« EdellinenJatka »
Like or dislike, he does not care a jot :
Yet even discontent, though chilled, could admire.
But see our statesman when the steam is on,
But, if Lord John was cold and distant to his “tail, there was no better or brighter companion among the men whose conversation he relished and whose company he loved. And even those who differed from him in politics admitted that the gatherings at Grillion's were hardly complete unless the leader of the Whig party was among them."
* Sir Philip Egerton's History of Grillion's contains one or two references to Lord John. Thus, on a Wednesday evening in 1837—a day on which Colonel Thomson had made a formal attack on the Horse Guards, moving that “the government of the army as at present constituted is against law,’ and had failed to obtain a seconder—the annals of the club relate (April 5, 1837): ‘Be it remembered that, on this day, immediately after dinner, Sir Robert Inglis proposed the toast of “Church and King,” and was seconded by Lord John Russell ; the necessity of a seconder having been clearly shown in a previous debate in the House of Commons. On this auspicious event, Sir Robert Inglis called for, and bound himself to drink, a second bottle of port.” A few meetings afterwards the club decided on celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary by a jubilee dinner (which was ultimately postponed indefinitely in consequence of the King's death). The members present promised many choice dainties for the feast—old wine, fat venison, and other luxuries. But Lord John made the best promise of all—an adjournment of the House of Commons. At these delightful dinners, where sun and good-humour prevailed under the genial sway of Sir Thomas Acland, who, nearly forty years before, had been Lord John's schoolfellow at Sunbury, Lord John and Lord Stanley maintained the warm friendship which they had formed as colleagues in the Administration of Lord Grey. And perhaps, in 1838, though they sat on opposite sides of the table, there were no better friends in the House of Commons. On one occasion in that year, when the House was weary with some difficult detail, Lord Stanley threw a slip of paper across the table to Lord John, “If you will put it off for three days, Sir Y. Z. has great hopes of an inspiration. It is the only chance I see.—STANLEY. . . . ' The Sir Y. Z.'s on either side of the House, equally innocent of inspiration, were
VOL. I. X
The ordinary embarrassments of a session were increased in 1838 by the course of events in Canada and the conduct of Lord Durham. It will be recollected that Lord Durham had been sent to the colony armed with special and unusual powers. The choice was, in one sense, fortunate. Lord Durham enjoyed the confidence of extreme Liberals, and they were consequently ready to trust him with an authority which they would not readily have conceded to other men. But it was, in another sense, unfortunate. Lord Melbourne underrated Lord Durham's ability, distrusted his judgment, and disliked his views. And Lord Durham himself, before he left England, contrived to give strong proofs of his indiscretion. Lord Melbourne, writing on the 16th of April, said—
The fact is that this mission is the greatest scrape we have yet got into, and the greatest blunder we have committed.
Lord Durham's indiscretion unhappily did not cease with his departure. On his arrival in Canada he dismissed his predecessor's Council, appointed one composed of his own officers, and persuaded it to issue an ordinance directing that eight Canadians should be transported to Bermuda, and that fifteen others, who had left the colony, should suffer death if they returned to it. He accompanied it with a proclamation conceding a general amnesty to all Canadians except these twenty-three.
News of these proceedings reached England before Parliament was prorogued. Lord Durham's conduct was denounced as illegal in both Houses of Parliament. Lord Brougham introduced and carried a measure to indemnify Lord Durham from the consequences of his actions. Lord
not likely to enter into the sun which their leaders were making at their expense. But little anecdotes of this kind will at least show the relations which existed between the foremost men on the front benches. And, at the very end of the session, Lord Stanley wrote to Lady J. Russell, ‘Pray tell Lord John that I wish with all my heart that he could have made up his mind to settle all the Irish questions this year. He shall have all the help we can give him to settle the only one that remains on Monday. But, if Ministers will put off the prorogation till the end of August, how can they expect that even their best friends will remain in London : I am sure I would not if Z could help it, nor would you return in October, would Jou?” .
Melbourne and Lord Glenelg made only a feeble defence of their agent, and promised to disallow the ordinance which he had issued. Lord Brougham's Bill reached the Commons in the closing days of a protracted session. The prorogation was too near, the attendance was too small, to make it possible to convert it into a declaratory Act explaining what the objects of Parliament had been ; and, as one part of Lord Durham's ordinance, the transportation of criminals to Bermuda, was clearly illegal, Lord John determined to accept the measure. But in doing so he at least showed a capacity to rise to the responsibilities of his position, and a reluctance to abandon an agent placed in a difficult situation. Speaking with great force and clearness, he asserted that Parliament had intended to invest the Governor of Lower Canada with a dictatorship; that the ordinance which Lord Durham had issued, except in a trifling detail, was legal; and that it was impossible to determine its expediency because Parliament was not fully aware of the circumstances under which it had been framed.
