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to be pained by the puny attacks of malevolence and detraction. The services which you have rendered to your country are memorable and lasting. Envy may do its worst, but your fame will live in history. “The past is well stored ; it is beyond the reach of fortune.” The future is dark indeed and uncertain, but your principles will lead you right and sustain your character, whether official power is granted or withheld. My hope is that, henceforth, our communications may always be friendly and unreserved. . . .-I am, yours
sincerely, - JAMES GRAHAM.
Such a letter was almost certain to lead, as it was plainly intended to lead, to further communications both with Sir James Graham and Lord Aberdeen, Sir James's chief political friend; and accordingly, on the 21st of July Lord John wrote the following letter – The Gart: July 21, 1852.
My dear Lord Aberdeen, I see you are arrived at Haddo, -and the elections are nearly over, two reasons for my writing to you on the aspect of public affairs. The Ministry have gained more than was expected, and may count from 310 to 320 votes. Still Parker says truly that, if I had advised a dissolution, and had got no better a return, I should be thinking of my latter end as a Minister. Disraeli thinks of no such thing. It is evident that there are two legs on which the Ministers hope to stand. 1st, abuse of Sir R. Peel's corn law as having been ‘conceived in panic and carried with precipitation,’ and consequently a pretended necessity for an adjustment of burthens to enable the landed interest to bear an unjust pressure of taxes ; 2nd, the hounding on the Protestants to run down the Catholics. Such being the pillars of Lord Derby's Government, I cannot imagine that the friends of Sir Robert Peel can thoroughly support him. There remain three other courses. They may remain aloof as they have done since Sir R. Peel's death. This, I think, would only tend to prolong a state of weakness and uncertainty—a bad weak Government in office with too powerful an Opposition. They may act in friendly concert with the Whigs, preserving their own independent position. They may join with the Whigs and form a fusion, either with or without Cobden.
Next as to the course which ought to be pursued when Parliament 1st. I think there ought to be no vote of want of confidence proposed on the Address. 2nd. I think there ought to be an amendment affirming the wisdom of the commercial policy pursued since 1842, and especially in 1846. 3rd. I think there ought to be a vigorous attack on the glaring corruption by which many of the late elections have been carried. 4th. Any proposal for Reform of Parliament should be deferred till the meeting in February, and made the subject of conference with the leaders of all sections of Liberals. I cannot give way on ballot, or the duration of Parliament, nor should I be disposed to go below 5/. rating for the borough franchise. A 12/. rating in the counties might in some degree counteract the mischief of the Chandos Clause. The main point, however, is to ascertain whether Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Sidney Herbert would be disposed with you and the Duke of Newcastle to concert with the Whigs the course to be adopted when Parliament meets. And I beg of you the favour to ascertain this point for me. When that is ascertained, we may consider at our leisure the merits and defects of any particular proposition. I can truly say that no pretensions of mine shall stand in the way of such a concert. I shall be quite ready out of office to support a Liberal Ministry, if it is found, as may be the case, that the Radicals and Irish members would be gratified by my exclusion. You and I know that official life is no unmixed blessing ; and I feel at the present moment all the delights of freedom from red boxes, with the privilege of fresh air and mountain prospects. Lady John, however, is not very well, and I cannot easily remove from here for a long time.—I remain, yours faithfully, J. RUSSELL.
The men whom Lord John had asked Lord Aberdeen to consult were scattered for the holidays, and some time elapsed before Lord Aberdeen was enabled to reply. The nature of his reply may be sufficiently inferred from Lord John's further
COmmunication :- The Gart: August 13, 1852.
My dear Lord Aberdeen, Having had my full of shooting yesterday, I sit down to write to you somewhat more at length on the subject of our correspondence. I shall take your wise advice, and come to no decision calculated to interfere with my perfect liberty of action in the course of any future events which may occur, and the character of which it is impossible accurately to foresee. It should
be explained that what I told Graham I would not do, was to lead the House of Commons for any peer Prime Minister in the House of Lords. I pointed out one obvious reason for this that, while I led the House of Commons, the Irish patriots would be as obnoxious to the charge of following me as if I were Prime Minister. This appears to me common sense ; and I cannot imagine circumstances so to alter as to make such an arrangement desirable, putting out of view any personal feelings of my own. . . . I know all the objections made to me as a leader and still more as a Prime Minister. But I never could ascertain that any one other person, or any other definite principles, were preferred. If you would take the lead in a Ministry, I should be ready out of office to give you my cordial support. In the meantime I hope to have your advice on every step to be taken, and shall weigh it with the utmost attention.
As to the immediate course to be taken on the meeting of Parliament, nothing more need be said till the time approaches.
I remain, dear Lord Aberdeen, yours very faithfully,
Lord Aberdeen, in replying to this letter, said on the
28th of August—
You have made a suggestion respecting myself which there is no necessity now to discuss ; but which, under the most favourable circumstances, would be entertained by me with the utmost reluctance, and of which I cannot even contemplate the possibility."
