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DURING the short fortnight's holiday of Easter 1847, in which he was busying himself with the arrangements for occupying his new home, Lord John must have felt the satisfaction of the good man who is conscious of having done his duty, and of the wise man who has not suffered his head to be misled by his heart. In a crisis of unprecedented difficulty, he had refused to sacrifice principle for the sake of securing a temporary advantage; and in all his proposals had endeavoured, while battling with the distress of the moment, to promote the prosperity of the future. Some of his measures, no doubt, were attended with consequences which he did not foresee. The extension of the Poor Law furnished Irish landlords with a new reason for evicting their tenantry, and the sale of encumbered estates gave the wretched cottier, in many cases, a solvent landlord, who would not—in exchange for the insolvent proprietor who could not—do anything for his property. But Lord John's policy should be remembered not for what he did, but for what he refused to do. When men on every side of him were asking the Government to undertake the operations of the trader, and to embark on a great speculation by the construction of railways, he refused to surrender his common sense. He insisted, against the advice of his closest friends, that local distress must, in the long run, be met by local effort ; and, though forced by the severity of the crisis to encourage local contributions by imperial subsidy, he clung throughout to his principle. To his firmness in doing so may be traced the fact that the famine, which decimated, raised, instead of lowering, the condition of the Irish people.
His chief agent had necessarily been the Viceroy; and Lord Bessborough, even when he had failed to agree with his chief, had given loyal support to his policy. During the few months in which he had been in Ireland, Lord Bessborough had shown that he had Lord Normanby's sympathies, and twice his capacity. In a crisis, in which many landlords were unable, or unwilling to do their duty, he had proved by his example what Irish landlords could and should do. His exertions unfortunately told severely on his health. Even before Easter he complained of great weakness; after Easter he became so ill that he had to be carried to witness experiments which he thought it his duty to inspect. Still he clung manfully to his work, and continued, while consciousness remained, to supervise everything. But he did not buoy himself up with any false hopes of recovery; and on April 28, using his daughter's pen, announced the approaching end to Lord John in the following letter:
The Castle: April 28.
My dear John, There is no person with whom I have lived in such entire friendship, except my own family, as with you. I wish therefore to write confidentially to you. I have never thought well of myself since the first, and am now very ill. You should therefore turn in your mind who should supply my place. I have been here long enough to see the necessity of great firmness, great decision, and not allowing myself to be turned one way or the other by the numerous representations and deputations signed by the most respectable persons, when a decision would have involved the state of the country. Above all, take care not to be guided by a love of popularity. For a year, or perhaps more, I see a great difficulty in carrying on the government of this country, but I am sure you will see the necessity of what I say.
My children are all here with me. I will write to you again in a
day or two.—Very truly yours, BESSBOROUGH."
* Lady Emily Ponsonby, who acted as her father's amanuensis, in sending this letter to Lord John, said that he was so weak and his voice so low that she had been hardly able to put his sentences together. She hoped, however, that Lord John would see the meaning of what perhaps her father had scarcely expressed. Lord Bessborough wrote one more letter to Lord John in his own handwriting: “My dear John, -You may be assured that no inconvenience that I can prevent shall come to the public service. You have an invaluable servant in Redington, and I Lord Bessborough temporarily rallied after writing this affecting letter. But the rally was only the last flicker of the expiring candle. Almost immediately after receiving Lord Bessborough's letter, Lord John opened his mind to Lord
Lansdowne :— Chesham Place : May 4, 1847. My dear Lansdowne,—The respite in Bessborough's disorder gives us a short time to consider what is to be done, and I put down in writing my own views for your consideration. The office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has been one of separation, rather than of union, between the two countries. When the union with Scotland was made 140 years ago, Lord Somers prevented the continuance of the Privy Council of Scotland, arguing that, if any executive authority were retained at Edinburgh, the Union would not be complete. Yet it was far more difficult in 1708 to communicate with Edinburgh, than it is now with Cork or Galway. As a Court, the pageant is useless, if not mischievous. The real nobility and gentry of the country have their Court in London, and not at Dublin. As a branch of Administration the Executive of Dublin is placed in relations with Downing Street which prevent the whole truth reaching London, and conceal from the Government the real aspect of Irish affairs. In this manner the Lieutenancy tends to separation, cabal, provincial jealousies, and diversity of administration. My intimate friendship with Normanby, Fortescue, and Bessborough has mitigated, but not removed, the evil. The Duke of Leinster, More O'Ferrall, and all the best Irishmen are in favour of the abolition of the office of Lord Lieutenant. There has been no period, however, when this could be done with ease, and the moment before a general election seems unpropitious. There are likewise very good reasons why the ultimate and decisive step should not now be taken. The arrangement ought to be part of a whole, and combined with other enactments for the organisation of the country. You will see by the enclosed letter that Bessborough has himself considered the question of his successor, and that he considers firmness as absolutely necessary. A Secretary of State, acting with colleagues in London, will have far better means of resisting deputations, memorials, &c. than a Lord Lieutenant in Dublin. Upon the whole, my opinion is that the office should be offered to Clarendon, with a notice that he is to be made into a Secretary of State in the first session of a new Parliament: and that, if he should decline, it should be offered in the same way to Morpeth. The intention of considering the propriety of abolishing the office cannot be kept secret, but no Bill need be introduced in the present session. Yours truly, J. RUSSELL.
