« EdellinenJatka »
country to go through with it; and then I shall have done mischief by calling on them.
I saw Mr. Bright at one of the stations. He spoke much of the enthusiasm. God save and preserve us all. I hope to hear good accounts of you and Toza.'
He added the next day from Osborne—
Well, I am here, and have seen her Majesty. It is proposed to me to form a Government; and nothing can be more gracious than the manner in which this has been done. Likewise, Sir Robert Peel has placed his views on paper, and they are such as very much to facilitate my task.
Can I do so wild a thing? For this purpose, and to know whether it is wild or not, I must consult my friends, and especially Lansdowne. Here end politics. I hope you have not suffered from anxiety and the desolation of our domestic prospects.
Lady John replied on the 13th–
I have just read your note which I so anxiously expected from Osborne House. No, my dearest, it is not a wild thing. It is a great duty which you will nobly perform ; and, with all my regrets— with the conviction that private happiness to the degree we have enjoyed it is at an end if you are Prime Minister—still I sincerely hope that no timid friend will dissuade you from at least trying what you have yourself called upon the country to help you in. If I liked it better, I should feel less certain that it was a duty. If you had not written that letter you might perhaps have made an honourable escape; but now I see none.
She added on the 14th–
I am as eager and anxious lying here on my sofa—a broken-down, useless bit of rubbish—as if I were well and strong, and in the midst of the turmoil. And I am proud to find that even the prospect of what you too truly call the “desolation of our domestic prospects,’ though the words go to my very heart of hearts, cannot shake my wish that you should make the attempt. My mind is made up. . . . My ambition is that you should be the head of the most moral and religious government the country has ever had.
Lord John's friends, who met at Chesham Place on the 12th of December, were unanimous in thinking that nothing
The pet name for his youngest daughter (afterwards Lady Victoria Villiers), whom he had left with a bad cough.
could justify the formation of a Whig Government except the avowed inability of Sir Robert Peel to carry on the Administration, and the unwillingness of his colleagues, who differed from him, to form a Protectionist Cabinet. Lord John accompanied by Lord Lansdowne explained on the 14th this decision to the Queen, who had now returned to Windsor. The Queen, after communicating with Sir Robert, was able to convey to Lord John satisfactory assurances on both these points, as well as a promise of Sir Robert's co-operation ‘in effecting a just and comprehensive settlement of the question at issue.' Lord John was naturally encouraged by this communication. The few friends whom he had collected at Chesham Place agreed by nine votes to five to go on with the formation of a Ministry; and the minority, which comprised Lord Lansdowne, Lord Clarendon, Lord Auckland, Lord Monteagle, and the Duke of Bedford, reluctantly yielded their opinion to the majority. Lord John wrote to his wife on the 18th—
I believe—indeed, I think it certain—that we shall come into office after all. Sir Robert Peel refuses to pledge himself to anything, but gives the fairest assurance of general support on the subject of the Corn Laws. We have had a meeting here, and I am going to Windsor Castle again to-day. The whole affair is so harassing, that I know not what will become of me.
But relief was nearer than he thought. He added the next day—
It is all at an end. Howick would not serve with Lord Palmerston as Foreign Secretary, and it was impossible for me to go on unless I had both. I am very happy . . . at the result. I think that for the present it will tend much to our happiness; and power may come, some day or other, in a less odious shape.
Lord Grey was not in London when Lord John held the first meeting of his friends at Chesham Place. But he arrived in time to be present on the 15th. His arrival introduced difficulty. Lord John wrote to Lady John on the 15th–
My brother [the Duke] said as he went away [on the 12th], ‘It is well Howick was not here, for we should have had a difference of
opinion ; and so it has turned out. He had not been in my room five minutes before he declared a strong difference of opinion.
Lord Grey had, in fact, desired a more uncompromising policy than Lord John was himself, at first, inclined to.
Belgrave Square : December 16, 1845.
