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Thus in our foreign policy as in our domestic we must be at once conservative and reforming—preserving that we may reform, and reforming that we may preserve.
Fortunately, the beginning of winter and the disposition of General Cavaignac afford scope for such a policy. Unfortunately the disposition of the Cabinets of Austria and Naples seems hostile to any compromise.
If they continue so we may expect perhaps a short reaction, but in the end a strong reinforcement to the republican party in Germany and in Italy. In that case we can only stand aside and guard ourselves. J. R.
The anxiety of the Court was not entirely allayed by a knowledge of the Prime Minister's opinions: and almost immediately afterwards her Majesty invited Lord John to Windsor, and during a visit—which was protracted over three days—discussed with him the state of affairs abroad, and her reasons for disapproving the course which Lord Palmerston was pursuing. And certainly the events which were rapidly succeeding one another on the Continent justified and excused the Queen's anxiety. In Prussia, Berlin was on the eve of a revolution. In Austria, Vienna was being bombarded by Jellachich's battalions; the Emperor of Austria was a fugitive; and Kossuth was winning victory after victory in the cause of Hungarian independence. But even in the hour of defeat Austria was steadily declining to enter into conference on the affairs of Italy except on her own terms. In October, indeed, while Lord John was at Windsor, hopes were entertained that the difficulties which she was raising would be surmounted. As November ebbed away, this prospect dis
appeared. Osborne : " December 2, 1848.
My dear Palmerston, . . . We have now exhausted argument to induce Austria to give up Lombardy. Your despatches on this subject cannot be surpassed, and can only be repeated. F. Schwarzenberg is less liberal than Wessenberg, and, having less intelligence, is less likely to be persuaded. It is obvious Austria will never consent to any place of conference out of her dominions ; that France will not consent to any place within them ; that Sardinia will not consent to any basis of negotiation other than that
Lord and Lady John were the Queen's guests in the Isle of Wight.
first proposed : that Austria will never agree to that basis. It results from this account that the conference is impossible or will be nugatory. Territorial questions put aside, might we not urge on the King of Sardinia that it behoves him to make the best terms he can for peace, order, and liberty in Italy P All would be lost by a war; but by agreeing to a peace—on the declaration of Austria that she will instantly give free institutions to Lombardy—England, France, Austria, and Sardinia may all use their influence to preserve constitutional government in Italy, to put down anarchy, and maintain tranquillity : whereas, if there is to be war between young Italy and Austria, whatever Austria may lose will probably go, not to strengthen Sardinia, but to promote republican views and shake every throne in
Italy.—Yours truly, J. Russell."
In the meanwhile, events in Southern Italy were leading to a fresh crisis and fresh embarrassment. Opinion in the Cabinet had from the first been divided on the policy to be pursued towards Naples and Sicily. Lord Minto, on the one hand, had a strong desire to defend the Sicilians against the attack of their sovereign, and, in fact, told Lord John in August that he could not remain in the Cabinet if we did not interfere. The Grey party, on the contrary, disliked the notion of any British intervention. A compromise was adopted in November, and a well-intentioned though useless attempt was made to mediate between the two parties. On its failure war was resumed, and an agent of the Provisional Government of Sicily came to England for the purpose of procuring arms for the insurgents. The contractor to whom the agent applied said that he had recently supplied arms to the Ordnance Office, and had none others ready : ' Writing nearly four years afterwards to Lord Aberdeen, on July 2, 1852, Lord John said: “After he [Charles Albert] had made his first attempt, we, in conjunction with France, proposed to mediate. What we intended to propose was that Charles Albert should withdraw his claims to Northern Italy (Lombardy and Venice), and that Austria should withdraw her claims to indemnity for the past war. This was settled between Palmerston and me, and would have been laid before the Queen in a formal shape. But both parties were anxious for another struggle. Charles Albert broke the truce, and was beat at Novara. We then interfered by advice. I advised the Piedmontese Envoy to offer sixty or seventy millions of francs, instead of thirty which he proposed ; and Thiers at Paris told Mr. Hubner that, if moderate terms were not made at Vienna, France would go to war. Thus the peace was made.’
but that, if the Ordnance Office would permit these arms to be transferred to the insurgents, he would undertake to replace them in due course with others. The Ordnance Office referred the application to Lord Palmerston, who, without consulting his colleagues, at once gave the requisite permission. This curious proceeding was communicated by the contractor to the editor of the ‘Times,' who made it the ground of a severe attack on the Administration ; and Lord John's attention was thus drawn to the ‘provoking business.' Downing Street : January 20, 1849. My dear Palmerston, I have been revolving in my mind what course it may be best to take with regard to the guns delivered out of the Queen's stores, with a view to enable the contractor to furnish the materials of war required by the Sicilians. I think, considering that our position was and is one of neutrality . we ought as a strong power to do voluntarily that which we should enforce upon a weaker State ; we are bound to express to the Neapolitan Government our regret as to what has occurred, and to assure them that we shall be careful in future that no act of the Government shall favour one of the contending parties more than the other. I would like to know your view of this course, and at all events I propose to bring it before the Cabinet on Tuesday. As I fear you are not well cnough to go out, we can, if you like it, have the Cabinet at your house.—I remain, yours faithfully, J. RUSSELL.
