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through February these measures made substantial progress; but it gradually became evident that many persons of influence were alarmed at the prospect which one of them held out. It was feared, and there were some members of the Cabinet who shared the apprehension, that the proprietors of Ireland would be irretrievably ruined if the ablebodied poor were given a distinct claim for relief; and it was argued that Lord John himself, and the authorities on whom he chiefly relied, had frequently concurred in denouncing the policy of relieving able-bodied poor outside the workhouse. A very large number of peers and members of Parliament waited on Lord John to protest against the scheme; and, though Lord John at once replied to their arguments, he was moved by the significance of the demonstration to go over the whole ground afresh in the House of Commons. Speaking, on March 12, upon a motion to go into committee on the Relief Bill, he carefully recapitulated the measures which the Government had refused to take, and defended those which it had taken. He frankly admitted that the employment of the people on the relief works had been very great, had been unusual, and had produced many embarrassments. But on looking back at these proceedings he declared his conviction that, if this employment had not been given, many of these persons would have died from utter want of the means of procuring food. The urgency of the crisis, in other words, justified the exceptional nature of the policy. It was utterly impossible, however, that such a state of things could be permitted to continue, and the Treasury had accordingly directed the gradual abandonment of the relief works, and 20 per cent of those employed were to be discharged on the 20th of March. No doubt many of these people would temporarily be supported by the relief committees which the Government proposed to establish, and to aid with public crisis. Future assistance to Ireland cannot be given in a form more useful and reproductive than to railways, though perhaps it would be prudent not to make a specific application to Parliament for that purpose, but simply for an extended grant to the Exchequer Loan Commissioners to use as they may think best.” The concluding words seem to show that Lord Clarendon was aware that the
policy of the Government, however beneficial, was open to the charge of inconsistency.
money in supporting. But the money of Great Britain could not be permanently applied to the support of the Irish poor ; there was no hope that charity alone would be enabled to relieve all the destitute ; and it was certain that there was no possibility of admitting the whole number to the workhouses. What then was to be done with the able-bodied poor of Ireland, whose food had failed, and who could never again subsist on the old conditions which had prevailed in the past? If the able-bodied were not to receive out-relief, what was to become of them P
The economical question still recurs, Who is to explain, or how is it to be explained, in what manner these destitute persons are to be maintained 2 I know no way in which it can be done, unless we resort to the measure before the House, guarded with all the cautions and by all the limitations which we can devise. If a person is starving, and he has recourse to the workhouse for relief, he will be admitted there, if there be room ; if not, the workhouse being full, he will receive relief out of doors. This is the proposition we make to the House : and, Sir, in making this proposition to the House, I can place it on very fair grounds. . . . In the first place, no person can accuse the Houses of Parliament, . . . no person, Sir, can accuse the people of Great Britain, of want of generosity or want of liberality in the present day of suffering. . . . In the next place, I say that what I propose to you as a permanent law for the relief of the poor in Ireland is a permanent law which in England we . . . have thought consistent with the fair regard that is due to property in this country. . . I was much concerned, in the year 1834, with the Bill for the amendment of the Poor Law. But I do not remember that, while we were reforming that law, the Government of the day ever contemplated that the starving able-bodied poor should not have a claim to relief. I believe that is necessary for the peace and security of this country. I believe that a similar law would be for the peace and security of
Lord John was determined to throw on the lard the duty of supporting the poor. In a memorandum of July 1847, written evidently for the Cabinet, after discussing schemes for emigration and public works, he went on— ‘I have always contended that public works and rates for poverty should be kept entirely distinct. • Here again we come to the question, How are rates to be levied ? “It is impossible to say that the land can support the people and pay
rent. “But in that case I think rent should be sacrificed. Proprietors and their
These few extracts give, of course, a very imperfect idea of what Mr. Stafford O'Brien called ‘the good feeling, the true dignity, the earnestness, and the calmness’ of Lord John's speech.
Lord Bessborough, writing from Ireland, said—
Everybody seems pleased with your speech on the Poor Law, and I am told that nothing could be better received than it was in the House.
Sir James Graham told Mr. Greville that
John Russell's speech on the Irish Poor Law was the best thing he had done since he was Minister, and proved his competence for his high office : that he viewed with the greatest alarm the measure itself, but that in the temper of the House of Commons and the country it was inevitable ; the Government could have done nothing but what they have ; and, having come to this resolution, nothing could exceed the skill and judgment with which John Russell had dealt with it ; and his speech had carried the question.
It was not, however, on Irish matters alone that Lord John was displaying his ascendency in debate. Only the day before that on which Mr. Greville had recorded Sir James Graham's opinion, he had written in his diary— o
The Government here are going on very well. Lord John speaks excellently : the Speaker says he never saw any Government do their business so well.
