« EdellinenJatka »
importance even than Reform ; and Lord John at once brought the new question before his constituents.
. . . The Earl of Derby has clearly intimated that in the event of war our position must be one of ‘armed neutrality, enabling us to take part on that side, whatever it may be, which the honour, the interests, and the dignity of this country may indicate as best deserving our support.’
Unfortunately, the language of Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli, for several years past, leaves no room to doubt which is the side which in their opinion will best deserve our support. It is the side of
Britain demands that she should not assist in riveting the chains of Italy, and that her interest requires that she should maintain peace
with all the powers of Europe. I am, therefore, in favour of an open, honest, and strict neutrality.
Lord John encountered no difficulty in 1859 in retaining the seat which his own gallantry had saved him in 1857. But the election was not otherwise favourable to the cause of Liberalism. The Conservatives gained largely at the polls; and, though they failed to secure a majority, they formed a compact party of more than 300 members in the new House of Commons. Numerically strong, moreover, they gained fresh strength from the disorganisation of their opponents. The Liberals could not but suffer from the circumstance that they had two ex-Prime Ministers in their camp. The events of the last two years had lowered Lord Palmerston in estimation as much as they had raised Lord John ; and the managers of the party thought that it was as impossible to expect Lord John to serve under Lord Palmerston as to place Lord Palmerston under Lord John.
The men who were speculating on a possible solution of this dilemma were disposed, as usual, to throw the blame of it on Lord John. Mr. Greville, writing on the 29th of May, declared that “everything was thrown into uncertainty because Lord John would not say what he intended to do.’ Mr. Greville was, for once, misinformed. Lord John had distinctly stated what he intended to do. Writing privately to one of his most familiar correspondents on the 16th of May, he said, There
is ‘no personal difference between Palmerston and me. We should act together cordially if others did not interfere to make mischief; ' while on the 17th of May he distinctly indicated his own opinion to Sir James Graham :—
Pembroke Lodge: May 17, 1859.
My dear Graham,_ . . . There is a great disposition in the Liberal party to say that the differences between Palmerston and me are the cause why a Liberal Government cannot be made. Now, although this is not true, I feel that I ought if called upon to destroy all reasonable ground for saying that my personal pretensions stand in the way of the public welfare.
On the other hand, I cannot, without sacrificing public objects, accept office without power, and expose myself to be strangled at any moment by the mutes of the party.
There are two situations of influence in the general, as distinguished from the departmental, government of the country: the one that of Prime Minister, the other that of leader of the House of Commons. . . . It seems to me that, if a Liberal Ministry is to be formed, power ought to be divided on fair and equal terms—that is, if he (Palmerston) is Prime Minister, I should lead in the Commons; if I were to be Prime Minister, he ought to lead in the House of Commons. In either case the nomination to Cabinet offices ought to be concerted between us. I have already told you my views on this subject. Of course we should have a full explanation upon Reform and foreign affairs, but I do not anticipate much difference of opinion upon either subject. If, however, on the first point of the leadership we could not agree, there would at once be an end of the negotiation. So likewise if there was a difference which was incurable on any other vital point.—I remain, yours faithfully,
This letter had the effect, which it was intended to produce, of bringing Lord Palmerston and Lord John into communication; but it did not lead to any immediate arrangement. Lord Palmerston wrote to Lord Granville—
94 Piccadilly : May 29, 1859.
My dear Granville,_I have been reflecting upon what you said to me to-day, and I feel, as you do, that it is important that an end should be put to the notion, which has been so inadvertently spread among the Liberals, that there are jealousies and ill-feelings between John Russell and me which would prevent the formation of a Liberal Government in the event of an overthrow of the present Administra
VOL. II. X
tion ; and I concur with you that the most effectual way of removing that impression would be that an agreement should be come to between John Russell and me that we would both of us become members of any Government either he or I might be called upon by
the Queen to form, and you are at liberty to propose this arrangement to him.
Of course such an arrangement would not apply to the case of any other person being commissioned by the Queen to form an Administration. In such a case John Russell and I would hold ourselves free to take such course as we might each of us think proper.
Lord Granville forwarded this letter to Lord John, who replied—
My dear Granville,_I have considered the letter of which you gave me a copy, and have come to the following conclusions: first, that, however important it is to put an end to the notion that there are jealousies and ill-feelings between Palmerston and me which would prevent the formation of a Liberal Government, it would not be right that either of us should surrender his liberty of action in a way that might lead to public injury or a breach of agreement.
