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leader. But during the succeeding three months of the session the affairs of the Ministry were not equally prosperous. In the first place, before the close of April, the rapid fall in the value of securities was deranging the money market, and a financial crisis is never favourable to the popularity of an Administration; in the next place an anxiety to introduce many measures interfered with the success of some of them, and Ministers were forced ultimately to abandon many reforms which they had declared to be of importance; and, in the third place, Lord John, perhaps annoyed at these circumstances, displayed a coldness of manner to his supporters which, however characteristic of the man, was unfortunate for the Minister, and on one occasion even was drawn into an attack upon Mr. Hume, which, to say the least, was indiscreet, and which was described at the time as savage."
Yet the session of 1847 is now recollected not for its failures, which attracted some attention at the time, but for the successes which have left their permanent mark on the statute book. It was in 1847 that the Ten Hours Bill was passed, and it was to Lord John that its passage was largely attributable. Three years before, his advocacy of the measure, made at the risk of causing schism in his party, had helped to procure Lord Ashley his first majority. In 1846, just before the change of Government, Lord John had again warmly supported the Ten Hours Clause. Lord Ashley wrote to him on this occasion—
May 25, 1846.
My dear Russell,—You must allow me to thank you very sincerely, in the name of those whom I have so long represented, for your speech and support on Friday last.
It was a good work and worthy of your public and private station. I can do no more than heartily pray that it will please Almighty God to give to you and to your children that consolation and relief you have endeavoured to obtain for others.-Yours very truly,
| Lord John called Mr. Hume “a chartered libertine,” and expressed a hope
‘that there was not one person of importance, either in the House or out of the
House, who would pay attention to charges preferred by him (Hansard, xciv. 1 Io). Mr. Greville calls this attack “savage' (2nd series, vol. iii. p. 96).
And it was Lord John's accession to office, more than any other circumstance, which secured the passage of the measure in the session of 1847. Nor was this the only legislative subject which received decisive treatment in that year. When Lord John left office in 1841, the agitation against the new Poor Law had prevented the adoption of any permanent measure for the institution of a central control. During Sir Robert Peel's Administration the question was left unsettled, the existing Poor Law Commission being continued for a period of five years. In 1847 Lord John succeeded in bringing the commission more directly under Parliamentary supervision by giving its president and one of its secretaries a seat in one or other House of Parliament." These and other measures fully occupied the time of an expiring Parliament. For the remarkable Parliament of 1841 was completing the sixth year of its existence. Elected to support the interests of Protection, it had committed itself to a policy of Free Trade. Chosen to substitute Sir Robert Peel for Lord John, it had restored Lord John to the position from which Sir Robert had driven him ; and there was therefore urgent reason for desiring to ascertain whether the change of front, adopted in the House, was approved by the electors. Parliament was accordingly prorogued on the 23rd, and dissolved on the 24th of July. With some hesitation, and against the advice of many of his friends, Lord John decided on appealing to the electors of the great city which had chosen him in 1841 and re-elected him in 1846. There were, indeed, ample reasons for hesitation on his own part. Parties in the City were known to be evenly divided ; and the result of the contest would, under any circumstances, be doubtful, and might be disastrous. Even a victory would not be without inconvenience to the Prime Minister. For one of the Liberal candidates was Baron Rothschild. The oaths, which every member of Parliament was required to take, made it
" In the same year the cost of sustaining the poor, who had acquired a settlement by residence under an Act of 1846, was transferred from the parish to the union.
impossible for a Jew to sit in the House of Commons; and the election of Baron Rothschild was calculated, therefore, to produce the same dilemma which had followed that of Mr. O'Connell for Clare twenty years before. Lord John, however, never hesitated to grasp the nettle. Three days before the prorogation, on the 20th of July, the sixth anniversary of his wedding day, he addressed a stormy meeting at the London Tavern, and nine days afterwards he had the satisfaction of being returned at the head of the poll." Lord John, so soon as the result was known, drove down with Lady John to Richmond. When the children heard and understood the news, their spirits rose to the highest pitch. They danced, hurrahed, put a big wreath on John's head, and sang ‘the Conquering Hero,' &c.