I ask you to pass this Bill of Indemnity, telling you that I shall be prepared when the time comes, not indeed to say that the terms or words of the ordinances passed by the Earl of Durham are altogether to be justified, but that, looking at his conduct as a whole, I shall be ready to take part with him. I shall be ready to bear my share of any responsibility which is to be incurred in these difficult circumstances."
This manly language, so becoming a Minister of the Crown, excited unbounded admiration at the time, and the Speaker hurriedly wrote Lord John the following note on the first scrap of paper that came into his hands – Arizate]
You have done two things. You have made the best speech I ever heard you make, and worthy of a Minister in such difficult circumstances. You have done more than I thought possible to extricate Lord Melbourne from a difficulty of the most painful and serious character ; for I never could see how he could reconcile himself to remain in office when he could not defend or protect a person in so very arduous a situation as Lord Durham.
* Compressed from Hansard, xliv. 1226.
Irritated at the attack which had been made upon him, and at his own virtual abandonment by the Prime Minister and Colonial Secretary, Lord Durham resolved to come home. But in doing so he thus expressed himself on October 12 to Lord John :—
I do not conceal from you that my feelings have been deeply wounded by the conduct of the Ministry. From you, however, and you alone of them all, have I received any cordial support personally ; and I feel, as I have told you in a former letter, very grateful to you."
But, though Lord John's manly conduct had partly restored the credit of the Ministry, he felt that the circumstances of the case made it essential to reconstruct the Administration, and to reassemble Parliament in the autumn. But he shall tell his own story:—
Brighton : October 18, 1838.
My dear Melbourne,—Your letter received this morning contains very important intelligence : that of the illness and approaching end of poor Newport . . . . I have thought for some time that the proper successor to Newport would be Glenelg. To give him a pension on the ground referred to in the Act of Parliament, that he is unable to maintain his rank, you having yourself given him a peerage, seems to me so indefensible as to be impossible. This office gives him a certainty, a secure and honourable retreat ; and his unimpeachable integrity fits him for the situation. Such a step appears requisite at the present moment. The Speaker, Ebrington, and Ellice all say that the opinion of our party is that there must be some change in the Aersonnel of the Cabinet. For my part, I can only say I should like to see Morpeth in the Cabinet: and that I never felt in such embarrassment as when last year I had to defend the Canada papers. What Peel said of them was in many instances indisputably true ; and one had only to revert to the bad plea that preceding Tory Governments had done much worse. I am sorry to say this, or to put Glenelg in a painful position, especially at this moment.” But some change is, I
believe, essential. . . .-Yours ever, J. R.
Lord John was always generous. He said to Lord Melbourne (October 25), ‘I have answered Durham's letter, merely saying that, if I had been in the Lords, 1 should have done no better than my colleagues there.”
* Lord Glenelg had just lost his brother, Sir Robert Grant.
Brighton: October 22, 1838.
My dear Melbourne,—I have been reading Durham's despatches very attentively, and there is one conclusion to which they clearly lead me. It is that, whether he is induced to stay or another person is appointed, it is necessary that Parliament should be assembled before Christmas.
1. You will observe that he refuses altogether to accept and exercise the power which we authorised and advised him to exercise. He proposes to leave the whole of the persons engaged in the late insurrection at large, subject only to the fear of a trial by jury, which he says “exists only to defeat the ends of justice, and to provoke the righteous scorn and indignation of the community.’ He is ready to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act only in case of ‘notorious ' preparations for insurrection. He tells you he has no reliance on the Government, but must look to the Opposition likewise for a construction of any Act he may pass. In short, he decides, I will not say wilfully, but deliberately, to abridge his power, and leave himself as little means as possible of sustaining the Queen's authority.
2. These doubts and uncertainties have been fairly raised by the conduct of the House of Lords, and of Sir W. Follett in the House of Commons. The Ministry and Lord Durham together might have set them at nought, but the Ministry alone has not force enough to do so.
3. They have been spread throughout the colony, not only by the report of the debates, but by the declaration of Lord Durham that his authority was so weakened that he must resign. . . .
4. Both Lord Durham's accounts and those of Mr. Fox speak of fresh preparations for revolt—revolt against an abdicating Governor, and a shaken authority.
All these circumstances together convince me that it is absolutely necessary to call upon Parliament to put some clear and defined sense upon the Act they have passed, to say that the Governor shall have power with his Council to pass laws for keeping suspected persons in custody, and for bringing before an impartial tribunal traitors or murderers, or he shall not. If they confirm the requisite powers, the mischief of Lord Brougham's Bill will be repaired. If they do not, let them be responsible for the refusal and its consequences. . . .-Yours truly,
Brighton : October 25, 1838. My dear Melbourne,—I have received Glenelg's despatch. It is mere verbiage, proposing nothing, asking nothing, deciding nothing,