Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

uncertain whether he would return for them or not. For at Minto there was a fresh centre both for his hopes and for his fears. Lady Fanny Elliot, Lord Minto's second daughter, had seen only half as many summers as he numbered years; she was young enough, as the phrase goes, to be his child; and, while he felt that in her society he might find solace for his sorrows, he dared not think that one so young would throw herself away ‘on a person of broken spirits, and worn out by time and trouble.’ His own lot was ‘constant and laborious attention to public business, and a wretched sense of misery, which even the children can never long drive away.' And so, without a murmur, and a prayer that his life might not be long, he accepted his “duty' and his ‘portion, and bade Miss Lister join him with the children at Woburn.

What he felt and what he was, may perhaps be inferred from Miss Lister's answer :—

September 9, 1840.

My dear Lord John, Sad as your letters are, it is still a relief to have them. I wil/hope for you though you cannot for yourself. At least in one way you must be happy. Such conduct and feeling as yours must meet with a reward even in this world. I cannot thank you as I wish and feel for all you are with regard to the children, for all you have been to them. I never can think of it without tears of gratitude. We all feel it, we often talk of it together. Sometimes, because I cannot speak of it to you, I feel as if you must think us ungrateful or unmindful of it. You have been more than even an own father could have been. And by your example—an example of all that is good and pure and great in mind and conduct—you are doing for them, unconsciously, more than any other teaching can do. In what I say now I am only expressing what my brother and Theresa have often expressed to me. It is only that I feel I may say it now ; and I hope that you will find comfort in the consciousness of all you are to those who have you alone to look to . . . .

—Your affectionate,
H. LISTER.

There were, moreover, public reasons of high importance for Lord John's immediate return to London. Though the Cabinet was already scattered, events were marching with railway speed ; and the country was suddenly awakened to the knowledge that war, and the worst of all wars, war with France, was not merely probable but imminent. The condition of the Ottoman Empire has been the unhappy cause of much evil during the present century; and from 1833 to 1839 the Government of the Porte was threatened with a serious danger. In the first of these years the army of Mehemet Ali, the Pasha of Egypt, had conquered Syria, entered Asia Minor, and had only been arrested in its advance on the Bosphorus by the intervention of Russia. In the last of them a Turkish army had been completely defeated by an Egyptian force under Ibrahim; the Turkish fleet had been carried into Alexandria by its admiral; and the Sultan had died—perhaps been murdered—in the crisis. These events led to the negotiations which ultimately culminated in the famous treaty of July 15, 1840, under which four of the great European powers, Great Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia, undertook to settle the terms on which hostilities between Egyptians and Turks should cease, and to use force to give effect to them. France, which was disposed to regard the cause of Mehemet with sympathy, was left out of the arrangement. This treaty produced some differences in the Whig Cabinet. Its conclusion was opposed by Lord Holland and Lord Clarendon; and perhaps it would never have been signed at all if Lord Palmerston had not made his own continuance in office dependent on its signature, and if Lord John' had not warmly supported the Foreign Minister. France naturally resented the isolation to which the Treaty of July condemned her. Her King, her statesmen, and her journals angrily talked of war, and vigorous efforts were made to strengthen the French fleet. Under these circumstances the Prime Minister asked Lord John to confer with the Duke of Wellington on the subject of military force in the Mediterranean. The Duke approved the course, which Lord John proposed to take, of strengthening the British garrisons by two regiments. “But then,' he said, ‘you must keep on an equality, or nearly on an equality, by sea. . . . However, the great object is to keep the peace of the world.’ This object, the Duke thought, could best be gained by asking the French for a contre-projet. ‘If their proposal agrees nearly with yours, then you may understand one another ; if, on the other hand, they refuse any contre-projet, it is they who break up the alliance, and not you.'" One portion of the Duke's advice was adopted. Lord Minto and Lord Palmerston busied themselves with strengthening the Mediterranean fleet. But these preparations for war only increased the general alarm. Before Lord John left London, he received through the Duke of Bedford the following letter from Mr. Ellice:—

* Lord Palmerston himself wrote on December 4, 1840, to Lord John : ‘I think you must feel gratified at recollecting that it was your support of the Treaty of July which chiefly induced the Cabinet to adopt it.’ Vide infra, p. 362.

I came away very unhappy at the present aspect of public affairs . . . . both with regard to its own merits and its bearing on our connection with France . . . . Now, when there is no longer a Turkish Empire, we engage in a crusade to destroy the remaining half of the Mussulman power. Of course this suits Russia, who cares little which part is first destroyed, so that the whole may be in the end scattered to the winds. [As for France] we have the first Government in France honest to an English alliance . . . . and this is the moment we choose for casting them off and re-attaching ourselves to the Holy Alliance.

