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a good effect on the state of parties in the country. We shall, however, have a little confusion at first.—Yours most truly,
ALTHORP." Althorp : Nov. 16, 1834.
Lord John soon came round to Lord Grey's opinion that the dismissal of the Ministry was no misfortune either for himself or his colleagues. To Mr. Moore, who told him how much he was rejoiced at the turn-out of the Ministry, and that, in his opinion, nothing could be more fortunately contrived for the future interests of the party than the moment and the manner of their ejection, Lord John replied—
Saltram : Dec. 6, 1834. My dear Moore, I was, like Mrs. Moore, a little at aloss to understand the cause of your great joy. But I must own that since I came into the country I have been so well received by a great many old friends who were not satisfied with the Ministers that I am inclined to think with you that the King's resolution was the most fortunate thing that could happen to us. But how is the country to be governed, by Tories, Whigs, or Radicals, for the next two years ? . . . However, I am only a passenger, as Tierney used to say, and as a passenger my position is as good as possible. I mean to go to Bowood on my
way to town in January or sooner.—yours truly, J. RUSSELL.
' The letter to which this is a reply is published in the Zife of Zord Spencer, p. 525. In it Lord John says, “I suppose everything is for the best in this world; otherwise the only good which I should see in this event would be that it saves me from being sadly pommelled by Peel and Stanley, to say nothing of O'Connell.”
ON the dismissal of the Whig Ministry in the autumn of 1834, the King sent for the Duke of Wellington. But the Duke, realising that the struggle of the future would have to be fought in the House of Commons, and thinking that the General in command should be present at the brunt of the engagement, advised his Majesty to send for Sir Robert Peel. Here, however, arose a fresh dilemma. Sir Robert, occupied with anything rather than a Ministerial crisis, was spending the winter in Italy, and more than three weeks passed before ‘the great man summoned from Rome to govern England' arrived in London. In the interval the whole conduct of the Executive Government was lodged in the hands of the Duke of Wellington ; and politicians were amazed and amused to see one man discharging the business which ordinarily occupied the attention of half a dozen Ministers. On Sir Robert Peel's arrival on December 9, this provisional system terminated. Sir Robert was enabled to form a Conservative Cabinet; and, on December 17, he startled his colleagues and the country by issuing a document known in history as the Tamworth Manifesto, in which, avowing himself favourable to Reforms both in Church and State, he appealed to “a great and intelligent body' of electors to approve the principles on which his Ministry was founded. In the general election which ensued, the Conservatives gained a considerable number of seats. Lord Palmerston was defeated in Hampshire; and, though Lord John was re-elected for the Southern Division of Devonshire, he had the mortification of receiving a Conservative colleague. Nor was this circumstance due to any lack of vigour on his part. At the end of November he went down to Devonshire, and on
December 2 addressed a great meeting of his constituents at Totness. His speech was generally accepted as an excellent exposition of the views of the Whigs at the time : it was thought so successful that it was reprinted from the local papers and placarded throughout the county. It was Lord John's object to show that the position which the Conservatives were assuming as Reformers could not be reconciled with their past conduct. To do so he cast a retrospective glance at the policy of parties since 1828. He showed how his own action had compelled the Wellington Administration to consent to the repeal of the Test Acts.
But, gentlemen, I think you will agree with me that it was not the Duke of Wellington that repealed the Corporation and Test Acts. To mistake him for the person who repealed them was as if one were to mistake the governor who surrenders a town by capitulation for the general who takes it. In the next year the Duke of Wellington proposed another large measure in favour of religious liberty. . . . Although entirely approving his concession, I shall always lament that that concession had not been made sooner to justice rather than later to fear.
Lord John went on to show how the Duke had opposed the little measure of Reform he had himself introduced in 1830; and how his Grace had actually proposed himself to introduce a larger measure of Reform as the price of office in 1832. He showed how the Lords, under his guidance, had either amended or rejected many of the measures which the Ministry had been anxious to carry; and that any professions of Reform which the Tories might now make were wrung from them by the necessities of their position, and were not due to the sincerity of their convictions. The newspapers, indeed, reported that the Duke had seen a great bank director and a member for the City, and assured them that he was favourable to Reform.
I confess the interview puts me in mind of that scene in ‘Richard III.' when Richard, anxious to put the crown on his own head, is discovered standing between two clergymen, and when the Duke of Buckingham . . . pointing him out to the Lord Mayor, in the pious attitude in which he stands, exclaims—
‘There stands his Grace between two clergymen.’
Now it would not answer the purpose for any great encouragement of Reform if we were to see the Duke of Wellington so placed. But for the present purpose two bank directors will answer that end. His Grace is favourable to Reform : he must be favourable to Reform.
“There stands his Grace between two bank directors.”
The speech made a great impression. Lord Holland wrote to him, ‘Your admirable speech will do infinite good.’ Lord John's father said: “I have read your speech at Totness with much pleasure ; it is a straightforward, manly speech, and your hit at his Grace between two bank directors was very happy.' And Mr. Greville, who calls it in his diary a ‘very masterly performance,’ wrote to Lord Tavistock, “John's speech at Totness appears to me to have been one of the cleverest and most appropriate I ever read. . . Nothing could be more able than John's argument, or on the whole more forcible.”
The election resulted in Lord John's unopposed return, but it could not be described as a Whig victory. Some leading Tories in the county made a private suggestion that a contest might be avoided by each party returning "one member for the division. One of Lord John's leading supporters strongly recommended that this compromise should be accepted, and that the Whigs should thus avoid a contest, which would in any case be serious, and might possibly prove disastrous. This arrangement was consequently concluded. Mr. Bulteel, Lord Grey's son-in-law, retired, and Lord John was returned with a Tory colleague, the late Sir John Buller." The compromise enabled Lord John to return from Devonshire a little earlier than would otherwise have been possible. On January 2 I he was at Bowood, “highly pleased with the result of the election and with all that he had seen,' in Devonshire.
Lord John's presence, however, was necessary, not at Bowood but in London. Up to that time he had held an important but subordinate position in the Cabinet. Thereafter he was to be entrusted with the lead of the Whig party. The King, indeed, had declared that, in such a capacity, he would ‘cut a wretched figure.' The history of the next seventeen years was to supply the answer to the King's prediction.
Yet the King was not the only person who questioned the expediency of the arrangement. Lord John's father Wrote—
My dear John, From some passages in a letter, which you read to me yesterday, I conclude that your decision is made to take what is called the lead of the Opposition in the House of Commons. I most sincerely regret it, for I am quite convinced that neither your health nor strength of constitution is equal to this irksome and laborious task. You will have to conduct and keep in order a noisy and turbulent pack of hounds, which I think you will find it quite impossible to restrain. Reflect, that these are of all descriptions of parties, and shades of parties—Whigs, Moderates, Ultra-Whigs, Radicals, Ultra-Radicals, &c., &c., &c. How are all these to be managed 2 If you do (rashly as I think) undertake this difficult task, I trust they will at least give you a good second huntsman as whipper-in, to do all the dirty work, and undertake the laborious parts of the office. As your decision is now made, I imagine, all I can do is to enter my solemn protest against it. . . .-Ever your affectionate father, .* . B.
The anticipations of his father were in one sense fulfilled. Writing in his old age, Lord John said—
I never had greater difficulty than in leading the party which overthrew the Government of Sir Robert Peel."
And the difficulty which was thus experienced was inherent in the position. For, while Sir Robert Peel could not command
| a majority of the House of Commons, Lord John could not
bring a majority into line against him without combining
' Memorandum dictated to Lady Russell. Cf. Accollections and Suggestions, P. I34.