Sivut kuvina

—he acted on what he genuinely thought at the moment was the interest of the Church, the Crown, and the country. His head may have been in error, but his heart was sound. Administrative ability unfortunately attracts less attention than Parliamentary eloquence, and the capacity which a man displays in his office is forgotten when the generation of those who work under him passes away. It would otherwise be remembered to Lord John's credit that no man in the present century has acquired greater reputation as a Minister. He was one of the best Secretaries of State that ever entered the Home Office; and, in his short career at the Colonial Office, he displayed a breadth of view and a sobriety of judgment which promised to make him the greatest of Colonial Ministers. He was never satisfied with discharging the mere details of his office. His great speech on colonial policy in 1850, which is in reality an elaborate treatise on the rise, progress, and future of the colonies, is an eternal proof of the thoroughness with which he had thought out every portion of the subject ; while the continuous efforts which he made at the Home Office for the more rational treatment of crime by the construction of better prisons, by the introduction of improved prison discipline, by the gradual abolition of transportation, and by the establishment of a rural police, again afford a decisive proof that his desire was not merely to administer, but to improve, what he found. Perhaps modern England owes as much to the improvements which he thus introduced as to the passage of the Reform Act. As Foreign Minister Lord John displayed equally great qualities. No man ever fell on more critical times, and no man ever achieved a more brilliant success than Lord John's Italian policy secured. His despatches on this question, and on other subjects, are, in many ways, remarkable. They frequently read like political essays rather than official documents, and they commonly contain the doctrines, or, as hostile critics would say, the platitudes, of the Whig creed. Some of them are unusually long. But their length is always attributable to the matter which they contain, and not to mere diffuseness of style. Few men of his generation could express so much by voice or pen in so few words as Lord John ; and, on those occasions on which he was lengthy, it will almost invariably be found that he was so because he had a good deal to say, and not because he took a long time in saying it. The characteristics which are visible in his despatches may be traced in his speeches. Many of them read like careful essays, pregnant with thought and matter. Occasionally, indeed, they teem with platitudes, which sound like extracts from a political commonplace book. But it is due to their author to remember that sentences which sound like platitudes now were far from being platitudes when they were first uttered. The doctrines which are accepted as truisms today have been made truisms by Lord John Russell's insistence. It was, however, rather in debate than in exposition that Lord John showed to most advantage. His full mind, his mature knowledge, and his long practice made him a most capable debater. He rarely missed the strong point of his own case, or the weak point of his adversary's; and both in public discussion and in private conversation he had the knack of grappling with the centre of a subject which is as serviceable as it is unusual. He was, too, quick, as well as dexterous, in reply. Mr. Gladstone quoted his retort to Sir F. Burdett— ‘The honourable member talks of the cant of patriotism ; but there is something worse than the cant of patriotism, and that is the recant of patriotism ''-as an example of readiness in debate; while Sir Robert Peel said that, though bludgeons were not in Lord John's way, he can draw a rapier of the finest temper and polish, and run you through.” There is one other characteristic in Lord John's speeches which deserves to be noticed. In the words of the late Sir William Heathcote, he never mingled in debate without raising its tone. His reasoning may be true or false; it may command or fail to secure consent. But the reader instinctively feels that the arguments come from a true man, who is expressing, not concealing, his real opinions, and who is labouring to the best of his judgment in the service of his country

The story is told in Mr. Frith's Memoirs, ii. 258. But the repartee had been given before in Fraser's J/agazine for June 1845. * I owe this saying and the succeeding one to Lord Coleridge.

and mankind. His language is as transparent as his thoughts are clear. There is no false colour in his sentences, no base metal in his composition. Ring him where you will, he rings true. It was somewhere said of Lord John's speeches that, whatever effect they might have on the audience, they read better than those of other people ; and, in fact, Lord John had physical defects which prevented him from taking the highest rank as an orator. His physique was weak. Mr. Sydney Smith told a Devonshire elector in the thirties who expressed surprise at Lord John's small stature that “he was wasted in the service of his country;' while one of his own colleagues declared that it was strange to see ‘so great a man so little.' Nor was his weak physique his only drawback ; his voice was thin, his manner was awkward. It was humorously stated that, when he placed his left elbow on the palm of his right hand, the House awaited a sentiment in favour of civil and religious liberty. In a very careful and on the whole appreciative article in ‘Fraser's Magazine, in June 1845, the writer says—

Notwithstanding the many points of excellence in his speeches, Lord John Russell's exterior and style of speaking are most disappointing. Remembering the pleasure he has given you on paper, and the prominent position he holds in the House of Commons, your first sensation on seeing and hearing him is that you must have been misinformed. Can that little, quiet, fragile, modest, almost insignificantlooking man—so neat, plain, and formal, in his black coat and snowwhite neckcloth, who sits with his legs crossed anyhow, and his hat overshading his small, sharp features till they are scarcely seen—can that be Lord John Russell ? . . .

