« EdellinenJatka »
be, I shall be quite satisfied that you will not advise any course by which my personal character will be tarnished.—I remain, ever
yours faithfully, J. RUSSELL.
Prizate] Downing Street: Oct. 25, 1832. My dear Lord John, I have just received your letter enclosing a copy of one which you had written and intended to send after the former discussion of the Irish question at East Sheen. It is very painful to me to find that your objections to Stanley's plan still continue so strong. I cannot help considering it as containing a large and effective measure of Reform ; quite as large as we could hope to carry, and likely to produce very beneficial effects if properly supported. The greatest danger to it would arise from a division amongst ourselves; and, if that division should lead to a breaking up of the Administration, I need not state to you the cer. tain consequences, of which you seem to be sufficiently aware, of danger to the peace of Europe, great loss of character to ourselves, and the absolute extinction of all hope of a moderate and effectual reformation of those parts of the Church establishment which are most felt as real grievances, or most exposed to invidious objections. Without arguing on the soundness of your principle that the emoluments of the Church, being provided for religious instruction, should be proportioned to the situation and numbers of the population by whom that instruction is required, I can only repeat again, what I have so frequently stated in the course of these discussions, that I cannot entertain a moment's doubt that, if the Cabinet could be brought to your opinion, and should frame a measure on a broad and distinct avowal of that principle, their complete overthrow would be the almost instantaneous result. A dissolution of the Government, brought about in this manner, would be no less certainly productive of all the consequences which I have already stated, and which you admit, than if it were produced by a disagreement and division amongst ourselves. With respect to the question which you put to me, what I have already said seems to furnish an answer. I certainly could not, even for the advantage of supporting the Government, on the existence of which at this moment so much depends, advise you to do anything which I thought would prove injurious to the high character which you possess in the country; and I think I may refer to the conduct of Althorp as affording the most satisfactory assurance on this head. But, though I can have no doubt on it, I should much prefer your
taking Holland's opinion—which will be dictated by equal feelings of personal affection and of regard for your public reputation—to your relying on mine. I will only add that I anxiously hope that we may go on together, without a greater sacrifice of private opinion on either side than may be reconciled to feelings of honour and to a just sense of public duty, as I can scarcely contemplate an event which would be more painful to me than one which would have the effect of separating me from you, believing that whatever difference there may be between us is not a difference of principle, and arises only on a question as to what is most expedient and practicable under all the circumstances of the time.--Believe me ever, dear Lord John, yours most sincerely,
In accordance with Lord Grey's advice, Lord John referred the personal matter to Lord Holland, who replied as follows:—
Oct. 26, 1832.
Dear John, To the question which you put to Lord Grey, and have agreed at his instance to refer to me, in the terms in which it stands in your letter of yesterday, namely, “to determine whether Grey's Government would be best supported by your remaining to vote for the plan of Church Reform with such feelings as you therein describe, or by your retirement from office,” the answer appears to me so plain and obvious, and indeed such a truism, that I can hardly with gravity deliver a judgment upon it, as carrying any authority from me. Your separation from your colleagues, if it were merely the result of health or any accident, unconnected with difference on political matters, would irresistibly and necessarily weaken any Ministry that had hitherto had the advantage of your assistance in its counsels, of your support in Parliament, and of the authority which your character, so justly high in the country, and of the popularity which your successful exertions, old and of later date, carry with them, to sustain it. But the terms and the occasion would make it yet more injurious, and in my conscience I believe fatal, to our Administration. The resignation of the mover of the Reform Bill just at the moment when the manner in which that great experiment would work was about to be tried, would appal and disappoint all the sincere friends of the measure, and quite dishearten those, no small portion, who relied on its wisdom and good consequences because proposed by you, and likely to be carried into effect under your auspices and superintendence; and, if anything could aggravate those evil consequences, it would be the knowledge that your separation arose in consequence of a difference on another great question of Reform affecting the Church. . . . I think, however, I perceive, though much to my surprise, that there is another doubt remaining on your mind, namely, whether, consistently with your principles and honour, you can remain in a Ministry who propose a measure, short of that to which your opinions and wishes would lead you, merely because it was impracticable. Now I need not tell you, my dear John, that, if your retaining office with your view of this question was in my mind inconsistent with your honour or injurious to your character, I should strenuously recommend your resignation. . . . The question you have to decide on conscience is not whether your plan or Stanley's is the right one, but whether Stanley's plan or your resignation, with its consequences, is preferable. By acquiescing and supporting Stanley's plan you neither surrender nor counteract the principle you lay down in No. 1. You bring the Irish Church practically somewhat nearer, though still I admit at some distance from, the principle you would establish. . . . Unless, therefore, you think it is practicable with the present Court, Cabinet, Parliament, or people to carry a measure more consonant to your wishes and principles, or unless you think that by resigning, at the risk of breaking up the Ministry, you render the accomplishment of a great public benefit more certain or more easy, . . . I confess it appears to me that you are not compelled by your principles, conscience, or public honour to resign, but that, viewing the consequences of such a step, you can hardly reconcile it to these considerations. I am strongly fortified in my judgment by the opinion and conduct of Althorp, who agrees entirely with you in your principle, who certainly dislikes office more than you do, and who, I need not add, is a man who acts on all matters with a scrupulous, deliberate, and inflexible regard to his public duty and private conscience; but who, entertaining your principles and opinions, remains and will support Stanley's plan from a conscientious conviction that it is his duty to do so. To recapitulate this prolix judgment. . . . I am of opinion that your resignation on this point would be highly injurious to the Ministry and the country; and that, as far as I understand your general principle and the outlines of Stanley's plan, the latter, though it falls short of your views, is not inconsistent with them ; and that you are consequently neither surrendering nor betraying them by acquiescing in and supporting a plan which falls short of this.-Your very tiresome, but conscientious judge and friend, VAssALL Holla ND.
