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Difficult as the task is the Italians have now before them, I can
not but think that they will accomplish it better than we any of us
hope, for every day convinces me more and more that I am living in
the midst of a great and real national movement, which will at last
be crowned with perfect success, notwithstanding the legion of
enemies Italy still counts in Europe. . . . —Your affectionate nephew, ODO RUSSELL."
With the despatch of the 27th of October the chief interest in Lord John's Italian policy terminates. During the ensuing months he used his influence to complete the revolution which he had done so much to support. When France interfered to prevent an attack upon Gaeta, to which the King of the Two Sicilies retired, Lord John wrote despatch after despatch to turn the Emperor Napoleon from his purpose ; and when Victor Emanuel assumed the title of King of Italy, England, under Lord John's guidance, at once recognised the new kingdom. Three months elapsed before Napoleon had the resolution or good sense to follow England's example.
Three years later, when General Garibaldi paid his memorable visit to England, he lunched at Pembroke Lodge. And the soldier who had fought with the sword changed walkingsticks with the statesman who had fought as vigorously in the same cause with the pen.
It is now time, however, to recur to other matters with which Lord John had been concerned during the period in which he had been so busily occupied in promoting the union of Italy. In the month which succeeded his acceptance of office his father-in-law, Lord Minto, who had been for some time in failing health, died. Lord Minto was not merely his father-in-law ; he was his colleague and counsellor; and on many occasions exercised a great, or, as some statesmen alleged, an excessive influence on Lord John's policy. Ever since his famous mission to Italy, Lord Minto had made the Italian question his own ; and, even in the triumvirate which regulated the Italian policy of Lord Palmerston's Administration, Italy had no warmer or more enthusiastic friend. Soon
' Eleven months before the Pope told Mr. Odo Russell that Lord John was “our bitterest enemy.'
after Lord Minto's death, the Russells left Richmond for Scotland, finding change and quiet at Abergeldie. It was a fortunate circumstance that at a moment when the Foreign Office was exceptionally busy, and when the Queen did not entirely agree with the views of the Foreign Minister, Lord John should have been living within an easy drive of Balmoral. But Lord John was not solely occupied with questions of foreign policy. The introduction of a new Reform Bill had been the condition on which he had consented to accept office. During the autumn the Cabinet was engaged in making careful inquiries into the effect of a reduction of the borough franchise; and those members of it who, like the Prime Minister, were opposed to all Reform discovered with some consternation that—
The returns we have got show an awful increase of voters in all the large towns, whatever standard of franchise we may adopt. Even the eight-pound value would in most cases enormously add to the numbers. . . Then, again, as to our county franchise we seem to be taking a leap in the dark. We have no returns, that I am aware of that give us the least notion what numbers the ten-pound franchise, as it has been proposed, would add to the present county voters, nor what effect that addition would be likely to produce.
Such were the apprehensions which the Prime Minister expressed to Lord John at the close of the year. Lord John's opinions were very different. The quiet and contentment which had been the direct consequence of the great measure of 1832 confirmed his opinion that organic Reform was the best safeguard against social disturbance. He clung, therefore, to his own view, and on the 1st of March, 1860, brought forward the new Reform Bill. The measure, which was comparatively simple, proposed the reduction of the county franchise to IO/, of the borough franchise to 6/, and the semi-disfranchisement of the twenty-five smallest boroughs returning two members. The Bill, proposed in a moderate speech, was received with indifference rather than hostility; and was read a second time without a division in the beginning of May. But, though no one had hitherto ventured on open hostility to the measure, its fate was already doubtful. It was perishing, not from the attacks of its opponents, but from the neglect of its friends. One half of the Cabinet did not conceal their dislike of it; the ‘Times' discovered that it was pregnant with danger; Mr. Mackinnon, the member for Rye, expressing a universal opinion, met the motion for going into committee on the Bill by a resolution for its postponement; and the Government only succeeded in defeating him by a narrow and reluctant majority. It was evident that the Bill was doomed, and Lord John himself advised the Cabinet to withdraw it. His colleagues readily adopted a suggestion, which was in consonance with their own feelings, and on the 11th of June Lord John withdrew the Bill. In withdrawing the measure Lord John stated his intention of dealing with the franchise at the earliest period which may be in our power.' But it was soon evident that, whatever interpretation this expression might bear, it would not be in the power of the Government to carry a Reform Bill through a reluctant House of Commons, the representatives of an indifferent community. Pembroke Lodge ; November 16, 1860. My dear Palmerston, It is obvious that the preparation of business for the next session must depend in a great measure on the question whether or no a Reform Bill is to be introduced by the Government. I think you are entitled to know my opinion on this subject. It is pretty clear that the only measure which would be likely to pass would be one of a very moderate character; say, a Bill reducing the franchise in counties to 20/. and in boroughs to 8/., and containing no disfranchisement. For my part, I could willingly agree to such a Bill. But who wants it? Not the Reformers, for they would wish to go much further. Not the Conservatives, for they would argue that a reduction to 8/. would be a step, though a short one, to universal suffrage. The apathy of the country is undeniable. Nor is it a transient humour, it seems rather a confirmed habit of mind. Four Reform Bills have been introduced of late years—one by my Government; one by Lord Aberdeen's ; one by Lord Derby's; and one by yours. For not one of them has there been the least enthusiasm. I was told by a Lancashire deputation last session that, if we had brought forward a bolder and a larger measure of disfranchisement and enfranchisement, it would have been immensely popular. But Bright's plan, which went much further than ours, only excited more opposition and more general dislike. My conclusion is that, the advisers of the Crown of all parties having offered to the country various measures of Reform, and the country having shown itself indifferent to them all, the best course which can now be taken is to wait till the country itself shows a manifest desire for an amendment of the representation. Of course the Government and the Liberal party will be liable to great reproach and very unfair charges. But that is better than dragging an imperfect measure through a reluctant Parliament, and enforcing it on an unwilling country. At the same time, if the Cabinet should prefer the introduction of such a measure as I have sketched, I should be quite willing to acquiesce. I cannot conclude without thanking you sincerely for the very handsome manner in which you spoke the other night of my conduct of foreign affairs. Such language from you will dispel many calumnies.—I remain, yours very sincerely, J. RUSSELL.
