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Lady Russell and himself had that day lost a son, but they had gained an excellent and an affectionate daughter; and their son, Lord Amberley, was about to become possessed of the greatest blessing that life can bestow—a wife with all those qualities, virtues, and graces which not only adorn life, but make life worth living. . . . But there was another source of happiness to Lady Russell and himself. They were likely to become more closely associated with their old friends Lord and Lady Stanley, with whom he had had the pleasure of being so long connected through political channels and in other ways, and it would be a source of joy to him to know that that continued connection would be bound up with the future happiness of their son and daughter-in-law.
Lord and Lady Russell left Alderley on the day which succeeded their son's wedding. Lady Russell, after dropping her younger boys at Harrow, returned to Pembroke Lodge. Lord Russell, taking his eldest daughter with him, travelled to Aberdeen, where he had undertaken to deliver an address. In the middle of November the whole family was re-established at Pembroke Lodge; and there, in the following month, they welcomed Lord and Lady Amberley. Lord Russell, however, found time amidst the enjoyment of their society and the occupations of his office to run down to Bowood for the purpose of saying farewell to the widow of his old friend the poet Moore, who was on her death-bed. He found leisure also to re-edit his old work the ‘Essay on the Constitution,' and to add to it a new chapter.
Domestic policy had no more interest in 1865 than in 1864. The presence of Lord Palmerston continued to suffuse a conservative calm over the political ocean, and Lord Russell occupied himself with the great questions of foreign policy in which he was absorbed, without attempting to promote the organic reforms which, a few years before, he had so zealously advocated. One other member of the Government, indeed, found ample work to do. Lord Palmerston's Administration will always be as memorable for the fiscal reforms of Mr. Gladstone as for the foreign policy of Lord Russell ; and even Radicals tolerated a monotony of inaction when they contemplated the splendid results which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was achieving. For these were the years when the revenue rose with leaps and with bounds, and when, at each fresh application of the pruning knife, it shot up in luxuriant vigour. In this very year the Chancellor of the Exchequer employed his surplus to reduce the rate of the income tax from sixpence to fourpence and to make concurrently a large reduction in the duties on tea. Lord Russell was in favour of a still more remarkable policy. Chesham Place: April 6, 1865.
My dear Palmerston, I think you have decided rightly in the Cabinet about the Budget, saving amendments in detail. You ask me very fairly what has made me change my opinion about income tax. I will give you my reasons. First, the unexpected surplus of nearly four millions makes me think the operation perfectly practicable if our present prosperity continues. Next, I have become very sanguine of maintaining peace both with France and America. If these two data are allowed, then I think a strong argument may be drawn from the declarations of 1842 and 1845. The income tax was then imposed in order to make certain commercial experiments, and fill up a void which might for a time be created. The experiments have now been made, the void has been filled up, and the success is undisputed. It seems, therefore, to me that the crowning of the edifice, as our neighbour has it, would be the total extinction of the income tax. It is a tax properly imposed on all income, but which no ingenuity could make just or equal. I have been very slow in coining to the conclusion that it ought to cease; it is a most convenient weapon for a Government in danger of foreign war, but I think its abolition, with a power of revival, would be a proof of power and confidence in our resources which would greatly satisfy our own people and astonish our enemies abroad. . . .-Yours, &c., RUSSELL. Lord Russell's proposal was not, of course, adopted; and Mr. Gladstone retained the tax for the purpose of pursuing still further the remarkable financial policy which had already produced such surprising results in his hands. The session of 1865 was not otherwise memorable, and it was closed at an unusually early period. The Parliament of 1859 had, in fact, completed the sixth year of its existence; and the Ministers were anxious that the dissolution should take place while the country was fresh from the spectacle of their leader displaying night after night the elasticity of youth bencath the weight of age. Parliament was dissolved in July, and the elections which immediately followed showed that his colleagues had not exaggerated the effect of Lord Palmerston's popularity. For in those days even metropolitan constituencies returned Liberal candidates; Lord Russell had the satisfaction of seeing the City which he had so long represented true to the Liberal cause ; and perhaps the only disappointments which he felt in connection with the first general election, since he had attained his full age, in which he had borne no part, were occasioned by the defeat of his son at Leeds, and of his colleague Mr. Gladstone at Oxford. Lord Amberley and he had, however, other causes to compensate for their mortification. On the 12th of August Lord Russell received a telegram from Alderley announcing the birth of a boy, the present Lord Russell. Ten days later, Lady Russell and he stopped at Alderley on