In a few moments he takes off his hat and rises from his seat, advancing to the table to speak. Now, for the first time, there is something that prepossesses. His head, though small, is finely shaped ; it is a highly intellectual head, and the brow is wide and deep. . . . A moment more and you are struck with the proportions, though small, of his frame—his erect attitude, his chest expanded. You begin to perceive that a little man need not, of necessity, be insignificant. . . . He speaks for a time, and your disappointment returns. His voice is feeble in quality, and monotonous. It is thin, and there is a twang upon it which smacks of aristocratic affectation ; but it is distinct. . . . He goes on in that strain, uttering a few of the most obvious commonplaces of apology or of deprecation, till the idea of mediocrity grows insensibly upon your mind. Wait a little. A cheer comes from the Opposition benches. . . . Nay, even on the Ministerial side the ‘point' has not been without its effect, as many a suppressed titter testifies. All the level commonplace, it seems, was but the stringing of the bow; at the moment when least expected, the cool prepared marksman has shot his arrow of keen and polished sarcasm at Sir Robert Peel, whom it has fleshed, if not transfixed. . . . And then he proceeds during a speech of perhaps an hour and a half . now rousing his own side to cheers against their opponents, and now stimulating those opponents to laugh at or suspect their own leaders ; but always exhibiting power, self-possession, tact, skill, Parliamentary and political knowledge, command of language, and felicity of diction, surpassed but by few of the distinguished men of the day. This description, written nearly half a century ago by a writer presumably opposed to Lord John's political opinions, admirably illustrates both Lord John's excellences and defects as an orator. Defects in the present day have a constant tendency to survive. For the history of the nineteenth century is largely written in its caricatures; and the caricaturist naturally exaggerates the peculiarities at which men laugh, and not the qualities which they applaud. No man fills a larger place in caricature than Lord John Russell. The small stature, which testified to the frail body, and the large head, which indicated the capacious intellect, equally assisted the caricaturist. It became gradually customary to portray Lord John as a boy, or as a child. Lord John's striking personal characteristics were not, however, seized by the caricaturist at the first. In his earlier pictures of him, Mr. Doyle has concealed, instead of exaggerating, the Minister's peculiarities. In the earliest of them in which Lord John appears,' a scene from the ‘Beggars' Opera,’ Lord John is the functionary waiting to lead Sir C. Wetherell off to execution. Two numbers later he is the tailor—a tall tailor—who has fitted John Bull with a pair of ‘bra' new grey breeks.’ And it was only in 1835 that Mr. Doyle thoroughly seized his


The first caricature of Mr. Doyle's with which Lord John is associated—“The New Lamps for Old '—does not contain his portrait.

characteristics and made himself master of his appearance. Mr O'Connell's influence with the new Ministers was a tempting subject for the artist : Lord John's commanding position in the Cabinet brought him into the first place in almost every composition ; while the Minister's slight frame contrasted with Mr. O'Connell's burly features gave zest to the caricature. Thus Lord John is Little Red Riding Hood to Mr. O'Connell's wolf; he is the very small sheep, while Mr. O'Connell is the wolf in sheep's clothing; he is Hop o' My Thumb in ‘The Faggot Cutter and his Seven Sons; he is a sleek and small pug in the admirable caricature of Sir E. Landseer's ‘Jack in Office; he sits on Lord Melbourne's lap in the sedan to Vauxhall, and finally he marches in front in “The Age of Leetle Men.’ It will be probably clear from this short paragraph that Mr. Doyle had thoroughly realised how much Lord John's diminutive stature could be made to assist his pencil. The later caricaturists of the reign naturally availed themselves of the same peculiarity. But they engrafted on Lord John's slight physique some characteristics which were rather amusing than true. Represented almost always as a boy, or occasionally as a girl, it required only one step to connect him with the mischievous tendencies and the weakness which is inseparable from youth. Thus he is the boy who has written “No Popery’ on the wall and run away ; he is the page who is not strong enough for the place ; or the nursemaid unable to wheel the perambulator with the baby Reform Bill up the steps of the House of Lords. Probably even Lord John's intimate friends are hardly aware how their own impression of his character and career has been moulded by these amusing pictures. If Lord John's career was rendered more difficult by the smallness of his frame, he was at a still greater disadvantage from the physical weakness from which he suffered throughout his life. There is an Oriental proverb that stomach is everything and everything is stomach. But stomach was the one

* Lord Russell admitted to Mr. William Rogers that this caricature was very severe, and did his Government a great deal of harm. He repaid it years afterwards by giving Mr. Leech's son a nomination for the Charter House.

« EdellinenJatka »