William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne

British Prime Minister, Whig statesman (1779-1848)

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).

William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne


  • 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 (London: Collins, 1976), p. 70
  • ...the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (27 June 1817)
  • 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.


  • 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.
    • E. Jane Whately (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Richard Whately, D.D. Late Archbishop of Dublin. Volume II (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 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 (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 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'. (Bell, 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

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