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The vicws of two members of the Cabinet on this memorandum are preserved. Lord Lansdowne thoroughly agreed with Lord John's proposal for ascertaining the intentions of Austria ; Lord Palmerston, on the contrary, declared that his ‘beau-ideal of the results of the war’ were changes so vast as virtually to involve the reconstruction of the maps of Europe and of Asia. Well might Lord Aberdeen plaintively observe, ‘We have the plan sketched out for a thirty years' war.’
Three days after Lord Aberdeen thus complained of Lord Palmerston's policy, the Queen communicated to both Houses of Parliament the failure of the negotiations and the declaration of war; and on the following Friday, the last day of March, both Houses agreed on addresses to the Crown assuring it of their support. These addresses were drafted by Lord John, though the language of the concluding paragraph was slightly modified at Lord Aberdeen's suggestion. In moving the address in the Commons, Lord John again recapitulated the progress of the negotiations, and declared that he should not consider any terms of peace honourable or just which did not provide for the security of the Turkish Empire. Mr. Layard, who rose when he sat down, expressed his pleasure at this language.
I would say that on the three occasions on which he has addressed the House on this most momentous question he has made speeches worthy of the subject, worthy of his own great reputation, and worthy
of a Minister who ought at such a moment to have the affairs of the country under his direction.
But he went on to draw ‘a damaging contrast’ between the sentiments ‘so nobly expressed with the language which Lord Aberdecn had used on other occasions, and which, at that very moment, he was probably using in another place. He expressed, in short, unbounded confidence in Lord John and no confidence whatever in his colleagues. In using such language Mr. Layard only gave expression to the prevalent feeling. And his judgment was so far correct that wide differences of opinion existed in the Cabinet on the proper conduct of the war. Difference was first visible on the constitution of the department under which the war would be conducted.
The nominal control of the army rested with the Secretary of State for War. But in 1854 the Secretary of State for War was also Secretary for the Colonies. Much of his time was occupied with administrative work which had no connection with the campaign; while the control of the finances of the army was under a Secretary at War who received his orders, not from the Secretary of State, but from the Commander-in-Chief. Add to this that the ordnance was under a Board, the commissariat under the Treasury, the militia under the Home Office, and that the Secretary of State for War exercised no direct authority over any of these departments.
More than twenty years before, during Lord Grey's administration, Lord John had served on a commission to devise some more rational scheme of military administration ; and he had himself desired to constitute a Board, under the Secretary at War, responsible for all the military departments. But the plan necessarily roused much antagonism. The commissioners were not unanimous in its favour; the Prime Minister disliked it; and nothing was done. The scheme, moreover, had one imperfection. ‘The rapidity and concentration required are with difficulty obtained under a Board.” Efficiency is obtained by the concentration of responsibility, and not by its diffusion.
Writing on April 24, 1854, Lord John reverted to the scheme which he had thus proposed more than twenty years before, and said –
I will asume, as a groundwork for the proposal I have to make, that the working of the present system is defective ; that more rapidity and unity are required ; that evils ought to be more speedily corrected, and control over the military departments be made more general and effective. These things being taken as proved [I propose]... to make the Secretary of State for War in fact what he is in name; to confine his duties to functions chiefly military ; and to give him control over the Commander in Chief, Secretary at War, Board of Ordnance, and Commissariat, constituted as these departments at present are. For this purpose nearly the whole of the colonies' must be withdrawn from this department, for the load of business would be too great for any man unless this was done. If this was done, the Secretary of State for the War Department would be responsible for the efficiency of the army, for the lodging, clothing, feeding, and paying the army, for the disposition of the troops according to the exigencies of the public Service.
" Lord John explained later in his memorandum that he meant all the colonies
except the Mediterranean colonies, which, as military posts, should remain under the Secretary of State for War.
Lord John, however, was not satisfied with making this large and comprehensive proposal for an improvement of the machinery. In writing to Lord Clarendon on the 25th of April, he said— I am of opinion that this is the moment to press forward. . . . I am therefore inclined to propose to the Cabinet on Friday— 1. That we should ask for Io, ooo more men for the army, 5,000 more for the navy, and embody 15,000 militia. On Saturday we may discuss our propositions to Sweden, including a subsidy. 2. As to Greece, I think 3, ooo men should be sent to Santa Maura or Corfu from here, to be disposed at Prevesa or Arta as garrisons; but not to scour the country for rebels.
