Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

is a general clamour against him on the part of the late Government and their friends."

Lord John, conscious that he had done his duty, cared very little for this clamour; and he had the satisfaction of observing that the existence of a Conservative Government promoted the acceptance of one reform for which he had vainly struggled. Ever since the general election of 1847 Lord John had steadily demanded that the oath of abjuration —which no Jew could conscientiously take—should be altered and that his own colleague, Baron Rothschild, should thus be enabled to take his seat for the City, which on three successive occasions had returned him as its representative. But the measure of relief, though regularly passed by the Commons, was as regularly rejected by the Lords. In 1857 Lord John endeavoured to evade the difficulty by a new expedient. He argued that an Act of William IV, empowered the Commons to substitute a new form of declaration for the abjuration oath ; * but the select committee, to which the suggestion was referred, failed to support its author; and the Jews still remained excluded from sitting in the Legislature. The Conservatives, however, on attaining office, found it inconvenient to continue the struggle. They decided on effecting by fresh legislation very much what Lord John had intended to accomplish with the aid of the Act of William. They consented to authorise either House, by resolution, not to substitute a declaration for the oath of abjuration, but to omit from that oath the words which were offensive to the Jew. Lord John thought it wiser to accept a compromise, which he did not wholly approve, than to continue a tedious struggle; and, the House adopting the same view, Baron Rothschild on the 26th of July at last took his seat. That night, oddly enough, the Baron and Lord John voted in opposite lobbies on the Corrupt Practices Bill. Four days later the Baron thus acknowledged Lord John's services:—

Piccadilly : July 30, 1858.

My dear Lord John, Although I have endeavoured verbally to express my feelings of gratitude for your great exertions during our

'Greville, 3rd series, ii. 185. * May's Const. Hist. iii. 186.

long struggle, and to offer you my sincere thanks for the kindness you have invariably shown to me, I know that I have done so too feebly and in terms which in no way could have conveyed to you my sentiments for the manner in which you undertook to plead our cause, and brought it to a triumphant issue. During the last eleven years I have taken up much of your valuable time, and I have often hesitated before I interrupted you in your more agreeable occupations; but on every occasion I have been most kindly received by you, and have always found you the true and sincere friend of the oppressed and the warm advocate of just and liberal measures. I remember with the greatest satisfaction the first time on the hustings that you introduced me as your friend ; I hope that I have merited the sentiments which you then expressed, and that I shall continue to enjoy the good opinion of one for whom I have the greatest esteem and admiration.—Pray believe me, dear Lord John, your most sincere and devoted, Lion EL DE ROTHSCHILD.

Though, however, the existence of a Conservative Government was evidently promoting Liberal measures, many of Lord John's friends disliked the state of things which had arisen. They thought it anomalous and inconvenient for Conservatives to be promoting in office measures which they had opposed in opposition ; and they considered a Ministry which was surrendering its principles unworthy of support. The managers of the party became consequently anxious for a policy of aggression ; and, as a preliminary to action, they desired to heal the differences which kept the various sections of Liberals asunder. They could hardly conceal from themselves that a new combination was impossible which did not satisfy the rival claims of Lord Palmerston and Lord John. It was a proof how greatly Lord John had risen in public estimation since 1855, that the universal consent of his followers placed him again on a level with Lord Palmerston ; while a large section of the Liberal party was looking to him and not to Lord Palmerston as its future leader. If, however, the party was anxious for a forward movement, Lord John himself had too much pleasure in his independence to feel any desire for a fresh Ministerial crisis. He was on the best of terms with the Prime Minister; he paid him a visit at Knowsley this very autumn ; and, though he was anxious for a new Reform Bill, he was as ready to accept a good measure from Lord Derby as to introduce it himself. Busy with his literary pursuits, and contented with his own position, he would not— if no new question had arisen—have cared to disturb the Conservative Administration.

In the course of the autumn, however, it became evident that a new crisis was arising in Italy. Lord John, who was in communication with many leading Italians, told Lord Minto on the 29th of October that the Italians, ‘relying on the supposed readiness of Louis Napoleon to give his assistance on condition—(1) that he should have Savoy, (2) that the Pope should be secured in the sovereignty of the city of Rome— were preparing for a fresh struggle.' He added that he had himself told his informant in reply, “that the affairs regarded all Europe, and ought to be settled by a European concert. But [that] there was little chance that Lord Derby would favour such a concert.' He wrote again on the 14th of December :—

I have been told confidentially that an agent of the French Foreign Office is inquiring in London what part the Liberal press will take if the Emperor Napoleon crosses the Alps to help Sardinia, asking only for Savoy as a reward.