Second, an agreement that we would both of us become members of any Government which, on the overthrow of the present Government, either he or I might be called upon to form, does appear to me to hamper most inconveniently our separate liberty of action.
Though Lord Palmerston's overture led to no direct agreement, the correspondence indirectly led to a removal of differences. During the next few days a meeting of the Liberal party was held which was summoned in the joint names of Lord Palmerston and Lord John ; and, though nothing was definitely settled, the suggestion which Lord Palmerston had made was practically adopted.
The Queen was not ignorant of the negotiations which had taken place between Lord Palmerston and Lord John. She was aware that the somewhat delicate task of awarding the apple of supremacy to one of the two claimants had been referred to her ; and she not unnaturally attempted to evade the difficulty by asking both of them to serve under a neutral peer, Lord Granville. Lord Palmerston at once assented to the suggestion ; Lord John, in assenting to it, stipulated that he should lead the House of Commons. It then at once became apparent that Lord Palmerston had made in his own mind, though he had not expressed, the same reservation as Lord John. Yet, with the strange inability to appreciate Lord John's motives which characterises his work, Sir Theodore Martin has nothing but praise for Lord Palmerston, and nothing but blame for Lord John. To an ordinary intellect it is difficult to see why Lord John any more than Lord Palmerston could be expected to forgo the lead. If Lord Palmerston had led the Liberal party for the last four years, Lord John had led it for the preceding twenty. The correspondence, however, will tell the story:—
Private] Bruton Street: June 11, 1859.
My dear Lord John, I saw Lord Palmerston again after my conversation with you. I informed him that you had in a very kind and friendly manner stated that you had no objection to serve under me, but that you considered that you could not do justice to your political views, if you were not Prime Minister, unless you occupied the same post as that which you held under Lord Melbourne ; that you doubted whether you should have any confidence in any other occupier of the Foreign Office, excepting Lord Palmerston. Lord P. told me that if he had been sent for by the Queen he should not have thought it right to alter his position by going to the House of Lords; that, if you had been sent for, he should not have required you to do so as a condition of his serving under you ; and that, serving under a third person, he could not consent to abandon the position which he now held. I have seen Milner Gibson, who considers it a sine qua non that you and Palmerston should both be in the Government; that either of you below the gangway would be fatal to the Government; that he would prefer you as leader of the House of Commons ; but that he is ready to acquiesce in any arrangement with which you are satisfied. Gladstone, Herbert, and Lewis believe your joining to be of the greatest importance, but are of opinion that a Government must be formed or the Liberal party will be disgraced. How this is now to be contrived I do not know. I should be much obliged to you to let me know immediately whether your answer of this evening is final, as it is not fair to the Queen that she should not know as soon as possible whether I continue or give up the attempt. I must thank you again for your great personal kindness towards my
self—Yours sincerely, GRANVILLE.
Lord John replied— Pembroke Lodge, Richmond : June 12, 1859. My dear Granville,_I thought I had made an answer to your proposition which you could submit to the Queen. I have no difficulty in repeating that, while I feel deeply her Majesty's great personal kindness towards myself, I cannot accept your proposal. What has passed between you and Palmerston, however, appears to me to free the position from some difficulties. It is clear that if I were to form a Ministry I should have the assistance of Lord Palmerston. On the other hand, if he is to form a Ministry, I should expect him to propose to me any office I might choose (omitting, of course, his own) with the option of going to the House of Lords or remaining in the House of Commons under him. That proposition on the grounds of fairness and equality I am prepared to accept. I hope I have made myself clear. With Palmerston I could only have to consider who is to have the first and who the second office in the State. With you I could only occupy the third, and should not feel that I had sufficient security either on foreign affairs or on Reform. I am afraid her Majesty must encounter the difficulty of making a choice. But I do not think either Lord Palmerston or I should be inclined to do otherwise than submit with respect and loyal duty to her Majesty's decision. I am glad you feel that I mean no personal unkindness to you. My resolution, however, as to your proposal is final.—I remain, ever yours very truly, J. RUSSELL. Lord Granville, on receiving this letter, at once resigned the commission which the Queen had entrusted to him, and the Queen sent for Lord Palmerston. 94 Piccadilly : June 12, 1859. My dear John Russell,—Granville having given up his commission to form a Government, the Queen sent for me this afternoon and has desired me to undertake the duty. I shall drive down to Pembroke Lodge as soon as I have dined in order to request your assist
ance, and to ask what office you would like to hold.—Yours sincerely, PALMERSTON,
The Queen's decision settled the question. The apple of supremacy had been definitely awarded ; and, in the interests both of his party and of his country, Lord John at once