My dear Lord John, I cannot say how much I rejoiced at what was settled to-day. I fear I urged with undue vehemence yesterday my objections to the different course which was then talked of; if so, pray excuse me, as I was, I confess, as much surprised as grieved to find that you were thinking of any half measure. *
I anticipate that the result of what you have now done will be that you will be called upon to form an Administration, and the object of my now writing to you is most earnestly to press upon you the extreme importance of the utmost caution in the steps you take for that purpose. If you succeed in making the best possible arrangement which the materials at your command admit of, you still will have a severe and doubtful battle to fight; and I am sure you cannot afford to lose any strength by not filling your offices as well as you can. You, therefore, really owe it to the cause, to yourself, and to your friends, to allow no deference for the personal objects of others to interfere with your making the arrangement best calculated to secure for your Government the largest possible measure of public confidence and support. I shall not trouble you with any uncalledfor and officious advice as to particular appointments : it is for you, and for you only, to determine how the parts are to be cast, and it is only when you have done so that those whom you ask to join you will have the right of desiring to know the whole arrangement, and of considering whether it is one in which they can concur. But, without obtruding upon you impertinent advice, I hope you will allow me to express my conviction that you ought, above all things, to guard against giving to the public an impression that your Administration is a mere revival, with as little alteration as possible, of the last Whig Government. That Government had, justly or unjustly, totally lost the confidence of the public, and had become so unpopular that even now the recollection of it is one of the chief difficulties with which you have to deal. With respect to myself, I am anxious to add that, if you can dispense with my services in the new Administration, you would do me a real favour. . . . I am aware, however, that if you do make a Government, it is not improbable that you may wish me to take a share of the difficulty and responsibility ; and if you do, I certainly should feel it my duty not to refuse, provided in the first place that the Administration was constituted upon the principle I have endeavoured to describe as regards the assignment of offices to particular individuals, and in the next place that it boldly avowed as the guide of its policy what I think the only principles upon which the government of this country can now be usefully conducted. The two fundamental principles to which I think we ought to declare our adherence are : first, that the whole principle of what is called ‘protection' is essentially vicious and unjust, and that . . . it will be our object to get rid of all custom-house duties except those imposed exclusively with a view to revenue. . . The other principle, on which I lay equal stress, is that of establishing complete religious equality in Ireland. . . . I have no objection (quite the contrary) to its being at the same time stated that we are determined to maintain both the Union and the authority of the law by the very strongest means if necessary ; but, believing as I do Ireland to be in a most critical condition, I think it quite indispensable that we should distinctly avow our intention of adopting that policy by which alone I am convinced that it can be saved. I have thought it right thus early to place before you my views on the great question of the day, because having once experienced the misery of belonging to an Administration not agreed upon fundamental principles of policy. . . . I have long made a firm resolution that no consideration should ever again induce me to take office unless as the member of an Administration cordially united and agreed upon the great public principles by which their policy is to be governed, and which should, in the first instance, be so clearly ascertained as not to admit of any subsequent doubt. . . .-Believe me, yours very truly, GREY. Lord Grey's letter naturally necessitated further communication. It was easy enough in the abstract to demand the abolition of all protective duties, and complete religious equality in Ireland. But in practice both conditions raised many points for consideration and discussion. Was it indispensable in the interests of Free Trade to embark on the difficult task of equalising the duties on sugar, or would a measure moving in that direction satisfy Lord Grey? Would, again, complete religious equality in Ireland be obtained by the concurrent endowment of other religions, or could it only be secured by the disendowment of the Established Church? On both these points Lord John communicated with Lord Grey, and on both of them Lord Grey and he frankly stated their own views. Encouraged in this way to proceed, Lord John showed to Lord Grey the arrangements which he proposed to make for the disposition of offices, and Lord Grey at once objected to a scheme which involved Lord Palmerston's return to the Foreign Office. The rest of the story will best be told by the correspondence. C[arlton) Tserrace]: December 19, 1845.
My dear John Russell,—I have just received your note. . . . Of course I need not say that the new objection which . . . has been urged against my returning to the Foreign Office renders it still more impossible than it was before for me to take any other office, and by so doing to acquiesce in objections which I believe to be utterly unfounded. But I see no reason why my not being in your Cabinet should prevent you from forming your Government, and I still repeat to you to-day the opinion which I expressed to you yesterday that you ought to undertake the commission which the Queen has proposed to
you.-Yours sincerely, PALMERSTON. Lord John Russell.
Belgrave Square : Friday night, December 19, 1845.
My dear Lord John, As I understand that partly in consequence of what passed between us to-day you have decided upon giving up the commission to form a Government entrusted to you by her Majesty, I think it right to state to you in writing the reasons I have already verbally communicated to you which compelled me very reluctantly to decline taking a part in the Administration as you had intended to construct it.
. . . It was not without a good deal of difficulty, arising from my opinions upon great public questions, that I could agree to belong to the proposed Government; but having stated to you that difficulty, and having clearly explained to you my views upon the questions alluded to, I was ready, as I said, to take office if such should still be your wish, provided that in filling up the various situations at your disposal you would adopt the principle laid down in my letter of the 16th, and “allow no deference for the personal objects of others to interfere with your making the arrangement best calculated to secure for your Government the largest possible measure of public confidence and support.' . . . Having distinctly stated to you that such were my views before you undertook the formation of a Government, I naturally to-day, when you proposed to me to accept the office you designed