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same date, in an official despatch to Lord Normanby, which was not submitted to Queen, Prime Minister, or Cabinet, repeated his approval of the coup d'état, thus formally committing himself to a policy on which both Queen and Cabinet had decided to maintain a strict neutrality. Lord John at Once Wrote—
Woburn Abbey: December 17, 1851.
My dear Palmerston, I have received your letter of the 16th, which has been brought to me by a messenger this morning, I have also received Lord Normanby's despatch of the 15th and your reply of the 16th, which appears to have been sent to Paris without my concurrence or the sanction of the Queen. It appears to me that in your letter to me you mistake the question at issue. That question is not whether the President has been justified in dissolving the Assembly and annulling the constitution ; but whether you were justified, as the Queen's Secretary of State, in expressing an opinion upon the subject. Now upon this matter, I am sorry to say, I cannot entertain a doubt. If the British Government wished to express an opinion upon the recent events in France, the Cabinet should have been consulted, and the opinion, when formed, openly avowed. If, as I conceived was the course taken, the British Government refrains from expressing any opinion upon the internal affairs of France, the Queen's Secretary of State ought not to express an opinion which is naturally considered as that of the British Government. I must now come to the painful conclusion—while I concur in the foreign policy of which you have been the adviser, and much as I admire the energy and ability with which it has been carried into effect, I cannot but observe that misunderstandings perpetually renewed, violations of practice and decorum too frequently repeated, have marred the effects which ought to have followed from a sound policy and able administration. I am therefore most reluctantly compelled to come to the conclusion that the conduct of foreign affairs can no longer be left in your hands with advantage to the country. If instead of retiring from office you will accept the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland, which I know that Lord Clarendon, without looking for any other office, will be happy to relinquish, I shall most Willingly recommend you to the Queen to fill that high position, either with or without a British peerage.
Recent inquiries have convinced me that it would not be prudent at present to abolish the Viceroyalty of Ireland. I do not expect for some years that such a measure can be wise and expedient, though I retain my opinion as to the impolicy of permanently retaining two separate Governments in the British Islands.
Or if there is any other course by which I can meet your views, I shall be happy to do so. I have been too long your colleague not to appreciate highly your very eminent talents, and a capacity for business which has never been surpassed. Nor do I esteem less highly your very friendly conduct as a colleague, and the support I have received from you on important and critical occasions—I
remain, yours faithfully, J. RUSSELL.
Here is Lord Palmerston's answer:-
My dear John Russell,—I have received your letter of yesterday from Woburn, and shall be prepared to give up the seals of the Foreign Office whenever you inform me that my successor is ready to receive them. I have the satisfaction of thinking that the interests, the honour, the character, and the dignity of the country have not suffered while those seals have been in my keeping. As to the arrangements which you suggest, there are obvious reasons why I must decline to avail myself of them.
With regard to the particular question which you say in your letter is the point at issue between us, I have to say that there is a well-known and perfectly understood distinction in diplomatic intercourse between official conversations in which the opinions of Governments are expressed, and by which Governments are bound, and unofficial conversations which have not that character and effect: and nothing passed between me and Count Walewski, on the occasion to which he referred in the despatch or the letter quoted by M. Turgot, which in any way fettered the action of her Majesty's Government. The opinion which, as explained in my former letter, I then expressed was my own ; it was expressed as such ; I am satisfied it was well founded ; and I think the expression of it was conducive to the maintenance of a good understanding with the French Government and thereby to the interests of the country.
The doctrine which you lay down in your letter is new and not practical. For, if everything that passes between a Secretary of State and a foreign Minister were to be deemed as official and formal communications from their respective Governments, and if the Secretary of State were to be precluded from expressing any opinion on passing events except as the organ of a previously consulted
Cabinet, there would be an end to that easy and familiar personal intercourse which tends so usefully to the maintenance of friendly relations with foreign Governments. I have only to add that my answer to Normanby's despatch of the 15th was sent direct because the question to which he asked for an answer regarded myself personally.—Yours sincerely, PALMERSTON.
On receiving this communication, Lord John wrote the letter, which has been already published by Mr. Ashley, in which he said—
No other course is open to me than to submit the correspondence to the Queen and to ask her Majesty to appoint a successor to you at the Foreign Office.