While a few days previously an older friend, writing of a speech which Lord John had made on the occupation of Cracow, said—
Sloperton, Chippenham : March 1847.
My dear Lord John, As you have no time to read letters, I will only say that in this last glorious burst of yours you have more than fulfilled all that one devoted friend of yours (writing then, for once, with the spirit of a true vases) foretold of your future course.
tenants have raised up, encouraged, and grown rich upon, a potato-fed population. Now that the question is between rent and sustenance, I think rent must give way, and the whole rental, if necessary, [be] given to support the people. Farmers will look after their own profits; they will remain the real proprietors, and then they will keep down pauperism for their own sakes.
“The solution is a terrible one; but, in some parts of the land, I believe it to be inevitable. ‘J. R.'
Of this I am proud—unspeakably proud. No answer to this necessary. My kindest remembrance to Lady John. How happy she must be ' '
Lord John replied—
March 8, 1847.
My dear Moore, I am very proud of your congratulations. It shows I have not turned quite ‘black and woolly already.' I hope you and Mrs. Moore are tolerably well.—Ever yours,
Thus the first few months of the session of 1847 saw Lord John rise to a higher level than he had ever attained. Though, as a Minister, he had many causes for anxiety in the state of affairs both abroad and at home, he had the satisfaction of reflecting that he had done his best in a crisis of unexampled difficulty; and he had the still greater satisfaction of perceiving that the wisdom of his measures was being justified by the result, and that the Irish famine, grievous though it still was, was assuming more manageable proportions. And, while the tension on public grounds was lessening, private anxiety was also passing away. Lady John was slowly recovering from her dangerous illness, and in the middle of April, at the end of the Easter holidays, was able to go down to Richmond—where she was lodged at the Star and Garter—for change of air.
There was good reason for selecting Richmond, for on March I the Queen had written to Lord John and offered him Pembroke Lodge.” This house, which for the next thirty-one years was destined to be his home, and which is still occupied by his widow, is a familiar object to many Englishmen. Standing on an elevated terrace, its grounds command the noble prospect which Turner has illustrated with his pencil, and Scott with his pen. From this vantage point where the spires and cupolas of modern London may be seen on one side, the spectator, turning to the other, may gaze over a valley luxuriant with verdure and rich with
* The letter ends thus without a signature. It is, I believe, the last letter which Lord John received from his old friend, who was already failing fast. For the ‘black and woolly’ of Lord John's reply, see ante, p. 186.
* In the previous year the Prince had offered Bagshot to Lord John. But Lord John thought the place and house too large for his means, and refused it.
associations. For there is no land in England which has a deeper charm for the artist, the historian, or the poet than that which is watered by the river on which its capital stands.
Up to the end of the eighteenth century the site of Pembroke Lodge had been occupied by a molecatcher's cottage. Lady Pembroke, enchanted with the situation, had begged it from the King. Enlarged and repaired, it received the name of its new mistress, and was occupied by her till her death in 1831 at the age of ninety-four. It was granted in that year by William IV. to his son-in-law, Lord Erroll. Lord Erroll died in 1846; and early in the following year the Queen bestowed it on Lord John.
Lady John writes—
In March 1847 the Queen offered him Pembroke Lodge for life, a deed for which we have been yearly and daily more grateful. He and I were convinced that it added years to his life, and the happiness it has given us all cannot be measured. I think it was a year or two before the Queen offered us Pembroke Lodge, that we came down for a few days for change of air for some of the children to the Star and Garter. John and I in one of our strolls in the park sat under a big oak tree, while the children played round us. We were at that time often in perplexity about a country home for the summer and autumn, to which we could send them before we ourselves could leave London. . . . From our bench under the oak we looked into the grounds of Pembroke Lodge, and we said to one another that would be the place for us ! When it became ours indeed, we often thought of this, and the oak has ever since been called the “Wishing Tree.' . . . From the time that Pembroke Lodge became ours, we used only to keep the children in town from the meeting of Parliament till Easter, and then settle the younger ones at Pembroke Lodge, and we ourselves slept there Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays with as much regularity as other engagements allowed. This obliged us to give up most dinner engagements in London, and we regretted the consequent loss of society. At the same time he always felt the need of those evenings and mornings of rest and change and country air (besides those welcome and blessed Sundays) after Parliamentary and official toil, rather than of heated and crowded rooms, and late hours; and he had the happy power of throwing off public cares and giving his whole heart to the enjoyment of his strolls in the garden, walks and rides in the park, and the little interests of his children.
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