Two days later, on the 27th, he wrote to Lord Aberdeen, and recommended that 5,000 additional troops should be sent to Constantinople; that the French should be asked to send there as many men as they could spare ; that the allied armies, thus reinforced, should be advanced to Schumla ; that 3,OOO men should be sent to Prevesa ; that the French should be requested to occupy Volo; that Sweden should be asked to join the alliance, and to furnish a force of 50,000 men in return for subsidies of IOO,OOO!, a month from both England and France; and finally, that 15,000 men of the militia should at once be embodied, while the Cabinet should consider in what manner such large expenses should be met.
These expenses, large as they may be, will probably be much less than the expenses of a protracted war. England, it has been said, cannot make a little war. However this may be, I am sure she ought not to make a large war on a little scale.
Lord Aberdeen did not much relish the advice which was thus given to him. He was indeed ready to strengthen the allied forces, and to advance them towards the Danube; he had no great objection to the occupation of Prevesa and Volo, provided the garrisons were solely employed in the defence of those towns and were not suffered to interfere with Grecian insurgents. But he disliked any arrangement with Sweden; he thought that any blow against Russia must be struck in the South and not in the North, and For this reason, if I subsidised at all, I would much rather engage Austria to bring her 150,000 men into the field [i.e. into the Principalities], where we most want them, and where they would do much to bring the whole affair to a successful termination.
There was evidently a wide difference between Lord John and Lord Aberdeen on the ineasures to be taken. Lord Aberdeen, moreover, took no steps for effecting the proposed alterations in the machinery. On the 5th of May Lord John wrote again :I do not find that you mentioned to the Cabinet on Wednesday night the proposed plan for the division of the War and Colonial Departments. I do not know, therefore, how to answer Mr. Rich tonight. It is impossible for me to defend the present system, and equally impossible for me to say, as the organ of the Government, that a better will be adopted. It is now time that I should answer you respecting the personal part of the question." I think the time is arrived when I ought either to take office or to cease to be a member of your Government. . Had I full confidence in the Administration of which you are the head, I should not scruple to take office under you. But the late meetings of the Cabinet have shown so much indecision, and there is so much reluctance to adopt those measures which would force the Emperor of Russia to consent to a speedy peace, that I can feel no such confidence. Indeed the sooner I can be relieved from my share of the responsibility the better.
Still Lord Aberdeen did nothing. He was, perhaps, partly hampered by the knowledge that the scheme of Lord John tended to place the army more directly under the control of Parliament, and was in consequence eminently distasteful in the highest quarters. On the IOth of May Lord John wrote to Lord Clarendon— " It is evident from what follows that Lord Aberdeen had proposed to Lord
John that on the separation of the Colonial Office from the War Office Lord John should take one of the two departments.
Having read the letters relating to the East, I must impress upon you to urge the adoption of the Emperor Napoleon's views relating to Sweden. It is our fate never to adopt an onward movement from within ; but, when it comes from France, we submit to do what is right and politic.
Two days later he wrote again :—
I see from Stratford's and Wyse's letters that they deprecate the foolish policy adopted by Lord Aberdeen and the Cabinet of asking Austria to put down the Greek insurrection, and not appearing ourselves. However, Napoleon has dispersed that together with other whimsies. The great want of all is a head of the English Cabinet. If a head could be found, all might be well ; but I cannot imagine how we can go on any longer without any head at all.
Following up these letters, on May 20 Lord John circulated a fresh memorandum in the Cabinet formally proposing the separation of the War Department from the Colonial Office and the subsidising of Sweden. The Cabinet unanimously adopted the first of these recommendations. With the exception of Lord Palmerston, Lord Clarendon, and Mr. Sidney Herbert, no member of the Cabinet thoroughly approved of the second of them. It was necessarily abandoned, and Lord John thought that with its abandonment one chance of ending the war rapidly was lost. Under these circumstances he wrote the following letter: —
Pembroke Lodge : May 28, 1854.
My dear Lansdowne,—As I consented to serve under Lord Aberdeen at your recommendation, I wish to submit to you my views and impressions at the present moment. These views and impressions are derived, however, not from any transient feeling, but from a long observation of the course of the Government. It seems to me that the presence of many able men in the Cabinet only tends to discordance of opinion and indecision ; that no question is put before us in a shape to bring out a definite result. In a time of peace and ease this position might be tolerable; but I do not think that in a time of war, and that a war of the greatest importance, it can be consistent with the interests of the country. The Government, in fact, wants direction ; and, in wanting direction, wants everything that is essential. The recent deliberations upon the policy to be pursued in refer