It is not necessary to continue any further the history of a controversy between two men of great eminence, of great patriotism, and distinguished for great services. But it may be desirable to add one letter which Lord John wrote to Lady Palmerston, who, it will be recollected, was one of his oldest friends, and who seems to have fancied that her husband was the victim of a conspiracy.
Pembroke Lodge: December 28, 1851.
Dear Lady Palmerston, The tone of your letter might justify me in making no reply. But I must, in justice to others, say that there has been no conspiracy. What I did, I did alone to save others from the responsibility. If Palmerston had been fully aware of the difficulties I had to contend with, I think he would have furnished me with means of explanation as soon as I asked for them. I deeply regret the whole matter, and the loss of your friendship adds greatly to the weight. Perhaps a time may come when you may
judge me more fairly.—Yours truly, J. RUSSELL.
It has never been the object of this book to obtrude the author's judgment on his readers, and it is with diffidence that he adds three observations on this unfortunate controversy –
I. It is plain that, to the last, Lord Palmerston either misunderstood or ignored Lord John's true complaint. That complaint was not that Lord Palmerston had expressed privately his own opinion to Count Walewski in the ordinary course of official communication, but that he had done so knowing that that opinion was opposed to the decision of the Cabinet." 2. It has been usually assumed that Lord Palmerston was removed because of this private expression of opinion to Count Walewski; but the true grounds of his removal were more serious, viz. that, after the Queen and Lord John had complained of this expression of opinion, he had deliberately repeated it, not in a private letter, but in an official despatch to Lord Normanby. 3. It is difficult to see how, under such circumstances, Lord John could have longer resisted the Queen's demand for Lord Palmerston's removal. And, instead of charging him with impatience at his colleague's conduct, most persons have thought that he submitted too long and too patiently to Lord Palmerston's disobedience. But it was characteristic of Lord John that, in his old age, he criticised adversely his own decision :Baron Stockmar . . . seems to have acquiesced in the opinion that my conduct upon that occasion was dilatory and undecided. My own judgment upon it is that it was hasty and precipitate. I ought to have seen Lord Palmerston, and I think I could, without difficulty, have induced him to make a proper submission to hel Majesty's wishes, and agree to act in conformity with conditions to which he had already given his assent. Verily in 1875 Lord John must have forgotten, as he had already long forgiven, some of the difficulties which had so sorely tried him from 1846 to 1852. * Lord Palmerston complained, and the complaint has been repeated in Mr. Ashley's biography, that he had done no more in expressing approval of the coup d'état than Lord John himself had done in private conversation with the French Ambassador. But Lord John distinctly denied the truth of the statement. Writing to Lord Lansdowne on October 26, 1852, he said, ‘I never told Walewski
that I approved of the coup d'état. I always confined my good wishes to the measures taken to put down the Socialists.”
I cannot say that the new year is a happy one to me: political troubles are too thick for my weak sight to penetrate them. But we all rest in the mercy of God, who will dispose of us as He thinks
In these words Lord John acknowledged his stepdaughter's (Mrs. Maurice Drummond's) congratulations on the first day of 1852.
Political troubles were very thick. The removal of Lord Palmerston from the Foreign Office had fatally weakened the Administration. Lord John failed to secure elsewhere the help which he sorely needed ; he was unable to enlist the Duke of Newcastle, or Sir James Graham, or any other prominent member of Sir Robert Peel's party, in the ranks of his Administration. His inability to do so proved the hopelessness of his task. His fall was only a question of time.
During the few weeks, indeed, through which his Ministry survived, Lord John showed no outward evidence of failure. He had the satisfaction, during their course, of introducing a new Reform Bill. He never made a better or more successful speech than that in which, on the first night of the session, he explained the history of his difference with Lord Palmerston. He never made a more brilliant apology for a friend than his defence of Lord Clarendon on the eve of his fall. Of the first of these speeches Mr. Greville said—
In all my experience I never recollect such a triumph as John Russell achieved, and such a complete discomfiture as Palmerston's. Lord John made a very able speech, and disclosed as much as was necessary, and no more.