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IN May 1839 it was clear that a necessity existed for strengthening the Administration ; but it was also evident that the Ministry could not venture to risk the re-elections which its reconstruction would involve. In August changes were easier than they had appeared in May: Sir John Newport's retirement made a vacancy in his office, and Mr. Spring Rice became Lord Monteagle and Controller of the Exchequer. The Governorship of Canada, which was refused by Lord Clarendon and Lord Dunfermline, was conferred on Mr. Poulett Thomson ; and two younger men, Mr. Francis Baring and Mr. Labouchere, were promoted, in succession to Mr. Spring Rice and Mr. Thomson to the Cabinet.
These changes did not effect much. It was gradually becoming plain that Lord Normanby was not much more efficient as Colonial Minister than Lord Glenelg ; and that it was requisite to place the only strong man in the Cabinet in the post of difficulty and danger. Lord John wrote to Lord Melbourne on July 16–
If you could manage it, giving Normanby the Admiralty, Minto the Home Office, and me the Colonial would improve the Ministry.
And again on the 19th–
No one in these days seems disposed to make any sacrifice for the general advantage. Thomson wants to have a peerage before he consents to go to Canada. This will not do. Minto's reply puts an end to that notion [i.e. the notion of Lord Minto taking the Home Office]. Still I believe it will be best that Normanby should change places with me. Without Labouchere I fear he would be at a loss. The Home Office is always more immediately under your control, and nothing can be done there without your consent.
The change thus suggested was practically announced at the end of the session, and it led, indirectly, to another alteration of importance. During the previous year Lord Howick had differed from his colleagues on many questions of importance. He shared his father's opinions, and Lord Grey disapproved much that Lord Melbourne was doing. He had been on the eve of retiring from the Cabinet on Sir H. Fleetwood's motion. He had disliked the Colonial policy of the Government under Lord Glenelg. He disliked still more the Colonial policy of Lord Normanby. In the course of July, Lord Duncannon, who was in intimate communication with Lord Melbourne and Lord John, suggested that, among other alterations, Lord Howick should be promoted to the Post Office and called to the House of Lords. In the beginning of August, Lord John communicated this proposal to Lord Howick himself, who expressed himself disinclined to leave the House of Commons, but added that he presumed that the offer was part of some larger arrangement with which he was unacquainted. Informed for the first time of the proposed appointment of Mr. Poulett Thomson to Canada and of Lord Normanby to the Home Office, he complained of Lord Melbourne's want of confidence in concealing these arrangements from him. He considered that the character of the Administration was changed, and not improved, by these appointments; and he doubted, for many reasons, the expediency of Lord Normanby's appointment to the Home Office; and the possibility of Lord John undertaking the complicated duties of the Colonial Department while discharging the business of a leader of the House of Commons. So thinking, he made up his mind to retire,' and, though Lord John personally endeavoured to shake his conclusion, he failed to make any impression on him. With Lord Howick, his brother-in-law, Mr. Charles Wood, left the Administration.
The Prime Minister took Lord Howick's resignation with easy indifference. Lord John, on the contrary, was un
Lord Howick's reasons for resigning have never previously been stated.
affectedly sorry at his separation from an old colleague. He told Lord Melbourne, on the 29th of August, that he thought that Lord Howick should have heard earlier about Mr Thomson's appointment, and that he had been under the impression that he knew it. He added on the 31st that he could not say how sorry he was about Howick, and that he should try to keep friends with him. Regret, however, could not repair the evil. All that the Ministry could do was to fill up the vacant places as well as they could ; and, with Lord John's consent, the office of Secretary at War was conferred on Mr. Macaulay, while Lord Clarendon was simultaneously admitted to the Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal.
Before these arrangements were concluded Lord John had formally entered on his new duties at the Colonial Office. A Secretary of State is theoretically able to discharge the duties of his brother Secretaries, and the change involved neither re-election nor any more formal proceeding than walking into the Colonial Office, carrying with him the seals he had held as Home Secretary. The Under-Secretaryship of the Colonies was filled at that time by Sir James Stephen, one of the most remarkable men who have held high permanent office under the Crown ; while Sir Henry Taylor, the author of ‘Philip van Artevelde,' was serving in the ranks of the department. However distant and cold Lord John may have been with his supporters, he was always on easy terms with men of capacity. Sir H. Taylor wrote to Mr. Edward Villiers—
, You once asked me how Stephen and I liked Lord John's way of doing business. Very much. Very different from anything before him."