It was almost a necessary consequence of a general election that one or two of the supporters of the Government should be advanced in or raised to the peerage. Lord John decided on promoting Lord Strafford to an earldom, and on conferring the dignity of baron on Sir R. B. Philipps, and on the eldest son of Lord Gosford ; and on giving an English peerage to Lord Cremorne. As Sir R. B. Philipps had no son, the permanent addition to the roll of Peers was hardly appreciable. It elicited, however, the following remonStrance :— Arizate]
My dear Lord John, I see you have recommenced the inroad upon the House of Peers so unsparingly practised by the previous Whig Government, and which, together with the submersion of the baronetage, I have always heard added deservedly to its unpopularity.
How much more dignified Sir Robert Peel's practice of conferring peerages for merit only, and not for political subserviency.—Believe
me, most truly yours, W ESTMINSTER.
Motcombe House, Shaftesbury: September 7, 1847.
' The final numbers were: Russell 7, 137, Pattison 7,030, Rothschild 6,792, Masterman (Conservative) 6,722, Larpent (Liberal) 6,719.
Pembroke Lodge ; September 9, 1847. My dear Lord Westminster, Your letter is sharp, and written in much ignorance of the subject you treat of ; but, as I have a sincere regard for your good opinion, I will give you some explanations upon it. 1. In the first place you may not be aware that there are at this moment just the same number of British peers that there were when I took office. Lord Tadcaster (Thomond), Lord Prudhoe, Lord Metcalfe, are replaced by Lord Cremorne, Lord Acheson, and Sir R. B. Philipps. 2. I cannot think it would be right, politic, or even safe, to shut up the House of Lords like the Great Council of Venice. We know that the attempt was once made ; had it been successful, Sir Richard Grosvenor would never have been a peer. 3. But you think it would have been wise to have acted as Sir Robert Peel did—namely, confine the peerage to those who have signalised themselves by military or civil service. In my opinion, if that course had been followed for fifty years, the House of Lords would have been at an end at that time ; for these men of distinguished merit are not, in these days, men of much property; and a House of Lords, the majority of which neither possess large property nor represent large masses, would be so factious, mischievous, and restless that public opinion would step in and put it down. 4. The real difficulty has arisen from the profusion of Pitt and his successors. In forty-six years they created about forty earls and viscounts and about 120 barons, altogether an addition of 160 to the House of Lords. In this body the Tory element was so predominant that Lord Grey and his Cabinet advised the creation of fifty peers at once. We who advised the measure all thought it a very dangerous one, but it was the sequel of the Pitt profusion. 5. Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne remedied the evil to some extent by copious creations. Sir R. Peel again in a quarter of a year's administration made three or four peers. When he returned to power in 1841 he came in as the champion of the cause of Protection, the cause most dear to the House of Lords, and had, therefore, no occasion to make peers. 6. There does not seem to me to be at present any occasion to make a considerable number of peers. But, though it may be very well for you, who have got a comfortable seat in a front row, to call out ‘Shut the door, and don't let any more in,’ it is not fair to the great body of English, Irish, and Scotch gentlemen to say that they shall ever be excluded from honours unless they command in a
field of battle or distinguish themselves in the government of a colony. I will not notice your last hint about ‘political subserviency’ further than to say that it has at all times been considered a virtue in England to act honestly in party connection and to preserve consistency upon public affairs. This is a long yarn, but you have
brought it upon yourself.--Yours, J. RUSSELL.
The position of the Whigs was slightly strengthened by the general election of 1847; but they were still dependent on the support which continued to be extended to them by Sir Robert Peel. Under ordinary circumstances the new Parliament would have hardly been summoned before the commencement of 1848; but in 1847 a financial crisis compelled the Ministry to call it together in November. Forced by the pressure in the City to authorise the Bank to infringe the provisions of the Act of 1844, it was compelled to ask Parliament to accord to its directors the indemnity which it promised to obtain for them. In the event, indeed, the mere knowledge that the Bank was authorised by the Government to infringe the law averted the necessity for infringing it. When it was once understood that the Bank was armed with exceptional resources for resisting the strain upon it, confidence returned ; and, though a few men blamed the Government for suggesting or sanctioning a breach of the Act, and a few others found fault with them for not acting with more speed, most persons approved both the policy and the time at which it was adopted.
Thus when Parliament met in November the cause which had necessitated its assembling created little anxiety. But unfortunately a new demand had arisen for other legislation. “The old eternal difficulty had recurred in Ireland. Famine had been followed by discontent, discontent had produced disorder, and the landlords who lived on their property as well as those who had deserted their duty were clamouring for coercion.’’
Since his appointment Lord Clarendon had been in almost daily communication with the Prime Minister. His numerous
' This language is reproduced from a previous work.