After this correspondence Lord John had no alternative but to remain in office. The course of events, however, made him regret this decision. The single provision in Mr. Stanley's proposal which carried out his own views, by enabling the Legislature to deal as it thought fit with the income of the suppressed bishoprics, was omitted from the Bill on Mr. Stanley's own motion. Its omission was justified at the time by the argument that it would reconcile the House of Lords to a measure which many of the Peers disliked. But it did not even effect this object. The Lords only adopted the Bill after they had introduced an amendment into it exempting existing incumbents from the proposed tax on incomes. The omission, too, of these clauses had the further disadvantage of affording the Irish a fresh grievance. Mr. O'Connell declared that the chief virtue of the measure was gone ; and Lord John, who agreed with him, had some difficulty in consoling himself with the reflection that the remedy of glaring abuses and the abolition of church-rates constituted in themselves a large and welcome measure of Reform. Happily the session in which the Bill was passed was memorable for other achievements. In 1833 slavery was abolished, the first effective Factory Act was passed, the charter of the Bank of England was revised, and the monopoly of the East India Company was terminated. These measures, however, did not satisfy the expectations of ardent politicians. Large as had been the Reform which had been passed in 1832, it had not conceded any of the five points on which the Radicals had insisted. It had not given every householder a vote; it had not afforded the electors the protection of the ballot; it had not made Parliaments annually terminable; it had not abolished the property qualification which members were still required to possess; it had not even provided the wages which the working classes were anxious that their representatives should receive. Mr. Tennyson, who five years before had co-operated with Lord John in endeavouring to procure a small measure of organic Reform, asked leave to introduce a Bill to shorten the duration of Parliaments; and Lord John, in opposing it, declared that triennial Parliaments were incompatible with our mixed constitution." This declaration was quite consistent with the views which Lord John had laid down years before in his ‘Essay on the Constitution,' and with his defence of the Septennial Act in his “Memoirs of the Affairs of Europe.' But it undoubtedly disappointed a good many people. Even his own father wrote to him—
My dear John, As I have always accustomed myself to speak my mind to you without reserve on all political subjects, I must not conceal from you the pain I felt in reading your speech on Mr. Tennyson's motion for shortening the duration of Parliaments. I regret it on many accounts; and one of them is, I own, the incalculable injury it will do you in Devonshire if you ever mean to represent that county again. You are probably aware that a register is kept there to record all your votes and speeches; and I need not remind you that you were returned, not by the gentry, not by any overwhelming influence of property, but by the yeomen and Reformers of the county. People will suspect, or at all events they will say, that you regret having carried into effect the great measure of Parliamentary Reform, if they judge from your speech on Mr. Tennyson's motion, and from another recent speech where you talk of “a revolution once a year.' . . . You may rest assured that public opinion is decidedly in favour of shortening the duration of Parliament, and you must make up your mind to see the question carried in another year.
The speech on which this correspondence took place was the last of any importance made by Lord John during the session of 1833; for though the session continued for more than a month after the debate on Mr. Tennyson's motion, and though Lord John was constantly present in the House, he had no occasion during the remaining period to make any serious oratorical effort. Perhaps the state of his health made it impossible for him to do so. It had suffered from the constant work of a session, which had been protracted far beyond any previous experience ; and his friends were anxious that he should be released from his attendance in St. Stephen's."
The change which Lord John required he at once obtained ; and he managed in gaining it to derive fresh
Lord William wrote to him on August 23, ‘ I am sorry to hear that your health has suffered in carrying through your arduous task. But I hope it is no more than what fresh air and rest will restore.’