Sir H. Taylor's Autobiography, i. 265. Sir J. Stephen wrote to Lord John in December, 1839, with reference to an attack of Mr. Croker's in the Quarterly : ‘I must be prepared to pay the penalties for the situation I hold. As to such as are exacted of me by the Quarterly A'eview, I am not very anxious about then. It is utterly idle to attempt, in public life, to overtake calumny even when a man holds a substantial position with a right of self-defence. When, as in my case, the nature of his office is such as to make self-vindication impossible, without a direct breach of honour to those whom one serves, all that can be done is to expel from the memory, or at least from the recollection, the fact that such censures are
VOL. I. Z
Writing in 1840, Lady Holland said—
You bewitch by your frankness and courtesy several Tories who go officially to you. For instance, Lord Harewood declares he cannot trust himself, as he returns from each interview so won, that he fears he will not be able to continue his hostility. You judged well in your choice of an office, unless it half kills you from fatigue.
Mr. Burge, the agent for Jamaica, thus testified to Lord John's capacity :—
Lord John Russell is by far the best Secretary of State we ever had to deal with."
Mr. Greville wrote in stronger language:–
His reputation in his office is immense, where all his subordinates admit that colonial affairs were never so well administered.”
Mr. Ellice said in the House of Commons in 1845–
It is scarcely possible to speak with temper of the weak and inconsistent measures of the department from the very outset of this transaction. The only lucid interval in the management appears to have been when my noble friend the member for the City of London held the seals. He dealt with the strange treaty of Waitangi and with the concerns of the New Zealand Company according to the plain rules of common sense.”
Mr. Ellice was a friend and a Whig. But, in the same debate, Mr. Colquhoun, the member for Newcastle-underLyme, a Conservative and an opponent, said—
I have looked through the colonial despatches for a long series of years. I have had access, of which I have taken advantage, to the opinions and information of parties having a personal stake in several of our colonies. Both sources have led me to this opinion, that there has been no period during the last quarter of a century in which the affairs of the Colonial department have been conducted with greater vigour, higher administrative wisdom and justice, than during the administration of the noble Lord the member for the City of London. It is the essence of our colonial system that the Secretary of State is in his administration supreme. What he does, he does unchecked by public opinion. . . . And, if we are to have a despotism, I am not sure that we can find one better fitted for such power than the noble Lord opposite. . . . He possesses great talents; a judgment clear, prompt, and undisturbed by passion ; a will which is inflexible ; an eye quick to discern the evil; a genius ready to apply the remedy."
published. Or, if the remembrance of them will force itself on the mind, to remember also how utterly insignificant to society at large, with very few exceptions, each component member of society is. The difficulty of achieving permanent same is counterpoised by a corresponding difficulty in attaining to permanent or wide-spread ignominy. In such cases as this, the accuser, the accused, and the accusation are all travelling with railway speed to oblivion.”
' Greville, .js.emoirs, 2nd series, i. 255.
* /hid. p. 293.
* Asansard, lxxxi. S64. Mr. Ellice is better known as ‘Bear Ellice.”
Lord John himself wrote—
I soon became interested in colonial affairs.
New Zealand dates its origin as a colony from his tenure of the Colonial Office, and the colonists were assured that they might depend on the protection of the Crown.
I gave still stronger assurances to the British Provinces of North America, pledging to them the word of the Queen that, so long as they desired to remain her subjects, they should receive the support of the Crown and be defended as a part of the British dominions.
He held the same high language in other quarters :
During my tenure of the Colonial Office, a gentleman attached to the French Government called upon me. He asked me how much of Australia was claimed as the dominion of Great Britain. I answered ‘The whole;’ and with that answer he went away.”
And in his great speech on colonial policy in 1850, which was subsequently republished as a pamphlet, in which he reviewed the whole history of the acquisition, regulation, and expansion of the colonial empire, he used equally firm language :
I consider it to be our bounden duty to maintain the colonies which have been placed under our charge. I think we cannot get rid of the obligation and responsibility to govern these colonies for
" Hansard, lxxxi. 903. * A'eco/sections and Suggestions, 198–203. It ought perhaps to be added that Mr. Rusden, History of Australia, ii. 5, note, says that the claim had been made in fact by Lord Liverpool's Administration, and that all that Lord John did was to make it in words.