their way to Scotland, and had the satisfaction of seeing their little grandchild. Thence they paid a series of visits in Scotland, crossed over towards the end of September to Ireland, and, after seeing many of their friends and some of their tenantry, returned to England on the 3rd, and Pembroke Lodge on the 4th of October. When Lord Russell returned to Richmond, Lord Palmerston was at Brocket still labouring at his duties. But early in the month a chill, caught while out driving, brought on the illness of which, on the 18th of October, he died. The days had long gone when either rivalry or difference had raised any cloud between Lord Russell and Lord Palmerston ; and, throughout the Administration of 1859, the two men had worked together in the closest fellowship and harmony. Lord Russell could not, however, avoid reflecting on his own increasing solitude. The men with whom he had commenced life were mostly joined ‘to the great majority.' The solitary survivors of Lord Grey's Cabinet, after Lord Palmerston's death, were Lord Brougham, who had withdrawn from politics; Lord Derby, who had long led the Tories; and Lord Russell, who was resuming the lead of the Liberal party. More than one half even of the original Cabinet of 1846 had already passed away; while, during the Administration of 1859, death had fallen equally on old friends like Lord Lansdowne, Lord Minto, Lord Campbell, Sir James Graham, and Lord Palmerston, and upon younger friends like Mr. Sidney Herbert, the Duke of Newcastle, Lord Elgin, and Sir George Lewis. The time, however, was one for action and not for mourning. Before Lord Palmerston's death, the Queen, writing from Balmoral, told Lord Russell that she should ask him to carry on the Government; and on the 19th she wrote—
The melancholy news of Lord Palmerston's death reached the Queen last night. This is another link with the past that is broken, and the Queen feels deeply in her desolate and isolated condition how one by one of those tried servants and advisers are taken from her. . . .
The Queen can turn to no other than Lord Russell, an old and tried friend of hers, to undertake the arduous duties of Prime Minister, and to carry on the Government. She has otherwise nothing to add to her letter of yesterday.
Lord Russell at once intimated to the Queen his readiness to obey her commands if his colleagues consented to act under him ; and, as a preliminary arrangement, at once invited Lord Clarendon to take his own place at the Foreign Office. Before he communicated his wishes to Lord Clarendon, he received the following letter from a more important colleague — Clumber: October 18, 1865. My dear Lord Russell,—I have received to-night by telegraph the appalling news of Lord Palmerston's decease. None of us, I suppose, were prepared for this event in the sense of having communicated as to what should follow. The Queen must take the first step, but I cannot feel uncertain what it will be. Your former place as her Minister, your powers, experience, services, and renown, do not leave room for doubt that you will be sent for. Your hands will be entirely free. You are pledged probably to no one, certainly not to me. But any Government now to be formed cannot be wholly a continuation ; it must be in some degree a new commencement.
I am sore with conflicts about the public expenditure, which I feel that other men would either have escaped, or have conducted more gently and less fretfully. I am most willing to retire.
On the other hand, I am bound by conviction, even more than by credit, to the principle of progressive reduction in our military and naval establishments, and in the charges for them, under the favouring circumstances which we appear to enjoy. This is, I think, the moment to say thus much on a subject-matter which greatly appertains to my department.
On the general field of politics, after having known your course in Cabinet for eight and a half years, I am quite willing to take my chance under your banner in the exact capacity I now fill," and I adopt the step, perhaps a little unusual, of saying so, because it may be convenient to you at a juncture when time is precious, while it can hardly, I trust, after what I have said above, be hurtful.—Believe
me, sincerely yours, W. E. GLADSTONE.
I dare say you will now think more fondly still of the gardener's house at Drumlanrig.”
Mr. Gladstone was probably right in thinking that a new Government could not be a continuation of Lord Palmerston's Ministry. Few Administrations had, in fact, ever suffered such changes; and, when Lord Russell left the Foreign Office for the Treasury, four out of five of its original Secretaries had ceased to hold the seals of office. And these changes had not only altered the character of the Ministry. They had decreased its strength in the House of Commons. In 1859 the Cabinet had been represented in that House by Lord Palmerston, Lord John, Mr. Gladstone, Sir George Lewis, Sir George Grey, Sir Charles Wood, and Mr. Sidney Herbert. In 1865 it had lost in that House Lord Palmerston, Lord John, Sir George Lewis, and Mr. Sidney Herbert; it had gained, as its solitary recruit, Mr. Cardwell. The great spending departments, the War Office and the Admiralty, moreover, were both held by peers. Various proposals were made by Lord Russell's colleagues for remedying this state of things. The Duke of Somerset and Lord de Grey (Lord Ripon) very ' i.e. as Chancellor of the Exchequer without the lead of the House of Commons, which was, however, immediately conferred on him.
* In the preceding month Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone had met Lord and Lady Russell at the Duke of Buccleuch's (Drumlanrig).