This looks serious. I cannot tell Palmerston and Clarendon, as I suspect their advice to the Emperor would be quite against Italy. But you take so great an interest in her fate that I tell you—and you only.

I have advised, as I told you long ago, a general congress. The powers would not be so hostile to Italy as you suppose. Russia would favour France. Prussia will hardly be active in favour of Austria. Malmesbury is, I fear, quite hostile, but not the House of Commons. . . .-Yours affectionately, J. R.

Lord John's desire for a congress was not destined to be realised. On the contrary, at the beginning of 1859, the speech of Napoleon to the Austrian Ambassador, the projected marriage between Prince Napoleon and the King of Sardinia's daughter, and the language of the King of Sardinia made it evident that the issue would be settled by arms. When Parliament met, on the 3rd of February, the Queen expressed her desire to contribute, as far as her influence could extend, to the preservation of the general peace; and men of all parties, in the debate on the Address, reciprocated the Queen's language. Lord John himself deprecated an infraction of the peace of Europe as ‘one of the very worst examples that could be set.' But he went on that “we should gain no advantage for the cause of peace, no advantage for the future welfare of Italy or of Europe, by endeavouring to blind our eyes to those serious evils and misfortunes which have from time to time been inflicted on Italy.’ Tracing the various acts of interference by Austria and France in the affairs of the peninsula, he declared of the Romagna that Austrian forces and French forces ‘impose upon that country about the very worst form of government that any country ever had.' And it was to the withdrawal of these foreign forces that he looked for a remedy.

I am convinced that the people of Central Italy—a people who for five centuries have been glorious in literature . . . if the foreign forces were withdrawn . . . would soon settle such laws for their own government as would produce contentment and prosperity.

Thus, at the very commencement of 1859, a question was brought into sudden prominence on which Lord John felt strongly, and on which he had no confidence in the Conservative Administration. The attitude of neutrality, which he had hitherto observed, could not but be affected by the circumstance. And the introduction of a measure of Parliamentary Reform by the Conservative Cabinet almost necessarily drove him into a fresh alliance with Liberals. Sir Theodore Martin, in writing the Life of the Prince Consort, has not hesitated to declare that “whatever measure Lord Derby's Ministry might propose was sure to be challenged by Lord John Russell and others, who looked upon themselves as having a sort of exclusive right to guide the public mind upon the question.' Such a sentence is only a proof that Sir Theodore failed to appreciate Lord John's conduct and character. Lord John would have welcomed a good measure of Reform from any source, but he was determined to accept Reform from no source which did not proceed on what he thought sound principles.

No one with any acquaintance with Lord John's views on Reform could doubt, moreover, that the particular measure which the Conservative Government adopted would be objectionable to him both from what it did and what it did not. (I) It left the borough franchise unchanged. (2) It reduced the occupation franchise in counties from 50/. to IOl. (3) It transferred the right of voting, in respect of town freeholds, from the counties to the town in which the freeholds were situated. (4) It did nothing to bring the franchise down to the level of the working classes.

As he himself said immediately after its introduction—

Ever since I departed from that proposition of finality which Earl Grey and Lord Althorp always insisted upon, I have done so upon this ground—which appeared to me to be the only ground for disturbing the settlement of so vast and complicated a subject— namely, that there was a great body of persons, and those persons belonging to the working classes of the country, who were very competent to exercise the franchise. With regard to all these persons the right hon. gentleman does little or nothing.

Holding these views, he gave notice on the IOth of March that he should move a resolution, upon the second reading of the Bill, in conformity with them. That resolution was carried, after a memorable debate, on the morning of the 1st of April, by a majority of 39; and on the following Monday Ministers announced their intention of dissolving Parliament and of appealing to the country.

Two days after this announcement Lord John issued his address to the electors of the City. He naturally placed his conduct on the Reform Bill in the forefront of the battle.

Her Majesty's Ministers, early in the session, introduced a socalled Reform Bill. Among the defects of the Bill, which were numerous, one provision was conspicuous by its presence and another by its absence. . . . It seemed to me that to move an amendment pointing out on the second reading the chief faults of the Bill would be the most clear, manly, and direct course : it was approved by a majority of the whole House of Commons.

But, in the few weeks which elapsed before the dissolution took place, the circumstances which were visibly leading to the Franco-Austrian war raised a new issue of greater

[graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic]
« EdellinenJatka »