" In the course of the correspondence the Duke of Newcastle, oddly enough, suggested that the word “Whig” should be dropped. Lord Aberdeen wrote of this suggestion—
“Haddo House: September 16, 1852.
‘My dear Lord John, It was no doubt rather a strong proceeding on the part of the Duke of Newcastle to suggest, to you of all men, the propriety and expediency of sinking the title of Whig. It is true that neither he nor I have the least desire or intention of assuming the appellation; but I presume that you would never think of acting with us unless you were persuaded that our views were liberal; and assuredly, in any connection with you, we should not be prepared to abandon a Conservative policy.
“Although the term may appear a little contradictory, I believe that “Conservative Progress” best describes the principles which ought practically to influence the conduct of any Government at the present day. This was Peel's policy, and I think will continue that of all his friends. For one, looking at the actual state of affairs, I have no objection that the progress should be somewhat more rapid than perhaps he ever intended.—Ever most sincerely yours,
“The term Whig,' Lord John replied, “has the convenience of expressing in one syllable what Conservative Liberal expresses in seven ; and Whiggism, in two syllables, means what Conservative Progress means in other six.’
So, for the moment, the matter rested, and the correspondence practically ceased. Lord John sent his own impressions of it to Lord Lansdowne in a letter which is worth copying:— The Gart, Callander: August 28, 1852. My dear Lansdowne,—In pursuance of the views I explained to you at Lansdowne House I have had a correspondence with Lord Aberdeen. He again has communicated with the Duke of Newcastle and Mr. Gladstone. The substance of the communications, which I am not allowed to copy, is that— 1. Lord Aberdeen is as friendly as possible. 2. The Duke of Newcastle is desirous of a union of Liberals, but thinks it ought to be understood that, if the present Government is overthrown, Lord Aberdeen should be the next Prime Minister. He objects to me, and hardly less to you, for that post. 3. Mr. Gladstone is strongly for Free Trade, but evidently wishes it to be in the keeping of the Protectionist party. Little is to be made of all this, except that we all agree in defending the Free Trade policy. I content myself therefore with thanking Lord Aberdeen for his friendliness, and declaring that if he forms a Ministry he shall have my most cordial support. I should say the same thing to you if I thought you were disposed to go to sea in command of the fleet. I hope at all events you will make no irrevocable resolution on the subject. . The prospect is not very pleasant ; and Clarendon, from whom I hear constantly, thinks ill of it. But I am of opinion with Joseph Parkes that ‘the thing called the British Constitution will carry us through.' . . .-Ever yours truly, J. R.
Thus at the end of August very little had been done towards arriving at any definite agreement. In the first half of September, the Duke of Bedford met Lord Palmerston at Brocket, and had a long conversation with him on the position of the Whigs. Lord Palmerston declared that he was personally friendly to Lord John, but unwilling to serve under him again. As the Duke wrote to Lord John on the 17th–
Pam's conversation yesterday was full and explicit. It puts an end to all chance of your acting together again unless you will act with him in the House of Commons, under another head in the House of Lords. He still clings to Lansdowne ; but I hold that out of the question.
Soon after the Duke had sent his report of this conversation to his brother, Lord Palmerston forwarded his own account of it to Lord Lansdowne, in a very long letter which has already been printed by Mr. Ashley; and Lord Lansdowne in reply declared that after all that had been urged he could not help asking himself the question “whether there is even now any person placed in a better position to form a Government than Lord John,' or under whom both Peelites and discontented Whigs would sooner rally.
Lord John might have fairly insisted on the same view. But, though he was sore at the treatment which he was experiencing from his friends, he made up his mind that he would not sacrifice the chances of union to his own wishes and his own claims. On his return to London he saw Lord Lansdowne, but the latter shall tell the story:—
Bowood : October 22, 1852.
My dear Palmerston, As I must confess that my own conviction remains unshaken on the subject of our recent correspondence, I do not know that I should have reverted to it, were it not that, having occasion to go down to Richmond the day before yesterday on business, John Russell, who heard I was there, called upon me, and said he had been anxious of seeing me in reference to the conversations which had passed between you and his brother at Brocket, and of stating to me distinctly that, without offering me any opinion on the subject, he should be prepared himself to take office in any
* Immediately before he left Scotland Lord John was publicly presented with the freedom of the boroughs of Stirling and Perth. On both occasions he made important speeches, which won him much admiration from men of very different opinions, and were subsequently published in a pamphlet form. The speech at Stirling had an interest of its own, because, made on September 22, it contained the first tribute spoken by any public man to the memory of the great Duke of Wellington. The speech at Perth was an elaborate vindication of that policy of Conservative Progress which its author thought was implied by the term Whiggism. “It was justly said as a proverb of old, “He yields everything who denies what is just.” That has never been our policy. We have been always for granting what was just in order that we might be strong in refusing what was unrighteous.” The favour with which the speech at Perth was received raised Lord John's spirits. “Since my Perth speech,” so he wrote to Lord Minto on October 3, ‘I feel less than I did that the taking office under a peer would be a degradation. As leader in the House of Commons my place would be sufficiently high ; but then I would not serve under a younger man and a younger politician than myself.”