It is due to Lord Palmerston to insert his answer:
C. G. : January 22, 1849. My dear John Russell,—These are the papers on which in September last I stated to the Ordnance that there would be no objection to their letting the contractor have back the iron guns that he wanted for the Sicilians. Perhaps it would have been better if I had said no instead of yes; but there is a wide difference between
what was then done and supplying the Sicilians with our own stores at our own expense.
With regard to the course to be pursued about the matter of the iron guns, I am not aware that the Neapolitan Government has ever made any complaint on the subject; and it seems to me that it would be odd for us to be making at the end of January an apology to the King of Naples for a thing that happened last September and of which he has never complained, and which moreover was not nearly so unfriendly an act as the encouraging the Sicilians to choose another king ; the saluting of their independent flag; and the forcible stopping of the military operations in Sicily. If we are to begin to confess our sins to the King of Naples we ought at least to make a clean breast of it. He would no doubt be as much delighted as surprised at our penitence, but I am afraid it would not tend to bring to a speedy and satisfactory issue the negotiations now carry
ing on at Naples. I should be against making any communication on this matter to the Neapolitan Government ; and in answer to questions in Parliament I should say that one step in a long course of proceedings cannot be fairly judged of unconnected with the whole, and that we will lay all the papers before Parliament the moment we can do so without prejudice to the negotiations now going on, and which by my brother's despatches seem to be brought within a range of difference which might easily admit of reconcilement.—Yours sin
Lord John of course communicated the whole circumstances to the Queen, suggesting the possibility of removing Lord Palmerston to Ireland. He probably imagined that Lord Palmerston would refuse to sign the apology to Naples, and that his continuance at the Foreign Office would be thus impracticable. But, when the Cabinet met on the following morning, Lord Palmerston gave way, and consented to sign a public despatch to his brother, Mr. Temple, saying that “the authority [to supply the arms] was given inadvertently ’ and that “her Majesty's Government regret what occurred.’
With Lord Palmerston's submission the crisis ended, and the project of removing him to Dublin was abandoned. But the solution of the difficulty was not accepted by all parties. Lady John wrote on her husband's return from Windsor—
24 [/anuary].-Queen disappointed with the result of the Cabinet. Discontented letter from Lord Grey to John.
Both the Queen and Lord Grey probably concluded that the same difficulty, which had so constantly occurred, was certain to recur, and if such were their anticipations they were not unfounded. During the next few weeks the Pied
montese unwisely renewed the death struggle with Austria; and the Queen was alarmed at observing that Lord Palmerston was laying upon Austria the responsibility which she thought ought to have been thrown on Piedmont. Shortly afterwards the French, in consequence of Austrian success, formally occupied Roman territory; and the Queen had perhaps a not ungrounded apprehension that her Foreign Minister was anxious to interfere in the internal affairs of Rome; while throughout the summer Lord Palmerston was constantly addressing sharp and bitter reproaches to Austria; and the tension between Lord Ponsonby, the British Ambassador at Vienna, and the Foreign Secretary became so sharp that it is difficult to understand how the two men managed to maintain their relative positions." Throughout 1849, therefore, the tension which had already been felt at the Foreign Office was not lessened ; and in the summer of that year the Queen found it necessary to draw attention to the constitutional rule that the control of foreign policy rests with the Prime Minister, and to direct that all despatches submitted for her approval should pass through the hands of Lord John Russell.” It is almost inconceivable how a man of Lord Palmerston's temperament submitted to this rule. As he himself said, writing to Lord John on June 18, ‘This will reduce my flint-gun to a match-lock.' But at the same time he added, “If you and the Queen wish it I can alter the present arrangements and order all drafts to go first to you, and then to the Queen after you have returned them.’ There is no doubt, therefore, that Lord Palmerston assented to the rule which the Queen laid down, and waived the right, which he undoubtedly possessed as Secretary of ' The correspondence on this subject was sealed up by Lord John with his own seal, and was apparently unopened until it was opened by me. Lord Ponsonby went so far as to tell Lord John that “he had received from Palmerston letters which are not to be submitted to by any man.” Lord John told Lord Ponsonby, “I do not by any means identify myself with these [Lord Palmerston's] letters. But they were private letters, written in haste, written on the impulse given by reports unfriendly to you, and excited partly by the very Austrian view you have taken of the politics of Europe. I come to the conclusion that your sentiments have been very natural in your position ; but, being of the character of flint, they have struck
fire on the steel to which they were opposed,’ &c., &c. * Life of Prince Consort, ii. 302.