either see or hear a report from him every day. Crampton has allowed my second son, Frederick, to go over to-night, and I know he would not have done so last week. If you like to send for him he will tell you what he thinks of me. I did not think it possible human existence could go on under such weakness, but I assure you nothing shall be neglected. I hope our works are stopping rapidly. Very truly yours, - * B.’ Lord Bessborough's handwriting, never of the clearest, was so indistinct when he wrote this that I am not sure that I have deciphered all the words accurately.
Lord Lansdowne, writing on the 5th, concurred in Lord John's views, though he added the proviso that the Secretary of State should reside in Ireland during the vacation; and Lord John offered the office to Lord Clarendon on these conditions. Considentia/) May 12, 1847.
My dear Lansdowne,—I have seen Clarendon, and he will undertake the difficult and odious task of the Lieutenancy of Ireland, having in view the permanent arrangement which I mentioned to you. . . . The accounts of Bessborough are as bad as possible, and some parts of the country, I am sorry to say, are in a state of disturbance. They throw away the cooked food,' these starving people.— Yours, J. R.
Four days after this letter was written, Lord Bessborough passed away, and Lord Clarendon entered on the Viceroyalty.
In the meanwhile Lord John, leaving wife and children at Richmond, was returning to Chesham Place for the active duties of the session. Before Easter, Parliament had been
" In giving food to the people, the Government decided, instead of issuing meal, which was of course saleable, to cook the porridge—cooked meal rapidly becoming sour and therefore unsaleable.
mainly occupied with Irish measures. After Easter Ireland still engrossed a large share of attention, but Lord John found time to deal with other subjects of importance. It has already been shown in this biography how, from the first dawn of his Parliamentary career, he had recognised the obligation of the State to encourage the education of the people. He had been a member of the Government which had voted the first sum of public money ever applied to that purpose. In
1839 he had led the Government which had first proposed
the supervision of elementary schools by the State. But the steps which had been thus taken had done more to improve the quantity than the quality of education. Government
grants had encouraged the building of schools, but they had
failed to raise the status or the qualifications of the teacher.
On his return to office in 1846, Lord John, after conference
with Lord Lansdowne, determined to revise the whole system.
By two minutes of Council, issued in August and December
of that year, it was decided, in lieu of the old building grants,
to give grants to schools reported efficient by the inspector;
and to replace the unpaid monitors, who had been entrusted
with the task of teaching what they themselves had not learned,
by paid pupil-teachers, apprenticed to the work, and entitled,
when the term of apprenticeship was over, to compete for
scholarships tenable in training colleges. The teacher so
trained, on returning to a school, was to receive a grant
from the State in augmentation of his salary. These regu
lations provided for the first time in England a trained body
of elementary school teachers. They were explained by
Lord John on April 19, 1847. His explanation led to a
debate, protracted over four nights, in which a small minority
opposed the scheme, as increasing the influence of the State
and the power of the Church. In the end, however, Lord
John's course was approved, and he had the satisfaction of reflecting that he had
made an attempt to diminish the empire of ignorance, and to raise the people of this country in the scale of religion and virtue among the nations of the globe.
So far all had gone well with the Government and its