The Cabinet was only too ready to adopt Lord John's suggestion, and abandon a measure for which the majority of its members entertained dislike, and for which the country showed no desire ; and no new measure of Reform was proposed for more than five years. Lord John's attitude on the subject in 1860 formed a very striking contrast to his conduct in the spring of 1854. In withdrawing the Bill of 1854 he had been unable to suppress his emotion; in postponing Reform in 1860 he hardly attempted to conceal his indifference. But the true explanation of this contradictory behaviour was to be found in the circumstances in which, on each occasion, he was placed. In 1854 he was drifting, under a Minister whom he thought unequal to the situation, into a policy which he disapproved. In 1860 his whole mind was absorbed on the great task on which he was engaged—the regeneration of Italy. Under one set of circumstances he was forced to abandon a measure for the sake of proceedings which he disliked ; under the other set of circumstances Reform itself was an encumbrance to a policy which was occupying his whole time. Thus he could not part with it without emotion on one occasion, and he could postpone it without regret on the other."
' Those people who think that Lord John was a troublesome colleague to work with will hardly bring themselves to understand the perfect smoothness with which he worked in 1860. Writing to Lady Melgund on January 18–in the week following that in which the Cabinet adopted Lord John's Italian policy
During the discussions on Reform in the Cabinet, Lord John had derived his chief support from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Gladstone. Other matters, too, were concurrently indicating that Mr. Gladstone and Lord John were drawing close to each other. No one, not even Lord Palmerston, so thoroughly approved Lord John's Italian policy as Mr. Gladstone; and no one supported Mr. Gladstone's financial measures so loyally as Lord John. 1860 was the year of the Commercial Treaty with France;" it was the year of Mr. Gladstone's greatest Budget; it was the year in which the Lords threw out the measure for repealing the duty on paper; and it was the year in which Lord Palmerston persuaded the House of Commons to vote a large sum of money on fortifications. On two of these questions there was no difference of opinion. On the other two Lord John agreed much more nearly with Mr. Gladstone than with Lord Palmerston. Like Mr. Gladstone he did not wholly approve the compromise under which Lord Palmerston submitted to the loss of the Paper Duties Bill; and he disliked the expenditure on fortifications on which Lord Palmerston insisted.”
and the new Reform Bill—the Duke of Bedford said, “John writes, “Last week was the most gratifying week to me in politics which I have had since 1861.”” A month afterwards the Duke wrote again to the same correspondent, “John is in high spirits.” And, after Mr. Gladstone's great Budget speech, the Duke told Lady Melgund that Lord John said, “My wish and aspiration for many years, which failed under Aberdeen, has apparently succeeded under Palmerston.’
The Emperor wished the meeting of Parliament to be postponed in order that the treaty might be announced simultaneously in England and France. Lord Palmerston, writing on January 6, said of this, “It is so thoroughly French to want to make a cous de thotre if they do not make a coup d'état.”
2 He wrote to Lord Palmerston—
Pembroke Lodge: May 20, 1860.
My dear Palmerston, -I cannot but think much more seriously of the proposed vote of the Lords than you appear to do. No one can deny the right of the Lords to throw out the Paper Duty Repeal Bill, any more than they can deny the right of the Crown to make a hundred Peers in one day, or of the Commons to reject the Mutiny Bill. But the exercise of a right which has lain dormant since the Revolution must give a great shock to the constitution. Even as a matter of convenience our finances cannot bear two Chancellors of the Exchequer making their Budget in the two Houses. The advantage of having a million added to the revenue of the year I do not deny ; but it will be too dearly purchased if the Lords are to put in a claim, which they can never sustain, of imposing taxes directly and indirectly. However, although I cannot agree in your premises, I shall endeavour