduce this violence was to introduce parliamentary reform. The Duke of Wellington replied that the existing constitution was so perfect that he could not imagine any possible alternative that would be an improvement on the present system. In the speech Wellington made it clear that he had no intention of introducing parliamentary reform. When news of what Wellington had said in Parliament was reported, his home in London was attacked by a mob. Now extremely unpopular with the public, Wellington began to consider resigning from office. On 15th November, 1830 Wellington's government was defeated in a vote in the House of Commons. The new king, William IV, was more sympathetic to reform than his predecessor and two days later decided to ask Earl Grey to form a government. As soon as Grey became prime minister he formed a cabinet committee to produce a plan for parliamentary reform. Details of the proposals were announced on 3rd February 1831. The bill was passed by the House of Commons by a majority of 136, but despite a powerful speech by Earl Grey, the bill was defeated in the House of Lords by forty-one, a place where the Duke of Wellington still held a powerful influence. A new election returned a larger Whig Majority and the Reform Bill was passed in 1832. Wellington returned to office in 1834 as a caretaker for Robert Peel who then assumed ascendancy of the "new" Conservative Party.

1 page Letter Signed and Dated: 5th May, 1831
Text as Follows:

                                                                  S Saye (Strathfieldsaye) May 5th 1831
My dear de Neris
Some time has elapsed since I ????. I have returned you the circled papers. The Man is a very good one, but I really do not know what I can now do for him. I have not the near nor distant recollection of the Affair or of the Dispatch. The best thing to do would be to find the Dispatch; and then we will see how we can give the Man an authentic Copy of it.

Wellington [signature]

Document Specifications:  This letter is one sheet folded to form four pages with writing only on one page as shown. This black bordered mourning page of woven paper measures 7" wide x 9" tall (180mm x 225mm) and is signed "Wellington" and dated May 5th 1831. Condition is extremely fine and a wonderful example of the Iron Duke's handwriting and signature during his time of political power.

 Offered by Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd.

End of Item - BSL - Wellington 1831

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