And, soon after his arrival at Minto, Lord John received a much more important document forwarded to him by his brother :— Wiseton : August 25, 1840.

My dear Tavistock,--I am very glad you are pleased and satisfied with the state of our foreign affairs. It is a good deal more than I am. I have been and am fully prepared to support Melbourne's Government to any length short of absolute criminality. But I should consider myself atrociously criminal if I supported them in any war which was not strictly and absolutely necessary. Now no war for the purpose of driving the Egyptians out of Syria can be anything like necessary. I am glad, however, that you are satisfied, because I feel almost confident you would not be satisfied unless Palmerston had proved to you that there was no danger of war . . . . Still I cannot imagine what can have induced Palmerston to abandon the French alliance, by which we have hitherto preserved the peace of

" From a memorandum of the conversation made by Lord John.

Europe, and to connect us with the Holy Alliance . . . . I am no advocate for truckling to France ; but surely there is no truckling in keeping friends with the nation in Europe most fitted to be our friends by situation, institutions, and civilisation.—Yours most truly, SPENCER."

Ruminating over this letter from the man whose judgment he valued above that of any other of his contemporaries, Lord John turned from Minto and pleasure, and came to London and duty. He dined at Holland House on September 8, meeting Lord Clarendon and M. Guizot, and the conversation at that table was not likely to diminish the impression which Lord Spencer's letter had already made. He found, too, that Lord Melbourne himself shared his own apprehensions, and declared that “he could neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, so great was his disturbance.’”

It was under these circumstances that Lord John determined on making a great effort to terminate an embarrassing crisis; and, after much consideration, he drew up a memorandum, which he sent to the Prime Minister from Windsor, where he had gone in obedience to the Queen's commands:–

Windsor Castle : September 10, 1840.

My dear Melbourne,—I send you an outline of the propositions I have to make.

I have felt for a long time the serious responsibility we incur. The result of various and many reflections I now send you : and if they are not adopted I do not feel justified in taking my share of responsibility any longer.—Yours truly, J. RUSSELL.

The enclosure was as follows:— September 10, 1840.

In the present state of things great danger of European war exists. Two of the chances in our favour have been decided by events against us. Mehemet Ali has refused the offer of the allies : the Syrian revolt has been quelled.

With respect to the future, if we confine ourselves to blockade, and the occupation of points on the coast by a few hundred marines, success must be doubtful, and is at all events not likely to be speedy. If we adopt stronger measures, . . . . we excite the interference of France. In order to preserve the general peace, therefore, I propose— 1. That some person of distinguished military or naval character should be sent on a special mission to Constantinople, and be instructed to give the most temperate advice to the Sultan, and have power to stop any needless effusion of blood on the coast of Syria. 2. That M. Guizot should be informed that it is the opinion of her Majesty's Government that hostilities cannot be long carried on upon the coast of Syria, or assume a grave character either in Syria or Egypt, without inviting France to concert measures with the other powers calculated to preserve the peace of Europe. That the allied powers cannot abandon the Treaty of July ; that, on the other hand, France cannot be expected to join in that treaty. But that a cessation of hostilities might take place under a provisional arrangement as between Holland and Belgium after the capture of Antwerp. That, if France be willing to concur in the principle of such an arrangement, it will be desirable that a proposition of this nature should be prepared for the consideration of the four powers, parties to the Treaty of July. It was the custom of Lord Melbourne to do nothing in difficulty. He hesitated to adopt Lord John's proposal.

* This, of course, is the letter referred to in Greville, part 2, vol. i. p. 304. Mr. Greville, however, evidently did not know how very strong Lord Spencer's

expressions were. * /bid. 303.

Woburn Abbey: September 15, 1840.

My dear Melbourne,—I find my brother is clearly of opinion that I ought not to yield my opinion on so vital a matter.

I wish, therefore, you would prepare the Queen for my resignation.—Yours truly, J. RUSSELL.

But Lord Melbourne, with the fear of the Foreign Secretary, who the year before had become his brother-in-law, before his eyes, did not yield ; and wrote deprecating a step which would break up the Government. Lord John replied—

Woburn Abbey: September 17, 1840.

My dear Melbourne,—I agree with you in the necessity of well considering any proposal which may have the effect of breaking up the Government. But, in the first place, I know not why what I propose should do so, unless it is to be laid down that one member of the Cabinet is to conduct matters simply as he pleases without

« EdellinenJatka »